What was the Inquisition and why did it happen?
The Inquisition was a violent and systematic effort established by the Roman Catholic Church to seek out and punish heretics—individuals who opposed Church teachings or held beliefs that deviated from Christian doctrine. This dark chapter in history unfolded across Europe, with many torturous ecclesiastical tribunals created, primarily concentrated in regions such as France, Italy, Germany, and notably, the infamous Spanish Inquisition. Operating clandestinely, the judges, often belonging to religious orders like the Dominicans or Franciscans, resorted to various brutal torture techniques in what they deemed an act of dispensing 'justice'. Regrettably, the remnants of these methods are now preserved in the numerous torture and dungeon museums scattered across Europe, offering a chilling testament to the practices employed during the Inquisition, including flaying, the garrotte, the guillotine, and the horrifying practice of burning at the stake. Among the most grotesque techniques of the era was the barbaric act of soaking a victim's feet in salt and then binding them to a tree, while a parched goat was tethered to the same tree, feverishly licking the salt down to the bone—a grotesque spectacle of suffering.
The historical foundation of the Inquisition traces back to the pivotal AD 392 decision by the Roman Emperor Theodosius I, who decreed the outlawing of all non-Christian and non-Jewish beliefs. This decree effectively established the teachings of the Christian church as the bedrock of law and order, casting heresy as a grave threat to societal stability. The Inquisition, therefore, was an instrument through which the Church sought to safeguard its authority and doctrinal orthodoxy, often resorting to ruthless means to achieve this end. In the 16th century, as religious conflicts escalated, Catholic leaders even turned the Inquisition against the burgeoning Protestant movement, further intensifying its scope and influence. This brutal campaign against perceived heresy left an indelible mark on the annals of history, forever haunting the collective memory of Europe.