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The Mirror of Cruelty. A Compendium of Atrocities Committed against Catholics in the Sixteenth Century


By Arnold Havens

Translated by Robert Nixon

ISBN 978-615-6405-24-1                                           Paperback, €35.00

ISBN 978-615-6405-26-5                                           Hardcover, €75.00

eISBN 978-615-6405-25-8                                          eBook, €35.00

June 2022

pp. 100

Printed copies available on our website starting with July 2022. 


The sixteenth century, which heralded the end of the Middle Ages and the commencement of the Early Modern Era, was a time of tremendous religious upheaval and social ferment. The nebulous conglomeration of movements often referred to as the “Reformation” led to a wave of bloodshed and persecution which engulfed most of Europe for at least a hundred years. The present volume offers a translation of a particularly graphic literary portrayal of tortures and atrocities committed against Catholics during that time—the Speculum Haereticae Crudelitatis [The Mirror of Heretical Cruelty], by Arnold Havens (1540–1610). Havens was a Carthusian monk, an accomplished historian and scholar, and a prolific author. His Mirror of Cruelty is a remarkable and unique literary achievement, describing in gruesome and chilling detail an extensive catalogue of disturbing, inhuman and often bizarre acts of abuse. Most of these have not been available in any English-language sources until now, or have been presented only in abridged and bowdlerized forms. Havens drew the overall plan of his work from another book which enjoyed a wide, underground circulation at the time—the notorious Theatrum Crudelitatum [Theatre of Cruelties], by Richard Verstegan, a kind of nightmarish picture-book of atrocities committed against Catholics. A selection of illustrations from that book are included in this volume.  

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Translator’s Introduction  Download PDF

Letter of Approval from the Prior of the Grande Chartreuse monastery, and Moderator and Minister-General of the Carthusian Order, Dom Bruno II de Affringues

i. Introduction

ii. The slaughter and devastation instigated by Martin Luther in upper Germany

iii. The cruel persecutions of Catholics in England

iv. King Henry VIII and the Carthusian martyrs

v. Some acts of egregious cruelty committed in Ireland

vi. The persecutions in France under the Calvinist regimes

vii. Some particular examples of atrocities committed by Calvinists in France

viii. The Franciscan martyrs at Gorkum (Part I)

ix. The Franciscan martyrs at Gorkum (Part II)

x. The Franciscan martyrs at Gorkum (Part III)

xi. The Franciscan martyrs at Gorkum (Part IV)

xii. The cruelty of the Calvinists towards four Augustinian Canons Regular

xiii. The martyrdom of two Hieronymite monks at Gouda

xiv. The vicious martyrdom of the poet Cornelis Musius

xv. The martyrdom of William of Gouda, a Franciscan friar

xvi. Further hideous crimes perpetrated against Catholics in Holland and Flanders

xvii. The martyrdom of twelve Carthusian monks at Roermond in Holland

xviii. The horrendous and inhuman torture and execution of Balthasar Gérard of Burgundy, the man who killed the Prince of Orange

xix. Conclusion

List of Images


Specific References

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