From Spanking Art
Der illustrierte Pfaffenspiegel (20th century edition).
A monk administers the disciplina deorsum ("lower discipline") to a woman. Engraving by John Smith, from the above edition.

Der Pfaffenspiegel - Historische Denkmale des christlichen Fanatismus is a polemic German language book by the freethinker, writer, editor and journalist Otto von Corvin (1812 - 1886). The book was first published in 1845 under the title Historische Denkmale des christlichen Fanatismus and sold as many as 1.5 million copies by 1860.

For decades, Otto von Corvin's book was censored and heavily attacked by the Church, but its contents, unscientific and strongily biased as they were in this collection, were difficult to refute as they were based on credible historical documents, many of which were actually from the Church itself.


1st edition, Historische Denkmale des christlichen Fanatismus 1845
2nd edition, Historische Denkmale des christlichen Fanatismus 1868
3rd edition, Der Pfaffenspiegel 1869
4th edition, Der Pfaffenspiegel 1870
5th edition, Der Pfaffenspiegel 1885

Der Pfaffenspiegel (literally "the priest's[1] mirror") is written to criticise the Christian churches and their institutions, and to make public some of the lesser-known embarrassing facts and monstrosities regarding the Church and its representatives. The topic of the inquisition is touched only marginally, while von Corvin writes in detail about the insane fanatism and the not-so-holy lives of various saints, the corruption and the eagerness for power of the Church, the crimes of its heads and proxies (such as murder, procuration, pedophilia, sodomy), the immorality behind the facade of morality, the financial exploitation of the believers, the conditions within the walls of convents, and the emotional, physical and sexual abuse of wards by members of the Church. Der Pfaffenspiegel writes in bluntness and detail about the topics of corporal punishment in religious institutions and the excessive use of corporal punishment by religious authority figures.

The book, in turn, was criticised by the church, but von Corvin's critique could not be attacked easily because it had been based on reliable sources of information, which in fact came largely from within the Church itself. Some editions were partially censored, and the book was ordered off the market by court order in 1927 and again in 1934, but the order was overturned and the book was allowed to be printed.

A newer edition named Der illustrierte Pfaffenspiegel features the original text with added vintage illustrations, many of which show corporal punishment in religious institutions.

The book has been translated to English under the titles "The Mirror of the Clerics" and "The Mirror of the Clergy".


  1. Pfaffe, in German, is a pejorative term for priest or parson.

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