A History of the Inquisition In The Middle Ages.
By Henry Charles Lea - 1888


THE history of the Inquisition naturally divides itself into two portions, each of which may be considered as a whole. The Reformation is the boundary-line between them,except in Spain, where the New Inquisition was founded by Ferdinand and Isabella. In the present work I have sought to present an impartial account of the institution as it existed during the earlier period.

For the second portion I have made large collections of material, through which I hope in due time to continue the history to its end.

The Inquisition was not an organization arbitrarily devised and imposed upon the judicial system of Christendom by the ambition or fanaticism of the Church. It was rather a natural one may almost say an inevitable evolution of the forces at work in the thirteenth century, and no one can rightly appreciate the process of its development and the results of its activity without a somewhat minute consideration of the factors controlling the minds and souls of men during the ages which laid the foundation of modern civilization. To accomplish this it has been necessary to pass in review nearly all the spiritual and intellectual movements of the Middle Ages, and to glance at the condition of society in certain of its phases.

At the commencement of my historical studiesI speedily became convinced that the surest basis of investigation for a given period lay in an examination of its jurisprudence,which presents without disguise its aspirations and the means regarded as best adapted for their realization.

I have accordingly devoted much space to the origin and development of the inquisitorial process, feeling convinced that in this manner only can we understand the operations of the Holy Office and the influence which it exercised on successive generations.

By the application of the results thus obtained it has seemed to me that many points which have been misunderstood or imperfectly appreciated can be elucidated. If in this I have occasionally been led to conclusions differing from those currently accepted, I beg the reader to believe that the views presented have not been hastily formed, but that they are the outcome of a conscientious survey of all the original sources accessible to me.

No serious historical work is worth the writing or the reading unless it conveys a moral, but to be useful the moral must develop itself in the mind of the reader without being obtruded upon him. Especially is this the case in a history treating of a subject which has called forth the fiercest passions of man, arousing alternately his highest and his basest impulses. I have not paused to moralize, but I have missed my aim if the events narrated are not so presented as to teach their appropriate lesson.

It only remains for me to express my thanks to the numerous friends and correspondents who have rendered me assistance in the arduous labor of collecting the very varied material, much of it inedited, on which the present work is based. Especially do I desire to record my gratitude to the memory of that cultured gentleman and earnest scholar, the late lion. George P. Marsh, who for so many years worthily represented the United States at the Italian court. I never had the fortune to look upon his face, but the courteous readiness with which he aided my researches in Italy merit my warmest acknowledgments.

To Professor Charles Molinier, of the University of Toulouse, moreover, my special thanks are due as to one who has always been ready to share with a fellow-student his own unrivalled knowledge of the Inquisition of Languedoc. In the Florentine archives I owe much to Francis Philip Nast, Esq., to Professor Felice Tocco, and to Doctor Giuseppe Papaleoni; in those of Naples, to the Superintendent Cav. Minieri Riccio and to the Cav. Leopoldo Ovary; in those of Venice to the Cav.Teodoro Toderini and Sig. Bartolomeo Cecchetti: in those of Brussels to M. Charles Rahlenbeck. In Paris I have to congratulate myself on the careful assiduity with which M. L. Sandretlias exhausted for my benefit the rich collections of MSS., especially those of the Bibliotheque Rationale.

To a student, separated by a thousand leagues of ocean from the repositories of the Old World, assistance of this nature is a necessity,and I esteem myself fortunate in having enlisted the co-operation of those who have removed for me some of the disabilities of time and space.

Should the remaining portion of my task be hereafter accomplished,I hope to have the opportunity of acknowledging my obligations to many other gentlemen of both hemispheres who have furnished me with unpublished material illustrating the later development of the Holy Office.

PHILADELPHIA, August, 1887.

Index | Next: Chapter I. Origin And Organization