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XV: A HISTORY OF THE INQUISITION OF THE MIDDLE AGES - John Emerich Edward Dalberg, Lord Acton, The History of Freedom and Other Essays 
The History of Freedom and Other Essays, ed. John Neville Figgis and Reginald Vere Laurence (London: Macmillan, 1907).
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A HISTORY OF THE INQUISITION OF THE MIDDLE AGES. By Henry Charles Lea1
A good many years ago, when Bishop Wilberforce was at Winchester, and the Earl of Beaconsfield was a character in fiction, the bishop was interested in the proposal to bring over the Utrecht Psalter. Mr. Disraeli thought the scheme absurd. “Of course,” he said, “you won’t get it.” He was told that, nevertheless, such things are, that public manuscripts had even been sent across the Atlantic in order that Mr. Lea might write a history of the Inquisition. “Yes,” he replied, “but they never came back again.” The work which has been awaited so long has come over at last, and will assuredly be accepted as the most important contribution of the new world to the religious history of the old. Other books have shown the author as a thoughtful inquirer in the remunerative but perilous region where religion and politics conflict, where ideas and institutions are as much considered as persons and events, and history is charged with all the elements of fixity, development, and change. It is little to say, now, that he equals Buckle in the extent, and surpasses him in the intelligent choice and regulation, of his reading. He is armed at all points. His information is comprehensive, minute, exact, and everywhere sufficient, if not everywhere complete. In this astonishing press of digested facts there is barely space to discuss the ideas which they exhibit and the law which they obey. M. Molinier lately wrote that a work with this scope and title “serait, à notre sens, une entreprise à peu près chimérique.” It will be interesting to learn whether the opinion of so good a judge has been altered or confirmed.
The book begins with a survey of all that led to the growth of heresy, and to the creation, in the thirteenth century, of exceptional tribunals for its suppression. There can be no doubt that this is the least satisfactory portion of the whole. It is followed by a singularly careful account of the steps, legislative and administrative, by which Church and State combined to organise the intermediate institution, and of the manner in which its methods were formed by practice. Nothing in European literature can compete with this, the centre and substance of Mr. Lea’s great history. In the remaining volumes he summons his witnesses, calls on the nations to declare their experience, and tells how the new force acted upon society to the end of the Middle Ages. History of this undefined and international cast, which shows the same wave breaking upon many shores, is always difficult, from the want of visible unity and progression, and has seldom succeeded so well as in this rich but unequal and disjointed narrative. On the most significant of all the trials, those of the Templars and of Hus, the author spends his best research; and the strife between Avignon and the Franciscans, thanks to the propitious aid of Father Ehrle, is better still. Joan of Arc prospers less than the disciples of Perfect Poverty; and after Joan of Arc many pages are allotted, rather profusely, to her companion in arms, who survives in the disguise of Bluebeard. The series of dissolving scenes ends, in order of time, at Savonarola; and with that limit the work is complete. The later Inquisition, starting with the Spanish and developing into the Roman, is not so much a prolongation or a revival as a new creation. The mediæval Inquisition strove to control states, and was an engine of government. The modern strove to coerce the Protestants, and was an engine of war. One was subordinate, local, having a kind of headquarters in the house of Saint Dominic at Toulouse. The other was sovereign, universal, centred in the Pope, and exercising its domination, not against obscure men without a literature, but against bishop and archbishop, nuncio and legate, primate and professor; against the general of the Capuchins and the imperial preacher; against the first candidate in the conclave, and the president of the œcumenical council. Under altered conditions, the rules varied and even principles were modified. Mr. Lea is slow to take counsel of the voluminous moderns, fearing the confusion of dates. When he says that the laws he is describing are technically still in force, he makes too little of a fundamental distinction. In the eye of the polemic, the modern Inquisition eclipses its predecessor, and stops the way.
The origin of the Inquisition is the topic of a lasting controversy. According to common report, Innocent III. founded it, and made Saint Dominic the first inquisitor; and this belief has been maintained by the Dominicans against the Cistercians, and by the Jesuits against the Dominicans themselves. They affirm that the saint, having done his work in Languedoc, pursued it in Lombardy: “Per civitates et castella Lombardiae circuibat, praedicans et evangelizans regnum Dei, atque contra haereticos inquirens, quos ex odore et aspectu dignoscens, condignis suppliciis puniebat” (Fontana, Monumenta Dominicana, 16). He transferred his powers to Fra Moneta, the brother in whose bed he died, and who is notable as having studied more seriously than any other divine the system which he assailed: “Vicarium suum in munere inquisitionis delegerat dilectissimum sibi B. Monetam, qui spiritu illius loricatus, tanquam leo rugiens contra haereticos surrexit. . . . Iniquos cum haereticos ex corde insectaretur, illisque nullo modo parceret, sed igne ac ferro consumeret.” Moneta is succeeded by Guala, who brings us down to historic times, when the Inquisition flourished undisputed: “Facta promotione Guallae constitutus est in eius locum generalis inquisitor P. F. Guidottus de Sexto, a Gregorio Papa IX., qui innumeros propemodum haereticos igne consumpsit” (Fontana, Sacrum Theatrum Dominicanum, 595). Sicilian inquisitors produce an imperial privilege of December 1224, which shows the tribunal in full action under Honorius III.: “Sub nostrae indignationis fulmine praesenti edicto districtius praecipiendo mandamus, quatenus inquisitoribus haereticae pravitatis, ut suum libere officium prosequi et exercere valeant, prout decet, omne quod potestis impendatis auxilium” (Franchina, Inquisizione di Sicilia, 1774, 8). This document may be a forgery of the fifteenth century; but the whole of the Dominican version is dismissed by Mr. Lea with contempt. He has heard that their founder once rescued a heretic from the flames; “but Dominic’s project only looked to their peaceful conversion, and to performing the duties of instruction and exhortation.” Nothing is better authenticated in the life of the saint than the fact that he condemned heretics and exercised the right of deciding which of them should suffer and which should be spared. “Contigit quosdam haereticos captos et per eum convictos, cum redire nollent ad fidem catholicam, tradi judicio saeculari. Cumque essent incendio deputati, aspiciens inter alios quemdam Raymundum de Grossi nomine, ac si aliquem eo divinae praedestinationis radium fuisset intuitus, istum, inquit officialibus curiae, reservate, nec aliquo modo cum caeteris comburatur” (Constantinus, Vita S. Dominici; Echard, Scriptores O.P., l. 33). The transaction is memorable in Dominican annals as the one link distinctly connecting Saint Dominic with the system of executions, and the only security possessed by the order that the most conspicuous of its actions is sanctioned by the spirit and example of the founder. The original authorities record it, and it is commemorated by Bzovius and Malvenda, by Fontana and Percin, by Echard and Mamachi, as well as in the Acta Sanctorum. Those are exactly the authors to whom in the first instance a man betakes himself who desires to understand the inception and early growth of the Inquisition. I cannot remember that any one of them appears in Mr. Lea’s notes. He says indeed that Saint Dominic’s inquisitorial activity “is affirmed by all the historians of the order,” and he is a workman who knows his tools so well that we may hesitate to impute this grave omission to inacquaintance with necessary literature. It is one of his characteristics to be suspicious of the Histoire Intime as the seat of fable and proper domain of those problems in psychology against which the certitude of history is always going to pieces. Where motives are obscure, he prefers to contemplate causes in their effects, and to look abroad over his vast horizon of unquestioned reality. The difference between outward and interior history will be felt by any one who compares the story of Dolcino here given with the account in Neander. Mr. Lea knows more about him and has better materials than the ponderous professor of pectoral theology. But he has not all Neander’s patience and power to read significance and sense in the musings of a reckless erratic mind.
He believes that Pope Gregory IX. is the intellectual originator, as well as the legislative imponent, of the terrific system which ripened gradually and experimentally in his pontificate. It does not appear whether he has read, or knows through Havet the investigations which conducted Ficker to a different hypothesis. The transition of 1231 from the saving of life to the taking of life by fire was nearly the sharpest that men can conceive, and in pursuance of it the subsequent legal forms are mere detail. The spirit and practice of centuries were renounced for the opposite extreme; and between the mercy of 1230 and the severity of 1231 there was no intervening stage of graduated rigour. Therefore it is probable that the new idea of duty, foreign to Italian and specifically to Roman ways, was conveyed by a new man, that a new influence just then got possession of the Pope. Professor Ficker signals Guala as the real contriver of the régime of terror, and the man who acquired the influence imported the idea and directed the policy. Guala was a Dominican prior whom the Pope trusted in emergencies. In the year 1230 he negotiated the treaty of San Germano between Frederic II. and the Church, and was made Bishop of Brescia. In that year Brescia, first among Italian cities, inserted in its statutes the emperor’s Lombard law of 1224, which sent the heretic to the stake. The inference is that the Dominican prelate caused its insertion, and that nobody is so likely to have expounded its available purport to the pontiff as the man who had so lately caused it to be adopted in his own see, and who stood high just then in merit and in favour. That Guala was bishop-elect on 28th August, half a year before the first burnings at Rome, we know; that he caused the adoption of Frederic’s law at Brescia or at Rome is not in evidence. Of that abrupt and unexplained enactment little is told us, but this we are told, that it was inspired by Honorius: “Leges quoque imperiales per quondam Fredericum olim Romanorum imperatorem, tunc in devotione Romane sedis persistentem, procurante eadem sede, fuerunt edite et Padue promulgate” (Bern. Guidonis, Practica Inquisitionis, 173). At any rate, Gregory, who had seen most things since the elevation of Innocent, knew how Montfort dealt with Albigensian prisoners at Minerve and Lavaur, what penalties were in store at Toulouse, and on what principles Master Conrad administered in Germany the powers received from Rome. The Papacy which inspired the coronation laws of 1220, in which there is no mention of capital punishment, could not have been unobservant of the way in which its own provisions were transformed; and Gregory, whom Honorius had already called “magnum et speciale ecclesie Romane membrum,” who had required the university of Bologna to adopt and to expound the new legislation, and who knew the Archbishop of Magdeburg, had little to learn from Guala about the formidable weapon supplied to that prelate for the government of Lombardy. There is room for further conjecture.
In those days it was discovered that Arragon was infested with heresy; and the king’s confessor proposed that the Holy See be applied to for means of active suppression. With that object, in 1230 he was sent to Rome. The envoy’s name was Raymond, and his home was on the coast of Catalonia in the town of Pennaforte. He was a Bolognese jurist, a Dominican, and the author of the most celebrated treatise on morals made public in the generation preceding the scholastic theology. The five years of his abode in Rome changed the face of the Church. He won the confidence of Gregory, became penitentiary, and was employed to codify the acts of the popes militant since the publication of Gratian. Very soon after Saint Raymond appeared at the papal court, the use of the stake became law, the inquisitorial machinery had been devised, and the management given to the priors of the order. When he departed he left behind him instructions for the treatment of heresy, which the pope adopted and sent out where they were wanted. He refused a mitre, rose to be general, it is said in opposition to Albertus Magnus, and retired early, to become, in his own country, the oracle of councils on the watch for heterodoxy. Until he came, in spite of much violence and many laws, the popes had imagined no permanent security against religious error, and were not formally committed to death by burning. Gregory himself, excelling all the priesthood in vigour and experience, had for four years laboured, vaguely and in vain, with the transmitted implements. Of a sudden, in three successive measures, he finds his way, and builds up the institution which is to last for centuries. That this mighty change in the conditions of religious thought and life and in the functions of the order was suggested by Dominicans is probable. And it is reasonable to suppose that it was the work of the foremost Dominican then living, who at that very moment had risen to power and predominance at Rome.
No sane observer will allow himself to overdraw the influence of national character on events. Yet there was that in the energetic race that dwell with the Pyrenees above them and the Ebro below that suited a leading part in the business of organised persecution. They are among the nations that have been inventors in politics, and both the constitution of Arragon and that of the society of Jesus prove their constructive science. While people in other lands were feeling their way, doubtful and debonair, Arragon went straight to the end. Before the first persecuting pope was elected, before the Child of Apulia, who was to be the first persecuting emperor, was born, Alfonso proscribed the heretics. King and clergy were in such accord that three years later the council of Girona decreed that they might be beaten while they remained, and should be burnt if they came back. It was under this government, amid these surroundings, that Saint Dominic grew up, whom Sixtus V., speaking on authority which we do not possess, entitled the First Inquisitor. Saint Raymond, who had more to do with it than Saint Dominic, was his countryman. Eymerici, whose Directorium was the best authority until the Practica of Guidonis appeared, presided during forty years over the Arragonese tribunal; and his commentator Pegna, the Coke upon Littleton of inquisitorial jurisprudence, came from the same stern region.
The Histoire Générale de Languedoc in its new shape has supplied Mr. Lea with so good a basis that his obligations to the present editors bring him into something like dependence on French scholarship. He designates monarchs by the names they bear in France—Louis le Germanique, Charles le Sage, Philippe le Bon, and even Philippe; and this habit, with Foulques and Berenger of Tours, with Aretino for Arezzo, Oldenburg for Altenburg, Torgau for Zürich, imparts an exotic flavour which would be harmless but for a surviving preference for French books. Compared with Bouquet and Vaissète, he is unfamiliar with Böhmer and Pertz. For Matthew Paris he gets little or no help from Coxe, or Madden, or Luard, or Liebermann, or Huillard. In France few things of importance have escaped him. His account of Marguerite Porrette differs from that given by Hauréau in the Histoire Littéraire, and the difference is left unexplained. No man can write about Joan of Arc without suspicion who discards the publications of Quicherat, and even of Wallon, Beaucourt, and Luce. Etienne de Bourbon was an inquisitor of long experience, who knew the original comrade and assistant of Waldus. Fragments of him scattered up and down in the works of learned men have caught the author’s eye; but it is uncertain how much he knows of the fifty pages from Stephanus printed in Echard’s book on Saint Thomas, or of the volume in which Lecoy de la Marche has collected all, and more than all, that deserves to live of his writings. The “Historia Pontificalis,” attributed to John of Salisbury, in the twentieth volume of the Monumenta, should affect the account of Arnold of Brescia. The analogy with the Waldenses, amongst whom his party seems to have merged, might be more strongly marked. “Hominum sectam fecit que adhuc dicitur heresis Lumbardorum. . . . Episcopis non parcebat ob avariciam et turpem questum, et plerumque propter maculam vite, et quia ecclesiam Dei in sanguinibus edificare nituntur.” He was excommunicated and declared a heretic. He was reconciled and forgiven. Therefore, when he resumed his agitation his portion was with the obstinate and relapsed. “Ei populus Romanus vicissim auxilium et consilium contra omnes homines et nominatim contra domnum papam repromisit, eum namque excommunicaverat ecclesia Romana. . . . Post mortem domni Innocentii reversus est in Italiam, et promissa satisfactione et obediencia Romane ecclesie, a domno Eugenio receptus est apud Viterbum.” And it is more likely that the fear of relics caused them to reduce his body to ashes than merely to throw the ashes into the Tiber.
The energy with which Mr. Lea beats up information is extraordinary even when imperfectly economised. He justly makes ample use of the Vitae Paparum Avenionensium, which he takes apparently from the papal volume of Muratori. These biographies were edited by Baluze, with notes and documents of such value that Avignon without him is like Athenæus without Casaubon, or the Theodosian Code without Godefroy. But if he neglects him in print, he constantly quotes a certain Paris manuscript in which I think I recognise the very one which Baluze employed. Together with Guidonis and Eymerici, the leading authority of the fourteenth century is Zanchini, who became an inquisitor at Rimini in 1300, and died in 1340. His book was published with a commentary by Campeggio, one of the Tridentine fathers; and Campeggio was further annotated by Simancas, who exposes the disparity between Italian and Spanish usage. It was reprinted, with other treatises of the same kind, in the eleventh volume of the Tractatus. Some of these treatises, and the notes of Campeggio and Simancas, are passed over by Mr. Lea without notice. But he appreciates Zanchini so well that he has had him copied from a manuscript in France. Very much against his habit, he prints one entire sentence, from which it appears that his copy does not agree to the letter with the published text. It is not clear in every case whether he is using print or manuscript. One of the most interesting directions for inquisitors, and one of the earliest, was written by Cardinal Fulcodius, better known as Clement IV. Mr. Lea cites him a dozen times, always accurately, always telling us scrupulously which of the fifteen chapters to consult. The treatise of Fulcodius occupies a few pages in Carena, De Officio S.S. Inquisitionis, in which, besides other valuable matter, there are notes by Carena himself, and a tract by Pegna, the perpetual commentator of the Inquisition. This is one of the first eight or ten books which occur to any one whose duty it is to lay in an inquisitor’s library. Not only we are never told where to find Fulcodius, but when Carena is mentioned it is so done as to defy verification. Inartistic references are not, in this instance, a token of inadequate study. But a book designed only for readers who know at a glance where to lay their finger on S. Francis. Collat. Monasticae, Collat. 20, or Post constt. IV. XIX. Cod. I. v. will be slow in recovering outlay.
Not his acquaintance with rare books only, which might be the curiosity of an epicurean, but with the right and appropriate book, amazes the reader. Like most things attributed to Abbot Joachim, the Vaticinia Pontificum is a volume not in common use, and decent people may be found who never saw a copy. Mr. Lea says: “I have met with editions of Venice issued in 1589, 1600, 1605, and 1646, of Ferrara in 1591, of Frankfort in 1608, of Padua in 1625, and of Naples in 1660, and there are doubtless numerous others.” This is the general level throughout; the rare failures disappear in the imposing supererogation of knowledge. It could not be exceeded by the pupils of the Göttingen seminary or the École des Chartes. They have sometimes a vicious practice of overtopping sufficient proof with irrelevant testimony: but they transcribe all deciding words in full, and for the rest, quicken and abridge our toil by sending us, not to chapter and verse, but to volume and page, of the physical and concrete book. We would gladly give Bluebeard and his wife—he had but one after all—in exchange for the best quotations from sources hard of access which Mr. Lea must have hoarded in the course of labours such as no man ever achieved before him, or will ever attempt hereafter. It would increase the usefulness of his volumes, and double their authority. There are indeed fifty pages of documentary matter not entirely new or very closely connected with the text. Portions of this, besides, are derived from manuscripts explored in France and Italy, but not it seems in Rome, and in this way much curious and valuable material underlies the pages; but it is buried without opportunity of display or scrutiny. Line upon line of references to the Neapolitan archives only bewilder and exasperate. Mr. Lea, who dealt more generously with the readers of Sacerdotal Celibacy, has refused himself in these overcrowded volumes that protection against overstatement. The want of verifiable indication of authorities is annoying, especially at first; and it may be possible to find one or two references to Saint Bonaventure or to Wattenbach which are incorrect. But he is exceedingly careful in rendering the sense of his informants, and neither strains the tether nor outsteps his guide. The original words in very many cases would add definiteness and a touch of surprise to his narrative.
If there is anywhere the least infidelity in the statement of an author’s meaning, it is in the denial that Marsilius, the imperial theorist, and the creator with Ockam of the Ghibelline philosophy that has ruled the world, was a friend of religious liberty. Marsilius assuredly was not a Whig. Quite as much as any Guelph, he desired to concentrate power, not to limit or divide it. Of the sacred immunities of conscience he had no clearer vision than Dante. But he opposed persecution in the shape in which he knew it, and the patriarchs of European emancipation have not done more. He never says that there is no case in which a religion may be proscribed; but he speaks of none in which a religion may be imposed. He discusses, not intolerance, but the divine authority to persecute, and pleads for a secular law. It does not appear how he would deal with a Thug. “Nemo quantumcumque peccans contra disciplinas speculativas aut operativas quascumque punitur vel arcetur in hoc saeculo praecise in quantum huiusmodi, sed in quantum peccat contra praeceptum humanae legis. . . . Si humana lege prohibitum fuerit haereticum aut aliter infidelem in regione manere, qui talis in ipsa repertus fuerit, tanquam legis humanae transgressor, poena vel supplicio huic transgressioni eadem lege statutis, in hoc saeculo debet arceri.” The difference is slight between the two readings. One asserts that Marsilius was tolerant in effect; the other denies that he was tolerant in principle.
Mr. Lea does not love to recognise the existence of much traditional toleration. Few lights are allowed to deepen his shadows. If a stream of tolerant thought descended from the early ages to the time when the companion of Vespucci brought his improbable tale from Utopia, then the views of Bacon, of Dante, of Gerson cannot be accounted for by the ascendency of a unanimous persuasion. It is because all men were born to the same inheritance of enforced conformity that we glide so easily towards the studied increase of pain. If some men were able to perceive what lay in the other scale, if they made a free choice, after deliberation, between well-defined and well-argued opinions, then what happened is not assignable to invincible causes, and history must turn from general and easy explanation to track the sinuosities of a tangled thread. In Mr. Lea’s acceptation of ecclesiastical history intolerance was handed down as a rule of life from the days of St. Cyprian, and the few who shrank half-hearted from the gallows and the flames were exceptions, were men navigating craft of their own away from the track of St. Peter. Even in his own age he is not careful to show that the Waldenses opposed persecution, not in self-defence, but in the necessary sequence of thought. And when he describes Eutychius as an obscure man, who made a point at the fifth general council, for which he was rewarded with the patriarchate of Constantinople—Eutychius, who was already patriarch when the council assembled; and when he twice tears Formosus from his grave to parade him in his vestments about Rome,—we may suspect that the perfect grasp of documentary history from the twelfth century does not reach backwards in a like degree.
If Mr. Lea stands aloft, in his own domain, as an accumulator, his credit as a judge of testimony is nearly as high. The deciding test of his critical sagacity is the masterly treatment of the case against the Templars. They were condemned without mercy, by Church and State, by priest and jurist, and down to the present day cautious examiners of evidence, like Prutz and Lavocat, give a faltering verdict. In the face of many credulous forerunners and of much concurrent testimony Mr. Lea pronounces positively that the monster trial was a conspiracy to murder, and every adverse proof a lie. His immediate predecessor, Schottmüller, the first writer who ever knew the facts, has made this conclusion easy. But the American does not move in the retinue of the Prussian scholar. He searches and judges for himself; and in his estimate of the chief actor in the tragedy, Clement V., he judges differently. He rejects, as forgeries, a whole batch of unpublished confessions, and he points out that a bull disliked by inquisitors is not reproduced entire in the Bullarium Dominicanum. But he fails to give the collation, and is generally jealous about admitting readers to his confidence, taking them into consultation and producing the scales. In the case of Delicieux, which nearly closes the drama of Languedoc, he consults his own sources, independently of Hauréau, and in the end adopts the marginal statement in Limborch, that the pope aggravated the punishment. In other places, he puts his trust in the Historia Tribulationum, and he shows no reason for dismissing the different account there given of the death of Delicieux: “Ipsum fratrem Bernardum sibi dari a summo pontifice petierunt. Et videns summus pontifex quod secundum accusationes quas de eo fecerant fratres minores justitiam postularent, tradidit eis eum. Qui, quum suscepissent eum in sua potestate, sicut canes, cum vehementer furiunt, lacerant quam capiunt bestiam, ita ipsi diversis afflictionibus et cruciatibus laniaverunt eum. Et videntes quod neque inquisitionibus nec tormentis poterant pompam de eo facere in populo, quam quaerebant, in arctissimo carcere eum reduxerunt, ibidem eum taliter tractantes, quod infra paucos menses, quasi per ignem et aquam transiens, de carcere corporis et minorum et praedicatorum liberatus gloriose triumphans de mundi principe, migravit ad coelos.”
We obtain only a general assurance that the fate of Cecco d’ Ascoli is related on the strength of unpublished documents at Florence. It is not stated what they are. There is no mention of the epitaph pronounced by the pope who had made him his physician: “Cucullati Minores recentiorum Peripateticorum principem perdiderunt.” We do not learn that Cecco reproached Dante with the same fatalistic leaning for which he himself was to die: “Non è fortuna cui ragion non vinca.” Or how they disputed: “An ars natura fortior ac potentior existeret,” and argument was supplanted by experiment: “Aligherius, qui opinionem oppositam mordicus tuebatur, felem domesticam Stabili objiciebat, quam ea arte instituerat, ut ungulis candelabrum teneret, dum is noctu legeret, vel coenaret. Cicchius igitur, ut in sententiam suam Aligherium pertraheret, scutula assumpta, ubi duo musculi asservabantur inclusi, illos in conspectum felis dimisit; quae naturae ingenio inemendabili obsequens, muribus vix inspectis, illico in terram candelabrum abjecit, et ultro citroque cursare ac vestigiis praedam persequi instituit.” Either Appiani’s defence of Cecco d’ Ascoli has escaped Mr. Lea, who nowhere mentions Bernino’s Historia di tutte l’ Heresie where it is printed; or he may distrust Bernino for calling Dante a schismatic; or it may be that he rejects all this as legend, beneath the certainty of history. But he does not disdain the legendary narrative of the execution: “Tradition relates that he had learned by his art that he should die between Africa and Campo Fiore, and so sure was he of this that on the way to the stake he mocked and ridiculed his guards; but when the pile was about to be lighted he asked whether there was any place named Africa in the vicinage, and was told that that was the name of a neighbouring brook flowing from Fiesole to the Arno. Then he recognised that Florence was the Field of Flowers, and that he had been miserably deceived.” The Florentine document before me, whether the same or another I know not, says nothing about untimely mockery or miserable deception: “Aveva inteso dal demonio dover lui morire di morte accidentale infra l’ Affrica e campo di fiore; per lo che cercando di conservare la reputazione sua, ordinò di non andar mai nelle parti d’ Affrica; e credendo tal fallacia è di potere sbeffare la gente, pubblicamente in Italia esecutava l’arte della negromanzia, et essendo per questo preso in Firenze e per la sua confessione essendo già giudicato al fuoco e legato al palo, nè vedendo alcun segno della sua liberazione, avendo prima fatto i soliti scongiuri, domandò alle persone che erano all’ intorno, se quivi vicino era alcun luogo che si chiamasse Affrica, et essendogli risposto di si, cioè un fiumicello che correva ivi presso, il quale discende da Fiesole ed è chiamato Affrica, considerando che il demonio per lo campo de’ fiori aveva inteso Fiorenza, e per l’ Affrica quel fiumicello, ostinato nella sua perfidia, disse al manigoldo che quanto prima attaccasse il fuoco.”
Mr. Lea thinks that the untenable conditions offered to the count of Toulouse by the council of Arles in 1211 are spurious. M. Paul Meyer has assigned reasons on the other side in his notes to the translation of the Chanson de la Croisade, pp. 75-77; and the editors of Vaissète (vi. 347) are of the same opinion as M. Paul Meyer. It happens that Mr. Lea reads the Chanson in the editio princeps of Fauriel; and in this particular place he cites the Histoire du Languedoc in the old and superseded edition. From a letter lately brought to light in the Archiv für Geschichte des Mittelalters, he infers that the decree of Clement V. affecting the privilege of inquisitors was tampered with before publication. A Franciscan writes from Avignon when the new canons were ready: “Inquisitores etiam heretice pravitatis restinguuntur et supponuntur episcopis”—which he thinks would argue something much more decisive than the regulations as they finally appeared. Ehrle, who publishes the letter, remarks that the writer exaggerated the import of the intended change; but he says it not of this sentence, but of the next preceding. Mr. Lea has acknowledged elsewhere the gravity of this Clementine reform. As it stands, it was considered injurious by inquisitors, and elicited repeated protests from Bernardus Guidonis: “Ex predicta autem ordinatione seu restrictione nonnulla inconvenientia consecuntur, que liberum et expeditum cursum officii inquisitoris tam in manibus dyocesanorum quam etiam inquisitorum diminuunt seu retardant. . . . Que apostolice sedis circumspecta provisione ac provida circumspectione indigent, ut remedientur, aut moderentur in melius, seu pocius totaliter suspendantur propter nonnulla inconvenientia que consecuntur ex ipsis circa liberum et expeditum cursum officii inquisitoris.”
The feudal custom which supplied Beaumarchais with the argument of his play recruits a stout believer in the historian of the Inquisition, who assures us that the authorities may be found on a certain page of his Sacerdotal Celibacy. There, however, they may be sought in vain. Some dubious instances are mentioned, and the dissatisfied inquirer is passed on to the Fors de Béarn, and to Lagrèze, and is informed that M. Louis Veuillot raised an unprofitable dust upon the subject. I remember that M. Veuillot, in his boastful scorn for book learning, made no secret that he took up the cause because the Church was attacked, but got his facts from somebody else. Graver men than Veuillot have shared his conclusion. Sir Henry Maine, having looked into the matter in his quick, decisive way, declared that an instance of the droit du seigneur was as rare as the Wandering Jew. In resting his case on the Pyrenees, Mr. Lea shows his usual judgment. But his very confident note is a too easy and contemptuous way of settling a controversy which is still wearily extant from Spain to Silesia, in which some new fact comes to light every year, and drops into obscurity, riddled with the shafts of critics.
An instance of too facile use of authorities occurs at the siege of Béziers. “A fervent Cistercian contemporary informs us that when Arnaud was asked whether the Catholics should be spared, he feared the heretics would escape by feigning orthodoxy, and fiercely replied, ‘Kill them all, for God knows his own.’” Caesarius, to whom we owe the locus classicus, was a Cistercian and a contemporary, but he was not so fervent as that, for he tells it as a report, not as a fact, with a caution which ought not to have evaporated. “Fertur dixisse: Caedite eos. Novit enim Dominus qui sunt eius!” The Catholic defenders had been summoned to separate from the Cathari, and had replied that they were determined to share their fate. It was then resolved to make an example, which we are assured bore fruit afterwards. The hasty zeal of Citeaux adopted the speech of the abbot and gave it currency. But its rejection by the French scholars, Tamizey de Larroque and Auguste Molinier, was a warning against presenting it with a smooth surface, as a thing tested and ascertained. Mr. Lea, in other passages, has shown his disbelief in Caesarius of Heisterbach, and knows that history written in reliance upon him would be history fit for the moon. Words as ferocious are recorded of another legate at a different siege (Langlois, Règne de Philippe le Hardi, p. 156). Their tragic significance for history is not in the mouth of an angry crusader at the storming of a fortress, but in the pen of an inoffensive monk, watching and praying under the peaceful summit of the Seven Mountains.
Mr. Lea undertakes to dispute no doctrine and to propose no moral. He starts with an avowed desire not to say what may be construed injuriously to the character or feelings of men. He writes pure history, and is methodically oblivious of applied history. The broad and sufficient realm of fact is divided by a scientific frontier from the outer world of interested argument. Beyond the frontier he has no cognisance, and neither aspires to inflame passions nor to compose the great eirenikon. Those who approach with love or hatred are to go empty away; if indeed he does not try by turns to fill them both. He seeks his object not by standing aloof, as if the name that perplexed Polyphemus was the proper name for historians, but by running successively on opposing lines. He conceives that civilised Europe owes its preservation to the radiant centre of religious power at Rome, and is grateful to Innocent III. for the vigour with which he recognised that force was the only cure for the pestiferous opinions of misguided zealots. One of his authorities is the inquisitor Bernardus Guidonis, and there is no writer whom, in various shapes, he quotes so often. But when Guidonis says that Dolcino and Margarita suffered per juditium ecclesie, Mr. Lea is careful to vindicate the clergy from the blame of their sufferings.
From a distinction which he draws between despotism and its abuse, and from a phrase, disparaging to elections, about rivers that cannot rise above the level of their source, it would appear that Mr. Lea is not under compulsion to that rigid liberalism which, by repressing the time-test and applying the main rules of morality all round, converts history into a frightful monument of sin. Yet, in the wake of passages which push the praises of authority to the verge of irony, dire denunciations follow. When the author looks back upon his labours, he discerns “a scene of almost unrelieved blackness.” He avers that “the deliberate burning alive of a human being simply for difference of belief, is an atrocity,” and speaks of a “fiendish legislation,” “an infernal curiosity,” a “seemingly causeless ferocity which appears to persecute for the mere pleasure of persecuting.” The Inquisition is “energetic only in evil”; it is “a standing mockery of justice, perhaps the most iniquitous that the arbitrary cruelty of man has ever devised.”
This is not the protest of wounded humanity. The righteous resolve to beware of doctrine has not been strictly kept. In the private judgment of the writer, the thinking of the Middle Ages was sophistry and their belief superstition. For the erring and suffering mass of mankind he has an enlightened sympathy; for the intricacies of speculation he has none. He cherishes a disbelief, theological or inductive it matters not, in sinners rescued by repentance and in blessings obtained by prayer. Between remitted guilt and remitted punishment he draws a vanishing line that makes it doubtful whether Luther started from the limits of purgatory or the limits of hell. He finds that it was a universal precept to break faith with heretics, that it was no arbitrary or artificial innovation to destroy them, but the faithful outcome of the traditional spirit of the Church. He hints that the horror of sensuality may be easily carried too far, and that Saint Francis of Assisi was in truth not very much removed from a worshipper of the devil. Prescott, I think, conceived a resemblance between the god of Montezuma and the god of Torquemada; but he saw and suspected less than his more learned countryman. If any life was left in the Strappado and the Samarra, no book would deserve better than this description of their vicissitudes to go the way of its author, and to fare with the flagrant volume, snatched from the burning at Champel, which is still exhibited to Unitarian pilgrims in the Rue de Richelieu.
In other characteristic places we are taught to observe the agency of human passion, ambition, avarice, and pride; and wade through oceans of unvaried evil with that sense of dejection which comes from Digby’s Mores Catholici or the Origines de la France Contemporaine, books which affect the mind by the pressure of repeated instances. The Inquisition is not merely “the monstrous offspring of mistaken zeal,” but it is “utilised by selfish greed and lust of power.” No piling of secondary motives will confront us with the true cause. Some of those who fleshed their swords with preliminary bloodshed on their way to the holy war may have owed their victims money; some who in 1348 shared the worst crime that Christian nations have committed perhaps believed that Jews spread the plague. But the problem is not there. Neither credulity nor cupidity is equal to the burden. It needs no weighty scholar, pressed down and running over with the produce of immense research, to demonstrate how common men in a barbarous age were tempted and demoralised by the tremendous power over pain, and death, and hell. We have to learn by what reasoning process, by what ethical motive, men trained to charity and mercy came to forsake the ancient ways and made themselves cheerfully familiar with the mysteries of the torture-chamber, the perpetual prison, and the stake. And this cleared away, when it has been explained why the gentlest of women chose that the keeper of her conscience should be Conrad of Marburg, and, inversely, how that relentless slaughterer directed so pure a penitent as Saint Elizabeth, a larger problem follows. After the first generation, we find that the strongest, the most original, the most independent minds in Europe—men born for opposition, who were neither awed nor dazzled by canon law and scholastic theology, by the master of sentences, the philosopher and the gloss—fully agreed with Guala and Raymond. And we ask how it came about that, as the rigour of official zeal relaxed, and there was no compulsion, the fallen cause was taken up by the Council of Constance, the University of Paris, the States-General, the House of Commons, and the first reformers; that Ximenes outdid the early Dominicans, while Vives was teaching toleration; that Fisher, with his friend’s handy book of revolutionary liberalism in his pocket, declared that violence is the best argument with Protestants; that Luther, excommunicated for condemning persecution, became a persecutor? Force of habit will not help us, nor love and fear of authority, nor the unperceived absorption of circumambient fumes.
Somewhere Mr. Lea, perhaps remembering Maryland, Rhode Island, and Pennsylvania, speaks of “what was universal public opinion from the thirteenth to the seventeenth century.” The obstacle to this theory, as of a ship labouring on the Bank, or an orb in the tail of a comet, is that the opinion is associated with no area of time, and remains unshaken. The Dominican democrat who took his seat with the Mountain in 1848 never swerved from the principles of his order. More often, and, I think, more deliberately, Mr. Lea urges that intolerance is implied in the definition of the mediæval Church, that it sprang from the root and grew with “the very law of its being.” It is no desperate expedient of authority at bay, for “the people were as eager as their pastors to send the heretic to the stake.” Therefore he does not blame the perpetrator, but his inherited creed. “No firm believer in the doctrine of exclusive salvation could doubt that the truest mercy lay in sweeping away the emissaries of Satan with fire and sword.” What we have here is the logic of history, constraining every system to utter its last word, to empty its wallets, and work its consequences out to the end. But this radical doctrine misguides its author to the anachronism that as early as the first Leo “the final step had been taken, and the Church was definitely pledged to the suppression of heresy at whatever cost.”
We do not demand that historians shall compose our opinions or relieve us from the purifying pains of thought. It is well if they discard dogmatising, if they defer judgment, or judge, with the philosopher, by precepts capable of being a guide for all. We may be content that they should deny themselves, and repress their sentiments and wishes. When these are contradictory, or such as evidently to tinge the medium, an unholy curiosity is engendered to learn distinctly not only what the writer knows, but what he thinks. Mr. Lea has a malicious pleasure in baffling inquiry into the principle of his judgments. Having found, in the Catechism of Saint Sulpice, that devout Catholics are much on a par with the fanatics whose sympathy with Satan made the holy office a requisite of civilisation, and having, by his exuberant censure, prepared us to hear that this requisite of civilisation “might well seem the invention of demons,” he arrives at the inharmonious conclusion that it was wrought and worked, with benefit to their souls, by sincere and godly men. The condemnation of Hus is the proper test, because it was the extreme case of all. The council was master of the situation, and was crowded with men accustomed to disparage the authority of the Holy See and to denounce its acts. Practically, there was no pope either of Rome or Avignon. The Inquisition languished. There was the plausible plea of deference to the emperor and his passport; there was the imperative consideration for the religious future of Bohemia. The reforming divines were free to pursue their own scheme of justice, of mercy, and of policy. The scheme they pursued has found an assiduous apologist in their new historian. “To accuse the good fathers of Constance of conscious bad faith” is impossible. To observe the safe-conduct would have seemed absurd “to the most conscientious jurists of the council.” In a nutshell, “if the result was inevitable, it was the fault of the system and not of the judges, and their conscience might well feel satisfied.”
There may be more in this than the oratorical precaution of a scholar wanting nothing, who chooses to be discreet rather than explicit, or the wavering utterance of a mind not always strung to the same pitch. It is not the craving to rescue a favourite or to clear a record, but a fusion of unsettled doctrines of retrospective contempt. There is a demonstration of progress in looking back without looking up, in finding that the old world was wrong in the grain, that the kosmos which is inexorable to folly is indifferent to sin. Man is not an abstraction, but a manufactured product of the society with which he stands or falls, which is answerable for crimes that are the shadow and the echo of its own nobler vices, and has no right to hang the rogue it rears. Before you lash the detected class, mulct the undetected. Crime without a culprit, the unavenged victim who perishes by no man’s fault, law without responsibility, the virtuous agent of a vicious cause—all these are the signs and pennons of a philosophy not recent, but rather inarticulate still and inchoate, which awaits analysis by Professor Flint.
No propositions are simpler or more comprehensive than the two, that an incorrigible misbeliever ought to burn, or that the man who burns him ought to hang. The world as expanded on the liberal and on the hegemonic projection is patent to all men, and the alternatives, that Lacordaire was bad and Conrad good, are clear in all their bearings. They are too gross and palpable for Mr. Lea. He steers a subtler course. He does not sentence the heretic, but he will not protect him from his doom. He does not care for the inquisitor, but he will not resist him in the discharge of his duty. To establish a tenable footing on that narrow but needful platform is the epilogue these painful volumes want, that we may not be found with the traveller who discovered a precipice to the right of him, another to the left, and nothing between. Their profound and admirable erudition leads up, like Hellwald’s Culturgeschichte, to a great note of interrogation. When we find the Carolina and the savage justice of Tudor judges brought to bear on the exquisitely complex psychological revolution that proceeded, after the year 1200, about the Gulf of Lyons and the Tyrrhene Sea, we miss the historic question. When we learn that Priscillian was murdered (i. 214), but that Lechler has no business to call the sentence on John Hus “ein wahrer Justizmord” (ii. 494), and then again that the burning of a heretic is a judicial murder after all (i. 552), we feel bereft of the philosophic answer.
Although Mr. Lea gives little heed to Pani and Hefele, Gams and Du Boys, and the others who write for the Inquisition without pleading ignorance, he emphasises a Belgian who lately wrote that the Church never employed direct constraint against heretics. People who never heard of the Belgian will wonder that so much is made of this conventional figleaf. Nearly the same assertion may be found, with varieties of caution and of confidence, in a catena of divines, from Bergier to Newman. To appear unfamiliar with the defence exposes the writer to the thrust that you cannot know the strength or the weakness of a case until you have heard its advocates. The liberality of Leo XIII., which has yielded a splendid and impartial harvest to Ehrle, and Schottmüller, and the École Française, raises the question whether the Abbé Duchesne or Father Denifle supplied with all the resources of the archives which are no longer secret would produce a very different or more complete account. As a philosophy of religious persecution the book is inadequate. The derivation of sects, though resting always upon good supports, stands out from an indistinct background of dogmatic history. The intruding maxims, darkened by shadows of earth, fail to ensure at all times the objective and delicate handling of mediæval theory. But the vital parts are protected by a panoply of mail. From the Albigensian crusade to the fall of the Templars and to that Franciscan movement wherein the key to Dante lies, the design and organisation, the activity and decline of the Inquisition constitute a sound and solid structure that will survive the censure of all critics. Apart from surprises still in store at Rome, and the manifest abundance of Philadelphia, the knowledge which is common property, within reach of men who seriously invoke history as the final remedy for untruth and the sovereign arbiter of opinion, can add little to the searching labours of the American.
[1 ]English Historical Review, 1888.