The Inquisition was spread over six centuries and half a continent. […] [The Spanish Inquisition] became a creature of the state and was effectively out of the control of Church authorities. […]
In any event, there is considerable dispute, even among honest historians, regarding how many deaths occurred under the Spanish Inquisition, and this is no place to settle that squabble. It is enough to note that responsible estimates vary, some historians asserting fewer than three thousand death sentences were handed down during three centuries, others putting the figure higher. As a point of comparison, Sir James Stephens, in his History of English Criminal Law, notes there were eight hundred executions a year during the early post-Reformation period in England, where the Inquisition never operated. One could also refer to the burning of alleged witches, a practice almost unknown in Catholic countries. (Goethe, in his Italienische Reise, attributed the lack of belief in witches to Catholics’ use of the confessional.) In Britain thirty thousand went to the stake for witchcraft; in Protestant Germany the figure was one hundred thousand. Such statistics do not make the Spanish executions right, but they perhaps indicate that severity in punishment was not due to Catholicism as such, but must be attributed to the general character of the times.
Catholicism and Fundamentalism (Ignatius, 1988), chapter 23.
My favorite Inquisition fact from Church history classes is that, in at least some places and times, it was well-known that an Inquisition trial was a fair trial. People arrested for secular crimes would start spouting heresy on purpose so they would be handed over to Inquisition authorities instead.
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British Library, Add MS 11695, detail of f. 147v. Beatus of Liébana, Commentary on the Apocalypse. 1091-1109
it looked like wine
spilled and fanned out
over the tiles of the cathedral.
the O of your mouth
was a window. it made me
nervous just to look into it.
I saw some words
caught in the pools
of your cheeks.
there were birds
resting in the beds
of your molars.
this room is hollow,
your eyes are still
‘St Thomas Becket,’ Hey Hey! It’s Your Feast Day!
(photograph by me; anonymous late medieval young Regensburg lady)
David Stephenson, Heavenly Vaults.
be still my heart
(Doppelkapelle, Kaiserburg - Nuremberg, Germany)
(The “Doppelkapelle” in the Kaiserburg in Nuremberg, Germany, c. 1200, with a late Gothic crucifix)
Romanesque churches hold my heart.
Medieval church. #medieval, #church, #buildings, #architecture, #paintings, #stone #prague (Taken with Instagram at St. George’s Basilica)
I never did go to Prague…
awful photos of the lovely woodcut illustrations in my copy of The Ballad of the White Horse