Cathedrals are meant to be peaceful places, but in 1536, St. Lambert’s Church in Münster, Germany, was the site of three brutal murders.
The events leading up to the killings began in 1534, when a group of Anabaptists who opposed the Catholic Church forcefully established their own rule in Münster. They believed that all property was communal, and they attracted many with their promises of sharing food and wealth equally.
But all wasn’t well in paradise. After the original Anabaptist leader, Jan Matthys, was murdered by the city’s former bishop, 25-year-old John of Leiden took his place. He ruled with absolute power and surrounded himself with wealth and as many as 16 wives. Meanwhile, much of the city was dying of starvation.
After two years of Anabaptist rule, Münster was reclaimed by the Catholic Church. John of Leiden and two of his most powerful associates were thrown in jail and scheduled for execution.
Their deaths, however, would not come quickly. Each man was publicly tortured for hours. Red-hot tongs were used on them to cover their bodies with gruesome cuts and burns, and each of their tongues was ripped out. Then they were stabbed through the heart with a burning dagger.
This drawing depicts the brutal events. In the background, you can see three cages hanging from the cathedral.