Roman Inquisition

John Florens | May 9, 2024

Table of Content


Roman Inquisition - a modern term for the reformed papal inquisition, operating after 1542 mainly in the Italian states, under the authority and control of the central body of the Roman Curia, the Sacred Congregation of Rome and the Universal Inquisition, also known as the Holy Office.

In a narrower sense, the term is used to refer to the Sacred Congregation of Rome and the Universal Inquisition itself, in which case it should be capitalized as an abbreviated form of the body's official proper name.

Local tribunals of the Roman Inquisition existed until 1860, while the Sacred Congregation of the Roman and Universal Inquisition still exists today under the name of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Although historians agree that the Roman Inquisition was a distinct institution from the medieval papal inquisition, it is impossible to draw a precise timeline between the two forms of inquisition. The process of transforming the system of decentralized medieval tribunals into the centralized and bureaucratized Roman Inquisition took many decades and was not uniform at the local level everywhere. Unlike the Spanish Inquisition, which made a radical break with its medieval predecessor (including by replacing personnel and creating new tribunals from scratch), the Roman Inquisition was formed in an evolutionary manner, and any cut-off dates can only be conventional.

Writing the history of the Roman Inquisition is extremely difficult for historians because of the scant documentation that has survived to modern times. When Enlightenment and then revolutionary governments dismantled the Inquisition tribunals in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, they also very often destroyed their archives. The Central Archives of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (ACDF) has only been open for scientific research since 1998.

The papal inquisition in Italy in the early 16th century

The Papal Inquisition, an ecclesiastical institution established in the 13th century to combat heresy, retained little of its former power in the early 16th century. Although the network of inquisition tribunals covered almost all of Europe, their practical importance was small. Beginning in the mid-13th century, the popes ceded their authority to appoint inquisitors in particular countries to the generals and provincials of Dominican and Franciscan orders, which led to the office gradually being treated merely as part of the monastic cursus honorum. Many inquisitors also held various administrative positions in their order or devoted themselves to academic work at universities, and treated the inquisitorial office only as an honorary distinction.

In Italy, according to the available data, papal inquisitors were appointed regularly in the northern regions of the country by the authorities of the Dominican (Lombardy) and Franciscan orders (the provinces of Tuscany, the March of Trier and Romania), and their number even increased in the first half of the 16th century. The only significant field of activity of these inquisitors was witchcraft trials. Less clear, however, is the situation in the Franciscan districts of central Italy (the known directories of Franciscan inquisitors in these provinces, compiled in the early 18th century, list almost no inquisitors from this period, and there was a transfer of these districts to the Dominicans between 1547 and 1569.

When suspicions against Christians of Jewish descent (the so-called marranos) for secretly professing Judaism became a serious problem on the Iberian Peninsula, the tribunals of the papal inquisition proved utterly incapable of handling the task of verifying these charges. The rulers there, with the approval of the Holy See, then established new state-church inquisition tribunals (the Spanish Inquisition in 1480, the Portuguese Inquisition in 1536), which, although operating under the same name, organizationally had virtually nothing in common with the papal inquisition. The kings of Spain in the early 16th century were subject to Sicily, Sardinia and the kingdom of Naples, and after 1535 the duchy of Milan also came under their authority. In 1487, a tribunal of the Spanish Inquisition was established in Sicily, where it conducted very intensive activities against the marranos in the first half of the 16th century. From 1492, there was also a tribunal of the Spanish Inquisition in Sardinia. Attempts to introduce a Spanish Inquisition were also made in the kingdom of Naples, first by King Ferdinand I (1510) and then by Charles V (1547). However unsuccessful these attempts were in the face of resistance from local elites, their side effect was the disappearance of the Dominican Inquisition structures, which were weakly entrenched in that kingdom.

Reformation in Italy

The Reformation, initiated by Martin Luther in 1517, split much of northern Europe from the Catholic Church in a relatively short time. The views of Luther and his associate Philip Melanchthon, and a little later also of John Calvin, also permeated Italy, where they received some attention in intellectual circles, including among the clergy. The Reformation proponents there never produced a unified doctrine or church; rather, they were a loosely affiliated group, drawing simultaneously on the views of various reformers, including Erasmus of Rotterdam, who never broke with the Catholic Church. The main inspiration for Italian Protestants was the Spanish theologian Juan de Valdés (d. 1541), author of Alfabeto cristiano (published in print in Venice in 1545), whose doctrine combined elements of Lutheranism, Calvinism, Erasmianism and Spanish mysticism, but at the same time did not call for a break with the papacy. Supporters of Valdes' teachings included the general of the Capuchin order, Bernardino Ochino, who fled to Switzerland in 1542, Pietro Carnesecchi, aristocrats Giulia Gonzaga and Vittoria Colonna, and even some bishops, such as Vittore Soranzo of Bergamo. Cardinals Reginaldo Pole and Giovanni Girolamo Morone were also suspected of provaldesian sympathies. In the 1640s, dissident religious groups existed in Cagliari, Palermo, Naples, Capua, Caserta, Viterbo, Siena, Faenza, Lucca, Bologna, Ferrara, Modena, Mantua, Brescia, Cremona, Bergamo, Casale, Padua, Vicenza, Venice and Udine. The great protector of pro-reform intellectual circles was the Duchess of Ferrara, Renata de Valois.

In Piedmont and in Calabria and Puglia lived communities of Waldenses, considered heretics by the Church, but in fact tolerated by local authorities (both secular and ecclesiastical), as long as they did not flaunt their beliefs and paid tithes. In the early 1630s, the Piedmontese Waldensians established contacts with Swiss Reformation activists, including Wilhelm Farel. At the Chanforan synod in 1532, the Italian and French Waldensians decided to join the Reformation movement. This fact, however, passed unnoticed by church authorities at the time.

Establishment of the Roman Inquisition (1541

The reaction of church authorities to the penetration of new ideas into Italy was initially not very vigorous. It was not until 1528 that the earliest papal document ordering inquisitors to pay attention to the problem dates back to 1528. In the 1530s and early 1540s, there were sporadic trials of those suspected of pro-Lutheran sympathies in Venice, Modena and a few other centers, but it is difficult to speak of any systematic persecution and constant scrutiny of Italians' orthodoxy, especially since the activities of local tribunals lacked coordination. Nor was this changed by the appointment of an inquisitor general for all of Italy on January 4, 1532, in the person of Lateran canon Callisto Fornari da Piacenza. Moreover, there was a fairly strong current in the Church that was conciliatory toward the Reformation and focused on dialogue rather than repression. This included Cardinals Giovanni Girolamo Morone, Reginald Pole, Master of the Holy Palace (later Cardinal) Tommaso Badia and many bishops. However, this trend weakened significantly in the early 1540s. In April 1541, talks with Protestants at the Regensburg conference ended in total failure, and a year later the general of the Capuchin order, Bernardino Ochino, fled to Switzerland and openly converted to Protestantism. The repressive course then gained the upper hand in the Roman Curia. Due to the weakness of local tribunals, Pope Paul III decided to create a central body to direct and coordinate anti-heretical activities. This decision was implemented in four stages:

Slightly earlier, as early as April 21, 1541, Paul III established a tribunal of inquisition in the papal city of Avignon, subordinate to the papal vice-legate, who at the time was Jacopo Sadoleto, bishop of Carpentras.

Initial period (1542-1555)

The early years of the Roman Inquisition are poorly documented. It is known that it initiated investigations into the views of a number of high-ranking Catholic clergy who were suspected of favoring the Reformation. Among those targeted by the Inquisition's cardinals were Archbishop of Otranto Pietro Antonio di Capua, Bishop of Chioggia Giacomo Nacchianti, Bishop of Capodistria Pier Paolo Vergerio, Patriarch of Aquileia Giovanni Grimani and Bishop of Bergamo Vittore Soranzo. Not all of them were able to be brought before the Inquisition and convicted. Pier Paolo Vergerio left Italy and was finally condemned in absentia in 1550. Bishop Nacchianti, on the other hand, managed to exonerate himself in 1549. Bishop Soranzo of Bergamo was imprisoned in 1551 and forced to renounce his views, but even then he was not allowed to take up the diocese again.

Investigations carried out against bishops and leaders of dissident groups often required action outside Rome and even outside the borders of the Church State. Accordingly, the Congregation delegated its commissioners to carry out specific investigations or interrogations, e.g. Annibale Grisonio became a commissioner in Istria in 1548 in connection with an investigation against the Bishop of Capodistria Pier Paolo Vergerio, and the Dominican Como inquisitor Michele Ghislieri was a commissioner in Bergamo and Ferrara between 1550 and 1551 in connection with an investigation against the Bishop of Bergamo Vittore Soranzo, among others. In December 1551, Julius III appointed three commissioners of the Roman Inquisition for Tuscany, who were Benedictine monk Isidoro da Montauto, the vicar of the Archbishop of Florence Nicolò Duranti and the Florentine prebendary Alessandro Strozzi. In the Ecclesiastical State itself, which was subject to Franciscan inquisitors under the decrees of Innocent IV in 1254, starting in 1547 the Congregation gradually eliminated Franciscans from acting as inquisitors, replacing them with Dominicans (for example, in 1551 it established an inquisition tribunal in Perugia, headed by Dominicans).

The congregation gradually took over the right of inquisitorial appointments from the religious authorities, for example, from 1550 it appointed inquisitors in the districts of Bologna and Cremona.

The Congregation sought to pressure individual Italian states to accept and support the actions of its representatives and to deliver into its hands the main suspects of heresy. The best documented contacts on these matters are with the Republic of Venice. The Republic's authorities agreed to take strong measures against the spread of Protestantism, but nevertheless defended their autonomy in this area. Starting in 1546, several new inquisitorial tribunals were established in the Republic (Belluno in 1546, Rovigo at the latest in 1547, Verona in 1550, Vicenza in 1552). In April 1547, the tribunal in Venice itself was reorganized; henceforth it was to consist of an inquisitor, the papal nuncio (or his representative), the Venetian patriarch (or his vicar) and three lay officials, the so-called tre Savii sopra eresia. Also in Bergamo and Brescia (as of 1548) and other local tribunals within the Republic, lay officials had to sit in the tribunals of the Inquisition.

The Dukedom of Ferrara and Modena, ruled by the D'Este dynasty, was also subjected to strong pressure from Rome. Duke Ercole II d'Este's wife, Renata de Valois, was a supporter of the Reformation, and the ducal court was a safe haven for Italian and foreign Protestants (in 1536 Ferrara was visited by Calvin himself). Since the local inquisitor Girolamo Papini was closely associated with the court, the Congregation sent its own commissioners to Ferrara. Under their pressure, Duke Ercole agreed to the execution of one of Italy's leading Protestants, Fanino Fanini (in 1550). In 1554, Duchess Renata officially made an orthodox profession of faith and renounced the Protestant heresy, and three years later the mild inquisitor Papini died and Rome replaced him with the more energetic Camillo Campeggio.

The Republic of Lucca, one of the main centers of the Italian Reformation, refused to establish a tribunal of the Roman Inquisition. Instead, in 1545, it created the Office for Religion (Officio sopra la Religione), a state-run, secular tribunal to combat heresy. This office retained its independence from the Congregation, which, however, did not preclude mutual consultation. The direct establishment of an inquisitorial tribunal also failed in the Spanish-dependent kingdom of Naples. However, Cardinal Gian Pietro Carafa, one of the inquisitors general, was also archbishop of Naples, and using his prerogatives in 1553 appointed his archdiocesan vicar Scipione Rebiba as commissioner of the Roman Inquisition in Naples.

Anti-heretical actions were also reported in other cities during this period, including Como, Cremona (where a separate tribunal was established in 1548. The conversion of Anabaptist Pietro Manelfi before Bologna's inquisitor Leandro Alberti in 1551 led to the exposure of many links between Italian Anabaptists and Lutherans of international scope. The inquisitor forwarded this information to Rome, and from there it was passed on to the Venetian authorities, who took repressive action, but with moderate success.

The Congregation of the Roman Inquisition soon gained a strong position inside the Roman Curia. During the Conclave of 1549-1550, Cardinal Carafa used information gathered during investigations to undermine the orthodoxy of one of the main candidates, the Englishman Reginald Pole. During the pontificate of then-elected Pope Julius III (1550-1555), there were frequent disputes between the pope and Carafa and other cardinal inquisitors. Julius III advocated a lenient approach to heretics and intervened in favor of the accused in at least a few cases. On April 29, 1550, he promulgated a very important regulation allowing repentant heretics to obtain absolution from the inquisitors privately (in foro interno), without having to publicly (in foro esterno) renounce heresy (abjuration) and the associated humiliation. Cardinal Carafa, who was the dominant personality in the Congregation, unable to count on the full support of the Pope, did not hesitate to undertake inquisitorial actions without his knowledge and consent.

In April 1555, Cardinal Inquisitor Marcello Cervini became Pope Marcello II, but his pontificate lasted only a few weeks.

The pontificate of Paul IV (1555-1559)

In 1555, Gian Pietro Carafa himself assumed the papal throne as Pope Paul IV. The rank of the Roman Inquisition throughout the Church then grew, especially since Paul IV continued to personally attend meetings of the Congregation and direct its work. On December 14, 1558, Cardinal Michele Ghislieri was appointed by Paul IV as "Grand Inquisitor of all Christendom" and the first formal head of the Congregation, another step toward giving the institution a more organized form. This pope issued several decrees ordering perpetrators of certain transgressions (e.g., Unitarianism, profanation of the Eucharist, celebrating Mass without ordination) to be punished by death even if they showed remorse and were not repeat offenders. He also extended the powers of inquisitors to transgressions not previously under their jurisdiction (such as simony). In addition, this pope prohibited confessors from absolving penitents of doctrinal errors; such persons, in order to obtain absolution, had to report to the inquisitor and confess their transgressions.

Investigations during the pontificate of Paul IV even involved cardinals. Cardinal Giovanni Girolamo Morone was imprisoned on his orders. The pope also ordered an investigation against Cardinal Reginald Pole, and this while he was legate in England and supporting the work of recatholicizing that country. His untimely death, however, saved Pole from arrest. Several bishops were also accused of heresy, including Andrea Centanni of Limassol, Vittore Soranzo of Bergamo and Giovanni Tommaso Sanfelice of Cava de' Tirreni. On February 15, 1559, Paul IV issued the bull Cum ex apostolatus officio, declaring that the election of a heretic to the See of Peter was void by operation of law.

Paul IV tightened policies against Jews and marranos, i.e. Jews suspected of false conversion to Christianity. In 1555, a ghetto was established in Rome, and in the spring of 1556, commissioners of the Roman Inquisition sentenced 24 marranos to the stake in Ancona.

In 1559, Paul IV published the first official Index of Prohibited Books, although local tribunals, as well as some universities, had already published lists of banned books. In contrast, four new tribunals were established in the Republic of Venice (Udine in 1556, Feltre and Capodistria in 1558, Portogruaro in 1559).

Since Paul IV's reign was very unpopular, there were riots in Rome after his death in 1559, during which a mob ransacked the building of the Roman Inquisition and destroyed or looted much of its documentation.

The pontificate of Pius IV (1559-1565)

The death of Paul IV and the accession to the papal throne of Pius IV (1559-1565) led to a reduction in the Congregation's influence in the Roman Curia. The new pope, although himself one of the cardinal inquisitors, dismissed charges against Cardinal Morone, and revoked some of Paul IV's decrees extending the powers of the Inquisition to certain acts not directly related to heresy. Nonetheless, its activities suffered little harm.

On June 18, 1564, Pope Pius IV ordered local tribunals to send regular reports of their activities to Grand Inquisitor Ghislieri, a significant step in the centralization of the Roman Inquisition. On August 2, 1564, Pius IV finally transformed the Congregation into a permanent body of the Roman Curia.

Under Pius IV, disputes with the Republic of Venice over the functioning of the Inquisition in that country were resolved. Under the 1560 agreement, the inquisitor of Venice was always to be a Dominican, and a new tribunal was created for the diocese of Ceneda (1561). From then on, the Congregation's cooperation with the Republic in combating heresy proceeded without major disruptions.

In 1561, Spanish authorities in the kingdom of Naples organized an armed expedition against concentrations of Waldenses in Calabria. The troops were accompanied by Dominicans Giulio Pavesi and Valerio Malvicino as commissioners of the Roman Inquisition. As the Waldenses put up armed resistance, the expedition turned into a bloody slaughter; the villages of Guardia and San Sisto were razed to the ground, more than 2,000 Waldenses were murdered and more than 1,300 were imprisoned. Rome, upon hearing of the massacre, decided to change its policy toward Calabrian heretics and decided to send Jesuit missionaries to the area.

In 1561, Pius IV established a tribunal of the Inquisition in Malta.

Pius IV brought the Council of Trent to a close. After their completion, he promulgated a new, updated Index of Forbidden Works (1564). During his pontificate, the Congregation also continued trials against hierarchs suspected of favoring Protestantism. The most notable of these hierarchs was French Cardinal Odet de Coligny de Châtillon, who had openly converted to Calvinism. He was condemned on March 31, 1563 and stripped of his ecclesiastical offices and dignities, but the Congregation failed to have him arrested and extradited by France.

In 1563, Pius IV and his nephew, Archbishop Charles Borromeo of Milan, supported local opposition against the introduction of the Spanish Inquisition in the Duchy of Milan. As a result, King Philip II Habsburg of Spain had to abandon the plans.

The pontificate of Pius V (1566-1572)

In January 1566, the former Grand Inquisitor Michele Ghislieri became the new pope as Pius V. His pontificate marked the apogee of the persecution of Reformation sympathizers in Italy. The Congregation of the Holy Office successfully forced local authorities to hand over leaders of dissident groups into its hands, for example, in 1566 the Duke of Tuscany Cosimo I Medici agreed to extradite to Rome Pietro Carnesecchi, one of the leading supporters of Juan Valdes' doctrine. He was executed in Rome on October 1, 1567. In all, more than thirty executions by sentence of the Roman Inquisition took place in Rome during the reign of Pius V, and, following the model of the Spanish Inquisition, they took place in public, after grandiose penitential ceremonies called auto da fe.

Large-scale repressive actions against Reformation sympathizers also took place during his pontificate in Faenza, Bologna, Ferrara, Modena, Mantua, Venice and, most notably, Avignon, where more than 800 death sentences (though many of them in absentia) were pronounced by 1574.

Pius V also issued a series of decrees regarding the territorial and organizational structure of the Inquisition. He created a new inquisitorial tribunal in Faenza (1567) and finally confirmed that inquisitors in the provinces of Romagna and the Anconian Marches were to be exclusively Dominicans and not Franciscans. In addition, in 1569 Pius V decided to strip the Franciscans of several inquisitorial districts entrusted to them in the 13th century and transfer them to the Dominicans (Verona, Vicenza), on the grounds that the Franciscans had neglected to exercise the office of inquisitor. He also issued decrees granting inquisitors certain benefices or obliging bishops to pay them fixed salaries, which gave many tribunals relative financial independence.

At the time of Pius V's death in 1572, the Inquisition in Italy was already a very different institution than it had been thirty years earlier, much more centralized and bureaucratic.

The pontificate of Gregory XIII (1572-1585)

Gregory XIII did not attach as much importance as Pius V to the activities of the Inquisition; nevertheless, he did not make any significant changes in this regard, leaving the Congregation with a free hand. The Inquisition under his reign curtailed the public auto da fe penitential ceremonies frequent under Pius V, not least because of their propagandistic use by polemicists from the Protestant camp. In addition, the repression of the late 1960s eliminated the main groups of Reformation supporters in Italy, thus reducing the need for such activities. Accordingly, the pontificate of Gregory XIII initiated a gradual shift of inquisitors' interest toward matters other than Protestant heresies, such as magic, superstition, certain sexual transgressions (bigamy, solicitation) or unorthodox opinions expressed by ordinary Catholics. In 1582, a dozen people accused of witchcraft were burned in Avignon, one of the last such episodes in the history of the Roman Inquisition. A particularly large number of cases under Gregory XIII involved suspected crypto-Judaism. 1576 also marked the end of the 17-year trial of Bartolomé Carranza, Archbishop of Toledo. In 1578, Gregory XIII established an inquisition tribunal in Zadar, Dalmatia (which belonged to Venice).

The heads of the Roman Inquisition under Gregory XIII were successively Cardinals Scipione Rebiba (until 1577) and Giacomo Savelli (1577-1587). During his reign, the Congregation's control over local tribunals increased further. In 1580, local inquisitors were required to submit annual reports to it containing a list of convictions, and two years later to compile statements of income and expenses. In order to provide the tribunals with a regular income, Gregory XIII, moreover, issued additional ordinances granting them salaries and benefices. In 1578, Spanish canonist Francisco Peña, who was active in Rome, published in print and with commentaries a manual for inquisitors by Nicolas Eymeric Directorium Inquisitorum.

On September 16, 1572, Gregory XIII created the Congregation of the Index to censor publications and publish the Index of Prohibited Books in cooperation with the Congregation of the Roman Inquisition.

The pontificate of Sixtus V (1585-1590)

Gregory XIII's successor, Sixtus V, while he was still Felice Peretti OFMConv, was inquisitor of Venice (1557-1560). His pontificate was in many ways a landmark for the Roman Inquisition. On January 22, 1588, he issued the bull Immensa aeterni, reforming the Roman Curia and the administration of the Church State. The Holy Office, henceforth officially known as the Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Roman and Universal Inquisition, became a permanent part of the papal government. Under Sixtus V, the Congregation took over from the religious authorities the right to appoint inquisitors in the last districts that still retained autonomy in this regard (Milan in 1587, Parma in 1588). This was a kind of sealing of the process of centralization of the Roman Inquisition and the subordination of local tribunals to the Congregation. The Congregation also strengthened ties with the few inquisition tribunals still functioning north of the Alps at the time (e.g. Besançon in 1588). In 1585, a permanent inquisition tribunal was also organized in Naples with a representative of the Congregation, titled as Minister Delegate of the Inquisition in Naples.

In 1586, due to the serious illness of Grand Inquisitor Giacomo Savelli, the Pope created the office of Cardinal Secretary of the Roman Inquisition, to whom all correspondence was henceforth to be addressed. This office was assumed by Cardinal Giulio Antonio Santori. Santori, as cardinal secretary, made a significant mark on the institution, especially since after Savelli's death in 1587, subsequent appointments to the office of grand inquisitor were dropped, making the secretary the de facto head of the Congregation. At four successive conclaves between 1590 and 1592, Santori was a serious candidate for the papal throne. He succeeded in pushing through and consolidating among the inquisitors a rational approach to the issue of witchcraft and witches (including, in particular, alleged Sabbath flights). As a result, from the end of the 16th century, the Roman Inquisition not only did not burn witches at the stake, but even intervened many times in proceedings brought by secular courts, saving the lives of the subjudice (e.g., at Triora in Liguria in 1588). In contrast, however, Sixtus V's bull Coeli et terrae of January 1586 extended the powers of inquisitors to virtually all forms of magical practices, such as astrology, divination and summoning demons. So while the Roman Inquisition did not participate in the hunt for alleged participants in Sabbaths, it consistently prosecuted those indulging in various types of magical practices.

During the pontificate of Sixtus V, the last documented executions of Italian Reformation supporters took place in Venice and Bologna. Although executions of Protestants also took place in Italy in later years, they involved foreigners.

Stabilization period (c. 1590-XVIII century)

The pontificate of Sixtus V closes the period of formation and development of the Roman Inquisition as an institution and at the same time begins a period of stabilization of its activities. By the end of the 16th century, its representatives were already talking about the established "style of the Inquisition" (stylus officii Inquisitionis) that had been developed. Inquisition tribunals in Italy continued their activities almost undisturbed until at least the middle of the 18th century, without encountering opposition that would question the very meaning of their existence and activities.

After 1588, several new tribunals were established. In 1598, after Ferrara was annexed to the Ecclesiastical State, the districts that remained under the authority of the Dukes of Este were excluded from the jurisdiction of the tribunal there, and tribunals were created for them in Modena and Reggio Emilia. In 1614 Paul V created a tribunal in Crema, which was a Venetian exclave surrounded by lands belonging to the Duchy of Milan. Three new tribunals were also established in the Church State during the 17th century: Fermo and Gubbio in 1631 and Spoleto in 1685.

The Roman Inquisition remained one of the most influential institutions in the Church during this period. Of the 24 popes elected between 1590 and 1800, as many as thirteen were cardinal inquisitors at the time of their election:

Although Popes Clement X (Emilio Altieri, 1670-1676) and Innocent XII (Antonio Pignatelli, 1691-1700) were not cardinal inquisitors, the former was a consultor to the Congregation of the Holy Office for many years (1661-1669) before his cardinal promotion and the latter served as inquisitor in Malta from 1646-1649.

In addition, Popes Urban VIII (Maffeo Barberini, 1623-1644) and Pius VI (Giovanni Angelo Braschi, 1775-1799) were members only of the Congregation of the Index (Urban VIII was even its prefect).

The Congregation of the Holy Office and the Congregation of the Index also included a number of prominent and widely respected cardinals, such as the later canonized Robert Bellarmin (1542-1621), the historian and writer Guido Bentivoglio (1577-1644) and the esteemed expert on the history and resolutions of the Council of Trent Francesco Maria Sforza Pallavicini (1607-1667).

After the breakup of organized Protestant groups, the Inquisition was mainly concerned with policing the orthodoxy and morality of ordinary Catholics, which also translated into a decline in the number of formal trials, as well as in the severity of the punishments handed down. The number of death sentences, which was still relatively high during the pontificate of Clement VIII (1592-1605), steadily declined, and around the middle of the 17th century the Roman Inquisition basically stopped using this punishment. The few exceptions that still occurred until 1761 concerned almost exclusively two specific categories of transgressions: profanation of consecrated hosts and the celebration of Mass without priestly ordination. In 1677 Pope Innocent XI reaffirmed the now somewhat forgotten 1559 decrees of Paul IV to punish such acts with death. The only known heretic executed by the Roman Inquisition after the death of Pope Urban VIII (1644) was Vincenzo Pellicciari, executed in Modena in 1727. His death sentence for his unorthodox views on the Virgin Mary was decided personally by Pope Benedict XIII against the opinion of the inquisitorial cardinals. The marked decrease in the number of executions compared to the 16th century, however, does not necessarily imply a reduced activity of the tribunals. While the tribunals in Venice and Udine did indeed see a significant decline in the number of cases handled after about 1650, the tribunals in Siena, Modena and Malta maintained a very high level of activity until the very end of their existence.

The years 1596, 1664, 1681, 1711, 1758 and 1786 saw successive revised editions of the Index of Forbidden Books, the enforcement of which was no small part of the inquisitors' task. The 17th and 18th centuries also saw the emergence of new ideas and movements that the Church considered threatening to its doctrine. During this time, one of the main doctrinal problems within the Church was mystical and devotional movements suspected of deviating from orthodoxy, such as florism and Jansenism. Innocent XI's condemnation of Aprilism in 1687 led to a lawsuit against Cardinal Pier Matteo Petrucci, a supporter of these ideas. As a result, this cardinal had to renounce his views. Jansenism, on the other hand, gained its greatest support in France and the Netherlands, thus beyond the reach of the Roman Inquisition tribunals. In 1738 Pope Clement XII condemned Freemasonry, and its members found themselves in the interest of the Inquisition tribunals. Loudly echoed was the trial of Tuscan poet and secretary of the Masonic lodge in Florence Tommaso Crudelli, who was arrested by the Florentine tribunal in 1739 and spent almost two years in prison. In the long run, however, the Inquisition was unable to prevent the activities of Masonic lodges in Italy.

One of the most famous and also most controversial episodes in the history of the Roman Inquisition is the condemnation of Nicolaus Copernicus' work On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres in 1616 and the sentencing in 1633 of Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) to house arrest as a proponent of the heliocentric theory. Heliocentric literature was then placed on the Index of Prohibited Works. The general ban on reading and publishing such literature was repealed by Benedict XIV in 1757, but some individual publications (including the work of Copernicus) were still on the 1819 Index. It was not until 1822 that the Congregation of the Index acknowledged that the heliocentric theory had been scientifically proven and that publications stating this fact could appear without any obstacles. The next edition of the Index in 1835 no longer contained such literature. In 1992, Pope John Paul II officially rehabilitated Galileo Galilei.

While the point of the Inquisition was not really questioned in Italy until the mid-18th century, this did not preclude disputes at the local level, generally of a jurisdictional nature. The authorities of the northern Italian states tried almost from the beginning to gain influence over the activities of the tribunals and limit Rome's direct interference. In the Republic of Venice, from 1547 onward, the tribunals included representatives of the secular authorities. In Genoa, the interference of the authorities intensified from the 1770s and led to a significant reduction in the independence of the inquisition tribunal, including by imposing on the inquisitor the assistance of lay "protectors."

The conflicts in the Duchy of Savoy under Victor Amadeus II (reign. 1675-1730) were particularly acute. This ruler, starting in 1698, vetoed inquisitorial appointments made by the Congregation, gradually leading to permanent vacancies in the positions of inquisitors of most of the Savoy tribunals (Saluzzo and Asti in 1698, Turin in 1708, Alessandria in 1709, Vercelli in 1712, Casale Monferrato in 1713, Mondovì in 1717). This did not mean the abolition of these tribunals, but it lowered their stature, as they were headed only by vicars and not full-fledged inquisitors. In addition, Victor Amadeus II favored bishop's and lay courts over the Inquisition in matters of faith, whose jurisdiction, moreover, covered only part of the national territory, since the diocese of Nice, the territorial abbey of Pinerolo and the archdiocese of Tarentaise and its suffragans (Geneva-Annecy, Maurienne and Aosta) were not subject to it. As a result, at the beginning of the 18th century in Sabaudia there is a noticeable increase in the activity of secular courts in areas hitherto dominated by the Inquisition, such as witchcraft trials. This situation persisted until the end of the Inquisition's existence in the country.

Abolition of local inquisition tribunals (1746-1809

The 18th century was the period of the Enlightenment, the development of ideas of religious tolerance and a new view of the relationship between the state and the Church. These ideas were condemned by the Church, and many Enlightenment authors were placed on the Index, but nevertheless the Inquisition was unable to prevent the spread of these views among the Italian elite, including at the courts of the rulers. The influence of Enlightenment ideas initially manifested itself in increasing state interference in religious affairs and limiting the powers of ecclesiastical institutions, including the Inquisition, but eventually there was the initiation of a process of abolishing inquisitorial tribunals, considered by Enlightenment philosophers to be a harmful anachronism. Examples of limiting the powers of the Inquisition include the seizure by government officials of control over the censorship of publications in the Grand Duchy of Tuscany in 1743, or the withdrawal of tax privileges from members of secular confraternities supporting the Inquisition, known as crocesignati.

The first Italian state to abolish the Inquisition was the kingdom of Naples. As early as 1692, the last delegate minister of the Inquisition, Bishop Giovanni Battista Giberti (d. 1720), was exiled due to a conflict with local authorities. The Inquisition tribunal there continued to operate for more than half a century, although it was headed by lower-ranking archdiocesan officials subordinate to the vicar general. Influenced by growing criticism of the inquisitorial procedure, King Charles VII of Bourbon issued a decree on December 29, 1746, dissolving the Neapolitan inquisitorial tribunal and ordering that all trials in matters of faith should henceforth be conducted by ordinary diocesan courts in accordance with the standard criminal procedure (the so-called via ordinaria).

Another Italian state that attempted to abolish the Inquisition was the duchy of Parma and Piacenza. Duke Ferdinand I of Parma of the Bourbon dynasty initially favored Enlightenment ideas, and his prime minister was Frenchman Guillaume Du Tillot, who carried out many reforms in the country. On February 9, 1768, the government of the principality exiled the inquisitor of Piacenza, Francesco Vincenzo Ciacchi, for refusing to comply with earlier decrees abolishing the tax privileges of crocesignati. A year later, on February 27, 1769, Parma's inquisitor Pietro Martire Cassio died, and on the same day the government issued a decree formally abolishing the inquisition in the principality. However, as early as 1771, due to court intrigues, Tillot was exiled, and a conservative faction associated with Princess Maria Amalia Habsburg took power. On July 29, 1780, a concordat was signed between Prince Ferdinand I and the Holy See, and as a result, the tribunals of Parma and Piacenza were re-established on August 2, 1780. The permanent abolition of the Inquisition came only after the death of Ferdinand I and the occupation of the duchy by French troops. On June 3, 1805, the Dominican convents in Parma and Piacenza, which were the seats of the Inquisition, were abolished.

The next country to abolish the Inquisition was the Austrian-ruled Duchy of Milan, but the process, planned since at least 1771, took nearly a decade. After the deaths of the inquisitors of Pavia (February 23, 1774) and Cremona (January 26, 1775), the Austrian authorities refused to appoint their successors. On March 9, 1775, Empress Maria Theresa promulgated a decree abolishing the inquisitorial tribunals, with the stipulation that the still living inquisitors of Milan and Como would retain their salaries and titles for life. The last inquisitor of Milan, Giovanni Francesco Cremona, died on March 10, 1779, while the tribunal in Como existed until May 9, 1782. In the neighboring principality of Mantua, also ruled by Austria but formally separate, the inquisition tribunal was abolished in April 1782 by Emperor Joseph II, successor to Maria Theresa.

Milan and Mantua followed in the footsteps of Tuscany, where Maria Theresa's son Peter Leopold Habsburg had been Grand Duke since 1765. The independence and powers of the inquisitorial tribunals there had been systematically curtailed since the 1740s, and they were finally dissolved by a ducal decree of July 5, 1782.

The abolition of the Inquisition in the Principality of Modena followed a similar course to that in the Principalities of Milan and Piacenza and Parma. When Reggio Emilia inquisitor Carlo Giacinto Belleardi died in June 1780, Duke Ercole III d'Este refused to appoint a successor and, by decree of June 24, 1780, abolished the tribunal in Reggio Emilia and subordinated the district to the tribunal in the principality's capital Modena. Five years later, on September 6, 1785, Modena's inquisitor Giuseppe Maria Orlandi died, and on the same day the duke issued a decree abolishing the inquisition in the principality.

At the outbreak of the French Revolution in 1789, the Roman Inquisition was still operating in the Church State (including Avignon), the Republic of Venice, the Republic of Genoa, the Principality of Parma and Piacenza, the mainland part of the Kingdom of Sardinia (i.e., Piedmont), as well as Malta and Cologne. The abolition of inquisitorial tribunals in these countries was not the result of a sovereign decision by their rulers, but of an invasion by revolutionary (and later Napoleonic) France, and was carried out amidst the turmoil of war. Taking this fact into account, in the current state of research it is not always possible to determine the precise dates of the dissolution of the various tribunals, moreover, it is not impossible that in some cases no formal act on the subject was ever issued.

In 1790, French troops occupied the papal exclave in Avignon and immediately exiled the inquisitor there, Jean-Baptiste Mabil. Four years later, the French occupied Cologne, and their troops garrisoned the Dominican monastery there, the seat of inquisitor Hyacinth Franck (d. after 1796). Thus, the last non-Italian tribunal was abolished.

In Genoa, the inquisitorial tribunal was probably abolished by the authorities of the Ligurian Republic created by General Napoleon Bonaparte, but no act formally dissolving it has survived. Based on the surviving financial records, the probable time of its liquidation can be determined as February 1798.

Malta was occupied by the French fleet in June 1798, but as early as May 26 the local inquisitor Giulio Carpegna left the island. French authorities on July 13, 1798 issued a decree dissolving all ecclesiastical courts existing in Malta, including the tribunal of the Inquisition.

The inquisitorial tribunals in Piedmont (Saluzzo, Asti, Turin, Novara, Casale, Mondovì, Alessandria, Vercelli and Tortona), some of which were headed only by vicars, were abolished on January 28, 1799 by a puppet provisional government formed by French troops after occupying the region a few weeks earlier. Shortly thereafter, however, in May 1799, the French were forced out of Piedmont by the Austrians and Russians, who restored King Charles Emmanuel IV to power. On July 28, 1799, the monarchical government issued a decree reinstating the Inquisition. The restoration of the monarchy was short-lived, however. Less than a year later, the French reoccupied Piedmont and the Council of Piedmont (Consulta del Piemonte) they created definitively abolished the local tribunals with a decree on July 23, 1800.

It is much more difficult to establish the chronology of the liquidation of the tribunes in the Republic of Venice; for the state ceased to exist as a result of the French invasion in 1797, and revolutionary municipal republics (e.g. Crema, Bergamo) were established in many of the cities previously subordinate to it. Under the Peace Treaty of Campo Formio (October 17, 1797), most of the Republic's territory was annexed to Austria, but several western districts became part of the Cisalpine Republic, which had been established a few months earlier. It is known that during 1797, the tribunals in Venice (probably in May), Brescia (May 29), Rovigo (June 9), Vicenza (July 2), Verona (July 4), Padua (July 17), Bergamo (probably in July) and Crema (August 12) were abolished, although in the case of Venice and Bergamo, specific daily dates cannot be determined. In contrast, the tribunals operating in the lands that had been occupied by Austria in 1797 (Belluno, Udine, Capodistria, Zadar, Treviso and Conegliano) continued for a few more years, but in 1805 these lands also came under French rule and became part of the then-established Kingdom of Italy. The last inquisitor of Belluno, Damiano Miari, died in 1805. On July 28, 1806, the Franciscan convents of Belluno, Treviso, Udine, Capodistria and Conegliano, which were the seats of the tribunals of the Inquisition, were dissolved. The Dominican convent at Zadar in Dalmatia was liquidated by the French not much later, on January 8, 1807.

As difficult as it is for the Venetian tribunals, it is equally difficult to establish the chronology of the liquidation of the tribunals in the Church State. Revolts against papal rule broke out in these lands starting in 1796, and the French formed new republican governments immediately after occupying them. In Bologna, the local tribunal was abolished as early as June 24, 1796 by the French command, and in Ferrara on October 22, 1796 by the local revolutionary government (Amministrazione Centrale del Ferrarese). The Faenza tribunal was abolished along with the local Dominican convent in July 1797. On May 8, 1798, also in Rimini, the suppression of almost all religious congregations was announced, including the Dominican convent, which was the seat of the Inquisition. The Inquisition courts in Perugia and Spoleto were dissolved by decree of the puppet Napoleonic "Extraordinary Council for the Roman State" on July 2, 1809.

The latest possible date for the dissolution of the remaining tribunals in the Ecclesiastical State, which were within the borders of the Kingdom of Italy, is April 25, 1810. By decree on that date, Napoleon dissolved all religious congregations in the kingdom, which meant the dissolution of the Dominican convents in Ancona, Fermo and Gubbio, which were the seats of the Inquisition.

The French invasion did not leave the functioning of the Congregation of the Holy Office itself unaffected. During the brief existence of the Roman Republic in 1798, many of its documents from its last years were destroyed by the revolutionaries. The annexation of the Ecclesiastical State by France in 1809 led to the de facto abolition of the Congregation for several years. The Congregation, as a Roman tribunal of the Inquisition, was covered by the abolition decree of July 2, 1809. Pope Pius VII and the cardinals became prisoners of the French. Secretary of the Congregation Leonardo Antonelli (appointed in November 1800) died in Senigalli on January 23, 1811. Napoleon's decision to deport the Congregation's archives to Paris had disastrous consequences, as most of these resources were later destroyed or dispersed.

Period 1814-1908

The defeat of Napoleon Bonaparte in 1814 and the Congress of Vienna held a year later led to the restoration of the Ecclesiastical State with all its institutions, not excluding the Inquisition. As early as May 20, 1814, Pope Pius VII appointed a new secretary of the Congregation in the person of Cardinal Giulio della Somaglia, and over the next ten years the local tribunals of Bologna, Faenza, Ancona, Fermo, Spoleto, Gubbio and Perugia were restored. The tribunal for the Rimini district was also restored, but its headquarters were moved to Pesaro. However, no other Italian state decided to restore the Roman Inquisition. In 1816, prelate Marino Marini was sent to Paris to recover the archives of the Holy See, including the Inquisition. Due to the enormous transportation costs, he decided to select the documentation necessary for the functioning of the various offices and congregations and destroy the rest deemed irrelevant. Unfortunately, most of the Inquisition's trial documentation fell into the latter category.

Pope Pius VII reformed the inquisition procedure in 1816, including abolishing the rule of not revealing the names of witnesses to suspects and banning torture.

The office of inquisitor, now held exclusively by Dominicans, continued to enjoy great prestige in the order. In 1838, the inquisitor of Bologna, Angelo Domenico Ancarani, was elected general of the Dominican order. Pius VII's three successors, namely Leo XII (Annibale della Genga, 1823-1829), Pius VIII (Francesco Castiglioni, 1829-1830) and Gregory XVI (Mauro Cappellari OCam, 1831-1846) had previously been cardinal inquisitors, as had Pius VII himself.

Little can be said about the activities of the renewed Inquisition tribunals in the Church State after 1814, as this has not been the subject of serious historical research to date. It is known that the Inquisition was part of the repressive machinery fighting the Carbonist movement and the so-called "sect of liberals," i.e. those opposed to the secular power of the Pope, but the scale of this repression and its exact course are not known. It is also known that the Inquisition was one of the main institutions enforcing regulations restricting the rights of Jews in the Church State. The best-known episode from this period is the case of the 1858 deprivation of Jewish parents in Bologna of their several-year-old son Edgardo Mortara, who had been baptized by his nanny. Church law in such a case dictated that the baptized child must be raised among Christians. The order to take Edgardo Mortara away from his parents was issued by Bologna's inquisitor Pier Gaetano Feletti. The case resonated in the international press and negatively affected the image of the Holy See. Still, inquisitors continued to deal with acts traditionally within their purview, such as blasphemy, superstition, unorthodox opinions, solicitation and polygamy. The 19th century also saw the publication of five more editions of the Index of Forbidden Books: in 1819, 1835, 1877, 1881 and 1900.

The end of local tribunals in the Church State was brought only by the unification of Italy by the Kingdom of Sardinia in the second half of the 19th century. The Sardinian authorities, occupying successive provinces subject to the papacy starting in 1859, abolished the tribunals of the Inquisition. The tribunals in the province of Romania (Bologna, Faenza) were abolished by decree of November 14, 1859, while those in Umbria and Marche were abolished by decrees of September 20 and 27, 1860, respectively. These provinces became part of the unified Kingdom of Italy in 1861. The ecclesiastical state, already limited to Rome and Lazio, survived only until 1870. The annexation of Rome did not lead to the abolition of the Congregation of the Holy Office, which was an organ of the Roman Curia, but prevented it from definitively exercising its police and judicial functions.

The Holy See did not recognize Italy's annexation of the Ecclesiastical State, and did not immediately come to terms with the abolition of the Inquisition tribunals between 1859 and 1860. Titular inquisitors of local tribunals appear in the documents of the Congregation of Rome and the Universal Inquisition until 1880, and the Congregation itself retained the word Inquisition in its official name until 1908.

At the time of the creation of the Congregation in 1541

The decline of the Dominican Inquisition in northern Europe

In France, the burden of fighting the Reformation was borne by the Paris Parliament from the very beginning, without looking specifically at the ecclesiastical judiciary. In 1557, the last inquisitor general of the kingdom of France, Mathieu d'Ory, whose jurisdiction covered the northern part of the country, died. After his death, the idea of reforming the Inquisition in France on the Spanish model emerged, and Pope Paul IV even appointed three cardinals for this purpose, but the plan encountered strong resistance from the Paris Parliament and collapsed very quickly. In Lorraine, on the other hand, the last inquisitor, Jean Beguinet, died in 1558. In Poland, the activities of the papal inquisition ceased at about the same time (1552).

The Dominican Inquisition functioned, albeit only nominally, in the Netherlands for slightly longer (until 1608). As early as the 1620s, Emperor Charles V Habsburg also gave powers to combat heresy to secular courts, and he also created a mixed secular-ecclesiastical Dutch Inquisition, which, along with the secular courts, completely marginalized the Dominican tribunals. Although the Netherlands was the center of some of the most intense persecution of Protestants during the 16th century, this repression was in no way controlled or coordinated by the Congregation of the Roman and Universal Inquisition. Also, the appointments of Dominican inquisitors were made only by the religious authorities of the Dominican province of Lower Germania, not by the Congregation. The last two Dominican inquisitors, Dominique Anseau (inquisitor of Cambrai) and Jakoob van Gheely (inquisitor of Mechelen), died in 1608.

Decline of the Franciscan Inquisition in Dalmatia

According to the rules established at the end of the 13th century, inquisitors from the Franciscan order were active in the area of Istria and Dalmatia. The Congregation of the Holy Office began sending its commissioners, such as Annibale Grisonio, to the region just a few years after its establishment. However, the authorities of the Franciscan province of Dalmatia exercised their prerogatives almost until the end of the 16th century. In Istria, the activities of the Franciscan Inquisition were integrated into the structure of the Roman Inquisition, through the establishment of a permanent tribunal in Capodistria (1559), which was subordinate to the Congregation. In Dalmatia, on the other hand, an inquisitorial tribunal was established in Zadar in 1578, but it was headed not by Franciscans, but by Dominicans, who within a dozen years monopolized inquisitorial activity there. The last Franciscan inquisitor of Dalmatia, Giovanni Doroseo, was banished from Sibenik in 1590.

Roman Inquisition in Languedoc

After 1557, the only inquisition tribunals that existed in the kingdom of France were the Languedoc tribunals of Carcassonne and Toulouse, which dated back to the very beginnings of the papal inquisition. It is difficult to determine precisely since when these tribunals can be considered part of the reorganized structures of the Roman Inquisition, but they were certainly already considered as such during the pontificate of Paul V (1605-1621). These tribunals did not have special capacities for independent action. From the 15th century onward, their dependence on the Toulouse Parliament gradually increased. The scandals of 1531-1539, when it emerged that two successive inquisitors of Toulouse sympathized with Protestants, undermined their already not supreme authority. The judicial reforms of 1539 transferred heresy cases to parliamentary courts, which completely marginalized the Inquisition. From the 1560s onward, a gradual process of decriminalization of heresy proceeded in France, culminating in the Edict of Nantes in 1598, guaranteeing French Protestants freedom of religion and worship. The offices of inquisitors in Toulouse and Carcassonne, however, survived until the end of the 17th century. The last inquisitor of Carcassonne, Thomas Vidal, died in 1703, and the last inquisitor of Toulouse, Antonin Massoulié, died in 1706.

Roman Inquisition in Besançon

The history of the Inquisition in Besançon and Burgundy dates back to the 13th century. However, as early as 1534, the parliament of Franche-Comté took over jurisdiction over heresy cases from the ecclesiastical courts. Five years later, the parliament stipulated that any action against specific individuals should be taken by the inquisitor under the supervision of lay officials and the archbishop or his representative. Although the prior of the Dominican convent of Besançon continued, with reference to Innocent IV's 1247 bull, to consider themselves ex officio as papal inquisitors, in practice they were subordinated to the archbishop of Besançon, and their powers were limited to cases of heretical magic, while they were excluded entirely from trials against Protestants.

In 1568, Pope Pius V issued two bulls creating the permanent inquisitorial tribunal of Besançon, subordinate to the Congregation of the Holy Office in Rome. In the first, he appointed the Dominican Jean Montot as inquisitor general and Simon Digny as his assistant. In the second, he granted the new tribunal a portion of the archdiocese's revenues. The tribunal's financial privileges were extended by Pope Sixtus V in 1588. It is also known that from 1603 the Congregation was responsible for staffing the inquisitorial office.

The tribunal of the Roman Inquisition in Besançon was abolished in 1674, when the city was occupied by the French, but the last inquisitor, Louis Buhon (d. 1713), was allowed to retain until his death the benefices assigned to the inquisitorial office (especially the Rosey Priory).

Roman Inquisition in Cologne

The office of inquisitor for the metropolises of Cologne, Mainz and Trier had existed since 1435, but by the turn of the 16th

After 1606, the inquisition tribunal in Cologne existed continuously at least until the annexation of Cologne by revolutionary France in 1794. Sebastian Knippenberg, inquisitor from 1693 to 1733, became famous for having some of his works included on Rome's Index of Forbidden Books in 1719, yet he retained the office of inquisitor until his death. The last inquisitor of Cologne, Hyazinth Franck, was appointed in 1780 and was still alive in December 1796.

Territorial structure

The Roman Inquisition was a much less uniform structure than the Spanish or Portuguese Inquisitions. Moreover, it functioned in different countries, which meant that local political conditions played a greater role than in the Iberian Peninsula. The situation was further complicated by jurisdictional pluralism in matters of faith in its territories. Unlike the Spanish Inquisition, the Roman Inquisition never sought a full monopoly on conducting trials in matters of faith (in causa fidei). Such trials could still be (and were) also conducted by episcopal courts, which, although not hierarchically subordinate to the Congregation of the Holy Office, often corresponded with the Congregation in matters of heresy and generally recognized its authority as a superior court as well. Sometimes bishops came into conflict with local inquisition tribunals on jurisdictional or financial grounds. Many of the inquisition's lower officials (especially regional vicars) were recruited from the diocesan clergy and performed other tasks on a daily basis. On top of all this, there was interference from the secular authorities, who in some countries (Venice, Piedmont, Genoa) imposed the assistance of their officials. The apostolic nuncios in Venice, Florence, Turin and Naples played a major role in communication between the Congregation and local inquisitors, as well as in their relations with state authorities. In addition, the Congregation, as an organ of the Roman Curia, also had a number of tasks of an ecclesiastical nature, and often also tried to influence the conduct of church authorities in countries where there were no inquisition tribunals at all, such as interfering in witchcraft trials in Switzerland, France, Germany and Poland. The situation was further complicated by the Holy Office's relations with other congregations and offices of the Roman Curia, such as the Congregation for the Index, the Apostolic Penitentiary and the Congregation for Rites. The cardinal inquisitors themselves were, as a rule, members of several or more congregations at the same time, which was a source of additional difficulties in the event of disputes of competence or conflicts of interest. All this created a very complicated jurisdictional mosaic, which makes it sometimes difficult to clearly distinguish the actions of the Roman Inquisition itself from those of other jurisdictions.

In general, the structures of the Roman Inquisition consisted of:

In addition, one can also add ad hoc officers delegated by the Congregation to specific places, usually titled as apostolic commissioners (or similar). This institution was frequently used by the Congregation during the first few decades of its existence, but later lost its importance.

Sacred Congregation of the Roman and Universal Inquisition (Holy Office)

The Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Roman and Universal Inquisition (Holy Office) was one of more than a dozen congregations comprising the Roman Curia. In its early days it had a temporary character, but eventually on August 2, 1564 Pope Pius IV made it permanent. It was initially (as of 1542) composed of six cardinals, but the number was variable and fluctuated widely. From 1564 onward, the number stabilized at about ten cardinals for almost a century, but in the second half of the 17th century it increased again to an average of about 15, and at some points (e.g., the years 1670 and 1708) it reached as many as 20 cardinals.

The Congregation was formally headed by the Pope himself, but in fact its most important official was the Cardinal Secretary of the Congregation, responsible for correspondence. He was among the cardinal inquisitors primus inter pares, and cannot be compared in power and importance with the Grand Inquisitor of Spain. In addition to the cardinal inquisitors (titled as inquisitors general), the Congregation around 1700 included:

The congregation's deliberations, which were customarily held twice a week at the Dominican convent of S. Maria sopra Minerva, were also often attended by the Master of the Holy Palace, the Governor of Rome (as responsible for prisoners held in the Castle of St. Angelo) and the general or vicar of the Dominican order.

The congregation was the highest inquisitorial tribunal. It exercised supervision over the activities of local tribunals, including by giving them instructions and guidelines, sending them lists of forbidden books, preparing and sending out forms for "edicts of mercy" and interrogatories, checking the correctness of their procedures, and often reviewing sentences; its approval was required for the use of torture and the death penalty. It made appointments of inquisitors and approved the appointments made by them of vicars and lower-level officials. The congregation required local inquisitors to send regular reports on their activities, and maintained a central archive and a kind of database of heretical movements. When necessary, it intervened in inquisitorial disputes with other jurisdictions or requested the extradition to Rome of particularly important heretics. Ecclesiastically, she was responsible for evaluating emerging new religious and philosophical ideas and, if necessary, warned the faithful if she considered them contrary to the Catholic faith. She also collaborated with the Congregation of the Index in evaluating suspicious books.

The congregation also supervised the episcopal courts in Lazio and Campania with regard to heresy cases, since in these provinces of the Ecclesiastical State no inquisitorial tribunals had been established and the fight against heresy was left to the episcopal courts.

Local inquisition tribunals

The local tribunals of the Roman Inquisition were initially no different in structure from the medieval tribunals, although there was some standardization of tribunal composition. The tribunal was always headed by a single inquisitor drawn from the Dominican or Franciscan orders, according to the territorial division between the two orders, which was finally established in the second half of the 16th century. He could have one or more vicars (deputies), usually fellow monks, who could independently receive denunciations, interrogate witnesses and suspects, and even impose penances under summary procedure. In the case of larger inquisitorial districts, especially those covering more than one diocese, vicars were assigned to individual subdistricts (generally overlapping the diocesan area, but sometimes smaller ones), which did not preclude the presence of vicars at the tribunal's headquarters as well. The tribunal also included at least twelve consultors - four each of theologians, canonists and lawyers. In addition, the tribunal included minor officials (accuser, notary, censors, etc.) and lay assistants. The latter were called crocesignati, and were members of lay confraternities formed back in the Middle Ages to support (including materially) the inquisitors in the work of combating heresy. Membership in such confraternities was associated with numerous privileges, including tax privileges.

A novelty introduced at the end of the 16th century was the increased presence of inquisitorial tribunals in the field through the creation of district vicariari (vicariati foranei), headed by district vicars (vicari foranei). While the "ordinary" vicari were deputies of the inquisitor at the tribunal's headquarters or in the area of larger units (e.g., neighboring dioceses) and were generally his religious confreres, the district vicari were his "eyes and ears" at the parish level. They were generally religious, but not necessarily Dominican or Franciscan, and not infrequently came from the lay clergy. The district vicar always had a notary to assist him, as well as a courier providing liaison with the inquisitor. Their powers were similar to those of ordinary vicars. This innovation was related to the almost complete abandonment of the practice, characteristic of the medieval Inquisition (and still in use in Spain), of inquisitors visiting their subordinate districts.

The process of establishing a network of district vicariates is well illustrated by the example of the Faenza tribunal. At the end of the 16th century, the inquisitor of Faenza had seven vicariates who resided in the seats of seven dioceses under his authority (in addition to Faenza itself), i.e. Forlì, Cesena, Ravenna, Imola, Cervia, Bertinoro and Sarsina. In 1600, the first four district vicariates were created in Brisighella, Castelbolognese, Solarolo and Fognano. A year later, eleven more were created: Tossignano, Riolo, Lugo, Russi, Bagnacavollo, Cotignola, Sant'Agata, Fusignano, Porto Cesenatico, Marradi and Modigliana. Finally, in 1607, five more were added (Mordano, Bagnara, Casola, Meldola and Pozzolo). Thus, the tribunal in Faenza was governed by a network of seven vicariates and twenty district vicariates.

The authorities of the Venetian Republic were reluctant to create district vicariates and preferred the old institution of vicars. As a result, in 1766 twelve of the fourteen tribunals in the Republic (excluding Zadar and Venice itself) had a total of as many as 94 "ordinary" vicars, and only 50 district vicars. By comparison, the Modena tribunal in the 17th-18th centuries had only one general vicar, but as many as 43 district vicars.

In addition, a representative of the local bishop - usually the vicar general of the diocese - had to sit in the inquisition tribunal during the trial. The nuncio of the Holy See in Venice also sat in the Venetian tribunal. Some states enforced the assistance of their officials in inquisition trials, such as the Republic of Venice since 1547, the Republic of Genoa since 1677, Sabaudia since 1728, and Tuscany since 1754.

Most tribunals were relatively self-sufficient financially thanks to papal decrees in the second half of the 16th century, particularly those of Pius V and Sixtus V. These popes granted many tribunals rights to salaries from the revenues of the dioceses in which they operated, and moreover assigned some benefices to the offices of inquisitors.

Of the 52 permanent local tribunals, 40 were headed by Dominicans and 10 by Conventual Franciscans, while the Maltese tribunal was headed by an inquisitor drawn from the secular clergy, usually with the rank of cleric or prelate, sometimes even bishop, and the Neapolitan inquisitor, beginning in 1591, was always a bishop of any of the southern Italian dioceses. However, the division between the orders was initially fluid. In the diocese of Ceneda, among the first three inquisitors between 1561 and 1584 were a Franciscan and two Dominicans, and it was only from 1584 that the tribunal there was permanently headed by Franciscans from the Conegliano convent. In Venice, Franciscans headed the Inquisition until 1560, and in Vicenza and Verona until 1569, after which the tribunals passed into the hands of Dominicans. The tribunal in Rovigo, generally staffed by Franciscans, was also temporarily placed in the hands of the Dominicans between 1569 and 1590. In Ancona, the first two inquisitors were Franciscans, but from 1566 onward the function was held exclusively by Dominicans.

There was an official hierarchy of tribunals directed by the Dominican order. They were divided into three classes:

With the Conventual Franciscans, there was no such official hierarchy of tribunals, although an analysis of the careers of inquisitors from that order indicates that the tribunals in Florence and Padua were considered the most prestigious.

Of the local inquisitors, the Maltese inquisitor had a special position. From 1574, he was also ex officio apostolic delegate, i.e., the diplomatic representative of the Holy See in Malta, and unlike other inquisitors, he was always drawn from the secular clergy, not from the Dominican or Franciscan orders. Typically, high-born clerics or prelates were appointed to the post, and many of them later received promotions to the highest positions in the Church. Of the 62 Maltese inquisitors in office between 1574 and 1798, two became popes (Alexander VII and Innocent XII), twenty-five became cardinals and eighteen became bishops. Sometimes the promotions occurred while already in office in Malta, e.g. Fabio Chigi (later Pope Alexander VII), inquisitor from 1634-1639, became Bishop of Nardo as early as 1635. The inquisitor was, next to the bishop of Malta and the grand master of the Order of St. John, the most important person on the island. He had a deputy with the title of commissioner, who represented him on the neighboring, smaller island of Gozo. Many residents of both islands belonged to the tribunal's entourage (familiari), mainly because of the privileges this entailed. The inquisitor's residence was in a grand palace near the church of St. Lawrence in the port of Birgu.

As a result of resistance from the local population, both elites and commoners, in the kingdom of Naples the papacy failed to establish a network of tribunals of the Roman Inquisition, just as the Spaniards had failed a little earlier to introduce the Spanish Inquisition here. At the same time, around the middle of the 16th century, the Dominican order stopped appointing its inquisitors. However, this did not mean the absence of a Roman Inquisition presence in the country, let alone the absence of anti-heretic repression. Inquisitorial activity in the kingdom of Naples was carried out by bishops' courts, and the Congregation's oversight of their activities in this regard was much less formalized. In the second half of the 16th century, the Congregation sent its representatives to the kingdom of Naples, usually with the title of apostolic commissioner. As a rule, this title was bestowed on the vicar general of the Neapolitan archdiocese, who was the head of the archbishop's court, but sometimes, according to old custom, Dominicans were also appointed to this role. In the 1660s and 1670s, Neapolitan vicars worked closely with the Congregation, consulting with it on trials against supporters of Valdes' teachings and Judaizers. Some suspects from Neapolitan territory were even handed over to the Inquisition in Rome. The kingdom recorded several significant anti-heretical actions against Valdesians, Waldensians and Judaizers between 1552 and 1582.

After nearly 30 years of attempts by the Roman Inquisition to influence anti-heretical activity in southern Italy through Neapolitan archdiocesan vicars or ad hoc commissioners, it finally came to formalize its presence in the Kingdom of Naples. In 1585, the office of Minister Delegate of the Roman Inquisition (ministro delegato della Inquisizione), or permanent representative of the Congregation in Naples, was created. Officially, he was not titled as an inquisitor, but in practice that was his function and in less official publications he was referred to as such. The tribunal headed by him was formally not fully autonomous, but was part of the archbishop's court of the Archdiocese of Naples, and by this title was subordinate, at least in theory, to the vicar general of the archdiocese, but this did not preclude him from initiating trials on his own. The inquisitorial activities of the delegated minister were limited to the Neapolitan archdiocese, but in addition to this, his role was also to ensure better communication between the diocesan courts of southern Italy and the Congregation of the Holy Office in Rome, informing the Congregation of the religious situation in the area and thus facilitating the Congregation's coordination of anti-heretical activities. Each minister delegate was at the same time a bishop or archbishop of any of the southern Italian dioceses, with the first, Carlo Baldino, receiving his episcopal appointment only while in office. This model operated for more than a century and provided the Congregation with no less control over anti-heretical activity in the kingdom of Naples than the formal Inquisition tribunals in northern Italy.

Outside of Naples itself, the conduct of proceedings in matters of faith in the kingdom of Naples (including the dioceses of Aquino and Benewent, which were papal exclaves in the Kingdom of Naples) was the exclusive responsibility of diocesan courts (the so-called Episcopal Inquisition). There were about 130 dioceses in total in this kingdom, generally of microscopic size and with very limited material resources. The episcopal courts there conducted inquisition activities very irregularly and to a limited extent. There were, however, a few notable anti-heretical actions by diocesan courts, including in Capua (1552, 1563 and at the turn of the 16th

In the 16th and 17th centuries, several other tribunals existed for a short time (a few decades at most):

Episcopal courts and independent vicariates of inquisition in the Church State

Many dioceses in the Church State were not placed under the jurisdiction of local inquisitorial tribunals. There was no tribunal (other than the Congregation of the Holy Office itself) in Lazio and Campania, so in the dioceses there (Ostia e Velletri, Porto e S. Rufina, Palestrina, Frascati, Sabina, Albano, Alatri, Anagni, Acquapendente, Bagnoregio, Civita Castellana e Orte, Ferentino, Montefiascone e Corneto, Nepi e Sutri, Terracina, Tivoli, Veroli, Viterbo e Toscanella) the conduct of proceedings in causa fidei was left to the bishops' courts. The same situation also prevailed in the Umbrian dioceses of Rieti and Orvieto, in the diocese of Ascoli Piceno in the Marche. Only the port of Civitavecchia (in the diocese of Viterbo e Toscanella) and the territorial abbeys of Farfa and Subiaco had inquisitorial vicars who reported directly to the Congregation of the Roman and Universal Inquisition. On the other hand, the dioceses of Aquino and Benevento, which were papal exclaves in the Kingdom of Naples, also had episcopal courts, but under the supervision of the minister delegated to the Inquisition in Naples.


The procedure used by the Roman Inquisition in its basic framework did not differ from that used by the medieval Inquisition. The principles of acting ex officio, secrecy of proceedings, withholding the names of witnesses from the suspect, and the use of detention and torture of the suspect were still permitted. Nevertheless, there were also a number of distinctions from both the medieval model and that used by the Iberian inquisitions.

Like the medieval inquisitors, the Roman Inquisition also began its investigations by promulgating what was known as an edict of clemency, which guaranteed that those who voluntarily confessed to heresy within a certain period of time (three months was standard) would be treated leniently and discreetly. They were generally announced at the beginning of Lent. In addition to the standard edicts of grace, more solemn so-called general edicts were also promulgated, usually in connection with the arrival of a newly appointed inquisitor. These edicts, regardless of their formula, contained a list of transgressions (more or less precisely described) that the faithful were obliged to denounce to the inquisitor, with edicts sometimes promulgated to obtain information only on strictly defined transgressions.

One of the most significant innovations compared to the medieval or Iberian inquisitions was the widespread use of the so-called summary procedure (procedure sommaria). This was the result of Pope Julius III's breve of 1550, under which inquisitors were granted the right to privately absolve repentant heretics who voluntarily confess their errors. Paul IV's reservation of absolution from doctrinal errors to the exclusive competence of the Inquisition guaranteed a steady stream of self-denunciations from penitents whose confessors refused to absolve them. The summary procedure, however, was not reserved only for self-denouncers. It could also be used by persons denounced by others who, when sued before the inquisitor, confessed at the first hearing and showed remorse. The summary procedure consisted of inflicting private penance (fasts, extra prayers, etc.) on the suspect without a trial, the use of detention or torture, the questioning of witnesses and a public verdict and abjuration. The practice of plea bargaining, whereby the accused agreed to terms of leniency, was also widely used.

If the suspect failed to take advantage of the summary procedure, a formal trial (processo formali) began, in which the main evidence was the meticulously recorded testimony of the accused and witnesses. For the duration of the trial, the accused was sometimes imprisoned, although due to physical limitations, defendants were often allowed to answer on their own recognizance, as most tribunals had very small prisons or even no prisons at all, but had to use secular or episcopal prisons or cells in monastic convents. In accordance with medieval practice, incriminating testimony was made available to the accused, but in a form that made it impossible to identify witnesses. Under these conditions, conducting an effective defense was made much more difficult. The accused could try to discredit the prosecution by drawing up a list of his "mortal enemies" - the testimony of such persons was automatically considered invalid, which could even lead to the case being dropped if all the prosecution's witnesses were on such a list. The accused could also request the examination of his witnesses who would testify in his favor (although he had to expect to be charged for carrying out these actions), while as a rule he could not demand confrontation with prosecution witnesses, although there were occasional exceptions to this.

At the formal trial stage, the accused could be assisted by defense counsel, and to a much greater extent than in the Spanish Inquisition or the medieval papal inquisition. Unlike in Spain, where defense attorneys were usually officials of the tribunal, in trials before the Roman Inquisition the accused could appoint a lawyer himself, although he had to be accepted by the inquisitor. However, the rules for providing legal assistance were very restrictive. The defender was not bound by defense secrecy; on the contrary, he was obliged to inform the inquisitor of the defendant's incriminating circumstances, which the defendant revealed to him and concealed from the inquisition. Nor could the defender persist in defending the accused if he found the latter guilty of heresy and persisting in it, since canon law forbade providing legal assistance to heretics. Moreover, the defender, like the accused, was not disclosed the identity of witnesses. In this situation, the practical role of the defense counsel most often consisted of pointing out mitigating circumstances (e.g., drunkenness, mental illness, illiteracy, etc.), helping the accused prepare an appropriate act of contrition and possibly negotiating the terms of a lenient punishment. In many cases, however, defense attorneys also attempted to discredit the prosecution's evidence, which sometimes succeeded and consequently led to the exoneration of the accused. The surviving records show, however, that defendants not infrequently abandoned the services of defense counsel and relied on the mercy of the tribunal, which was often a very effective tactic.

The inquisitors themselves realized that the rules of the inquisitorial process did not give the accused and his defense counsel much opportunity to conduct an effective defense. That's why the Congregation's instructions and manuals for inquisitors stressed that evidence beyond a reasonable doubt was necessary for a conviction.

At the formal trial stage, the accused could be subjected to torture. Their use was permitted to obtain confessions, clarify intentions and obtain the names of accomplices. They could be used only if the evidence collected clearly testified against the accused, and he nevertheless denied the charges and at the same time could not discredit the prosecution's evidence, or if the evidence indicated that his confession was incomplete. Torture was not allowed at the first interrogation, and, moreover, it had to be preceded by two earlier stages: the verbal threat of being sent to torture, then the presentation of the instruments of torture. Often defendants, faced with such threats, gave the testimony expected of them and there was no need to inflict physical torment. However, if the sub-judge continued to insist on his innocence or gave incomplete (in the opinion of the inquisitors) testimony, he was subjected to torture. The Roman Inquisition basically used only one type of torture, the so-called strappado (or corda). Mentions of other methods (e.g., burning feet) are very rare and often occur in the context of reprimands given to inquisitors for this reason by the Congregation of the Holy Office. Testimonies obtained under torture afterwards had to be, on pain of nullity, confirmed by the accused without coercion. If the accused recanted his testimony (or testified nothing on torture), the inquisitors had the choice of repeating the torture, releasing the accused or continuing the interrogations in a more subtle manner. The manuals and instructions of the Congregation strongly warned against the abuse of torture and often expressed open skepticism about its effectiveness in finding the truth. In doing so, they stressed that torture must not lead to any serious bodily harm, and that a doctor must always be present when torture is applied, and had the right to forbid the use of torture due to the health of the accused.

In light of the surviving documentation, it appears that the Roman Inquisition used torture very infrequently, but the scanty amount of trial material does not allow for overly categorical conclusions on the matter. The largely preserved correspondence between the Congregation of the Holy Office and local tribunals, however, indicates that the Congregation attached great importance to the observance of rules in this matter, and itself recommended far-reaching restraint and moderation and, as a rule, required that decisions to use torture be consulted in advance. The Congregation was also interested in the conditions under which detainees were held.

When the Inquisition resumed in the Church State after the Napoleonic Wars, Pope Pius VII thoroughly reformed its procedure in 1816. He banned torture and abolished the anonymity of witnesses, requiring judges to confront them with the accused. In addition, the use of criminal punishment was limited to "false prophets and apostles of false doctrines," prohibiting its infliction on "ordinary" heretics, and in all situations the trial was to be conducted "so as to avoid the death penalty."

Sentences and punishments

The trial ended with the announcement of the verdict and, if found guilty, also with the imposition of punishment. Since the 13th century, the punishment prescribed in secular and ecclesiastical legislation for heresy was the death penalty if the heretic persisted in heresy (impenitento, unrepentant) or fell into it again (relapso, recidivist). However, in accordance with a practice developed to some extent as early as the Middle Ages, not every deviation from the Catholic faith was punishable by death, but multiple degrees of guilt were introduced. In order for an accused to be sentenced to death, his religious views had to be "formally heretical" (heresia de formali), i.e. the accused had to consciously reject any of the dogmas promulgated by the Church. In other cases, where the accused's doctrinal views did not directly touch the dogmas of the faith, they could be classified as "erroneous" (erronea), "close to heresy" (haeresis proxima) or "indirectly heretical" (haeresim sapiens). Views could also be condemned as not being heretical, but "scandalous to the ears of believers" (piarium atrium offensiva), "scandalous" (scandalosa) or "contrary to the theological consensus." In doubtful cases, the classification of the views in question attributed to the accused depended on the opinions of the tribunal's theological advisors, but was often also the subject of negotiations (defense settlement) between the tribunal and defense counsel. If the tribunal concluded that the accused's religious views deserved condemnation, but were not in any way heretical, the accused, in order to be reconciled with the Church, was only obliged to "revoke" these views, not "renounce" them. In more serious cases, on the other hand, the trial ended with the accused being declared "guilty of heresy" (in the case of formal heresy) or "suspected of heresy." He then had to make a solemn renunciation (abjuration) and reconciliation with the Church, which, depending on the degree of guilt, could take the following forms:

Those who, after abiura de formali or de vehementi, fell back into heresy were treated as relapsos (recidivists) and sentenced to death, even if they renounced heresy again.

Abjuration, of course, did not apply to those transgressions that were not related to the religious views of the accused, but were subjected to the jurisdiction of the Inquisition under special decrees, even if they could entail very severe penalties (such as solicitation).

The Roman Inquisition used a very wide range of punishments. In the most trivial cases, it was even possible to waive the punishment and stop at an instruction and warning. In other cases, various punishments were inflicted, ranging from typical penitential measures (recitation of prayers, fasts, pilgrimages, etc.), to fines, flogging or banishment, to imprisonment or galleys, and in extreme cases the death penalty. Flogging was often used as an additional punishment, alongside imprisonment or exile. In the early days, "liberty" punishments were sometimes combined with the obligation to wear signs of penance on their clothing (the so-called abitello), but since this often led to discrimination against convicts in society, the inquisitors readily granted dispensations from this obligation, and the practice was later abandoned. Prison sentences were generally imposed indefinitely, and even the formula "perpetual imprisonment" (carcere perpetuo) was used, but in practice they rarely lasted longer than three years. Moreover, it often did not involve actual confinement of the convict in prison, but took the form of house arrest, residence in a monastery or even just a ban on leaving the city. Exile to the galleys was considered the harshest punishment (in addition to the death penalty), as many convicts did not live to see the end of their sentence. In addition, the Inquisition was not always able to enforce the command of the galleys to release the convict at the end of the period of this punishment.

In the most extreme cases, the Inquisition would hand the accused over to the "secular arm" (braccio secolare) for "appropriate punishment," as the death penalty was euphemistically referred to. As mentioned above, the death penalty was reserved only for those guilty of formal heresy who either persisted in it (impenitento) or fell into recidivism (relapso). Under Paul IV's decrees, the death penalty could be imposed even despite the accused's repentance on the first offense for denying the dogma of the Trinity, denying the divinity of Jesus and denying the virginity of Mary (decree of June 22, 1556). In addition, this pope recommended sentencing to death at the first offense for celebrating Mass without ordination (decree of May 20, 1557) and profaning the eucharist. Although after the death of Paul IV these decrees largely went into oblivion and in the 17th century galleys were generally sentenced for these acts, they were renewed and confirmed by Pope Innocent XI in March 1677, and there is evidence that they were still enforced in the 18th century.

Although the Inquisition is most often associated with death by burning at the stake, in reality the methods used by secular authorities to execute its convicts varied. Burning alive was reserved only for unrepentant heretics. In other cases, the condemned was first hanged, beheaded or strangled, and only his corpse was burned. Such executions were sometimes carried out in a prison cell, and only the burning of the corpse took place in public. In the case of those celebrating mass without ordination, sometimes the burning of the corpse was not used, but instead the beheading or hanging was done. In Venice, the preferred method of capital punishment was drowning - the condemned person was thrown into the sea with a heavy stone tied around his neck.

Sometimes death sentences were imposed on fugitives. Sometimes this led to an "execution in effigie," that is, the burning of a portrait or puppet of the condemned person, but the Roman Inquisition did not attach as much importance to these symbolic executions as did the Iberian Inquisitions. It also happened that a person who died during the trial was considered a stubborn heretic or recidivist. In such a case, his corpse was formally "handed over to the secular arm" for burning.

A death sentence, even if pronounced in absentia, generally entailed confiscation of the convict's property. In the Ecclesiastical State, confiscation went entirely to the Inquisition, while in other states part of the property was seized by secular authorities or bishops. In Mantua, the convict's property was divided 50/50 between the Inquisition and the secular authorities. In the principality of Milan, 1

From 1725 onward, all sentences obliging the subjudice to at least abiuration de levi required prior approval by the Congregation of the Holy Office.

Textbooks for inquisitors

Unlike the inquisitions in Spain and Portugal, the Roman Inquisition never made a uniform codification of its rules of procedure. This resulted in the great popularity of so-called manuals for inquisitors, i.e. studies of inquisitorial procedure and rules for dealing with heretics. From the 16th to 18th centuries, a great number of such works were published in Italy, some of which were published in print and others circulated only in manuscripts. In addition, textbooks still written by medieval inquisitors were also used. Great merit in this field went to the Spanish canonist Francisco Peña (c. 1540-1612), who settled permanently in Rome in the 1570s. He published in print and annotated two manuals authored by medieval inquisitors: Directorium Inquisitorum by the Aragonese inquisitor Nicolas Eymeric of c. 1376 (first Roman edition in 1578) and Lucerna Inquisitorum Haereticae Pravitatis by Bernardo Rategno of Como of c. 1511 (first Roman edition in 1584). Eymerica's manual became the most popular manual of the Roman Inquisition in the late 16th century and early 17th century. In the 17th century, it began to be supplanted by manuals authored by Roman inquisitors (or their clerks), already taking into account the organizational and procedural changes that occurred after the establishment of the Roman Inquisition, and moreover, often written no longer in Latin, but in Italian. The most popular such manual was that by Inquisitor Eliseo Masini (Sacro Arsenale), which was published in print as many as ten times between 1621 and 1730. A textbook written in Latin by Cesare Carena (1597-1659), Tractatus de Officio Sanctissimae Inquisitionis, was published slightly fewer, nine times. Some manuals, however, circulated only in manuscripts.

Some instructions drafted by the Congregation of the Holy Office were also published in print. An example of this is the Instructio pro formandis processibus in causis strigum (Instruction on the Procedure in Witchcraft Cases), drafted as early as around 1600 and published in print in 1657 in Rome. This instruction had a very strong influence on the way church courts handled witchcraft cases not only in Italy, but also in Switzerland, France, Germany and even in Poland, where it was published in print in Gdansk (1682) and Braniewo (1705).

Areas of interest

The Roman Inquisition was originally tasked mainly with combating Protestantism in Italy. However, by the 1680s, there were virtually no organized groups sympathetic to the Reformation in Italy. In this situation, the main role of the Inquisition became guarding the orthodoxy of the ordinary faithful and combating various kinds of transgressions:

The scope of the inquisitors' authority also included so-called reductions, i.e. conversions of Muslims, Protestants or Orthodox to Catholicism. These were not trials in the strict sense of the word, but were also recorded in inquisition records just as trials were. The option to convert to Catholicism before the inquisitor was exercised not only by those raised in a different faith, but also by Catholics who, as a result of a long stay in Ottoman Turkey (including as slaves or captives) or Protestant countries, had embraced Islam or Protestantism, but wanted to live as Catholics again without fear of persecution. Jesuits and Capuchins often mediated in negotiating the terms of reduction with the inquisitors.

One of the most studied aspects of the Roman Inquisition's activities by historians is its attitude toward so-called witch hunts. Dominican inquisitors in Lombardy in the 15th and early 16th centuries were responsible for a very large number of witch trials and executions, and made a significant contribution to promoting the idea of the reality of the crime of witchcraft (including Sabbath flights). The Congregation of the Roman and Universal Inquisition, on the other hand, was skeptical almost from the beginning, although its attitude lacked consistency in the early years. In 1559 Pope Paul IV, despite the doubts of the inquisitorial cardinals, approved four death sentences handed down by the tribunal of Bologna against alleged witches accused of taking part in Sabbaths, but surviving documentation shows that the pope's position was determined by the fact that these individuals confessed to profaning consecrated hosts, while the issue of alleged Sabbaths was treated as entirely secondary. Ten years later, the Congregation of the Holy Office helped bring to a halt the witch hunts in Lecco, unleashed by Cardinal Charles Borromeo, Archbishop of Milan. Questioning the evidence of guilt, the Congregation annulled six death sentences handed down by the archbishop. On the other hand, however, in the same year five women were burned in Siena by the Inquisition without any objection from Rome. Cases of people accused of witchcraft being sent to the stake by ecclesiastical courts (both episcopal and Inquisition) occurred in Italian states until the end of the 16th century, for example. in Avignon in 1581-1582 (19 people burned by the Inquisitor), in Val Mesolcina in 1583 (7 people burned by the Archbishop of Milan, Charles Boromeo) and again in 1589 (about 40 burned by the local parish priest Giovan Pietro Stoppani), in Velletri in 1587 (two women burned by a diocesan vicar), in Perugia in 1590 (a woman burned by an inquisitor) and in Mantua between 1595 and 1600 (three people burned by the Inquisition), but increasingly the Holy Office intervened in such cases in favor of the accused. In 1588, the Inquisition challenged the death sentences handed down to the alleged witches of Triora by the senate of Genoa; unfortunately, the surviving documentation does not answer the question of what the final outcome of the case was. During Giulio Antonio Santori's tenure as cardinal secretary (1587-1602), a skeptical current finally prevailed in the Roman Inquisition. Developed around 1600, the Instructio pro formandis processibus in causis strigum, while it did not question the reality of witchcraft per se, established such standards for the handling of such cases as to make a conviction virtually impossible. In particular, it was forbidden to issue a conviction on the basis of the slander of co-defendants accused of witchcraft. Moreover, the Roman Inquisition did not treat witchcraft as a specific crime for which the death penalty is due. Persons accused of witchcraft, even if found guilty, could be reconciled with the Church just as in the case of ordinary accusations of heresy. This instruction had a decisive impact on the practice of Italian ecclesiastical courts in witchcraft cases and ensured that after 1600 they did not participate in witch hunts. Moreover, through this instruction, the Congregation also positively influenced the conduct of church courts in countries north of the Alps. However, the Inquisition was not always able to prevent secular courts from sentencing alleged witches to death. In Piedmont, where the freedom of local tribunals was severely curtailed in the early 18th century, the secular courts carried out several executions of alleged witches between 1707 and 1723.

Status of archives

The exact number of trials conducted by the Roman Inquisition and the sentences it handed down, including death sentences, is not and unfortunately will never be known. This is due to the fact that the archives of the vast majority of tribunals were destroyed in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Enlightenment and revolutionary governments that abolished the tribunals of the Inquisition in the late 18th century generally burned or otherwise destroyed their records. It is known, for example, that the archives of the Mantua tribunal were destroyed in October 1782, and that the archives of the Milan tribunal - containing trial records going back continuously as far as 1470 - were burned to the ground on June 3, 1788 in the gardens of the S. Maria delle Grazie convent on the orders of Emperor Joseph II. The archives of the tribunals of Padua and Verona were burned by order of the republican authorities in 1797. Sometimes inquisitorial archives were accidentally destroyed much earlier, such as the archives of the tribunal of Piacenza, housed in the library of the convent of S. Giovanni in Canale, burned during the fire of that library in 1650. The only local tribunals whose original archives survived and have been identified are:

Although the archives of the Genoa tribunal have disappeared, a certain amount of inquisitorial documentation has found its way to the Archivio Storico dell'Arcidiocesi di Genova, where, however, these resources do not form a separate whole. The Archivio di Stato in Parma holds a small number of documents left over from the archives of the Inquisition tribunals in Parma and Piacenza, but these are almost without exception documents of an economic nature. The Archivio di Stato in Ancona also has in its holdings a handful of local tribunal documents of a similar nature. It is also known that the Archivio Storico Arcivescovile di Fermo holds a small collection of inquisitorial documentation of the tribunal of Fermo, but this has not been made available to historians so far, hence its actual contents are unknown.

In the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, in many districts, especially in the Republic of Venice, the main role in combating torts against the faith was played by bishop's courts, with only the auxiliary participation of inquisitors. As a result, some of the Inquisition's trial documentation ended up in diocesan archives and avoided destruction in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Thus, documentation of some of the inquisition trials in the dioceses of Belluno (in Archivio Vescovile di Belluno), Bergamo (in Archivio Vescovile di Bergamo), Crema (in Archivio Storico Diocesano di Crema) survived, Feltre (in Archivio Vescovile di Feltre) and Treviso (in Archivio storico diocesano di Treviso), but these resources should not be equated with the archives of the inquisition tribunals. Documents from trials conducted by episcopal tribunals in cooperation with the Inquisition are also found in diocesan archives in Acqui Terme (Curia vescovile di Acqui), Novara (Curia vescovile di Novara), Tortona (Archivio Vescovile di Tortona) and Turin (Archivio storico diocesano).

In addition, the archives of the Vicariate of Inquisition in Imola (in Archivio Diocesano in Imola), subordinate to the tribunal of Faenza, and the Vicariate of Lodi (in Archivio Storico Diocesano di Lodi), subordinate to the tribunal of Milan, were identified. Significant resources remaining from the vicariates of Inquisition in Forlì (in Biblioteca Comunale "Aurelio Saffi"), Savona (in Archivio Storico Diocesano di Savona-Noli) and Macerata (in Archivio Diocesano di Macerata), subordinate to the tribunals of Faenza, Genoa and Ancona, respectively, were also identified.

The condition of the above archives varies widely, e.g., complete or nearly complete are the archives of the tribunals of Udine, Siena or Modena, while, for example, the archives of the tribunals of Bologna or Florence are badly run down. It should be emphasized, however, that archival searches are still in progress, and some diocesan archives in Italy are still not made available to historians. It is therefore possible that the above list of surviving archives will grow even larger.

Prior to 1998, some historians had hoped that the shortcomings resulting from the destruction of local archives would be compensated for by the resources of the Archives of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (ACDF), the former Holy Office to which local tribunals reported on their activities, although the story surrounding the removal of this archive to Paris in 1810 and its return to Rome a few years later had long been well known. Unfortunately, when the ACDF opened in 1998, fears were confirmed that it did not contain significant holdings of trial documentation similar to those found in the central archives of the Spanish Inquisition, although the almost complete archives of the Sienese tribunal were unexpectedly discovered there.

The archive of the Roman Holy Office suffered irreparable losses as a result of a whole series of events from 1798 (the establishment of the Roman Republic) until the second half of the 19th century, the most fateful of which was Napoleon's decision to deport this archive to Paris (in 1810). After the fall of Napoleon, the Holy See attempted to recover this archive, but the cost of transportation proved so great that it had to limit itself to only the documentation necessary for the operation of the Congregation, and the rest, including much of the procedural documentation from centuries past, was destroyed. Some of this documentation, however, survived and is scattered throughout various archives. It is also known that nineteenth-century inquisitorial documentation was destroyed by the Congregation itself for fear of falling into the wrong hands during the political crises of 1848, 1860 and 1870, as well as in 1881. The former archives of the Holy Office, now housed at the ACDF, total some 4,500 volumes of documents, but the collection of criminal trial documentation from the 16th to 18th centuries (the so-called. Criminalia series) contains only about 220 volumes, of which only 171 are trial records from the 16th-19th centuries, 6 more are abiuations of suspects from 1546-1843, while a few dozen others are documentation of other types (instructions, registers, interrogatories, former archival catalogs, etc.). By comparison, as many as 4158 volumes containing trial records from 1542-1771 and 472 volumes containing judgment records from the same period were exported to Paris in 1810. To these roughly 220 volumes in the Criminalia series can be added more than a hundred volumes on floridism, pseudo-mysticism, magic and the cult of non-canonized saints, located in separate subsets, but also containing records of a procedural nature. Outside the ACDF, the largest collection of the congregation's trial materials is at Trinity College in Dublin. The collection there consists of 36 volumes of trial records and 18 volumes of judgment records. A handful of similar materials are scattered in several other European (mainly Italian) archives, but that doesn't change the fact that the trial materials surviving today represent at most about 10% of the original holdings of this documentation. In contrast, almost all (starting in 1548, but excluding the years 1772-1799) of the Congregation's minutes (the so-called Decreta Sancti Officii), most of the Congregation's correspondence with local tribunals (the so-called Litterae, 250 volumes of the 358 that existed in 1813), and the complete archive of the Congregation of the Index (328 volumes) have survived.

The above conditions make it impossible for historians to provide precise data on the number of trials for the vast majority of tribunals, and thus also for the Roman Inquisition as a whole. It is only possible to determine a certain order of magnitude that comes into play, based on the individual data obtained for those few tribunals whose archives have survived and their extrapolation. The situation is somewhat better in the case of death sentences alone, since executions of Inquisition sub-judges were often recorded in external sources as well. For example, in the case of Rome, Milan and Parma, the number of executions is reconstructed primarily from the archives of the confraternities assisting the condemned during the execution. Additional information is provided by chronicles, diplomatic reports, Protestant martyrologies, documents from city archives, private letters, etc. These sources compensate to some extent for the shortcomings resulting from the destruction of trial documentation, but they never guarantee the completeness of the balance sheet compiled on their basis.

Number of processes

As for the number of cases dealt with by the Roman Inquisition, data has so far been published for the tribunals of Venice, Udine, Siena, Modena, Bologna, Naples, Malta and Feltre, as well as for the vicariate of Imola. It was also possible to reconstruct partial data for several other tribunals (Mantua, Genoa, Ancona, Faenza), but these cover very short periods and it is uncertain whether they are complete. Not in all cases the results obtained are based directly on an analysis of existing process file resources. In the case of some districts (e.g., Venice, Imola, Naples, partly Modena), the published figures are based on archival inventories containing lists of cases processed by the Inquisition. These inventories, as sources, have their limitations, however, because:

The data for the Venetian tribunal is based on the archival inventory No. 303, compiled in the 19th century and containing a catalog of suspects from 1541-1794, which shows that it investigated 3597 suspects during that period, except that the inventory contains almost no cases from 1593-1609 and 1611-1615. Andrea Del Col, in addition to noting this gap, pointed out that a direct reading of the trial files proves that the inventory does not list all the suspects. For the period 1541-1560, the inventory lists 418 suspects; the actual number is 968. On the other hand, however, the Venetian archive also contains files of inquisition proceedings held in other cities of the Venetian Republic; in the period mentioned, of the 968 suspects, only 458 were actually tried by the Venetian tribunal. Of the remaining 510, as many as 301 were tried by Commissioner Annibale Grisonio in Istria between 1548-1549 and 1558-1559. These figures include all types of proceedings, including denunciations that did not lead to formal charges. In total, Del Col estimated the number of cases handled by the Venetian tribunal at around 4400.

The tribunal of Udine, which includes the dioceses of Aquileia and Concordia under its jurisdiction, has the entire original archive preserved. It contains both the tribunal's case catalog and trial records, and a comparison of them reveals the shortcomings of the former source. According to the catalog, it processed 2453 cases between 1557 and 1786, while an analysis of the trial records shows that it processed cases of as many as 4087 suspects between 1557 and 1804. The trial records also make it possible to separate the various categories of cases according to the type of procedure adopted: only 525 cases (12.85%) took the form of formal trials, 1,701 (41.62%) were subject to summary procedure, and the remaining 1,861 (45.53%) were denunciations and other information that were recorded by the tribunal, but did not lead to the prosecution of anyone.

The Sienese tribunal, according to trial records in the ACDF, heard the cases of 6893 defendants between 1580 and 1782, including 614 in the last two decades of the 16th century, 2310 in the 17th century and as many as 3969 in the 18th century. However, the trial records in the ACDF do not cover the period before 1580. Documentation from this earlier period is fragmentarily preserved in two local archives in Siena. Taking this earlier documentation into account, Andrea Del Col estimated that the Siena Inquisition tried some 7100 people between 1551 and 1782.

In the case of Modena, we have data from the archival inventory, covering the years 1495-1785, and data based on an analysis of trial records, but only for the years 1701-1785. These sources show significant discrepancies, which indicate that the archival inventory is highly selective. According to the inventory, the Modena Inquisition handled a total of 5605 suspects' cases between 1495 and 1785, including 430 by 1598 (the Modena district was then only a vicariate of the Ferrara tribunal), 3630 between 1599 and 1700, and 1545 between 1701 and 1785. In fact, the trial files from 1701-1785 document proceedings against as many as 3534 people, 130% more than the inventory shows. Only 483 cases (12%) resulted in formal trials, and 1,028 people (29%) were given summary proceedings, while the remaining 2,078 (59%) were not ultimately indicted. Only 136 suspects were arrested pending trial. To these numbers can be added 393 trials against practicing Jews from 1599-1670, which were recorded in a separate archive collection. The total number of known cases tried by the Modena Inquisition over nearly three centuries is thus as high as 7987. The figures for the 16th and 17th centuries, however, require further verification based on trial records. The Modena archives also contain the archives of the tribunal in Reggio Emilia, which, however, are heavily faded. The surviving trial records cover only the final period of the tribunal's activity; it dealt with the cases of 465 suspects between 1733 and 1776. However, based on correspondence between the inquisitors of Reggio Emilia and the Congregation of the Holy Office, 263 more trials from 1646-1733 have been cataloged.

The archives of the Parma tribunal have not survived (with the exception of a handful of documents of an economic nature), but an archival inventory from 1769 has been preserved, which indicates that it contained 165 volumes of trial records from 1500-1768. On this basis, it is estimated that the tribunal could have considered by about 1

The Maltese tribunal between 1744 and 1798 received as many as 3620 denunciations (also counting self-denunciations) concerning a total of 3049 people, of whom only 148 were arrested pending trial. In contrast, in the early period, between 1546 and 1581, the Maltese ecclesiastical courts (both the bishop's court and the Inquisition) received a total of 497 denunciations. Between 1577 and 1670, the local tribunal received 3928 denunciations, but conducted only 2104 trials.

The Feltre Tribunal heard a total of 62 cases during the mere years of its existence (1558-1562), of which only 20 were formal trials and only nine of them resulted in convictions. The remaining 42 cases were merely registered denunciations that did not lead to the prosecution of anyone. The Vicariate of Inquisition in Imola, on the other hand, according to the archival inventory, handled 742 cases between 1551 and 1700.

The archives of the Bologna tribunal contain incomplete trial records from 1543-1583, which include data on 156 trials for heresy (19 of which were conducted in absentia) and 8 trials for witchcraft. In contrast, the surviving records of the Genoese tribunal indicate that it held 366 trials between 1540 and 1583, many of which did not result in convictions due to lack of evidence. In addition, between 1609 and 1627, Genoa held 28 public abjurations. The Florence archive contains documentation of only 133 trials, mostly from 1578-1620. In addition, there are five volumes containing abjurations of suspects from 1636-1770.

A total of eight auto da fe ceremonies were held in Mantua between 1568 and 1570, during which 41 people were convicted. In Ancona, a total of 88 defendants were tried in trials against Judaizers in 1556. In Faenza, on the other hand, a total of about 150 people were arrested between 1567 and 1569, of whom 78 were convicted. In Rome alone, during the pontificate of Pius V, 15 auto da fe ceremonies are documented, during which about 180 people were convicted.

Documentation found in the diocesan archives in Crema and Treviso indicates that in Crema there were 53 proceedings between 1582 and 1613 (including 44 formal trials and 9 denunciations) and 63 between 1622 and 1630 (including only 25 formal trials), while in Treviso between 1530 and 1585 there are 102 documented proceedings.

In his annual report on his activities in 1796, Verona inquisitor Ercole Pio Pavoni reported 101 denunciations, including 57 self-denunciations. The self-denunciations ended in "appeals" and penitential measures, while the remaining 44 cases were suspended and no consequences were imposed on the denounced. In contrast, Conegliano's inquisitor, Francesco Antonio Mimiola, recorded only one self-incrimination and three denunciations in his report for 1795. Crema's last inquisitor, Pietro Placido Novelli, during his trial brought against him by the authorities of the Cisalpine Republic, claimed that during his ten and a half years in office (1786-1797) he did not conduct a single trial, but only granted absolution to those who came to him voluntarily.

Two archival inventories have been compiled for the Neapolitan tribunal, containing a record of proceedings in causa fidei. The first covers the years 1564-1740 and lists 3038 cases, but is unfortunately incomplete and sometimes does not list all the suspects in a given case. The second inventory, considered by Del Col to be more reliable, covers only the years 1549-1647 and contains a record of 4390 suspects. As many as 47% of the cases recorded in this second inventory were formal trials, 13% summary proceedings, and the remaining 40% denunciations that ultimately did not lead to charges. In the final period (1721-1748), there were only 52 formal trials out of a total of 1,902 cases.

Based on the above relatively modest data, historians are attempting to estimate the total number of cases handled by the Roman Inquisition. Andrea Del Col, based on the most complete data for the tribunals of Udine (4087 cases, rounded up by Del Col to about 4100) and Siena (about 7100 cases), estimated that the Roman Inquisition tribunals in Italian countries (including Avignon) could have processed about 240-310,000 cases. Relying further on data from Udine and Naples, he assumed that formal trials accounted for only 25% of all cases processed, which would mean that the Roman Inquisition in Italian countries conducted a total of about 60-77,000 trials. Francisco Bethencourt, on the other hand, estimated only the number of formal trials and assumed that it amounted to about 50,000.

Number of executions

As mentioned above, the source base for reconstructing the number of executions is broader than for estimating the number of trials, since executions were also recorded by outside sources. Data on executions ordered by the Congregation of the Holy Office in Rome itself is reconstructed primarily on the basis of documentation from the archives of the confraternity of San Giovanni Decollato, which assisted those condemned to death at executions by offering them a last spiritual service. Since the documentation does not always make it clear whether a particular execution was ordered by the Roman Inquisition, the numbers given by different historians vary slightly: Del Col gives a figure of at least 128 executions, while Decker gives a figure of 133 executions. Based on the archives of the confraternity of S. Giovanni Decollato alone, Domenico Orano gave a named list of 126 people executed by the Inquisition in Rome between 1553 and 1761. Such a high number of executions in Rome was due to the fact that in the 16th century the Congregation often requested extraditions of leading Italian heretics and took over their trials from local tribunals to conduct directly.

While the data for local tribunals can be reconstructed in only a few cases, they show that many formally handed down death sentences were never carried out, either because they were pronounced in absentia, the condemned escaped, or the sentence was annulled by secular authorities or inquisitorial cardinals.

The Venice Tribunal issued twenty-six death sentences between 1541 and 1794, of which twenty-three were carried out (including twenty-two in Venice and one in Brescia). The first execution took place in 1553, the last in 1724. It is also known that one person was executed in Venice in 1736, convicted by the tribunal of the Inquisition in Padua for celebrating mass without ordination. The Padua tribunal sentenced at least two more people to death for a similar offense; their executions were carried out in Padua in 1611 and 1631.

The Udine tribunal handed down thirteen death sentences throughout its history (1556-1806). In eight cases, however, the sentences were in absentia, and in one case the condemned escaped execution. In fact, therefore, this tribunal executed only four people (two in Udine one each in Portogruaro and Cividale del Friuli), representing less than 1% of the formal trials conducted by this tribunal. To this can be added three other convicts who were tried by the tribunal in Udine, but were eventually turned over to the Congregation of the Holy Office and executed in Rome. The Rovigo tribunal handed down a total of four death sentences, three of which were carried out, and one convict managed to escape.

In Bologna, fragmentary surviving trial records indicate that between 1543 and 1583 the tribunal there handed down 30 death sentences, of which 19 were executed and the rest were pronounced in absentia. However, based on other sources, it is possible to identify fourteen more executions that took place in that city between 1587 and 1744, as well as two in effigie executions (in 1591 and 1594), which would give a total of at least 33 actual executions and at least 13 sentences in absentia.

In Ancona, 24 people were executed during the campaign against the marranos in 1556 alone. In Mantua, four people were executed at eight auto da fe ceremonies between 1568 and 1570 and eight others were condemned in absentia. In 1581, one person was sentenced to death in absentia. Between 1595 and 1600, three alleged witches were burned.

There were probably only two executions in Modena between 1541 and 1785: Marco Magnavacca was executed in 1567, and Vincenzo Pellicciari in 1727. Four more death sentences were pronounced in absentia between 1570 and 1571, while in Ferrara two executions are known to have taken place between 1550 and 1551 and another four between 1568 and 1570. In addition, at least two executions in effigie took place there (in 1570 and 1572).

The Inquisition in Malta is believed to have handed down five death sentences during its lifetime, two of which were carried out, as the remaining convicts were tried in absentia. Both executions took place in 1639.

At least six executions are documented in Naples. In 1564, two heretics (Gianfrancesco Alois and Giovanni Bernardino Gargano) were burned in the city, and between 1633 and 1642, four men were executed there for celebrating the sacraments without being properly ordained to do so.

In Milan, according to data from the archives of the confraternity of San Giovanni Decollato (which plays an analogous role to that of Rome), four men were executed for heresy between 1568 and 1630, but only one of them was convicted by the local Inquisition (in 1575), while the other three were convicted by Archbishop Charles Borromeo. Two more executions took place in 1641. The archives of the Parma Confraternity show that at least two executions by the Inquisition took place in Parma (both in 1640 for sacrilege), but it is not impossible that there were more, as in many cases the records are very laconic and do not specify which court and for what crime handed down the death sentence. At least three people were executed in Piacenza (in 1550, 1564 and 1610).

Given the lack of reliable data for the vast majority of tribunals, historians assessing the scale of executions ordered by the Roman Inquisition rely on the few data that can be established and extrapolate them. Andrea Del Col relied on total data for the tribunals of Venice and Udine and partial data for Bologna and Ancona, with the Venetian tribunal, which carried out 23 executions, considered the most representative. Taking into account the number of local tribunals and the number of executions carried out in Rome, he concluded that the Roman Inquisition in the Italian countries (excluding Avignon) carried out between 1,100 and 1,400 actual executions, most likely around 1,250. Francisco Bethencourt also estimated the number at around 1,250, but did not specify whether he meant actual executions or the total number of death sentences (including those not carried out).

However, the above balance sheet applies only to tribunals in Italy and must be supplemented with data for at least two tribunals in French-speaking areas. In the papal city of Avignon, 18 supporters of the Reformation (Huguenots) were burned between 1545 and 1557, and 19 alleged witches were executed between 1581 and 1582. On the other hand, between 1566 and 1574, i.e. during the religious wars in France, the tribunal there pronounced as many as 818 death sentences against supporters of the Reformation, but it is known that many of them were pronounced in absentia. The surviving sources, however, do not allow us to ascertain the proportion between executed and in absentia sentences. In the archdiocese of Besançon, on the other hand, inquisitor Pierre Symard burned 22 alleged witches between 1657 and 1659, but these executions took place against the wishes of the Congregation of the Holy Office, which dismissed him from office for this reason.

The tribunal of the Roman Inquisition in Barcelona, which existed for less than a decade, tried 18 people, three of whom were sentenced to death, but only one sentence was actually carried out (two others were burned in effigie).

Taking into account the above estimates, it can be conservatively assumed that the total number of those executed by the Roman Inquisition is probably around 1,500-2,000. It accounts for, at most, 2-4% of the formal trials held before its tribunals and only a fraction of a percent of all the cases it handled.

The Roman Inquisition, in a modified form, still exists today. On June 29, 1908, Pope Pius X reorganized the Roman Curia, which finally discontinued the now anachronistic name "Congregation for the Roman and Universal Inquisition" in favor of the "Congregation of the Holy Office," which had been used interchangeably until then. Nine years later, on March 22, 1917, Pope Benedict XV abolished the separate Congregation of the Index and merged it with the Holy Office. This congregation thus took over the duties of evaluating literature and issuing the Index of Prohibited Books. In addition, it kept an eye on orthodoxy within the Catholic clergy and institutions, for example, it played a major role in the anti-modernist campaign, but after 1870 it no longer had the power to arrest anyone or sentence anyone to punishments other than those within the traditional catalog of penitential or possibly disciplinary measures for the clergy. It promulgated new editions of the Index of Prohibited Books three times: in 1929, 1938 and for the last time in 1948. Unlike in previous centuries, these editions were published in Italian rather than Latin.

On December 7, 1965, the Congregation was reformed again by Pope Paul VI, renaming it the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which still exists today and watches over the purity of Catholic doctrine, but has no means of discipline other than intra-ecclesial punishment. From 1981 to 2005, its prefect was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who became Pope Benedict XVI on April 19, 2005.

The Index of Prohibited Books was abolished by Paul VI in 1966.

During the celebration of the Jubilee Year 2000, Pope John Paul II apologized for the sins of Churchmen of past centuries, including the activities of the Inquisition. Two years earlier, in January 1998, this Pope decided to open the ACDF to historians.


  1. Roman Inquisition
  2. Inkwizycja rzymska
  3. Za „państwo włoskie” w niniejszym artykule uznawana jest także rządzona przez joannitów Malta, gdyż według ówczesnych pojęć geograficznych była częścią Włoch, a z prawnego punktu widzenia była lennem królestwa Neapolu (zob. Black, s. 45-46).
  4. ^ The original assessment document from the Inquisition was made available to the public in 2014.
  5. a b AQUINO, Felipe. Para entender a Inquisição. 8º Edição. Cléofas, Lorena. 2014.
  6. BERNARD Joseph. Inquisição - História Mito e Verdade. Ed. Loyola
  7. PASTOR, Ludwig, The History of the Popes. K. Paul, Tresch, Trübner & Co.Ltd. 1899.
  8. Del Re (1998:97).
  9. Cf. Bula Licet a diversis del 15 de febrero de 1551, en el Bullarium Romanum, VI, 431-433.
  10. Cf. Del Re (1998:98).

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