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The Inquisitions. The Origins of the Inquisition. In the Middle Ages the Catholic Faith became dominant in Europe The Church became tied socially, politically, and economically to European life Christianity provided the moral foundation for law and civil authority.

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The origins of the inquisition
The Origins of the Inquisition

  • In the Middle Ages the Catholic Faith became dominant in Europe

  • The Church became tied socially, politically, and economically to European life

  • Christianity provided the moral foundation for law and civil authority

The origins of the inquisition1
The Origins of the Inquisition

  • The Church, as a major landholder, had a major economic impact on Europe

  • Civil authorities understood themselves as divinely appointed defenders of the Christian world

  • Heretical attacks on the Church were treated as serious threats against the Christian world


  • The Inquisition began in reaction to Albigensianism

  • In the early part of the 13th century it was spreading fast in France

Open to pg 172 173 in text
Open to pg. 172-173 in Text

  • In your notes, make a list of at least 5 teachings of Albigensianism

Pre cursor to the inquisition
Pre-cursor to the Inquisition

  • Civil and religious authorities saw this as an illness that would have a devastating effect on both the Church and society

  • In 1208, Albigensians killed a Papal Legate, Pierre de Castelnau, and Pope Innocent III responded by calling a crusade to suppress Albigensianism in France

  • For 20+ years the purging dragged on

  • French Kings and Holy Roman Emperors took strong measures against Albigensians

    • Capital punishment

The french inquisition
The French Inquisition

  • In 1231, Pope Gregory IX established the Inquisition as a means of detection and purgation of heresy

  • He appointed Papal Inquisitors (mostly Domicans and Franciscans) who could serve as independent judges free from secular interest and influence

The inquisitors
The Inquisitors

  • The Pope appointed special judges who examined and judged the doctrinal opinions and moral conduct of suspicious individuals.

  • They often worked within the context of the civil system, but with papal authority.

The inquisitors cont d
The Inquisitors – cont’d

  • The Dominicans and Franciscans were two new orders that enjoyed rigorous and solid theological training and spiritual formation. This education prompted the hierarchy to employ them as inquisitors.

  • It was a heavy burden of responsibility that fell upon the shoulders of an inquisitor, who was obliged, at least indirectly, to decide between life and death. 

  • When circumstances permitted, he should observe mercy in allotting penalties.


  • The Church insisted that he possess the qualities of a good judge

    • Ardent zeal for protecting and promoting the Faith, salvation of souls, and extirpation of heresy

    • He should never yield to anger or passion, even amid the difficulties and pressures of the task

    • Should meet hostility fearlessly but not encourage it

    • Should not yield to inducement or threat, and yet not be heartless

    • Should observe mercy in allotting penalties

    • He should listen to the counsel of others

Process for inquisition
Process for Inquisition

  • began with a month long “term of grace” proclaimed by the inquisitor when he came into a heresy-ridden district

    • allowed the inhabitants to appear before the inquisitor, confess their sins, and perform penance.

  • Of those who confessed heresy of their own accord, a suitable penance (such as a pilgrimage, fasting, or wearing crosses on their clothes) was imposed, but never a severe punishment like incarceration or surrender to the civil power.

Process for inquisition cont d
Process for Inquisition – cont’d

  • If the accused did not confess, the trial began.

  • If the accused still did not confess, he or she was subject to:

    • close confinement (possibly emphasized by curtailment of food)

    • visits of an already tried man (who would attempt to induce free confession through friendly persuasion)

    • and confinement to an inquisition prison for serious offenders.

Process for inquisition cont d1
Process for Inquisition – cont’d

  • When no voluntary admission was made, evidence was still necessary for conviction.

  • Legally, there had to be at least two witnesses, and conscientious judges often required even more witnesses to convict someone of heresy.

Process for inquisition cont d2
Process for Inquisition – cont’d

  • In addition to the inquisitor, boniviri (good men) were frequently called upon.

  • Thirty, fifty, eighty, or more persons-laymen and priests would be summoned, all highly respected and independent men, and sworn to give verdict on the cases before them to the best of their knowledge and belief.

  • They did not decide the case, they simply advised the Inquisitor

The final verdict in the inquisition
The Final Verdict in the Inquisition

  • The ultimate decision was usually pronounced with a solemn ceremony.

  • Most of the punishments that were inflicted were largely humane.

  • The hardest penalties were imprisonment and various degrees of exclusion from the communion of the Church, as well as consequent surrender to the civil power for harsher sentencing.

The inquisition in spain
The Inquisition in Spain

  • Religious conditions similar to those in Southern France led to the establishment of the Inquisition in Spain, where it lasted until the eighteenth century.

  • The Spanish Inquisition coincided with the Reconquista, the reconquering of Spain by the Christians against the Muslims and the Jews.

  • In the 15th century, the Inquisitoin was used as a means of promoting and maintaining Spanish unity under a common Christian religion

  • Beginning in 1480 Spanish civil authorities took over the Inquisition

The inquisition in spain1
The Inquisition in Spain

  • Though the Spanish Inquisition developed into mostly a civil tribunal, theologians never questioned its ecclesiastical nature.

  • The Holy See sanctioned the Spanish Inquisition and granted to the Grand Inquisitor judicial authority concerning matters of Faith.

The inquisition in spain2
The Inquisition in Spain

  • The Spanish Inquisition was significantly crueler than the earlier Papal Inquisition against the Albigensians.

  • It is especially clear that many of the methods employed by the Inquisition flagrantly violated the dignity of the person.

  • Although some of the disedifying practices of individuals and groups within the Medieval Church have no justification, it is always important to view them in their proper historical context.

  • It bears repeating that heresy was viewed as a serious crime during the Middle Ages, and the usual punishment was excommunication.