Town Weighing Retrial for ‘Witch’ Executed in 1716
Nearly three centuries after her death, Maria Bertoletti Toldini could get a second chance for justice. In 1716, the then-60-year-old woman was tried and executed for witchcraft. Now, the mayor of the Italian town where Toldinia was put to death may issue a retrial.
Toldini’s case is legendary, in part because of the shocking nature of her alleged crimes. The prosecution in her case claimed that Toldini was initiated into a life of witchcraft and violence at age 13, when she pledged herself to Satan. The list of the widow's purported crimes over the next several decades included not only witchcraft, sorcery, and sacrilege, but sodomy, fornication, murder, and infanticide. She was blamed for the illness and sterility of countless adults as well as the horrific deaths of at least five young children.
Local police arrested Toldini and tortured her until she confessed. On March 14, 1716, she was sentenced to death. Then, she was beheaded in public, and her body was burned.
Toldini’s accusation was convenient for the authorities of Brentonico, who needed a scapegoat for the recent spate of tragedies. Even after she died, the town exploited her story for profit, turning her tale into a tourist attraction through theatrical performances. To mitigate this ugliness, a local cultural assessor has recently suggested reopening Toldini’s case.
It’s a nice idea, even if it probably won’t happen. Nearly all of the trial records have been lost, and any lawyers involved would need to be fluent in the law of the era.
[h/t The History Blog]