Friedrich von Spee
Friedrich von Spee
Historical Figure
Nationality: Germany
Religion: Catholicism
Date of Birth: February 25, 1591
Date of Death: August 7, 1635
Cause of Death: Infection
Occupation: Jesuit priest
Affiliations: Society of Jesus
1632 series
POD: May, 1631
Appearance(s): Ring of Fire
Ring of Fire II
Grantville Gazette XXXV
Ring of Fire III
1636: The Vatican Sanction
Type of Appearance: Direct
Friedrich Spee (Friedrich Spee von Langenfeld) (February 25, 1591 - August 7, 1635) was a German Jesuit and poet, most noted as an opponent of trials for witchcraft. Spee was the first person in his time who spoke strongly and with arguments against torture in general. He may be considered the first who ever gave good arguments why torture is not a way of obtaining truth from someone undergoing painful questioning.

Friedrich von Spee in 1632Edit

After the Ring of Fire, Friedrich von Spee[n 1] completed his treatise, Cautio Criminalis, against using torture in witchcraft trials. He was already physically and emotionally scarred after seeing the many accused "witches" being sentenced to their deaths despite his best efforts to defend them. Von Spee had later heard of Grantville, learning that the town did not originate in witchcraft, and that the townspeople, the Americans, generally did not believe in witches. The fact led von Spee to realize that all the prosecutions against witches were unnecessary.

Von Spee was visited by Johann Philip von Schönborn, who relayed an order from the prince-bishop of Mainz for von Spee to observe the trial of Veronica Junius, an accused witch and daughter of deceased burgomaster Johannes Junius of Bamberg. Von Spee was instructed to see the trial conducted properly in Suhl. Von Spee was hesitant to participate, as he was in bad odor with either the bishop of Bamberg or his father-general at the moment. But, Von Schönborn explained to him that the prince-bishop was concerned that an innocent might be vilely tortured and executed, and believed that the trials would give a negative impact on the Holy Office even if some were conducted by Protestants. Von Spee reluctantly agreed, but only because he wanted to defend Veronica's life.

After finally arriving in Suhl with von Schönborn, von Spee was at the Inn of the White Swan, where he met his first American, Tom Simpson, and saw his first up-time technology, an APC. Von Spee continued to observe Simpson and his friend Heinrich Schmidt unnoticed until they met Wolfgang, Ritter von Brun and inquisitor Joachin Eberhardt who were escorting Veronica Junius to trial in Suhl. Von Spee witnessed Simpson, Heinrich and their American troops inform von Brun and Eberhardt that Veronica was now under the protection of the Americans and that her trial was being relocated to Grantville as Suhl had been accepted into the New United States. This was met with violent protests from von Brun, who demanded Veronica be put to death. Simpson responded by shooting von Brun in the head and taking his escort captive. Veronica was freed.

Von Spee was shocked by von Brun's bloody death; his violent vomiting brought him to the attention of Heinrich Schmidt. Von Spee told the Americans of his purpose in Suhl. Afterward, von Spee and von Schönborn saw that Veronica's confession was coerced, a violation of the NUS's constitution, and that she would have a fair trial in Grantville. Von Spee then decided to accompany Veronica Junius to Grantville and to finish compiling his letter to Father Mutius Vitelleschi of the Society of Jesus.

Once in the town, von Spee met American Catholic Lawrence Mazzare but didn't properly introduce himself. Von Spee explained the accusations against Veronica, but didn't understand how she was accused in the first place. Veronica explained that she was to be put to death so that certain parties could obtain her family's fortune. Von Spee later spent the night at Saint Mary's Parish, interacting with both Father Mazzare and Reverend Simon Jones. Von Spee learned to his surprise that the NUS was being supported by the prominent Abrabanel family. Von Spee was at this time, not surprised at all by the friendship between Catholic Mazzare and Protestant Jones as von Spee was a friend of Protestant Professor Muenster from Jena. Von Spee listened at a distance as his American friends discussed witch trials, and learned from Mazzare von Spee's own historical role. Mazzare emphasized that 17th century Europe needed people like von Spee before finally realizing that von Spee was present. Von Spee reviewed the historical information Mazzare had been reading, and learned of his history and fate. He responded that it is "not every day that a man gets to read the judgement of history upon him."

Von Spee later finished his letter to Vitelleschi, describing his experience in Grantville and asking his permission to publish Cautio Criminalis in his own name.

After Mazzare was elevated to Cardinal, von Spee joined Mazzare's staff. Von Spee was conducting a new Kirchenlieder (hymns) in Magdeburg, when he was nearly killed by a group of Catholic fanatics, who were subdued by the cathedral's guards. The group accused von Spee of not being a true Jesuit and of aiding witches. Von Spee soon learned from his meeting with Father Provincial Goswin Nickel he'd been targeted by people both within and without the Society who opposed von Spee's stance on witchcraft, and had begun a campaign against him. More disturbing, von Spee had been marked for death by the Spanish Catholic Church for his association with Grantville's "deviltry". At the center of the campaign was von Spee's old friend and Nickel's predecessor, Hermann Baving. Concurrently, Pope Urban VIII had been forced into exile, with Cardinal Borja ambitiously taking Urban's place.

Both von Spee and Nickel realized that they were facing a schism within the Society. With the aid of Mutio Vitelleschi, they relocated to Grantville for their safety.


  1. While his name is often cited as "Friedrich von Spee", this is incorrect. Walt Boyes gave his name as "von Spee" in "A Witch to Live", but corrected it in "This'll Be the Day . . ." with the comment that up-timers habitually called him "von Spee" because he was listed that way in up-time histories.