The very word Inquisition evokes a sense of evil, torture and fear. Even if you know what it is or have only heard the term, you are sure to make the right association.
In fact, the Inquisition is a unit created by the Catholic Church for the purpose of persecuting and punishing those who spread some heresy and are its followers. There were Roman, Portuguese and Spanish Inquisitions. The first of these, that of the Roman Empire, was established by Pope Innocent III. The people who became members of this organization were chosen by the Pope, followed his orders and answered only to him.
The Inquisition persecuted heretics for centuries. The most memorable and terrible was the one in Spain, taking the lives of 32, 000 people.
After the inquisitors went to a city, they announced their presence. As soon as a rumor of a heretic reached them, they initially gave him the opportunity to admit that he was one and if he did, he got away with only a light punishment - combat. Whoever denied, however, was subjected to brutal torture, which ultimately led to death.
Of course, no one was labeled a "heretic" without a trial, but in those days, when you wanted to drown someone, it was extremely easy. That's why quite a few innocent people lost their lives too.
Inquisitors possessed exclusive right – no one could judge them for their actions. Only the Pope could excommunicate them, but the likelihood of that happening was minimal. Everyone was afraid of them.
In 1245, Pope Innocent IV gave the members of the establishment the right to forgive each other's sins. They could appear before the Pope when they wanted. No one had the right to interfere with their activities, because not only he, but also his offspring were punished with death.
In the 14th century, experts were appointed to help the inquisitors, who had the duty to create and shape the accusations and sentences. New positions also appeared - notary publics and legal people, whose task was to ensure impartiality during the judicial process. Other officials in the Inquisition filled the roles of doctor, executioner and prosecutor and were highly respected. The prosecutor was the accuser, the doctor saw to it that the accused did not die and the executioner - the opposite.
Inquisitors had people who, as their secret agents, observed and reported. They were everywhere - both in the common people and in the aristocracy. Their main task was to make the accused repent and admit their deed, concluding a truce with the church. Those who refused to do so and were condemned to death were escorted to the stake by the agents in question, who were also called "relatives" of the inquisitors. The latter also possessed universal rights and could not be punished. They had the right to carry weapons with them.
In 1480, the Inquisition became a royal institution - that is, religious and state power were united. This happened in the reign of King Ferdinand of Spain and Queen Isabella. In just the first 18 years after its establishment, more than 10, 000 heretics, including Muslims and Jews who secretly converted to Christianity, were killed and burned at the stake.
In the year 1478, headed by Thomas de Torquemada, who was a priest, the Tribune of Castile was created, whose purpose was to persecute heresies. A Grand Inquisitor was elected, whose responsibility it was to designate the others according to the territorial feature. In 1483 the establishment spread to Catalonia, Aragon and Valencia. At the end of the same year, Emperor Ferdinand II of Aragon introduced the Supreme Council of the Inquisition. One of his tasks was confiscation of heretics' property.
A special decree was drawn up containing 307 signs by which people professing the Christian religion could be recognized. Everyone was terrified. The citizens had a period of 30 days in which to name those who, according to them, professed Judaism. The priest-inquisitor Thomas de Torquemada was also responsible for the creation of the Code of the Inquisition, which contained as many as 28 sections of instructions for the entire process of discovering and punishing heretics.
The Roman Inquisition persecuted both heretics and people involved in Protestantism, witchcraft, blasphemy, bad morals, conversion to Judaism after conversion to Christianity and others. After 1567, the Inquisition also interfered with matters related to magic, culture, superstition, love affairs. Through the punishments they inflicted, inquisitors thought they were curing people of their vices. It spread its influence in Europe as well, including in France.
The main purpose of the Roman Inquisition was to oppose the views of Martin Luther and Lutheranism in Italy.
The Spanish Inquisition consisted of two inquisitors, one accuser, two secretaries, one bailiff, one officer, one magistrate, one doctor and one guard. The organization was considered sacred and all other authorities were under its control.
The end of the Spanish Inquisition came in 1826, when the last burning at the stake took place and a few years later, in 1834, it was finally banned and abolished.
Here are some more facts about the Inquisition:
Ironically, the purpose of the establishment was to avoid death. Its members wanted to get heretics to confess and repent, so as to avoid public humiliation and loss of life.
When this was not happening, however, people involved in heresy were caught and thrown into the secret prison of the inquisitors. There they were completely isolated from the outside world - a damp, dirty and dark cell without food, often without water, with shackles or handcuffs. In addition to arrest, the defendants were subject to confiscation of their property to pay for food and their stay in prison. Wealthier heretics enjoyed privileges - they could pay for servants to prepare their food and serve them, but under one condition - the servants had to be with them all the time, that is, in prison.
The prisoners were forbidden to communicate with each other. Apart from lawyers, no one had access to them. They had the right to confess, but not to receive forgiveness, unless they were on the deathbed. They had no right to witnesses to defend themselves.
The questioning of the accused took place before judges. The questions that were asked were related to their relatives, families, parents, place of birth and upbringing, specifying the place and time in which they last confessed and through whom. Checks were made on basic prayers. After this preface it was time for the real part, namely the reason why the people were detained. They were urged to confess their transgressions.
Everyone was guilty until proven guilty and that was no easy task. The inquisitors knew how to get what they wanted - a confession from the accused. This is exactly what made them look dignified and command respect from others. They also resorted to tricks - provocateurs, who confused the detainees or pretended to be their well-wishers. They even used their families just to get the cherished recognition.
In case none of this helped and the accused did not keep their heads down, they were subjected to torture. They were shown the torture devices, were also mentally harassed. It was also a common practice to leave the prisoner without water and food. However, it was important that the defendant be sent to the stake healthy, so the doctor had an active role during the prisoners' stay in the cells.
The end result could go one of two ways - good or bad for the inquisitors. The prisoner could plead guilty and renounce the heresy or continue to maintain their innocence and be sentenced to death. The second, of course, characterized the triumph of the inquisitors.
The burning at the stake took place on a tribune in front of all the people. It was something of a celebration, that the world was getting rid of a heretic. If the person did not make it to the stake, his body was burned.
The stake was also used as a means of getting rid of writings and works that were objectionable to the Church.