Summis desiderantes affectibus, (Latin for “Desiring with supreme ardor”), named after its opening words and sometimes abbreviated to Summis desiderantes, was a papal bull regarding witchcraft issued by Pope Innocent VIII on 5 December 1484. Traditionally seen as the beginning of the witch-hunts that plagued Europe from the 15th until the 17th century, it was issued to address the complaints of two Dominican inquisitors – Heinrich Kramer and Jacob Sprenger – that local ecclesiastical authorities in Germany were obstructing them in their mission to eradicate heretical witchcraft.
The Summis desiderantes of 1484 was very similar to many earlier papal bulls, and so in reality did not mark any kind of watershed in the church’s attitude to witchcraft. Its subsequent fame rather derives from its publication in Kramer and Spengler’s Malleus maleficarum of 1487, the best known of the various guides to witch hunting, which gave it wider circulation than it might otherwise have had.
Kors, Alan Charles, and Edward Peters. Witchcraft in Europe, 400–1700: A Documentary History. University of Pennsylvania Press, 2000.
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