Studies in Church History: The Rise of the Temporal Power.--Benefit of Clergy.--Excommunication

H. C. Lea

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Publisher
H. C. Lea
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Published on
Dec 31, 1869
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Pages
515
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Language
English
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Henry Charles Lea
THE history of the Inquisition naturally divides itself into two portions, each of which may be considered as a whole. The Reformation is the boundary-line between them, except in Spain, where the New Inquisition was founded by Ferdinand and Isabella. In the present work I have sought to present an impartial account of the institution as it existed during the earlier period. For the second portion I have made large collections of material, through which I hope in due time to continue the history to its end.

The Inquisition was not an organization arbitrarily devised and imposed upon the judicial system of Christendom by the ambition or fanaticism of the Church. It was rather a natural—one may almost say an inevitable—evolution of the forces at work in the thirteenth century, and no one can rightly appreciate the process of its development and the results of its activity without a somewhat minute consideration of the factors controlling the minds and souls of men during the ages which laid the foundation of modern civilization. To accomplish this it has been necessary to pass in review nearly all the spiritual and intellectual movements of the Middle Ages, and to glance at the condition of society in certain of its phases.

At the commencement of my historical studies I speedily became convinced that the surest basis of investigation for a given period lay in an examination of its jurisprudence, which presents without disguise its aspirations and the means regarded as best adapted for their realization. I have accordingly devoted much space to the origin and development of the inquisitorial process, feeling convinced that in this manner only can we understand the operations of the Holy Office and the influence which it exercised on successive generations. By the application of the results thus obtained it has seemed to me that many points which have been misunderstood or imperfectly appreciated can be elucidated. If in this I have occasionally been led to conclusions differing from those currently accepted, I beg the reader to believe that the views presented have not been hastily formed, but that they are the outcome of a conscientious survey of all the original sources accessible to me.

No serious historical work is worth the writing or the reading unless it conveys a moral, but to be useful the moral must develop itself in the mind of the reader without being obtruded upon him. Especially is this the case in a history treating of a subject which has called forth the fiercest passions of man, arousing alternately his highest and his basest impulses. I have not paused to moralize, but I have missed my aim if the events narrated are not so presented as to teach their appropriate lesson.

Henry Charles Lea
IT were difficult to exaggerate the disorder pervading the Castilian kingdoms, when the Spanish monarchy found its origin in the union of Isabella of Castile and Ferdinand of Aragon. Many causes had contributed to prolong and intensify the evils of the feudal system and to neutralize such advantages as it possessed. The struggles of the reconquest from the Saracen, continued at intervals through seven hundred years and varied by constant civil broils, had bred a race of fierce and turbulent nobles as eager to attack a neighbor or their sovereign as the Moor. The contemptuous manner in which the Cid is represented, in the earliest ballads, as treating his king, shows what was, in the twelfth century, the feeling of the chivalry of Castile toward its overlord, and a chronicler of the period seems rather to glory in the fact that it was always in rebellion against the royal power. So fragile was the feudal bond that aricohome or noble could at any moment renounce allegiance by a simple message sent to the king through a hidalgo. The necessity of attracting population and organizing conquered frontiers, which subsequently became inland, led to granting improvidently liberal franchises to settlers, which weakened the powers of the crown, without building up, as in France, a powerful Third Estate to serve as a counterpoise to the nobles and eventually to undermine feudalism. In Spain the business of the Castilian was war. The arts of peace were left with disdain to the Jews and the conquered Moslems, known as Mudéjares, who were allowed to remain on Christian soil and to form a distinct element in the population. No flourishing centres of industrious and independent burghers arose out of whom the kings could mould a body that should lend them efficient support in their struggles with their powerful vassals. The attempt, indeed, was made; the Córtes, whose co-operation was required in the enactment of laws, consisted of representatives from seventeen cities, who while serving enjoyed personal inviolability, but so little did the cities prize this privilege that, under Henry IV, they complained of the expense of sending deputies. The crown, eager to find some new sources of influence, agreed to pay them and thus obtained an excuse for controlling their election, and although this came too late for Henry to benefit by it, it paved the way for the assumption of absolute domination by Ferdinand and Isabella, after which the revolt of the Comunidades proved fruitless. Meanwhile their influence diminished, their meetings were scantily attended and they became little more than an instrument which, in the interminable strife that cursed the land, was used alternately by any faction as opportunity offered.
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