The greatest exponent of censorship and control of knowledge were the so-called Prohibited Book Indices, extensive catalogs that included the works and the authors of the same “unworthy” for the official orthodoxy of the Christian religion. They included works of surprising diversity, from theatrical texts to prayer books, classics, alchemy treaties, grimoires, magic manuals, reformist writings … The varapalo to know and the song to intolerance was of such magnitude that important men whose contributions to knowledge were vital to the development of modern science were judged by their theories, such as Galileo Galilei, who had to retract them before the Court; others, unfortunately, were sent to the stake, such as the great Italian philosopher Giordano Bruno, convicted in 1600 and burned alive in Campo dei Fiori, in Rome, a place that today occupies an imposing statue in his honor.
Origins of an institution
The Inquisition takes its name from a criminal process known as the inquisition, non-existent in Roman law and characterized by the formulation of an accusation by direct initiative of the authority, without the need for instances of the parties – statements or accusations of witnesses. Although from 1184, with the decree Ad Abolendam Pope Luciano III begins to apply the penalty of fire to heretics, in addition to the confiscation of property and the use of horrible methods of torture, the inquisition is not officially created until 1229 in France – from what is known as the Synod of Toulouse-, initially by Pope Leo IX to repress the Albigensian or Cathar heresy. The first official inquisitor was the Dominican Roberto Brougre, who at first belonged to the same Cathar movement. This medieval inquisition, different from the modern one, enjoyed its greatest height, according to Carcel, in the second half of the 13th century.
In that century there were already courts in countries such as Poland, Bohemia, Portugal or Germany, although it would be in Spain, a country where in those years the inquisition was not yet instituted, where it would enjoy greater success; In spite of the importance of the Holy See in the future of the institution, in Spain it – known as the Holy Office – depended in large part on state control, unlike the rest of European countries, which had to be accountable exclusively to Rome.
During the heyday of the medieval institution, the Council of Tarragona and a royal edict of Jaime I, asked Pope Gregory IX to lay the foundations of the Inquisition in the Crown of Aragon, establishing the organization of the Court under the jurisdiction of the bishops and the almost exclusive domain of the Dominicans.
With the coming to power of the Catholic Monarchs, the old medieval inquisition gave way to the modern one, altering many things with this change. During the years of the old institution the main priority of this, following the designs of Rome, was to persecute the heretics that arose from the numerous religious conflicts of Medieval Europe – Albigenses, Hussites and a long etcetera …-, but when the modern inquisition was founded the look of the Christian leaders was set on the new and revolutionary invention of the printing press, which was allowing to spread the writings of Luther and other Protestants with a speed never seen before. It was necessary, therefore, to stop the distribution of sacrilegious texts and the best way to do so was to shape an institution that published catalogs of prohibited books and viciously pursue any attempt at dissent. Spain was precisely one of the countries that most worried would be, mainly during the reigns of Carlos V and Felipe II, before the progress of the reformist doctrine.
Isabel de Castilla ascended the throne in 1479. From that moment the Holy Office or new inquisition would arise, more as a political weapon than a religious one. In 1483 Isabel, already known as “the Catholic” created the Council of the Supreme and General Inquisition, which would function within the kingdom of Castile, under the authority of the terrible inquisitor General Tomás de Torquemada that Benito Pérez Galdós would raise to the category of infernal character. Later, Pope Sixtus IV would appoint him inquisitor of Aragon, Catalonia and Valencia, gradually installing courts in various Spanish cities.
With the bull Licet ab initio, Pope Paul III instituted on July 21, 1542 the Roman Inquisition, a strongly centralized court, of which the Spanish Inquisition was independent, in fact, even ruled the Roman’s designs on numerous occasions, something that neighboring France I didn’t see with good eyes.
Ally of the Counter Reformation
Fear of the expansion of Protestantism and the development of the printing press at the end of the 15th century forged, as I have already pointed out, the foundations of future ecclesiastical censorship. Prior to the appearance of the first Prohibited Book Indices they were various papal bulls that had already been directed to limit the circulation of books that were seen with such terror from Rome. The bull Inter Sollicitudines of 1515 established the principles of a widespread prior censorship: it was necessary that each book possessed the one known as imprimatur, the ecclesiastical authorization for printing, an essential prerequisite for the subsequent publication and circulation of a book, and which should appear on the front pages of the same – were notable, however, the numerous falsifications of these licenses over time- .
This led to the impression that Protestant works were almost non-existent in almost all European countries, works that were clandestinely printed or circulated in handwriting, the danger being that which possessed them of being accused of heresy and sentenced to the bonfire.
In Spain, in 1554, the Royal Council of Castile enjoyed the privilege of granting printing licenses, an efficient method that was now used to curb Protestant influence and that years ago had served in the fight against Jews and Moors.
According to Italian professor Mario Infelise, the Spanish monarchy controlled every phase of the production and circulation of books, “Only the Royal Council could authorize, in writing, the printing, and only the Supreme Council of the Inquisition could direct the repressive activity under penalty of death”.
Finally, the previous censorship strategy proved insufficient to fight against heresy, as the printers mocked the controls and ended up publishing the forbidden books. Then the so-called Congregation of the Rome Index was established at the Holy See, in charge of making the sadly famous Prohibited Book Indices that would constitute the most tenacious and direct tool for the control of heterodox knowledge. Alongside these long lists, the inquisitor lords were licensed to register libraries, stop suspicious booksellers – even without clues – or printers, and ransack homes in search of the cursed books collected in the catalogs.
Between 1544 and 1556, six indexes were drafted at the Sorbonne School of Theology, which prohibited up to 528 works. Between 1546 and 1558 the Spanish monarchs Carlos V and Felipe II, emperors of the Iberian censorship, ordered the theologians to publish three catalogs that included the texts of the reformists, in addition to the vulgar language editions of the Bible and the New Will. The prohibition of Bibles at that time was the order of the day, because the leaders of the Catholic Church, and by extension the most Puritan monarchs, tried to avoid at all costs that the people interpreted the sacred texts by themselves, taking out their own – and of course, “erroneous” – conclusions without mediating the intercession of God’s servants on Earth – priests, bishops, cardinals …-.
Felipe II, a monarch who, as we know, became very interested in occult sciences, alchemy and cursed books, paradoxically showed an almost pathological panic as the Protestant Reformation progressed, banning any book from European universities from crossing the border. .
The roman index
It was in the year 1559 when the first Roman index as such appeared in Rome, entitled Index Librorum Prohibitorum, which meant an important qualitative leap in the struggle of Catholicism against heresy. It was promulgated by Pope Paul IV being the most severe in history, since it included the most radical and direct sentences. Then the obligation of the faithful arose to deliver the books that appeared on the lists directly to the Holy Office.
The structure of the Roman index remained virtually immutable until the end of the 17th century. They used to include more than a thousand prohibitions and were divided into three categories – although there were peculiarities in each case. In the first group were the authors or Catholics, who were banned from all their work. They were followed by a second group with 126 titles referring to 117 authors (4) and finally, a third part in which 332 anonymous titles were listed. At the end of the index two lists were added: one of 45 Bibles and New Testaments prohibited and another of 61 printers, suspected of publishing censored works and which were generally limited to the Swiss and German zone, where the progress of Protestantism was unstoppable.
According to Infelise, within the third group, in the heading (title or label) libri omnes, contained summary prohibitions, among which were several books: those that did not have in the frontispiece the name of the author, the printer, the date and the place of edition, those appeared if the proper inquisitorial authorization or those published by the aforementioned printers heretical, in addition to an important category in our work: works of a magical and astrological character, always persecuted.
In Spain different indices appeared in which a multitude of prohibited works and authors were included, some prohibiting the complete works and others, known as Expurgatory Indices, -the first appeared in 1583- that only removed certain chapters or paragraphs thereof. In the so-called Index and Expurgatory certain passages or phrases were eliminated according to the criteria of the censor – in the Golden Age Spain some of the best writers of our letters, such as Lope de Vega or Calderón de la Barca, acted as censors for the Holy Office.
The Pragmatic Sanction
Not following the indications marked in the indexes meant a serious affront punished with harshness. A year before the Congregation of the Rome Index prepared its first and only list, in Spain the Infanta Juana, in the absence of Philip II, promulgated in 1558 the one known as Pragmatic Sanction, in which reference was made to very severe punishments and even death, for the possession of condemned books.
Shortly after Index Librorum Prohibitorum He supplied the most complete catalog of heretical books, unauthorized versions of the Bible, books of heterodox science and works of occultism, magic and divination – in 1490, as a remarkable background, 6,000 volumes of magic and sorcery had been burned in Salamanca. In Spain, the chaplain of Felipe II, Alfonso de Castro, boasted that if the Iberian Peninsula was free of heresies it was precisely because heretical literature had been banned, on the contrary – he said – of what was happening in countries like Italy, France or southern Germany.
Before the Roman index was composed, others of great importance had circulated such as that of the Sorbonne University (1544 and 1547) or that of Leuven (1546 and 1550). The first of these catalogs used by the Spanish Holy Office was published in 1547, although it was only a reissue of the Leuven index; the first properly Spanish was that of 1551.
The last Index of Prohibited Books It appeared in Spain in 1707. With it an end was ended to a long period in which these nefarious catalogs symbolized the martyrdom of knowing and the intolerance of man as never seen before.