The term "Inquisition" can refer to any one of several institutions charged with trying and convicting heretics within the Roman Catholic Church and sometimes other offenders against canon law. It may refer to [ [ Medieval Sourcebook: Inquisition - Introduction] ] :

# an ecclesiastical tribunal
# the institution of the Roman Catholic Church for combating or suppressing heresy
# a number of historical expurgation movements against heresy (orchestrated by the Roman Catholic Church)
# the trial of an individual accused of heresy.

Inquisition tribunals and institutions

Before the 12th century, the Western Christian Church already suppressed what it saw as heresy, usually through a system of ecclesiastical proscription or imprisonment, but rarely resorting to torture or executions as this form of punishment had many ecclesiastical opponents, although some non-secular countries punished heresy with death penalty. [ [ Catholic Encyclopedia: Inquisition] ] [cite book
first= Henry Charles
title=A History of the Inquisition In The Middle Ages
volume= 1
chapter=Chapter VII. The Inquisition Founded

In the 12th century, in order to counter the spread of Catharism, prosecutions against heresy became more frequent. The Church charged councils composed of bishops and archbishops with establishing inquisitions. (see Episcopal Inquisition)

In the 13th century, Pope Gregory IX (reigned 1227-1241) assigned the duty of carrying out inquisitions to the Dominican Order. Inquisitors acted in the name of the Pope and with his full authority. They used inquisitorial procedures, a legal practice commonly used at the time. They judged heresy alone, using the local authorities to establish a tribunal and to prosecute heretics. After the end of the fifteenth century, a Grand Inquisitor headed each Inquisition. Inquisition in this way persisted until the 19th century. [ [ consejo_de_inquisición ] ]

In the 16th century, Pope Paul III established a system of tribunals, ruled by the "Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Universal Inquisition", and staffed by cardinals and other Church officials. This system would later become known as the Roman Inquisition. In 1908 Saint Pope Pius X renamed the organisation: it became the "Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office". This in its turn became the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith [ [ Profile ] ] in 1965, which name continues to this day.


A 1578 handbook for inquisitors spelled out the purpose of inquisitorial penalties: "... quoniam punitio non refertur primo & per se in correctionem & bonum eius qui punitur, sed in bonum publicum ut alij terreantur, & a malis committendis avocentur." [Translation from the Latin: "... for punishment does not take place primarily and "per se" for the correction and good of the person punished, but for the public good in order that others may become terrified and weaned away from the evils they would commit."] ["Directorium Inquisitorum", edition of 1578, Book 3, page 137, column 1. Online in the [;cc=witch;q1=terre%2A;rgn=full%20text;idno=wit045;didno=wit045;view=image;seq=00000563 Cornell University Witchcraft Collection] . Retrieved: 2008-05-16.]

Historic Inquisition movements

Historianswho? distinguish between four different manifestations of the Inquisition:

# the Medieval Inquisition (1184- )
# the Spanish Inquisition (1478-1834)
# the Portuguese Inquisition (1536-1821)
# the Roman Inquisition (1542- ~1860 )

Because of its objective — combating heresy — the Inquisition had jurisdiction only over baptised members of the Church (which, however, encompassed the vast majority of the population in Catholic countries). Secular courts could still try non-Christians for blasphemy. (Most of the witch trials went through secular courts.)

Different areas faced different situations with regard to heresies and suspicion of heresies. Most of Medieval Western and Central Europe had a long-standing veneer of Catholic standardisation, with intermittent localised outbreaks of new ideas and periodic anti-Semitic/anti-Judaic activity. Exceptionally, Portugal and Spain in the late Middle Ages consisted largely of multi-cultural territories fairly recently conquered from Muslim control, and the new overlords could not assume that all their newer subjects would suddenly become and remain compliant true-believer orthodox Catholics. So the Inquisition in Iberia had a special socio-political basis as well as more conventional religious motives. — With the rise of Protestantism and ideas of the Renaissance perceived as heretical by the Catholic church, the extirpation of heretics became a much broader and more complex enterprise, complicated by the politics of territorial Protestant powers, especially in northern Europe: war, massacres and the educational and propagandistic work of the Counter-Reformation became more common than a judicial approach to heresy in these circumstances.

Medieval Inquisition

Historians use the term 'Medieval Inquisition" to describe the various inquisitions that started around 1184, including the "Episcopal Inquisition" (1184-1230s) and later the "Papal Inquisition" (1230s). These inquisitions comprised the legal response to large popular movements throughout Europe considered apostate or heretical to Christianity, in particular the Cathars and Waldensians in southern France and northern Italy. Other Inquisitions followed after these first inquisition movements.

Legal basis for some inquisitorial activity came from Pope Innocent IV's papal bull "Ad exstirpanda" of 1252, which authorized and regulated the use of torture in investigating heresy.

Spanish Inquisition

, (around 1495 [ Page of the painting] at Prado Museum.] ).
Many artistic representations depict torture and burning at the stake as occurring during the "auto da fe.]

King Ferdinand II of Aragon and Queen Isabella I of Castile set up the Spanish Inquisition in 1478 with the approval of Pope Sixtus IV. In contrast to the previous inquisitions, it operated completely under royal authority, though staffed by secular clergy and orders, and independently of the Holy See. It targeted primarily converts from Judaism (Marranos or "secret Jews") and from Islam (Moriscos or "secret Moors") — both formed large groups still residing in Spain after the end of the Moorish control of Spain — who came under suspicion of either continuing to adhere to their old religion (often after having converted under duress) or of having fallen back into it. Somewhat later the Spanish Inquisition took an interest in Protestants of virtually any sect, notably in the Spanish Netherlands. In the Spanish possessions of the Kingdom of Sicily and the Kingdom of Naples in southern Italy, which formed part of the Spanish Crown's hereditary possessions, it also targeted Greek Orthodox Christians. After the intensity of religious disputes waned in the 17th century, the Spanish Inquisition developed more and more into a secret-police force working against internal threats to the state.

The Spanish Inquisition also operated in the Canary Islands.

King Phillip II set up two tribunals (formal title: Tribunal del Santo Oficio de la Inquisición) in the Americas, one in Peru and another in Mexico. The Mexican office administered the Audiencias of Guatemala (Guatemala, Chiapas, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica), Nueva Galicia (northern and western Mexico), and the Philippines. The Peruvian Inquisition, based in Lima, administered all the Spanish territories in South America and Panama. From 1610 a new Inquisition seat established in Cartagena (Colombia) administered much of the Spanish Caribbean in addition to Panama and northern South America.

The Inquisition continued to function in North America until the Mexican War of Independence (1810-1821). In South America Simón Bolívar abolished the Inquisition; in Spain itself the institution survived until 1834.

Portuguese Inquisition

The Portuguese Inquisition formally started in Portugal in 1536 at the request of the King of Portugal, João III. Manuel I had asked Pope Leo X for the installation of the Inquisition in 1515, but only after his death (1521) did Pope Paul III acquiesce. However, manyWho|date=May 2008 place the actual beginning of the Portuguese Inquisition during the year of 1497, when the authorities expelled many Jews from Portugal and forcibly converted others to Catholicism. The major target of the Portuguese Inquisition were mainly the Sephardic Jews that had been expelled from Spain in 1492 (see Alhambra decree); after 1492 many of these Spanish Jews left Spain for Portugal but were eventually targeted there as well.

The Inquisition came under the authority of the King. At its head stood a Grand Inquisitor, or General Inquisitor, named by the Pope but selected by the Crown, and always from within the royal family. The Grand Inquisitor would later nominate other inquisitors. In Portugal, the first Grand Inquisitor was Cardinal Henry, who would later become King. There were Courts of the Inquisition in Lisbon, Porto, Coimbra, and Évora.

The Portuguese Inquisition held its first auto da fé in Portugal in 1540. It concentrated its efforts on rooting out converts from other faiths (overwhelmingly Judaism) who did not adhere to the strictures of Catholic orthodoxy; the Portuguese inquisitors mostly targeted the Jewish "New Christians," "conversos", or "marranos".

The Portuguese Inquisition expanded its scope of operations from Portugal to Portugal's colonial possessions, including Brazil, Cape Verde, and Goa, where it continued as a religious court, investigating and trying cases of breaches of the tenets of orthodox Roman Catholicism until 1821.

King João III (reigned (1521-1557) extended the activity of the courts to cover book-censorship, divination, witchcraft and bigamy. Book-censorship proved to have a strong influence in Portuguese cultural evolution, keeping the country uninformed and culturally backward. Originally oriented for a religious action, the Inquisition had an influence in almost every aspect of Portuguese society: politically, culturally and socially.

The Goa Inquisition, another inquisition rife with antisemitism and anti-Hinduism and which mostly targeted Jews and Hindus, started in Goa in 1560. Aleixo Dias Falcão and Francisco Marques set it up in the palace of the Sabaio Adil Khan.

According to Henry Charles Lea [Henry Charles Lea, "A History of the Inquisition of Spain", vol. 3, Book 8.] between 1540 and 1794 tribunals in Lisbon, Porto, Coimbra and Évora resulted in the burning of 1,175 persons, the burning of another 633 in effigy, and the penancing of 29,590. But documentation of fifteen out of 689 [António José Saraiva, Herman Prins Salomon, I. S. D. Sassoon, "The Marrano Factory: The Portuguese Inquistion and Its New Christians 1536-1765", 2001, p. 102]
Autos-da-fé has disappeared, so these numbers may slightly understate the activity.

The "General Extraordinary and Constituent Courts of the Portuguese Nation" abolished the Portuguese inquisition in 1821.

Roman Inquisition

In 1542, Pope Paul III established the Congregation of the Holy Office of the Inquisition as a permanent congregation staffed with cardinals and other officials. It had the tasks of maintaining and defending the integrity of the faith and of examining and proscribing errors and false doctrines; [ [ The Galileo Project | Christianity | The Inquisition] ] it thus became the supervisory body of local Inquisitions. Arguably the most famous case tried by the Roman Inquisition involved Galileo Galilei in 1633. Because of Rome's power over the Papal States, Roman Inquisition activity continued until the mid-1800s.Fact|date=July 2008

In 1908 the name of the Congregation became "The Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office", which in 1965 further changed to "Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith", as retained to the present day. The Congregation is presided by a cardinal appointed by the Pope, and usually includes ten other cardinals, as well as a prelate and two assistants all chosen from the Dominican Order. The Holy Office also has an international group of consultants, experienced scholars of theology and canon law, who advise it on specific questions.Fact|date=May 2007

Recent investigations into the Inquisition

In 2000 Pope John Paul II called for an "Inquisition Symposium" and opened the Vatican to 30 external historians. Their findings called into question certain long-held beliefs. It emerged that more women accused of witchcraft died in the Protestant countries than under the Inquisition. For example, the Inquisition burned 59 women in Spain, 36 in Italy and four in Portugal, while in Europe civil justice put to trial close to 100,000 women and burned 50,000 of them. [ [ "Who burned the witches"] ] [ [ The Burning Times: The extermination of Witches and other heretics] ] Some 26,000 persons condemned as witches died in Germany. [cite web
title= Case Study: The European Witch-Hunts, c. 1450-1750 and Witch-Hunts Today
accessdate= 2008-06-09
last= Jones
first= Adam
publisher= gendercide watch
quote= The witch-hunts waxed and waned for nearly three centuries, with great variations in time and space. 'The rate of witch hunting varied dramatically throughout Europe, ranging from a high of 26,000 deaths in Germany to a low of 4 in Ireland.' (Gibbons, Recent Developments.)

Derivative works

The Inquisitions appear in many cultural works. Some include:

* The Spanish Inquisition, the subject of a classic Monty Python sketch of 1970 ("Nobody" expects the Spanish Inquisition!"), became referenced conspicuously in the film "Sliding Doors" (1998).
* The short story by Edgar Allan Poe, "The Pit and the Pendulum" takes place against the background of the Spanish Inquisition.
* In the alternative history novel "The Two Georges" by Harry Turtledove and Richard Dreyfuss, the Spanish Inquisition remains active, in Spain itself and throughout Latin America, during the whole of the twentieth century.
* A body known as the Inquisition exists in the fictional Warhammer 40,000 universe.
* Mel Brooks's 1981 film The History of the World, Part I contains a musical number about the Spanish Inquisition.
* In Terry Pratchett's "Small Gods", the Omnian church has a Quisition, with sub-sections called Inquisition and Exquisition.
* In J.K. Rowling's 2003 book "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix", Professor Dolores Umbridge sets up an Inquisition at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, with herself as the High Inquisitor.
* The "Dark Ages" setting in the World of Darkness (WoD) fantasy universe makes heavy use of the Inquisition: that particular setting takes place during the early 13th century.
* The computer game "" made by the former Black Isle Studios uses the Spanish Inquisition as a key plot element for the storyline and development of the game.
* "Man of La Mancha", a Broadway musical, tells the story of the classic novel "Don Quixote" as a play-within-a-play performed by prisoners as they await a hearing with the Spanish Inquisition.
* "Starways Congress" forms an element of the Ender-verse by Orson Scott Card. In the later books, theyWho|date=September 2008 play an important part in determining the fate of the fictional planet Lusitania. In "Speaker for the Dead", Ender Wiggin threatens to become an Inquisitor and thus revoke the catholic licence of Lusitania, thus ruining the fragile catholic culture there.
* The 2006 film "The Fountain" features elements of the Spanish Inquisition.
* Voltaire's satire "Candide" has a scene featuring the Portuguese Inquisition, with the title-character and Dr. Pangloss both found guilty of heresy.
* Dave Sim's award-winningFact|date=May 2008 independent comic book "Cerebus the Aardvark" featured Inquisition-inspired characters in the High Society issues of the series.
* The 2006 film "Goya's Ghosts" starring Stellan Skarsgård, Natalie Portman, and Javier Bardem features the Spanish Inquisition. In the film, the painter Goya (Skarsgård) attempts to save his muse, Ines (Portman), from persecution by the Holy Office. He turns to Brother Lorenzo (Bardem) for help who, unknown to Goya, has an agenda of his own.
* cite book
last= Green
first= Toby
title= Inquisition: the reign of fear
year= 2007
month= June
publisher= Macmillan
isbn= 978-1405088732

See also

* Historical revision of the Inquisition
* Inquisitorial system
* Marian Persecutions: Roman Catholic heretic-hunting in Tudor England
* Vatican Secret Archives
* Witchhunt

Documents and works

* "Directorium Inquisitorum"
* "Histoire de l'Inquisition en France"
* "Malleus Maleficarum"

Notable inquisitors

* List of Grand Inquisitors
* Konrad von Marburg
* Tomás de Torquemada

Notable cases involving the Inquisition

* Trial of Joan of Arc
* Trial of Galileo Galilei
* Edgardo Mortara's abduction



* by John Foxe (Bridge-Logos Publishers) ISBN 0-88270-672-1
* Edward Burman, "The Inquisition: The Hammer of Heresy" (Sutton Publishers, 2004) ISBN 0-7509-3722-X
** A new edition of a book first published in 1984, a general history based on the main primary sources.
* Henry Kamen, "The Spanish Inquisition: A Historical Revision." (Yale University Press, 1999). ISBN 0-300-07880-3
** This revised edition of his 1965 original contributes to the understanding of the Spanish Inquisition in its local context.
* Edward M. Peters, "Inquisition." (University of California Press, 1989). ISBN 0-520-06630-8
** A brief, balanced inquiry, with an especially good section on the 'Myth of the Inquisition' (see The Inquisition Myth). This work has particular value because much of the history of the Inquisition available in English originated in the 19th century from Protestants interested in documenting the dangers of Catholicism or from Catholic apologists presenting the Inquisition as an entirely reasonable judicial body without flaws.
* Cecil & Irene Roth, "A history of the Marranos", Sepher-Hermon Press, 1974.
* William Thomas Walsh, "Characters of the Inquisition" (TAN Books and Publishers, Inc, 1940/97). ISBN 0-89555-326-0
* cite journal
last = Parker
first = Geoffrey
authorlink =
year = 1982
title = Some Recent Work on the Inquisition in Spain and Italy
journal = Journal of Modern History
volume = 54
issue = 3
pages =
publisher =
location =
issn =
url =
format =
accessdate =

* Ludovico a Paramo, "De Origine et Progressu Sanctae Inquisitionis" (1598).
* E. N Adler, "Autos de fe and the Jew" (1908).
* J. Baker, "History of the Inquisition" (1736).
* R. Cappa, "La Inquisicion Espanola" (1888).
* Genaro Garcia, "Autos de fe de la Inquisicion de Mexico" (1910).
* F. Garau, "La Fee Triunfante" (1691-reprinted 1931).
* Given, James B Inquisition and Medieval Society New York, Cornell University Press, 2001
* Henry Charles Lea, "A History of the Inquisition of Spain" (4 volumes), (New York and London, 1906–1907).
* Juan Antonio Llorente, "Historia Critica de la Inquisicion de Espana"
* J. Marchant, "A Review of the Bloody Tribunal" (1770).
* J.M. Marin, "Procedimientos de la Inquisicion" (2 volumes), (1886).
* Antonio Puigblanch, "La Inquisición sin máscara" (Cádiz, 1811-1813). ["The Inquisition Unmasked" (London, 1816)]
* V. Vignau, "Catalogo... de la Inquisicion de Toledo" (1903).
* W.T. Walsh, "Isabella of Spain" (1931).
* Simon Whitechapel, "Flesh Inferno: Atrocities of Torquemada and the Spanish Inquisition" (Creation Books, 2003). ISBN 1-84068-105-5
** "A good example of how uncritical acceptance of disjointed historical data helps inform contemporary notions of the black legend"Citequote|date=September 2008
* cite book
last= Paz y Mellia
first= Antonio
title= Catalogo Abreviado de Papeles de Inquisicion
year= 1914
publisher= Tip. de la Revista de arch., bibl. y museos
location= Madrid
language= in Spanish

* Sir Alexandr G. Cardew, "A Short History of the Inquisition" (1933).
* Warren H. Carroll, "Isabel: the Catholic Queen" Front Royal, Virginia, 1991 (Christendom Press)
* G. G. Coulton, "The Inquisition" (1929).
* Ramon de Vilana Perlas, "La Verdadera Practica Apostolica de el S. Tribunal de la Inquisicion" (1735).
* A. Herculano, "Historia da Origem e Estabelecimento da Inquisicao em Portugal" (English translation, 1926).
* M. Jouve, "Torquemada" (1935).
* A.L. Maycock, "The Inquisition" (1926).
* H. Nickerson, "The Inquisition" (1932).
* H.B. Piazza, "A Short and True Account of the Inquisition and its Proceeding" (1722).
* L. Tanon, "Histoire des Tribunaux de l’Inquisition" (1893).
* Miranda Twiss, "The Most Evil Men And Women In History" (Michael O'Mara Books Ltd., 2002).
* Emile van der Vekene: "Bibliotheca bibliographica historiae sanctae inquisitionis. Bibliographisches Verzeichnis des gedruckten Schrifttums zur Geschichte und Literatur der Inquisition. Vol. 1 - 3." Topos-Verlag, Vaduz 1982-1992, ISBN 3-289-00272-1, ISBN 3-289-00578-X (7110 titres sur le thème de l'Inquisition)
* Emile van der Vekene: "La Inquisición en grabados originales. Exposición realizada con fondos de la colección Emile van der Vekene de la Universidad San Pablo-CEU, Aranjuez, 4-26 de Mayo de 2005," Madrid: Universidad Rey Juan Carlos, 2005. ISBN 84-96144-86-0

Online works

* Ludwig von Pastor, "History of the Popes from the Close of the Middle Ages"; Drawn from the Secret Archives of the Vatican and other original sources, 40 vols. St. Louis,
* B. Herder 1898
* Joseph de Maistre, tr. [ John Fletcher] , [ "Letters on the Spanish Inquisition"] , London: Printed by W. Hughes, 1838 (composed 1815):— late defense of the Inquisition by the principal author of the Counter-Enlightenment.
* Sister Antoinette Marie Pratt, A.M., [ "The attitude of the Catholic Church towards witchcraft and the allied practices of sorcery and magic"] , A Dissertation Submitted to the Faculty of Philosophy of The Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C. June 1915, reprinted 1982, New York: AMS Press, ISBN 0-404-18429-4 - Google Books

External links

* [ The Inquisition] by Jewish Virtual Library
* [ Frequently Asked Questions About the Inquisition] by James Hannam
* [ Catholic Encyclopedia: "Inquisition"]
* [ The Secret Files of The Inquistion. PBS]
* [ The Protestant Inquisition:"Reformation" Intolerance and Persecution] by Dave Armstrong
* [ "The Immeasurable Curiousity of Edward Peters", p.4 as found in the Pennsylvania Gazzette, a publication of the University of Pennsylvania]
* [ "One Cheer for the Inquisition" online copy of the Catholic Dossier article by Gerard Bradley, Professor of Law, University of Notre Dame.]
* [ Spain and the Spaniard]
* [ Scholarly studies including Lea's History]
* [ Jewish Virtual Library on the Spanish Inquisition]
* [ Galileo Project: Christianity: Inquisition]
* [ Spanish Inquisition (1478-1813) (in Spanish language)]
* ['PT-TT-TSO') Index of the court proceedings and other documents of the Portuguese Inquisition (in Portuguese)]
* [ Clandestine Judaism in the Shadow of the Inquisition,] Dr. Rivkah Shafek Lissak
* cite web
title= Cathars: Cathar philosophy
accessdate= 2008-07-14
last= Maris
first= Yves
work= Chemis cathares

* [;2-X L. D. Barnett, "Two Documents of the Inquisition", in "The Jewish Quarterly Review", New Ser., Vol. 15, No. 2 (Oct., 1924), pp. 213-239]
* [ Inquisition against the Jews 1481-1834] (from Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971)

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