Estimates of the Number Killed by the Papacy in the Middle Ages and later


David A. Plaisted

© 2006


Estimates of the Number Killed by the Papacy in the Middle Ages and later   1

Chapter 0.  Introduction  2

Chapter 1.  Examples of figures concerning the number killed  3

Chapter 2.  The plausibility of massive persecution  12

CHAPTER 3.  The 50 Million Figure  19

Chapter 4.  The Spanish Inquisition  44

Chapter 5.  Alethia’s estimate  50

Chapter 6.  An estimate based on population growth  59

Chapter 7.  Indirect evidence of persecution  63

Chapter 8.  Cloistered convents  66

Chapter 9.  Wars  74

Chapter 10. Conclusion  76


INDEX   79

Chapter 0.  Introduction

For two or three centuries, many Protestants have given figures concerning the total number of people killed directly or indirectly by the Papacy during the Middle Ages.  The numbers given include 50 million, 68 million, 100 million, 120 million, and 150 million.  Roman Catholics typically give much smaller numbers.  Frequently the figures are stated without any information about where they came from or how they were computed.  The purpose of this note is to describe where some of these figures come from and to comment on their reliability.  Surely nearly all Roman Catholics as well as Protestants disapprove of past religious persecutions, so this discussion should not reflect negatively on current members of the Roman Catholic Church.  However, events in Nazi Germany show how easily persecution can revive, so it is necessary to be on guard against it and maintain an awareness of its history.  Of course, many other groups besides the Papacy have persecuted.  And all of us, without Christ, have the roots of sin in ourselves.  The reason the Papacy stands out is that it has ruled for such a long period of time over such a large area, exercised so much power, and claimed divine prerogatives for its persecutions.  The magnitude of the persecutions is important for the following reason:  One can excuse a few thousand cases as exceptional, but millions and millions of victims can only be the result of a systematic policy, thereby showing the harmful results of church-state unions.

In this study I have attempted, with some success, to penetrate the veil of obscurity that surrounds the Middle Ages in order to determine the true history of this period.

In order to consider this subject, it is necessary to recall many unpleasant events.  The dreadful totals, computations, and examples that follow, one after another, are not for the faint hearted.  These atrocities should convince us not so much of the evils of a particular religious system as of the depravity of the sinful human heart, and lead us to turn to Christ for repentance and salvation that we might have new hearts and be cleansed from sin.

Chapter 1.  Examples of figures concerning the number killed


Here are some of the places where figures about religious persecutions are given.  Dowling in his History of Romanism says


"From the birth of Popery in 606 to the present time, it is estimated by careful and credible historians, that more than fifty millions of the human family, have been slaughtered for the crime of heresy by popish persecutors, an average of more than forty thousand religious murders for every year of the existence of popery."


-- "History of Romanism," pp. 541, 542. New York: 1871.


Commenting on this quote, a fundamental Baptist web site says the following:


For example, it has been estimated by careful and reputed historians of the Catholic Inquisition that 50 million people were slaughtered for the crime of "heresy" by Roman persecutors between the A.D. 606 and the middle of the 19th century.

This is the number cited by John Dowling, who published the classic "History of Romanism" in 1847 (book VIII, chapter 1, footnote 1). Only seven years after its first printing, it could be said of Dowling’s book, "it has already obtained a circulation much more extensive than any other large volume ever published in America, upon the subject of which it treats; or perhaps in England, with the exception of Fox’s Book of Martyrs." Clark’s Martyrology counts the number of Waldensian martyrs during the first half of the 13th century in France alone at two million. From A.D. 1160-1560 the Waldensians which dwelt in the Italian Alps were visited with 36 different fierce persecutions that spared neither age nor sex (Thomas Armitage, A History of the Baptists, "Post-Apostolic Times - The Waldensians," 1890). They were almost completely destroyed as a people and most of their literary record was erased from the face of the earth. From the year 1540 to 1570 "it is proved by national authentic testimony, that nearly one million of Protestants were publicly put to death in various countries in Europe, besides all those who were privately destroyed, and of whom no human record exists" (J.P. Callender, Illustrations of Popery, 1838, p. 400). Catholic historian Vergerius admits gleefully that during the Pontificate of Pope Paul IV (1555-1559) "the Inquisition alone, by tortures, starvation, or the fire, murdered more than 150,000 Protestants." These are only small samples of the brutality which was poured out upon "dissident" Christians by the Roman Catholic Church during the Inquisition.


Concerning the figure of two million killed, Bourne writes


Bertrand, the Papal Legate, wrote a letter to Pope Honorius, desiring to be recalled from the croisade against the primitive witnesses and contenders for the faith. In that authentic document, he stated, that within fifteen years, 300,000 of those crossed soldiers had become victims to their own fanatical and blind fury. Their unrelenting and insatiable thirst for Christian and human blood spared none within the reach of their impetuous despotism and unrestricted usurpations. On the river Garonne, a conflict occurred between the croisaders, with their ecclesiastical leaders, the Prelates of Thoulouse and Comminges; who solemnly promised to all their vassals the full pardon of sin, and the possession of heaven immediately, if they were slain in the battle. The Spanish monarch and his confederates acknowledged that they must have lost 400,000 men, in that tremendous conflict, and immediately after it-but the Papists boasted, that including the women and children, they had massacred more than two millions of the human family, in that solitary croisade against the southwest part of France.


-- Bourne, George, The American Textbook of Popery, Griffith & Simon, Philadelphia, 1846, pp. 402-403.


In only one crusade, two million Albigenses were killed.  How many must there have been altogether, and how many millions more must have been killed during the entire Middle Ages!   Another source writes


The Catholic crusade against the Albigenses in Southern France (from 1209-1229), under Popes Innocent III., Honorius III. and Gregory IX., was one of the bloodiest tragedies in human history. … The number of Albigenses that perished in the twenty years’ war is estimated at from one to two millions.


-- Cushing B. Hassell, History of the Church of God, Chapter XIV.


W. E. H. Lecky says:

"That the Church of Rome has shed more innocent blood than any other institution that has ever existed among mankind, will be questioned by no Protestant who has a competent knowledge of history. The memorials, indeed, of many of her persecutions
 are now so scanty, that it is impossible to form a complete conception of the multitude of her victims, and it is quite certain that no power of imagination can adequately realize their sufferings." -- "History of the Rise and Influence of the Spirit of Rationalism in Europe," Vol. II, p. 32. London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1910.


The following quotation is from The Glorious Reformation by S. S. SCHMUCKER, D. D., Discourse in Commemoration of the Glorious Reformation of the Sixteenth Century; delivered before the Evangelical Lutheran Synod of West Pennsylvania, by the Rev. S. S. Schmucker, D.D., Professor of Theology in the Theological Seminary at Gettysburg.  Published by Gould and Newman. 1838.


Need I speak to you of the thirty years’ war in Germany, which was mainly instigated by the Jesuits, in order to deprive the Protestants of the right of free religious worship, secured to them by the treaty of Augsburg? Or of the Irish rebellion, of the inhuman butchery of about fifteen millions of Indians in South America, Mexico and Cuba, by the Spanish papists? In short, it is calculated by authentic historians, that papal Rome has shed the blood of sixty-eight millions of the human race in order to establish her unfounded claims to religious dominion (citing Dr. Brownlee’s “Popery an enemy to civil liberty”, p. 105).


Estimates range up to 7 to 12 million for the number who died in the thirty years’ war, and higher:


This was the century of the last religious wars in “Christendom,” the Thirty Years’ War in Germany, fomented by the Jesuits, reducing the people to cannibalism, and the population of Bohemia from 4,000,000 to 780,000, and of Germany from 20,000,000 to 7,000,000, and making Southern Germany almost a desert, ...


-- Cushing B. Hassell, History of the Church of God, Chapter XVII.


Concerning the Irish rebellion, John Temple's True Impartial History of the Irish Rebellion of 1641, written in 1644, puts the number of victims at 300,000, but other estimates are much smaller.  Some estimates are larger:


In addition to the Jesuit or Catholic atrocities of this century already enumerated with some particulars, they massacred 400 Protestants at Grossoto, in Lombardy, July 19th, 1620; are said to have destroyed 400,000 Protestants in Ireland, in 1641, by outright murder, and cold, and hunger, and drowning; …


-- Cushing B. Hassell, History of the Church of God, Chapter XVII.


In fact, the population of Ireland is estimated to have decreased from 2 million in 1640 to 1.7 million in 1672, according to R.F. Foster, Modern Ireland 1600-1972 (1988). However, this could have resulted from British reprisals to some extent and from emigration, forced or voluntary.  The population should have increased by about 200,000 during this period, assuming a 30 percent growth rate per century.  This implies that 500,000 people in excess of normal either died or left Ireland during this time, and is consistent with 300,000 or more Protestants being killed in 1641.

The figure of 68 million appeared in Schmucker’s talk in 1838, in Brownlee’s book of 1836, and also in a book “Plea for the West” by Lyman Beecher (Cincinnati, Truman and Smith, 1835), pp. 130-131:


And let me ask again, whether the Catholic religion, in its union with the state, has proved itself so unambitious, meek, and unaspiring so feeble, and easy to be entreated, as to justify-a proud, contempt of its avowed purpose and systematic movements to secure an ascendancy in this nation? It is accidental that in alliance with despotic governments, it has swayed a sceptre of iron, for ten centuries over nearly one-third of; the population of, the globe, and by a death of violence is estimated to have swept from 'the' earth about sixty-eight millions of its inhabitants, and holds now in darkness and bondage nearly half the civilized world?


The exact quote of Brownlee referenced above is as follows:


In one word, the church of Rome has spent immense treasures and shed, in murder, the blood of sixty eight millions and five hundred thousand of the human race, to establish before the astonished and disgusted world, her fixed determination to annihilate every claim set up by the human family to liberty, and the right of unbounded freedom of conscience.


-- Popery an enemy to civil liberty, 1836, pp. 104-105.


Also, in another work Brownlee states


Papal Rome has shed the blood of fifty millions of Christians in Europe!


-- The Roman Catholic Religion viewed in the light of Prophecy and History, New York, Charles K. Moore, 1843, page 60.


And later in the same work,


The best writers enumerate fifty millions of Christians destroyed by fire, and the sword, and the inquisition; and fifteen millions of natives of the American continent and islands; and three millions of Moors in Europe, and one million and a half of Jews.  Now, here are sixty-nine millions and five hundred thousands of human beings, murdered by “the woman of the Roman hills, who was drunk with the blood of the saints.”  And this horrid list does not include those of her own subjects, who fell in the crusades in Asia, and in her wars against European Christians, and in South America!


-- page 97.


These quotations make it clear that the figure of 50 million refers only to Christians in Europe, and does not include Christians killed elsewhere.  It is also clear that Brownlee is taking these figures not from just one person, but from at least two, “the best writers,” and ignoring others that he feels are less qualified.  Many others must have been convinced of the reputation of these individuals as well, judging from the frequency with which the figure of 50 million is quoted.

Brownlee further comments on the number killed by the Papacy in another work as follows:


When Laguedoc was invaded by these monsters, one hundred thousand Albigensees fell in one day!  See Bruys vol. iii. 139.


-- page 346


There perished under pope Julian 200,000 Christians: and by the French massacre, on a moderate calculation, in 3 months, 100,000.  Of the Waldenses there perished 150,000; of the Albigenses, 150,000.  There perished by the Jesuits in 30 years only 900,000.  The Duke of Alva destroyed by the common hangman alone, 36,000 persons; the amount murdered by him is set down by Grotius at 100,000!  There perished by the fire, and tortures of the Inquisition in Spain, Italy, and France 150,000. … In the Irish massacres there perished 150,000 Protestants!

To sum up the whole, the Roman Catholic church has caused the ruin, and destruction of a million and a half of Moors in Spain; nearly two millions of Jews South America in Europe.  In Mexico, and , including the islands of Cuba and St. Domingo, fifteen millions of Indians, in 40 years, fell victims to popery.  And in Europe, and the East Indies, and in America, 50 millions of Protestants, at least, have been murdered by it!

Thus the church of Rome stands before the world, “the woman in scarlet, on the scarlet colored Beast.”  A church claiming to be Christian, drenched in the blood of sixty-eight millions, and five hundred thousand human beings!


-- W. C. Brownlee, Letters in the Roman Catholic controversy, 1834, pp. 347-348.


Brownlee apparently revised the 69 million figure downwards to 68 million.  So the figure of 68 million has several sources in the early 1800’s.  The source for some of Brownlee’s figures appears in the following quotation:


These forced baptisms, and the consequent claims which the pope set up over “his slaves,” caused the death of one million five hundred thousand Moors, and on the most moderate calculation, that of two millions of Jews!  See Dr. M. Geddes’s Tracts on Popery, vol. i.


-- W. C. Brownlee, Popery the Enemy of Civil and Religious Liberty, J. S. Taylor, New York, 1836, p. 88.


The work of Michael Geddes referred to may have been Miscellaneous Tracts …, 3rd ed., London, 1730, 3 volumes.  In 1678 Geddes went to Lisbon, and returned to England in 1688.  During his stay in Lisbon, he collected many documents concerning Spanish and Portuguese history, and in 1714 published his “Tracts on Divers Subjects” in three volumes, a translation of the most interesting documents he obtained.  In 1715 a posthumous volume of tracts against the Roman Catholic Church appeared.  In addition to those killed, many were exiled:


It has been calculated that, from the time of the conquest of Granada until 1609, three millions of Arabs were exiled from Spanish soil; and never have the plains of Valencia, Murcia and Granada recovered the flourishing aspect that they wore when cultivated by their former masters.  The decree of 1609 was as fatal to Spain as the revocation of the Edict of Nantes was to France nearly a hundred years later.


-- Williams, Henry Smith, The Historian’s History of the World, vol. 8, p. 259.


In 1492, persecution was begun against the Jews, of whom 500,000 were expelled from Spain and their wealth confiscated.  In seventy years the population of Spain was reduced from 10,000,000 to 6,000,000 by the banishment of Jews, Moors and Morescoes (“Christianized” Moors), the most wealthy and intelligent of the inhabitants of that country.


-- Cushing B. Hassell, History of the Church of God, Chapter XV.


In fact, the population of Spain had at one time been twenty million higher:


It is estimated that the total population in the middle of the tenth century was about thirty millions: a phenomenal increase of population, betokening of itself a very high degree of civilization. A population normally, with fair sanitation and hygienic conditions, doubles in a quarter of a century. It will tell you in a word what the Moors had done, and what the Spaniards afterwards undid, if you reflect that this Spanish population, which was thirty millions in the tenth century, is now only twenty- two millions. The figure of thirty millions in the tenth century is an extraordinary tribute to the science and wisdom of the Moors. England, for instance, had then a population of about two or three million people.


-- Joseph McCabe, The Story of Religious Controversy, Chapter XXV.


This suggests that the Christian reconquest of Spain cost this country alone over 20 million lives.  This loss could not have resulted from the Plague, because the loss from the Plague was recovered by 1500.

The figure of 68 million appears again in a later work:


Alexander Campbell, well known religions leader of the nineteenth century, stated in debate with John B. Purcell, Bishop of Cincinnati, in 1837 that the records of historians and martyrologists show that it may be reasonable to estimate that from fifty to sixty-eight millions of human beings died, suffered torture, lost their possessions, or were otherwise devoured by the Roman Catholic Church during the awful years of the Inquisition.  Bishop Purcell made little effort to refute these figures.  (Citing A Debate on the Roman Catholic Religion, Christian Publishing Co., 1837, p. 327.)

Walter M. Montano, a former Catholic priest, asserts in his book, Behind the Purple Curtain that it has been estimated that fifty million people died for their faith during the twelve hundred years of the Dark Ages.  (Citing Walter M. Montano, Behind the Purple Curtain, Cowman Publications, 1950, page 91.)


-- The Shadow of Rome, by John B. Wilder; Zondervan Publishing Co., 1960, page 87.


Campbell may be referring to the martyrology of Samuel Clarke, written in 1651.    Perhaps this figure of 68 million came from Brownlee or somewhere else, possibly the writings of Llorente or Clark’s Martyrology, cited above.

Such figures sometimes appear in recent books, such as Wilder’s, but in general, all the figures about the number killed by the Papacy go back many years and have reputable sources.  It is interesting that Campbell implies that the figure of 68 million includes many who were not killed, but just persecuted, while the three earlier references, including Brownlee, state that this number were killed.  Campbell may have taken the earlier figure and misread it as including those who were persecuted but not killed.  Here are more quotations about the number killed by the Papacy:


For professing faith contrary to the teachings of the Church of Rome, history records the martyrdom of more then one hundred million people. A million Waldenses and Albigenses [Swiss and French Protestants] perished during a crusade proclaimed by Pope Innocent III in 1208. Beginning from the establishment of the Jesuits in 1540 to 1580, nine hundred thousand were destroyed. One hundred and fifty thousand perished by the Inquisition in thirty years. Within the space of thirty-eight years after the edict of Charles V against the Protestants, fifty thousand persons were hanged, beheaded, or burned alive for heresy. Eighteen thousand more perished during the administration of the Duke of Alva in five and a half years.


-- Brief Bible Readings, p. 16.


This great antichristian power robbed the church of its gospel light and plunged the world into the Dark Ages.  It put to death and thus took away the lives of from fifty to one hundred millions of the saints of the Most High.


-- Bunch, Taylor, The Book of Daniel, 1950, p. 170.


One thousand years covers the crest of the persecutions when from 50,000,000 to 150,000,000 martyrs died of the sword, at the stake, in dungeons, and of starvation because of the confiscation of their earthly possessions.


-- Bunch, Taylor, The Book of Daniel, 1950, p. 185.


In like manner the blood of a hundred million martyrs cries for justice to the One who says, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay saith the Lord.”  Rom 12:19.


-- Bunch, Taylor, Studies in the Revelation, 1933?, p. 105.


Let us keep a sense of proportion. The record of Christianity from the days when it first obtained the power to persecute is one of the most ghastly in history. The total number of Manichaeans, Arians, Priscillianists, Paulicians, Bogomiles, Cathari, Waldensians, Albigensians, witches, Lollards, Hussites, Jews and Protestants killed because of their rebellion against Rome clearly runs to many millions; and beyond these actual executions or massacres is the enormously larger number of those who were tortured, imprisoned, or beggared. I am concerned rather with the positive historical aspect of this. In almost every century a large part of the race has endeavored to reject the Christian religion, and, if in those centuries there had been the same freedom as we enjoy, Roman Catholicism would, in spite of the universal ignorance, have shrunk long ago into a sect. The religious history of Europe has never yet been written.


--  The Story Of Religious Controversy Chapter XXIII by Joseph McCabe (an atheist) who lived from 1867 to 1955.


'The church,' says [Martin] Luther, has never burned a heretic.' . . I reply that this argument proves not the opinion, but the ignorance or impudence of Luther. Since almost infinite" numbers were either burned or otherwise killed,' Luther either did not know it, and was therefore ignorant, or if he was not ignorant, he is convicted of impudence and falsehood, —for that heretics were often burned by the [Catholic] Church may be proved from many examples.


-- Robert Bellarmine, Disputationes de Controversiis, Tom. ii, Lib. III, cap. XXII, “Objections Answered,” 1682 edition.  (Bellarmine was a Roman Catholic.)


Some have computed, that, from the year 1518 to1548, fifteen million of Protestants have perished by war and the Inquisition. This may be overcharged, but certainly the number of them in these thirty years, as well as since is almost incredible. To these we may add innumerable martyrs, in ancient, middle, and late ages, in Bohemia, Germany, Holland, France, England, Ireland, and many other parts of Europe, Africa, and Asia.

(from the commentary on the book of Revelation in Wesley’s “Explanatory Notes on the New Testament,” fifth edition, 1788), in which the comments on the book of Revelation are translated from the work of the German scholar John Bengel, and Wesley stated that he did not necessarily defend all of Bengel’s statements.)


Writing about the Jesuits, Lord states


They are accused of securing the revocation of the Edict of Nantes,-- one of the greatest crimes in the history of modern times, which led to the expulsion of four hundred thousand Protestants from France, and the execution of four hundred thousand more.


-- John Lord, Beacon Lights of History, volume VI, p. 325.


Some estimate that a million or even two million Huguenots fled France as a result, and a million and half converted, willingly or otherwise, to Catholicism.   In fact, even before the Edict of Nantes, the Huguenot wars took place in France, and many perished as well:


Some two millions of lives had perished since the breaking out of the civil wars.


-- James A. Wylie, The History of Protestantism, Vol. 2, Book 17, Chapter 19.


One estimate (Mariejol) is as high as four million.  In 1660 there were about 1,200,000 Huguenots (Protestants) in France, according to one source.  In 1562, 10 to 20 percent of France’s population of 16 million were Huguenots.  At one point, the (Catholic) Cardinal of Sainte-croix estimated that more than half of the French population were Huguenots.  It is estimated that more than one million Huguenots were slain trying to escape or became slaves in the galleys of the King of France.

A final figure:

Mede has calculated from good authorities “that in the war with the Albigenses and Waldenses there perished of these people, in France alone, 1,000,000.”


-- Christ and Antichrist, by Samuel J. Cassels, 1846, page 257.


And many similar figures could be given.


Chapter 2.  The plausibility of massive persecution


The following quotation shows the attitude of the Papacy towards heretics, which lends ample credibility to a large figure for the number persecuted and killed in the Middle Ages:


Treason.  The following paragraph from the “Review of the principles and history of Popery” contains an accurate summary of Romanism, as it involves the interest and safety of Protestant governments and nations.  “Refractory princes who have not been disposed to glut Rome’s insatiable thirst with enough of Christian blood, or who have not assented to all the Papistical usurpations and arrogant claims, have experienced no mercy. The right of succession has been denied and subverted, for the smallest personal taint of Anti-Romanism, or for the toleration of it in others; and indescribable difficulties always were interposed against the rebellious ruler's restoration to power, even after he had made every possible renunciation, and degraded himself to the most humiliating penances, and received the amplest pontifical absolutions.  For suspected and actual heresy, sentence of excommunication and deposition was fulminated against governors, more than for any other causes. Treasonable plots, conspiracies, insurrections, and rebellions, were formed, promoted, executed, and by pretended pleas of religion were justified, delighted in, and eulogized. Those infernal proceedings were blasphemously ascribed to the inspiration of God, and when any success attended the scheme, it was imputed to the divine approval, and unquestionable miraculous interposition. To execute those traitorous machinations, or to die in the attempt, was pronounced to be infallible proof of the most exalted piety, and the certain path to eternal felicity; entitling the actor to the honour of saintship, and the glorious crown of martyrdom. On the contrary, obedience and loyalty on the part of Papists to Protestant governments, are declared damnable sins, for which there is no pardon either in this world, or in eternity. To convince the bigoted adherents of the Papacy, that all such treasons are works of pre-eminent piety, pretended prayers, discourses, sacraments, ecclesiastical censures, absolutions, oaths, and covenants, with all that is apparently sacred and imposing in religion, have been prostituted; and all that is exciting and fascinating in superstition has been effectually employed among the votaries of the Romish Priesthood, who are divested of every sentiment of religion, virtue, or humanity. The absolute duty of assassinating Protestant rulers, especially after sentence has been pronounced against them by the Pope, is constantly taught and vehemently proclaimed; with the most deliberate resolution, and after the most solemn preparations, that nefarious criminality has frequently been perpetrated; although it has more often been unsuccessfully attempted: but in all cases the remorseless murderers have been exalted in Popish estimation to the very highest honours: and some of them were worshipped with the same adoration which is performed to the Romish canonized saints.”


 -- Bourne, George, The American Textbook of Popery, Griffith & Simon, Philadelphia, 1846, pp. 410-412.


The following statement concerning England in about the year 1400 gives more insight into the extent of the persecutions.


By this it was enacted that any one whom an ecclesiastical court should have declared to be guilty, or strongly suspected, of heresy, should, on being made over to the sheriff with a certificate to that effect, be publicly burnt.


[footnote, page 298]  It is remarked that England was the only country where such a statute was needed, as elsewhere the secular powers at once carried out the sentence.


-- James C. Robertson, History of the Christian Church, The Young Churchman Co., 1904, p. 297.


These persecutions were not necessarily directed by the hierarchy of the church, but for the most part probably originated at a much lower level, from the “ecclesiastical feudalism” of the Middle Ages, as described by Williams:


Abbes and bishops in consequence became suzerains, temporal lords, having  numerous vassals ready to take up arms for their cause, counts of justice – in fact all the prerogatives exercised by the great landlords. … This ecclesiastical feudalism was so extensive, so powerful, that in France and England it possessed during the Middle Ages more than a fifth of all the land; in Germany nearly a third.


-- Williams, Henry Smith, The Historian’s History of the World, vol. 8, p. 487.


Probably the greatest number of those who perished by the Papacy in Europe did so at the hands of these local authorities, on the grounds of suspected heresy or opposition to the church, and not necessarily at the direction of the Pope, preceded by a trial, nor mentioned in records.  Who would there have been to interfere with the actions of the local abbes and bishops?  The constant elimination of a few heretics here and there, in many locations, continued for many years, could easily have added up to a total of millions without making much of an impression on recorded history.  Throughout the Middle Ages as the possessions of the church increased, so would the number and power of these officials have increased, together with the number of their victims.  During the Crusades, their attention may have been externally directed, but with these ending in about 1272, the number of martyrs within Europe could have greatly increased.

The persecutions were not at all limited to the Inquisition, but took many forms.  Many of the victims were killed secretly and never brought to trial or sentenced.  These deaths would never have appeared in the official records of the Inquisition.  Such persecutions even continued until very recent times, as illustrated by the following quotation from W. C. Brownlee, Popery the Enemy of Civil and Religious Liberty, J. S. Taylor, New York, 1836, page 124:


I beg to direct you to the history of Spain, which, at length, is beginning to raise her head from the dust; and of Austria, Italy, and Naples.  There everything is exclusive and sanguinary.  Utter a word against the priest, or his senseless mummery, or refuse to fall down before the wafer god, and the dagger is plunged into your heart!


Note that it was common knowledge in Brownlee's day that such executions of dissenters from Catholicism took place.  Another quotation from Brownlee, p. 115 gives further support to this fact:


Listen, I beseech you, to your fellow-citizens, who have returned from their travels in Italy, Austria, and Naples, or South America.  In these lands the drawn sword of papal myrmidons is put to the throats of every public speaker, and editor, and author! One unpopish idea,--one single charge against despotism,--one word in praise of liberty,-one innuendo against priestcraft,  even although you say no more than that you have seen them in their priestly robes, at the cockpit; and deeply engaged, publicly, in gambling, with their mistresses, and licentious companions: one appeal, even though feebly uttered, for a free press,-for pure Christianity, and the rights of human conscience, will cost a man his liberty, or life, in one brief hour! Men may be as wicked as any of the ghostly leaders of the fashion that way; men may blaspheme God, and set heaven and hell at defiance, providing they do it with all due courtesy to the priests: they may, be consummate profligates, but it must be according to canonical rule. Crimes and vices contravene no law, providing the church be respected, and her dues be paid!  But woe to the patriot who shall whisper an insinuation, or print an effusion of a noble spirit, bursting with holy indignation against the hypocrisy, the priestly espionage, and despotism of popery! This is the only unpardonable sin at Rome. It can never be forgiven him, either in this world, or in purgatory! The dungeon cells, placed by papal care, at the bishop's service, in each cathedral; and the cells of the inquisition, and the agonies, and moanings, and shrieks of the oppressed, breathed only on the ear of heaven -these-these are the overwhelming proofs of popery's deadly hostility to the freedom of speech, and the press!


This description of persecution derives from the testimony of many travelers to Catholic countries at that time.  If such persecution took place in the early nineteenth century, how much more must it have occurred in the Middle Ages when the Papacy was at the height of its power!  For example, M’Crie relates (The Reformation in Spain, pp. 181-188) how a Spaniard in the year 1546 converted to Protestantism and was in consequence killed by his brother, who never was punished for his deed.  There must have been many such assassinations in the Middle Ages by loyal Catholics who were jealous for the reputation of the Virgin Mary.  In fact, threats and persecution even took place in the United States, according to Brownlee, pp. 210-211:


Who have their dungeon cells under their cathedrals, in which they claim, as inquisitors of their own diocese, to imprison free men in our republic?  Foreign popish bishops!  And the facts respecting a man being so confined and scourged, in the cells at Baltimore, until he recanted, have been published, and not to this day contradicted! ...  Who are in the habit of uttering ferocious threats "to assassinate and burn up" those Protestants who successfully oppose Romanism?  The foreign papists!  I have in my possession the evidence of no less than six such inhuman threatenings against myself.


Persecution also took the form of murders by corrupt authorities, as described in the following passage from Peter’s Tomb Recently Discovered in Jerusalem, by F. Paul Peterson, 1960, p. 45:


At length a Sclavonian waterman came to the palace with a startling story. He said that on the night when the prince disappeared, while he was watching some timber on the river, he saw two men approach the bank, and look cautiously around to see if they were observed. Seeing no one, they made a signal to two others, one of whom was on horseback, and who carried a dead body swung carelessly across his horse. He advanced to the river, flung the corpse far into the water, and then rode away. Upon being asked why he had not mentioned this before, the waterman replied that it was a common occurrence, and that he had seen more than a hundred bodies thrown into the Tiber in a similar manner.


Even as recently as the mid twentieth century, dissenters from Catholicism were in danger, according to the following quotations:


But to even bring things closer home; an acquaintance told me of a recent conversation between a Protestant relative of hers and a Roman Catholic. The Catholic said, "I would like to see the blood of Protestants flow down the streets of this city." The Protestant was rightly surprised and said, "How can you say that, we are friends and you know that I am a Protestant?" The Catholic responded, "Yes, I know, but the greater the sacrifice, the greater the reward."  Since they teach Catholics from childhood on, that to kill a Protestant is to do God a service, we had better be careful how we put Catholics in public office [but note that such teaching does not appear to be continued today, and also other quotations show that many Catholics oppose such persecution].

While I was in Ohio recently, I was told the same story by two people at different times, of a pastor who has a Christian broadcast. Through the preaching of the Gospel, this pastor at times would have Roman Catholics tell him of their difficulties and ask for advice. One case was of a lady who implicated a priest in a scandal. The pastor would always advise all those who came to him, according to the Scripture, and would urge all to trust only in Jesus Christ for their salvation.  Several times, this pastor received strange telephone calls. Once a woman called and advised the pastor never to have communications with Catholics who call or write in to him. He responded that it was his God-given duty to help in any way possible, all those who came to him, and that he could not comply with her request. She then said that bodily harm could come to him or those Catholics who communicated with him. The pastor responded that surely the Catholic Church would not be guilty of such an unchristian act. The answer came that the Catholic Church was too "holy" to shed blood, but they had their agents who would. Mark you, what an outrage on human intelligence, to leave the impression that the instigators of bloodshed are innocent. This is a perfect example how they do their nefarious acts, whether to individuals or nations, and manage to keep hidden from the public.


-- Peterson, 1960, pp. 50-51.


While travelling on a train in Spain I talked with quite a number of Spanish Catholics, and some of them in hushed voices said, while armed soldiers were passing to and fro outside our compartment door, "I am a Catholic, but I do not agree with the way the priests are persecuting the Protestants." You hear such statements in all Catholic countries. Six months ago, in Brazil, a fanatical mob led by a priest destroyed a Baptist and a Presbyterian Church. It got out into the papers there, and honest Catholics all over the land raised their voices against such barbarity. The same is true of the priestly murders of Christians in Colombia. But Rome does not mind, nor is she checked by mere protests.


-- "The Rise and Fall of the Roman Catholic Church" by F. Paul Peterson, published privately, 1959, page 21.


A pastor in Britain, who had been a missionary in Lebanon, told me the following story: A young man had visited America when World War II had broken out, and remained there until the war was over.  He then returned to Lebanon enquiring about his relatives. He was told that only a cousin remained and she had entered a Convent. He went there and saw her and they decided to be married, which is lawful in Lebanon.  They spoke to the Superior about it and it was agreed that he should come back the next day to take her away. When he came back the Superior said that she had already given him the girl.  He responded, "Why no, you did not give me the girl." The Superior insisted and called two nuns and asked them if it was not true that they had given him the girl, and they bore testimony to the statement. His first thought was to notify the police, but then he realised that he would have to give an account as to what had been done with the girl, since there were testimonies against him. But murder will out. Next door to the Convent lived an old couple. The man was not feeling well, and he asked his wife to make him some tea from the lemon blossoms of a tree which they had in their back yard. The wife climbed the tree, picked the blossoms, when she noticed that over the high wall the nuns were digging a large hole in the ground. She told her husband of the strange incident, who accused her of being mad to say that at night the nuns were digging a large hole in the ground. But he went out and verified the fact. They reported the incident to the police, who were directed to the spot, and excavation was made and the girl was found. She had been poisoned. The Convent was made into a Government institution, and the nuns were judged according to the law. A large book could be written over modern occurrences of this type. Rome never changes.


-- Peterson, 1959, pp. 44-45.


A British Consul in Yugoslavia told the following incident to a good friend of mine, which happened in the early days of Marshall Tito.  There was a boys' school run by priests and, not far away, was a small village made up of Protestants.  One day the priests told the boys that the Protestants should be killed and, together with the priests, the horrible massacre was carried out.  Tito, hearing of this, sent his troops and killed every priest and boy in the school.


-- Peterson, 1959, p 50.


Just recently I was in various cities in Eire (Southern Ireland), and while travelling there I spoke to over 15 priests about salvation through Christ. I realized I was treading on dangerous ground, but one Irishman seemed to realize it more than I did. I was in a compartment in a train with about sixteen people, one of whom was a priest. I gave him a good testimony, telling him of my experience of conversion. I had just asked him about his own experiences with God (which is quite an embarrassing question), when the Irishman next to him entered into the talk, but quickly steered the conversation to other matters. Later, when we had to change trains, this Irishman came to me and apologized for the way he had changed the subject. But he asked me, "Didn't you know that man was a priest ? "I replied that I knew that. He then said, "You were in danger, for this is Southern Ireland."


-- Peterson, 1959, p. 111.


During its rise to power, the Papacy also essentially exterminated the Heruli shortly after 493 A.D., the Vandals soon after 533 A.D., and the Ostrogoths in 554 A.D, all of whom were asserted to hold to the Arian belief.  However, Limborch (The History of the Inquisition, p. 95) doubts that Arius held the views attributed to him.  Concerning the Vandals, Bunch writes


“It is reckoned that during the reign of Justinian, Africa lost five millions of inhabitants; thus Arianism was extinguished in that region, not by any enforcement of conformity, but by the extermination of the race which had introduced and professed it.” – History of the Christian Church, J.C. Robertson, Vol. 1, p. 521.


-- Bunch, Taylor, The Book of Daniel, p. 101.


Of course, the Heruli and the Ostrogoths also undoubtedly numbered in the millions, and were exterminated.  Everywhere one looks there is evidence of millions and millions of people who were killed by the Papacy in various stages of its history.  The Hussites were also nearly exterminated:


[footnote, speaking of Innocent VIII] Yet on the papal throne he played the zealot against the Germans, whom he accused of magic, in his bull Summis desiderantes affectibus, etc., and also against the Hussites, whom he well nigh exterminated.


-- Williams, Henry Smith, The Historian’s History of the World, vol. 8, p. 643.


Furthermore, in a footnote speaking of the thirty years’ war which started in Bohemia where the Hussites originated, Krus and Webb write


The intensity of that conflict surpassed that of other types of armed confrontations. In Bohemia, for instance, there were whole sections of the country in which nobody was left to bury the dead. The total population of Bohemia decreased in the 17th century from about 3 million to 500,000. These population changes are representative of other areas of Central Europe afflicted by the Thirty Years War.


-- Krus, D.J., & Webb, J.M. (1993) Quantification of Santayana's cultural schism theory. Psychological Reports, 72, 319-325.


In fact, many sects had been exterminated throughout the history of Rome:


The inquisitor Reinerius, who died in 1259, has left it on record: "Concerning the sects of ancient heretics, observe, that there have been more than seventy: all of which, except the sects of the Manichaeans and the Arians and the Runcarians and the Leonists which have infected Germany, have through the favour of God, been destroyed.


-- Broadbent, E.H., The Pilgrim Church, Gospel Folio Press, 2002, p. 90 (originally published in 1931).


            One of these sects lost a hundred thousand to persecution:


An edict was issued under the regency of Theodora, which decreed that the Paulicians should be exterminated by fire and sword, or brought back to the Greek church. … It is affirmed by civil and ecclesiastical historians, that, in a short reign, one hundred thousand Paulicians were put to death.


-- Andrew Miller, Short Papers on Church, London, Chapter 16.


CHAPTER 3.  The 50 Million Figure

It is often claimed by historic Protestant writers that 50 million or more people have been killed by the Papacy.  For example, Buck [Buck, Charles, A Theological Dictionary, containing Definitions of All Religious Terms; ..., Philadelphia, Thomas Cowperthwait & Co., 1838, article “Persecution”, p. 335] writes, “It has been computed that fifty millions of Protestants have at different times been the victims of the persecutions of the Papists, and put to death for their religious opinions.”  However, most people today have no idea how this figure of 50 million was originally computed.  Some persons today are claiming that this figure of 50 million has no basis in fact and is an exaggeration based on anti-Catholic sentiment.  Therefore it is of interest to find out how this figure was originally computed in order to evaluate its reliability.  This study reveals some aspects of history that are being neglected today and also gives us an insight into the extent to which the true history of religion is being lost.  This study also shows how some of the other figures were computed.

There were many attempts to calculate the number killed by the Papacy.  Albert Barnes, in his commentary on Revelation 11:14, states, “Calculations, more or less accurate, have been made of the numbers Popery has slain….”  We give one plausible method of computation for the often quoted figure of 50 million killed by the Papacy in Europe.  As a starting point, John Wesley speaks of “the whole number of victims who have been offered up in Europe since the beginning of the Reformation? Partly by war, partly by the Inquisition, and a thousand other methods of Romish cruelty? No less within forty years, if the computation of an eminent writer be just, than five and forty millions!” John Wesley, "Doctrine of Original Sin", Part I, section II.8, 1757, Wesley's Works, edited by Thomas Jackson, vol. 9, pp. 217-19.  He also wrote,

Some have computed, that, from the year 1518 to1548, fifteen million of Protestants have perished by war and the Inquisition. This may be overcharged, but certainly the number of them in these thirty years, as well as since is almost incredible. To these we may add innumerable martyrs, in ancient, middle, and late ages, in Bohemia, Germany, Holland, France, England, Ireland, and many other parts of Europe, Africa, and Asia.

(from the commentary on the book of Revelation in Wesley’s “Explanatory Notes on the New Testament,” fifth edition, 1788)  Also, Bennet [Bennet, Benjamin, Several discourses against popery, Lawrence and Midwinter, London, 1714, p. 459] writes,


And some that have pretended to make a calculation, affirm, that in the space of 40 years Rome has been the death of 30 millions of people.


Also, Halley’s Bible Handbook, 1965 edition, page 726, referencing many older works on church history states “Historians estimate that, in the Middle Ages and Early Reformation Era, more than 50,000,000 Martyrs perished.”  Furthermore, speaking of Innocent III, Halley writes [p. 776], “More Blood was Shed under his direction, and that of his immediate successors, than at any other period of Church History, except in the Papacy’s effort to Crush the Reformation in the 16th and 17th centuries.”  In his introduction to [Berg, Lectures on Romanism, D. Weidner, Philadelphia, 1840, p. 6], Brownlee writes, “Rome has been ‘drunk with the blood’ of fifty millions of martyred Culdees, Waldenses, Albigenses, Bohemian Brethren, Wicklifites, and Protestants!”  This at least gives a listing of those included in one of the computations of fifty million killed. Voltaire wrote [Traite sur la Tolerance, 1763, Chapter XVII]


depuis environ quatorze cents ans, la théologie a procuré le massacre de plus de
cinquante millions d'hommes.


This shows that one of these computations of 50 million killed was accepted by Voltaire and approximately covered the period from 350 A.D. to 1750 A.D.  In commenting on this figure, a web page maintained by Professor James MacLean of the Department of French and Spanish at Memorial University of Newfoundland says


allusion aux Guerres de Religion, aux Croisades, etc.


Thus Prof. MacLean speculates that the 50 million figure is based on wars of religion, crusades, and other events.


These quotations give us important clues about the origin of the figure of 50 million killed by the Papacy in Europe.  Another individual recalled to the author that this figure of 50 million consisted mostly of those killed after the beginning of the reformation, suggesting that this 50 million figure contained the 45 million figure.  Because Wesley quoted the figure of 15 million killed by war and the Inquisition, it is reasonable to conclude that this is part of the figure of 45 million, and that this figure of 45 million is part of the often quoted figure of 50 million.  The figure of 30 million killed in 40 years probably refers to a period including the Thirty Years’ War from 1618 to 1648.  Thus the figure of 45 million is probably the sum of these two other figures of 15 million killed from 1518 to 1548 and 30 million killed in 40 years including the period from 1618 to 1648.  It is interesting that even in 1714, such computations were being done.  In general, in reconstructing the computation, it is helpful to remember that these death tolls tend to decrease with time due to the influence of the Catholic Church, so that death tolls that are considered high today were probably used in the computation.  For example, Lockman [A history of the cruel sufferings of the protestants, and others, by Popish persecutions, in various countries: together with a view of the reformations from the Church of Rome. London: printed. And, Dublin: re-printed by J. Potts, 1763, p. 226] writes that during the Huguenot wars in France, even when many Protestants were being forcibly converted to Catholicism the “Romish clergy” were claiming that these conversions were entirely voluntary.  Thus the Catholic version of history will tend to reduce the magnitude of past persecutions.  In addition, the specific events covered in the computation of the 50 million figure were probably mentioned by later Protestants, even if the computation itself was not mentioned.  Therefore it is best to restrict the computation to massacres listed, for example, by Brownlee and others.


The time period for the figure of 45 million has now been reasonably established, but not the place.  For this, Burton [Burton, Robert, Martyrs in flames: or, the history of Popery, Bettesworth and Batley, London, 1729] lists in the table of contents the following persecutions:  Piedmont, France, Orange, Bohemia, Germany, Poland, Lithuania, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Holland, Flanders, Scotland, Ireland, and England.  This seems to be the most exhaustive list of persecutions of any of the sources examined, indicating the areas in which the principal persecutions took place.  In fact, Buck [Buck, Charles, A Theological Dictionary, containing Definitions of All Religious Terms; ..., Philadelphia, Thomas Cowperthwait & Co., 1838, article “Persecution”] writes, speaking of the time after the Protestant Reformation,


The inquisition, which was established in the twelfth century against the Waldenses ... was now more effectually set to work.  Terrible persecutions were carried on in various parts of Germany, and even in Bohemia, which continued about thirty years, and the blood of the saints was said to flow like rivers of water.  The countries of Poland, Lithuania, and Hungary, were in a similar manner deluged with Protestant blood [p. 333].


This suggests that the principal areas of persecution included Germany, Bohemia, Poland, Lithuania, and Hungary.   Also, Bennet [Bennet, Benjamin, Several discourses against popery, Lawrence and Midwinter, London, 1714, p. 457] writes


Germany, Bohemia, Poland, Lithuania &c. have in their turns been deluged in blood.


Thus the time and place of the major persecutions contributing to the 50 million figure have been determined with reasonable confidence.  It remains to estimate numbers killed in each of these persecutions and show that they add up to 50 million.  Although it is not yet possible to give a full accounting, one can assign reasonable totals to these persecutions that do add up to 50 million.


A large portion of the figure of 45 million is covered by the thirty years’ war, the conflict in Bohemia, the civil wars and persecutions in France, and 15 million killed from 1518 to 1548.  Now, the thirty years’ war lasted from 1618 to 1648 and estimates for those killed in this conflict range up to 14 million.  The thirty years’ war started when Ferdinand II (1578-1648) tried to suppress Protestantism in the Holy Roman Empire.  As for where Ferdinand II got his motivation, “Emperor Ferdinand II, of the House of Hapsburg, had been educated by the Jesuits; and with their help undertook to suppress Protestantism.”  (Halley, p. 792)   “The sons and daughters of the rich and noble they [the Jesuits] sought by every means to bring under their influence, and they were soon the favorite confessors in the imperial court and in many of the royal courts of Europe. ….  It was their policy to … instill into their minds [the rich and the noble] an undying hatred of every form of opposition to the Catholic faith.    When they had once molded a ruler to their will and made him the subservient instrument of their policy, they were ever at his side dictating to him the measures to be employed for the eradication of heresy and the complete reformation of his realm according to the Jesuit ideal, and they were ever ready, with full papal authority, to conduct inquisitorial work.” [Newman, pp. 374-375]  Lindsay [A History of the Reformation, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1922, pp. 607-608] writes, “Many Romanist Princes had no wish to persecute, still less to see their provinces depopulated by banishment. … Toleration of Protestants they [the Jesuits] represented to be the unpardonable sin.  They succeeded in many cases in inducing Romanist rulers to withdraw the protection they had hitherto accorded to their Protestant subjects ….  The League was the symbol in France of this Counter-Reformation.  … they [the Jesuits] were the restless and ruthless organizers of the Holy League.”  Clarke [Clarke, Samuel, A looking-glass for persecutors, London, Printed for W. Miller, 1674, p. 52] writes, “The emperor Ferdinand the second, was a great Persecutor of the Protestants in Bohemia and Germany, who after his victory over Frederick, Prince Palatine, and the Bohemian States, made it his work to root out the Protestant Religion in those Countries, and turned them into a very shambles of Blood, sparing neither Age, Sex, nor Rank that refused to abjure the Truth.  But while he was in his full Career, God brought in against him a contemptible people [the Swedes] under whose swords most of those bloody wretches fell; who were the Bohemian scourges, so that much of Germany, and of the Emperors Country was a very Aceldama, a Field of Blood.”  A high estimate for the Thirty Years’ War is that the population of Germany was reduced from 20 million to 7 million, implying 13 million killed [Cushing B. Hassell, History of the Church of God, Chapter XVII]; actually the population should have increased by about 3 million during this time, so we can estimate 16 million killed.  Ploetz [Epitome of Ancient, Medieval, and Modern History, 1884, p. 312] writes of the “Terrible ravages committed by the bands of Wallenstein” in Germany in 1632 in Saxony.  Also, in 1648, Ploetz [p. 315] writes “Terrible condition of Germany.  Irreparable losses of men and wealth.  Reduction of population; increase of poverty; retrogradation in all ranks.”  The war extended to other areas of Europe, and there was also a tremendous population loss there, so it would not be unreasonable to estimate 18 million killed altogether.  In fact, one edition of Halley’s Bible Handbook states that estimates for this war reach as high as 20 million:


The Thirty Years War had started as a Religious War; it ended as a Political War; it resulted in the deaths of 10,000,000 to 20,000,000.  Jesuit educated Ferdinand II started it with the purpose of crushing Protestantism.


Halley, Henry H., Pocket Bible Handbook, Chicago, 13th edition, 1939, p. 418.


Estimates for the number killed in the Huguenot wars in France range as high as 4 million, and probably almost all of these were killed by Catholics.  Pierre Miquel [Les guerres de religion, Paris : Fayard, c1980, p. 396] writes,


Henri IV n'était pas plus riche.  Son royaume était dévasté: en quarante ans de guerres civiles étrangères, la France avait sans doute perdu plusiers millions d'hommes et de femmes (4 millions, selon Mariéjol).


In support of this figure, Albert Barnes in his commentary on Revelation 11:14 writes,


In France several million were destroyed in the innumerable massacres that took place in that kingdom.


If four million persons were killed in France in only forty years, the total killed in France could be considerably higher including those killed afterwards.  Concerning the persecutions in France, Southwell [Southwell, Henry, The new book of martyrs; or complete Christian martyrology. Containing an authentic and genuine historical account of the many dreadful persecutions against the Church of Christ, in all parts of the world, ... Imprint London : printed for J. Cooke, [1765?]] writes,


“Thus did popish malice pursue the reformed in most parts of France, and persecute them under various names, but the denomination about this time, viz. the sixteenth century, most obnoxious to the Roman Catholics were hugonots, protestants, Lutherans, and Calvinists; and as these words were then synonymous in their meaning, and implied renouncing the errors of the church of Rome, so all who were apprehended under the imputation of belonging to either, were equally martyred.  Yet the reformed flourished under persecution….” [p. 93]


“the king [of France] publically declared he would exterminate the protestants from France….”  “The general cry was ‘Turn papists, or die.’” [p. 108]


“Those who were not put to death suffered imprisonment, had their houses pulled down, their lands laid waste, their property stolen, and their wives and daughters, after being ravished, sent into convents…. If any fled from these cruelties, they were pursued through the woods, hunted and shot like wild beasts....At the head of the dragoons, in all the provinces of France, marched the bishops, priests, friars, &c. the clergy being ordered to keep up the cruel spirit of the military.  An order was published for demolishing all protestant churches….” [pp. 108-109]


Adding 15 million for the period 1518 to 1548 and 18 million for the thirty years’ war and 3 million for Bohemia and 4 million for France gives 40 million, nearly agreeing with Wesley’s estimate.  The remaining 5 million persons can be accounted for by the persecutions in Poland, Hungary, Lithuania, and elsewhere.  Some of these estimates may be on the high side, but many smaller conflicts and persecutions have been left out, such as the Irish Rebellion of 1641 and the killing of probably millions of witches.  Another example is the persecution of the Waldensians; Halley’s Bible handbook, 1965 estimates 900,000 Protestants killed from 1540 to 1570 in the persecution of the Waldenses.  At least this method of computation gives us a good idea where the figure of 45 million comes from and takes the mystery out of its origin.


Also, Wesley in his diary of January 16, 1760 quotes Sir John Davis in his “Historical Relations Concerning Ireland” as stating that “from 1600 to 1641, the general massacre, with the ensuing war, again thinned their numbers; not so few as a million of men, women, and children, being destroyed in four years' time.”  The rebellion in 1641 killed more than 150,000 Protestants in Ireland, by the priests’ own computations, and many others died later.  This shows how quickly religious wars consume lives.  Similar numbers were killed in a short time in France, Bohemia, and especially Germany.  Thus it is reasonable to conclude that in the countries of Poland, Hungary, and Lithuania, at least four million persons were killed at about the time of the thirty years’ war.  With the million persons killed in Ireland and the 40 million figure computed above, this yields 45 million killed since the Reformation.  Almost all of these would be Protestants, because Protestants do not generally massacre Catholics but Catholics in the past have often massacred Protestants.  In a similar way, with the religious conflicts raging in Europe from 1518 to 1548, it is reasonable to assume that 15 million persons were killed then.


Now, to obtain 50 million, one has to include those killed before the Protestant Reformation.  For this, estimates for the Hundred Years’ War from 1337-1453 range up to 10 million killed, and this war could have been furthered by the Papacy, as nearly all other European wars were.  (See Philip Pregill, Landscapes in History, 2d Ed. estimating the population loss in France at 6.3 million and Frederic J. Baumgartner, France in the Sixteenth Century estimating the population loss in France at 10 million, taken from a web page by Matthew White.  Both sources deny that the Black Death caused most of these deaths.)  In fact, the reconquest of Spain from the Mohammedans took several centuries, so it is reasonable to estimate the number killed in this war at well over 10 million.  W. C. Brownlee estimates the slaughter of Saracens in Spain at 3 million, but other estimates are higher.  Joseph Berg writes [Lectures on Romanism, D. Weidner, Philadelphia, 1840, p. 260],


The stupid quarrels that have originated from disputes relative to ceremonies the most puerile have deluged Europe with blood…. “Disputes arose in connection with this ceremony [the investiture of prelates], which cost sixty-three battles, and the lives of many millions of men.  Fra.  Paolo says it cost eighty battles in Germany alone.  This question excited great troubles, particularly in Germany and England….  The Dictionnaire des Sciences states that it occasioned sixty battles under Henry IV., and sixty-eight under Henry V, his successor, in which two millions of men were slain.”


One can also list the Catholic crusade against the Albigenses in Southern France (from 1209-1229) with one to two million killed.  Newman [A Manual of Church History by Albert Henry Newman, The American Baptist Publication Society, Philadelphia, 1902, p. 461] speaks of many crusades against heretics in Europe: “There were many crusades against heretics in Europe, as against the Albigenses (1208-1249) and against the Hussites (1420-1431).  These were accompanied by the indiscriminate massacre of the helpless populations in the regions invaded.”  Also, Brownlee in one place speaks of “millions of Albigenses and Waldenses” killed by Rome.  Computations for the total number of Waldenses killed can easily range into many millions, as shown elsewhere.  These could make up the balance of the 50 million killed in Europe.  But the persecutions only increased their numbers, by scattering them in many lands.  Finally a crusade was pronounced against them.  As an example of such persecution, Morant writes [Morant, Philip, The cruelties and persecutions of the Romish church display'd …. James and John Knapton, London, 1728, p. 52], “Again, in the year 1235, an army of the Albigenses was entirely defeated near Spain, so that not one of them escaped.  Likewise in Germany there was an infinite number of them killed.”  Concerning persecutions in Bohemia before the Reformation, Southwell [Southwell, Henry,  The new book of martyrs; or complete Christian martyrology. Containing an authentic and genuine historical account of the many dreadful persecutions against the Church of Christ, in all parts of the world, ... Imprint London : printed for J. Cooke, [1765?]] writes,


“In the year 1460, the king of Bohemia published a very severe edict against all protestants; commanding the Bohemian nobility and magistrates, not only to seize them wherever they could find them on their estates, and within their districts, but to pursue them to their retreats, to hunt them in their recesses, and to do every thing they possibly could toward their extirpation.” [p. 184]


“In the year 1510, an edict was prepared for ordering an immediate and general massacre of all the protestants that could be found in Bohemia….” [p. 185]


Concerning the Cathari, who were similar to the Waldenses, near the end of the twelfth century “The Dominican Rainerius gave 4,000,000 as a safe estimate of their number and declared this was according to a census made by the Cathari themselves” [Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, 8 volumes (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdman’s, 1910; reprint, 1978), Volume V, Chapter X].  Of course nearly all of the Cathari were killed.  They were said to be very zealous for their faith, and few would have recanted.  In addition, if the Cathari conducted a census, they must have been a cohesive group.  There must have been many other “heretics” that had similar beliefs but were not part of the Cathari; it would be reasonable to estimate at least 8 million when these were included.  This would imply that the number of those killed by the Papacy before the Reformation was 8 million or more, especially when one considers the hundreds of years that elapsed since the Papacy was established.


For evidence that there were many sects during this time and that they were very numerous and willing to die for their faith rather than to recant, Neander [General History of the Christian Religion and Church: Translated from the German of Dr. Augustus Neander by Joseph Torrey, Volume VI, London: George Bell & Sons, York Street, Covent Garden, 1889] writes,


This sect [Thondracians, a sect of Paulicians], though it met with no mercy from the bishops, at whose instigation it was fiercely persecuted, continually revived, and spread [p. 343] widely in Armenia.  At one time, in particular, about the year 1002 it made the most alarming progress …. [p. 342]


The corruption of the clergy furnished the heretics a most important vantage-ground from which to attack the dominant church and its sacraments.  The ignorance of the people on religious subjects exposed them to be continually deceived by those who were seeking, on whatever side, to work upon the minds of the multitude.  The fickle populace were excited sometimes by the fiery appeals of the heretics … to abhorrence of their corrupt clergy …; and sometimes, by the influence of the clergy, to fanatical fury against the heretics, who were represented as utterly irreligious and godless men. [p. 348]


Except in the case of one ecclesiastic and one nun, all the pains which were taken to reclaim them from their errors, in other words, to induce them to recant, were to no purpose.  The others, thirteen in number, were condemned to the stake, and died there.  [p. 354, speaking of members of a sect at Orleans]


The sufferings to which they [a sect of Gerhard] were exposed on account of their doctrines, they encountered cheerfully, considering them as means of expiating sins committed before and in the present life ….Those therefore who were deprived of the privilege of dying as martyrs, died cheerfully under self-inflicted tortures. [p. 361]


… the fury with which the Catharists were persecuted in the thirteenth century may have contributed to promote among them this fanatical seeking after death; and we meet with examples which show that they inflicted death on themselves in these ways, to avoid falling victims to the inquisitions. [Volume VIII, p. 319]


The Catharists were zealous in disseminating their principles everywhere; they were careful to improve every favorable circumstance for this purpose, and seized upon every occurrence which could serve as a means to it. …the heretics, who at the peril of their lives traveled about from village to village and from house to house.  As merchants they frequented fairs and markets …. [p. 320]


The intrepidity and calmness with which the Catharists faced an excruciating death might well create an impression in their favour on those who were not altogether hardened by fanaticism. …  The persecutions furthered the spread of the Catharists, who often held their meetings in obscure retreats, catacombs, and subterranean caves.  … in 1231, many priests even were affected with the heresy, and the sharpest measures had to be employed in order to stay it. [p. 330]


Such was their boldness that, in open defiance of the church, they [the Catharists] proceeded to elect a pope for themselves, to act as supreme head over their scattered communities.  Such a pope appears in South France, Nequinta.  He held, in 1167, a church-assembly at Toulouse, to which crowds of men and women flocked ….  Nine bishops were installed ….  Still later, about 1223, the sect chose themselves a pope in their original seat, in Bulgaria ….  Delegates of the sect visited him from all quarters, for the purpose of consulting him on disputed matters. [p. 331]


… not only people of rank left their possessions and joined them, but also clergymen, priests, monks, and nuns were among their adherents.  And it is mentioned as a characteristic fact, that the rudest and most unlettered peasant who joined their sect, would in less than eight days gain so much knowledge of the Scriptures, that he could not be foiled in argument by any man. [p. 337, speaking of another sect]


… after he had laboured for ten years in those regions [Toulouse and Alby], Bernard of Clairvaux, in writing to a nobleman, could say, “The churches are without flocks, the flocks without priests, the priests are nowhere treated with due reverence, the churches are leveled down to synagogues, the sacraments are not esteemed holy, the festivals are no longer celebrated.” … he [Bernard] means the priests had gone over to the Henricians …. [p. 349]


The corruption of the clergy had, even in places where the church-system of doctrine was still held fast, excited great dissatisfaction and violent complaints, as appears evident from the songs of the Troubadours, who came from these districts, where this tone of feeling is not to be mistaken. [p. 351]


Since then … the church had now to engage in a violent contest with tendencies of spirit struggling in opposition to her, continually multiplying and continually spreading,--a contest such as had never occurred before,--she must be driven … to employ every means at her command for the purpose of suppressing an insurrection which could not be put down by spiritual might alone. [p. 399]


 … the bishops … were no longer regarded in the communities with the requisite respect.  This was especially the case in South France, in Languedoc, in the territory of the counts of Toulouse ….  The clergy and the church service had here, ever since the last times of the twelfth century, been treated with contempt and ridicule. [p. 400]


Innocent the Third … well understood that extraordinary measures were needed to suppress the heretical tendencies so rapidly advancing, which threatened wholly to sever the connection betwixt these districts and the church of Rome. … he chose for his instruments the monks … the germ of the future inquisitions. [p. 401]


After the land had been laid waste for thirty years, the blood of thousands had been spilt, and a general submission had thus, in the year 1229, been finally brought about by force, the maintenance of the faith was still by no means secured for the future.  The sects destroyed by fire and sword sprang up afresh out of the same needs of the spirit from which they had sprung up at the beginning. [p. 404]


Many of these sects were essentially Protestants, so that many of their martyrs can be included in the figure of 50 million Protestants killed by the Papacy.  Perrin, who was a leading Waldensian minister, writes [History of the Waldenses, Book I, Chapter III, 1618] that the Waldenses were called by many names including Albigenses, Josephists, Lollards, Henricians, and Arnoldists and that many false accusations were made against them in order to induce the secular powers to persecute them.  They were also called Cathari, Arians, and Manichees.  In Chapter VI and VIII Perrin shows that the beliefs of the Waldenses were very similar to those of the later Protestants.  In Chapter VIII Perrin shows how the teachings of the Waldenses spread to England and were handed down to Wycliff and from him communicated to John Huss.  Also, the Bohemians obtained their beliefs somewhat earlier from the Waldenses.  Therefore there is a direct connection between the Waldenses and the later Protestants.


Where does the figure of 15 million killed in the period 1518 and 1548 in war and the Inquisition come from?  It is possible to conjecture about this as well, considering the large numbers of people even in Catholic countries that were accepting Protestantism.  Jortin writes, “…at the time of the Reformation, when multitudes of Heretics and Schismatics, as they called them, arose in all places …” [Jortin, John, 1698-1770. Sermons on different subjects, by the late Reverend John Jortin, ... London : printed for Benjamin White, 1771-72., p. 127].  There would have been many Protestants in Hungary, because “under Maximilian II. the Reformation made unobstructed progress” [Kurtz, History of the Christian Church from the Reformation to the Present Time, 1872, p. 105].  Also, “It [the Reformation] was most cordially welcomed in Prussian Poland” and “In Poland proper, the new movements spread with great power” [Kurtz p. 103].   The same was true in Bohemia; “Thus Bohemia became an evangelical country; in a hundred inhabitants not more than one or two were Catholics” [Kurtz p. 105].  One commentator said that more than half of France was Huguenot at one point.  As for Spain, “About 1550, the reformatory movement acquired so general and comprehensive a character, that a Spanish historian of that period expresses the belief that all Spain would have fallen a prey to the heresy, if the Inquisition had delayed the application of the remedy but three months” [Kurtz, p. 106].   In Italy, the same was true, because it took many years to eradicate Protestantism: “in 1542 a special Inquisition was instituted to suppress Protestantism in Italy, which, with reckless, fanatical fury, punished every appearance of Protestantism with imprisonment, the galleys, the scaffold, and the stake; nevertheless, it did not accomplish its purpose until towards the close of the century” [Kurtz, p. 107].  Of course Protestantism was also prevalent in the Protestant countries of Europe.  Everywhere multitudes were accepting the true gospel.  The Papacy felt its life was at stake, and met the threat with the most determined measures.


Wherever Protestantism appeared, it was viciously persecuted, both in the period from 1518 to 1548 and later.  Concerning the period from 1518 to 1548, R.B. writes [R.B., The scarlet whore, or, the wicked abominations, horrid cruelties and persecutions of the Pope and Church of Rome …, Macnair, Glasgow, 1779]


About the year 1523 Martin Luther begain to shine as a great light in Germany, and his doctrine soon overspread Bohemia, and all the parts adjoining; which so enraged the pope and his clergy that they continually raised very violent persecutions against them, wherein multitudes of good Christians lost their lives by means of Ferdinand I. and Charles V. emperors of Germany. [p. 36]


Germany was miserably torn and rent to pieces by the cruelties and severities which they inflicted in order to extinguish the light of the gospel. … In the year 1523 the pope excited the emperor Charles V. to destroy all the protestants as heretics, and allowed him 200,000 crowns to raise soldiers for that purpose ….  The duke of Saxony and the landgrave of Hesse stood up for the protestants, and were taken prisoners in the year 1547.  Wherever the papists prevailed all sorts of cruelties … pursued the protestants, so that all Germany was as it were in a flame and combustion at once, some flying, and others suffering death on every side for their conscience and religion. [p. 39]


Also, in 1521 Luther was pronounced a heretic and punishments against him and his followers were decreed.  In 1522 Hadrian the Sixth incited the princes of Germany to root out the teachings of Luther.  Soon afterwards Lutheranism spread over almost the whole of Europe [Garrido, Fernando, and C. B. Cayley, A history of political and religious persecutions : from the earliest days of the Christian church, London, 1870?, p. 499].  In 1525 Clement the Seventh urged the senate of Paris to punish the Lutheran heresy that had sprung up among them. Also,


In Germany, after the victories of Charles V [about 1546], against the Lutherans, there ensued a very bitter persecution in many places, authority armed with laws and vigorous malice striving against simple verity.  Both ministers and people, some were tossed from place to place; some exited out of their native countries, others driven into the woods, and forced to live in caves; some tormented upon the rack, and others burnt with fire and faggot.  [The true spirit of popery, or, The treachery and cruelty of the Papists exercis’d against the Protestants …, London : Printed for Richard Baldwin ..., 1688, p. 22]


“The emperor Charles V, in the year 1547, ordered that all the decrees of the council of Trent, against the protestants, should be put in force with the utmost rigour, in every part of his extensive dominions.    This severe order occasioned a most dreadful persecution throughout the greatest part of Europe; for as the emperor’s power was very extensive, so the cruelties practiced were almost innumerable.  None, however, suffered more than the protestants of Bohemia…. The poor, who had no money to pay by way of mitigation, for thinking and acting right, were [here the passage becomes very explicit, so those who are sensitive should NOT read the rest of it] Racked, Burnt, Sawn asunder, Thrown from rocks, Torn by wild horses, Cut to pieces, Hanged, Drowned, Stabbed, Boiled in oil, Immured and starved, Beheaded, had boiling lead poured down their throats, were thrown on spears, hung up by the ribs, or crucified with their heads downwards.” [Southwell, op. cit., p. 185]


[Speaking of Germany after 1517]  “Indeed, the pope was so terrified at the success of that courageous reformer [Luther], that he determined to engage the emperor, Charles the Fifth, at any rate, in the scheme to attempt their extirpation…. Thus prompted and supported, the emperor undertook the extirpation of the protestants….”  [Speaking of the defeat of the protestants in battle in 1547]  “This fatal blow was succeeded by a horrid persecution, the severities of which were such, that exile might be deemed a mild fate, and concealment in a dismal woods pass for happiness…. Those who were taken experienced the most cruel tortures that infernal imaginations could invent; and by their constancy evinced, that a real Christian can surmount every difficulty, and despise every danger, to acquire a crown of martyrdom.”  [Southwell, op. cit., p. 195]


With so many persons accepting Protestantism, the total number killed would have been large.  Kurtz [History of the Church , p. 162] says, “In Hungary the number of Protestants was reduced one-half, by various intrigues and enticements.”  Freeman [p. 281] writes, “Meanwhile, at the other end of Ferdinand’s dominions, the Protestants of Hungary revolted, and for a while turned him out of that kingdom also.”  Also, [p. 303] “The Emperor Leopold meanwhile, besides the wars with France, had much to do in his kingdom of Hungary, both with the wars against the Turks and with the revolts of the Hungarians, who were stirred up by his cruel persecutions of the Protestants.”  The following is from W. C. Brownlee, Popery the Enemy of Civil and Religious Liberty, J. S. Taylor, New York, 1836, p. 102:


The following is from the Jesuit Confession of Faith imposed on papists in Hungary, published in German, at Berlin, 1829 ; and translated in The London Protestant Journal of 1831. "We also swear, that we will persecute this cursed evangelical doctrine, as long as we have a drop of blood in our bodies; and. we will eradicate it secretly and publicly; violently and deceitfully, with words, and with deeds; the sword not excluded." Land. Prot. Jour. p. 210.


One source [Wylie The History of Protestantism, Volume Third - Book Twentieth, Chapter 3] says that Hungary lost over a million people in the religious persecutions after the Reformation.  Another source ["HUNGARY." LoveToKnow 1911 Online Encyclopedia. © 2003, 2004 LoveToKnow.] says the population of Hungary was 5 million in about 1500 and 3 million in 1715.  Unless there is a deliberate effort to massacre the people, a war will not cause such losses of population.  This suggests that a million or more persons were killed in persecutions in Hungary.  Bohemia lost about 3 million, well over half of its population, due to such persecutions.  In Spain “In twenty of thirty years the evangelical course was suppressed” by the Inquisition [Kurtz, p. 106].  Similar losses were probably occurring in Roman Catholic countries all over Europe.  Newman [A Manual of Church History by Albert Henry Newman, The American Baptist Publication Society, Philadelphia, 1902, p. 234] writes concerning the French Huguenots,


The Romanists had all the means of aggression in their own hands.  The Protestants could hope, at best, for nothing better than a gradual extinction.  The Jesuits were at work here, as everywhere, and their diabolical principles were soon to work the ruin of their defenseless adversaries.


Speaking of Siebenbuergen, Newman [p. 305] writes,


In 1523 and 1525 rigorous imperial laws were promulgated against the spread of the new doctrine.  “All Lutherans are to be extirpated from the kingdom, and wherever they may be found are to be freely seized and burned, not only by ecclesiastical but also by secular persons” (Diet of Pesth, 1525).


Siebenbuergen is known in English as Transylvania and is a geographical region of Romania near the Hungarian border.  It covers about 39,000 square miles.   Speaking of a colony of Saxons in the Siebenbuergen area, Newman [p. 307] writes,


Like Poland, Hungary, and Siebenbuergen, it fell an easy prey to the Jesuits, who from 1560 onward were carefully laying their plans for the crushing of all forms of evangelical teaching and the restoration of papal authority.


Speaking of Austria, Newman [p. 387] writes,


The correspondence of the time, the careful records of public and private conferences, and the exceedingly full and well-preserved archival materials, give us an inside view of the process by which the Counter-Reformation was inaugurated and carried out to its bitter end….  [Speaking of Charles] He was led to believe that the salvation of his soul and the permanent holding of his hereditary possessions depended upon his remorseless persecution of heretics.  At a conference of Catholic princes at Munich (October, 1579) Charles was urged to enter with vigor upon the work, and the princes bound themselves mutually to give each other all needful assistance in suppressing rebellion among their subjects…. The Jesuits were already present in force, and they were ready to be the chief instruments in the destruction of Protestantism….


The Protestants struggled heroically, as long as successful resistance seemed possible.  Nowhere do we find a nobler type of Lutheranism than in this region.  No country in Europe was readier to throw off the papal yoke and to adopt evangelical Christianity.  Apart from Hapsburg