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appeal of martyrs is grounded in their willingness to violate socio-cultural norms and, as a consequence, become extra- ordinary individuals.1 Some early Christian theologians, such as Clement of Alexandria (d. c.215), believed that all faithful Christians would necessarily break free of the regulations and codes of society and achieve moral perfection through an ascetic lifestyle.2 Not all Christians, however, shared Clement’s opti- mism or penchant for self-denial. Martyrs therefore were, and are, considered exceptional individuals and models of comport- ment for lesser mortals. They remained popular subjects of ven- eration even after the spread of Christianity rendered martyrdom all but obsolete within western Europe. The Middle Ages did produce some new Christian martyrs there: for example, the ninth-century martyrs of Muslim-ruled Co ́rdoba; various Viking victims, such as St Edmund; the ‘holy innocents’, or chil- dren purportedly killed by Jews; and individuals like the mur- dered archbishop Thomas Becket.3 Yet by and large it was not 

*Ideas presented in this article were first given as papers at the Patristic, Medieval, and Renaissance/Reformation Conference at Villanova University in October 2005; at the October 2006 meeting of the Friends of the Saints in New York City; and at the 43rd International Congress on Medieval Studies at Western Michigan University in May 2008. I appreciate the help of colleagues who read earlier versions of this article or commented on the aforementioned presentations, including David Brakke, Louisa A. Burnham, Jacqueline de Weever, Dyan Elliott, Andrew Larsen, Renate Blumenfeld- Kosinski, Jo Ann McNamara, Christopher Pettite, Phyllis E. Pobst, Leah Shopkow, Susan Taylor Snyder, Dror Wahrman and E. Gordon Whatley. 1Lacey Baldwin Smith,Fools, Martyrs, Traitors: The Story of Martyrdom in the Western World (New York, 1997), 362. 2Clement of Alexandria,Miscellanies, Book VII, ed. Fenton John Anthony Hort and Joseph B. Mayor (1902; New York, 1987), 87. 3On the martyrs of Co ́rdoba, see Jessica A. Coope, The Martyrs of Co ́rdoba: Community and Family Conflict in an Age of Mass Conversion (Lincoln, Nebr., 1995); Kenneth Baxter Wolf, Christian Martyrs in Muslim Spain (New York, 1988). On the later medieval veneration of murdered children, popular in England and the Germanic lands, see Andre ́ Vauchez, Sainthood in the Later Middle Ages, trans. Jean Birrell (Cambridge, 1997), 147–56; for a description of one particularly tenacious cult, that of St Werner of Bachrach, see Andre ́ Vauchez, The Laity in the Middle Ages: Religious Beliefs and Devotional Practices, ed. Daniel E. Bornstein, trans. Margery J. Schneider (Notre Dame, 1993), 141–52; on the significance of the theme of 

Past and Present, no. 204 (August 2009) ß The Past and Present Society, Oxford, 2009 


(cont. on p. 4) 


until after the eleventh-century emergence of heresy in western Europe that the ranks of martyrs had the potential to swell once again in any numerical significance.4In the growing battle against heresy both the orthodox and the heterodox, namely inquisitors and those they prosecuted, became casualties of religious belief. In contrast to Rome’s wishes — and expectations — some com- munities, particularly in north-central Italy, chose sentenced heretics as the subjects of their veneration, rather than murdered inquisitors. Heterodox veneration of condemned heretics has been the subject of recent study.5 Less attention has been paid to situations in which the orthodox segment of the popula- tion, often including members of the clergy, deemed sentenced heretics worthy of veneration. In these cases the heretics dem- onstrated the traditional elements of martyrdom: physical fortitude, steadfastness of belief, moral virtues and unjust perse- cution. Yet there is a significant divergence between these later medieval examples and the early Christian martyrs. While all the later medieval heretics to be discussed were condemned, not all died by the hands of their persecutors, which had been the case in late antiquity. The different historical context produced an altered definition of what constituted martyrdom, and thus who could be considered a martyr. The holy heretics of the later Middle Ages were products of perceived inquisitorial error and misjudgement, rather than willing sacrifices for religious convic- tion. As a consequence, orthodox Christian support functioned as a vehicle for communities to express a rejection of inquisitorial authority and to contest the seeming misuse of that authority. It is 

(n. 3 cont.) innocence, see Donald Weinstein and Rudolph M. Bell, Saints and Society: The Two Worlds of Western Christianity, 1000–1700 (Chicago, 1982), 28–31. For the story of St Edmund, see Dorothy Whitelock, ‘Fact and Fiction in the Legend of St Edmund’, Proc. Suffolk Inst. Archaeol., xxxi (1969); on the cult of Thomas Becket, see, for example, Smith, Fools, Martyrs, Traitors, 117–48; Vauchez, Sainthood, 147–8. 4On the rise of heresy, see Malcolm Lambert, Medieval Heresy: Popular Movements from the Gregorian Reform to the Reformation, 3rd edn (Malden, Mass., 1992); R. I. Moore, The Origins of European Dissent (New York, 1985). In this article I am exclud- ing examples of martyrdom that occurred outside the bounds of western Europe during and after the twelfth century, such as those of missionaries to the Middle and Far East, or victims of Mongol campaigns in Kievan Russia and the eastern European kingdoms. 5The latest being Louisa A. Burnham, So Great a Light, So Great a Smoke: The Beguin Heretics of Languedoc (Ithaca, 2008). 


not surprising, therefore, that such cults developed primarily in north-central Italy in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, where both heretics and inquisitors were plentiful. 

FROM CHRISTIAN MILITANT TO SENTENCED HERETIC While the application of the term ‘martyr’ to condemned heretics in the later Middle Ages may seem highly controversial, it is merely one more instance of how the meaning of the word was altered to fit specific social conditions. During the Roman Empire the word ‘martyr’, derived from Greek, was utilized to mean ‘wit- ness’ in the sense of being a witness to something and/or for someone. Initially all Christians were martyrs, or witnesses, to and for God.6 After the onset of Christian persecutions the church fathers reinvented its meaning. As G. W. Bowersock and Patricia Ranft have demonstrated, in the third century Christian writers such as Cyprian, Origen, and Clement of Alexandria attempted to restrict the use of the term specifically to individuals who were persecuted, and consequently died, because of their faith.7 For many of these early theologians persecution was cru- cial for an authentic martyr: he or she could not be someone who simply had a desire to die (the suicidal), or someone who actively sought out situations in which they could die for their faith (the voluntary martyr).8 Christians believed the martyr received such 

6Cynthia Hahn, ‘Speaking without Tongues: The Martyr Romanus and Augustine’s Theory of Language in Illustrations of Bern Burgerbibliothek Codex 264’, in Renate Blumenfeld-Kosinski and Timea Szell (eds.), Images of Sainthood in Medieval Europe(Ithaca, 1991), 162; W. H. C. Frend, Martyrdom and Persecution in the Early Church: A Study of a Conflict from the Maccabees to Donatus (Oxford, 1965), 87–9. 7G. W. Bowersock, Martyrdom and Rome (New York, 1995), 5, 17–19; Patricia Ranft, ‘The Concept of Witness in the Christian Tradition: From its Origin to its Institutionalization’, Revue bénédictine, cii (1992), 12. See also the editor’s discussion in The Letters of St Cyprian of Carthage, ed. and trans. G. W. Clarke, 4 vols. (New York, 1984–9), i, 303–4. 8See Bowersock, Martyrdom and Rome, 59–74 for a discussion of the suicidal; and ibid., 2–4 for voluntary martyrdom. Cyprian, bishop of Carthage, expressed this view when he purportedly informed the Roman proconsul, ‘our discipline forbids any one to offer himself [for a martyr’s death] unsought’: Some Authentic Acts of the Early Martyrs, ed. and trans. E. C. E. Owen (Oxford, 1927), 95. Church fathers were par- ticularly concerned to differentiate ‘orthodox’ Christians from the heretical Montanists, who advocated martyrdom for the faithful: Joyce E. Salisbury, The Blood of Martyrs: Unintended Consequences of Ancient Violence (New York, 2004), 195; Frend, Martyrdom and Persecution in the Early Church, 291–4. Pagan officials (cont. on p. 6) 


eternal rewards as forgiveness of sin, an assured place in Heaven and public renown. The attraction of these gifts generated volun- teers, making it necessary to distinguish between the ‘true’ and the ‘false’ martyr.

Persecution was easy to recognize during the Decian and Diocletianic persecutions of the third century, when Christians who refused to make sacrifices to Roman gods were executed in public spectacles.10 This situation had changed by the later Middle Ages. The homogenizing process of Christian missionary work had been largely successful; by the eleventh century the majority of Europe was Christian — the major exceptions being a Jewish minority and a Muslim-ruled Iberian peninsula.11 The threat to Christianity was no longer its subjugation by a pagan ruling class, but its infiltration by heretics who did not stand out from the crowd. From the pope’s perspective any heresy had to be destroyed lest it ‘infect’ the orthodox population and place the ‘empire’ of western Christendom in peril.12 The papacy took the offensive in the thirteenth century, creating the inquisitorial office as the ultimate weapon in the war against heterodoxy.13 

(n. 8 cont.) recognized voluntary martyrdom as well; as early as 195 CE the proconsul of Asia supposedly told a group of Christians asking for execution that if they wanted to kill themselves they should jump off a cliff instead: ibid., 293. 9Bowersock, Martyrdom and Rome, 4. 10On the nature of Christian executions as public spectacles: ibid., 48–52. For the persecutions of Decius and Diocletian, see Frend, Martyrdom and Persecution in the Early Church, chs. 13 and 15. 11For discussion of the process of conversion, see Vauchez, Sainthood, 415 ff. 12Heresy as an infectious disease was a common topos of medieval theologians; Bernard of Luxembourg vividly equated heresy with the allegedly extremely conta- gious and widely feared illness leprosy: Bernard of Luxembourg, Catalogus haereti- corum (Cologne, 1522), fo. 4v; see also R. I. Moore, The Formation of a Persecuting Society: Power and Deviance in Western Europe, 950–1250, revised edn (Malden, Mass., 1990), 113–15. Some recent studies of the Middle Ages have identified the medieval Church as a ‘colonial’ Church, composed of Christian missionary/conquerors expanding the borders of its cultural empire, Latin Christendom: Robert Bartlett, The Making of Europe: Conquest, Colonizaton, and Cultural Change, 950–1350 (Princeton, 1993), 15; cf. Catherine Brown, ‘In the Middle’, and John Dagenais and Margaret R. Greer, ‘Decolonizing the Middle Ages: Introduction’, both in Jl Medieval and Early Modern Studies, xxx (2000), who critique using post-colonial theory for medieval studies. 13Bernard Hamilton, The Medieval Inquisition (New York, 1981), esp. ch. 3; Albert Clement Shannon, The Popes and Heresy in the Thirteenth Century (Villanova, 1949), esp. 51–9; Mgr [Ce ́lestin] Douais, L’Inquisition, ses origines, sa procédure (Paris, 1906); Henry Charles Lea, A History of the Inquisition of the Middle Ages, 3 vols. (1888; New York, 2005), i. 


Paradoxically, however, it was this very attempt to eradicate heresy that resulted in contested definitions of who were the per- secuted and who the persecutors. The later medieval populace witnessed the orthodox Christian tribunal, in the form of inqui- sitors, stepping into the role once performed by pagan Roman officials. Yet the subjects of inquisitorial scrutiny often were not clearly identifiable as heretics in the view of many in their com- munities, much less as dangerous threats to Christianity or the social order. 

A central issue for many medieval observers and modern scholars is whether inquisitorial prosecution can be differenti- ated from inquisitorial persecution. We do not have to be advo- cates of inquisitors or their methods to argue that this distinction should be made on a procedural level. Inquisitors had a number of tools at their disposal, comprising a ‘technology of power’ as James Given described them, that had the ability to place others at their mercy.14 The use of torture, for instance, was sanctioned less than forty years after the establishment of the inquisitorial office.15 A confession extracted by torture could be the sole grounds for conviction without further substantiation, even if the person later recanted his or her confession.16 In addition, even though the inquisition did not exist as a formal institution before the early modern era, medieval inquisitors had wide- reaching prosecutorial powers and were answerable only to the pope.17 The inquisitorial procedure (or inquisitio) established that inquisitors were to judge the truth or falsity of deponent tes- timony from their own personal experience with heretics or from knowledge they obtained through inquisitorial manuals.18Skilled 

14James Given, ‘The Inquisitors of Languedoc and the Medieval Technology of Power’, Amer. Hist. Rev., xciv (1989); James B. Given,Inquisition and Medieval Society: Power, Discipline, and Resistance in Languedoc (Ithaca, 1997), 23–90. 15The inquisitorial procedure was firmly established in 1215 at the Fourth Lateran Council during the pontificate of Pope Innocent III: see Disciplinary Decrees of the General Councils, ed. H. J. Schroeder (St Louis, 1937), 562–3 (canon 3). In 1254 Pope Clement IV sanctioned the use of torture in his bull Ad extirpanda: see Lorenzo Paolini, Il ‘De officio inquisitionis’: la procedura inquisitoriale a Bologna e a Ferrara nel Trecento, 2 vols. (Bologna, 1976), i, 23; ii, 66. 16Shannon, Popes and Heresy, 70. 17Richard Kieckhefer, ‘The Office of Inquisition and Medieval Heresy: The Transition from Personal to Institutional Jurisdiction’, Jl Eccles. Hist., xlvi (1995). 18John H. Arnold, Inquisition and Power: Catharism and the Confessing Subject in Medieval Languedoc (Philadelphia, 2001), 11; Dyan Elliott, Proving Woman: Female Spirituality and Inquisitional Culture in the Later Middle Ages (Princeton, 2004), 252–4. (cont. on p. 8) 


questioning by an experienced inquisitor was deemed sufficient to discover the truth, at least to the best of human ability, since mortals lacked God’s omniscience.19 This process negated the need for subjects of an inquiry to mount a defence. For the first seventy-five years of inquisitorial investigations, suspected her- etics did not have recourse to lawyers to protect them, nor did they have the right to know who had accused them of holding heterodox beliefs.20 It was not until the very end of the thirteenth century that suspected heretics were granted some recourse to counteract any possible abuse of the inquisitorial office or error in the juridical procedure.21 

While inquisitors undoubtedly were in a position to manipulate testimony and could easily abuse their authority, modern schol- arship perhaps at times too hastily demonizes inquisitors and views all their actions as persecutory ones.22 Whatever we may think of inquisitors, their role and the methods they used to root out heresy, the fact remains that they were bound by papal decree to accomplish their mission. It was incumbent upon them by virtue of their office that, if someone’s behaviour was brought to their attention, they had to investigate it. In their general ser- mons they asked the heterodox to come willingly and confess in order to be reconciled to the Church, with no fear of reprisal beyond the required, and presumably desired, imposition of pen- ance.23 Heretics were handed over to the secular justice to be burned only if they were contumacious. The obstinate were usu- ally identified as relapsed heretics, or persons who returned to heterodox behaviour and/or belief after having abjured and received the cleansing gift of absolution.24 This chain of events 

(n. 18 cont.) On inquisitorial manuals, see Antoine Dondaine, ‘Le Manuel de l’inquisiteur (1230– 1330)’, Archivum fratrum praedicatorum, xvii (1947). 19Gratian, Decretum, XXIV. 3. 29, ed. A. Friedberg, in Corpus iuris canonici, 2 vols. (1879–81; Graz, 1959), i. Pope Lucius III introduced the inquisitioin his 1184 bull Ad abolendam, which mandated that bishops could use the procedure to investigate heresy and which was later incorporated into canon law: Gregory IX, Decretales, V. 7. 9, ibid., ii. 20Given, ‘Inquisitors of Languedoc and the Medieval Technology of Power’, 339. 21Shannon, Popes and Heresy, 88. 22For a moderating view, see Christine Caldwell Ames, ‘Does Inquisition Belong to Religious History?’, Amer. Hist. Rev., cx (2005); and her Righteous Persecution: Inquisition, Dominicans, and Christianity in the Middle Ages (Philadelphia, 2008). 23Lea, History of the Inquisition, i, 371–3, 534–50. 24Ibid., 541–8. 


was inquisitorial prosecution. Later medieval communities dif- ferentiated this standard process from cases which appeared overtly persecutory. The fact that not all individuals convicted as heretics were considered worthy of veneration is strong evidence for this point. Only those whose treatment seemed particularly unjust, because of either perceived inquisitorial over-zealousness or suspected inquisitorial corruption, were viewed as potential martyrs. 


CONSTRUCTING THE HETERODOX MARTYR Meco del Sacco and Michele Berti of Calci are two heretics con- demned in the fourteenth century who were venerated by ortho- dox members of their respective communities. Their histories demonstrate different processes through which observers could identify the heretic as holy. The sources regarding both of them are fiercely propagandistic and so must be considered with cau- tion. The majority of information regarding later medieval her- etics is from the perspective of their detractors, often in the form of inquisitorial sentences or deponent testimony against the sus- pected individual. In contrast, the extant documents regarding Meco del Sacco are complaints lodged on his behalf by supportive parties and papal decrees in his favour.25 For Michele Berti, in turn, we have an anonymous account of the friar’s incarceration and ultimate death.26 The chronicler, clearly sympathetic, was presumably a close companion of the friar and personally viewed his execution.27 Notwithstanding the one-sided view these accounts provide, they are useful for demonstrating the process by which a heretical martyr could be recognized and constructed. Meco del Sacco of Ascoli (d. c.1344–6) was investigated by inquisitors three times. In 1334 it was determined that he held heterodox tenets and had disseminated them in written form. Meco abjured his beliefs and was reconciled with the Church. 

25These are published as appendices in Antonio De Santis, Meco del Sacco: inqui- sizione e processi per eresia (Ascoli-Avignone, 1320–1346), 2nd edn (Ascoli Piceno, 1982). 26The most recent edition is ‘La passione di frate Michele: un testo in volgare di fine Trecento’, ed. Andrea Piazza, Revue Mabillon, new ser., lxxi (1999). 27The account mentions two fellow friars who had apparently abjured; one of these was perhaps the writer: ibid., 255. 


His treatises were burned and he was forbidden to write more. Meco retreated to an oratory on a nearby mountain, Monte Polesio, to live the life of a lay penitent, or converso.28 In this endeavour he was supported by the bishop of Ascoli, Rainaldo IV, who had granted Meco permission to build his sanctuary.29 Over the next three years the oratory grew into a community, populated by individuals who likewise endeavoured to live a pen- itential lifestyle. Meco also built a hospital for pilgrims in the city, and his reputation as a holy man grew.30 It was this increasing renown that apparently prompted inquisitors in 1337 to question Meco for a second time. He was condemned as a relapsed heretic and imprisoned. Meco appealed to the pope, arguing that the Franciscan inquisitors had falsely accused him on account of ‘hatred and jealousy of him, and because his said hospital and church were more frequented by the faithful of Christ and His Mother than their [own] place’.31 Meco’s efforts were successful and his condemnation was overturned by Pope Benedict XII, but in 1344 he was condemned for a third time and sentenced to a fine of 60 gold florins and two years in exile.32He appealed against this sentence on the same grounds as before, and in 1346 he was absolved once again by a commission specially convened by Pope Clement VI.33 He died before he was reinstated into the Church, although how and exactly when he met his death is unclear. 

The Ascolani, including the bishop and the local Augustinian convent, took Meco’s side throughout this debate. They sup- ported his claim that he was persecuted because of the avarice of the Franciscan inquisitors, who in fact had confiscated his property a bit too precipitately while he was away contesting his 

28In Italy conversi were popularly known by the terms pinzocheri or bizochi: Francesco Savini, ‘Sui flagellanti, sui fraticelli e sui bizochi nel teramano durante i secoli XIII e XIV e una bolla di Bonifacio VIII del 1297 contro bizochi ivi rifugiati’, Archivio storico italiano, 5th ser., xxxv (1905). 29De Santis, Meco del Sacco, 162. The bishop also gave him licence to rebuild his establishments in 1339: ibid., 287–9 (appendix 5). 30Sebastiano Andreantonelli, Historiae asculanae (1673; Bologna, 1968), 289. 31‘Guardianus et Fratri loci Ordin. Minorum Esculanensium odio et invidia moti pro e quod dictum hospitale e Ecclesia erat magis quam ipsorum locus per fideles Christi et Matris ejus frequentata’: De Santis, Meco del Sacco, 285 (appendix 4). All translations are my own unless otherwise noted. 32Ibid., 294–6 (appendix 10). 33Ibid., 296–306 (appendices 11–13). 


second condemnation.34 Meco’s supporters were vindicated in 1347, when the very same inquisitor who had sentenced Meco for the final time, Pietro da Penna San Giovanni, was himself con- demned for using his office to extort money from the populace.35 Pietro’s successor tried to eradicate Meco’s cult in 1348 by inves- tigating the community on Monte Polesio for sexual irregular- ities, forcing the penitents to flee.36 Meco’s holy reputation nonetheless remained in the collective memory of Ascoli; over the years the community constructed his legacy as ‘a writer and reformer of the fourteenth century’. A special commission of the municipal government of Ascoli Piceno maintained this when in 1889 it renamed a street after him.37 

The Ascolani by and large interpreted the repeated interroga- tion of Meco as an abuse of power and unjust persecution, but persecution alone was not enough to justify a local cult. There had to be further evidence that the sentenced heretic was unworthy of the treatment he or she received. A person could be investigated for heresy not just for being a believer but also for being a receiver, defender or supporter of heretics.38If members of the community were to expose themselves to such charges there had to be ample justification that the subject of their devotion was worthy of such attention. In Meco’s case, his charitable activities and penitential 

34The Augustinians acted on Meco’s behalf in 1338, initiating a lawsuit against the inquisitor and his colleagues who had raided Meco’s establishments: ibid., 290–3 (appendix 6). 35He was sentenced to a fine of 500 florins, but fled soon after his condemnation: Archivio Segreto Vaticano (ASV), Collectoriae, Coll. 284, fos. 1r–12r, published in Mariano D’Alatri, ‘Un processo dell’inverno 1346–1347 contro gli inquisitori delle Marche’, in Mariano D’Alatri (ed.),Eretici e inquisitori in Italia: studi e documenti, 2 vols. (Rome, 1987), ii; see also De Santis, Meco del Sacco, 138. 36Although no documentation survives, the eighteenth-century historian F. A. Marcucci claimed Meco’s group was suspected of limiting the ‘conjugal debt’ to once a year; believing physical contact up to the point of orgasm was not a sin (thereby justifying contact for sexual pleasure, rather than only for procreation); and maintain- ing that women could be publicly naked if flagellating themselves: Francesco Antonio Marcucci, Saggio delle cose ascolane e de’ vescovi di Ascoli nel Piceno (1766; Bologna, 1984), 271–2; discussion in De Santis, Meco del Sacco, 79–97. The town of Furore in Campania today proudly proclaims on its website that the region served as the refuge for Meco’s followers, the ‘Sacconi’, who supposedly fled there: ‘I Borghi piu` belli d’Italia’, <http://www.borghitalia.it/html/borgo_it.php?codice_borgo1⁄4889&codice 1⁄4elenco&page1⁄41>(accessed 7 July 2008). 37The name change was done under the direction of the ‘commission in charge of the affairs of the syndic of Ascoli Piceno’: De Santis, Meco del Sacco, 29. 38‘Credentes vero, praeterea receptores, defensores, et fautores haereticorum, excommunicationi decernimus subjacere’: Disciplinary Decrees of the General Councils, ed. Schroeder, 563 (canon 3). 


lifestyle served such a purpose. The support of the bishop and Augustinians undoubtedly validated communal devotion, al- though ultimately it was not enough to prevent the inquisitorial eye from examining his cult. 

For Fra Michele Berti of Calci (d. 1389) unjust persecution was not so clear-cut. He therefore had to earn the community’s good- will, a feat he accomplished through his steadfast conviction and his comportment during the execution of his sentence. Michele Berti was a member of the Spiritual Franciscans, or fraticelli as they were called in Italy. This group had been declared heretical by Pope John XXII in 1317 for maintaining that the Franciscans should possess nothing, either individually or in common, and could only have de facto use of property.39 The bishop of Florence, Antonio Bindi, imprisoned Michele Berti for purport- edly preaching that people should read the Gospels themselves to discover the truth, rather than listen to clerics. He was ultimately condemned to death as an unrepentant heretic.40 

The anonymous account of these events describes the friar’s walk through the streets of Florence to the site of his immolation and in so doing presents the process through which the commu- nity became convinced that Michele Berti was a saint. The chron- icler, anticipating this conclusion, tells the reader that when Michele Berti ‘was striding along with his head bowed, saying the office, he truly seemed like one of the martyrs’.41 If the author was convinced of Michele’s holiness, the populace was not — at least not yet. As he was led to the place of execution the Florentines gathered in the streets and hung out of their win- dows, calling out to the condemned man. They shouted out to him that he did not want to die, trying to persuade him to tell the authorities whatever they wanted to hear in order to spare his life. 

39See David Burr, Olivi and Franciscan Poverty: The Origins of the Usus Pauper Controversy (Philadelphia, 1989); David Burr, The Spiritual Franciscans: From Protest to Persecution in the Century after Saint Francis (University Park, 2001). For Pope John XXII’s condemnation: ibid., 196–9; for the persecution of Spirituals on charges of heresy, see Lambert, Medieval Heresy, ch. 11. 40Part of the civil process against him can be found in Archivio di Stato di Firenze, no. 1775, fos. 118r–122r. A copy of his final sentence is in the ASF, Capitano del popolo, no. 1782, fos. 25r–29r, transcribed in Alessandro D’Ancona, Varieta` storiche e letterarie, 2 vols. (Milan, 1883–5), i, 345–55 (appendix 1). 41‘Andava col passo larghetto, (et) chol capo chinato, dicendo uficio, che veramente parea Io de’ martiri’: ‘La passione di frate Michele’, ed. Piazza, 253. 


He rebuffed them, claiming that he wanted to die for Christ, and for the truth. The community tested him, calling out that he did not believe in God, that he had a devil on his back ‘pulling’ him, and that he should repent for his error. The friar responded that he did believe in God and the Virgin Mary and the holy Church, that God protected him against demons, and that, ‘on the con- trary [what I believe] is the orthodox faith, in fact it is the truth to which every Christian is bound’.42 

Michele Berti’s demeanour and resoluteness impressed the observers. The spatial progression to the site of his execution corresponded with a shift in public opinion. By the time he reached one of the gates of the city, instead of the jeers and ques- tions he had received earlier, ‘one of the faithful began to call out to him, saying, ‘‘stand firm, martyr of Christ, for soon you will receive the crown [of martyrdom]’’’.43 When the officials asked him one last time, ‘What is this thing for which you want to die?’ the friar responded with the same sense of purpose he had shown throughout his incarceration: ‘This is a truth that resides in me, to which I cannot bear witness (non se ne puo` dare testimonio) if I do not die’.44 As his body was set ablaze Florence ignited into an uproar. Michele’s constancy in the face of certain death per- suaded a good portion of the populace that he must have been holy to remain so steadfast in his beliefs. Onlookers asked if they could bury his remains, and the hagiographer relates that ‘they could not get enough (non si poteano satiare) of speaking ill of the clerics’.45 The soldier in charge of Berti’s remains allegedly allowed the friar’s supporters to have his bones, which was against regulations. 

42‘(Et) in su la Piac ̧a de’ Priori, essendogli decto: ‘‘Pentiti di chotesto errore, non voler morire!’’, e de’ diceva: ‘‘Anc ̧i e` la fede catholica, anc ̧i e` la verita`, alla quale e` obligato ciaschuno cristiano’’’: ibid. 43‘Et quando giunse in su la Porta, Ia fedele comincio` a gridare dicendo: ‘‘State forte, martire di Cristo, che tosto riceverete la corona!’’’: ibid., 255. Tosto is related to the verb tostare, so perhaps here the author is making an oblique reference to Michele Berti’s imminent burning as a relapsed heretic. Modern English translations of the word include ‘tough’ or ‘hard-boiled’, which could be another implicit meaning, considering the audience member’s call for him to ‘stand firm’. However, I have not personally come across either of these translations in other examples of fourteenth- century Italian literature. 44‘Et secondo che disse uno di certec ̧a, che gli avea detto: ‘‘Che e` questo? Il perche ́ tu vuogli morire?’’, rispose: ‘‘Questa e` una verita` ch’io o` albergata in me, della quale non se ne puo` dare testimonio se non morte’’’: ibid. 45‘Et non si poteano satiare di dire male de’ cherici’: ibid., 256. 


This account intentionally imitates the early Christian Acts of the Martyrs, describing Michele Berti in similar terms as a ‘wit- ness’ to Christian truth, a willing and necessary human sacrifice to God.46 While the author is clearly partisan and the account perhaps apocryphal, the story is illustrative of how later medieval observers identified the behaviour of condemned heretics like Michele Berti as uncommon. The fortitude he exhibited was persuasive evidence that officials had made a mistake and the convicted heretic was actually holy. Saints, not heretics, were exceptional by nature.47 Thus both steadfast conviction when faced with imminent death, as well as courageous fortitude in bearing bodily torment, functioned as powerful arguments for inquisitorial misjudgement. The ability to withstand physical pain was a traditional quality of the martyr, as exemplified in the well-known story of St Lawrence. The emperor Decius had ordered that Lawrence be tied to a stick and suspended above a fire after a variety of tortures proved ineffective in persuading Lawrence to reject his Christian God and hand over the nascent Church’s treasure. As he hung there, the flames lapping at one side of his body, Lawrence purportedly made the ‘cheerful’ (and undoubtedly infuriating) comment to Decius, ‘Look, wretch, you have me well done on one side, turn me over and eat!’48 When Roman officials saw Christians like Lawrence fearlessly accept death it overturned their expectations of human behaviour, which dictated that Christians would ‘die badly’, cowering and begging.49 Those individuals who did not display predicted behaviour shook the perceptions of the officials as well as the public.50 

46A common theme in the early hagiographical literature is Christ being present and suffering with the martyr, strengthening the idea of martyrs sacrificing their bodies for Christian souls: Hippolyte Delehaye, Les Origines du culte des martyrs, 2nd edn (Subsidia hagiographica, xx, Brussels, 1933), 5–12. 47This is particularly true of fourteenth-century saints, when extreme behaviour identified the holy person; for general discussion, see Richard Kieckhefer, Unquiet Souls: Fourteenth-Century Saints and their Religious Milieu (Chicago, 1984). 48I have chosen to quote the version of Lawrence’s story that would have been most familiar to the people of the late Middle Ages: Jacobus de Voragine,The Golden Legend, trans. William Granger Ryan, 2 vols. (Princeton, 1993), ii, 67. 49Salisbury, Blood of Martyrs, 19. 50For the destabilizing effects of early Christian martyrdom, see Elizabeth A. Castelli, Martyrdom and Memory: Early Christian Culture Making (New York, 2004), esp. 45–55. 


Those sympathetic to the Christian cause explained such for- titude by claiming that the individual had received God’s aid in being released from physical suffering. The second-century chronicler of Polycarp’s martyrdom explained: ‘[the martyrs] reached so high a pitch of nobility that no sound or groan escaped them, making manifest to all that in the hour of their torture the martyrs of Christ were absent from the flesh, or rather that the Lord was present and of their company’.51 A person could only withstand extreme physical torment without acknowledging pain if he or she had been liberated from the constraints of the human body and spiritually united with Christ. A similar interpretation occurred in the later Middle Ages: if a condemned heretic could silently endure debilitating pain while refusing to acquiesce to authorities, the person must have received God’s grace and there- fore was wrongfully put to death. An inherent danger was that the public display of these qualities in the course of an execution could potentially win observers over to the heretic’s cause. The death of a later medieval heretic did not often lead to mass ‘con- versions’ to heterodoxy (regardless of whether the condemned individual had ever wilfully held doctrinally erroneous beliefs). Nonetheless executions could produce a decidedly sympathetic response from onlookers, as is suggested in the account of Michele Berti. 

In the late Middle Ages, therefore, a heretic could not be con- sidered holy by persecution alone. Martyrdom was only possible if there were contributing factors that made persecution seem particularly unjust: a long history of virtuous behaviour, as dis- played by Meco del Sacco, or extraordinary courage and stead- fastness in the face of physical torment, as demonstrated by Michele Berti. Public autos-da-fe ́ like the latter endured could also engender resentment towards inquisitors, especially when officials remained unmoved by last-minute demonstrations of piety. Some citizens of Bologna, for instance, rioted when in- quisitors refused to give a condemned heretic the communion for which he was asking before the execution of his sentence.52 

51Some Authentic Acts of the Early Martyrs, ed. and trans. Owen, 32–3. 52Acta S. Officii Bononie ab anno 1291 usque ad annum 1310, ed. Lorenzo Paolini and Raniero Orioli, 3 vols. (Fonti per la storia d’Italia, cvi, Rome, 1982–4), i, 167, no. 156, 18 May 1299. This was a common refrain: see also ibid., nos. 166, 167, 173, 174, 184, 208, 211, 218, 219, 226, 227, 233, 234, 239, 248, 249, 260, 261, 262, 263, 272, 275, (cont. on p. 16) 


The alleged comments of one Iohannes describe how the com- munity interpreted the situation: ‘How could this be? He seemed to be a good Christian. I saw heretics despise the body of Christ [i.e. the host] and this one seeks it, so how could he be a heretic, since he sought the body of Christ? It is not possible’.53 Pro- cedural transgressions like this engendered suspicion of more generalized inquisitorial misconduct. Moreover, they could promote the view that an erroneous judgement may have been made. The result was that some communities were open to interpreting the deaths of certain sentenced heretics as cases of unjust persecution, as long as some of the other signs of sanctity were present. 


CUI BONO? MIRACLES AND PROPHECIES Seemingly miraculous occurrences during or after the execution of a heretic were another means by which the heterodox could become holy. The miracles ‘proved’ that the condemned was in fact a saint and that the inquisitorial sentence was an error. The orthodox community’s high regard for miracles corresponded to the papacy’s own criteria for canonization determined in the course of the thirteenth century. One of the most important requirements for sainthood was the demonstration of posthu- mous miracles. These were the ultimate proof of sanctity, for only after death could it be assured that the person was a true intercessor.54 When a purported miracle occurred during or after the death of a condemned heretic, the belief that the person had been unjustly persecuted and hence martyred for the faith was a logical conclusion, based on prevailing models of holiness. A 

(n. 52 cont.) 277, 282, 283, 284, 285, 290, 293, 322, 334, 339, 346, 348, 366, 411, 414, 417, 419, 437, 456, 458, 463, 472, 477, 478, 479, 481, 490, 491, 492, 516, 518, 519, 520, 523, 526, 549, 550, 551, 553, 555. 53‘‘‘Quomodo potest hoc esse? Iste videtur bonus christianus. Ego vidi quod here- tici despiciunt corpus Christi et iste petit, unde quomodo posset esse hereticus, ex quo petit corpus Christi? Hoc non est possible’’’: ibid., i, 165, no. 152, 18 May 1299. 54Vauchez, Sainthood, 34–6, 47; Aviad M. Kleinberg, ‘Proving Sanctity: Selection and Authentication of Saints in the Later Middle Ages’, Viator, xx (1989), 189; Weinstein and Bell, Saints and Society, 142–3. 


person was believed to be a saint or, conversely, a heretic, because of differing interpretations of the same evidence, rather than because of divergent ideas regarding what constituted proper evidence.55 

Miracles could indicate sainthood and undermine inquisitorial judgements even for those who were posthumously condemned. Death did not preclude inquisitorial investigation, for the pun- ishment for heresy touched not only the living heretic but also his heirs. A person’s reputation or fama, therefore, was turned into a whole family’s public dishonour or infamia, as his or her kin were also punished by being denied civil protection and having their property confiscated.56 The posthumously condemned heretic had his or her remains exhumed and destroyed to prevent them from being venerated as relics (presumably by other heretics) and as an act of purification.57 Any difficulty that officials had in destroying the body could be interpreted as a sign from God that inquisitors were acting unjustly and that the convicted heretic was in fact holy. This situation occurred for Guido Lacha and Armanno Pungilupo, whose miracles after death justified their respective communities’ rejection of their sentences. The Dominican friar who described Guido Lacha’s miracle was unsympathetic, yet the account presents not only his explanation of the extraordinary event but also the contrasting interpretation of the non-clerical observers. Testimony by both Armanno Pungilupo’s supporters and detractors survives, again providing a comparison of how the same evidence could be read in different ways. 

In 1279 authorities in Brescia determined that the deceased 

55See examples in Richard Kieckhefer, ‘The Holy and the Unholy: Sainthood, Witchcraft, and Magic in Late Medieval Europe’, Jl Medieval and Renaissance Studies, xxiv (1994). 56On the repercussions of infamia, see Fourth Lateran Council, in Disciplinary Decrees of the General Councils, ed. Schroeder, 563 (canon 3); on infamia in medieval law, see Esther Cohen, The Crossroads of Justice: Law and Culture in Late Medieval France (Leiden, 1993), 162–70; on the punitive effect on the convicted heretic’s rela- tives, see Hamilton, Medieval Inquisition, 67–8; on the prosecution of the dead, see Lea, History of the Inquisition, i, 230–2. Carol Lansing argued that infamia was not an efficacious punishment or deterrent in Italy: see her Power and Purity: Cathar Heresy in Medieval Italy (New York, 1998), 144–50. 57Jeffrey Burton Russell, Dissent and Order in the Middle Ages: The Search for Legitimate Authority (New York, 1992), 57. 


Guido Lacha had held heterodox beliefs. According to regula- tions his body was to be exhumed and burned, but events did not go as planned: 

His bones were thrown into the fire in the presence of the people, and at once demons lifted the bones from the fire and held them suspended in the air just like a tower so that all the people saw the bones suspended so in the air, but they could not see the demons. Then the people began to cry out, saying, ‘The bishop should die with his friars who, out of jealousy, wanted to burn God’s saint — which, behold, Our Lord does not want’.58 The author, a member of the same clerical order as the Brescian inquisitor, ascribed the miracle of Guido’s dancing bones to the devil’s agents. He ended the account with the inquisitors vindi- cated and in triumph after God’s power — and will — manifested itself in the Eucharist, prompting the demons to drop the re- mains. For many Brescian observers, in contrast, the inability of officials to destroy Guido’s remains was a divine response to in- quisitorial persecution, proving that God had ruled in his favour. The alleged miracles that occurred after the death of Armanno Pungilupo (d. 1269) were similarly dramatic, provoking a pro- tracted battle between two clerical factions in Ferrara.59 In 1254 Armanno had admitted to believing in the heretical ideas of the Cathars, the dualist sect that spread throughout southern Europe in the twelfth century.60 Following questioning he rejected his Cathar beliefs and subsequently exhibited the behaviour of a 

58‘. . . proiectaque fuerunt ossa in ignem presente populo et statim demones eleva- verunt ossa de igne et tenebant suspensa in aere sicut una turris ita quod totus populus videbat ossa sic suspense in aere, non tamen videbat demones. Tunc populus cepit clamare dicens: moriatur episcopus cum suis fratribus qui volebant comburere sanc- tum dei ex invidia, ecce quomodo deus noster non vult’: Filippo of Ferrara, OP, ‘Liber de introductione loquendi’: Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Pal. lat., no. 960, fo. 94v; Latin text cited in Raymond Creytens, ‘Le Manuel de conversation de Philippe de Ferrare, OP’,Archivum fratrum praedicatorum, xvi (1946), 120–1. I would like to thank E. Gordon Whatley for bringing to my attention the similarities between this scenario and that of Simon Magus in the apocryphal Acts of Peter, chs. 32–3. 59For documents regarding Armanno’s case, see the collection referred to here as ‘Acta contra Armannum Pungilupum’, in Gabriele Zanella, Itinerari ereticali: patari e catari tra Rimini e Verona (Istituto Storico Italiano per il Medio Evo, Studi storici, cliii, Rome, 1986), 48–102. For discussion, see Amedeo Benati, ‘Armanno Pungilupo nella storia religiosa ferrarese del 1200’, Analecta pomposiana, ii (1966); Amedeo Benati, ‘Frater Armannus Pungilupus: alla ricerca di una identita`’, Analecta pomposiana, vii (1982); Lansing, Power and Purity, 92–5. 60The literature on the Cathars is extensive; the most recent surveys include Malcolm Barber, The Cathars: Dualist Heretics in Languedoc in the High Middle Ages (New York, 2000); Malcolm D. Lambert, The Cathars (Oxford, 1998); Stephen O’Shea, The Perfect Heresy: The Revolutionary Life and Death of the Medieval Cathars (New York, 2000). 


good Christian.61 Shortly after he was entombed in Ferrara cathedral miracles began to occur. The bishop, Alberto Pran- doni, immediately took notarized statements from witnesses with the intention of using them as the foundation for a canon- ization request. The Franciscan inquisitor Fra Aldobrandino soon compiled his own dossier on Armanno that was strikingly different from the saintly image the bishop was promoting. The inquisitor’s informants claimed that Armanno had remained obdurate in his Cathar beliefs, secretly met with Cathars, and participated in their rites even after his abjuration. A struggle ensued between those fighting for Armanno’s canonization and those fighting for his condemnation. Ultimately in 1301 a council appointed by Pope Boniface VIII determined that the would-be saint was in fact a relapsed heretic.62 For thirty years the people of Ferrara, including many of its orthodox clerics, maintained that Armanno Pungilupo had behaved like a good Christian, so they decided that he had been orthodox. They asserted that the mir- acles that occurred at his tomb proved he was a saint, so they venerated him. They argued that the miracles proved that the investigation was misguided and unjust, so they challenged the inquisitor’s commands and protested when the final condemna- tion of Armanno resulted in the exhumation and dispersal of his remains. This riot forced the marquis Azzo d’Este to send in armed troops to quell the angry crowd.63 

The posthumous miracles of both Guido Lacha and Armanno Pungilupo convinced orthodox members of their communities that the inquisitorial investigation into their beliefs was not mer- ited and that thus they had been unjustly persecuted. This inter- pretation was aided by the fact that both were considered holy or exceptionally virtuous prior to their condemnations. Guido Lacha’s account, for instance, begins with the assertion: 

In the bishopric of Brescia there was a certain person who pretended to such a degree of holiness and abstinence that it seemed as if [he were] John the Baptist, and all the [people of the] countryside ran [out] in order that they could see him, and those who were able to see him thought 

61The Fourth Lateran Council prescribed that all Christians should not only attend church regularly but also confess at least once a year and take the Eucharist at Easter: Disciplinary Decrees of the General Councils, ed. Schroeder, 570 (canon 21). 62‘Acta contra Armannum Pungilupum’, 94–6. 63Bartolomeo of Ferrara, Del Polistore ab anno 1287 usque ad 1347, ed. L. A. Muratori[o], Rerum italicarum scriptores, xxiv, 2 (Milan, 1738), col. 707. 


themselves blessed; all believed him to be a saint when nevertheless he was a faithless heretic.64 Lacha had obviously gained a following well before the miracle of his dancing bones occurred. Consequently observers were pre- disposed to view the inquisitor’s actions as persecutory and his sentence defamatory. During his lifetime Armanno Pungilupo was also evidently noted for his piety. When he died in 1269, his body was carried in procession to Ferrara cathedral. The fact that the bishop ordered this procession before the miracles occurred indicates that Armanno had garnered a saintly reputa- tion. The bishop was acting as the patron and promoter of a local saint, Armanno’s prior spiritual indiscretions notwithstanding.65 While the papacy considered moral virtues and posthumous miracles as crucial evidence for determining sanctity, communi- ties also appreciated charitable activities, as already noted in the discussion of Meco del Sacco. One appreciated ‘charitable’ gift was the ability to predict the future. Astrologers Cecco of Ascoli and Peter of Abano acquired civic cults after they were sentenced as contumacious heretics. Cecco became the spiritual patron of both Ascoli and Spoleto after he was executed in Florence in 1327. Cecco was popular for giving readings of people’s futures, though, unsurprisingly, he also gained enemies after some inju- dicious predictions.66 He was condemned as relapsed for placing his faith in the primacy of the stars and thereby supposedly deny- ing free will.67 The city of Padua likewise venerated Peter of Abano (d. 1316) after his condemnation and death. Peter was a learned physician who believed astrology was a major component of medicine. The populace of Padua regarded him as a great magician because of his medical skills and knowledge of the 

64‘In episcopatu brixiensi erat quidam qui pretendebat tantam sanctitatem et absti- nentiam quod quasi videbatur Iohannes Baptista et omnes de contrata currebant et beatos se reputabant qui eum videre poterant; omnes credebant eum sanctum cum tamen esset perfidus hereticus’: Filippo of Ferrara, ‘Liber de introductione loquendi’, fo. 94v. 65Janine Larmon Peterson, ‘The Politics of Sanctity in Thirteen-Century Ferrara’, Traditio, lxiii (2008). 66For instance, he was dismissed as Charles of Calabria’s court astrologer for prophesying that one of his daughters would ‘sell her honor’: Lea, History of the Inquisition, iii, 442. 67Ibid., 441–4. Portions of two different versions of Cecco’s 1327 sentence were published in, respectively, Cesare Cantu`, Gli eretici d’Italia: discorsi storici, 3 vols. (Turin, 1865–6), i, 151–2, and Lea, History of the Inquisition, iii, 655–7 (appendix 5). For a discussion of Cecco and his works, see the essays in Marco Albertazzi (ed.), Studi stabiliani: raccolta di interventi editi su Cecco d’Ascoli (Trento, 2002). 


stars.68In defiance of inquisitorial suspicions the community ulti- mately erected a statue of him.69 

Tomasuccio of Nocera (d. 1377) was also condemned, and praised, for his prophetic gifts, according to his biography or vita.70 Tomasuccio travelled amongst the communities of north- ern Italy prophesying the wrath of God, predicting destruction, and haranguing clerics he thought were corrupt. These actions did not endear him to everyone, particularly the subjects of his orations. His successful predictions not only engendered rever- ence but also provided a justification for incarceration, which occurred on three occasions. In Siena, for instance, Tomasuccio had claimed God would punish unrepentant sinners by sending a devastating frost. When his prediction was fulfilled he was accused of sorcery and was put in prison and tortured. Overnight God healed his wounds and he was released, presumably on account of this miracle.71 According to his hagiographer God had told Tomasuccio that he would be martyred and that he did not even have to leave Christendom to achieve it. In a vision Tomasuccio told God ‘‘‘I want to go to preach the faith, so that I can be martyred by the Saracens.’’ Then God said to him: ‘‘I shall have you well martyred in Tuscany’’’.72 Notwithstanding the fact that the orthodoxy of his prophecies had been challenged, the towns of both Nocera and his final resting place of Foligno considered him to be a saint.73 In addition, an anonymous letter dating from c.1400 expressed concern that the text of 

68Lea, History of the Inquisition, iii, 440–1. 69Antiquitates italicae medii aevi, ed. Ludovico Antonio Muratorio (Bologna, 1965), iii, 374–5. 70‘La leggenda del Beato Tomasuccio’, ed. Michele Faloci-Pulignani, Miscellanea francescana, xxxi (1931), ch. 7. The text is edited in three parts over two volumes: xxxi (1931), 244–51 (intro. and pt 1); xxxii (1932), 6–17 (pt 2); 53–67 (pt 3); for ease of reference, subsequent citations (in nn. 71 and 72) refer only to internal chapter numbers. 71Ibid., ch. 24. 72‘Io voglio andare a predicare la fede, a cio` ch’io sia martirizato da li Saracini. Allora Dio li disse: Io ti faro` bene martirizare in Toscana’ (ibid., ch. 10). There are obvious parallels between this scene and that of St Francis, who desired martyrdom and travelled to the Holy Land to preach amongst the Saracens, but also was thwarted by God: Thomas of Celano, ‘The First Life of St Francis’, in St Francis of Assisi: Writings and Early Biographies, 4th revised edn, ed. Marion A. Habig (Chicago, 1983), 277. 73According to Lodovico Iacobilli’s late seventeenth-century panegyric of Tomasuccio, ‘santo Tommasuccio beatissimo vostro cittadino, et avvocato singolare della vostra citta` de Nocera’, cited in La profezie del Beato Tommasuccio di Foligno, ed. Michele Faloci Pulignani (Foligno, 1887), 23 (editor’s intro.). 


Tomasuccio’s prophecies had become corrupted, showing con- tinued belief in and respect for his prophetic powers.74 While Tomasuccio’s predictions resulted in several inquisitorial investi- gations, they also led some to consider him a saint and others even a martyr. 


DEATH, BONES AND BURNING Neither Meco del Sacco, nor Peter of Abano nor Tomasuccio of Nocera died as a direct result of inquisitorial sentences. Execution was not necessary for a heretic to be considered holy in the late Middle Ages. There is no persuasive evidence, for instance, that Meco del Sacco’s death within two years of his final condem- nation was directly related to that event, for during that time a council was investigating the validity of the sentence. Since he died before he had been absolved, Meco was technically denied admittance to heaven until his posthumous reconciliation when the council overturned the last judgement against him. This limi- nal but spiritually deprived state was a direct result of inquisitorial persecution. Peter of Abano died during his second investigation, but before the inquisitor condemned him as a relapsed heretic. Tomasuccio of Nocera was tortured and became ill during his third sojourn in prison. While his hagiographer described his suf- fering there as fulfilling God’s promise of martyrdom, which Tomasuccio had foreseen, he did not die as a direct result of this imprisonment. In each case, if death could be linked in some way to inquisitorial investigations, this alone rather than execution would suffice to identify unjust persecution. 

The fact that Guido Lacha, Armanno Pungilupo and Peter of Abano were posthumously condemned, while the deaths of Meco del Sacco and Tomasuccio of Nocera cannot be attributed to an inquisitorial sentence, reveals an essential difference between the early Christian martyrs and the holy heretics of the Middle Ages. In late antiquity death, as the direct result of persecution, was necessary to be ‘perfected’ in true imitation of Christ and conse- quently to deserve the accolade ‘martyr’.75 This requirement is articulated in the account of the martyrs of Lyon (177 CE), copied 

74Ibid., 25–6. 75Frend, Martyrdom and Persecution in the Early Church, 14. 


into Eusebius’ history of the early Church. The author recounts that the suffering Christians refused to be called martyrs: 

They reminded us of the witnesses [i.e. martyrs] who had already departed, and said, ‘They are already witnesses whom Christ has deemed worthy to be taken up in their confession, having sealed their testimony by their departure; but we are lowly and humble confessors’, and they besought the brethren with tears that earnest prayers should be offered that they might be made perfect.76 It was the act of execution that ‘sealed their testimony’ as wit- nesses to the faith. Death was the marker of true martyrdom; suffering alone was not enough to merit the gift. Those early Christians who suffered on account of their faith but survived their torment were rather designated as ‘confessors’.77 During an era of widespread persecution and many executions, distin- guishing between martyrs and confessors was critical. 

In contrast, during the later Middle Ages such hermeneutical categories were unnecessary. Unjust persecution was the deter- mining factor of martyrdom, rather than death. There were, of course, cases in which capital punishment occurred, such as for the fraticello Michele Berti of Calci, but execution was not a man- datory component of martyrdom. Even a posthumous investiga- tion of a locally accepted saint could suffice, as occurred for Guido Lacha and Armanno Pungilupo. Since the bodies of these holy individuals were considered miracle-working relics, full of the presence of the saint and imbued with holiness, the ultimate destruction of such saintly remains after condem- nation was also persecution, constituting a ‘second death’.78 When the astrologer Peter of Abano died before his imminent 

76Eusebius,Church History, trans. Arthur Cushman McGiffert, inA Select Library of Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, 2nd ser., i, ed. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace (New York, 1890), 216–17. 77Paul Molinari, ‘Saints and Miracles’, Way, xviii (1978), 290; Bowersock, Martyrdom and Rome, 74; Ranft, ‘Concept of Witness in the Christian Tradition’, 13; Vauchez, Sainthood, 14–15. 78The power of the saint was connected to physical objects, and, ‘despite the fact that the saints’ powers came from their elevated position in heaven, there was a strong sense in which they continued to reside in a specific physical place’: John H. Arnold, Belief and Unbelief in Medieval Europe (London, 2005), 86–7. Patrick Geary wisely cautions that relics were valuable as signs of holy power only as long as communities conferred such symbolic meaning upon them: Patrick J. Geary, Furta Sacra: Thefts of Relics in the Central Middle Ages, 2nd edn (Princeton, 1990), 5–9. The term ‘second death’ here has no Lacanian undertones; it simply refers to the physical act of destroy- ing the remains of a deceased saint, whereby the ‘first death’ would be when they ceased breathing unassisted. 


condemnation as a relapsed heretic (which took place posthu- mously), his mistress supposedly obtained his remains and arranged that a substitute body be burned in its stead to avoid just such a second death.79 

The burning of bones generally provoked distress amongst the populace of Italian communities; following one such incident in Bologna in 1299 a number of citizens declared that nothing was gained by destroying remains and doing so was foolish. One woman commented, ‘[burning bones] was evil and it was better to burn the living than the dead’.80 Implicit in her remark is a belief that the annihilation of the body was considered analogous to the death of the soul. By the thirteenth century the soul was thought either to reside within physical remains, which was why the body parts of saints were deemed to be relics, or to suffer in purgatory until the Last Judgement when God would resurrect the body and unite it with the soul.81 This quotation suggests that burning the living was punishment (consigning a soul to the pur- gatorial fire), while burning the dead destroyed the possibility of the resurrected body (impeding God from ultimately granting salvation, and consigning a soul to the eternal fire). The burning of physical remains — the second death — could therefore be considered not only evil but also the definitive act of persecution. Yet the heterodox did not even have to suffer through a ‘second death’ to be perceived as saintly. The mere repeated questioning of an individual who was renowned for holiness or valued for their gifts or charitable activities could justify a construction of mar- tyrdom, as long as the community believed that the individual was being unduly singled out and inquisitors were ‘out to get’ him or her. This situation was clearly the case for Meco del Sacco and Tomasuccio of Nocera. Andre ́ Vauchez argued that in this period there was a propensity to venerate those who suffered a violent death, whether they were persecuted or not. Murdered ‘holy innocents’ fit into this schema, as does Vauchez’s category of ‘suf- fering kings’. More dubious examples of sanctity include two 

79Lea, History of the Inquisition, iii, 441. 80‘Quod malum erat et melius fuisset comburere vivos quam mortuos’: Acta S. Officii Bononie, ed. Paolini and Orioli, i, 193, no. 239, 19 May 1299. Discussion in Lansing, Power and Purity, 154–5. 81See Caroline Walker Bynum, The Resurrection of the Body in Western Christianity, 200–1336 (New York, 1995); on lay understanding of purgatory in the later Middle Ages, see Jacques Le Goff, The Birth of Purgatory, trans. Arthur Goldhammer (Chicago, 1984), ch. 9. 


monks struck dead by lightning in 1368 and consequently vener- ated in the Romagna.82 Yet in all these cases, except perhaps for the unlucky monks, moral virtue and some form of unjust perse- cution are constants, as they are for holy heretics. With these characteristics at the foundation of officially recognized saint- hood, it did not require a leap of faith for the orthodox to recog- nize and apply the same standards of holiness to those in their communities who were deemed heterodox by seemingly mis- guided or corrupt papal agents. 

It is hard to determine how widespread was the perception that the seemingly worthy individuals who happened to be con- demned heretics were not just saintly, but receivers of the special gift of martyrdom. Those sympathetic to heterodox ideas cer- tainly viewed the dead heretic in this light. For instance when Spiritual Franciscans, or beguins, were burned in southern France those who shared their religious ideas and values believed that the executed were indeed martyrs. The inquisitor Bernard Gui claimed in his manual, the Practica inquisitionis heretice pravi- tatis, that beguins of Provence, Narbonne and Toulouse asserted that their brethren who had been burned for heresy were ‘con- demned unjustly and because they defended the truth, and that they were not heretics but Catholics and are glorious martyrs in the presence of God’.83 Similarly, members of the heterodox Italian group called the Order of the Apostles, followers of the heretical leader Dolcino of Novara, passed amongst themselves relics of their executed brethren.84 Soon after Dolcino’s execu- tion in 1307 Bolognese inquisitors began to ask suspected sym- pathizers not only if they loved or believed in any member of the Apostles, but if they loved or believed in ‘any person who has any 

82Vauchez, Sainthood, 151–2, 158–66, 89, respectively. 83Bernard Gui,Practica inquisitionis heretice pravitatis, II. 5. 14, ed. C. Douais (Paris, 1886); English translation in The Inquisitor’s Guide: A Medieval Manual on Heretics, trans. Janet Shirley (Welwyn Garden City, 2006), 104; see discussion in Elliott, Proving Woman, 174; Given, Inquisition and Medieval Society, 76–8; Burnham, So Great a Light, So Great a Smoke, 78–85. 84The most recent secondary works on this group include Corrado Mornese and Gustavo Buratti (eds.), Fra Dolcino e gli apostolici tra eresia, rivolta e roghi (Rome, 2000); Fra Dolcino: nascita, vita e morte di un’eresia medievale, ed. Raniero Orioli (Milan, 1984); Raniero Orioli, Venit perfidus heresiarcha: il movimento apostolico- dolciniano dal 1260 al 1307 (Rome, 1988); Raniero Orioli, ‘Ancora su Fra Dolcino: ex condicto et ordinatione et inductione’, La Cultura, xxiv (1986); Ferruccio Vercellino, Fra` Dolcino: il brigatista di Dio (Milan, 1997). 


relics of [these] heretics, such as hair or bones or clothes or nails, or any other relics’.85 

Orthodox veneration of condemned heretics in some Italian communities is more remarkable, particularly when the promo- ters of cults were members of the church hierarchy. The bishop and canons of Ferrara cathedral, for example, were the ones who spearheaded canonization efforts on behalf of the admitted Cathar, Armanno Pungilupo. A local Cathar scornfully com- mented on this situation, ‘How, therefore, can those men of the Roman Church say that we are bad people when they themselves made one of us a saint?’86 The irony of the circumstances was apparent to the heterodox community. In Ascoli the bishop and the Augustinian convent supported Meco del Sacco in the face of three Franciscan inquisitorial condemnations. Tomasuccio of Nocera’s veneration was validated by civic cults in Nocera and Foligno that revolved around his feast day of 19 November, and there was even an unsuccessful attempt at initiating a canoniza- tion inquiry.87 Cecco of Ascoli and Peter of Abano merited civic recognition as well. Even the heresiarch Dolcino of Novara was able to hide out in the hills above Vercelli for three years due to the aid received from the local anti-papal, although presumably doc- trinally orthodox, nobles. Dolcino’s legacy as a religious reformer has persisted into the twentieth century.88 

While the number of cases of contested sanctity in north- central Italy during the late thirteenth and the fourteenth century is substantial, those in which a convicted heretic is the focus of veneration number about fifteen. That any cases occurred at all is notable. Considering that orthodox communities risked their own salvation by venerating these individuals and exposed them- selves to papal retribution — when there were so many seemingly viable, and less controversial, postulant saints — even fifteen 

85‘Aliquam personam qui habeat aliquas reliquias hereticorum vel de pilis vel de ossibus vel vestibus vel unguibus, vel aliquas alias reliquias’: Acta S. Officii Bononie, ed. Paolini and Orioli, ii, 515–16, no. 728, 4 July 1307. 86‘Quomodo dicent postea illi de ecclesia romana quod nos simus mali homines cum ipsi fecerint unum de nostris sanctum’: ‘Acta contra Armannum Pungilupum’, 49.87See La profezie del Beato Tommasuccio di Foligno, ed. Pulignani, 21–6 (editor’s intro.). 88Discussed by Jerry B. Pierce in his paper ‘Trailing Fra Dolcino: Remembering the Heretical Past in Modern Piedmont’, 41st International Congress on Medieval Studies, Kalamazoo, 6 May 2006. 


identified examples in a hundred-year period is significant. Orthodox veneration of condemned heretics demonstrates that the boundaries of what could constitute martyrdom had been expanded from the prevailing view in late antiquity, when only death for one’s Christian faith sufficed. This change was perhaps inevitable, considering that Christianity was no longer the minor- ity view. It was also an outgrowth of the changing process of deter- mining holiness. Prior to the thirteenth century, communities had traditionally negotiated amongst themselves to determine sainthood, a designation that the local bishop had conferred.89 When the papacy centralized the canonization process, it usurped traditional customs. Heterodox martyrs demonstrate that com- munities did not willingly abandon their right to determine their own saints. 

CHALLENGING INQUISITORIAL AUTHORITY The veneration of martyrs solidified Christian faith and created communities bound by shared belief. Italian towns in the thir- teenth and fourteenth centuries needed help to create unity. The terms ‘Guelf’ and ‘Ghibelline’ are now the catchwords for medi- eval Italian partisanship. Political divisiveness was the result of the disputed election of the Holy Roman Emperor after the death of Frederick Barbarossa of the Hohenstaufen dynasty in 1190. A rival family, the Welfs, contested the imperial claim of Barbarossa’s young heir Frederick II. Pope Innocent III eventu- ally backed the Welf cause. The word ‘Guelf ’ is the Italian form of ‘Welf’, designating those who supported the papally backed claimant. Imperial sponsors came to be called ‘Ghibelline’, sup- posedly derived from ‘Waiblingen’, the name of a castle and the battle cry of the Hohenstaufen heirs. When Frederick II finally gained the throne in 1215, he tried to regain control of the terri- tory in north-central Italy that was lost during his minority. Frederick II’s death in 1250 did not end the strife.90 The political 

89Vauchez, Sainthood, ch. 3; for specific canonization procedures, see Damian Joseph Blaher, The Ordinary Processes in Causes of Beatification and Canonization: A Historical Synopsis and a Commentary (Catholic University of America Canon Law Studies, cclxviii, Washington, DC, 1949). 90Hiroshi Takayama, ‘Law and Monarchy in the South’, in David Abulafia (ed.), Italy in the Central Middle Ages (Oxford, 2004), 75–6. 


situation became even more volatile when the papacy allied itself with the French count Charles of Anjou in 1266, which provoked a series of local wars.91 Every Italian city in this period consisted of confused webs of political partisanship as the two major polit- ical camps splintered into even smaller groups. The struggle between pro-papal and pro-imperial factions continued for well over a century. 

Due to the factionalism that beset Italian towns, the champion- ing of a contemporary martyr could function to create the sem- blance of solidarity. Martyrs had a special status and towns particularly desired their patronage. Bonvesin de la Riva, a chron- icler of Milan writing during a tumultuous time in his city’s his- tory, noted in 1288 that the city ‘seems not to have an equal in the world . . . so that it not only deserves to be called a second Rome but also . . . that the papal seat and its attending privileges should all be transferred [to Milan]’ because it is ‘the venerable city that was consecrated by the most holy blood of many martyrs’.92 The connection between a city, its martyred patrons, and its political and spiritual power is clearly articulated. Bonvesin believed that the way to unite the Milanese, who, he had to admit, exhibited a ‘lack of civil concord’, was specifically through the martyrs who had shed their blood in Milan’s streets.93 

The veneration of persecuted heretics helped to construct com- munities by creating bipartisan alliance against a common enemy: the inquisitor. There was a general belief that inquisitors were greedy and hypocritical, and ‘created’ heretics through fear and coercion. Undoubtedly the fact that a standard punishment for heresy was confiscation of the condemned’s property and goods 

91Ibid., 76–9; Peter Partner,The Lands of St Peter: The Papal States in the Middle Ages and the Early Renaissance (London, 1972), 267–75. 92‘Civitas nostra in mondo . . . parem non habet . . . patet quod non tantum secunda Roma vocari meretur, imo . . . sedem papalem et reliquas dignitates ab ea totaliter huc transferri’ (VIII. 10), and ‘veneranda civitas quam multorum martirum sacratissimo sanguine consecrata’ (VIII. 15): Bonvesin de la Riva, De magnalibus Mediolani / Meraviglie di Milano: testo critico, traduzione e note, ed. Paolo Chiesa (Milan, 1998), 184, 190; see alsoThe Towns of Italy in the Later Middle Ages, ed. and trans. Trevor Dean (Manchester, 2000), 11–16. During Bonvesin’s lifetime Milan was in the midst of factional strife between the pro-papal Della Torre family and the pro-imperial Visconti family. After the Viscontis triumphed, their interests pitted them against the papacy, leading to further warfare. Dorothy Muir, A History of Milan under the Visconti (London, 1924), 8–10. 93Bonvesin de la Riva,De magnalibus Mediolani, VIII. 10, ed. Chiesa, 182, in Towns of Italy, ed. and trans. Dean, 16; for Bonvesin’s use of Milan’s martyrs as a strategy for unifying its citizens, see his De magnalibus Mediolani, VIII. 15, ed. Chiesa, 188–92. 


helped to produce these beliefs.94 Yet there is evidence of increas- ing inquisitorial misconduct in the fourteenth century. In 1296 one of the Dominican inquisitors of Milan, Tommaso da Como, was removed from office for disobeying a papal injunction to cease an investigation into a suspected heretic and Dominican tertiary, Paganus of Petrasancta.95 In 1302 Pope Boniface VIII removed all Franciscan inquisitors from office in the March of Treviso and the Romagna and handed their duties over to the Dominicans because of charges of corruption.96 Accusations of similar abuses of power reverberate throughout the register of inquisitorial inquiries in Bologna from 1291 to 1310.97 In addi- tion, several Franciscan inquisitors were charged with extortion in the fourteenth century, including the inquisitor who sentenced Meco del Sacco for the final time.98 

Antipathy towards inquisitors was also based on the threat they posed to social relationships because of their methods of moni- toring spiritual beliefs and religious behaviour. Inquisitors inten- tionally tried to destroy bonds of kinship, patronage and partner- ship to achieve their goal of expunging heresy from the commu- nity. A successful means of identifying heretics was to persuade individuals to inform on their peers by the reward of lighter pen- alties, turning one against another.99 By imposing sentences inqui- sitors ruined reputations through the power of infamia, which 

94Confiscation was pronounced as one of the standard punishments when the establishment of the inquisitorial procedure was initiated: Disciplinary Decrees of the General Councils, ed. Schroeder, 563 (canon 21). 95‘Testamentum. . .fratis Pagani de Patra Sancta’, Archivio di Stato di Milano, Archivio Diplomatico, S. Francesco, MS 406 (1304), no. 2, XLVII, 103, discussed in Stephen E. Wessley, ‘Enthusiasm and Heresy in the Year 1300’ (Columbia Univ. Ph.D. thesis, 1976), 121 n. 6. 96Burr, Spiritual Franciscans, 6; Lea, History of the Inquisition, i, 477. 97Lorenzo Paolini and Raniero Orioli, L’eresia a Bologna fra XIII e XIV secolo (Studi storici, xciii–xcvi, Rome, 1975); Lansing, Power and Purity, 151–7; Susan Taylor Snyder, ‘Orthodox Fears: Anti-Inquisitorial Violence and Defining Heresy’, in Anne Scott and Cynthia Kosso (eds.), Fear and its Representations in the Middle Ages and Renaissance (Turnhout, 2002). 98See the following cases: Fre ́de ́gand Callaey, ‘Un e ́pisode de l’Inquisition francis- caine en Toscane: proce`s intente ́ a` l’inquisiteur Minus de San Quirico, 1333–1334’, in L’Association des Anciens Membres du Se ́minaire Historique (eds.), Mélanges d’his- toire offerts a` Charles Moeller, 2 vols. (Louvain and Paris, 1914), i; Mariano D’Alatri, ‘L’inquisizione a Firenze negli anni 1344–46 da un’istruttoria contro Pietro da l’Aquila’, in D’Alatri (ed.), Eretici e inquisitori, i; D’Alatri, ‘Un processo dell’inverno’; and n. 35 above. 99Given, ‘Inquisitors of Languedoc and the Medieval Technology of Power’, 355–6. 


excluded the convicted and their relatives from civic life; marked individuals as social outcasts by the imposition of yellow crosses as a public designation of disgrace; destroyed financial security by confiscating the goods of heretics and their heirs; and emotionally ruined families by releasing the condemned to the secular arm to be executed.100A frequent complaint was that these punishments were undeserved. Deponents in Bologna, for instance, claimed that inquisitors did not uncover heresy; rather, they ‘induced’ it (inducebant heresim), producing heretics through confessions prompted by fear and coercion.101 Exacerbating the tension was the fact that most inquisitors in Italy were local men. They were often assigned to a region where they grew up, under the presumption that they would know and be known and thus would be better placed to root out the heterodox.102 For the citizens of the fiercely regional towns of medieval Italy, even during times of internal political fragmentation, the destruction of the social net- works to which the inquisitors themselves were bound consti- tuted a betrayal. When Maria, daughter of the lord Iacobinus Albertonis of Bologna, testified that ‘the friars came [with the intention of] destroying persons’, she was voicing social protest as well as a spiritual lament.103 The belief that inquisitors were frequently in error or corrupt helped to produce the phenomenon of holy heretics. 

Later medieval martyrs demonstrate how a traditional category of the holy was reinterpreted and applied to contemporary exam- ples of spirituality. While most of the characteristics of martyr- dom, such as persecution, steadfastness, courage and miracles remained the same, other requirements, like execution, were no longer a necessary condition due to dissimilarities between this 

100See n. 56 above. 101‘Dixisse quod fratres et clerici inducebant heresim’: Acta S. Officii Bononie, ed. Paolini and Orioli, i, 282, no. 510, 3 July 1299. The act of ‘creating’ heretics would occur through fitting deponents’ individual responses into a body of knowledge gath- ered through the act of confession: Arnold, Inquisition and Power, 84. The method of the inquisitio produced an inquisitorial reality through ‘productive discourse’, a ‘for- mation of a knowledge of heresy, transgression, and identities’: ibid., 11. See also James Given, who claimed the process ‘allowed them to make their own, tailor- made realities . . . [and] make manifest the ideas, fears, and fantasies that had previ- ously resided only in their own minds’: Given, ‘Inquisitors of Languedoc and the Medieval Technology of Power’, 351. 102Lansing, Power and Purity, 141. 103‘Fratres venerant in destructionem personarum’: Acta S. Officii Bononie, ed. Paolini and Orioli, i, 228, no. 350, 2 June 1299. 


period and late antiquity. When Christians persecuted ostensible Christians, communities relied on their own experience rather than on institutional assessments of orthodoxy and heterodoxy, and altered their perceptions of what constituted martyrdom. As a consequence some persecuted heretics received civic cults. The veneration of condemned or executed heretics does not mean that members of Italian communities were less discriminating in choosing their saints.104 Rather they were extremely discrimi- nate, carefully selecting individuals for veneration who met spe- cific criteria and fitting those people into a conventional model of sanctity, one that had been sanctioned by Rome itself. 

While these cults were the focus of true spiritual devotion, just like that of any other saint, they were predicated on the belief that inquisitors were in error and that the community had the right to come to their own consensus regarding who was a saint and who a heretic. The acceptance of some sentenced heretics as holy saints was a direct result of increasing intolerance of papal agents inter- fering in the regulation of local communities during the century and a half after the creation of the inquisitorial office. Deciding who was truly persecuted and worthy of veneration ‘interrupted the circuit of power’ of papal agents and allowed local communi- ties to ‘articulate a competing theory of power’, just as early Christians did when originally ascribing salvation to those perse- cuted by Roman officials.105 Orthodox veneration of condemned heretics ultimately allowed communities to shape their religious experiences and build communal solidarity and pride. 

Marist College, Poughkeepsie Janine Larmon Peterson 

104Alexander Murray, ‘Piety and Impiety in Thirteenth-Century Italy’, in G. J. Cuming and Derek Baker (eds.), Popular Belief and Practice (Studies in Church Hist., viii, Cambridge, 1972). 105Castelli, Martyrdom and Memory, 48. 

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