Paper $23.00 ISBN: 9780226100265 Published October 2013
Cloth $41.00 ISBN: 9780226067483 Published November 2006

Satan the Heretic

The Birth of Demonology in the Medieval West

Alain Boureau

Satan the Heretic

Alain Boureau

Translated by Teresa Lavender Fagan
216 pages | 5-1/2 x 8-1/2 | © 2006
Paper $23.00 ISBN: 9780226100265 Published October 2013
Cloth $41.00 ISBN: 9780226067483 Published November 2006
Before the end of the thirteenth century, theologians had little interest in demons, but with Thomas Aquinas and his formidable “Treatise on Evil” in 1272, everything changed. In Satan the Heretic, Alain Boureau trains his skeptical eye not on Satan or Satanism, but on the birth of demonology and the sudden belief in the power of demons who inhabited Satan’s Court, setting out to understand not why people believed in demons, but why theologians—especially Pope John XXII—became so interested in the subject.

Depicting this new demonology, Satan the Heretic considers the period between the mid-thirteenth and mid-fourteenth centuries when demons, in the eyes of Church authorities, suddenly burst forth, more real and more terrifying than ever before in the history of Christianity. Boureau argues that the rise in this obsession with demons occurs at the crossroads of the rise of sovereignties and of the individual, a rise that, tellingly, also coincides with the emergence of the modern legal system in the European West.

Teeming with original insights and lively anecdotes, Satan the Heretic is a significant contribution to the history of Christian demonology from one of the most original minds in the field of medieval studies today. 

Preface to the English-Language Edition


1. Satan the Heretic: The Judicial Institution of Demonology under John XXII

2. Satanic Sacraments? Enrico del Carreto’s Discovery

3. The Pact: An Overview

4. The Liberation of Demons: The Birth of Scholastic Demonology

5. The New Possessed: Saints and Demons in Canonization Trials at the Beginning of the Fourteenth Century

6. The Openness of the Subject: A Scholastic Anthropology of Possession

7. Supernatural Invasions: Mystical Models of Possession

Review Quotes
Walter Stephens, author of Demon Lovers
“In this fascinating new book, Alain Boureau dissolves the mystery surrounding the sudden appearance of witch hunts in the early fifteenth century. The early modern concept of the witch was made possible more than a century earlier as medieval demonology coalesced into an autonomous ‘science.’ Around 1300 Scholastic theologians and papal consultants developed sacramental conceptions of the pact, Satan’s relations with heretics, and the nature of magical assaults that bore tragic consequences until nearly 1700. Boureau’s careful analyses of circumstances and arguments will make Satan the Heretic a classic in the intellectual history of witchcraft.”
Armando Maggi, author of In the Company of Demons
Satan the Heretic is an important contribution to the field of medieval demonology. Boureau contends that, contrary to common belief, medieval culture experienced a ‘peaceful’ coexistence with demons, and that modern witchcraze emerged as a sudden and unexpected theological turn between 1280 and 1330. Boureau’s belief in an ‘early’ origin of Western obsession with demons and witches entails a far-reaching revision of this complex and fascinating phenomenon.”
Alastair Sooke | Times Literary Supplement
"An excellent account of the swift development of Scholastic demonology during the thirteenth century."
Sophie Page | Catholic Historical Review
"This is a valuable addition to the history of medieval demonology and magic."
Jacques Theron | Studia Historiae Ecclesiasticae
"Essential reading for anyone who wants to understand the developing perceptions of demonology in the Medieval West."
Christine Caldwell Ames | H-France Review
"A subtle analysis of a shift in ideas that would, eventually, lead to the severest and most corporeal ramifications. . . . Its readers must grapple not only with the persuasiveness of Boureau’s thesis, but also with the vitality of finely assembled intellectual history."
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