Apart from Pope Innocent III’s crusade against the Cathars, those convicted of heresy during the aforementioned first, French Inquisition had typically been punished by ecclesiastical censure, sometimes accompanied by an order to wear a large, brightly painted cross sewn onto the shoulder of their clothes for a certain amount of time, maybe go on a difficult pilgrimage, or in extreme cases, by a period of imprisonment; but never by torture, and seldom by outright execution, since such harsh punishments for people whose only crime was that they’d hoped to follow their own, sincerely held beliefs had been opposed by most theologians and clergy.
The Inquisitors, most of whom had been Franciscan or Dominican friars who taught theology and law at various universities, hadn’t even had the power to punish people, much less execute them, but had mainly functioned as investigators (cf. ‘Inquisitors‘) who could only turn their findings over to an ecclesiastical court for trial; while in the case of really serious offenses, such as being convicted of unrepentant heresy, the Church was required by law to hand the person over to secular authorities for sentencing; at which point, a civil magistrate would simply determine the penalty, which depending on the country, could range from banishment, to life imprisonment, up to death—usually by burning at the stake, either after the condemned had mercifully first been strangled or while they were still alive.
However, in 1232, only three years after the end of the Church’s long campaign to rid itself of the Cathars, Pope Gregory IX set a second Inquisition in motion. Known to historians as the ‘Roman Inquisition’ to distinguish it from the earlier French, this one was specifically tasked with ridding the Church of not only all of its remaining rivals, but even its mere critics—or at least, as many as this new Inquisition might manage to uncover, and unlike the first, typically exterminate.
* * *
Meanwhile, Catholicism began to lose ground in some quarters. In 1234, German Catholics were especially stunned and became enraged when they learned that in the small town of Steding, papal troops had slaughtered some eight thousand of their peasant countrymen—men, women, and children—simply for being unable to come up with enough money to pay the Church’s growing number of taxes.
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In 1244, more than two hundred newly discovered Cathars were burned at the stake.
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In 1252, Pope Innocent IV issued a papal bull explicitly authorizing the use of torture for eliciting confessions from suspected heretics under most circumstances—and four years later, followed it up with another absolving the Inquisitors of all sin should they find it neccesary to resort to torture during their attempts to ferret out the Church’s ‘enemies’—notwithstanding a recent letter from one of his most seasoned Inquisitors, theologian Nicholas Eymerich, claiming that interrogations under torture seldom resulted in a reliable confession; since in order to avoid further pain, the subject would often simply admit to whatever—really anything at all—that their tormentor might be accusing them of having once said or written.
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In 1337, a Jew-burning craze by Christan zealots swept through fifty-one towns and cities in Bavaria, Austria, and Poland.
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In 1348, the Church ordered some two thousand Jews to be burned at the stake in Strasburg, France.
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In 1349, more than three hundred fifty towns in Germany burned all of their resident Jews.
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In 1378, following two centuries of struggle between the Popes and their Holy Roman Emperors in which the Emperors would often impose their own papal nominees on the Church in an effort to advance their own causes, some French cardinals, claiming that the election of Pope Urban VI had been invalid, themselves elected Clement VII as their ‘Antipope’, to be headquartered at Avignon in their own country—no matter that Clement came with the nickname “the butcher of Cesena”, given to him by many of his contemporaries for having authorized the massacre of over two thousand civilians at Cesena, Italy just the previous year, after they’d dared to exhibit an independent religious streak.
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In 1389, the citizens of Prague slaughtered more than three thousand Jews.
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In 1391, Seville’s Archbishop Martinez led the slaughter of four thousand Jews and the sale of twenty-five thousand more into slavery.
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In 1415, Jan Hus, a Czech scholar-become-Catholic priest who’d begun to question many of the Church’s teachings and policies was ultimately convicted of heresy and burned at the stake after speaking out against Antipope John III’s selling of indulgences.
* * *
In 1478, the Spanish monarchs Ferdinand II of Aragón and his wife Queen Isabella I of Castile jointly petitioned Pope Sixtus IV for permission to conduct an Inquisition in their respective kingdoms in an effort to purify them of all religions and religious ideas save those of orthodox Catholicism.
Mainly aimed at Jews and the remaining Moors in their two lands, the request was approved later that year in a papal bull officially establishing the ‘Tribunal of the Holy Office of the Inquisition in Spain‘, along with permission for the two rulers to name their own Inquisitors; and one of those chosen was Tomás de Torquemada, a fifty-eight year old Dominican friar and zealous advocate of church orthodoxy who’d known Isabella since she was a young princess, become her regular confessor and personal advisor, been present at her coronation, and subsequently advised her to marry Ferdinand so that their kingdoms might be consolidated into a formidable power base; which she’d done in 1469—notwithstanding that since they were second cousins, they’d first had to obtain a special dispensation from the Pope before it could be considered legal.
The year after his appointment, Isabella made Torquemada her ‘Grand Inquisitor’—or head of her whole operation.
Torquemada wasted no time in establishing the Inquisition’s procedures. A new court was announced, with a thirty-day grace period for confessions and the gathering of accusations by neighbors. Evidence that could be used to identify a suspected Jew included the absence of chimney smoke on Saturdays—a sign that the family might secretly be honoring the Sabbath—or the buying of many vegetables before Passover. The new court could also employ physical torture to extract confessions once the guilt of the accused had been ‘established’. Some of the guilty might then be allowed to confess and do penance, but those who later relapsed would be summarily executed.
Moreover, this new, Spanish Inquisition would soon be expanded to cover almost all of Spain—with tribunals set up in no less than eight cities strategically scattered about the country—plus its various colonies and territories, which at that time included the Canary Islands, the Kingdom of Naples in Italy, and several Spanish possessions in the Caribbean and the Americas.
* * *
In 1481, the first auto da fé—a medieval term referring to the performing of a public penance as imposed by the Spanish, Portuguese, and Mexican Inquisitions on convicted heretics and enforced by civil authorities, with its most extreme form being death by burning—was held in Seville. Six people were burned alive.
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In 1482, Pope Sixtus issued a new bull explicitly prohibiting Torquemada’s expansion into Aragón, and then went on to say, “. . . many true and faithful Christians, because of the testimony of enemies, rivals, slaves, and other low people—and still less appropriate, without tests of any kind—are being locked up in secular prisons, tortured and condemned, deprived of their goods and properties, and given over to the secular arm to be executed . . .”
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That year, Spain also expelled more than a hundred fifty thousand Jews from the country.
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In 1483, Jews were expelled from the Spanish kingdom of Andalusia. Pope Sixtus considered this a little excessive and an abuse of Torquemada’s power, but Ferdinand threatened him with separating the Spanish Inquisition from papal authority unless he promulgated a new bull naming Torquemada Inquisitor General of Aragón, Valencia, and Catalonia; which he did that same year.
* * *
In 1484, following Sixtus’s death, his successor Pope Innocent VIII attempted to allow appeals to Rome against Torquemada’s abuses; but Ferdinand responded by simply decreeing death and confiscation of property for anyone trying to make use of that procedure without his permission.
* * *
Today historians differ widely as to how many people were actually executed as perceived threats to the Church and ultimately to Catholicism itself during the Spanish Inquisition, but at least one historian claims to have found evidence indicating that Torquemada—who remained in charge of the Inquisition for twenty years, or until his death in 1498—ordered at least 10,226 burned at the stake; although this number is greatly reduced by others.
* * *
In 1521, a new problem for the Church arose following a public challenge to its more decadent practices and to papal authority in particular by one of its own priests in Germany, Martin Luther; to which the current Pope, Pius X, responded by officially condemning him along with his reformist ideas, and forbidding Catholics to attempt to defend them—or indeed, even debate them.
Soon excommunicated by the Pope—and subsequently denounced as an outlaw by the Holy Roman Emperor—Luther’s challenge finally brought the long-simmering German protests of the Church’s arrogance to a head and ultimately launched the Protestant Reformation.
* * *
Around 1530, French theologian Jean Cauvin—better known to us English-speakers as John Calvin—also broke from the Church and joined the growing Protestant movement.
* * *
In 1534, after King Henry VIII of England’s petition to the Pope for a marital annulment was turned down, he renounced Roman Catholicism along with the Pope’s authority and replaced them in his own country with the Church of England, or Anglican, ‘Episcopal Church’, headed by the Archbishop of Canterbury.
* * *
In 1536, at the request of King John III of Portugal, Pope Paul III established the ‘General Council of the Holy Office of the Inquisition in Portugal’, or Portuguese Inquisition.
Originally aimed at rooting out Jews and others who’d converted to Catholicism under threat of otherwise being expelled from the country, but then were suspected of secretly practicing their old religion anyway rather than strictly adhering to Catholic orthodoxy, it would soon move on to the censuring of books—which hadn’t yet happened even in Spain—plus the prosecution of suspected bigamists, divinators, and witches; while in time, it too would expand from its original field of operations to its country’s colonial possessions, in this case Brazil, the Cape Verdean islands, and western India’s Goa region.
* * *
In 1538, university professor and renowned German theologian Balthasar Hubmaier was convicted by the Roman Inquisition of heretical teachings and burned at the stake.
* * *
In 1540, the Portuguese Inquisition conducted its first auto da fé.
Modern historians, finding the archives of the Portuguese Inquisition, though probably incomplete, to be one of the best preserved accounts of judicial proceedings as they’d been conducted in early-modern Europe—with the notable exception of the records of its Goa branch, many of which were lost—report the following: over a period of 258 years, the Inquisition tried at least 31,457 people, or an average of about 122 a year; resulting in 29,611 convictions for which some form of penance was ultimately given, but then executing ‘only’ 1,183, or 3.76% of the total.
* * *
In 1553, Spanish anatomist Miguel Serveto—a brilliant scientist, self-described humanist, and poet who was the first European to correctly describe the function of pulmonary circulation, and who at various moments in his life had also been called upon to act as a physician, pharmacologist, cartographer, astronomer, mathematics professor, and jurist, all while pursuing a personal interest in theology, the Protestant Reformation, and an ability to read the Bible in its original languages—rejected the doctrine of the Holy Trinity and other mainstream Catholic teachings; for which he was condemned by Catholic authorities in France and forced to flee to Geneva, Switzerland, where John Calvin had earlier taken refuge. But alas, Calvin and others denounced him for having what they considered to be a heretical view of the Trinity, and he too was burned at the stake.
* * *
In 1559, the Catholic Church published its first Index of Forbidden Books, or writings that it marked as offending faith or morals.
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In 1568, the official tribunal of the Spanish Inquisition ordered the extermination of three million rebels in the then-Spanish Netherlands, although “only a few thousand” were actually slain.
* * *
In 1572, Pope Pius V ordered that twenty thousand Huguenot Protestants in France be exterminated; while that same year, one of their most respected leaders, Gaspard de Coligny, was assassinated in Paris by a Catholic mob that subsequently cut off his head, hands and genitals before dumping what was left of him in the nearby Seine.
* * *
In 1600, the Dominican monk Giordano Bruno was imprisoned and tortured for seven months before he too was finally convicted of heresy and burned at the stake.
* * *
In 1619, Ferdinand II of the House of Hapsburg was elected Holy Roman Emperor and promptly set out to impose otherwise uniformity throughout his domain by forcing Roman Catholicism on all its peoples—thereby angering the northern Protestant states and bringing about the Thirty Years War.
* * *
In 1631, the Protestant city of Magdeburg, Germany—at the time, the largest in the country, with a population of some twenty-five thousand—refused to pay a monetary tribute demanded by the current Holy Roman Emperor, Ferdinand II.
An army comprised of a combined forty thousand Imperial troops and Catholic League forces subsequently sacked it, completely destroying seventeen hundred of its nineteen hundred buildings and killing four-fifths of its inhabitants—by far the worst massacre of the Thirty Years War. A census conducted the following year listed only four hundred forty-nine remaining Magdeburgians.
* * *
In 1633, the 68-year old Italian astronomer, physicist, and engineer whom most of us know today as simply Galileo—the father of observational astronomy and modern physics—was tried by the Roman Inquisition for having written a controversial book claiming that the earth moved around the sun, rather than the other way around as stated in Scripture and of course “as anyone with eyes could plainly see.”
After being found “vehemently suspect of heresy”—although he was never formally charged with that crime—he was first required to “abjure, curse and detest” his heliocentric opinion, and then sentenced to imprisonment for as long as the Inquisition might see fit: a sentence that as it actually turned out, was commuted the very next day—possibly due to papal intercession—to simple house arrest for the remainder of his days.
Also, his troublesome book was banned, and further publication of any of his writings forbidden—including anything that he might write in the future.
* * *
Inquisitions were finally abolished in Europe and its colonies following the end of the Napoleonic Wars and Spanish-American Wars of Independence in the early 19th century—save only for a few papal holdings in the Italian Peninsula, or so-called ‘Papal States’ that had been under the direct, sovereign rule of the reigning Pope since the 8th century.
Considered temporal holdings, rather than having anything much to do with the Pope’s ecclesiastical primacy, at their zenith they included Rome and its surrounding area; but following the Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia’s successfully unification of the various states of the Italian Peninsula and proclamation of the ‘new Kingdom of Italy’ in 1861, only Rome remained under papal rule; and that too was lost to the new Italian army in 1870—ultimately leaving the Pope with no territory at all, except for his residence and the Basilica of St Peter, which the Italian troops had been ordered not to capture.
And there the Pope remained confined, effectively a prisoner of the Italian government until 1929, when the new Italian dictator Mussolini finally solved the problem by negotiating a treaty giving the papacy full ownership of its remaining, 121-acre compound, including exclusive dominion and sovereign authority over the place as a fully independent city-state: a token territory soon to become recognized internationally as simply ‘the Vatican’.
And there would you believe, the Church’s office in charge of planning and conducting Inquisitions—now officially known as the Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office—survives to this day as an important part of the Roman Curia, or general planning office.
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Christian Atrocities, citing K. Deschner, Opus Diaboli, Reinbek 1987, p. 28 https://stellarhousepublishing.com/victims/
Christian Atrocities, citing H.Wollschlger: Die bewaffneten Wallfahrten gen Jerusalem, Zrich 1973, p. 223 https://stellarhousepublishing.com/victims/
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Wikipedia, Albigensian Crusade, Inquisition https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Albigensian_Crusade
Christian Atrocities, citing K. Deschner, Opus Diaboli, Reinbek 1987, p. 41 https://stellarhousepublishing.com/victims/
Christian Atrocities, citing K. Deschner, Opus Diaboli, Reinbek 1987, p. 42 https://stellarhousepublishing.com/victims/
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Christian Atrocities, citing K. Deschner, Abermals krhte der Hahn, Stuttgart 1962, p. 454 https://stellarhousepublishing.com/victims/
Wikipedia, Jan Hus https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jan_Hus
Christian Atrocities, citing M.Margolis, A. Marx, A History of the Jewish People, pp. 470-476 https://stellarhousepublishing.com/victims/
Christian Atrocities, citing H. C. Lea, The Inquisition of the Middle Ages, New York 1961, pp. 475-522 https://stellarhousepublishing.com/victims/
Wikipedia, Martin Luther https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martin_Luther
Wikipedia, John Calvin https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Calvin
Wikipedia, Henry VIII of England https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_VIII_of_England
Wikipedia, Michael Servetus https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Servetus
Christian Atrocities, citing K. Deschner, Opus Diaboli, p. 31, Reinbek 1987 https://stellarhousepublishing.com/victims/
Christian Atrocities, citing K. Deschner, Opus Diaboli, p. 59, Reinbek 1987 https://stellarhousepublishing.com/victims/
Christian Atrocities https://stellarhousepublishing.com/victims/
Wikipedia, Giordano Bruno https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Giordano_Bruno
Wikipedia, Ferdinand II, Holy Roman Emperor https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ferdinand_II,_Holy_Roman_Emperor
Christian Atrocities, citing D. Stannard, American Holocaust, Oxford University Press 1992, p. 191 https://stellarhousepublishing.com/victims/
Wikipedia, List of Massacres in Germany https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_massacres_in_Germany