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The Inquisition was a group of institutions within the judicial system of the Roman Catholic Church whose aim was to combat heresy. It started in 12th-century France to combat the spread of religious sectarianism, in particular the Cathars and the Waldensians. This Medieval Inquisition persisted into the 14th century, and from the 1250s was associated with the Dominican Order. In the early 14th century, two other movements attracted the attention of the Inquisition, the Knights Templar and the Beguines.
At the end of the Middle Ages, the concept and scope of the Inquisition was significantly expanded in response to the Protestant Reformation and the Catholic Counter-Reformation. Its geographic scope was expanded to other European countries, resulting in the Spanish Inquisition and Portuguese Inquisition. Those two countries in particular operated the Inquisition throughout their respective empires (Spanish and Portuguese) in the Americas, Asia, and Africa. Its focus now came to include the persecution of sorcery, an aspect almost entirely absent from the Medieval Inquisition, making it one of the agents in the Early Modern witch-hunts. Persecution of Jewish and Muslim converts to Catholicism was the special concern of the Spanish and Portuguese inquisitions because of the belief that they secretly practicing their old faiths, resulting in cruel methods of torture to extract confessions.
The institution of the Inquisition persisted after the end of the witch-trial period in the 18th century, but in the Age of Reason was abolished outside of the Papal States after the Napoleonic wars of the early 19th century. The institution survives as part of the Roman Curia, renamed to Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office in 1904.
The term Inquisition can apply to any one of several institutions which fought against heretics (or other offenders against canon law) within the justice system of the Roman Catholic Church. The term Inquisition is usually applied to that of the Catholic Church. It also refers to:[need quotation to verify]
Generally, the Inquisition was concerned only with the heretical behaviour of Catholic adherents or converts, and did not concern itself with those outside its jurisdiction, such as Jews or Muslims.[need quotation to verify]
In practice, the Inquisition would not itself pronounce sentence, but handed over convicted heretics to secular authorities for the punishment deemed fitting by the Church. The laws were inclusive of proscriptions against certain religious crimes (heresy, etc.), and the punishments included death by burning, although imprisonment for life or banishment would usually be used. Thus the inquisitors generally knew what would be the fate of anyone so remanded, and cannot be considered to have divorced the means of determining guilt from its effects.
The 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."
Before 1100, the Catholic Church had already suppressed what they believed to be heresy, usually through a system of ecclesiastical proscription or imprisonment, but without using torture and seldom resorting to executions. Such punishments had a number of ecclesiastical opponents, although some countries punished heresy with the death penalty. 
In the 12th century, to counter the spread of Catharism, prosecution of heretics became more frequent. The Church charged councils composed of bishops and archbishops with establishing inquisitions (see Episcopal Inquisition). The first Inquisition was temporarily established in Languedoc (south of France) in 1184. The murder in 1208 of Pope Innocent's papal legate Pierre de Castelnau sparked the Albigensian Crusade (1209–1229). The Inquisition was permanently established in 1229. It was centered under the Dominicans in Rome and later at Carcassonne in Languedoc.
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 responded to large popular movements throughout Europe considered apostate or heretical to Christianity, in particular the Cathars in southern France and the Waldensians in both 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 extirpanda of 1252, which explicitly authorized (and defined the appropriate circumstances for) the use of torture by the Inquisition for eliciting confessions from heretics. By 1256 inquisitors were given absolution if they used instruments of torture.
In the 13th century, Pope Gregory IX (reigned 1227–1241) assigned the duty of carrying out inquisitions to the Dominican Order. They used inquisitorial procedures, a legal practice common at that time. They judged heresy alone, using the local authorities to establish a tribunal and to prosecute heretics. After 1200, a Grand Inquisitor headed each Inquisition. Grand Inquisitions persisted until the mid 19th century.
With the sharpening of debate and of conflict between the Protestant Reformation and the Catholic Counter-Reformation, Protestant societies came to see/use the Inquisition as a terrifying "Other" trope, while staunch Catholics regarded the Holy Office as a necessary bulwark against the spread of reprehensible heresies.
During what is known as the Little Ice Age, Pope Innocent VIII, in his papal bull Summis desiderantes affectibus (5 December 1484) instigated severe measures against magicians and witches in Germany. The grip of freezing weather, failing crops, rising crime, and mass starvation was blamed on witches. He issued the bull to inquisitors Heinrich Kramer and Jacobus Sprenger to systemize the persecution of witches.
Kramer and Sprenger would later write the Malleus Maleficarum in 1486, which stated that witchcraft was to blame for bad weather. These remarks are included in Part 2, Chapter XV, which is entitled: "How they Raise and Stir up Hailstorms and Tempests, and Cause Lightning to Blast both Men and Beasts":
Although men as well as women could be open to this charge, the title of the book itself is feminine in gender and Kramer wrote in section I that: "all witchcraft comes from carnal lust which is in women insatiable". In 1490 the Vatican decided that the book was false, and in 1538 the Spanish Inquisition cautioned against using it. Spreading from Tyrol, where it originated, to other Germanic States, it helped to fuel the witchhunts in Protestant countries in the seventeenth century as well.
Most of Medieval Western and Central Europe had a long-standing veneer of Catholic standardisation over traditional non-Christian practices,[clarification needed] with intermittent localized occurrences of different ideas (such as Catharism or Platonism) and sometimes recurring anti-Semitic or anti-Judaic activity.
With the Protestant Reformation, Catholic authorities became much more ready to suspect heresy in any new ideas, including those of Renaissance humanism, previously strongly supported by many at the top of the Church hierarchy. The extirpation of heretics became a much broader and more complex enterprise, complicated by the politics of territorial Protestant powers, especially in northern Europe. The Catholic Church could no longer exercise direct influence in the politics and justice-systems of lands which officially adopted Protestantism. Thus war (the French Wars of Religion, the Thirty Years War), massacre (the St. Bartholomew's Day massacre) and the missional and propaganda work (by the Sacra congregatio de propaganda fide) of the Counter-Reformation came to play larger roles in these circumstances, and the roman law type of a "judicial" approach to heresy represented by the Inquisition became less important overall.
Portugal and Spain in the late Middle Ages consisted largely of multicultural territories of Muslim and Jewish influence, reconquered from Islamic control, and the new Christian authorities could not assume that all their subjects would suddenly become and remain orthodox Catholics. So the Inquisition in Iberia, in the lands of the Reconquista counties and kingdoms like Leon, Castile and Aragon, had a special socio-political basis as well as more fundamental religious motives.
In some parts of Spain towards the end of the 14th century, there was a wave of violent anti-Judaism, encouraged by the preaching of Ferrand Martinez, Archdeacon of Ecija. In the pogroms of June 1391: in Seville, hundreds of Jews were killed, and the synagogue was completely destroyed. The number of people killed was also high in other cities, such as Córdoba, Valencia and Barcelona.
One of the consequences of these pogroms was the mass conversion of thousands of surviving Jews. Forced baptism was contrary to the law of the Catholic Church, and theoretically anybody who had been forcibly baptized could legally return to Judaism; this however was very narrowly interpreted. Legal definitions of the time theoretically acknowledged that a forced baptism was not a valid sacrament, but confined this to cases where it was literally administered by physical force: a person who had consented to baptism under threat of death or serious injury was still regarded as a voluntary convert, and accordingly forbidden to revert to Judaism. After the public violence, many of the converted "felt it safer to remain in their new religion." Thus after 1391 a new social group appeared and were referred to as conversos or New Christians.
King Ferdinand II of Aragon and Queen Isabella I of Castile established the Spanish Inquisition in 1478. In contrast to the previous inquisitions, it operated completely under royal Christian authority, though staffed by clergy and orders, and independently of the Holy See. It operated in Spain and in all Spanish colonies and territories, which included the Canary Islands, the Spanish Netherlands, the Kingdom of Naples, and all Spanish possessions in North, Central, and South America. It primarily targeted forced converts from Islam (Moriscos, Conversos and secret Moors) and from Judaism (Conversos, Crypto-Jews and Marranos) — both groups still resided in Spain after the end of the Islamic control of Spain — who came under suspicion of either continuing to adhere to their old religion or of having fallen back into it.
In 1492 all Jews who had not converted were expelled from Spain, and those who remained became subject to the Inquisition.[clarification needed]
In the Americas, King Philip II set up two tribunals (each formally titled Tribunal del Santo Oficio de la Inquisición) in 1569, one in Mexico and the other in Peru. The Mexican office administered Mexico (central and southeastern Mexico), Nueva Galicia (northern and western Mexico), the Audiencias of Guatemala (Guatemala, Chiapas, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica), and the Spanish East Indies. The Peruvian Inquisition, based in Lima, administered all the Spanish territories in South America and Panama.
Historian Thomas Madden, who has discussed various popular myths regarding the Inquisition, wrote: "Amazingly, before 1530 the Spanish Inquisition was widely hailed as the best run, most humane court in Europe."  In practice they kept their hands clean by handing over subjects to the civil authorities.
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. At its head stood a Grande Inquisidor, or General Inquisitor, named by the Pope but selected by the Crown, and always from within the royal family. The Portuguese Inquisition principally targeted the Sephardic Jews, whom the state forced to convert to Christianity. Spain had expelled its Sephardic population in 1492; after 1492 many of these Spanish Jews left Spain for Portugal, but eventually were targeted there as well.
The Portuguese Inquisition held its first auto-da-fé in 1540. The Portuguese inquisitors mostly targeted the Jewish New Christians (i.e. 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 1521–57) extended the activity of the courts to cover censorship, divination, witchcraft and bigamy. 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, an inquisition largely aimed at Catholic converts from Hinduism or Islam who were thought to have returned to their original ways, started in Goa in 1560. In addition, the Inquisition prosecuted non-converts who broke prohibitions against the observance of Hindu or Muslim rites or interfered with Portuguese attempts to convert non-Christians to Catholicism. Aleixo Dias Falcão and Francisco Marques set it up in the palace of the Sabaio Adil Khan.
According to Henry Charles Lea, 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 15 out of 689 autos-da-fé has disappeared, so these numbers may slightly understate the activity.
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; it thus became the supervisory body of local Inquisitions. Arguably the most famous case tried by the Roman Inquisition involved Galileo Galilei in 1633.
The penances and sentences for those who confessed or were found guilty were pronounced together in a public ceremony at the end of all the processes. This was the sermo generalis or auto-da-fé. Penances (not matters for the Civil Authorities) might consist of a pilgrimage, a public scourging, a fine, or the wearing of a cross. The wearing of two tongues of red or other brightly colored cloth, sewn onto an outer garment in an "X" pattern, marked those who were under investigation. The penalties in serious cases were confiscation of property to the inquisition or imprisonment. This led to the possibility of false charges over confiscation with those over a certain income, particularly rich maranos. Following the French invasion of 1798, the new authorities sent 3,000 chests containing over 100,000 Inquisition documents to France from Rome.
In Portugal, in the wake of the Liberal Revolution of 1820, the "General Extraordinary and Constituent Courts of the Portuguese Nation" abolished the Portuguese inquisition in 1821, however in nearby Spain the harsh practices of the institution continued for a few years longer.
The last execution of the Inquisition was finally carried out in Spain on July 26, 1826. This was the execution of the school teacher, Cayetano Ripoll, for the teaching of Deism in his school. In Spain the practices of the Inquisition were finally outlawed in 1834.
In Italy, after the restoration of the Pope as the ruler of the Papal States in 1814, the activity of the Papal States Inquisition continued on until the mid-19th century, notably in the well-publicised Mortara Affair (1858–1870). 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[update]. The Pope appoints a cardinal to preside over the Congregation, which 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 in theology and canon law, who advise it on specific questions.
|This article may be expanded with text translated from the corresponding article in the Spanish Wikipedia. (July 2013)|
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