Inquisition, Or Holy Office, a tribunal established in various Roman Catholic countries to search out and to try persons accused of heresy, as well as certain other offences against morality or the canons of the church. The first formal sanction of the inquisition by a papal bull was in the 13th century; but long before that heresy had been declared a crime, and inquisitors, or inquirers after heretics, had been appointed by Christian princes. Constantine the Great, the first emperor who made Christianity a state religion, made heresy a state offence, and repeatedly banished those who refused submission to his decisions in doctrinal controversies. Athanasius, the defender of or-thodoxv, and Arius shared in turn the same fate. Under him and his sons commissions were also issued against the Donatists, who were visited with the most rigorous punishment. The terms "inquisition " and "inquisitors " appear for the first time in history in connection with the searching out and punishment of heretics under Theodosius I., who in 382 published an edict against the Manichaeans and other sects. A law of Honorius in 398 threatened the professors of certain heresies, in particular the priests of the Montanists and Euno-mians, with banishment and death if they persisted in bringing people together.
The decrees for the extermination of heathenism were even more severe. Heathen sacrifices were forbidden by Constantius II. in 353, under pain of death. Theodosius I. in 392 proclaimed every form of idolatry a crime, and every attempt to learn the secrets of the future by animal sacrifices high treason. Theodosius II. remitted capital punishment in 423, but again enforced the law against heathen sacrifices in 426. Most of the earlier fathers were opposed to the punishment of heretics by the secular arm, and particularly to the infliction of death. Chrysostom and Augustine approved of their being confined or exiled, but only Jerome and Leo the Great were in favor of the death penalty. The first instance in which the blood of a heretic was shed by the solemn forms of law occurred in 385, when Priscillian, the leader of a Gnostic sect in Spain, was.put to death by the sword, at the instigation of Bishop Idacius. The church was struck with horror at the act; Idacius was excommunicated and died in exile. Justinian, in his code, provided certain penalties for dissenters from the orthodox creed as expounded by the " four holy synods " of Nice, Constantinople, Ephesus, and Chalcedon; and from this code the future legislation against heretics was derived.
For several centuries all cases of heresy came before the ordinary courts; but in the course of time the examination of the charge of heresy devolved upon bishops, who handed over those who remained obdurate to the secular courts for punishment. Sometimes, however, ecclesiastical councils specified the punishment to be inflicted on certain classes of heretics. The organization and development of the* synodal courts in the 8th and 9th centuries systematized also the proceedings against heretics; but no special machinery for the purpose was devised until the spread in the 11th and 12th centuries of the Euchites, Bogomiles, Paulicians, Waldenses, and the various sects comprised under the common name of Albigenses. This excited the alarm of the civil as well as the ecclesiastical authorities, heresy being regarded at the time as a crime against the state no less than against the church. At the beginning of the 13th century Innocent III. sent several Cistercian monks as his legates to the south of France, in order to force the great feudatories of Provence and Narbonne into a war against the Albigenses, and to assist the bishops in searching out the heretics and in giving them over to punishment.
The fourth council of Lateran in 1215 enjoined upon the synodal courts the searching out of heresy and its suppression as a duty, and may therefore be regarded as having established the legal foundation of inquisitorial courts. The bishops were called upon either to visit personally or to send delegates into every parish suspected of heresy, and to cause several, or if necessary all, of the inhabitants to swear that they would inform against heretics as well as those attending secret meetings; all who refused to take this oath should be suspected of heresy themselves. These arrangements were confirmed and enlarged by the synod of Toulouse (1229), which issued on this point 45 propositions, among which were the following: " Any prince, lord, bishop, or judge, who shall spare a heretic, shall forfeit his lands, property, or office; and every house in which a heretic is found shall be destroyed. Heretics or persons suspected of heresy shall not be allowed the assistance of a physician, or of any of their associates in crime, even though they may be suffering under a mortal disease. Sincere penitents shall be removed from the neighborhood in which they reside, if it is suspected of heresy; they shall wear a peculiar dress, and forfeit all public privileges until they receive a papal dispensation.
Penitents who have recanted through fear shall be placed in confinement." The synod also enjoined upon the bishops to bind in every parish a priest and two, three, or more laymen by oath to search out heretics. But as many bishops were accused of being either remiss or partial, Gregory IX. transferred the inquisition to the Dominicans, first in 1232 in Austria and Aragon, and next in 1233 in Lombardv and southern France. The persons thus empowered and sent by the pope to different countries were denominated collectively "inquisitorial missions." To aid the inquisitors in the exercise of their office, a guild was founded after 1229, called the militia Jesu Christi contra hareticos. The church, however, contented itself with the examination of the heretics, and called on the secular arm to carry the sentences into execution. Louis IX. of France from attachment to the church, and Raymond VII. of Toulouse and Frederick II. of Germany in order to escape the suspicion of heresy, complied with this request, and made the execution of the sentences passed by the inquisitors obligatory. The procedure of the inquisitors differed in many particulars from that of the civil courts.
In accordance with a decree of the councils of Beziers and Nar-bonne, confirmed by Innocent IV. in 1254, the informers were never named to the accused; suspicion of heresy was considered a sufficient cause of arrest; accomplices and criminals were admitted as witnesses. If the accused denied the charges, he might be put to the torture to obtain his confession. The regulations of the earlier inquisitions are found in the Di-rectorium Inquisitorum of Nicholas Eymeric, who for 42 years held the office of chief inquisitor in Aragon, and died in 1399. It was first published at Barcelona in 1503; again at Rome, with a commentary by Pegna, in 1578; and has often been reprinted. The power of the inquisition was greatly increased by the income which it derived from the property of the condemned. Innocent IV. in 1252 assigned to it one third of such property, and ordered one third to be reserved for future uses; in the 15th century it was common for the inquisitors to claim the entire property. Until 1248 the inquisitorial courts were only transitory tribunals; but from that date they became permanent, and the institution was successively introduced in this form into Italy, Spain, Germany, and the southern provinces of France. The people in the south of France rose repeatedly in rebellion, and took bloody vengeance on some of the inquisitors, as at Toulouse in 1245. The parliaments declared themselves against its proceedings as irregular and unprecedented, and several kings, as Philip IV. and Louis XL, limited its jurisdiction.
Its influence was also weakened by the schism of the 14th and the reformatory councils of the 15th century. After the reformation of the 16th century, Henry II., urged by Pope Paul IV., made an attempt to reestablish it, and even extorted the consent of the parliament to an edict of this kind; but it never regained strength, was wholly abolished by Henry IV., and has not been reintroduced. - In Spain the inquisition was introduced soon after its establishment in France. The Aragonese branch can be traced by authentic records as far back as the year 1232, and in the course of that century courts were established in the dioceses of Tarragona, Barcelona, Urgel, Lerida, and Ge-rona. At first it passed no sentence more severe than confiscation of property, and even this was restored if the accused abjured his opinions within a term called the " period of grace." Toward the close of the 15th century a new impulse was given to it by Cardinal Pedro Gonzalez de Mendoza, archbishop of Seville, and in time it assumed gigantic dimensions, becoming more absolute and independent than in any other state of Europe. The probability of a union between the Jews and Moors against the Christians at that time excited in Spain considerable alarm.
The Jews formed a large proportion of the population, and held enormous wealth. Severe restrictive measures were passed against them by the civil authorities from time to time, and finally about 1477 certain of the clergy proposed to Ferdinand to establish the inquisition in Castile, with the primary object of searching out those who having been converted to Christianity had relapsed into Judaism, or who feigned conversion while secretly attached to the faith of their fathers. The king readily assented, and, the consent of Isabella having been reluctantly given, a papal bull was procured in 1478 authorizing the establishment of the tribunal. From this date forward Catholic writers regard the Spanish inquisition as a state tribunal, a character which is recognized by Ranke, Guizot, Leo, and even Llorente. In September, 1480, a royal edict appointed two Dominicans the first inquisitors, and the first court was established at Seville. They issued their first edict on Jan. 2, 1481, by which they ordered the arrest of several "new Christians," as converts were popularly called, who were suspected of heresy, and on Jan. 6 the first auto da fe was held, when six persons were burned alive. Executions soon became frequent.
Several of those who had been condemned as contumacious appealed to Pope Sixtus IV., who in January, 1482, complained of the conduct of the two inquisitors, and recommended mildness' and moderation. Soon after he appointed the archbishop of Seville apostolic judge of appeal for all Spain, with power to decide on all appeals from the judgments of the inquisition. In 1483 Torquemada became grand inquisitor general of all Spain, and at the same time Ferdinand appointed a royal council of the supreme inquisition (consejo de la suprema in-quisicion), of which the grand inquisitor was president of right and for life, with a bishop and two doctors at law as counsellors. Torquemada in concert with the king framed the organic laws of the new tribunal, styled instructions, which consisted of 28 articles, and were promulgated at Seville in 1484. Additions were made to them in 1488 and 1498; and at last a new compilation of regulations, consisting of 81 articles, was made by the inquisitor general Valdez in 1561, which remained ever afterward the guide of Spanish inquisitors.
All the penitents of the inquisition wore a peculiar habit, called sambenito (a corruption of saco bendito, "the blessed vest" of penitence), of which there were three different kinds for the three classes of condemned, and an equal number for those who were doomed to suffer death. The auto da fe (act of faith) was, properly speaking, the public and solemn reading of the records of the court of inquisition, and of the sentence by it passed on persons found guilty; but it is popularly understood of the public ceremonies accompanying their execution. The accused themselves, if living, were always present on the occasion; if dead, their remains or effigies were substituted for them. The civil authorities and corporate bodies were also bound to be in attendance, as well as the criminal judge and his officers, whose duty it was to have the sentence carried out. "When the execution was performed with unwonted solemnity, it was called auto publico general. There was also an auto particular, or private act, at which the inquisitors and criminal judge only were present; the autillo, held in the palace of the inquisition, which was attended only by the ministers of the court and the persons invited by them; and the auto singular, which took place in the church or in the public square, and against a single person.
The punishment was inflicted for what the ecclesiastical judges pronounced heresy, or a relapse into the same, or apostasy from the Christian faith. The auto publico general occurred rarely, and was held on the Sundays between Pentecost and Advent. The prisoners were conducted in procession to the public square, where royalty itself and all the highest personages in church and state attended, as at a drama which aimed at recalling the terrors of the judgment day. Those condemned to death were dressed in a sack of sheepskin called zamarra, and a conical cap called coroza, both hideously painted. Of the others, the more guilty wore a sambenito or sack of yellow stuff with a cross in red. Prisoners of the least guilty class wore a coarse black coat and pantaloons, and walked with bare head and feet. After the solemn publication of the sentences, the penitents were borne back to their cells in the prisons of the inquisition; and those condemned to the fire were offered a last option between death and recantation of the heresies with which they were charged. It they recanted, they also were conducted to prison.
If they remained obdurate, they were handed over to the secular judge, and led to the quemadero or place of burning, which was generally outside of the city. - By its compact organization the inquisition soon became very powerful. The inquisitor general was appointed by the king and approved by the pope; but he was in reality independent of both. He named the subaltern officers, and had an absolute control over all the lower courts. The expulsion of the Jews (1492) and the Moors (1500) from Spain, which many tried to evade by conversion to Christianity, and later the spreading of Protestantism, furnished the inquisition with abundant occupation. According to the estimate of Llo-rente, whose accuracy has been called in question by Catholic writers, the number of those burned alive under Torquemada (1483-98) amounted to 8,800, those under Deza (1499-1506) to 1,664, and those under Cardinal Xi-menes (1507-'17) to 2,536. The general result of his statements for the time from 1483 to' 1808 is as follows: burned alive, 31,912; burned in effigy, 17,659; subjected to rigorous pains and penances, 291,456. From the beginning of the 17th century, when it had completely exterminated Protestantism in Spain, the inquisition became more lenient, and directed its efforts mostly to the suppression of heretical books.
In the 18th century the autos da fe became very rare. Charles III. and his minister, Count Aranda, greatly restricted its jurisdiction, and Joseph Bonaparte entirely abolished it in December, 1808. It was restored by Ferdinand VII. in 1814, but again abolished by the constitution of the cortes in 1820. After the second restoration an inquisitorial junta reappeared in 1825, and in 1826 a tribunal was reestablished at Valencia. In 1834 it was again abolished, and in 1835 its property was confiscated for the payment of the public debt. The most complete work on the inquisition in Spain is Llorente's " Critical History of the Spanish Inquisition," translated into French by A. Pellier (4 vols, fol., Paris, 1817). An abridged English translation was published in London in 1826, and reprinted in Philadelphia. The author declares that he was secretary of the inquisition of Madrid during the years 1789-'91; that from 1809 to 1811 all the archives of the inquisition were placed at his disposal; and that he burned, with the approbation of Joseph Bonaparte, all the criminal processes except those which from their importance and the rank of the accused belonged to history. The accuracy of some of his statements is greatly doubted by many.
Ranke does not hesitate to impeach his honesty; Prescott even pronounces his "computations greatly exaggerated," and his "estimates most improbable." The best work on the Spanish inquisition written from a Catholic standpoint is K. J. Hefele's Der Cardinal Ximenes, etc. (Tubingen, 1844). - An attempt to establish the Spanish inquisition in Naples was made by the Spanish viceroy in 1546; but the Neapolitans prevented it by energetic resistance. The towns of Lombardy successfully remonstrated against a similar attempt of Philip II., but it was introduced into Sicily and the Spanish colonies in America. In the latter the tribunals of Mexico, Cartagena, and Lima rivalled in severity those of Spain. Charles V. sent it to the Netherlands, where it greatly increased the discontent of the people with the Spanish dominion; and the attempt of Philip II. to reestablish it was among the principal causes which led to the revolt of the seven northern provinces and the rise of the Dutch republic. The inquisition was not introduced into Portugal till 1557. Its organization was nearly the same as in Spain. The supreme court of inquisition, to which all other courts of the kingdom were subordinate, had its seat at Lisbon; the grand inquisitor was appointed by the king and confirmed by the pope.
John IV., after delivering Portugal from the Spanish rule (1640), intended to suppress the inquisition, but succeeded only in mitigating it. Its power was broken by King Joseph (died 1777) and his minister Pombal. John VI. (died 1826) abolished it both in Portugal and in its dependencies, Brazil and Goa. - In Italy the inquisition never became as powerful as in France and Spain. It was introduced in 1233 against the Waldenses, and the chronicles of many Lombard towns mention the burning of heretics; but their number seems to have been less considerable than in France and Spain. A celebrated inquisitor, Pietro di Verona, who exercised his office with great severity during 19 years, was slain in 1252. In the 16th century courts for the suppression of Protestant doctrines were established in Tuscany, Venice, Milan, Parma, and other states; but their sentences remained subject to the sanction of the temporal sovereign. A supreme tribunal of the inquisition for the whole church, called the "Congregation of the Holy Office," and consisting of six cardinals, was established by Paul III. at Rome in 1543; but beyond the limits of 'the Papal States the authority with which the pope invested it was never conceded to it by the temporal sovereigns.
Sixtus V. in 1588 changed the name of the congregation to that of the " Holy Roman and universal Inquisition," and made it to consist of 12 cardinals, with several assessors, consultors, and qualifiers (who had to prepare the cases). The Roman inquisition was the mildest of all tribunals of this nature, no instance having occurred of the punishment of death being inflicted through its agency. Napoleon abolished the inquisition in all Italy in 1808. It was restored in the Papal States by Pius VII. in 1814, and in Tuscany and Sardinia in 1833. Since the occupation of Rome by the Italian government in 1870 the inquisition has been abolished in the kingdom of Italy. The body bearing the name of "Congregation of the Holy Office " is composed of 12 cardinals, presided over by the pope. They pronounce on all questions relating to faith and moral's, but have at present none but spiritual jurisdiction. - Outside of the territory of the Romanic nations the inquisition never gained a firm footing. In Germany it was established as early as 1231; but the severity of the first inquisitor, Conrad of Marburg, aroused so general and violent an indignation, that he himself was slain in 1233, and Germany remained for a long time without inquisitorial courts.
An attempt to revive it was made in the 14th century in consequence of the appearance of the Beghards. Charles IV. in 1369 supported the inquisitors by three edicts. Pope Gregory XI. in 1372 appointed for Germany five inquisitors, and Boniface IX. in 1399 increased their number for northern Germany alone to six. In 1484 it was greatly extended for the purpose of ridding Germany of sorcerers and witches, but the reformation destroyed its power even in those portions of Germany which remained Catholic. Though attempts were made to restore it in Austria and Bavaria (1599), it never regained any considerable power, and since its abolition by Maria Theresa no trace of it has existed in Germany. In England, Hungary, Sweden, Norway, and Denmark it was never permanently established; and in Poland, where Pope John XXII. introduced it in 1327, it was of but short duration. - A general history of the inquisition, critical and impartial, is still wanting. A critical survey of a number of works treating on the subject appeared in the "British Critic" in 1827, and was reprinted in the Philadelphia "Museum of Foreign Literature and Science" in the same year.
See Limborch's " History of the Inquisition," translated by Chandler (London, 1731); Joseph de Maistre, Lettres sur l'inquisition espagnole (Paris, 1822); and W. H. Rule, "History of the Inquisition" (2 vols., London, 1874).