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Execution by burning

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Execution by burning has a long historical tradition as being a legal method of punishment for crimes such as heresy, treason, and the practice of witchcraft. This method of execution has currently fallen into disfavor. The particular form of execution by burning in which the condemned is bound to a large stake is more commonly called burning at the stake.

If the fire is big (for instance, when a large number of heretics were executed at the same time) the death comes from the carbon monoxide poisoning before flames engulf the body. However, if the fire is small, the convict burns slowly and dies in great pain.

According to ancient reports, Roman authorities executed many of the early Christian martyrs by burning. These reports claim that in some cases they failed to be burned, and had to be beheaded instead. However, all such ancient manuscripts were copied by Christian monks, and even Catholic sources state that many of these claims were invented (or "apocryphal").

In 1184, the Synod of Verona[?] legislated that burning was to be the official punishment for heresy. This decree was later reaffirmed by the Fourth Council of the Lateran in 1215, the Synod of Toulouse[?] in 1229, and numerous spiritual and secular leaders up through the 17th century.

Witch trials became increasingly popular through the 14th and 15th century in Scotland, Spain, England, Switzerland, Austria, and Germany. It is estimated that up to four million convicted witches and heretics were burned at the stake during this time.

Among the best known convicted heretics to be executed by burning were Jan Hus (1415), Joan of Arc (1431) and Giordano Bruno (1600).

Contrary to popular history, none of the executions in the Salem witch trials were carried out by burning, but rather by hanging (and in one case, by pressing under stones).

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