The Inquisition was founded in 1216 for the
purpose of returning the lapsed believer to the Church of Rome, if not by
reason then by force. It became an approved institution of the Church
under Pope Gregory IX (1227-1241) It never came into the four
Kingdoms that then made up Great Britain, although some of its practices
were adopted and practiced on alleged heretics – many were burnt at
the stake for daring to disagree with the priests.
A notable Inquisitor was Bernard Gui, a
Dominican monk who later progressed to become Bishop of Lodere, For
seventeen years from 1307-1323 he exercised his functions as
Inquisitor of Toulouse, and left behind a “Manual for Inquisitors”
intended for the information and guidance of the young and inexperienced
He begins by explaining, erroneously, that
the Waldensians are like the Cathari (ie Albigenses) and are so alike that
even inquisitors could not tell the difference ( So much for understanding
of religion and the issues). Precise instructions are given as to the
methods to be employed.
The suspected heretic was summoned via the
local priest. It was the duty of the priest to convey the summons to his
parishioner and the Sunday following at Mass to publicly renew the
summons. If the person did not appear he was temporarily excommunicated.
Anyone knowing his or her`s hiding place was bound to reveal it or suffer
By authority of the Pope and the King (note
the order !) the Inquisitor ordered the arrest and took the prisoner into
the custody of the Inquisition. The expenses were defrayed by selling the
prisoners goods (even before he had been tried and convicted).
The Inquisitor and two ecclesiastics, with
a notary taking notes, interview the prisoner. Testimonies or statements
need not be reproduced exactly
but merely the substance of the interview
according to what the judges considered
the truth. The Inquisitor was exempt from all laws
and it was not therefore necessary to adopt any legal form.
A heretics guilt could be established in two ways – By Confession; or the
Testimony of witnesses.
A confession was preferred to that of
testimony by witnesses. To this end Gui recommends the prisoner is kept
under arrest which “if wisely
prolonged would … incline them to conversion and to reveal the names of
their brethren in heresy.”
The prisoner was kept in a dungeon,
shackled and manacled; refusal to cooperate inevitably meant torture.The
rack and the strapada – hanging from a beam with feet off the
ground so that shoulders came out of joint, were common. Another was
to be suspended over a fire wearing boots filled with grease or oil.
Interviews would be continued whilst torture took place. Guilt having been
proved (by the Inquisition`s rules) it was the prisoners responsibility to
abjure or persevere with his beliefs. In any event, he would be punished.
A conference of ecclesiastics and
lawyers took place all subject to the Inquisitor Sentence could be
varied by the Inquisitor but not that of death. If the prisoner recanted
at the stake he could be returned to the Inquisition who expected
immediate disclosure of fellow believers; that he is ready to persecute
the sect from which he came; and to solemnly abjure his errors. If he did
so he was then punished by imprisonment for life, on a bread and water
diet, manacled and shackled.
The Church did not consider the penalties
imposed to be punishment, but as penances for the good of the heretic`s
soul. In the absence of retraction the judges then had to consider the
death penalty. By way of convoluted thinking they could not
pronounce such a penalty and the prisoner was therefore handed over to the
secular authority. Sentence of death was inevitable as failure to do so
could mean that they themselves would be arraigned for heresy.
For lesser crimes there were a variety of
punishments. A provisionally released prisoner was made to wear a coat
with a yellow hammer design on front and back. False witnesses – perjurors,
had to wear red coats. Sometimes prisoners would be suspended before the
church door so that the public might treat them as it liked. A penitent
had to wear on his clothes two yellow crosses both indoors and out and was
subject of outrageous treatment wherever he went. [ In England during the
16th century penitents were forced to carry faggots, indicative of the
fire they would suffer if they relapsed, and stand before the church door
for several hours, perhaps for several weeks.]
Considerable finances for the Inquisitor
was obtained by imposing fines, payable by the heirs of a heretic if
he died before settlement. If necessary all property due to an heir was
seized. This provided ample funds for the Inquisitor and in addition
helped pay for churches, fountains and other buildings. Anything belonging
to the heretic was confiscated.
Property used to hide in, or preached in,
was destroyed, and no building was allowed on the site in future
“It must be forever uninhabited,
uncultivated, unenclosed, a receptacle for rubbish.”
Martyrdom in Piedmont and