Medieval Heresy and Inquisition Torture
The Catholic Church was worried. Was the devil stealing people’s souls? How would you know? So, to fight the devil the church founded a new court. The Inquisition. The Inquisition were those priests whose job it was to find and punish anyone who was against the church or working with the devil. When the sins of the Catholic Church are recited (as they so often are) the Inquisition figures prominently. People who worked against the church a heretic, and any action or speech against the church was called heresy. The Inquisition could place people under arrest and question them using torture to get them to confess to heresy. If you confessed right away before torture, you would be punished but you could be redeemed. If you didn't confess, you could be tortured until you did confess. How could a person win? Well, you couldn't.
The Medieval Inquisition was the institution of the Roman Catholic Church for combating or suppressing heresy. After the Roman Church had consolidated its power in the early Middle Ages, heretics came to be regarded as enemies of society. The crime of heresy is defined as an opinion, disbelief or deliberate denial of an article of truth of the Catholic faith. At this time, there was a sense of Christian unity among townspeople and rulers alike, and most of them agreed with the Church that heretics seemed to threated society itself.
However, the repression of heresy remained unorganized, and with the large scale heresies in the 11th and 12th centuries, Pope Gregory IX instituted the papal inquisition in 1231 for the apprehension and trial of heretics. The Inquisition was established as a special court to stop the spread of heresy (Alessandra Stanley. 1998) Pope Gregory IX's response to the failures of the episcopal inquisition with a series of papal bulls became the papal inquisition (J. Domínguez. 2001) The Inquisitors did not wait for complaints, but sought out people accused of heresy. The inquisitor was commissioned directly by the pope and acted directly on his behalf. The trials were held in secret and the inquisitor acted as judge, jury and prosecutor. The accused was never represented. Although the Inquisition was created to combat the heretical Cathari and Waldenses, the Inquisition later extended its activity to include witches, diviners, blasphemers, and other sacrilegious persons.
When a papal inquisition arrived at a town it had a set of procedures and rules to identify likely heretics. Legally, there had to be at least two witnesses, although conscientious judges rarely contented themselves with that number (Joseph Blötzer 1910). Another reason for Pope Gregory IX’s creation of the Inquisition was to bring order and legality to the process of dealing with heresy, since there had been tendencies in the mobs of townspeople to burn alleged heretics without much of a trial. Pope Gregory’s original intent for the Inquisition was a court of exception to inquire into and glean the beliefs of those differing from Catholic teaching, and to instruct them in the orthodox doctrine. It was hoped that heretics would see the falsity of their opinion and would return to the Roman Catholic Church. If they persisted in their heresy, however, Pope Gregory, finding it necessary to protect the Catholic community from infection would have suspects handed over to civil authorities since these her ethics had violated not only Church law but civil law as well. The secular authorities would apply their own brands of punishment for civil disobedience which, at the time, included burning at the stake.
Pope Innocent IV officially sanctioned the use of torture to extract the truth from suspects in 1252. Over centuries the tribunals took different forms, investigating and stamping out various forms of heresy, including witchcraft and Judaism (Stanley. 1998). Torture was undoubtedly used in the trial of the Templars, but is in fact not much found in...
References: Blötzer, J. (1910). Inquisition. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Retrieved September 12, 2014 from New Advent: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/08026a.htm
Domínguez, J. (2001, October 1). inquisition history. Retrieved September 12, 2014, from http://web.archive.org/web/20011120043302/http://www.biblia.com/islam/inquisit.htm
Medieval Inquisition Torture. (n.d.). Retrieved September 11, 2014, from http://www.medieval-life-and-times.info/medieval-torture-and-punishment/medieval-inquisition-torture.htm
Stanley, A. (1998, October 31). Vatican Is Investigating the Inquisition, in Secret - New York Times. Retrieved September 12, 2014, from http://www.nytimes.com/1998/10/31/world/vatican-is-investigating-the-inquisition-in-secret.html
University of Saint Thomas. (2003). Medieval Inquisition. Retrieved September 11, 2014, from http://courseweb.stthomas.edu/medieval/francis/inquisition.htm
Viralnova. (2014, May 9). 21 Medieval Torture Devices That Seem Too Horrifying To Be Real. Retrieved September 11, 2014, from http://www.viralnova.com/medieval-torture-devices/
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