A Poisoned Chalice

A Poisoned Chalice

A Poisoned Chalice

A Poisoned Chalice tells the story of a long-forgotten criminal case: the poisoning of the communion wine in Zurich's main cathedral in 1776. The story is riveting and mysterious, full of bizarre twists and colorful characters--an anti-clerical gravedigger, a hard-drinking drifter, a defrocked minister--who come to life in a series of dramatic criminal trials. But it is also far more than just a good story. In the wider world of German-speaking Europe, writes Jeffrey Freedman, the affair became a cause célèbre, the object of a lively public debate that focused on an issue much on the minds of intellectuals in the age of Enlightenment: the problem of evil.

Contemporaries were unable to ascribe any rational motive to an attempt to poison hundreds of worshippers. Such a crime pointed beyond reason to moral depravity so radical it seemed diabolic. By following contemporaries as they struggled to comprehend an act of inscrutable evil, this book brings to life a key episode in the history of the German Enlightenment--an episode in which the Enlightenment was forced to interrogate the very limits of reason itself.

Twentieth-century horrors have familiarized us with the type of evil that so shocked the men...

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