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Christian History Timeline of the Inquisition

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Below is a timeline of events that occurred during the Inquisition in Europe. There are two different types of color-coded dates:

  • Religious Events
  • Political Events

Words in red were linked to our glossary - so clicking on them will take you to much more information than can be included in brief chronology like this.

The Inquisition
311 Donatist controversy began. Numidian Bishops in North Africa refused to recognize the newly appointed Bishop of Carthage because he had been ordained by a bishop who had, according to them, forfeited his Holy Orders by handing over holy books during recent persecutions. They elected a rival, Bishop Donatus.
382 Emperor Theodosius passed laws making heresy punishable by death.
1205 Pope Innocent III, in the Bull Si adversus vos, forbade any legal help for heretics:
We strictly prohibit you, lawyers and notaries, from assisting in any way, by council or support, all heretics and such as believe In them, adhere to them, render them any assistance or defend them in any way.
1208 Papal legate in Southern France who had been making some progress in converting Cathar heretics to orthodox Catholicism was murdered. This sparks an outcry and, later this same year, a violent crusade against Southern France.
1215 Fourth Lateran Council declared in 1215:
3. ...Convicted heretics shall be handed over for due punishment to their secular superiors, or the latter's agents. ...If a temporal Lord neglects to fulfill the demand of the Church that he shall purge his land of the contamination of heresy, he shall be excommunicated by the metropolitan and other bishops of the province. If he fails to make amends within a year, it shall be reported to the Supreme Pontiff, who shall pronounce his vassals absolved from fealty to him and offer his land to Catholics. The latter shall exterminate the heretics, possess the land without dispute and preserve it in the true faith...
1216 Dominican order was founded.
1224 In his Constitution of 1224 Frederick III declared that heretics convicted by an ecclesiastical court should suffer death by fire.
1226 Louis IX ordered barons to deal with heretics according to the dictates of duty.
1230 Pope Gregory IX began the Medieval Inquisition by setting up in Toulouse, France, the first permanent tribunal to deal with heresy.
1232 Pope Gregory IX established the Inquisition in Aragon. In the Bull Declinante jam mundi of 26 May, 1232, Archbishop Esparrago and his suffragans were instructed to search for and punish heretics in their dioceses.
1237 At the Council of Lérida in 1237 the Inquisition was formally placed under the authority of the Dominicans and the Franciscans.
1239 On 29 May, 1239, at Montwimer in Champagne, Robert le Bougre one time burned about a hundred and eighty persons whose trial had begun and ended within one week.
1242 At the Synod of Tarragona in 1242, Raymund of Pennafort defined the terms haereticus, receptor, fautor, defensor, etc., and outlined the penalties to be inflicted.
1249 In 1249 Count Raylmund VII of Toulouse had eighty confessed heretics burned in his presence without giving them a chance to recant.
1252 Torture to elicit confessions was first authorized by Pope Innocent IV in his Bull Ad exstirpanda of May 15, 1252, which was confirmed by Pope Alexander IV on November 30, 1259, and by Pope Clement IV on November 3, 1265.

In Ad exstirpanda Innocent IV wrote:
When those adjudged guilty of heresy have been given up to the civil power by the bishop or his representative, or the Inquisition, the podestà 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.


He also ordered that this Bull and corresponding regulations of Frederick II be entered in every city among the municipal statutes under pain of excommunication, a punishment also visited on those who failed to follow the papal and imperial decrees.
1254 Pope Innocent IV prohibited perpetual imprisonment or death at the stake without episcopal consent.
April 27, 1260 Pope Alexander IV authorized inquisitors to absolve one another of irregularities in the pursuit of their duties. Pope Urban IV renewed this on August 2, 1262, and this was soon interpreted as formal license to continue the examination in the torture chamber itself.
1280 A bull from Pope Nicholas III in 1280:

...If any, after being seized, wish to repent and do penance, they shall be imprisoned for life. ...All who receive, defend, or aid heretics shall be excommunicated. ...If those who were suspected of heresy cannot prove their innocence, they shall be excommunicated. If they remain under the ban of excommunication for a year, they shall be condemned as heretics. They shall have no right of appeal.
1286 The consuls of Carcassonne complained to the pope, the King of France, and the vicars of the local bishop about the inquisitor Jean Garland, whom they alleged had been inflicting torture in an utterly inhuman manner
1320 In a trial held at Pamiers in southern France, Baruch, a converted Jew who was accused of having relapsed into Judaism, argued that he had been forced to submit to baptism under the threat of death. His arguments, however, were rejected by the inquisitorial tribunal on the grounds that Baruch had not been subjected to "absolute coercion," by which appears to have been meant forcible immersion in the baptismal font accompanied by protests on the part of the defendant.

Baruch's response that he had not been forcibly held at the font and that he did not protest at the time because he had been told that to protest meant death did not satisfy the inquisitors, who argued that only in such circumstances as they had specified could a defense of coerced baptism be recognized.
1391 The Jewish community of Barcelona was decimated and hundreds of thousands of Jews were either massacred or forced into baptism in Aragon and Castille. From then on into the fifteenth century, Jews continued to be forcefully baptized.

Although the Church frowned upon this type of mass compulsory conversion, once the person was converted, any deviation from the true faith on the part of the convert constituted "heresy."
1420 -1498 Life of Torquemada, true organizer of the Spanish Inquisition.
1478 Pope Sixtus authorized the Spanish Inquisition. The Catholic faith was believed to be in danger from pseudo converts from Judaism (Marranos) and Islam (Moriscos).
February 1486 On February 11, 1486, and February 6, 1487, Torquemada was given the position of Grand Inquisitor for the kingdoms of Castile, Leon, Aragon, Valencia, etc.
1515 Pope Leo X instituted pre-press censorship, but it was not enforced.
1540 Jesuit Order was founded.
1542 Bernardino Ochino, head of the Capuchin Order, fled Italy and converted to Protestantism. Almost as soon as he left, Swiss presses began printing and exporting compilations of his works, many of which found their way back into Italy. Fearing that Ochino's words would cause more losses to Protestantism, Pope Paul III banned his writings in Italy.
1542 Pope Paul III established the Roman Inquisition.
1544 A new version of Index of Forbidden Works was created
1559 Pope Paul IV's Pauline Index banned over 583 authors. He knew better than to allow any room for argument over the new Index: he made it clear that this contents were not open for debate. The Pauline Index banned many northern European scientific texts not necessarily because they contained heretical views, but because their author was Protestant.
1563 Last session of the Council of Trent.
1564 After the last session of the Council of Trent had closed, the Congregation of the Index released a refined Tridentine Index. This new Index, with modifications, would be the model for every Index to be released afterwards. This Index marked the end of the "free press" in all of Italy, including liberal states like Venice, for some time. Naturally, there was an extensive underground book trade in Protestant books during this time.
1571 Congregation of the Index (of banned books) was convened.
1588 Pope Sixtus V created Congregation of the Holy Roman and Universal Inquisition or Holy Office.
1600 Giordano Bruno was tried and burned.
1633 Galileo Galilei was tried and convicted.
1808 King Joseph Bonaparte abrogated the Spanish Inquisition.
1814 The Spanish Inquisition was reintroduced by Ferdinand VII and approved by Pope Pius VII.
1834 The Spanish Inquisition officially ended.
1908 The Inquisition became known simply as the "Holy Office."
1917 The Codex Juris Canonici abolished use of torture by the Church.
1965 Pope Paul VI reorganized Holy Office and renamed it Congregation of the Doctrine of Faith.
1966 The Index of Forbidden Books was formally abolished.


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