The Pays de Vaud was the site of major witch-hunts between the 15th and the 17th centuries. During this period, there were more than 2'000 death sentences!
On a larger scale, Switzerland within the current borders if the time holds not only the record for the longest-lasting repression of witchcraft but also for the largest number of people persecuted fro this crime, in relation to the population. In almost three centuries, 5,000 people were accused and 3,500 of them were put to death, mainly by fire, with 60 - 70% being women.
Chillon Castle was an important detention centre for individuals suspected of witchcraft, either when awaiting trail or carrying out their sentence. During the term of the Bernese bailiff, Nicolas de Watteville, from 1595 to 1601, some forty-odd people were executed at Chillon, La Tour-de-Peilz and Vevey. And 27 more in 1613! Their Excellencies of Bern noted «with regret and sadness» «the extent to which the negation of God and submission to the evil spirit was growing among our subjects in the Romand (French-speaking) country».
Given these facts, the renowned Vaudois fortress is an apt location for this exhibition. Based on documents primarily related to Chillon, then to the region (Riviera-Vaud-Western Switzerland), the exhibition highlights this little known facet of Vaudois history.
The purpose of the museography and the catalogue is not to make people shudder –although shudder one does when contemplating the terrible suffering the poor souls had to undergo.
Through texts and images, the exhibition illustrates a portrait of simple madness, madness that at times leads to making pacts with the Devil and, on the other side of the coin, the madness of the inquisitors who could consider a hollow tooth housing for an impure spirit!
Explanatory tour of the exhibition by a guide in period costume is free of charge (entry to the castle as per set tariffs) on Sundays at 15:15 from 11 September to 30 October 2011, and 1 April to 24 June 2012.
Closely related to the current exhibition, the University of Lausanne Science and Society Interface is holding a series of workshops open to one and all. It will be an opportunity to study an authentic 15th century source, documenting a witchcraft case - the trial and proceedings accusing Pierre Chavaz de Vuiteboeuf in 1448. What exactly happened during this kind of trial? What did the confessions mean? What can we learn about this man under such terrible suspicion? Participants in these workshops will examine and question the authentic texts. They sum up the entire construction of the target of the study, that is to say witchcraft.
PARTNERSHIP SWISS CINEMATHEQUE
Witchcraft-related films are shown at the Capitole Cinema in Lausanne from 1-22 February 2012.
With the support of the Loterie Romande, the Ernst Göhner Foundation and the Leenaards Foundation.