Medieval Inquisition

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The Medieval Inquisition was established in 1184 in response to the Catharist heresy in southern France. Pope Innocent III exhorted secular rulers to proceed against the Cathari, calling heresy high treason against God -- thus equating it to high treason against temporal rulers, which warranted death. However, neither the legislation nor the Acts of the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215, which set forth the campaign against heretics, mentioned the death penalty at all. Rather, it was expected that heretics would be punished by confiscation of property, banishment, and exclusion, from burial in consecrated ground, and so on. By relying on secular enforcement, though, Innocent lost control of what was initially a relatively moderate operation. Peter II of Aragon was the first ruler to decree death by fire for heretics found in his kingdom after 1197.

See also Inquisition, the Spanish Inquisition and the Roman Inquisition.