What Was the Holy Inquisition and Why Did It Happen?

Typical Inquisition

Inquisition – a special forces of the only and infallible Vicar of God on the Earth. It had been carrying light and cleansing for the masses for 650 years, from 1184 to 1834. A profitable subsidiary of “The Roman Catholic Church” TM Joint Stock Company, which killed about one million European citizens during its existence. Known for its dissident’s battue because of economic reasons, human interrogation methods and concern for the salvation of lost souls.

Purposes and Participants

Central tasks:

  1. Getting Spain rid of the Moors and the Jews (what is noticeable – they succeeded).
  2. The massacre of disgraced noblemen, who were objectionable for the big politics.
  3. The fight against heresy – which was pretty useful for the Pope & Co, as it strengthened power’s authority and the occultism of that time was even worse than Inquisition.
  4. Preventing of the threat of revolution: Catholic Church had pretty large number of competitors in the market, so there was a need to create some competitive advantages.
  5. Control of the moral state of society.

The most zealous executants of the Church’s (and God’s, of course) will were two religious orders: Dominicans and Franciscans. The most common among Tribunal officials were representatives of the Dominican Order. It named to honor of Dominic Guzman, the founder of the order and the first (but not the last) inquisitor of our world. The order’s representatives were called “dogs of the Lord” as the name of the order is consonant to Latin “Domini canes”.

Franciscans also were great enthusiasts, but not as successful as their colleagues. They sought to personal salvation and poverty. In their opinion poverty must be total: both material and spiritual. It means that erudition was not highly appreciated among brothers. As a result, there were no much successful investigations made by the order.

A Short History

Divisional processes into the Great and Sole (not anymore) Roman Catholic Church (the appearance of Orthodox Church is meant) demanded the decisive and radical action. In 1184th, Pope Lucius III forced auto-da-fe usage and here we go…


The 1198 year was a time when cruel, paranoid Lothario di Segni became a Pope Innocentius III. He immediately began to set his orders. Artists, who had no enough time to make a good impression on the Holy Father, become a priest or join the monastic order, were forced to go through a session of behavioral therapy. The main goals of such therapy were: an introduction to a new culture, the inculcation of new values and general patients’ rehabilitation in conditions of the society of that time. However, there were a plenty of different behavioral deviations. Some groups of people had a congenital resistance to the therapy. The others competed for the flock with the Pope, accusing him in a deviant from the laws of the Bible behavior.

Officially, the Holy Inquisition was set in the year 1214. Since 1216, Dominicans did all the dirty work. The first time, the Holy Office was actively developing methods of correcting undesirable behavior. These methods included interviews into the most comfortable Inquisition’s cellars. Pope’s special forces politely tried to instill ordinary troublemaker hostility to his life in the defilement of heresy and explain the benefits of a truly Christian life. Undoubtedly, a small fee was charged every time, the size of which, however, varied depending on the social status and life conditions of those who was questioned. If it was a usual peasant without money, the therapy was free of charge.

If a moral malaise didn’t want to leave the body, Fathers had to resort to a shock therapy: strappado, cauterization with a hot iron, pouring water into the offender’s throat in a large amount and others. It is obvious that the main purpose of the Inquisition was not to harm but to quietly bring visitors over. It is worth noting that legally Inquisitor gave only a “recommendation” on the subject of what to do with the profane person. To follow such recommendation or not was a secular court’s decision.

About the Scope

The question of how many people eventually killed is still without the answer because of the ambiguity of information in different resources. Thorough documentation of its business did only the Spanish and Portuguese Inquisition. So that the numbers of victims may vary from several thousand to billions of billions of people.

The truth is next: not every arrested man founded guilty; not all convicted were sentenced to death (the most popular punishments were fines and property confiscations); finally, not all sentenced people were burnt. Getting the death penalty could be nominal. If a condemned person escaped, gave a bribe to an appropriate person or got some powerful patrons, the Inquisition only burned his portrait or effigy, and a heretic was formally considered as punished. A life of the nominally burnt person was not very good: formally, a poor heretic was considered dead, so without any civil rights; “dead man’s” property founded a new owner; everyone could beat, humiliate, rape, rob, kill such person with impunity.


The most common sentences of the inquisitorial tribunal were the expulsion and removal of heretical property for the holy church. The death penalty was used only in extreme cases, usually for the preachers of heresy, who persist in their errors, or for people who purposely treated like that because of political considerations. Interestingly, a considerable part of people who went for the fire was completely aware of the consequences of their obstinacy, voluntarily taking the crown of martyrdom. After all, if a person is officially renounced his errors and vowed not to repeat the mistakes in the future, the Inquisition often left him alive. Consequently, all the victims of auto-da-fe were “maliciously recalcitrant” and they explicitly chose death in the fire, so as not to betray their (sometimes quite wild) beliefs.

Unbelievable but true: The Inquisition in its time profitably differed from the secular courts with a more humanistic approach to the persons under investigation and the meticulous observance of all the legal norms. Therefore, common criminals in court often began to blaspheme and to portray a fool, pretending to be possessed or a heretic to get their case handed to the Inquisition.

However, we should not forget that tortures were used widely during the investigations so that not all the people under investigation lived out pending trial. Moreover, those who survived or even been justified eventually often remained disabled (tortures won’t make you healthier).

So, the conclusion is that Inquisition was a horrifying and awful Church’s creation, but there were much worse ones – secular courts, for example. While Inquisition strictly followed the rules, secular courts had no rules.

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