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To appreciate rightly the career and influence of the Inquisition will require a somewhat minute examination into its methods and procedure. In no other way can we fully understand its action; and the lessons to be drawn from such an investigation are perhaps the most important that it has to teach.



We have seen how the Church had found persuasion powerless to arrest the spread of heresy. St. Bernard, Foulques de Neuilly, Duran de Huesca, St.

Dominic, St. Francis, had successively tried the rarest eloquence to convince, and the example of the sublimest self-abnegation to convert.

Only force remained, and it had been pitilessly employed. It had subjected the populations, only to render heresy hidden in place of public; and, in order to reap the fruits of victory, it became apparent that organized, ceaseless persecution continued to perpetuity was the only hope of preserving Catholic unity, and of preventing the garment of the Lord from being permanently rent. To this end the Inquisition was developed into a settled inst.i.tution manned by the Mendicant Orders, which had been formed to persuade by argument and example, and which now were utilized to suppress by force.

The organization of the Inquisition was simple, yet effective. It did not care to impress the minds of men with magnificence, but rather to paralyze them with terror. To the secular prelacy it left the gorgeous vestments and the imposing splendors of worship, the picturesque processions and the showy retinues of retainers. The inquisitor wore the simple habits of his Order. When he appeared abroad he was at most accompanied by a few armed familiars, partly as a guard, partly to execute his orders. His scene of activity was in the recesses of the dreaded Holy Office, whence he issued his commands and decided the fate of whole populations in a silence and secrecy which impressed upon the people a mysterious awe a thousand times more potent than the external magnificence of the bishop. Every detail in the Inquisition was intended for work and not for show. It was built up by resolute, earnest men of one idea who knew what they wanted, who rendered everything subservient to the one object, and who sternly rejected all that might embarra.s.s with superfluities the unerring and ruthless justice which it was their mission to enforce.

The previous chapter has shown us the simplicity which marked the beginnings of the inst.i.tution, consisting virtually of the individual friars selected to hunt up heretics and determine their guilt. Their districts were naturally coterminous with the provinces of the Mendicant Orders, whose provincials were charged with the duty of appointment, and these provinces each comprised many bishoprics. Though the chief town of each province came to be regarded as the seat of the Inquisition, with its building and prisons, yet it was the duty of the inquisitor to go in pursuit of the heretics, to visit all places where heresy might be suspected to exist, and to summon the people to a.s.semble, exactly as the bishops formerly did in their visitations, with the added inducement of an indulgence of twenty or forty days for all who attended. It is true that at first the inquisitors of Toulouse established themselves in that city and cited before them all whom they wished to appear, but such complaints arose as to the intolerable hardship of this that, in 1237, the Legate Jean de Vienne ordered them to transport themselves to the places where they wished to make inquest. In obedience to this we see them going to Castelnaudari, where they were baffled by the people, who had entered into a common understanding not to betray each other, so they turned unexpectedly to Puy Laurens, where they took the population by surprise and gathered an ample harvest. The murders of Avignonet, in 1242, gave warning that these itinerant inquests were not without risk, yet they continued to be prescribed by the Cardinal of Albano, about 1244, and by the Council of Beziers, in 1246. Although, in 1247, Innocent IV. authorized inquisitors, when there was danger, to summon heretics and witnesses to some place of safety, yet the theory of personal visitation remained unchanged. In Italy we see it in the bulls _Ad extirpanda_; a contemporary German inquisitor describes it as the customary practice; in northern France we have the formulas used in 1278 by Friar Simon Duval for summoning the people on such occasions; about 1330 Bernard Gui alludes to it as one of the special privileges of the Inquisition; and, about 1375, Eymerich describes the method of conducting these inquests as part of the established routine.[328]

Nothing could well be devised more effective than these visitations, and though they may have become neglected when the machinery of spies and familiars was perfected, or when the heretics had been nearly weeded out, during the busy times of the Inquisition they must have formed an important portion of its functions. A few days in advance of his visit to a city, the inquisitor would send notice to the ecclesiastical authorities requiring them to summon the people to a.s.semble at a specified time, with an announcement of the indulgence given to all who should attend. To the populace thus brought together he preached on the faith, urging them to its defence with such eloquence as he could command, summoning every one within a certain radius to come forward within six or twelve days and reveal to him whatever they may have known or heard of any one leading to the belief or suspicion that he might be a heretic, or defamed for heresy, or that he had spoken against any article of faith, or that he differed in life and morals from the common conversation of the faithful. Neglect to comply with this command incurred _ipso facto_ excommunication, removable only by the inquisitor himself; compliance with it was rewarded with an indulgence of three years. At the same time he proclaimed a “time of grace,” varying from fifteen to thirty days, during which any heretic coming forward spontaneously, confessing his guilt, abjuring, and giving full information about his fellow-sectaries, was promised mercy. This mercy varied at different times from complete immunity to exemption from the severer penalties of death, imprisonment, exile, or confiscation. The latter is the grace promised in the earliest allusion to the practice in 1235, and in a sentence of 1237 on such an occasion the offender escaped with a penance consisting of two of the shorter pilgrimages, the finding of a beggar daily during life, and a fine of ten livres Morlaas given “for the love of G.o.d” to the Inquisition. After the expiration of the term they were told that no mercy would be shown; while it lasted, the inquisitor was instructed to keep himself housed, so as to be ready at any moment to receive denunciations and confessions; and long series of interrogatories, most searching and suggestive, were drawn up to prompt him in the examination of those who should present themselves.

Even as late as 1387 when Fra Antonio Secco attacked the heretics of the Waldensian valleys, he commenced by publishing in the church of Pignerol a summons giving a week of grace during which all who should confess as to themselves and others should escape public punishment except for perjury committed before the Inquisition, and all who did not come forward were denounced as excommunicates.[329]

Bernard Gui a.s.sures us that this device was exceedingly fruitful, not only in causing numerous happy conversions, but also in furnishing information of many heretics who would not otherwise have been thought of, as each penitent was forced to denounce all whom he knew or suspected; and he particularly dwells upon its utility in securing the capture of the “perfected” Catharans who habitually lay in hiding and who thus were betrayed by those in whom they trusted. It is easy, in fact, to imagine the terror into which a community would be thrown when an inquisitor suddenly descended upon it and made his proclamation. No one could know what stories might be circulating about himself which zealous fanaticism or personal enmity might exaggerate and carry to the inquisitor, and in this the orthodox and the heretic would suffer alike.

All scandals pa.s.sing from mouth to mouth would be brought to light. All confidence between man and man would disappear. Old grudges would be gratified in safety. To him who had been heretically inclined the terrible suspense would grow day by day more insupportable, with the thought that some careless word might have been treasured up to be now revealed by those who ought to be nearest and dearest to him, until at last he would yield and betray others rather than be betrayed himself.

Gregory IX. boasted that, on at least one such occasion, parents were led to denounce their children, and children their parents, husbands their wives, and wives their husbands. We may well believe Bernard Gui when he says that each revelation led to others, until the invisible net extended far and wide, and that not the least of the benefits thence arising were the extensive confiscations which were sure to follow.[330]

These preliminary proceedings were commonly held in the convent of the Order to which the inquisitor belonged, if such there were, or in the episcopal palace if it were a cathedral town. In other cases the church or buildings would afford the necessary accommodation, for the authorities, both lay and clerical, were bound to afford all a.s.sistance demanded. Each inquisitor, however, necessarily had his headquarters to which he would return after these forays, carrying with him the depositions of accusers and confessions of accused, and such prisoners as he deemed it important to secure, the secular authorities being bound to furnish him the necessary transportation and guards. Others he would cite to appear before him at a specified time, taking sufficient bail to secure their punctuality. In the earlier period, the seat of his tribunal was the Mendicant convent, while the episcopal or public prison was at his disposal for the detention of his captives; but in time special buildings were provided, amply furnished with the necessary appliances and dungeons–cells built along the walls and thence known as “_murus_,” in contradistinction to the “_carcer_” or prison–where the unfortunates awaiting sentence were under the immediate supervision of their judge. It was here, for the most part, that the judicial proceedings were carried on, though we occasionally hear of the episcopal palace being used, especially when the bishop was zealous and co-operated with the Inquisition.

During the earlier period there was no limitation as to the age of the inquisitor; the provincial who held the appointing power could select any member of his Order. That this frequently led to the nomination of young and inexperienced men is presumable from the language in which Clement V., when reforming the Holy Office, prescribed forty years as the minimum age in future. Bernard Gui remonstrated against this, not only because younger men were often thoroughly capable of the duties, but also because bishops and their ordinaries who exercised inquisitorial power were not required to be so old. The rule, however, held good. In 1422 the Provincial of Toulouse appointed an inquisitor of Carca.s.sonne, Friar Raymond du Tille, who was only thirty-two years of age. Though he was confirmed by the general of the Order, it was held that the office was vacant until an appeal was made to Martin V., who ordered the Official of Alet to investigate his fitness, and, if found worthy, the Clementine canon might be suspended in his favor.[331]

The trials were usually conducted by a single inquisitor, though sometimes two would work together. One, however, sufficed, but he generally had subordinate a.s.sistants, who prepared the cases for him, and took the preliminary examinations. He had a right to call upon the provincial to a.s.sign to him as many of these a.s.sistants as he deemed necessary, but he could not select them for himself. Sometimes, when the bishop was eager for persecution and careless of the episcopal dignity, he would accept the position; and it was frequently filled by the Dominican prior of the local convent. When the state defrayed the expenses of the Inquisition, it seems to have exercised some control over the number of officials. Thus in Naples Charles of Anjou, in 1269, only provides for one a.s.sistant.[332]

These a.s.sistants represented the inquisitor during his absence, and thus were closely a.s.similated to the commissioners who came to be a permanent feature of the Holy Office. Even in the twelfth century it was determined that a judicial delegate of the Holy See could delegate his powers; and in 1246 the Council of Beziers authorized the inquisitor to appoint a deputy whenever he wished to have an inquest made in any place to which he could not himself proceed. Special commissions were sometimes issued, as when, in 1276, Pons de p.o.r.nac, Inquisitor of Toulouse, authorized the Dominican Prior of Montauban to take testimony against Bernard de Solhac and forward it to him under seal. In the extensive districts of the Inquisition the work must necessarily have been divided in this manner, especially during the earlier period, when the harvest of heresy was abundant and numerous laborers were requisite.

Yet the formal authority to appoint commissioners with full powers does not seem to have been granted to inquisitors until 1262 by Urban IV., and this had to be confirmed by Boniface VIII. towards the close of the century. These commissioners, or vicars, differed from the a.s.sistants, inasmuch as they were appointed and discharged at the discretion of the inquisitor. They became a permanent feature of the inst.i.tution, and conducted its business in places remote from the main tribunal; or, in case of the absence or incapacity of the inquisitor, one of them might be summoned to replace him temporarily, or the inquisitor could appoint a vicar-general. Like their, they had, after the Clementine reforms in 1317, to be at least forty years of age, and they wielded full inquisitorial powers, in the citation, arrest, and examination of witnesses and prisoners, even to the infliction of torture and condemnation to imprisonment. Whether they could proceed to final sentence in capital cases was a disputed question, and Eymerich recommends that such authority should always be reserved to the inquisitor himself; but, as we shall see, the cases of Joan of Arc and of the Vaudois of Arras show that this reservation was rarely observed.

A further limitation on their powers was the inability to appoint deputies.[333]

In the later period there seems to have been occasionally another official with the t.i.tle of “counsellor.” In 1370 the Inquisition of Carca.s.sonne claimed the right to appoint three, who should be exempt from all local taxation. In a doc.u.ment of 1423 the person filling this position is not a Dominican, but is qualified as a licentiate in law; and doubtless such a functionary was a useful and usual member of the tribunal, though with no precise official status. Zanghino informs us that in general inquisitors were utterly ignorant of law. In most cases this made no difference, for, as we shall see, they enjoyed the widest lat.i.tude of arbitrary procedure, with little danger that any one would dare to complain, but occasionally they had to deal with victims not entirely unresisting, and then some adviser as to their legal duties and responsibilities was desirable. Eymerich, in fact, recommends that a commissioner should always a.s.sociate with himself some discreet lawyer to save him from mistakes which may redound to the disadvantage of the Inquisition, call for papal interposition, and perhaps cost him his place.[334]

As absolute secrecy became a main feature of all the proceedings of the Inquisition after its earlier tentative period, it was a universal rule that testimony, whether of witnesses or of accused, should only be taken in the presence of two impartial men, not connected with the inst.i.tution, but sworn to silence. The inquisitor was empowered to compel the attendance of any one whom he might summon to perform this duty. These representatives of the public were preferably clerics, and usually Dominicans, “discreet and religious men,” who were expected to sign with the notary the written report of the testimony in attestation of its fidelity. Though not alluded to in the instructions of the Council of Beziers in 1246, a deposition taken in 1244 shows that already the practice had become customary; and the frequent repet.i.tions of the rule by successive popes and its embodiment in the canon law show what importance was attached to it as a means of preventing injustice, and giving at least a color of impartiality to the proceedings. Yet in this, as in everything else, the inquisitors were a law unto themselves, and disregarded at pleasure the very slender restrictions imposed on them. One of the rare cases in which the Inquisition lost a victim turned upon the neglect of this rule. In 1325 a priest named Pierre de Tornamire, accused of Spiritual Franciscanism, was brought to the Inquisition of Carca.s.sonne in a dying state. The inquisitor was absent.

His deputy and notary took the deposition in the presence of three laymen who chanced to be present, and the priest died before it was well concluded. Two Dominicans came, after he was speechless, and, without making any inquiry as to its correctness, signed their names to the deposition in attestation. On this irregular evidence a prosecution against Pierre’s memory was based, and was contested by his heirs to save his property from confiscation. Thirty-two years the struggle lasted, and when the inquisitor came, in 1357, to ask a.s.sent to his sentence of condemnation in the customary a.s.sembly of experts, twenty-five jurists unanimously voted against it on the ground of irregularity, and only two, both Dominicans, ventured to uphold it. It was not long after this that Eymerich instructed his brethren how the rule could be evaded, when it was inconvenient, by at least having two honest persons present at the close of the examination, when the testimony was read over to the deponent. No one else was allowed to be present at the trial, except at Avignon for a brief period, about the middle of the thirteenth century, when the magistrates temporarily secured the right of attendance for themselves and a certain number of seigneurs. With this exception, the unfortunates who were wrestling for their lives with their judges were wholly at the discretion of the inquisitor and his creatures.[335]

The _personnel_ of the tribunal was completed by the notary–an official of considerable standing and dignity in the Middle Ages. All the proceedings of the Inquisition were taken down in writing–every question and every answer–each witness and each defendant being obliged to confirm his testimony when read over to him at the close of the interrogatory, and judgment was finally rendered on an inspection of the evidence thus recorded. The function of the notary was no light one, and occasionally scriveners were called in to his a.s.sistance, but he formally attested every doc.u.ment. Not only was there the fearful multiplication of papers acc.u.mulating in the current business of the tribunal, and their careful transcription for preservation, but the several Inquisitions were continually furnishing each other with copies of their records, so that a considerable force must have been necessarily employed. As in everything else, the inquisitor was empowered to call for gratuitous service on the part of any one whom he might summon, but the continuous business of the office required undivided attention, and its proper despatch rendered desirable the peculiar training acquired by experience. In the earlier periods, the authorization to impress any notary to serve, and the advice to select if possible Dominicans who had been notaries, with the power, if none such could be had, to replace him with two discreet persons, shows that the itinerant tribunals depended for the most part on this chance conscription; but in the permanent seats of the Inquisition the notary was a regular official, in receipt of a salary. In the attempted reform of Clement V. it was provided that he should take his official oath before the bishop as well as before the inquisitor, and to this Bernard Gui objected on the ground that the exigencies of business sometimes required the force to be suddenly increased to two or three or four, and that in places where no public notaries were to be had, other competent persons were necessarily employed on the spur of the moment, as it often happens that the guilty will confess when in the mood, and if their confession is not promptly taken they draw back, and they are always more given to concealment than to truth. Curiously enough, the power to appoint notaries was regarded with so much jealousy that it was denied to the inquisitor. He may if he choose, says Eymerich, send three or four names to the pope, who will appoint them for him, but this leads to such bad feeling on the part of the local authorities that he had better content himself with the notaries of the bishops or of the secular rulers.[336]

The enormous ma.s.s of doc.u.ments produced by these innumerable busy hands was the object of well-deserved solicitude. At the very inception of the work its value was recognized. In 1235 we hear of the confessions of penitents being sedulously recorded in books kept for the purpose. This speedily became the universal custom, and the inquisitors were instructed to preserve careful records of all their proceedings, from the first summons to the final sentence in every case, together with lists of all who took the oath enforced on every one to defend the faith and persecute heresy. The importance attached to this is shown by the frequent iteration of the command, and by the further precaution that all the papers should be duplicated, and a copy lodged in a safe place or with the bishop. With what elaborate care they were rendered practically useful is shown by the Book of Sentences of the Inquisition of Toulouse, from 1308 to 1323, printed by Limborch, where at the end there is an index of the 636 culprits sentenced, grouped under their places of residence alphabetically arranged, with reference to the pages on which their names occur and brief mention of the several punishments inflicted on each, and of any subsequent modifications of the penalty, thus enabling the official who wished information as to the people of any hamlet to see at a glance who among them had been suspected and what had been done. One case in the same book will ill.u.s.trate the completeness and the exact.i.tude of the previous records. In 1316 an old woman was brought before the tribunal; on examination it was found that in 1268, nearly fifty years before, she had confessed and abjured heresy and had been reconciled, and as this aggravated her guilt the miserable wretch was condemned to perpetual imprisonment in chains. Thus in process of time the Inquisition acc.u.mulated a store of information which not only increased greatly its efficiency, but which rendered it an object of terror to every man. The confiscations and disabilities which, as we shall see hereafter, were inflicted on descendants, rendered the secrets of family history so carefully preserved in its archives the means by which a crushing blow might at any moment fall on the head of any one; and the Inquisition had an awkward way of discovering disagreeable facts about the ancestry of those who provoked its ill-will, and possibly its cupidity. Thus, in 1306, during the troubles at Albi, when the royal _viguier_, or governor, supported the cause of the people, the inquisitor, Geoffroi d’Ablis, issued letters declaring that he had found among the records that the grandfather of the _viguier_ had been a heretic, and his grandson consequently was incapable of holding office. The whole population was thus at the mercy of the Holy Office.[337]

The temptation to falsify the records when an enemy was to be struck down was exceedingly strong, and the opponents of the Inquisition had no hesitation in declaring that it was freely yielded to. Friar Bernard Delicieux, speaking for the whole Franciscan Order of Languedoc, in a formal doc.u.ment of the year 1300, not only declared that the records were unworthy of trust, but that they were generally believed to be so.

We shall see hereafter facts which fully justified this a.s.sertion, and the popular mistrust was intensified by the jealous secrecy which rendered it an offence punishable with excommunication for any one to possess any papers relating to the proceedings of the Inquisition or to prosecutions against heretics. On the other hand, the temptation on the part of those who were endangered to destroy the archives was equally strong, and the attempts to effect this show the importance attached to their possession. As early as 1235 we find the citizens of Narbonne, in an insurrection against the Inquisition, carefully destroying all the books and records. The order of the Council of Albi in 1254, to make duplicates and lodge them in some safe place was doubtless caused by another successful effort made in 1248 by the heretics of Narbonne. On the occasion of an a.s.sembly of bishops in that city a clerk and a messenger bearing records with the names of heretics were slain and the books burned, giving rise to a good many troublesome questions with regard to existing and future prosecutions. About 1285, at Carca.s.sonne, a plot was entered into by the consuls of the town and several of its leading ecclesiastics to destroy the inquisitorial records. They bribed one of the familiars, Bernard Garric, to burn them, but the conspiracy was discovered and its authors punished. One of these, a lawyer named Guillem Garric, languished in prison for about thirty years before his final sentence in 1321.[338]

Not the least important among the functionaries of the Inquisition were the lowest cla.s.s–the apparitors, messengers, spies, and bravos, known generally by the name of familiars, which came to have so ill-omened a significance in the popular ear. The service was not without risk, and it had few attractions for the honest and peaceable, but it was full of promise for the reckless and evil-minded. Not only did they enjoy the immunity from secular jurisdiction attaching to all in the service of the Church, but the special authority granted by Innocent IV., in 1245, to the inquisitors to absolve their familiars for acts of violence rendered them independent even of the ecclesiastical tribunals. Besides, as any molestation of the servants of the Inquisition was qualified as impeding its operations and thus savoring of heresy, any one who dared to resist aggression rendered himself liable to prosecution before the tribunal of the aggressor. Thus panoplied, they could tyrannize at will over the defenceless population, and it is easy to imagine the amount of extortion which they could practise with virtual impunity by threatening arrest or accusation at a time when falling into the hands of the Inquisition was about the heaviest misfortune which could befall any man, whether orthodox or heretic.[339]

All that was needed to render this social scourge complete was devised when the familiars were authorized to carry arms. The murders at Avignonet, in 1242, with that of Peter Martyr, and other similar events, seemed to justify the inquisitors in desiring an armed guard; and the service of tracking and capturing heretics was frequently one of peril, yet the privilege was a dangerous one to bestow on such men as could be got for the work, while releasing them from the restraints of law. In the turbulence of the age the carrying of weapons was rigidly repressed in all peace-loving communities. As early as the eleventh century we find it prohibited in the city of Pistoja, and in 1228 in Verona. In Bologna knights and doctors only were allowed to bear arms, and to have one armed servant. In Milan, a statute of Gian-Galeazzo, in 1386, forbids the carrying of weapons, but allows the bishops to arm the retainers living under their roofs. In Paris an _ordonnance_ of 1288 inhibits the citizens from carrying pointed knives, swords, bucklers, or other similar weapons. In Beaucaire, an edict of 1320 prescribes various penalties, including the loss of a hand, for bearing arms, except in the case of travellers, who are restricted simply to swords and knives. Such regulations were of inestimable value in the progress of civilization, but they amounted to little when the inquisitor could arm any one he pleased, and invest him with the privileges and immunities of the Holy Office.[340]

As early as 1249 the scandals and abuses arising from the unlimited employment of scriveners and familiars who oppressed the people with their extortions called forth the indignant rebuke of Innocent IV., who commanded that their numbers should be reduced to correspond with the bare exigencies of duty. In those countries in which the Inquisition was supported by the State there was not much opportunity for the development of overgrown abuses of this nature. Thus, in Naples, Charles of Anjou, in permitting the carrying of arms, specifies three as the number of familiars for each inquisitor; and when Bernard Gui protested against the reforms of Clement V. he pointed out the contrast between France, where the inquisitors relied upon the secular officials, and were forced to be content with few retainers, and Italy, where they had almost unlimited opportunities. There, in fact, as we shall see, the Inquisition was self-supporting and independent by reason of its share in the fines and confiscations, and restraint of any kind was difficult.

Clement V. forbade the useless multiplication of officials and the abuse of the right to bear arms, but his well-meant efforts availed little. In 1321 we find John XXII. reproving the inquisitors of Lombardy for creating scandals and tumults in Bologna by their armed familiars of depraved character and perverse habits, who committed murders and other outrages. In 1337 the papal nuncio, Bertrand, Archbishop of Embrun, seeing by personal observation the troubles which existed in Florence, owing to the practice of the inquisitor issuing licenses to carry arms, which was abused to the frequent injury of defenceless citizens, restricted him to twelve armed familiars, informing him that the secular authorities would furnish whatever additional armed a.s.sistance might be necessary for the capture of heretics. Yet within nine years one of the accusations brought against a new inquisitor, Fra Piero di Aquila, was that he had sold licenses to carry arms to more than two hundred and fifty men, bringing him in an annual revenue of about one thousand gold florins, and proving sadly detrimental to the peace of the city.

Accordingly a law was pa.s.sed restricting the inquisitor to six familiars bearing arms, the Bishop of Florence to twelve, and the Bishop of Fiesole to six, all of whom were required to wear the insignia of their masters. Still, the profit arising from the sale of such licenses was too great a temptation, and in the Florentine code of 1355 we find general regulations intended to check it in another way. Any one caught bearing arms and pleading a license was deported beyond the territory of the republic, to a distance of at least fifty miles from the city, and had to give a bond to remain there for a year. Even the podesta was prohibited from issuing such licenses under the penalties of perjury and a fine of five hundred lire. All this was an infraction of the liberties of the Church, and formed the substance of one of the complaints of Gregory XI., when, in 1376, he excommunicated the republic; and when, in 1378, Florence was forced to submit, one of the conditions was that a papal commissioner should expunge from the statute-book all the obnoxious laws. Yet the excesses of these brawling ruffians were too great to be long submitted to, and in 1386 another device was tried. The two bishops and the inquisitor were forbidden to have armed familiars who were taxable or inscribed on the roll of citizens; those to whom they issued licenses had to be declared their familiars by the priors of the arts, and this declaration had to be renewed yearly by a public instrument delivered to them. Some restraint thus was exercised, and this provision was retained in the recension of the code in 1415. This same struggle was doubtless going on in all the Italian cities which had independence enough to seek a remedy for the daily outrages inflicted by these licensed bravos, though the record of the troubles may not be accessible to history. Even in Venice, which kept the Inquisition in so subordinate a position, and wisely maintained its rights by defraying the expenses of the inst.i.tution–even Venice felt the necessity of restraining the multiplication of pretended armed retainers. In August, 1450, the Great Council, by a vote of fourteen to two, denounced the abuse by which the inquisitor had sold to twelve persons the license to bear arms; such a force, it is said, was wholly unnecessary, as he could always invoke the a.s.sistance of the secular power, and therefore he should, in accordance with ancient custom, be restricted to four armed familiars. Six months later, in February, 1451, at the earnest request of the Franciscan general minister, this regulation was rescinded; the inquisitor was allowed to increase the number to twelve, but the police were directed to observe and report whether they were really engaged in the duties of the Inquisition. Yet Eymerich a.s.sures us that all such interference is unlawful, and that any secular ruler who endeavors to prevent the familiars of the Holy Office from bearing arms is impeding the Inquisition and is a fautor of heresy, while Bernard Gui characterizes in similar terms any limitation of the number of officials below what the inquisitor may deem requisite, all of which, according to Zanghino, is punishable at the discretion of the inquisitor.[341]

In the preceding chapter I have alluded to the power claimed and often exercised of abrogating all local statutes obnoxious to the Holy Office, and of the duty of every secular official to lend aid whenever called upon. This duty was recognized and enforced so that the organization of the Inquisition may be said to have embraced that of the State, whose whole resources were placed at its disposition. The oath of obedience which the inquisitor was empowered and directed to exact of all holding official station was no mere form. Refusal to take it was visited with excommunication, leading to prosecution for heresy in case of obduracy, and humiliating penance on submission. At times it was neglected by careless inquisitors, but the earnest ones made a point of it. Bernard Gui, at all his _autos de fe_, solemnly administered it to all the royal officials and local magistrates, and when, in May, 1309, Jean de Maucochin, the royal seneschal of the Tolosain and Albigeois declined to take it, he was speedily brought to see his error, and submitted within a month. Bernard himself, as we have seen, admits that the help thus promised was efficiently rendered, and when, in 1329, Henri de Chamay, Inquisitor of Carca.s.sonne, applied to Philippe de Valois for a reaffirmation of the privileges of the Inquisition, the monarch promptly responded in an edict in which he proclaimed that “each and all, dukes, counts, barons, seneschals, baillis, provosts, viguiers, castellans, sergeants, and other justiciaries of the kingdom of France are bound to obey the inquisitors and their commissioners in seizing, holding, guarding, and taking to prison all heretics and suspects of heresy, and to execute diligently the sentences of the inquisitors, and to give to the inquisitors, their commissioners and messengers, safe-conduct, prompt help and favor, through all the lands of their jurisdictions, in all that concerns the business of the Inquisition, whenever and how often soever they may be called upon.” Any hesitation on the part of public officials to grant a.s.sistance when summoned was promptly punished. Thus, in 1303, when Bonrico di Busca, vicar of the podesta of Mandrisio, refused to furnish men to the representatives of the Milanese Inquisition, he was forthwith condemned to a fine of a hundred imperial solidi, to be paid within five days. Even the condition of an excommunicate, which rendered an official incapable of performing any other function, did not relieve him from this duty; he could be called upon to execute the commands of the inquisitor, but he was warned that he must not imagine himself competent therefore to do anything else.[342]

In addition to this the Inquisition had, to a greater or less extent, at its service the whole orthodox population, and especially the clergy. It was the duty of every man to give information as to all cases of heresy with which he might become acquainted under pain of incurring the guilt of fautorship. It was further his duty to arrest all heretics, as Bernard de St. Genais found in 1242, when he was tried by the Inquisition of Toulouse for the offence of not capturing certain heretics when it was in his power to do so, and was condemned to the penance of pilgrimages to the shrines of Puy, St. Gilles, and Compostella. The parish priests, moreover, were required, whenever called upon, to cite their parishioners for appearance, either publicly from the pulpit or secretly as the case might require, and to publish all sentences of excommunication. They were likewise held to the duty of surveillance over penitents to see that the penances enjoined were duly performed, and to report any cases of neglect. A very thorough system of local police, framed upon the model of the old synodal witnesses, was devised by the Council of Beziers in 1246, under which the inquisitor was empowered to appoint in every parish a priest and one or two laymen, whose duty it should be to search for heretics, examining all houses, inside and out, and especially all secret hiding-places. In addition to this they were instructed to watch over penitents and enforce the faithful observance of the sentences of the Inquisition, and a manual of practice of the period instructs inquisitors to see that this system is thoroughly carried out. In fact, the whole resources of the land, public and private, were freely placed at the disposal of the Holy Office, so that nothing should be wanting in its sacred mission of extirpating heresy.[343]

An important feature in the organization of the Inquisition was the a.s.sembly in which the fate of the accused was finally determined. The inquisitor had technically no power to pa.s.s sentence by himself. We have seen how, after various fluctuations of policy, the co-operation of the bishops was established as indispensable. As in everything else, the inquisitors contemptuously neglected this limitation on their powers, and when Clement V. endeavored to reform abuses he p.r.o.nounced null and void any sentences rendered independently, yet to avert delays he permitted consent to be expressed in writing if after eight days a meeting could not be arranged. If, indeed, we may judge from some specimens of these written consultations which have reached us, they were perfunctory to the last degree and placed no real check upon the discretion of the inquisitor. Still Bernard Gui complained bitterly even of this restriction in terms which show how little respect had previously been paid to the rule, and he adds, in justification, that one bishop kept the trials of some persons of his diocese from being finished for two years and more, while another delayed the celebration of an _auto de fe_ for six months. He himself observed the regulation scrupulously, both before and after the publication of the Clementines, and in the reports of the _autos_ held by him in Toulouse the partic.i.p.ation of the bishops of the prisoners, or of episcopal delegates, is always carefully specified. Yet how easy was the evasion of this, as of all other regulations for the protection of the accused, is seen when even Bernard Gui accepted commissions from three bishops–those of Cahors, St. Papoul, and Montauban–to act for them in the _auto_ of September 30, 1319. This device became frequent, and inquisitors constantly rendered sentence on their individual responsibility under power granted them by the bishops, as in the persecutions of the Waldenses of Piedmont in 1387, and that of the witches of Canavese in 1474. Sometimes, however, the bishops were not altogether free agents, as when, in the early persecution of the Spiritual Franciscans, about 1318, those of the province of Narbonne were coerced to consent to the burning of some unfortunates by the inquisitor threatening them with the pope, who was known to have the prosecutions much at heart.[344]

This episcopal concurrence in the sentence was reached in consultation with the a.s.sembly of experts. As the inquisitors from the beginning were chosen rather with regard to zeal than learning, and as they maintained a reputation for ignorance, it was soon found requisite to a.s.sociate with them in the rendering of sentences men versed in the civil and canon law, which had by this time become an intricate study requiring the devotion of a lifetime. Accordingly they were empowered to call in experts to deliberate with them over the evidence and advise with them on the sentence to be rendered, and those who were thus summoned could not refuse to serve gratuitously, though it is intimated that the inquisitor can pay them if he feels so inclined. At first it would seem as though notables were a.s.sembled at the condemnation of prominent heretics rather to give solemnity to the occasion than for actual consultation, as when, in 1237, at the sentence pa.s.sed on Alaman de Roaix in Toulouse, the presence is recorded of the Bishop of Toulouse, the Abbot of Moissac, the Dominican and Franciscan provincials, and a number of other notables. The amount of work, in fact, performed by the Inquisition of Languedoc in the early years of its existence would seem to preclude the idea of any serious deliberation by counsellors thus called in, who would have to consider the interminable reports of examinations and interrogations; especially as, at a comparatively early date, the practice was adopted of allowing a number of culprits to acc.u.mulate whose fate was determined and announced in a solemn “_Sermo_”

or _auto de fe_. Still, the form was kept up, and in 1247 a sentence rendered by Bernard de Caux and Jean de St. Pierre on seven relapsed heretics is specified as being “with the counsel of many prelates and other good men.” In the final shape which the a.s.sembly of counsellors a.s.sumed, we find it summoned to meet on Fridays, the “_Sermo_” always taking place on Sundays. When the number of criminals was large there was thus not much time for deliberation on special cases. The a.s.sessors were always to be jurists and Mendicant friars, selected by the inquisitor in such numbers as he saw fit. They were severally sworn on the Gospels to secrecy, and to give good and wise counsel, each one according to his conscience and the knowledge vouchsafed him by G.o.d. The inquisitor then read over to them his summary of each case, sometimes withholding the name of the accused, and they voted the sentence–“Penance at the discretion of the inquisitor”–“That person is to be imprisoned, or abandoned to the secular arm,” while the Gospels lay on the table in their midst, “so that our judgment may come from the face of G.o.d and our eyes may see justice.”[345]

As a rule it is safe to a.s.sume that these proceedings were scarcely more than formal. Not only was the inquisitor at liberty to present each case in such aspect as he saw fit, but it became the custom to call in such numbers of experts that in the press of business deliberation was scarce possible. Thus the Inquisitor of Carca.s.sonne, Henri de Chamay, a.s.sembled at Narbonne, December 10, 1328, besides himself and the episcopal Ordinary, forty-two counsellors, consisting of canons, jurisconsults, and lay experts. In the two days allotted to them this unwieldly a.s.semblage despatched thirty-four cases, which would show that little consideration could have been given to each. In only two cases, indeed, was there any difference of opinion expressed, and these were of no special importance. On September 8, 1329, he held another a.s.sembly at Carca.s.sonne, attended by forty-seven experts, which in its two days’

session acted upon forty cases. Yet these a.s.semblies were not always so expeditious and self-effacing. From Narbonne Henri de Chamay pa.s.sed to Pamiers, where, January 7, 1329, he called together thirty-five experts besides the Bishop of Toulouse. On the first day several cases were postponed for greater deliberation, and of these some were acted upon and others were not. Considerable debate took place, each individual expressing his opinion, and the result was apparently settled by the majority vote. They evidently felt and a.s.sumed the responsibility of the decision; and yet the impossibility of deliberate action by so c.u.mbrous a body is seen in their bunching together all the cases of “believing”

heretics, condemning them _en ma.s.se_ to prison, and leaving it with the inquisitor to determine the character of the imprisonment for each individual. Curiously enough, this a.s.sembly also a.s.sumed legislative functions in laying down general rules of punishment for false-witness.

A still more notable instance of deliberation occurred at an a.s.sembly convoked by Henri de Chamay at Beziers, May 19, 1329, where there were thirty-five experts present. In the case of a Franciscan friar, Pierre Julien, all agreed that, strictly speaking, he was a “relapsed,” but many were anxious to show him mercy. After long debate, the inquisitor told them to meet again in the evening, and in the meanwhile consider whether they could devise some means of grace. At the evening session there was again earnest discussion, and postponement was agreed to on the excuse that no bishop could be had in time for his degradation. The experts were finally summoned, under pain of excommunication, to give their opinions, which were taken down in writing and ranged from simple purgation to abandonment to the secular arm. The a.s.sembly then was dismissed and consultation was held with some of the more prominent members, when it was agreed either to send to Avignon, Toulouse, or Montpellier for advice or to await an _auto de fe_ at Carca.s.sonne for further counsel.[346]

Yet, while the forms were thus preserved, the inquisitors, with their customary arbitrary disregard of all that limited their discretion, paid attention or not to the decisions of the experts, as best suited them. In the sentences which follow the reports of these a.s.semblies it is by no means unusual to find names which had never been laid before them. After the a.s.sembly of Pamiers, for instance, which showed so much disposition to act for itself, there is a sentence condemning five defuncts, only two of whom are named in the proceedings. On the same occasion, another culprit, Ermessende, daughter of Raymond Monier, was condemned by the a.s.sembly for false-witness to the “_murus largus_,” or simple prison, and was sentenced by the inquisitor to “_murus strictus_,” or imprisonment in chains, which was a very different penalty. In fact, it was a disputed point whether the inquisitor was bound to obey the counsel of the a.s.sembly, and though Eymerich decides in the affirmative, Bernardo di Como positively a.s.serts the negative.[347]

From the necessity of these consultations with bishops and experts it is easy to understand the origin of the “_Sermo generalis_,” or _auto de fe_. It was evidently impossible to bring all parties together to consult over each individual case, and convenience was not only served by allowing the cases to acc.u.mulate, but opportunity was also afforded of arranging an impressive solemnity which should strike terror on the heretic and comfort the hearts of the faithful. In the rudimentary Inquisition of Florence, in 1245, where the inquisitor Ruggieri Calcagni and Bishop Ardingho were zealously co-operating, and no a.s.sembly of experts was required, we find the heretics sentenced and executed day by day, singly or in twos or threes, but the form was already adopted of a.s.sembling the people in the cathedral and reading the sentence to them, when doubtless the occasion was improved of delivering a discourse upon the wickedness of dissent and the duty of all citizens to persecute the children of Satan. In Toulouse the fragment of the register of sentences of Bernard de Caux and Jean de Saint-Pierre, from March, 1246, to June, 1248, shows a similar disregard of form. The _autos_ or _Sermones_ are sometimes held every few days–there are five in May, 1246–and often there are only one or two heretics to be sentenced, rendering it exceedingly probable that the co-operation of the bishop was not asked for, especially as he is never mentioned as joining in the condemnation.

There are always present, however, a certain number of local magistrates, civil and ecclesiastical, and the ceremony is usually performed in the cloister of the church of St. Sernin, though other places are sometimes mentioned, and among them the Hotel-de-Ville twice, showing that divine service as yet formed no part of the solemnity.[348]

With time the ceremony grew in stateliness and impressiveness. Sunday became prescribed for it, and as no other sermons were allowed on that day in the city, it was forbidden to be held on Quadragesima or Advent Sunday, or any other of the feast-days. Notice was given in advance from all the pulpits summoning all the people to be present and obtain the indulgence of forty days. A staging was erected in the centre of the church, on which the “penitents” were placed, surrounded by the secular and clerical officials. The sermon was delivered by the inquisitor, after which the oath of obedience was administered to the representatives of the civil power, and a solemn decree of excommunication was fulminated against all who should in any manner impede the operations of the Holy Office. Then the notary commenced reading the confessions one by one in the vulgar tongue, and as each was finished the culprit was asked if he acknowledged it to be true–care being taken, however, only to do this when he was known to be truly penitent and not likely to create scandal by a denial. On his replying in the affirmative he was asked whether he would repent, or lose body and soul by persevering in heresy; and on his expressing a desire to abjure, the form of abjuration was read and he repeated it, sentence by sentence. Then the inquisitor absolved him from the _ipso facto_ excommunication which he had incurred by heresy, and promised him mercy if he behaved well under the sentence about to be imposed. The sentence followed, and thus the penitents were brought forward successively, commencing with the least guilty and proceeding with those incurring severer penalties. Those who were to be “relaxed,” or abandoned to the secular arm, were reserved to the last, and for them the ceremony was adjourned to the public square, where a platform had been constructed for the purpose, in order that the holy precincts of the church might not be polluted by a sentence leading to blood. For the same reason it was not to be performed on a holy day. The execution, however, was not to take place on the same day, but on the following, so as to afford the convicts time for conversion, that their souls might not pa.s.s from temporal to eternal flame, and care was enjoined not to permit them to address the people, lest sympathy should be aroused by their a.s.sertions of innocence.[349]

We can readily picture to ourselves the effect produced on the popular mind by these awful celebrations, when, at the bidding of the Inquisition, all that was great and powerful in the land was called together humbly to take the oath of obedience and witness its exercise of the highest expression of human authority, regulating the destinies of fellow-creatures here and hereafter. In the great _auto de fe_ held by Bernard Gui at Toulouse, in April, 1310, the solemnities lasted from Sunday the 5th until Thursday the 9th. After the preliminary work of mitigating the penances of some deserving penitents, twenty persons were condemned to wear crosses and perform pilgrimages, sixty-five were consigned to perpetual imprisonment, three of them in chains, and eighteen were delivered to the secular justice and were duly burned. In that of April, 1312, fifty-one were sentenced to crosses, eighty-six to imprisonment, ten defunct persons were p.r.o.nounced worthy of prison and their estates confiscated, the bones of thirty-six were ordered to be exhumed and burned, five living ones were handed over to the secular court to be burned, and five more condemned for contumacy in absenting themselves. The faith which could thus vindicate itself might certainly inspire the respect of fear if not the attraction of love. Sometimes, however, a G.o.dless heretic would interfere with the prescribed order of solemnities, as when, in October, 1309, Amiel de Perles, a noted Catharan teacher, who defiantly avowed his heterodoxy, immediately on his capture commenced the _endura_ and refused all food and drink.

Unwilling thus to be robbed of his victim, Bernard hastened the usual dilatory proceedings, and gave to Amiel the honor of a special _auto_ in which he was the only victim. A similar case occurred in 1313, when a certain Pierre Raymond, who as a Catharan “_credens_” had been led to abjure and seek reconciliation in the _auto_ of 1310, and had been condemned to imprisonment, repented of his weakness in his solitary cell. The mental tortures of the poor wretch grew so strong that at last he defiantly proclaimed his relapse into heresy, in which he declared he would live and die, only regretting that he could not have access to some minister of his faith in order to be “perfected” or “hereticated.”

He likewise placed himself in _endura_, and after six days of starvation, as he was evidently nearing the end which he so resolutely sought, he was hurriedly sentenced, and a small _auto_ was arranged with a few other culprits in order that the stake might not be cheated of its prey.[350]

With such an organization as this, in the hands of able, vigorous, and earnest men, it shows the marvellous constancy of the heretics that the Cathari for a hundred years opposed to it the simple resistance of inertia, and that the Waldenses were never trampled out. The effectiveness of the organization was unhampered by any limits of jurisdiction, and was multiplied by the co-operation of the tribunals everywhere, so that there was no resting-place, no harbor of refuge for the heretic in any land where the Inquisition existed. Vainly might he change his abode, it was ever on his track. A suspicious stranger would be observed and arrested; his birthplace would be ascertained, and as soon as swift messengers could traverse the intervening distance, full official doc.u.ments as to his antecedents would be received from the Holy Office of his former home. It was a mere matter of convenience whether he should be tried where he was caught or sent back, for every tribunal had full jurisdiction over all offences committed within its district, and over all such offenders wherever they should stray. When Jacopo della Chiusa, one of the of St. Peter Martyr, discreetly absented himself, notices commanding his capture were sent as far as the Inquisition of Carca.s.sonne. Of course, questions sometimes arose which seemed likely to give trouble. Before the Inquisition was thoroughly organized, Jayme I. of Aragon, in 1248, complained of the Tolosan inquisitor, Bernard de Caux, for citing his subjects to appear, and Innocent IV. commanded that the abuse should cease, an order which received but slack obedience; and with the growth of the Holy Office such reclamations were not likely to be repeated. Cases, of course, occurred, in which two tribunals would claim the same culprit, and in this the rule of the Council of Narbonne, in 1244, was generally observed, that he should be tried by the inquisitor who had first commenced prosecution. Considering, indeed, the abundant causes of jealousy, and especially the bitter rivalry between the Dominican and Franciscan Orders, the cases of quarrel seem to have been singularly few. Whatever there were, they were hushed up with prudent reserve, and with occasional exceptions we find a hearty and zealous co-operation in the holy work to which all were alike devoted.[351]

The implacable energy with which the resources of this organization were employed may be understood from one or two instances. Under the Hohenstaufens the two Sicilies had served as a refuge for many heretics self-exiled by the rigor of the Inquisition of Languedoc, and merciless as was Frederic when it suited him, his system was by no means so searching and unintermittent as that of the Holy Office. After his death, the active warfare between Manfred and the papacy doubtless left the heretics in comparative peace, but when Charles of Anjou conquered the kingdom as the va.s.sal of Rome, it was at once thrown open and the French inquisitors made haste to pursue those who had eluded them. But seven months after the execution of Conradin, Charles issued his letters-patent, May 31, 1269, to all the n.o.bles and magistrates of the realm, setting forth that the inquisitors of France were about coming or sending agents to track and seize the fugitive heretics who had sought refuge in Italy, and ordering his subjects to give them safe-conduct and a.s.sistance whenever they might require it. In fact, the inquisitor’s jurisdiction was personal as well as local, and it accompanied him.

When, in 1359, some renegade converted Jews escaped from Provence to Spain, Innocent VI. authorized the Provencal inquisitor, Bernard du Puy, to follow them, arrest, try, condemn, and punish them wherever he might find them, with power to coerce the aid of the secular authorities everywhere; and he wrote at the same time to the kings of Aragon and Castile, instructing them to give to Bernard all necessary a.s.sistance.[352]

How the same tireless and unforgiving zeal was habitually brought to bear upon the humblest objects is seen in the case of Arnaud Ysarn, who, when a youth of fifteen, was condemned at Toulouse in 1309, after an imprisonment of two years, to wear crosses and perform certain pilgrimages, his sole offence being that he had once “adored” a heretic at the command of his father. He wore the insignia of his shame for more than a year, when, finding that they prevented him from earning a livelihood, he threw them off and obtained employment as a boatman on the Garonne between Moissac and Bordeaux. In his obscurity he might well fancy himself safe; but the inquisitorial police was too well organized, and he was discovered. Cited in 1312 to appear, he was afraid to do so, though urged by his father to take the chance of mercy. In 1315 he was excommunicated for contumacy, and, remaining under the censure for a year, he was finally declared a heretic, and was condemned as such in the _auto de fe_ of 1319. In June, 1321, by command of Bernard Gui, he was captured at Moissac, but escaped on the road to be recaptured and taken to Toulouse. He had been guilty of no act of heresy during the interval, but his contumacious rejection of the parental chastis.e.m.e.nt of the Inquisition was an offence worthy of death, and he was mercifully treated in being condemned, in 1322, to imprisonment for life on bread and water. The net of the Inquisition extended everywhere, and no prey was too small to elude its meshes.[353]

The whole organization of the Church was at its service. In 1255 a Dominican of Alessandria, Fra Niccol da Vercelli, confessed voluntarily some heretical beliefs to his sub-prior, who thereupon promptly ejected him. He entered a neighboring Cistercian convent, and then, fearing the pursuit of the Inquisition, quietly disappeared to some other convent beyond the Alps. There would not seem much to be feared from a heretic who would bury himself in the rigid Cistercian Order, and yet at once Alexander IV. issued letters to all Cistercian abbots and to all archbishops and bishops everywhere, commanding them to seize him and send him to Rainerio Saccone, the Lombard inquisitor.[354]

To render it an instrumentality perfect for the work a.s.signed to it, all that was wanting to the Inquisition was its subjection to a chief who should command the implicit obedience of its members and weld the organization into an organic whole. This function the pope could perform but imperfectly amid the overwhelming diversity of his cares, and he needed a minister who, as inquisitor-general, could devote his undivided attention to the innumerable questions arising from the conflict between orthodoxy and heresy, and between papal supremacy and local episcopal independence. The importance of such a measure seems to have made itself felt at a comparatively early period, and in 1262 Urban IV. created a virtual inquisitor-general when he ordered all inquisitors to report, either in person or by letter, to Caietano Orsini, Cardinal of S.


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Published inA History of The Inquisition of The Middle Ages