Interestingly the office of the Inquisition still exists today under the name “Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith”.

M004 Spanishinquisition

Because they spanned the entire latter half of the Middle Ages, lasting into the 1800s, the Inquisitions themselves deserve their own entry. Their typically accepted dates are from the 1100s to 1808. The Inquisition still exists today, but torture and execution are no longer allowed. The word itself simply denotes an investigation into possible heresy.

For those seven centuries or so, anyone who roused the anger or suspicion of the Roman Catholic Church was in very real danger of the arrival of Inquisitors, whose job was “to root out and purge the Christian civilized world of heresy and crimes against God.” Torture was not only defended as a means to gain a confession; the Church encouraged it.

Aside from the specific cases mentioned in other entries, it must not be forgotten that the Catholic Church routinely arrested and tortured Jews, Muslims, Waldensianism (Christian), Hussitism (Christian) and numerous other religions and religious sects. These people were given prior warning to vacate the given area (a pogrom), after which anyone found in the area was arrested and given an ultimatum: convert to Christianity or be executed. Anyone who foolishly refused was tortured until he or she did convert, and the Inquisition allowed no exemptions for anyone, men, women, children, the elderly or the disabled.

These tortures were lurid beyond belief, including branding, the rack, hanging by the toes or thumbs, toe crushing, bone breaking, simple beatings, foot roasting, and blinding by red-hot pokers. After such tortures, the condemned was almost always strangled, then burned at the stake. For seven centuries, the Catholic Church was all powerful, even terrifying monarchs, and the Inquisition held absolute sway by the most brutal methods imaginable.

Interestingly the office of the Inquisition still exists today under the name “Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith”.

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