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Struggle of Faith and Reason: A History of Intolerance and Punitive Censorship

Part II: From Mediaeval Cathars to Giordano Bruno and Lucilio Vanini

Juhani Sarsila

Humanists look up to Hellas as the cradle of European culture. The book spans nearly five centuries of a later epoch of this worthy tradition. Starting with the awesome high-mediaeval Cathars, the exposition proceeds in chronological order. Eventually, we meet Giordano Bruno and Lucilio Vanini, both of them red-letter heretics. The work affords cognisance of a neglected branch of learning. History of morals in general, and that of the struggle of faith and reason in particular, provides in-depth insights into the allotted fate of dissentient man. A potentially fateful nexus appears to be interweaving between book and author. Organised religion is evermore based on the politically beneficial idea of anthropomorphism or metaphysical projection. For has Man not made God in his image?

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VIII Burning Issues


VIIIBurning Issues

With the virtual extirpation and extinction of the Cathar movement by the first half of the fourteenth century at the latest, the original impetus for the inquisitor’s office had practically disappeared. Even so, the office of the inquisition was run on for other forms of heresy, even if there was not left that holy and fanatic sense of continuity that had developed from the later twelfth to the early fourteenth century. Still and all, fanaticism just as savagery was well present, as it was later in time.

1Inquisitors of Heretical Depravity Set on Duty

Peters (1989, 68) proposes that the practice of inquisitorial activity, either episcopal or papal, grew to be markedly consistent by the first quarter of the fourteenth century. Bernard Gui’s Inquisitor’s Guide (1324) for novice inquisitors illustrated innovative techniques invented and practised mainly in Languedoc and Northern Italy. Yet this literary guide would aid inquisitors in any region of Latin Christianity. Peters implies, probably correctly, that Gui’s handbook was not at the disposal of divine eliminators elsewhere. Peters goes on to propose that Eymeric authored his Inquisitorial Manual (1376) based on his own practical experience and wisdom as an inquisitor in Aragón. Both of these two authorities, Gui and Eymeric, concerned about the salvation of christened man and that of the whole Christendom, virtuously penned their instruction books with the complete erudition of future inquisitors in mind. Over and above that, Peters asserts, the earliest inquisitorial literature arose...

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