ZURICH (Reuters) - The Swiss town that ordered Europe’s last execution for witchcraft will unveil a memorial on Friday for the woman beheaded more than 200 years ago, accused of bewitching a child.
Servant Anna Goeldi was denounced as a witch after her employer’s eight-year-old daughter fell ill and began spitting up pins during fits of coughing, according to documents in the local archives.
Authorities in Glarus, central Switzerland, became convinced Goeldi was a witch after she later appeared to cure the child using supernatural powers.
After saying under torture that she had been aided by the devil, Goeldi was sentenced to death and beheaded with a sword in 1782, a time when intellectuals were championing reason over tradition and long after witch trials in other countries, such as Britain, had petered out.
“It sent shockwaves through the whole of Europe, with people writing it was unbelievable there were communities in Switzerland where people still believed in witches,” said Walter Hauser, an author of a book about Goeldi.
Goeldi, who was 48 at the time of her death, was exonerated by the Glarus parliament in 2008.
The memorial, comprising two permanently lit lamps on the side of the Glarus court house, is intended to draw attention to violations of human rights that occur in the world today, as well as Goeldi’s story, Hauser said.
“The memorial is an expression of atonement for the injustice that took place here,” he said. “It will be an eternal light for Anna Goeldi.”
Reporting by Alice Baghdjian; Editing by Ruth Pitchford