The prior of Hersfeld monastery sends the father confessor to comfort old Brother Medardus who is lying on his deathbed in his cell. In his fever the old man is singing wildly, prompted, so his brethren believe, by Satan. As his tears fall, Medardus relates his story that happenend fifty years ago.
He is a pious young priest, healthy-minded and warm-blooded. Witch-hunters are scouring the land in search of people suspected of practising sorcery. At midnight the young priest is summoned to visit a witch who is to die at the stake the following morning. He is instructed to comfort the sinner and try to make her repent. When Medardus sees the face of the beautiful but terrified girl he cannot help feeling pity for her. She asks him why she must expiate sins she has never committed. An orphan, she lived in the forest with her grandmother who knew the healing properties of plants. From the herbs the old woman made medicine for sick people and, while stirring her brews, she sang a song from some distant country. For the witch-hunters this was proof that she was practising witchcraft. Grandmother was burned to death at the stake. The girl begs Medardus to help her and pleads with him to run away with her. With her arms around him, she promises to give him the kind of love he has never known, that of a woman. Medardus is about to kiss her when he hears a voice saying: "By kissing a witch you are blessing sin. From this moment forward you will be doomed!" The priest flees and spends the rest of the night on his knees in prayer. The next day he witnesses the girl's death. When the executioner's torch sets the faggots alight, the eyes of the girl meet those of Medardus who realizes that she is no witch, but a pure woman, the innocent victim of cruel people. As the flames encircle the girl she bursts out singing a song that will haunt Medardus for the rest of his days.
His tale told, the old monk falls dead. The prior speaks: "No matter what people think is wrong, there is One above who will understand everything. It is for Him to judge. Go, brothers, to your prayers and judge not!"
- Set dresser
G. Donaldson, Of Joy and Sorrow. A Filmography of Dutch Silent Fiction, Amsterdam (1997), pp. 269-271
Centrale Commissie voor de Filmkeuring (Nationaal Archief; 8111)