Here on the corner of Sønderportsgade and Bispegade lays Maren Spliids’ house.
Maren Thomasdatter Spliids (ca. 1600-1641)
Maren Spliids was a wealthy and respected woman, and was accused of being a witch in 1637. The trial against her was long and ended with being one of the most famous witch processes in Denmark. After a long trial with interrogations and torture, Maren plead guilty and was burnt in 1641 at Galgebakken in Ribe.
A successful woman
Laurids Spliid was a successful and quite wealthy tailor and landlord from Ribe. He was married to Maren, who was respected by the townsfolk. She was known for for temper and was not easy to fool. The married couple lived a good life and was part of the upper middle class. In 1636 something happend to turn everything upside down. Didrik, a not so successful tailor in town, came down with a strange illness. He had visions and cramps. One night, when the illness was at its worst, he threw up a strange lump of slime, which seemed alive in the water bowl. Didrik’s wife and the neighboring wives agreed that he had been poisoned or bewitched. All town was worried about poor Didrik’s health and they prayed for him at church.
When Didrik got better, he remembered that he and Maren had an argument and she had promised him some kind of distress. He later stated that three figures visited him in his room and one of them looked like Maren. He said that it might have been the devil in her disguise. Two of the figures had held him down, while the one, who looked like Maren, had blown into his mouth. He was sure that this made him ill. Didrik did not accuse Maren of witchcraft at once, since this would look like an excuse to break his successful competitor, Laurids. Instead, he made up rumours about Maren and people started connecting all sorts of accidents with her. Despite of the fact that people thought Maren might be a witch, nothing more became of the matter.
Memorial tablet inside the house for Maren and Laurids Spliid.
The last witch in town is burnt
However, Didrik was determined to get his revenge on Maren. He asked to speak to the King himself. It was the present King Christian IV and he was anxious to get witches convicted and burnt in the country at that time. Didrik got to see the King, who re-opened the case in 1639. If Maren was to be acquitted, she had to find 15 persons, who would claim she was innocent, but since Didrik had all town believing that she was a witch, this was impossible. Didrik on the other hand was able to find plenty of people, claiming they knew about Maren’s witchcraft. Laurids fought to prove his wife’s innocense and he had the first instance convinced. But the jury demurred and the case was yet again re-opened.
Maren was sent to Blåtårn in Copenhagen, where she was interrogated and tortured until she gave in and pleaded guilty. She stood against torture for nine months. She was brought back to Ribe and burnt as a witch at Galgebakken in Ribe on November 9th, 1641 as the last witch in Ribe.
Kim Tørnsø, Djævletro og folkemagi: trolddomsforfølgelse i 1500- og 1600-tallets Vestjylland, 1986.
J. C. Jacobsen: Danske domme i trolddomssager i øverste instans, 1966.
Danish Women biographic Lexicon
Was it judicial murder? DR program on Maren Spliids