In 1523 – (494 years ago) — Johann Esch and Heinrich Voes, two monks from a monastery in Antwerp, were burned at the stake by the Roman Catholic Church for the crime of adopting religious positions of the German theologian Martin Luther, who had kickstarted the Protestant Reformation six years earlier. Luther had denounced the Catholic authorities for the practice of selling indulgences — basically, taking people’s money for the promise of getting them into heaven after their death. He maintained that the authority of the Bible took precedence over that of the Catholic pope, cardinals, and bishops. Those were dangerous beliefs in medieval Europe, and the Roman Church was so intent on stopping their spread that, contrary to usual practice, the charges against Esch and Voes were not read aloud before their public execution in the main marketplace of Brussels. As the flames rose around them, the two unfortunate monks sang Latin hymns until they fell unconscious. Their monastery was declared to have been defiled, and was demolished.
In 1766 – (251 years ago) — a twenty-year-old French nobleman named François-Jean de la Barre was awakened early in the morning and physically tortured by having his hands cut off and his tongue torn from his mouth. Later that day he was beheaded for crimes against Roman Catholicism, the state religion of France. La Barre been found guilty of failing to remove his hat when a religious procession passed, and also for mocking Catholic hymns by changing the words to include obscenities. Police had searched his bedroom and found prohibited books, including the works of the atheistic philosopher Voltaire. After le Barre was beheaded, his body was burned; his copy of Voltaire’s Philosphical Dictionary was also tossed into the flames. After the fire died, the ashes were swept up and unceremoniously dumped into the nearby Somme River.
In 1916 – (101 years ago) — eighteen British and French divisions attacked the German Second Army in positions along the Somme River, kicking off a major battle of World War I. In some areas, according to some accounts, the British and French soldiers simply marched shoulder-to-shoulder into a barrage of German machine gunfire that mowed them down, filling the battlefield with bloody corpses. In other areas, it was the British and French who had the upper hand, and the Germans who suffered the worst. The gruesome trench warfare continued all day, with occasional brief truces to allow troops on either side to retrieve and carry off their dead. As night fell, some twenty thousand men were dead and another thirty-eight thousand were wounded. It was just the opening day of the Battle of the Somme, which over the next few months would claim more than a million casualties, making it one of the bloodiest battles in recorded history.
Rotten History is written by Renaldo Migaldi