The Inquisition is a group of institutions within the judicial system of the Roman Catholic Church whose aim is to combat heresy. It started in 12th-century France to combat religious sectarianism, in particular the Cathars and the Waldensians. Other groups which were investigated later include the Spiritual Franciscans, the Hussites (followers of Jan Hus) and Beguines. Beginning in the 1250s, inquisitors were generally chosen from members of the Dominican Order, to replace the earlier practice of using local clergy as judges. The term Medieval Inquisition covers these courts up through the 14th century.
In the Late Middle Ages and early Renaissance, the concept and scope of the Inquisition was significantly expanded in response to the Protestant Reformation and the Catholic Counter-Reformation. Its geographic scope was expanded to other European countries, resulting in the Spanish Inquisition and Portuguese Inquisition. Those two kingdoms in particular operated inquisitorial courts throughout their respective empires (Spanish and Portuguese) in the Americas (resulting in the Peruvian Inquisition and Mexican Inquisition), Asia, and Africa. One particular focus of the Spanish and Portuguese inquisitions was the issue of Jewish anusim and Muslim converts to Catholicism, partly because these minority groups were more numerous in Spain and Portugal than in many other parts of Europe, and partly because they were often considered suspect due to the assumption that they had secretly reverted to their previous religions.
Except within the Papal States, the institution of the Inquisition was abolished in the early 19th century, after the Napoleonic wars in Europe and after the Spanish American wars of independence in the Americas. The institution survived as part of the Roman Curia, but in 1904 was given the new name of "Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office". In 1965 it became the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
- Definition and purpose 1
- Historical background 2
- Medieval Inquisition 3
Early Modern European history 4
- Witch-trials 4.1
- Spanish Inquisition 4.2
- Inquisition in the Spanish overseas empire 4.3
- Portuguese Inquisition 4.4
- Roman Inquisition 4.5
- Ending of the Inquisition in the 19th and 20th centuries 5
- Statistics 6
See also 7
- Documents and works 7.1
- Notable inquisitors 7.2
- Notable cases 7.3
- Appearance in popular media 8
- References 9
- External links 10
Definition and purpose
The term Inquisition comes from Medieval Latin "inquisitio", which referred to any court process that was based on Roman law, which had gradually come back into usage in the late medieval period. Today, the English term "Inquisition" can apply to any one of several institutions which worked against heretics (or other offenders against canon law) within the judicial system of the Roman Catholic Church. Although the term Inquisition is usually applied to ecclesiastical courts of the Catholic Church, nonetheless it has several different usages:
- an ecclesiastical tribunal,
- the institution of the Catholic Church for combating heresy,
- a number of historical expurgation movements against heresy (orchestrated by some groups/individuals within the Catholic Church or within a Catholic state), or
- the trial of an individual accused of heresy.
Generally, the Inquisition was concerned only with the heretical behaviour of Catholic adherents or converts, and did not concern itself with those outside that religion, such as Jews or Muslims.
When a suspect was convicted of unrepentant heresy, the inquisitorial tribunal was required by law to hand the person over to the secular authorities for final sentencing, at which point the penalty would be determined by a magistrate, usually burning at the stake although the penalty varied based on local law. The laws were inclusive of proscriptions against certain religious crimes (heresy, etc.), and the punishments included death by burning, although imprisonment for life or banishment would usually be used. Thus the inquisitors generally knew what would be the fate of anyone so remanded, and cannot be considered to have divorced the means of determining guilt from its effects.
The 1578 handbook for inquisitors spelled out the purpose of inquisitorial penalties: ... quoniam punitio non refertur primo & per se in correctionem & bonum eius qui punitur, sed in bonum publicum ut alij terreantur, & a malis committendis avocentur. Translation from the Latin: "... for punishment does not take place primarily and per se for the correction and good of the person punished, but for the public good in order that others may become terrified and weaned away from the evils they would commit."
Before 1100, the Catholic Church had already suppressed what they believed to be heresy, usually through a system of ecclesiastical proscription or imprisonment, but without using torture and seldom resorting to executions. Such punishments had a number of ecclesiastical opponents, although some countries punished heresy with the death penalty. 
In the 12th century, to counter the spread of Catharism, prosecution of heretics became more frequent. The Church charged councils composed of bishops and archbishops with establishing inquisitions (see Episcopal Inquisition). The first Inquisition was temporarily established in Languedoc (south of France) in 1184. The murder in 1208 of Pope Innocent's papal legate Pierre de Castelnau sparked the Albigensian Crusade (1209–1229). The Inquisition was permanently established in 1229. It was centered under the Dominicans in Rome and later at Carcassonne in Languedoc.
Historians use the term "Medieval Inquisition" to describe the various inquisitions that started around 1184, including the Episcopal Inquisition (1184–1230s) and later the Papal Inquisition (1230s). These inquisitions responded to large popular movements throughout Europe considered apostate or heretical to Christianity, in particular the Cathars in southern France and the Waldensians in both southern France and northern Italy. Other Inquisitions followed after these first inquisition movements. Legal basis for some inquisitorial activity came from Pope Innocent IV's papal bull Ad extirpanda of 1252, which explicitly authorized (and defined the appropriate circumstances for) the use of torture by the Inquisition for eliciting confessions from heretics. By 1256 inquisitors were given absolution if they used instruments of torture.
In the 13th century, Pope Gregory IX (reigned 1227–1241) assigned the duty of carrying out inquisitions to the Dominican Order. Most inquisitors were friars who taught theology and/or law in the universities. They used inquisitorial procedures, a common legal practice adapted from the earlier Ancient Roman court procedures. They judged heresy along with bishops and groups of "assessors" (clergy serving in a role that was roughly analogous to a jury or legal advisers), using the local authorities to establish a tribunal and to prosecute heretics. After 1200, a Grand Inquisitor headed each Inquisition. Grand Inquisitions persisted until the mid 19th century.
Early Modern European history
With the sharpening of debate and of conflict between the Protestant Reformation and the Catholic Counter-Reformation, Protestant societies came to see/use the Inquisition as a terrifying "Other" trope, while staunch Catholics regarded the Holy Office as a necessary bulwark against the spread of reprehensible heresies.
The prosecution of witchcraft generally become more prominent throughout the late medieval and Renaissance era, perhaps driven partly by the upheavals of the era - the Black Death, Hundred Years War, and a gradual cooling of the climate which modern scientists call the Little Ice Age (between about the 15th and 19th centuries). Witches were sometimes blamed. Pope Innocent VIII, in his papal bull Summis desiderantes affectibus (5 December 1484), called for measures against magicians and witches in Germany. The grip of freezing weather, failing crops, rising crime, and mass starvation were blamed on witches.
- "It has recently come to our ears, not without great pain to us, that in some parts of upper Germany, [...] Mainz, Koin, Trier, Salzburg, and Bremen, many persons of both sexes, heedless of their own salvation and forsaking the catholic faith, give themselves over to devils male and female, and by their incantations, charms, and conjurings, and by other abominable superstitions and sortileges, offences, crimes, and misdeeds, ruin and cause to perish the offspring of women, the foal of animals, the products of the earth, the grapes of vines, and the fruits of trees, as well as men and women, cattle and flocks and herds and animals of every kind, vineyards also and orchards, meadows, pastures, harvests, grains and other fruits of the earth; that they afflict and torture with dire pains and anguish, both internal and external, these men, women, cattle, flocks, herds, and animals, and hinder men from begetting [...]"
A similar theme is found in the Malleus Maleficarum written in 1486, which stated that witchcraft was to blame for bad weather. These remarks are included in Part 2, Chapter XV, which is entitled: "How they Raise and Stir up Hailstorms and Tempests, and Cause Lightning to Blast both Men and Beasts":
- "Therefore it is reasonable to conclude that, just as easily as they raise hailstorms, so can they cause lightning and storms at sea; and so no doubt at all remains on these points."
Although men as well as women could be open to this charge, the title of the book itself is feminine in gender and Kramer wrote in section I that: "all witchcraft comes from carnal lust which is in women insatiable". In 1490, shortly after the book's initial publication, the Catholic Church ruled that the "Malleus Maleficarum" was false, and in 1538 the Spanish Inquisition cautioned against using it. Spreading from Tyrol, where it originated, to other Germanic States, it helped to fuel the witchhunts in Protestant countries in the seventeenth century as well.
Most of Medieval Western and Central Europe had long-standing Catholic standardisation mixed with some survivals of earlier non-Christian practices such as the use of charms or incantations, with intermittent localized occurrences of different ideas (such as Catharism or Platonism) and sometimes recurring anti-Semitic or anti-Judaic activity.
With the Protestant Reformation, Catholic authorities became much more ready to suspect heresy in any new ideas, including those of Renaissance humanism, previously strongly supported by many at the top of the Church hierarchy. The extirpation of heretics became a much broader and more complex enterprise, complicated by the politics of territorial Protestant powers, especially in northern Europe. The Catholic Church could no longer exercise direct influence in the politics and justice-systems of lands which officially adopted Protestantism. Thus war (the French Wars of Religion, the Thirty Years War), massacre (the St. Bartholomew's Day massacre) and the missional and propaganda work (by the Sacra congregatio de propaganda fide) of the Counter-Reformation came to play larger roles in these circumstances, and the Roman law type of a "judicial" approach to heresy represented by the Inquisition became less important overall.
Portugal and Spain in the late Middle Ages consisted largely of multicultural territories of Muslim and Jewish influence, reconquered from Islamic control, and the new Christian authorities could not assume that all their subjects would suddenly become and remain orthodox Roman Catholics. So the Inquisition in Iberia, in the lands of the Reconquista counties and kingdoms like Leon, Castile and Aragon, had a special socio-political basis as well as more fundamental religious motives.
In some parts of Spain towards the end of the 14th century, there was a wave of violent anti-Judaism, encouraged by the preaching of Ferrand Martinez, Archdeacon of Ecija. In the pogroms of June 1391 in Seville, hundreds of Jews were killed, and the synagogue was completely destroyed. The number of people killed was also high in other cities, such as Córdoba, Valencia and Barcelona.
One of the consequences of these pogroms was the mass conversion of thousands of surviving Jews. Forced baptism was contrary to the law of the Catholic Church, and theoretically anybody who had been forcibly baptized could legally return to Judaism. However, this was very narrowly interpreted. Legal definitions of the time theoretically acknowledged that a forced baptism was not a valid sacrament, but confined this to cases where it was literally administered by physical force. A person who had consented to baptism under threat of death or serious injury was still regarded as a voluntary convert, and accordingly forbidden to revert to Judaism. After the public violence, many of the converted "felt it safer to remain in their new religion." Thus, after 1391, a new social group appeared and were referred to as conversos or New Christians.
King Ferdinand II of Aragon and Queen Isabella I of Castile established the Spanish Inquisition in 1478. In contrast to the previous inquisitions, it operated completely under royal Christian authority, though staffed by clergy and orders, and independently of the Holy See. It operated in Spain and in all Spanish colonies and territories, which included the Canary Islands, the Spanish Netherlands, the Kingdom of Naples, and all Spanish possessions in North, Central, and South America. It primarily targeted forced converts from Islam (Moriscos, Conversos and secret Moors) and from Judaism (Conversos, Crypto-Jews and Marranos) — both groups still resided in Spain after the end of the Islamic control of Spain — who came under suspicion of either continuing to adhere to their old religion or of having fallen back into it.
In 1492 all Jews who had not converted were expelled from Spain, and those who remained became subject to the Inquisition.
Inquisition in the Spanish overseas empire
In the Americas, King Philip II set up three tribunals (each formally titled Tribunal del Santo Oficio de la Inquisición) in 1569, one in Mexico, Cartagena de Indias (in modern day Colombia) and Peru. The Mexican office administered Mexico (central and southeastern Mexico), Nueva Galicia (northern and western Mexico), the Audiencias of Guatemala (Guatemala, Chiapas, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica), and the Spanish East Indies. The Peruvian Inquisition, based in Lima, administered all the Spanish territories in South America and Panama.
The Portuguese Inquisition formally started in Portugal in 1536 at the request of the King of Portugal, João III. Manuel I had asked Pope Leo X for the installation of the Inquisition in 1515, but only after his death (1521) did Pope Paul III acquiesce. At its head stood a Grande Inquisidor, or General Inquisitor, named by the Pope but selected by the Crown, and always from within the royal family. The Portuguese Inquisition principally targeted the Sephardic Jews, whom the state forced to convert to Christianity. Spain had expelled its Sephardic population in 1492; after 1492 many of these Spanish Jews left Spain for Portugal, but eventually were targeted there as well.
The Portuguese Inquisition held its first auto-da-fé in 1540. The Portuguese inquisitors mostly targeted the Jewish New Christians (i.e. conversos or marranos). The Portuguese Inquisition expanded its scope of operations from Portugal to Portugal's colonial possessions, including Brazil, Cape Verde, and Goa, where it continued as a religious court, investigating and trying cases of breaches of the tenets of orthodox Roman Catholicism until 1821. King João III (reigned 1521–57) extended the activity of the courts to cover censorship, divination, witchcraft and bigamy. Originally oriented for a religious action, the Inquisition exerted an influence over almost every aspect of Portuguese society: political, cultural and social.
The Goa Inquisition, an inquisition largely aimed at Catholic converts from Hinduism or Islam who were thought to have returned to their original ways, started in Goa in 1560. In addition, the Inquisition prosecuted non-converts who broke prohibitions against the observance of Hindu or Muslim rites or interfered with Portuguese attempts to convert non-Christians to Catholicism. Aleixo Dias Falcão and Francisco Marques set it up in the palace of the Sabaio Adil Khan.
According to Henry Charles Lea, between 1540 and 1794, tribunals in Lisbon, Porto, Coimbra and Évora resulted in the burning of 1,175 persons, the burning of another 633 in effigy, and the penancing of 29,590. But documentation of 15 out of 689 autos-da-fé has disappeared, so these numbers may slightly understate the activity.
In 1542 Pope Paul III established the Congregation of the Holy Office of the Inquisition as a permanent congregation staffed with cardinals and other officials. It had the tasks of maintaining and defending the integrity of the faith and of examining and proscribing errors and false doctrines; it thus became the supervisory body of local Inquisitions. Arguably the most famous case tried by the Roman Inquisition involved Galileo Galilei in 1633.
The penances and sentences for those who confessed or were found guilty were pronounced together in a public ceremony at the end of all the processes. This was the sermo generalis or auto-da-fé. Penances (not matters for the civil authorities) might consist of a pilgrimage, a public scourging, a fine, or the wearing of a cross. The wearing of two tongues of red or other brightly colored cloth, sewn onto an outer garment in an "X" pattern, marked those who were under investigation. The penalties in serious cases were confiscation of property to the inquisition or imprisonment. This led to the possibility of false charges over confiscation with those over a certain income, particularly rich maranos. Following the French invasion of 1798, the new authorities sent 3,000 chests containing over 100,000 Inquisition documents to France from Rome.
Ending of the Inquisition in the 19th and 20th centuries
The last execution of the Inquisition was finally carried out in Spain on July 26, 1826. This was the execution of the school teacher, Cayetano Ripoll, for the teaching of Deism in his school. In Spain the practices of the Inquisition were finally outlawed in 1834.
In Italy, after the restoration of the Pope as the ruler of the Papal States in 1814, the activity of the Papal States Inquisition continued on until the mid-19th century, notably in the well-publicised Mortara Affair (1858–1870). In 1908 the name of the Congregation became "The Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office", which in 1965 further changed to "Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith", as retained to the present day.
Beginning in the 19th century, historians have gradually compiled statistics drawn from the surviving court records, from which estimates have been calculated by adjusting the recorded number of convictions by the average rate of document loss for each time period. García Cárcel estimates that the total number of people put on trial by inquisitorial courts throughout their history was approximately 150,000, of which about 3,000 were executed - about two percent of the number of people put on trial. Gustav Henningsen and Jaime Contreras studied the records of the Spanish Inquisition, which list 44,674 cases of which 826 resulted in executions in person and 778 in effigy (i.e. a straw dummy was burned in place of the person). William Monter estimated there were 1000 executions between 1530–1630 and 250 between 1630–1730. Jean-Pierre Dedieu studied the records of Toledo's tribunal, which put 12,000 people on trial. For the period prior to 1530, Henry Kamen estimated there were about 2,000 executions in all of Spain's tribunals.
- Black Legend
- Witch-cult hypothesis
- Witch trials in the early modern period
- Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
- Historical revision of the Inquisition
- Marian Persecutions of Protestant heretics
- Vatican Secret Archives
Documents and works
- Trial of Joan of Arc
- Trial of Galileo Galilei
- Edgardo Mortara's abduction
- Logroño witch trials
- Execution of Giordano Bruno
Appearance in popular media
- Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
- Peters, Edward. "Inquisition", p. 54.
- Murphy, Cullen (2012). God's Jury. New York: Mariner Books - Houghton, Miflin, Harcourt. p. 150.
- Peters, Edwards. "Inquisition", p. 12
- Medieval Sourcebook: Inquisition - Introduction
- Salomon, H. P. and Sassoon, I. S. D., in Saraiva, Antonio Jose. The Marrano Factory. The Portuguese Inquisition and Its New Christians, 1536-1765 (Brill, 2001), Introduction pp. XXX.
- Peters writes: "When faced with a convicted heretic who refused to recant, or who relapsed into heresy, the inquisitors were to turn him over to the temporal authorities - the "secular arm" - for animadversio debita, the punishment decreed by local law, usually burning to death." (Peters, Edwards. "Inquisition", p. 67.)
- Lea, Henry Charles. "Chapter VII. The Inquisition Founded". A History of the Inquisition In The Middle Ages 1.
- Kirsch, Jonathan. The Grand Inquisitors Manual: A History of Terror in the Name of God. HarperOne.
- Directorium Inquisitorum, edition of 1578, Book 3, pg. 137, column 1. Online in the Cornell University Collection; retrieved 2008-05-16.
Blötzer, J. (1910). "Inquisition". The Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company. Retrieved 2012-08-26.
... in this period the more influential ecclesiastical authorities declared that the death penalty was contrary to the spirit of the Gospel, and themselves opposed its execution. For centuries this was the ecclesiastical attitude both in theory and in practice. Thus, in keeping with the civil law, some Manichæans were executed at Ravenna in 556. On the other hand, Elipandus of Toledo and Felix of Urgel, the chiefs of Adoptionism and Predestinationism, were condemned by councils, but were otherwise left unmolested. We may note, however, that the monk Gothescalch, after the condemnation of his false doctrine that Christ had not died for all mankind, was by the Synods of Mainz in 848 and Quiercy in 849 sentenced to flogging and imprisonment, punishments then common in monasteries for various infractions of the rule.
Blötzer, J. (1910). "Inquisition". The Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company. Retrieved 2012-08-26.
[...] the occasional executions of heretics during this period must be ascribed partly to the arbitrary action of individual rulers, partly to the fanatic outbreaks of the overzealous populace, and in no wise to ecclesiastical law or the ecclesiastical authorities.
- Lea, Henry Charles. "Chapter VII. The Inquisition Founded". A History of the Inquisition In The Middle Ages 1.
- Catholic Encyclopedia
- Bishop, J (2006). Aquinas on Torture New Blackfriars, 87:229.
- Larissa Tracy, Torture and Brutality in Medieval Literature: Negotiations of National Identity, (Boydell and Brewer Ltd, 2012), 22; "In 1252 Innocent IV licensed the use of torture to obtain evidence from suspects, and by 1256 inquisitors were allowed to absolve each other if they used instruments of torture themselves, rather than relying on lay agents for the purpose...".
- Peters, Edwards. "Inquisition", p. 12.
- A History of the Inquisition of SpainLea, Henry Charles. , vol. 1, appendix 2
- Compare Haydon, Colin (1993). Anti-Catholicism in eighteenth-century England, c. 1714-80: a political and social study. Studies in imperialism. Manchester: Manchester University Press. p. 6.
- Levack, The Witch-Hunt in Early Modern Europe, (49)
- Heinrich Institoris, Heinrich, Sprenger, Jakob, Summers, Montague; The Malleus maleficarum of Heinrich Kramer and James Sprenger; Dover Publications; New edition, 1 June 1971; ISBN 0-486-22802-9
- http://en.wikisource.org/articles/Summis_desiderantes Wikisource, Summis desiderantes, by Pope Innocent VIII.
- Malleus Maleficarum (1486)
- 'In 1538 the Spanish Inquisition cautioned its members not to believe everything the Malleus said, even when it presented apparently firm evidence.', Jolly, Raudvere, & Peters(eds.), 'Witchcraft and magic in Europe: the Middle Ages', p. 241 (2002)
- Erasmus, the arch-Humanist of the Renaissance, came under suspicion of heresy, see Olney, Warren (2009). Desiderius Erasmus; Paper Read Before the Berkeley Club, March 18, 1920.. BiblioBazaar. p. 15.
- Soergel, Philip M. (1993). Wondrous in His Saints: Counter Reformation Propaganda in Bavaria. Berkeley: University of California Press. p. 239.
- Saint Dominic Presides over an Auto da Fe, Prado Museum. Retrieved 2012-08-26
- Kamen, Spanish Inquisition, p. 17. Kamen cites approximate numbers for Valencia (250) and Barcelona (400), but no solid data about Córdoba.
- Raymond of Peñafort, Summa, lib. 1 p.33, citing D.45 c.5.
- Kamen, Spanish Inquisition, p. 10.
- H.C. Lea, A History of the Inquisition of Spain, vol. 3, Book 8
- Saraiva, António José; Salomon, Herman Prins;
- "Christianity | The Inquisition". The Galileo Project. Retrieved 2012-08-26
- Blötzer, J. (1910). "Inquisition". The Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company. Retrieved 2012-08-26.
- Gustav Henningsen, The Database of the Spanish Inquisition. The relaciones de causas project revisited, in: Heinz Mohnhaupt, Dieter Simon, Vorträge zur Justizforschung, Vittorio Klostermann, 1992, pp. 43-85.
- W. Monter, Frontiers of Heresy: The Spanish Inquisition from the Basque Lands to Sicily, Cambridge 2003, p. 53.
- Jean-Pierre Dedieu, Los Cuatro Tiempos, in Bartolomé Benassar, Inquisición Española: poder político y control social, pp. 15-39.
- H. Kamen, Inkwizycja Hiszpańska, Warszawa 2005, p. 62; and H. Rawlings, The Spanish Inquisition, Blackwell Publishing 2004, p. 15.
- Burman, Edward, The Inquisition: The Hammer of Heresy (Sutton Publishers, 2004) ISBN 0-7509-3722-X. A new edition of a book first published in 1984, a general history based on the main primary sources.
- Carroll, Warren H., Isabel: the Catholic Queen Front Royal, Virginia, 1991 (Christendom Press)
- Given, James B, Inquisition and Medieval Society (Cornell University Press, 2001)
- Kamen, Henry, The Spanish Inquisition: A Historical Revision. (Yale University Press, 1999); ISBN 0-300-07880-3. This revised edition of his 1965 original contributes to the understanding of the Spanish Inquisition in its local context.
- Lea, Henry Charles, A History of the Inquisition of Spain, 4 volumes (New York and London, 1906–7)
- Parker, Geoffrey (1982). "Some Recent Work on the Inquisition in Spain and Italy". Journal of Modern History 54 (3).
- Peters, Edward M., Inquisition (University of California Press, 1989); ISBN 0-520-06630-8
- Twiss, Miranda (2002). The Most Evil Men And Women In History. Michael O'Mara Books Ltd.
- Walsh, William Thomas, Characters of the Inquisition (TAN Books and Publishers, Inc, 1940/97); ISBN 0-89555-326-0
- Whitechapel, Simon, Flesh Inferno: Atrocities of Torquemada and the Spanish Inquisition (Creation Books, 2003); ISBN 1-84068-105-5
- Frequently Asked Questions About the Inquisition by James Hannam
- Jewish Virtual Library on the Spanish Inquisition