Inquisition


Inquisition
   Judicial agency created under papal authority for the discovery, prosecution, and punishment of heresy and certain other acts defined as criminal under canon law, such as bigamy and sodomy. Christianity had always exercised the power to expel members who rejected its doctrines or moral requirements. After it became the official religion of the Roman Empire during the fourth century, imperial legislation made the local bishops judges over their community. In the first half of the Middle Ages, the bishop or his judicial deputy dealt with cases of heresy but never claimed the right to take a defendant's life. In the early 13th century, after the suppression of the Albigensian heresy in southern France by a crusade authorized by Pope Innocent III, the Roman curia concluded that the local bishops had been too lax. Since the Albigensian heretics of southern France remained stubborn and elusive, in 1233 Pope Gregory IX began appointing special inquisitors in some regions, charged with the duty of suppressing heresy.
   Although the procedures followed by these inquisitors seem harsh when evauated by modern standards, they were modelled on the practices of Roman law. An inquisitor began by publicizing a grace period of 30 days during which heretics could identify themselves, abjure their errors, and be reconciled to the church. After this interval, all good Christians were supposed to denounce known heretics. Because of fear that powerful individuals would intimidate potential accusers, the names of accusers and their testimony were kept secret. Accused persons were, however, invited to present a list of personal enemies who might have made false accusations. In cases where there was substantial suspicion of heresy, the judges had the authority to interrogate the accused under torture, another procedure borrowed from Roman law. Inquisitors were fully aware that using torture could be a means of getting the testimony one wanted rather than getting the truth. Torture was regarded as a last resort, but it was used.
   Being charged before an inquisitorial tribunal was a serious matter. Yet a substantial proportion of defendants was acquitted. Of those found guilty, most were assigned modest penalties and then released under supervision. For a person who had been condemned previously and had relapsed into heresy, however, a sentence of death was virtually certain. Although theoretically, being a church court, the inquisitorial court did not execute condemned heretics, in such cases guilty persons were "relaxed to the secular arm"—that is, to the secular government—which was then expected to carry out the execution.
   Although historians have often used the term "inquisition" loosely, the medieval inquisition was not a formal institution but merely a number of individuals (usually Dominican or Franciscan friars) commissioned to investigate and punish heresy in a region. They were not active in all parts of Europe, and where they were active their efficacy was often questionable, though they did succeed in exterminating the Albigensian heresy. There was no institutional network, no systematic communication between inquisitors, and no system of supervision to ensure that their work was effective or free from abuses. In addition, since diocesan bishops still retained their own judicial authority, there were often conflicts of jurisdiction in the investigation and prosecution of heretics.

Historical Dictionary of Renaissance. . 2004.

Synonyms:

Look at other dictionaries:

  • INQUISITION — INQUISITION, special permanent tribunal of the medieval Catholic Church, established to investigate and combat heresy. The Early Institution Although the Inquisition was established by Pope gregory ix , it owed its name to the procedure… …   Encyclopedia of Judaism

  • Inquisition — • By this term is usually meant a special ecclesiastical institutional for combating or suppressing heresy Catholic Encyclopedia. Kevin Knight. 2006. Inquisition     Inquisition      …   Catholic encyclopedia

  • inquisition — [ ɛ̃kizisjɔ̃ ] n. f. • 1160; lat. inquisitio 1 ♦ Vx Enquête, recherche. « Il n y a point de fin dans nos inquisitions » (Montaigne). 2 ♦ (1265) Hist. Tribunal de l Inquisition, et absolt l Inquisition : juridiction ecclésiastique d exception… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • Inquisition — Inquisition. Papst Innocenz I. errichtete eine geistliche Behörde, deren Aufgabe es war, die abtrünnigen Glieder der wahren Kirche zu bessern oder zu bestrafen. Diese Behörde, unmittelbar unter dem päpstlichen Stuhle stehend, wurde die heil.… …   Damen Conversations Lexikon

  • Inquisition — In qui*si tion, n. [L. inquisitio : cf. F. inquisition. See {Inquire}, and cf. {Inquest}.] 1. The act of inquiring; inquiry; search; examination; inspection; investigation. [1913 Webster] As I could learn through earnest inquisition. Latimer.… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Inquisition — (lat., »Untersuchung«, Inquisitio haereticae pravitatis, Ketzergericht, auch Sanctum Officium), das Glaubensgericht, das die römische Hierarchie zur Aufsuchung und Vertilgung der Ketzer ins Leben gerufen hat. Schon unter den Kaisern Theodosius d …   Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon

  • Inquisition — Sf (gerichtliche) Untersuchung, besonders der katholischen Kirche per. Wortschatz fach. (16. Jh.) Entlehnung. Entlehnt aus l. inquīsītio ( ōnis), einer Ableitung von l. inquīrere (inquīsītum) suchen, erkunden , zu l. quaerere (quaesītum) suchen… …   Etymologisches Wörterbuch der deutschen sprache

  • inquisition — late 14c., judicial investigation, act or process of inquiring, from O.Fr. inquisicion inquiry, investigation (12c.), from L. inquisitionem (nom. inquisitio) a searching into, legal examination, noun of action from pp. stem of inquirere (see… …   Etymology dictionary

  • Inquisition — In qui*si tion, v. t. To make inquisition concerning; to inquire into. [Obs.] Milton. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Inquisition — (v. lat.), 1) Untersuchung, s. Untersuchungsproceß. 2) (Inquisitio haeretĭcae pravitatis, Ketzergericht, Sanctum officium, Heiliges Officium), in der Katholischen Kirche Glaubensgericht zur Entdeckung u. Bestrafung der Ketzer u. Ungläubigen.… …   Pierer's Universal-Lexikon

  • inquisition — in·qui·si·tion /ˌin kwə zi shən, ˌiŋ / n 1: the act of inquiring or examining 2: a judicial or official inquiry or examination usu. before a jury; also: the finding that results from such an inquiry Merriam Webster’s Dictionary of Law. Merriam… …   Law dictionary


Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.