INQUISITION, THE, called also the HOLY OFFICE, a tribunal in the Roman Catholic church for the discovery, repression, and punishment of heresy, unbelief, and other offenses against religion. From the very first establishment of Christianity as the religion of the Roman empire, laws, more or less severe, existed as in most of the ancient religions, for the repression and punishment of dissent from the national creed; and the emperors Theodosius and Justinian appointed officials called " inquisitors," whose special duty it was to discover and to prosecute before the civil tribunals offenses of this class. The ecclesiastical cognizance of heresy, and its punishment by spiritual cen sures, belonged to the bishop or the episcopal synod; but no special for the purpose was devised until the spread, in the 11th and 12th centuries, of certain sects reputed dangerous alike to the state and to the church—the Cathari, Waldenses, and Albigenses—excited the alarm of the civil as well as of the ecclesiastical authorities. In the then condition of the public mind, however differently it is now constituted, heresy 'was regarded as a crime against the state, no less than against the church. An extra ordinary commission was sent by pope Innocent III. into the s. of France to aid the local authorities in checking the spread of the Albigensian heresy. The fourth Lateran council (1215) earnestly impressed, both on bishops and magistrates, the necessity of increased vigilance against heresy; and a council held at Toulouse directed that in each parish the priest. and two or three laymen of good repute, should be appointed to examine and report to the bishop all such offenses discovered within the district.
So far, however, there was no permanent court distinct from those of the bishops; but under Innocent IV., in 1248, a special tribunal for the purpose was instituted, the chief direction of which was vested in the then recently established Dominican order. The inquisition thus constituted became a general, instead of, as previously, a local tribunal; and it was introduced in succession into Italy, Spain, Germany, and the southern prov inces of France. So long, moreover, as this constitution remained, it must be regarded as a strictly papal tribunal. Accordingly, over the French and German inquisition of the following century the popes exercised full authority, receiving appeals against the rigor of local tribunals (Fleury. v. 260), and censuring, "or even depriving." the inquisitor for undue severity 803). In France, the inquisition was discontinued under Philip the handsome: and though an attempt was made under Henry IL to revive it against the Ilimmenots, the effort was unsuccessful. In Germany, on the appearance of the Beghards ‘('see BEGUINES). ill the beginning of the 14th c., the inquisition came into active operation. and inquisitors for Germany were named at intervals by various popes, as Urban V., Gregory XI., Boniface IX., Innocent VIII., down to the reforma tion, when it fell into disuse. Lr England, it was never received, all the proceedings against heresy being reserved to the ordinary tribunals. In Poland, though established in 1327, it had but a brief existence. The history of the times of its introduction and of its discontinuance in the various states of Italy, would carry us beyond the limits at our command, It is the history of the inquisition as it existed in Spain, Portugal, and their depend encies, that has absorbed almost entirely the real interest of this painful subject. As an ordinary tribunal similar to those of other countries, it had existed in Spain from an early period. Its functions, however, in these times were little more than nominal; but
early in the reign of Ferdinand and Isabella, in consequence of the alarms created by the alleged discovery of a plot among the Jews and the Jewish converts—who had been required eilhrr to emigrate or to conform to Christianity—to overthrow the government, an application was made to the pope, Sixtus 1V., to permit its reorganization (1478); but in reviving the tribunal, the crown assumed to itself the right of appointing the inquisitors, and, iu truth, of controlling the entire action of the tribunal. From this date forwards, Catholic Writers regard the Spanish inquisition as a state tribunal, a character which is recognized by Ranke, Guizot, Leo, and even the great anti-papal authority, Llorente; and in dissociating the church generally, and the Roman see itself, from that state tribunal, Catholics refer to the bulls of the pope, Sixtus IV., protesting against it. Notwithstanding this protest, however, the Spanish crown maintained its assumption. Inquisitors were appointed, and in 148t1 the tribunal commenced its ter rible $areer, under Thomas de Torquemada. The popes, feeling their protest unsuccess ful, were compelled, from considerations of prudence, to tolerate what they were pow erless to suppress; but several papal enactments are enumerated by Catholics, the object of which was to control the arbitrary action of the tribunal, and to mitigate the rigor and injustice of its proceedings. Unhappily, these measures were ineffective to control the fanatical activity of the local judges. The number of victims, as stated by Llorente, the popular historian of the inquisition, is positively appalling. He affirms that during the 16 years of Torqnemada's tenure of office, nearly 9,000 were condemned to the flames. The second head of the inquisition, Diego Deza, ia eight years, according to the same writer, put above 1600 to a similar death; and so for the other successive inquisitors-general. But Catholics loudly protest against the credibility of these fearful allegations. It is impossible not to see that Llorente was a violent partisan; and it is alleged that in his work on time Basque Provinces, he had already proved himself a venal and unscrupulous fabricator. Although, therefore, he has made it impossible to dis prove his accuracy by appealing to the original papers, which he himself destroyed, yet his Catholic critics—as Hefele in his Life of Cardinal Ximenes—have produced from his own work many examples of contradictory and exaggerated statements; Prescott, in his Ferdinand and Isabella (iii. 467-470), has pointed out many similar instances; Ranke does not hesitate (Fiinten and Volker der Slid. Europas, i. 249) to impeach his honesty; and Prescott pronounces his "computations greatly exaggerated," and his " estimates most improbable" (W. 468). Still, with all the deductions which it is possible to make, the working of the inquisition in Spain and in its dependencies even in the new world, involves an amount of cruelty which it is impossible to contemplate without horror. When it was attempted to introduce it into Naples, pope Paul III., in 1546, exhorted the Neapolitans to resist its introduction, "because it was excessively severe, and refused to moderate its rigor by the example of the Roman tribunal" (Llorente, ii. 147). Pius IV., in 1563, addressed a similar exhortation on the same ground to the Milanese (ibid. ii. 237); and even the most bigoted Catholics unanimously confess and repudiate the barbarities which dishonored religion by assuming its semblance and its name.