'Familia inquisitionis': a study of inquisitors' entourage (13th-14th century).

Lead Research Organisation: University of Birmingham
Department Name: History and Cultures

Abstract

The 13th and 14th century Medieval Inquisition in Italy and France has left many records about the inquiries undertaken, and inspired chroniclers and polemicists to write about the deeds and misdeeds of this very exceptional tribunal. However, very little specific material has been left on the 'familia inquisitionis', the group of people who, to various extents, helped inquisitors on their day-to-day management of the tribunal, run their houses and their jails, supported enquiries as professional officers, collaborators and spies. Official documentation (papal documents, episcopal letters, canon law and manuals) does not refer to them. Jailers, notaries, servants, spies and several supporters have thus drifted into historical oblivion. Yet, inquisitorial sources do provide glimpses of this 'family', which is accounted for especially in the expenses books.
While the most recent historiography has focussed on the connections between the Inquisition tribunal and the milieu within which it operated, re-visiting and investigating the relationship between political patterns and ecclesiological agendas at a local level, very little light has been shed on another aspect of the interaction between inquisitors and their environment.
This study will aim at a reconstruction of the patterns of co-operation between inquisitors and local communities. This will be seen not so much as a stark opposition (Inquisition versus local communities/authorities/communal structures), but as a mutual exchange. Inquisitors were often relatively local or familiar to the places where they operated, and to some degree were part of such groupings. Equally, local communities 'used' the Inquisition as a generator of income, a powerful way to solve disputes, a source of support.
Among the aspect that will be investigated are:
- the extent to which the world of these ecclesiastical officials relied on professional support provided by the notaries, and at the same time the advantages notaries obtained professionally and in terms of personal prestige by being employed by the tribunal over a length of time;
- whether or not historians can talk about a systematic management of the 'familia' throughout the areas regulated by the tribunal (with specific emphasis on France and Italy);
- the existence of strategies to handle conversion of suspects and their re-integration into the orthodox society;
- the management of possessions obtained through confiscation;
- the existence of a support network or financial support for the collaborators and spies;
- the extent of corruption as a general practice (corruption of both the inquisitors and of their employees).

Planned Impact

1) The Inquisition is often considered among the 'hot' topics when popularising the Medieval period. Media often draw upon the darkest sides of its history (the stakes, torture, the 'holy war') in order to appeal to the wider public. On several occasions I myself have been approached by television (BBC, Channel 4) and newspapers (The Independent) to be interviewed, or to contribute to television programmes on the theme. I have declined the invitation, so far, as my interest lies more in the Inquisition's historical context and its repercussions on historical events, than in its exceptional features.
A study of the day-to-day management of the tribunal, could potentially overturn the general public's perception of this Medieval phenomenon, and highlight those aspects which - as will be shown further on - can be more easily related to our times. Increasingly current research is bringing to the fore the image of a tribunal made up by individual officials, dealing with individual suspects, on a one-to-one basis. Thus, the 'monolithic' image of the Inquisition as a 'repressive machine' is being successfully challenged. The potentially high impact on media and popularised history is therefore evident.
2) I have contacted the Vatican (Congregation of the Doctrine of Faith, Vatican Secret Archives), and will continue to pursue this link while progressing with my research. The aim is to promote an awareness of recent historical findings among those institutions and practitioners who still deal with issues of doctrinal non-conformity (Congregation) and with the preservation of their archival possessions (Secret Archives). This fits in well with the recent move made by the Catholic Church under the pontificate of Pope John Paul II (Karol Woytila) towards the re-assessment of the role of the Church within this period of history. In 2000 the papacy has nominated an independent academic panel with a view to operate a necessary historical update on the theme. The Dominican and Franciscan orders, too, have followed in those steps by promoting conferences, tables rondes and publications to which I have been invited to contribute (2002-9).The proposed research will appeal to those organisations wishing to pursue further a clearer understanding of this controversial aspect of religious history.
3) Since its inception in the 1230s, the inquisitorial tribunal has set the methodological and procedural basis for legal practices still operating in some mainland European countries. The recent, and equally controversial focus of international affairs on modern examples of interrogation of suspects, makes the topic up-to-date for our society. Particularly, this proposal's focus on the interaction between tribunal and the communities within which it operated can potentially be of striking interest for the understanding of current policies. Legal practitioners, politicians and policy-makers alike will benefit from a clearer understanding of these patterns. Examples of areas where parallels could be found include: a) the employment and management of ex-offenders (here, ex-heretics) and ex-sympathisers as collaborators, spies and insiders; b) the impact of this recuperation on individuals' sense of duty and allegiance, and its repercussions on security policies; c) the effectiveness or appropriateness of schemes of support for informants; d) the impact of corruption and betrayal within close-knit 'illegal' organisations; e) the implications of the employment of local officials (notaries, jailers) on issues of trustworthiness for the institution.

Publications

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Bruschi C (2013) Familia inquisitionis: a study on the inquisitors' entourage (XIII-XIV centuries)1 in Mélanges de l'École française de Rome - Moyen Âge

 
Description The project has outlined the importance and relevance of a study of inquisitorial entourage, to better understand functioning and organisation of the Medieval inquisitions. People working for and on behalf of the tribunals and/or of the inquisitors, their number and make-up, can be traced and 'mapped out' to reveal differences between the several 'branches' of the Inquisition. The study - initially aiming at a comparison between two areas at 'high heretical density' (Languedoc and Northern Italy) - had to be steered towards a methodological piece of work: I have aimed at setting up a working model, providing and highlighting a series of problems, aspects and angles which will have to be explored further, on a case-by-case basis. Only by comparing several tribunals and their entourage could these aspects emerge in their full relevance. Differences and similarities were revealing: in their vocabulary, ways of recording transactions and legal proceedings, make-up and numbers of collaborators, tribunals show a remarkable flexibility. Although the legislation issued by the papacy and the instructions provided by manuals and legal pieces of advice were clear, they were never binding. A certain degree of leeway could be implemented by each tribunal, but such freedom backfired. Instead of being used to enforce consistency in practices, it created micro-management and strengthened local ties with places and their inhabitants.

A stark divide between the French and Italian tribunals had be enfurther explained as depending on the way requisitions of heretics' goods were handled by the authorities: in France by the local lay lords, and - after the annexation of the Languedoc to the French crown (1271) - by the king's officials; in Italian cities by the tribunals themselves who, since 1229 with greater intensity, pocketed at least 1/3 of all money and goods confiscated from heretics. Such financial 'interference' in the religious and political workings of the various tribunals, inferred a substantial change in the way in which inquisitors dealt with their own entourage. Where money was abundant, salaries could be more generous, inquisitors could indulge in personal expenses, servants and luxury goods, retribution to spies was munificent, and generally the number of collaborators grew. Where inquisitors were paid by local authorities, the scenario was completely the opposite. Moreover, great quantities of money and goods were on the one hand a responsibility needing more qualified and better staff, while on the other hand they become a way to please, corrupt and ingratiate authorities, friends and families of the individual inquisitors. Such scenario was completely unforeseen, and incredibly revealing of the degree of independence enjoyed by each tribunal in Italy, whereas it became telling of the gradual loss of popularity and importance of the French tribunals throughout the 14th century.

Further, micro-studies of individual tribunals according to this framework will undoubtedly be groundbreaking in this field of studies. I aim at carrying out a detailed survey of the situation in Florence, for whch a great amount of sources have been found.
Exploitation Route Information on the key findings have been made available to non-academic audiences through conferences/workshops and a video content, available on my University webpage.
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Leisure Activities/ including Sports/ Recreation and Tourism,Culture/ Heritage/ Museums and Collections

URL http://www.birmingham.ac.uk/staff/profiles/history/bruschi-caterina.aspx
 
Description 'Men (and women) of the Medieval Inquisition' 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience
Results and Impact Video Content detailing the main interesting outcomes of this AHRC project and their relevance to the study of Medieval Inquisition and tribunals.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
 
Description << Familia inquisitionis >> : ?tude de l'entourage des inquisiteurs (XIIIe-XIVe si?cle) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Scientific meeting (conference/symposium etc.)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience
Results and Impact Paper delivered on invitation at the Universite` de Nice 'Sophia-Antipolis' (France)
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2011
 
Description Il tribunale dell'Inquisizione e gli scandali fiorentini 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Paper delivered to a non-specialist audience, held in Figline Valdarno (Florence) on Sat 11 February 2012, within a series of meetings centered on visual evidence ['Il medioevo per immagini' (Middle Ages through images), XIV series of conferences on Medieval history and civilisation].
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
 
Description Inquisitors and their Families in the Middle Ages: The Entourage 
Form Of Engagement Activity Scientific meeting (conference/symposium etc.)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience
Results and Impact Paper delivered within a Seminar series at the Centre for the Study of the Middle Ages (CeSMA) - University of Birmingham, targeted at research-active academics and students alike.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2011
 
Description Inquisitors and their Families in the Middle Ages: The Entourage 
Form Of Engagement Activity Scientific meeting (conference/symposium etc.)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Primary Audience
Results and Impact Paper delivered on invitation at the Research Seminar series - University of Nottingham UK
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
 
Description Inquisitors and their Families in the Middle Ages: The Entourage 
Form Of Engagement Activity Scientific meeting (conference/symposium etc.)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience
Results and Impact Paper delivered on invitation at the University of Reading - UK
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
 
Description Per la costruzione di una griglia metodologica: il caso della familia inquisitionis tra Due e Trecento 
Form Of Engagement Activity Scientific meeting (conference/symposium etc.)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Primary Audience
Results and Impact Invited workshop within the PhD programme - Universita` di Parma - Italy
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
 
Description T.B.A. 
Form Of Engagement Activity Scientific meeting (conference/symposium etc.)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Invited seminar at the University of Bologna (Ravenna branch)

The meeting, targeted at PhD students, is scheduled for the Autumn term 2012-3, but a day and venue has not been decided by the organising body.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012