The Horrors of the Holy Inquisition

The Horrors of the Holy Inquisition

The Horrors of the Holy Inquisition
The Horrors of the Holy Inquisition

The Horrors of the Church and its Holy Inquisition

It is hard to fathom the horrors committed during the holy inquisition. Especially as they were committed by the church. The church supposedly preaches love and charity. There was no love or charity in those horrors!

The Middle Ages are remembered for the fall of the Roman Empire, the emergence of long-distance trade, the Renaissance – advancements in art, architecture, literature and experimental science, … and violence.

Specifically, the horrors of the Holy Inquisition, a terrifying time for anyone who didn’t abide by, or spoke against the Roman Catholic Church.

The Catholic Church wielded immense power, and took it upon themselves to be the final authority on who was righteous and who was “working with the devil“.

If you were a rationalist, practiced a religion other than Catholicism or were found incanting even a harmless love spell, you could get into a lot of trouble – even pay with your life.

What exactly was the Holy Inquisition?

The Inquisition started out as a judicial process under the Roman Catholic Church for identifying and punishing heresy. It was originally established by Pope Innocent III in Rome, and in 1233, by Pope Gregory IX in France.

The Inquisition expanded to other European countries, leading to the Portuguese Inquisition and Spanish Inquisition, and the respective countries instituted it across the territories they were ruling, including Asia, Africa, and the Americas.

The Horrors of the Holy Inquisition - What exactly was the Holy Inquisition
The Horrors of the Holy Inquisition – What exactly was the Holy Inquisition

Enforcing orthodoxy may have seemed like a “noble” cause for participating clergymen, but it was nothing short of horrifying for the victims. Those considered heretics included Protestants, Jews, Muslims and even rationalists.

It was a brutal war waged on people for subscribing to beliefs that were in opposition to what the Church believed to be right.



Why did it horrify non-believers? Four reasons why the Inquisition was a scary time in the history of the Middle Ages

The Horrors of the Holy Inquisition - Why did it horrify non-believers
The Horrors of the Holy Inquisition – Why did it horrify non-believers

An Inquisition tribunal initially gave heretics some time to confess, and then following a grace period, they were handed out punishments at an “auto-da-fe” or “Act of Faith”, by the presiding clergymen.

The punishments included physical torture and confinement in dungeons. The few who did manage to escape harsh punishment were stripped of their property and ostracized from public life.

Those who did not confess were burned at the stake, and those who confessed were first strangled and then lifted on the stake to be burned.


Methods to Force Confession

  • This tactic had a psychological effect on “offenders” because it wasn’t an entirely transparent process. When inquisitors visited an area, they would request reports about anyone suspected of heresy, including offering rewards to those who reported heretics. Trials of suspected heretics sometimes occurred in secrecy, where the inquisitors wielded full control over the process – both prosecuting and handing down judgment. The accused did not have the luxury of hiring anyone to litigate on their behalf, – they were at the mercy of the representatives of the Roman Catholic Church.
  • As suspected heretics had no choice but to defend themselves at trial, most preferred to confess. Those who didn’t were tortured into confessing, making the trial a farce, and further exposing the violent ways of the Church.



The Horrors of the Holy Inquisition - Shocking torture techniquesThe Horrors of the Holy Inquisition – Shocking torture techniques

  • Back then, there was no separation of the Church and State, which created more problems for heretics. The church could, at will, request that the government punish convicted heretics. If the few who were pardoned returned to their heretic ways, they could be condemned to death. While many among them were burned to death, others were either drowned or beaten till their last breath.
  • Torture was integral to the confession process. The Church felt it was their “duty” to extract confessions of heresy and non-conformity to the doctrine. Impassioned by the desire to torture however much as they possibly could – inquisitors were infamous for subjecting suspects to inhuman


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