Council of Basel
The Council of Basel (1431-1449) played a unique and important role as a center for the development and diffusion of the idea of witchcraft in Western Europe. The full stereotype of witchcraft, entailing not just harmful sorcery (malejicium) but also demonic invocation and devil worship, heretical gatherings, and apostasy, emerged in a clear form only in the first decades of the fifteenth century, and some of the earliest recorded witch hunts took place during these years in lands just south of Basel, in the diocese of Geneva, Lausanne, and Sion. Politically, most of these regions were under the dominance of the ducal house of Savoy, which enjoyed close connections to the council, to the extent that the council fathers elected its duke, Amadeus VIII (1383-1451; ruled 1416-1451), as anti-pope Felix V in 1439 (reigned 1439-1449). Given these proximities, and considering that Basel brought together a large number of churchmen from across Europe, it is perhaps not surprising that the council became a major center for the collection and codification of the new ideas of witchcraft emerging in the lands around the western Alps and the transmission of these ideas to the rest of Europe.
Encyclopedia of Witchcraft: The Western Tradition edited by Richard M. Golden. Copyright 2006 by ABC-CLIO. All rights reserved. Reproduced with permission of ABC-CLIO, LLC, Santa Barbara, CA.