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"...The church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth."
I Timothy 3:15

The Inquisition:

Its Object, Proceedings and History

From Popery, 1854

Editor’s Note: Early historians call all of those who stood against Rome, Protestants. They knew that of the Anabaptists, such as Waldenses, never were part of Rome. True Baptists have always protested against false religions.

The spread of truth by the Albigenses and Waldenses in France, gave rise to the Inquisition, in the beginning of the 13th century. These early Protestants, who had existed, even according to the testimony of their enemies, from time immemorial, were the special objects of Papal wrath; and when it was found that they still flourished, despite of sword and canon law, “the Holy Office of the Inquisition” was established, in order to exterminate, by systematic and continuous efforts, all dissentients from Rome.

In the Inquisition there existed a combination—of espionage, which extended far and wide into every circle,—of power, before which even crowned and mitred head quailed,—and of cruelty, unequalled by the false prophet Mahomet, who propagated his mendacious system by the sword, or even by pagan Rome itself.

Dominick, or rather Saint Dominick, is generally regarded as the founder of the Inquisition, and with great justice; for though it was not fully established in his time, yet he was undoubtedly its founder.

Bzovius, a Romish historian, says:

“About that time, Pope Innocent III., (as Sixtus V. relates his diploma for the Institution of the festival of St. Peter, the Martyr,) authorized the god-like Dominick to distinguish himself against heretics, by constant preaching and meetings for discussion, and by the office of the Inquisition, which he first entrusted to him; and that he should either reconcile them to the Church, if they were willing to be reconciled, or strike them with a just sentence, if they were unwilling to return,” Ch. 1215, Innocent III., 19.

The crusade against “the heretics” had been carried on with such great vigour; cities and towns were taken by storm; fire and sword were borne far and wide through the dominions of the Count of Toulouse, in the south of France, by crusaders who wore a cross on the breast, to distinguish them from crusaders in the Holy Land, who wore the same symbol on the right shoulder. An army of no less than 500,000 took the field, amongst whom were conspicuous, archbishops and bishops, abbots and all orders of clergy, secular and religious. These spared neither age nor sex; but, as a plague of locusts, literally devoured the land.

Yet all this, it seems, was not sufficient. It was deemed expedient that a systematized effort should be made by holy Mother Church, (in truth, a cruel "step-dame,") for the utter extermination of Protestants. Dominick was selected as the man to commence the project. He was born in Spain in the year 1170. After his ordination he travelled in France, and seeing the progress which Protestantism made, his zeal for Popery was inflamed, and he besought "his holiness" that he might unite with those who had been sent forth to preach against the Waldenses.

His wish being gratified, he soon distinguished himself by his energy, and occupied a leading position amongst the enemies of Protestantism. He became the founder of an order called Dominicans; and when it was seen that existing laws and efforts (though surely cruel enough) were not as effectual as it was wished, in checking the advance of Protestantism, he was appointed to make inquisition, independently of, but not against, the bishops, as to heretics, and to hand them over, when convicted, to the civil power, to be put to death. This he did, it seems, most effectually. It was not, however, until later years, that the Inquisition was thoroughly established. Begun in France, it was soon after introduced into Spain and other countries and for ages proved the most terrible engine of cruelty and injustice that ever disgraced the annals of the past.

Ere we proceed further with the history of the Inquisition, we would now give some account of its...

Proceedings and Officers

Piazza, who was himself a judge of the Inquisition in Italy, wrote a history, in which he gives an interesting account of that terrible power. There was a general inquisitor, who was called Il Padre Reverendissimo, the most Reverend Father, who presided over the High Court of the Inquisition, and generally lived in the capital city. It belonged to him to appoint inquisitors for the provinces, to act as his vicegerents.

As St. Dominick was founder of the Inquisition, the officers were generally selected from among the Dominicans. Piazza further informs us, in reference to the Italian Inquisition, that these judges had several officers who were called Signori Patentati, or, gentlemen who hold patents, and who are chosen in large numbers from nobility and gentry. They enjoy peculiar privileges, (exemption from taxation) from the secular tribunals, an object anxiously sought by ecclesiastical despots in all countries, etc. These bore different titles and offices:

All these officers are sworn solemnly not to reveal anything, but to maintain the utmost secrecy. Along with the inquisitor, the ordinary or bishop of the place is associated as coniudex, or co-judge, showing the complete union of the Inquisition with the Church of Rome.

The Denunciation

This was the first step towards the punishment of the accused. The suspected was denounced by a third party, or, as it sometimes happened, the confession, whether true or false, wrung from some poor wretch by torture, was made the ground of the interference of the Holy Office against the accused. According to the teaching of a saint, who was canonized in 1839, and whose works have been authoritatively approved, it is the duty of a father, in the case of heresy, to betray his own child, and of a child to betray his father to the Inquisition.

To the denunciation, which was made in writing, were generally appended the names of those whom the denouncer considered as capable of giving evidence in the affair. Anonymous information was always accepted; the accused was not allowed to know his accusers, or to meet them face to face; and thus a full opportunity was afforded to the malignant and revengeful to gratify their evil propensities, and to wreak vengeance upon the heads of those against whom they bore hate.

Nay, even brother was compelled, through the medium of the confessional, to inform against brother, sister against sister, parent against child, and child against parent. The confessor, even without any breach of the seal, had only to withhold absolution until his terms were fulfilled. The next step was what is termed the inquest, which consisted of the examination of witnesses. Then followed "the censure of the qualifiers."

The various tribunals of the Inquisition were consulted, in order to ascertain whether they had any charge against the denounced. If the reply were affirmative, the various charges were laid before the qualifiers, who were generally monks, for opinion as to the nature of the guilt which belonged to the accused. The next step was…


At dead of night, the muffled coach, with its masked attendants, rolled to the door of the accused, and demanded their victim, in the name of that "Holy Office"—the very mention of which caused the bravest hearts to quail.

None ever thought of resistance, which would be utterly vain. The child was torn from its distracted mother,or the husband from the bosom of his wife, and hurried off to a cell, perhaps unconscious of any guilt, and utterly ignorant of any crime, to await his doom,—the victim, perchance, of malevolence and revenge. But few ever hoped to see their friends, if once arrested.

The secret prisons were reserved for heretics, and there they were never allowed to see their acquaintances, or even to speak to their jailers, except when addressed. How terrible the fate! How fearful the forebodings! Amid solitude which was never broken, save by the visits of the attendants, who, in their masks and peculiar attire, were more like demons than men, the prisoner awaited his doom without occupation; and how slowly did the hours roll on, till at last he was introduced to…

The First Audience

If the accused, when brought before his judges, and admonished, as it was customary, to speak the truth, asked the nature of his accusation, he was simply informed, that the Holy Office never proceeded in any affair without due evidence. He was interrogated as to his relations; and if it were found that any of them had been guilty of heresy, their property was seized as forfeited to the Church.

Indeed, the property of the prisoner himself, on his arrest, was invariably seized. If he were so happy as to be set at large once more, an inventory of his goods having been taken, and the expenses of the arrest and of his support while in the dungeons of the Inquisition having been defrayed, the remainder, generally a small balance, was restored. If found guilty, his property passed into the hands of the Inquisition, and thus afforded another motive to the judges, who, it is needless to say, were not very scrupulous, for finding him guilty.

The prisoner was generally obliged to repeat the Creed and the Lord's Prayer, and any inaccuracy was accepted as additional evidence against him. After three such audiences, in which every advantage was taken of the nervousness or weakness of the prisoner, the charges were formally made by fiscal, and then came…

The Torture

The accused either acknowledged altogether his guilt, and in that case he was tortured to confess more,—or acknowledged it in part, and then he was tortured to admit all,—or denied it in toto, which invariably led to torture, that he might admit some. Thus, there was no mode of escape. Say what he might, the unhappy prisoner was doomed to undergo a punishment severer than death itself !

Of torture, there were various kinds.

The sentence at last was given, according to the deposition of the witnesses. Few were honourably acquitted. The slightest indiscretion subjected the accused to some punishment; and, even if saved from capital punishment, or death at the stake on the Auto da fé, he returned home with a sullied reputation, or health broken.

Having thus described the proceedings of the Inquisition, we would now give further account of…

Its History

The Inquisition was purely an establishment of the Church of Rome. It was founded for the express object of extirpating heresy. The first inquisitor and others of the judges have been canonized. Popes have issued bulls in its favour. It was not a State contrivance. Nay, generally speaking, on its first introduction, and even after its establishment, it was opposed by the people, and in its rise, at all events, it received no very cordial support from the state, for the property of heretics, previous to the rise of the Inquisition, was confiscated to the State, but, afterwards, it became the property of the Church.

The Inquisition was established in the 13th century in France, Milan, Geneva, Arragon, Sardinia, and had a brief existence of a few years in Palestine. In the 14th century it was established in Poland. Some attempts were made to introduce it into England, but it was successfully resisted. In Venice it existed in a modified form. The authorities protested against its complete introduction. After the Council of Constance, and the martyrdom of John Huss and Jerome of Prague, it was re-established with great power in Bohemia, and enabled to carry out its persecutions of the Hussites with terrific fury.

Even in Spain, its stronghold, it was not more dreaded than hated by the people. Its judges were sometimes exposed to popular violence, and were not infrequently sacrificed by the populace. Torquemada, in 1483, was appointed Inquisitor General of Spain, by Pope Sixtus, and confirmed in his office by Innocent III. He drew up a new code of laws, and resuscitated the Inquisition. He was a man of ability and courage, united with the utmost cruelty. He introduced the Inquisition into Saragossa, which created violent commotions amongst the people, who appealed to Ferdinand for protection.

While the matter was pending, the inquisitors did not relax their proceedings, which added still more to the popular discontent, and led to the formation of a conspiracy, embracing some of the highest classes. Arbues, one of the inquisitors, was assassinated, notwithstanding the precaution which he had adopted of wearing armour. He was put to death, while at prayers, by a wound in the neck. This circumstance greatly incensed the inquisitors, and there was scarcely a family in Saragossa which did not fall under their displeasure.

In the provinces generally, the establishment of the Inquisition was opposed by the populace.

King Ferdinand entered warmly into the plans; and even the gentle Isabella was induced, by an appeal to her religious devotion, to countenance the persecutions of the Inquisitor, Torquemada was allowed an escort of fifty mounted familiars and two hundred infantry, when he traveled, to protect him from personal violence. He died in 1498.

In 1543, the Inquisition was established in Rome by "His Holiness," in order to check the rising Reformation.

Passing through various vicissitudes of power, this terrible tribunal flourished in various parts of the world, and proved itself a scourge of the human family.

It is no longer ascendant. Its demoniacal proceedings were, at length, compelled to give way before the light and liberty which the blessed Reformation introduced, and which so far extended its influence to even the most bigoted Romish countries.

In 1810, the Inquisition was abolished, by the interference of Britain, in Goa.

In 1820, the Cádiz Cortes abolished the Inquisition in Spain; and, though religious despotism still exists there, "the Holy Office" has not been re-established.

In 1821, the Inquisition was abolished in Lisbon.

Should ever Rome be permitted to re-establish her sway, then may we bid farewell to civil and religious liberty, and prepare for the Inquisition, which was so terrible, that even many of thpe Roman Catholic laity resisted it, and thus exposed themselves to the wrath of their church.