Wednesday, July 1, 2009
Vampires, Monsters and a Sadistic Pope
There are times I really have to wonder what was actually transpiring in that latter part of the 16th century. For those that have had the opportunity to read Shadows of Trinity you're already aware of the situation in Prague and have a good insight into the personality of Pope Sixtus V, whom was already recongised as a butcher by the time the story took place. But it would appear that he was not alone in his desire to shed blood in the most horrific fashions. In fact, there were those performing acts that defy imagination and yet they were in positions of power and social esteem that renders the atrocities inconceivable. Whatever the Golem did, as explained in the novel, paled in comparison to these paragons of Church and Society.
One such paragon was the Countess Elizabeth Bathory (1560-1614. Residing in her castle in Slovakia,even though she was referred to as being Hungarian, she was not to distant from the events taking place in Shadows of Trinity. With her inherited wealth, she was one of Hungary's wealthiest women and I wouldn't be surprised if she visited Prague on a regular basis. Like many of the aristocracy in Europe, the inbreeding of families left a genetic imprint that disable young Elizabeth from time to time. From the age of four and a half she began suffering from epileptic fits. Despite being arrogant and spoiled, she was still regarded as intelligent and a suitable prize in marriage.
Therefore it was no surprise when Count Fernencz Nadasdy came knocking on the castle door to ask for the then fifteen year old Elizabeth's hand in marriage. They wed and took up residence in Csjethe Castle in Transylvania. Never one to stay at home, Fernencz left Elizabeth on her own frequently but made certain that he was home long enough to father several children. His long absences drove his wife though to the bring of madness.
In the early 1580's, Elizabeth could no longer deal with the loneliness and the boredom and sought entertainment by torturing her servants. Not just any servants. She exhibited a predilection for young teenage females. The level of the torture which I'm about to describe exceeds even what we would consider sadistic. By all accounts, her tastes were monstrous. She enjoyed playing with fire and this translated into placing combustible wads between the toes of the girls and then setting them alight. As the wads burned, the Countess watched the girls do their frantic dance in an attempt to dislodge them. If she was really bored, Elizabeth would just set the girls on fire and burn them alive. Applying red-hot pincers to various body parts was also a common passtime. Not one to keep the entertainment all to herself, the Countess would force the girls to perform their household duties in full view of male guests that she would invite to her castle. Even her husband would participate in the torture of the girls whenever he returned from his travels.
Fortunately for their son and two daughters they were never involved in witnessing the tortures and their nannies made certain to keep them far enough away from their mother that they were never the victims either.
Some will say that as the Countess's sadistic tastes grew wilder and more extreme, not even her husband could stomach them any longer and his absences grew more frequent. By the time the events of Shadows of Trinity were taking place, Elizabeth already had a string of young men that satisfied her sexual needs but like a black widow spider they never had the opportunity to brag about their conquests of the Countess in the castle. Oddly, even though these crimes were quite evident, as young girls and men disappeared from the countryside, this never became a concern for the Pope that summoned the three heroes to stop the Golem's rampage without even a thought of what was happening nearby. Perhaps this was because the Countess never turned her attentions to the clergy and unlike the Golem wasn't responsible for the death of his nephew.
With the continuous absences of her husband the Countess grew steadily convinced that perhas it was because she was no longer young enough or pretty enough to keep him interested. Her victims of her tortures became as a result girls that were younger and whom she considered prettier. The vanity of the stepmother/witch of Snow White couldn't hold a candle to Elizbeth as she invented new forms of torture in which to delight. One day while having her hair combed, he maidservant accidentally pulled her hair and Elizabeth slapped the girl hard across the face cutting her lip. A few droplets of blood had splashed on to the back of her hand and the Countess became convinced that where it had contacted her skin it was now smoother and softer. At that point she consulted with Ana Darvulia, a local witch that provided potions to the Countess for various ailments and Darvulia explained that the blood of virgins had magical properties one of which was the restoration of youth. No sooner did Elizabeth hear that when she ordered the handmaid's throat cut and her blood drained into her bath. Thus began the end for many a young girl in the community as hundreds were kidnapped and used to fill the bath with blood. Rumour had it that Elizabeth would bite their necks and drink the blood that flowed from the puncture marks she made.
Elizabeth continued her sadistic ritual unabated for years. By the time it ended the number tallied over 600, confirmed by the record book that the Countess kept in her writing desk. The bodies had been burned, buried beneath the castle floors, or tossed into the forests to be devoured by wolves.
Not a word was said and especially not by the clergy who's Pope had a tally of closer to thirty thousand victims of his "so called" freeing the highways of bandits campaign. It wasn't until Elizabeth turned her attentions to young noble girls that the cries of murderer were actually made. Desperate to seek new blood, the Countess stablished a boarding school for girls of noble birth. In this case finishing school meant exactly what it claimed.
Emperor Matthias sent Count Thurzo, to conduct a raid of the castle. What he found horrified them all. One dead girl in the central foyer, one whose body had been pierced with holes barely alive. Several more hanging from the basement rafters their blood draining into the Countess's vat.
In 1610, the Countess and her accomplices were placed on trial. Her husband had been dead for six years already thus escaping justice. They were all found guilty and executed except for the Countess whom was ordered to be imprisoned in a small room of her castle until she died.
This real life Dracula finally died in 1614. Her legancy remains in our legends of Vampires and the haunting of Transylvania. Since my ancestors resided in Peatra Neamt for several generations, the stories of Transylvania were quite well known to them. But what is most remarkable is that for a period of fifty years, some of the most horrific evils were being perpretrated under the reign of Emperor Rudolf II. By comparion, the Golem of Prague, later to become Mary Shelly's Frankenstein monster was not even worth considering to be a monster when standing along side Countess Elizabeth Bathory. But the fact that these two distinct and separate episodes occurred almost simultaneously points to the comments made by Pope Sixus V when he summoned the three, Caesar de Nostradame, Giordano Bruno and Yakov Kahana to stop the murders in Prague, that Armegeddon was upon them. And there is no reason to doubt that in the span of years from 1580 to 1600 there was every reason to believe that Pope Sixtus, a monster in his own right was correct.