Copenhagen Articles of 1547

The Copenhagen Articles of 1547 were two clauses that affected the Danish witchcraft trials. The first clause determined that no statement of evidence from a dishonest person, this definition included accused witches and sorcerers, could form the basis of a conviction.[1] This clause meant that the courts could not ask accused witches to name other witches; this meant that a witch craze would be less likely because the witches would not be accusing others. The second clause ensured that no torture was used before the final sentence.[2] This meant that the courts could not use torture to exact a confession from the accused witch. Since these clauses were adhered to throughout the seventeenth century the Danish witchcraft trials required stricter evidence of a crime than other places. These two clauses were not written solely for the witchcraft trials, rather they were added in an attempt by Danish officials to regulate and control the legal procedures. The Danish courts  also adopted the Kalundborg Statutes of 1576 to help regulate the trials. Article 8 of the Kalundborg Statute stated that all capital punishment sentences that were passed by jurors in the lower courts were subject to an automatic appeal to the county courts.[3] Though this would eventually become a common strategy for dealing with witchcraft convictions, the 1576 article is the first example of automatic appeal in witchcraft cases heard in secular courts.[4] Both of these pieces of legislation meant that the Scandinavian witchcraft trials were stricter than in other places.


[1] William E. Burns, Witch Hunts in Europe and America: An Encyclopedia (California, Greenwood Publishing Group, 2003). 64

[2] Ibid., 64.

[3] Ibid., 64.

[4] Jens Christian V. Johansen, “Denmark: The Sociology of Accusations” in Early Modern European Witchcraft, ed. Benget Ankarloo and Gustav Henningsen (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990), 340.

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