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Publisher's Summary

Based on the rare and until now overlooked journal of a Renaissance-era executioner, the noted historian Joel F. Harrington's The Faithful Executioner takes us deep inside the alien world and thinking of Meister Frantz Schmidt of Nuremberg, who, during 45 years as a professional executioner, personally put to death 394 individuals and tortured, flogged, or disfigured many hundreds more. But the picture that emerges of Schmidt from his personal papers is not that of a monster. Could a man who routinely practiced such cruelty also be insightful, compassionate - even progressive?

In The Faithful Executioner, Harrington vividly re-creates a life filled with stark contrasts, from the young apprentice's rigorous training under his executioner father to the adult Meister Frantz's juggling of familial duties with his work in the torture chamber and at the scaffold. With him we encounter brutal highwaymen, charming swindlers, and tragic unwed mothers accused of infanticide, as well as patrician senators, godly chaplains, and corrupt prison guards. Harrington teases out the hidden meanings and drama of Schmidt's journal, uncovering a touching tale of inherited shame and attempted redemption for the social pariah and his children. The Faithful Executioner offers not just the compelling firsthand perspective of a professional torturer and killer, but testimony of one man's lifelong struggle to reconcile his bloody craft with his deep religious faith.

The biography of an ordinary man struggling for his soul, this groundbreaking book also offers an unparalleled panoramic view of Europe on the cusp of modernity, a society riven by violent conflict at all levels and encumbered by paranoia, superstition, and abuses of power. Thanks to an extraordinary historical source and its gifted interpreter, we recognize far more of ourselves than we might have expected in this intimate portrait of a professional killer from a faraway world.

©2013 Joel Harrington (P)2017 Novel Audio Inc.

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Great, but repetitive

Excellent book, fascinating, and informative. If it was about 25% shorter, it would have been perfect. The recitation of the stories of seemingly endless tortures and executions got somewhat ponderous.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Diana
  • New York, NY, United States
  • 07-06-18

An interesting part of history

This is a piece of history that most of us would never stumble on. What was involved in the life of an executioner? How did they live? Who was in their circle of friends? This book tells the story of one of the most prolific executioners in Europe in the 16th century, and it is absolutely fascinating.

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  • John
  • LOS ANGELES, CA, US
  • 05-04-18

Wish it quoted the primary source more

I expected to hear more from the journals of the executioner but its 99% interpretation, context, and aggregation. Still interesting with great insight.

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Excellent

Recommended by Dan Carlin. The story was fascinating, and the author does a great job of telling the story of Meister Franz’s life while also providing a very interesting history of 16th century German culture as a backdrop. They seem like crazy times, but the epilogue reminds us we are not as far removed from this as we like to think. Narrator was excellent.

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Sword to the Heart

Nuremberg's famous executioner quested his entire life to take back his honor and won my admiration in the process.

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Fascinating, informative and personal.

Incredibly fascinating telling of a life, craft and environment that seems to be unknown to most people today.

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Very well performed, and enlightening.

I was recommended this book by a podcast that did an episode on public executions and torture throughout human history, and I decided to give it a shot. overall the book is pretty good, I was fascinated from start to finish, about the life and times of Frans Shmit. For me the book never got bland or boring for me anyways. the narrator did an excellent job as well.

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Thanks Dan Carlin

Another fine recommendation from Hardcore History. I really enjoyed the last chapter and epilogue best.

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Interesting story that gets bogged down

The book provides interesting details about crime and punishment in 16th century Europe but the story bogs down with too much academic nonsense. The story starts out well and provides a nice contrast between crimes and corporal (and capital) punishment in the distant past compared with modern punishment (for example, flogging and banishment in the 16th century compared to "modern" incarceration). Toward the middle, the book sounds like a academic thesis and the narration made me feel like I was back at an upper level college history class with a professor with a heavy English accent.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

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An amazing and revealing story.

If I had ever known that I would one day read the life story of an executioner, I never would have guessed that the strongest feeling I’d have afterward would be admiration for an extraordinary person.

Thanks to Dan Carlin for recommending it.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful