A CATHOLIC INQUISITION TORTURE SESSION

Father Angelo Clareno -1304 A.D.

 

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Although the Jesuits were organized as part of the Church's assault on the Reformation, they only occasionally took part in the Inquisition, including that which took place in Mexico. Far more frequently, it was the Dominican and the Franciscan orders who led the Inquisition. The Franciscan practices were recorded by the Franciscan monk Angelo Clareno (below), who shared a cloister with others committed to St. Francis's vows of piety. The Jesuits themselves were in fact eventually suppressed in 1773 at the demand of the kings of Portugal, Spain and France, although the order was restored in 1814.

THE SESSION

Then the Lord Andreo wrote the inquisitor informing him trustworthy people had told him that among all those the inquisitor had captured there was only one Lombard. He advised him to attend to the dignity of his inquisitorial office. He advised him as a good friend to stick to the truth in carrying out his duties, because without it neither human nor divine justice is justly performed. When the inquisitor read Lord Andreo's letter he was furious and vengefully turned all his indignation and wrath on the poor brothers he currently held. And he sent to the men of that town, who love the poor brothers deeply, a summons to appear before him in the city of Trevi after a certain number of days, with a fixed fine as penalty if they failed to appear. When they came on the appointed day he had them shut up in an old cistern and kept them there for five days, with no more ventilation than if he'd shut them up in a wine cask, not even letting them out to attend to the necessities of nature. After five days this new Dacian had a certain place in the city hastily prepared so they could be tortured by the executioners.

The Pear - an instrument of the Inquisition, inserted into a body cavity in the closed position and then opened with a screw.

But when he saw that the bishop and other principle people in the city took the spectacle of such men being tortured very poorly, he changed his mind and, passing through Boiano, ascended to the castle of Maginando, a remote place with a lord vicious enough to conspire in his own evil plans. There he had the prisoners, whom he had dragged along behind him in chains and who were exhausted by the trip, placed under heavy guard. The next day he visited them and, binding himself with a terrible oath, said, "Unless you confess to me that you are heretics, may God do thus and so to me if I don't kill all of you right here with a variety of tortures and torments. If, as I ask, you do confess to me that you do or did err in something or other, I'll give you a light penance and set you free immediately." The brothers replied that he should not ask them to say something that wasn't true. Telling such a wicked lie would cause death to their souls and offense to God. The furious inquisitor selected one of them who seemed more fervent than the others and was a priest, and ordered that he be tortured.

The Rack - el potro The garotte (see below for its use)
   
Left: The garotte in use

The torturer entered with his assistants and tied the prisoner's hands behind his back. Then he had him raised up by means of a pulley attached to the roof of the house, which was very high. After the prisoner had hung there for an hour the rope was released suddenly. The idea was that, broken by the intense pain, he would be defeated and confess that he had once been a heretic. After he had been raised and suddenly dropped many times they asked whether he would confess that he was or had been a heretic. He replied, I'm a faithful and catholic Christian, always have been, and always will be. If I said anything else to you shouldn't believe me, because I would only have said it to escape the torture. Let this be my perpetual confession to you, because it's the truth. Anything else would be a lie extorted by torture."

 

 

Driven out of his mind by anger, the inquisitor ordered that, dressed in a short tunic, the prisoner be put first in a bath of hot water, then of cold. Then, with a stone tied to his feet, he was raised up again, kept there for a while, and dropped again, and his shins were poked with reeds as sharp as swords. Again and again he was hauled up until, on the thirteenth elevation, the rope broke and he fell from a great height with the stone still tied to his feet. As that destroyer of the faithful stood looking at him, he lay there only half alive, with his body shattered. The treacherous man's servants took the body and disposed of it in a cesspool.

 
The Wheel The spike

That inquisitor, although he was a learned man and of noble family, was so demented by fury that he began to inflict torture with his own hands. When one of the brothers who was to be tortured devoutly recommended himself to Christ, he was so insane with anger that he struck the man on the head and neck. He hit the man so hard that he drove him to the ground like a ball. For days afterward the man's neck and head hurt and his ears rang. Another brother had his head bound in the inquisitor's presence, and the binding was tightened until the torturers heard the bones in his head crack, after which they ended the torture and took him away for dead.


 

Inquisitorial Technique

Bernard Gui, Toulouse Inquisitor(1317 A.D.)

Documentation exists to show that Gui personally sentenced 930 people.

Above: Bernard Gui. Note the equality of the Inquisitor with the ruler.

When a heretic is first brought up for examination, he assumes a confident air, as though secure in his innocence. I ask him why he has been brought before me. He replies, smiling and courteous, "Sir, I would be glad to learn the cause from you."

I: You are accused as a heretic, and that you believe and teach otherwise than Holy Church believes.

A. (Raising his eyes to heaven, with an air of the greatest faith) Lord, thou knowest that I am innocent of this, and that I never held any faith other than that of true Christianity.

I: You call your faith Christian, for you consider ours as false and heretical. But I ask whether you have ever believed as true another faith than that which the Roman Church holds to be true?

A. I believe the true faith which the Roman Church believes, and which you openly preach to us.

I: Perhaps you have some of your sect at Rome whom you call the Roman Church. I, when I preach, say many things, some of which are common to us both, as that God liveth, and you believe some of what I preach. Nevertheless you may be a heretic in not believing other matters which are to be believed.

A. I believe all things that a Christian should believe.

I: I know your tricks. What the members of your sect believe you hold to be that which a Christian should believe. But we waste time in this fencing. Say simply, Do you believe in one God the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost?

A. I believe.

I: Do you believe in Christ born of the Virgin, suffered, risen, and ascended to heaven?

A. (Briskly) I believe.

I: Do you believe the bread and wine in the mass performed by the priests to be changed into the body and blood of Christ by divine virtue?

A. Ought I not to believe this?

I: I don't ask if you ought to believe, but if you do believe.

A. I believe whatever you and other good doctors order me to believe.

I: Those good doctors are the masters of your sect; if I accord with them you believe with me; if not, not.

A I willingly believe with you if you teach what is good to me.

I: You consider it good to you if I teach what your other masters teach. Say, then, do you believe the body of our Lord,lesus Christ to be in the altar?

A. (Promptly) I believe that a body is there, and that all bodies are of our Lord.

I: I ask whether the body there is of the Lord who was born of the Virgin, hung on the cross, arose from the dead, ascended, etc.

A. And you, sir, do you not believe it?

I: I believe it wholly.

A. I believe likewise.

I: You believe that I believe it, which is not what I ask, but whether you believe it.

A. If you wish to interpret all that I say otherwise than simply and plainly, then I don't know what to say. I am a simple and ignorant man. Pray don't catch me in my words.

I: If you are simple, answer simply, without evasions.

A. Willingly.

I: Will you then swear that you have never learned anything contrary to the faith which we hold to be true?

A. (Growing pale) If I ought to swear, I will willingly swear.

I: I don't ask whether you ought, but whether you will swear.

A. If you order me to swear, I will swear.

I: I don't force you to swear, because as you believe oaths to be unlawful, you will transfer the sin to me who forced you; but if you will swear, I will hear it.

A. Why should I swear if you do not order me to?

I: So that you may remove the suspicion of being a heretic.

A. Sir, I do not know how unless you teach me.

I: If I had to swear, I would raise my hand and spread my fingers and say, "So help me God, I have never learned heresy or believed what is contrary to the true faith."

Then trembling as if he cannot repeat the form, he will stumble along as though speaking for himself or for another, so that there is not an absolute form of oath and yet he may be thought to have sworn. If the words are there, they are so turned around that he does not swear and yet appears to have sworn. Or he converts the oath into a form of prayer, as "God help me that I am not a heretic or the like"; and when asked whether he had sworn, he will say: "Did you not hear me swear?" [And when further hard pressed he will appeal, saying] "Sir, if I have done amiss in aught, I will willingly bear the penance, only help me to avoid the infamy of which I am accused though malice and without fault of mine." But a vigorous inquisitor must not allow himself to be worked upon in this way, but proceed firmly till he make these people confess their error, or at least publicly abjure heresy, so that if they are subsequently found to have sworn falsely, he can without further hearing, abandon them to the secular arm".

 

A PROTESTANT TORTURE SESSION

In 17th century England, it was a capital offense to be a Catholic priest or to harbor one in one's home. In most Catholic homes are to be found - yet today - "hides", which were cleverly disguised alcoves to secrete priests and sacred items when raiders, called pursuivants, ransacked the house of a Catholic, as the law permitted any one to do. The Jesuit Father Gerard was captured in one such raid and taken to the Tower of London by captors seeking information on the Jesuit Superior, Father Garnet. Here is Father Gerard's account of his torture.

"They then produced the warrant which they had for
putting me to the torture, and gave it me to read ; for it
is not allowed in this prison to put any one to the torture
without express warrant I saw the document was duly
signed, so I said, By the help of God I will never do what
is against justice and against the Catholic faith. You
have me in your power ; do what God permits you, for
you certainly cannot go beyond.

Then they began to entreat me not to force them
to do what they were loth to do, and told me they were
bound not to desist from putting me to the torture day
after day, as long as my life lasted, until I gave the information they sought from me.

I trust in Gods goodness, I answered, that He will
never allow me to do so base an act as to bring innocent
persons to harm. Nor, indeed, do I fear what you can do
to me, since all of us are in Gods hands.

Such was the purport of my replies, as far as I can
remember.

Then we proceeded to the place appointed for the
torture. We went in a sort of solemn procession, the
attendants preceding us with lighted candles, because the
place was underground and very dark, especially about the
entrance. It was a place of immense extent, and in it
were ranged divers sorts of racks, and other instruments

It is said thai there is an underground passage from the Lieutenants
lodgings to the vaults of the While Tower, where it would ppeac Father
of torture. Some of these they displayed before me, and
told me I should have to taste them every one. Then
again they asked me if I was willing to satisfy them on
the points on which they had questioned me. It is out
of my power to satisfy you, I answered ; and throwing
myself on my knees, I said a prayer or two.

Then they led me to a great upright beam or pillar
of wood which was one of the supports of this vast crypt.
At the summit of this column were fixed certain iron
staples for supporting weights. Here they placed on my
wrists gauntlets of iron, and ordered me to mount upon
two or three wicker steps; then raising my arms, they
inserted an iron bar through the rings of the gauntlets
and then through the staples In the pillar, putting a pin
through the bar so that it could not slip. My arms being
thus fixed above my head, they withdrew those wicker
steps I spoke of, one by one, from beneath my feet, so
that I hung by my hands and arms. The tips of my toes,
however, still touched the ground, ^ so they dug away the
ground beneath ; for they could not raise me higher, as
they had suspended me from the topmost staples in the
pillar.

Thus hanging by my wrists, I began to pray, while
those gentlemen standing round asked me again if I was
willing to confess. I replied, I neither can nor will, but
so terrible a pain began to oppress me that I was scarce
able to speak the words. The worst pain was in my
breast and belly, my arms and hands. It seemed to me
that all the blood in my body rushed up my arms into
my hands ; and I was under the impression at the time
that the blood actually burst forth from my fingers and at the back of my hands.
This was, however, a mistake ; the sensation was caused by the swelling of the flesh over
the iron that bound it.

I felt now such intense pain (and the effect was pro-
bably heightened by an interior temptation), that it seemed
to me impossible to continue enduring it. It did not,
however, go so far as to make mc feel any inclination or
real disposition to give the information they wanted. For
as the eyes of our merciful Lord had seen my imperfection,
He did not suffer me to be tempted above what I was
able, but with the temptation made also a way of escape.
Seeing me, therefore, in this agony of pain and this interior distress.
His infinite mercy sent me this thought :
The very furthest and utmost they can do is to take
away thy life ; and often hast thou desired to give thy
.life for God : thou art in Gods hands. Who knoweth well
what thou sufferest, and is all-powerful to sustain thee.
With this thought our good God gave me also out of His
immense bounty the grace to resign myself and offer
myself utterly to His good pleasure, together with some
hope and desire of dying for His sake. From that moment
I felt no more trouble in my soul, and even the bodily
pain seemed to be more bearable than before, although
I doubt not that it really increased from the continued
strain that was exercised on every part of my body.

Hereupon those gentlemen, seeing that I gave them
no further answer, departed to the Lieutenants house,
and there they waited, sending now and then to know how
things were going on in the crypt. There were left with
me three or four strong men, to superintend my torture.
My gaoler also remained, I fully believe out of kindness
to me, and kept wiping away with a handkerchief the
sweat that ran down from my face the whole time, as
indeed it did from my whole body. So far, indeed, he
did me a service ; but by his words he rather added to
my distress, for he never stopped entreating and
beseeching me to have pity on myself, and tell these gentlemen what
they wanted to know ; and so many human reasons did
he allege, that I verily believed he was either instigated
directly by the devil under pretence of affection for me,
or had been left there purposely by the persecutors to
influence me by his show of sympathy. In any case,
these shafts of the enemy seemed to be spent before they
reached me, for though annoying, they did me no real
hurt, nor did they seem to touch my soul or move it in
the least. I said, therefore, to him, I pray you to say
no more on that point, for I am not minded to lose my
soul for the sake of my body. Yet I could not prevail
with him to be silent. The others also who stood by said,
He will be a cripple all his life, if he lives through it;
but he will have to be tortured daily till he confesses.
But I kept praying in a low voice, and continually uttered
the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary.

I had hung in this way till after one of the clock
as I think, when I fainted. How long I was in the faint
I know not^perhaps not long ; for the men who stood
by lifted me up, or replaced those wicker steps under my
feet, until I came to myself; and immediately they heard
me praying they let me down again. This they did over
and over again when the faint came on, eight or nine
times before five of the clock. Somewhat before five came
Wade again, and drawing near, said, Will you yet obey
the commands of the Queen and the Council ?

No, said I, what you ask is unlawful, therefore I
will never do it.
At least, then, said Wade, say that you would like
to speak to Secretary Cecil.
I have nothing to say to him, I replied, more than
I have said already ; and if I were to ask to speak to him,
scandal would be caused, for people would imagine that I
was yielding at length, and was willing to give information.
Whereupon this Wade suddenly turned his back in a rage
and departed, saying in a loud and angry tone, Hang
there, then, till you rot !

So he went away, and I think ail the Commissioners
then left the Tower; for at five of the clock the great bell
of the Tower sounds, as a signal for all to leave who do
not wish to be locked in all night. Soon after this they
took me down from my cross, and though neither foot nor
leg was injured, yet I could hardly stand. Early next morning,
however, soon after the Tower
gates were opened, my gaoler came up to the eel! and
told me that Master Wade had arrived, and that I must
go down to him. I went down, therefore, that time in a
sort of cloak with wide sleeves, for my hands were so
swollen that they would not have passed through ordinary sleeves.
When I had come to the Lieutenants house,
Wade addressed me thus : I am sent to you on the part
of the Queen and of Master Secretary Cecil, the first of
whom assures you on the word of a Sovereign, the other
on his word of honour, that they know for certain that
Garnet is in the habit of meddling in political matters,
and that he is an enemy of the State. Consequently,
unless you mean to contradict them flatly, you ought to
submit your judgment, and produce him.

They cannot possibly know this, I replied, by their
own experience and of certain knowledge, since they have
no personal knowledge of the man. Now I have lived
with him, and know him well, and I know him to be no
such character as you say.

Well, then, returned he, you will not acknowledge
it, nor tell us what we ask .
No, certainly not, said I, I neither can nor will.

It would be better for you if you did, he replied.
And thereupon he summoned from the next room a gentle-
man who had been there waiting, a tall and commanding
figure, whom he called the Superintendent of Torture.
I knew there was such an officer, but this man was not
really in that charge, as I heard afterwards, but was
Master of the Artillery in the Tower. However, Wade
called him by this name to strike the greater terror into
me, and said to him, I deliver this man into your hands.
You are to rack him twice to-day, and twice daily until
such time as he chooses to confess. The officer then took
charge of me, and Wade departed.
Thereupon we descended with the same solemnity
as before into the place appointed for torture, and again
they put the gauntlets on the same part of my arms as
before : indeed, they could not be put on in any other
part, for the flesh had so risen on both sides that there
were two hills of flesh with a valley between, and the
gauntlets would not meet anywhere but in the valley.

Here, then, were they put on, not without causing me
much pain. Our good Lord, however, helped me, and I
cheerfully offered Him my hands and my heart. So I
was hung up again as I before described ; and in my
hands I felt a great deal more pain than on the previous
day, but not so much in my breast and belly, perhaps
because this day I had eaten nothing.

While thus hanging I prayed, sometimes silently,
sometimes aloud, recommending myself to our Lord Jesus
and His Blessed Mother. I hung much longer this time
without fainting, but at length I fainted so thoroughly
that they could not bring me to, and they thought that
I either was dead or soon would be. So they called the
Lieutenant, but how long he was there I know not, nor
how long I remained in the faint. When I came round,
however, I found myself no longer hanging by my hands,
but supported sitting on a bench, with many people round
me, who had opened my teeth with some iron instrument
and were pouring warm water down my throat. Now
when the Lieutenant saw I could speak, he said, Do you
not see how much better it is for you to yield to the wishes
of the Queen than to lose your life this way .

By Gods help I answered him with more spirit than
I had ever before felt : No, certainly I do not see it I
would rather die a thousand times than do what they
require of me.

You will not, then, he repeated.

No, indeed I will not, I answered, while a breath
remains in my body,

Well, then, said he, and he seemed to say it sorrow-
fully, as if reluctant to carry out his orders, we must hang
you up again now, and after dinner too.

Let us go, then, in the name of God, I said; I
have but one life, and if I had more I would offer thera
all for this cause. And with this I attempted to rise in
order to go to the pillar, but they were obliged to support me,
as I was very weak in body from the torture.
if there was any strength in my soul, it was the gift of
God, and given, I am convinced, because I was a member
of the Society, though a most unworthy one. I was sus-
pended, therefore, a third time, and hung there in very
great pain of body, but not without great consolation of
sou!, which seemed to me to arise from the prospect of
dying. Whether it was from a true love of suffering for
Christ, or from a sort of selfish desire to be with Christ,
God knows best ; but I certainly thought that I should
die, and felt great joy in committing myself to the will
and good pleasure of my God, and contemning entirely
the will of men. Oh, that God would grant me always
to have that same spirit (though I doubt not that it wanted
much of true perfection in His eyes), for a longer life
remains to me than I then thought, and He granted me
a reprieve to prepare myself better for His holy presence.

After a while the Lieutenant, seeing that he made
no way with me by continuing the torture, or because the
dinner hour was near at hand, or perhaps through a natural
feeling of compassion, ordered me to be taken down. "
 

Note: The entire text of Bernard Gui's book on the Inquisition, in Latin, is available here.

The entire text of Father Gerard's autobiography is here.

The French Inquisition: Joan of Arc

The Roman Inquisition: Trial of Galileo

The Spanish Inquisition: Tomás de Torquemada