Weinmarkt in Lucerne
Weinmarkt in Lucerne (Photo: Laila Bosco)
Jakob Schmidlin
Jakob Schmidlin, executed in 1747 (Source: Special Collection ZHB Lucerne)

Heresy in 18th century Lucerne

Weinmarkt was the fresh-produce market in the city of Lucerne and also served as an open-air public meeting place. Legal cases were heard in the southwest corner of the square, and offenders were put on public display and humiliated here in a pillory and stocks. These were removed in the mid-19th century.

The last death sentence in a heresy trial was pronounced here in the mid-18th century.
In 1747, a man was condemned to death for the heresy of sympathising with Pietism, a Protestant reform movement, and for the crime of reading the Bible and other religious texts with a group of like-minded people.

This tragic case illustrates in the strongest manner the hostility to science (here in the form of criminalising the reading the Bible independently) and religious intolerance that held sway in Lucerne in the 18th century.

You can find out more about this in the audio contribution or in the complete text "Heresy in 18th century Lucerne".