Most victims pleaded for death sooner or later, but pious ones were further tormented by visions of the hellfire that awaited them, dying with lies on their lips. A housewife named Rebecca Lemp sent letters from prison to her husband and six children, showing radical alterations in her attitude before and after torture. At first she was confident:This section will only skim the Inquisitions and persecutions of witches, as a good history course generally covers these in their gruesome details.My dearly beloved Husband, be not troubled. Were I to be charged by thousands of accusations, I am innocent, else may all the demons in hell come and tear me to pieces. Were they to pulverize me, cut me in a thousand pieces, I could not confess anything. Therefore do not be alarmed; before my conscience and before my soul I am innocent. Will I be tortured-I don't believe it, since I am not guilty of anything.After she had been tortured five times, and had confessed every enormity her tormentors suggested to her, Rebecca wrote again to her husband:O thou, the chosen of my heart, must I be parted from thee, though entirely innocent? If so, may God be followed throughout eternity by my reproaches. They force one and make one confess; they have so tortured me. ... Husband, send me something that I may die, or I must expire under the torture. ... Send me something, else may I peril even my soul.-- The Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets, by Barbara Walker
There were 3 major Inquisitions, and several official persecutions of "witchcraft" and heretical sects. These are of course separate from the usual ongoing persecution of "witches" (who were often midwives knowledgeable in birth control), heretics and Jews during the early and Middle Ages. Later, the emergence of Protestantism would give the Roman Catholic Church other victims to turn their attention to. However, with the Reformation, those victims would turn into inquisitors themselves and history will thereafter record the Protestants persecuting witches as well as Catholics.
Lasting over 500 years, the Inquisitions would claim the lives of between 100,000s to 2 million individuals. The number of fatalities of the witch hunts are variously estimated from as low as several 100,000s (by apologists) to as high as 9 millions. Historian Will Durant, in his many volumed work History of Civilisation puts the number of fatalities of the witch hunts between 7 and 9 millions.
The first European woman executed as a witch was Angele, Lady of Labarthe, who was burnt at the stake at Toulouse in 1275. The last European witch burned was Bridget Cleary who, in 1894, was roasted on a kitchen fire at Clonmel in Ireland.
The Inquisition was the most elaborate extortion racket ever devised, primarily developed for profit. After the arrest, the property of the accused was instantly confiscated. Nothing seems to have been returned. The popes publicly praised the rule of confiscation as a prime weapon against heresy. Confiscation was the organization's raison d'être - Reason of State; when the rule of confiscation was not applied, "the business of defending the faith languished lamentably." Affluent Italy made its inquisitors incredibly rich in the 14th century. Within two years, the inquisitor of Florence amassed "more than seven thousand flourins, an enormous sum." As the inquisitor Heinrich von Schultheis complacently wrote, "When I have you tortured, and by the severe means afforded by the law I bring you to confession, then I perform a work pleasing in God's sight; and it profiteth me." Confiscation took place before conviction, because it was taken for granted that no one escaped. "Officials considered themselves safe in acting upon the presumption of guilt." Sometimes confiscation took place even before confession.Link
In the name of Christ, Christian potentates sat with their women and children and watched helpless Christians burn.
Great vicars of Christ sat and gloated while Christians bound to stakes shrieked amid slow flames purposely kept at a distance.
They screamed as their flesh seared and crackled: "In the name of the sweet Jesus whom I worship, bring the fire closer". But their appeals were mocked. Not once, not twice, but tens of thousands of times.
-- Why I Quit Going To Church, historian Rupert Hughes
In 1232, Pope Gregory IX established the first of three Holy Inquisitions under the direction of the Dominican order. The formation of the Dominican order had been approved by the previous Pope Honorius in 1220. Under Pope Gregory IX's First Inquisition, war was declared on heretics as well as "witches".
In Italy and France all witches were burned alive while elsewhere some were garrotted at the stake - providing they confessed first. Many victims died in great despair, screaming, renouncing and blaspheming. On some occasions green logs were used so the fire burned more slowly, prolonging the agony. The suffering could be extended upto 2 hours. On other occasions, poorly-prepared ropes were burned through and the victim - half burned and crazed by pain - broke out of the fire.
One victim in France, Claude Janguillaume, was thrown back into the flames three times before his body was ultimately consumed.
Children as young as 11 were sent to the stake. And the offspring of those condemned to the flames often were flogged as they watched their parents burn. At the end of the spectacle, the presiding church officials often gorged themselves on a lavish feast - paid for out of the victim's estate.
Although being burnt to death certainly is a form of torture, it was not long before other methods were applied.
The power of the Inquisition was established and enlarged by a series of papal bulls. [Link]
In 1245, the Pope gave Inquisitors the right to absolve their assistants of any acts of violence which they might commit in the fulfillment of their duties.Link
Following church traditions, Inquisitor Franciso Pena declared in 1578 that:We must remember that the main purpose of the trial and execution is not to save the soul of the accused but to achieve the public good and put fear into others.
In 1252, Pope Innocent IV sanctioned the use of torture in the extraction of confessions of heresy during the Inquisition by issuing the bull Ad extirpanda "to be exterminated". This ordered all secular rulers to arrest and execute non-Catholic Christians. (Of course, Protestantism did not yet exist at this time, only other "heresies".)
"When those adjudged guilty of heresy have been given up to the civil power by the bishop or his representative, or the Inquisition, the podesta or chief magistrate of the city shall take them at once, and shall within five days at the most, execute the laws made against them."
-- Papal bull, Ad extirpanda
Torture of suspects was authorized by Pope Innocent IV in 1252, and thus inquisition chambers were turned into places of abject horror.Link
...Torture was not finally removed as a legal option for church officials until 1917 when the Codex Juris Canonici was put into effect.
[This bull] issued May 15, 1252, was "a terrible measure against heretics in Italy, authorizing seizure of their goods, imprisonment, torture, and, on conviction, death, all on minimal evidence."Link
Inquisitors were placed entirely above the law by Pope Innocent IV (Pope from 1243-54) in his bull of 1252, Ad extirpanda.
Every ruler and citizen must assist them on pain of excommunication. Resistance could place the whole community under interdict, (a punishment by which the "faithful" are prohibited from participation in certain sacred acts) or force payment of heavy fines. Any individual fined by the Inquisition could be held in prison until he paid, or died.
Following Innocent IV's lead and expanding on it, Pope Alexander IV officially sanctioned torture in 1257.
Most of the torturing was performed by members of the Dominican order, whose monks were called the "black friars". To the Dominicans, the screams of their victims were like music to their ears - as it meant "one soul was drawing closer to God". Many other inquisitors and torturers were monks of the Franciscan order, who, like the Dominican monks, had taken vows of poverty. Of course, this did not stop them from getting much of the property and assets of their victims.
The pulley, either strappado or squassation, the first torture of the Inquisition:
The victim was stripped naked with his wrists tied securely behind his back. A stout rope was then fastened to his wrists and carried over a pulley fixed to the roof of the torture chamber. The executioners then drew the victim up with this rope until he was suspended about six feet from the floor. In this position, heavy iron weights, usually amounting to about 45 kg (100 lbs), were attached to his feet.
At this juncture he was asked once more to reveal the truth. Refusal meant the infliction of a number of stripes with a whip upon his naked back. The questions were repeated.
Failure to confess was the signal for the torture to start in real earnest. The executioners pulled on the rope, raising the victim almost to the ceiling. Suddenly allowing the rope to slack for several feet, they then brought this rapid descent to an abrupt termination before the weights reached the floor. The shock to the body, of this suddenly terminated fall, was sufficient to jar every bone, joint and nerve in the system. In most cases it entailed dislocation.The process was repeated again and again until the culprit confessed or became unconscious.
-- The History of Torture, by George Ryley Scott
The rack and the ladder:
These were other forms of torture designed to prolong the body. The rack, standing about a metre from the floor and consisting of a stout wooden framework, was mandatory in almost any ecclesiastical dungeon. It has been said that a victim could be prolonged by up to 30 centimetres during the question of the third degree.
In the question of the first degree, the victim suffered dislocation of the shoulders as the result of his arms being pulled up behind his back. In the second degree, the victim's knee, hip and elbow joints were forced from their sockets; muscle was ripped from the bone causing severe agony and permanent maiming. In the third degree, joints were separated "very audibly"; the victim was dismembered and paralysed and, gradually, over hours and days, the life functions ceased one by one.
Other frequently-used instruments and methods of torture employed by the Inquisition:
Legally, torture sessions lasted up to two hours; however, sessions of between three and four hours were not uncommon, as different methods were employed.
Church-sanctioned instruments often were sprinkled with holy water and blessed before use.
To stifle screams within the torture chamber, victims had their mouths stuffed with cloth and the walls themselves often were lined with heavy quilts.
- In both heresy and witchcraft trials, commonly-used tortures included the boot which crushed the foot, ankle and leg bones "until the blood and marrow spouted forth".
- Thumbscrews, toescrews and knee-splitters also were used to crack, pop or break the joints or splinter the bones of a suspect.
- Flesh was ripped, nipped, sliced or pierced with cold or red hot pincers, skewers, knives or hooks.
- Toenails and fingernails were broken and torn out with a turkas or tongs, either red hot or cold.
- Tongues were pierced, cut or rooted out and eyes were extinguished by gouging, plucking, bursting or burning.
- Ears, noses, hands and feet were sawn, cut or hacked off; toes and fingers were amputated - sometimes joint by joint over several days.
- Teeth were extracted with pliers or chisels - and the raw tooth sockets probed with cold or red hot needles to add to the pain.
- Men had their genitals cut away, crushed or burnt off with balls of flaming brimstone.
- Woman had their nipples torn out with cold or red hot pincers; or their entire breasts sliced off with shears.
- Vaginas and rectums were mutilated with the "pear" - a device that, on insertion, was expanded by means of a screw causing the cavity to rip apart, often with fatal results.
- Many women were raped by their Christian captives while men were flogged with chain scourges or flails for the slightest breach of regulations, including speaking or making sounds.
- Leather or corded scourges, called skinning cats, also were used; their thongs often were stiffened by being dipped in melted pitch, which tore away flesh at every stroke until the back became one large ulcer.
- Forced feeding with salted fish (which induced thirst) was another often used form of torture, as was pouring molten lead down the victim's throat.
- Victims also were forced to take either freezing cold or scalding hot baths, the latter laced with lime that seared the flesh. These often were followed by scouring with a device resembling a wire brush.
- Others had their naked bodies raked or shredded to the bone with a device known as the "cat's paw".
- Roasting on a spiked iron chair was a favourite in all Christian dungeons; so too was scorching the skin of the armpits or groin with burning feathers dipped in sulphur.
Feet were coated with lard or oil before they were slowly roasted over a fire; the bones cracking and popping as the marrow dripped into the flames.
If the victim did not confess after this, the hands were the next to go.
- Another frequently-applied torture used by both Roman Catholics and Protestants was "thawing", which involved the victim being jerked roughly about by means of a rope tied securely around the head. Some victims were forced to kneel on a prayer stool studded with nails while others were branded with a red hot cross.
- Others suffered the torture of the slipper - a large red hot metal boot that fried the foot or dissolved the flesh when filled with boiling glue.
- Another favourite torture was to place small bags of gunpowder in the mouth or armpits of the victim which were then set alight.
- Others had burning matches or tapers placed between their fingers and toes.
- One gruesome torture involved a large bowl filled with rats which was turned upside down on a victim's bare stomach. A fire was lit on top of this container, causing the rats to panic and burrow into the victim's bowels.
- A grim device that was widely used in Germany was the iron maiden which crudely resembled the Virgin Mary. It featured two large doors lined with sharp spikes which, when closed, pierced the victim's arms, legs, stomach, chest, bladder, genitals, eyes and shoulders. It was said the victim could survive up to two days pinned in this device if left to expire.
- Homosexuals sometimes found themselves being lowered naked on to a red-hot spike in a torture known as the chambre chaufee. This was the church-approved method for interrogating gays until 1816.
- Those convicted of sodomy, male or female, were tied upside down and their bodies sawn through until the navel was reached. An inverted position ensured oxygen reached the brain so the victim remained conscious throughout the ordeal
Tortured during execution:
- Those who survived the torture chamber invariably found themselves convicted of their crimes - rarely was the accused ever acquitted.
- In many cases, particularly in Germany, victims suffered further torments on their way to the stake or gallows.
- At Bamberg, women had their breasts ripped off by red hot pincers while elsewhere others had their hands chopped off at the place of execution.
- In many cases the executions were tortures in themselves: burning at the stake; skinning or flaying alive; breaking with the wheel.
- Many victims were drawn or disembowelled, whereby the intestine was slowly pulled out through an incision made above the solar plexus.
See also: Historical Torture Museum, showcases some of these instruments of torture.
The inquisitors, gorged with their inhumanity, developed a degree of callousness rarely rivalled in the annals of civilisation.Thus, when Napoleon invaded Spain in 1808, the French found that the Inquisition there was still in full swing:
Many of the inquisitors were sadists. Many were libidinous monsters. They took such women as they wanted, on trumped-up charges of heresy, and kept them for the rest of their days as mistresses.
-- The History of Torture, by George Ryley Scott
When the French troops captured the city of Aragon (Spain), Lieutenant-General M de Legal ordered the doors of the Inquisition to be opened, and the prisoners, numbering some 400, to be released.
Among these were 60 beautiful young women who appeared to form a seraglio for the three principal inquisitors.
-- The History of Torture, by George Ryley Scott
The Second Inquisition in Spain, launched by Pope Sixtus IV's bull in the 15th century, set out to exterminate mainly Jews and Moslems. Though, according to the Roman Catholic writer Llorente who for years acted as secretary to the Spanish Inquisition, 95% of the victims were Jews.
Llorente estimated that the victims of the Spanish Inquisition, in the 36 years between 1481 and 1517, included:Sometimes the punishments were for the most trifling "crimes":
13,000 burned at the stake; 17,000 burned in effigy; 290,000 punished by torture, prison or financial ruin.
A prison keeper was sentenced to 200 lashes and six years labour as a galley slave for showing kindness to prisoners in Triano, Spain. For a similar crime, a woman was publicly whipped and branded on the forehead.
From 1482 onwards, this Dominican monk was in charge of the Spanish Inquisition. Not waiting to receive information on suspects, he ordered his inquisitors out into the field to track them down. His ruthless fanaticism was known to have inspired Hitler in his treatment of Jews over 500 years later. Torquemada established tribunals in various cities and laid down directions for the guidance of inquisitors. He was personally responsible for the deaths of some 2000 people and the torturing of many others.
Torquemada always saw to it that punishment was worse than death:
- Rather than simply burning victims at the stake they were often first roasted over a slow fire and then burned. Sometimes fat was rubbed on the soles of their feet so they would sizzle a while.
- Victims were stretched on the rack or bound with cords that cut through the skin and muscle down to the bone.
- Many were flailed at specified intervals with whips studded with knots or sharp blades.
- Fingernails and toenails were pulled out one by one and arms and legs were broken with blows of the mallet.
- Some victims were left to starve in their small, windowless cells;
- Others victims had their heads covered with steel helmets containing strategically-placed screws. These were tightened one by one, crushing noses or puncturing eardrums.
In 1484, Pope Innocent VIII issued the notorious witchcraft bull Summis desiderantes affectibus. Thus the Church's ongoing persecution of "witchcraft" was turned up another notch. The bull appeared as a preface to a book commissioned by the Pope and written by the two Dominican inquisitors, Heinrich Kramer and Jakob Sprenger. Entitled the Malleus Maleficarum or Hammer of Witches, it became the official handbook of witchcraft trial judges all over Europe.
The medieval minds behind the book, labouring under the ignorance of Christian superstition and fancies, came up with the following:
- Witchcraft, the book claimed, sprang from the "carnal lust" of the witch which was an innate attribute of the female.
- Witches had the power to change themselves into animals, and they could fly.
- They worked in secret and could only be brought to justice by extra-legal methods.
- The book recommended the witch was tortured first into confessing her own guilt and then again to incriminate accomplices.
The invention of printing meant Kramer and Sprenger's book became an instant success with courts all over Europe, going into some 30 editions before 1669 and contributing to the high deathtoll of those accused of being witches.
Witch Hunting and Population Policy - Population Policy, the Origin of Christian Family Morals and their Impact on World History, at The Christian Heritage, presents a most insightful and revealing view into the motivations of the Church for persecuting women. It is an essential article on this topic.
Prior to the centuries of the witch hunts, most secular and Church authorities either denied the existence of witchcraft, or recommended only very mild punishment. However, suddenly, they became most interested in persecuting and exterminating those they designated as "witches": mostly midwives and women healers:
Witch hunters such as the English William Perkins (1555-1602) explicitly wanted to exterminate the "good" witches:Link. By excerpting from witch hunters and inquisitors manuals, this page also shows how witchcraft was often defined as some form of birth control."It would be a thousand times better for us if all witches, but especially the beneficial witches would suffer death." Among native American Indian women alone more than 200 plants, roots and other medicines were used as means of birth control.
Indeed modern research shows that likewise in European societies contraception was anything else but exceptional. Many of these methods have been clinically tested and a considerable number of them were indeed found to be functional.
...male doctors lacked experience in gynecology because through the Middle Ages no man was allowed to treat women.  In other words, for most of the people living in premodern times there was no medical help other than to ask the local witch [i.e. herbalist] for help.As in native societies, the knowledge about birth control methods as well as other medical knowledge - such as what sort of herbs could be used to cure what illnesses - in the middle ages was mainly the property of wise women, midwives and women healers:"(this) knowledge was primarily transmitted by a network of women"... As Bodin put it, if a certain witch would not confess,"one has to interrogate the little daughters of the sorceresses and witches; since it was often found that they have been instructed by their mothers." In a similar way already the Malleus [a witchcraft manual for inquisitors] had warned that usually the daughters of witches were to be suspected of imitating the crimes of their mothers.
...From the earliest days of Christianity not only abortion and infanticide, but also contraception had been considered sin. Yet these measures were not exceptional in the medieval feudal peasant society. Prior to the era of the witch hunts even the church had proscibed only lenient penalties on these offences.
But why should the authorities have been interested? Why at this time? How is it that the church initiated the witch hunts and persecution of birth control? What had happened at the end of the middle ages?
In the years 1348-1352 the Black Death had struck Europe. The plague - with additional occurrences in subsequent decades until 1385 - resulted in the so-called European Population Catastrophe...Responsible modern authorities estimate that in 1348-9 about a third of the population perished... the Church was not only the biggest feudal landowner with an average 20-30% of all fertile land in the whole of Europe as Church property, but therefore also suffered the severest losses in income from the losses in serfs due to the plague. Hence the Church's intent to repopulate its estates with serfs. [Basically, serfs at that time led a life of slavery].
So we are no longer surprised to find that as early as 1360 authorities began to execute "wise women" and midwives in their villages . We now understand what the Inquisitors had in mind when they wrote:"No one is more dangerous and harmful to the Catholic Faith than the midwives," preaching that procreation is a duty ordained by God, where the Catholic Faith simply meant the dominating position of the Church in medieval economy. [The general populace] considered birth control as "good" or "white" magic, just as people today do not want an unlimited number of children. For this reason midwives and "wise women," prominent in the authorities' witchcraft accusations, seldom appear to have been accused of being witches by the populace (who considered them their only source of medical help).
In fact some scholars have observed that in the era of witch hunts the widely accepted laissez-faire-attitude concerning sexual deviations prevalent in the Middle Ages (even prostitution was considered a - somewhat - honorable profession) changed:The witch hunts eradicated knowledge of birth control in Christian Europe, with the consequences of overpopulation:"Catholics and Protestants undertook massive campaigns to alter popular behaviour, particularly sexual behaviour. The relatively weak social controls characteristic of late medieval Europe were replaced by far more stringent codes and effective enforcement mechanisms," Similarly, all the seven methods of witchcraft [which were actually methods of birth control described in witch hunter manuals] became illegal in the beginning of the modern period.
Having made procreation a religious injunction, Christian Europe was thus stuck with the consequences: overpopulation and unwanted pregnancies led to infant mortality, child mistreatment:"It is intriguing why so few know now what so many once did." ...So the women of - allegedly so civilized - Christian Europe and the European colonies in the era of 1500 to 1900 were the only women in all the world whose knowledge of sexual matters and birth control methods was practically nil.
European Population Explosion, which preceded the World Population Explosion by several centuries:"...schools of historians have tended to agree that the origins of the demographic explosion of the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries lay in the last quarter of the [15th] century..."...roughly 35 million people emigrated to other continents , spreading their "Christian family morals" i.e. married life without birth control, resulting in unlimited procreation. ... population pressure [in Europe] enabled the promoters of Christian family morals to colonize or Europeanize most of the rest of the world.
Unlimited procreation was preached as the moral duty before God (or ayways that procreation is the sole purpose of marriage or sexuality), parents had to raise children who would never have been born, had their mothers been given the choice. Thus, these laws, legal measures, and moral "family values" securing high birth rates could not simply be dropped when the goal of repopulating Europe with serfs had been accomplished.Moreover, these enforced family laws - ecclesial as well as secular - in effect produced children born to parents against their will and against their personal interests.
...there is no reason to assume high child mortality as the cause of limited or zero population growth.Having exported this doctrine of unlimited procreation to the rest of the world (whilst Europe itself eventually legalised abortion due to severe overpopulation) other countries now exhibit the same problem:
Very high estimates for the ancient societies are in the range of 20-25% mortality for zero to five year old children.
...At the end of the 17th century we find infant mortality - for infants under one year! - rising to incredible rates of 40 to 55% . This massive die-off, however, now in no way limited population growth, in an era with birth rates of up to eight, ten, or twelve births for the average woman.
The resulting misery and poverty had been allowed for by the promoters of population growth and the witch hunters, it was a calculated risk considered a lesser problem than to let people decide for themselves how many children they wanted.For hundreds of years children therefore had to endure the worst kinds of neglect, mistreatment, abuse, were forced to work for a living because the parents simply could not afford feeding them. ... Their parents were neither immoral nor irresponsible, they simply were not given the choice to prevent unwanted births.
On a global scale now the misery European children from the 16th to the early 20th century had to endure is repeated: children forced to work or prostitute themselves, or leave their parents and homes to beg on the streets, as for example the many street children in the slums of the "Third World's" megacities of today (it is no coincidence that non-European Catholic countries rank high among countries with high population growth and birth rates, as for example Mexico, Guatemala, Rwanda, Vietnam).From: Witch Hunting and Population Policy
This world wide misery, poverty, and ecological danger is the huge legacy of the enforcement of Christian family morals, which once were introduced as witch hunts and as preaching of new "Christian values" by greedy ecclesial landowners to repopulate the Church estates in order to maintain the dominant position of the Church in medieval ecomony... instituted by prohibition of all forms of birth control and the execution of women ... who had had the knowledge of the corresponding means.And this is still reflected by Christian preaching today. One only has to think of the pope's condemnation of birth control, or Christian Coalition's moral expert Pat Robertson preaching:"[The] feminist agenda is not about equal rights for women. It is about a socialist, anti-family political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians." 
By mentioning estrangement, infanticide and birth control, fundamentalist Christian Pat Robertson is repeating some of the 'methods of witchcraft' (in reality, means of birth control) described by his witch-hunting predecessors of medieval Europe.
See also: Christian Violence - Witches, Women, and Witchcraft pages at About.Com
Witch Hunting and Population Policy at The Christian Heritage.
Besides having issued the witchcraft bull, Pope Innocent VIII also launched a sustained and brutal attack on the heretical sect of Waldensians:
In one village they cruelly tormented 150 women and children, after the men were fled; beheading the women, and dashed out the brains of the children.See Crusades against Christian heretics for more on the Christian persecutions of other Christian sects ('heretics').
In the towns of Villaro and Bobio, most of those that refused to go to mass, who were over fifteen years of age, they crucified with their heads downwards; and the great number of those under that age were strangled.
Mutilations of every possible form preceded the coup de grace; in many cases, no final blow was given, the maimed victims being left to die of starvation or bleed to death.
Isaiah Garcino was literally minced; Mary Raymondet had the flesh sliced from her bones piece by piece until she died in frightful agony.
Giovanni Pelanchion was tied by one leg to the tail of a mule and dragged through the streets of Lucerne, the mob pelting at his body with stones.
Ann Charbonierre was transfixed upon a stake and left to die slowly.
Others were suspended from trees and beams with iron hooks piercing their abdomens.
Holes were bored in Bartholomew Frasche's heels, ropes were passed through the open wounds, and in this way he was dragged to the dungeon where he died.
A favourite torture was to place small bags of gunpowder in the mouths of the victims and then set fire to them.
Daniel Rambaut had his fingers and toes amputated in sections, one joint being cut off each day, in an effort to induce him to embrace the Roman faith.
Burning at the stake, drowning and suffocation were common methods of execution.
Sara Rastignole des Vignes, for refusing to repeat Jesus Maria, had a sickle thrust into the lower part of her abdomen.Another young woman, Martha Constantine, was raped then killed by cutting off her breasts ..."
-- The History of Torture, by George Ryley Scott
The Third Inquisition, launched by Pope Paul III in 1542, sought to eradicate Protestant influences in Europe.
Some of the cruelties inflicted on victims of the Third Inquisition under Pope Paul III:
A Protestant schoolmaster, Ferdmando, for teaching the principles of his faith to his pupils, was first tortured and then burnt.
Another Protestant, named John Leon, and some Spaniards of the same faith, on endeavouring to escape to England, were captured by agents of the Inquisition, tortured, starved, and finally burnt.
For refusing to take the veil and turn nun, a young lady was condemned to the flames.
Christopher Losada, an eminent physician of his day, for professing the tenets of Protestantism, was racked and burnt.
A monk of the monastery of St Isidore, Seville, who turned Protestant, was tortured and burnt.
A Protestant writing master of Toledo, who had decorated the walls of a room in his house with a reproduction of the ten commandments in full, in his own handwriting, was burnt at the stake at Valladolid.
[Tomas de Leon, was racked] until his left arm was broken.
Another victim, Engracia Rodriguez, at sixty years of age, had one arm broken and a toe torn off in a device called a balestilla.
Maria de Coceicao, a young lady from Lisbon, was racked three times before being publicly whipped and banished from her town.
Antonia Lopez of Valladolid, was tortured for three hours until his arm was completely crippled. [Antonia] tried to commit suicide by strangling himself and died in prison within a month.[The Seville noblewoman, Jane Bohorquia, was arrested and imprisoned] for conversing with a friend about the Protestant religion.
...She was pregnant at the time, but immediately after the birth of the child, and while still in a lamentably weak state, she was racked with such severity that the flesh was cut through to the very bones and blood gushed from her mouth.
[She died a week later.]
"Jane Bohorquia was found dead in prison," said the official Inquisition report, after which, upon reviewing her prosecution, the Inquisition discovered that she was innocent. "Be it therefore known, that no further prosecutions shall be carried on against her, and that her effects, which were confiscated, shall be given to her heirs at law."
[The heirs at law, according to Pope Innocent III's Corpus juris, were the Church's own treasurers.]
-- History of Torture, by George Ryley Scott
There were late-Renaissance witch-hunts in Protestant countries, which had no formal connection with the Inquisition but certainly took their impetus from it.Link
The chronicler of Trèves (an electoral state of the Holy Roman Empire, also included the jurisdiction of neighbouring Lorraine, France, and Luxembourg) reported that in the year 1586, the entire female population of two villages was wiped out by the inquisitors, except for only two women left alive. Two other villages were destroyed and erased from the map. A hundred and thirty-three persons were burned in a single day at Quedlinburg, Germany, in 1589, out of a town of 12,000. Henri Boguet said Germany in 1590 was "almost entirely occupied with building fires (for witches); and Switzerland has been compelled to wipe-out many of her villages on their account. Travellers in Lorraine may see thousands and thousands of the stakes to which witches are bound."
In 1524, one thousand witches died at Como, Italy. Strasbourg, France, burned five thousand in a period of 20 years. The Senate of Savoy, a duchy lying between Italy and France, condemned 800 witches at one time. One writer of the times stated that over thirty thousand were executed in the 15th century. Nicholas Remy (1530?-1612), wrote that he personally sentenced 900 witches in 15 years and in one year alone forced sixteen witches to suicide. A Bishop claimed 600 witches in 10 years; a bishop of Nancy, France, claimed 800 lives in 16 years; a bishop of Würzburg, Germany, claimed over 1900 in 5 years. Five hundred were executed within three months at Geneva, Switzerland, and 400 were executed in a single day at Toulouse, France. The city of Trèves burned 7,000 witches. The Lutheran prelate Benedict Carpzov (1595-1666), who claimed to have read the Bible 53 times, sentenced 20,000 devil-worshippers to death. Even relatively permissive England killed 30,000 witches between 1542 and 1736. The slaughter went on throughout Europe for nearly five centuries.Mass burnings on the Iberian Peninsula were known as autos-de-fé; acts of faith. They were held once a month on the average, usually on a Sunday or holiday so all could attend; to stay away was thought suspicious. Sometimes the spectators were invited to participate, as in the diversion genially known as "shaving the new Christians." This meant setting fire to the hair or beards of those waiting their turn at the stake. Wholesale burnings in Germany are suggested by the observation of a visitor to the town of Wolfenbuttel, Germany, in 1590: there were so many stakes to burn the witches that the place of execution resembled a small forest. The executioner of Neisse in Silesia (Central Europe) invented an oven in which he roasted to death forty-two women and young girls in one year. Within nine years he had roasted over a thousand persons, including children two to four years old.
Even in the 20th century, Catholic authorities have tried to present the Inquisition in an undeservedly flattering light. Cardinal Lépicier, expressly supported by Pope Pius X, (Pope from 1903-14) declared the church's reign of terror was right, just because the church did it:Link"The naked fact that the Church, of her own authority, has tried heretics and condemned them to be delivered to death, shows that she truly has the right of killing ... [W]ho dares to say that the Church has erred in a matter so grave as this?"In fact, many have dared to say so.
Charles Leland wrote, "When people believe, or make believe, in a thing so very much as to torture like devils and put to death hundreds of thousands of fellow-beings, mostly helpless and poor old women, not to mention many children, it becomes a matter of very serious import to all humanity to determine once for all whether the system or code according to which this was done was absolutely right for ever, or not." Anthropologist Jules Henry said, "Organized religion, which likes to fancy itself the mother of compassion, long ago lost its right to that claim by its organized support of organized cruelty." G.G. Coulton said of the Inquisition, "History affords few plainer examples of the demoralizing effects of absolute power upon fairly ordinary men."
It is unsettling to realize that such powers for mischief could yet be revived. The edicts that established the Inquisition have never been repealed. They are "officially still part of the Catholic faith, and were used as justification for certain practices as recently as 1969."Link
Julian Huxley deplored the "pestilent doctrine on which all the churches have insisted that honest disbelief in their more or less astonishing creeds is a moral offence . . . deserving and involving the same future retribution as murder and robbery." In his opinion, the worst visions of hell would seem pale beside a comprehensive vision of Christianity's gory history.This history should be remembered, on the old principle that those who cannot remember their history are condemned to repeat it.
...about the end of the last century, when the new generation of apologists were busy with their glosses on the past and their pretty appeals for universal tolerance, a new manual of Church Law, specially authorized by [Pope] Leo XIII, written by a Papal professor, printed in a Papal press, was published. It was in Latin; and probably few Catholics in America will fail to be astonished to learn that the author states, and proves at great length, that the Church claims and has "the right of the sword" over heretics, and only the perversity of our age prevents it from exercising that right!The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, over which the Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope) presided, was formerly called the Holy Inquisition. It's not gone away, it's merely been renamed.
More recent manuals of Church Law have the same beautiful thesis. It is today the law of the Roman Church. Remember it when you read these subtle Jesuits and eloquent Paulists and unctuous bishops on the "blunders" of the past and the right and duty of toleration today, The Inquisition (the Holy Office) exists. The law exists. And you and I may thank this age of skepticism that we keep our blood in our veins.
-- The Story Of Religious Controversy, by Joseph McCabe
- The History of Torture by George Ryley Scott
- Kriminalgeschichte des Christentums, Band 7 - Das 13. und 14. Jahrhundert ("Christianity's Criminal History, Volume 7 - 13th and 14th Centuries") by Karlheinz Deschner.
Translated excerpts at his site.
- Inquisition at The Christian Heritage
- Quest - The Inquisition
- About.Com - Inquisition
- Christian Violence - Witches, Women, and Witchcraft pages at About.Com
- Witch Hunting and Population Policy at The Christian Heritage
- A World Lit Only by Fire - The Medieval Mind and The Renaissance, by William Manchester
- Winter of the World – The Terrible Cost of "Christendom", the Dark Ages and Missionaries or Murderers? – The Christianising of Europe
- Inquisition and Liberty, by G.G. Coulton
- Pages at The Rejection of Pascal's Wager: Inquisition, the Spanish Inquisition and the Inquisitional witch hunts