A different demonstration of the ruthless brutal nature of the Inquisition. Leads directly to Ximene’s situation at Foix.
The Inquisition at Palmiers
Philippe de l’Isle asked a totally unexpected question. ‘Am I supposed to enjoy this, your Eminence?’
Cardinal Amaud Littorale, the ‘Legatus a Latere’, the Pope’s personal appointee for the suppression of the Cathar Heresy allowed surprise to show in his response.
‘Enjoy what, the chicken? I think it is excellent.’
‘ No your Eminence I mean the interrogation, the torture.’
The Cardinal dropped a forkful of “chicken baked with olives” into his lap. Philippe had been hand picked from the Dominican seminary in Toulouse to be one of the three deputies of the Holy Inquisition in Pamiers.
The Cardinal struggled to remove the chicken from his robes. He drew a deep breath.
‘ My son you are engaged in a great initiative. You are helping to save the souls of these poor unfortunates.’
‘How exactly does torture do that?’
The Cardinal now moved from surprise to shock.
‘My son, I am surprised you have progressed so far without knowing the answer to your own question. If someone has fallen into the trap of reading heretical texts we may save their soul by putting out their eyes. If we identify someone who preaches heresy, ripping out their tongue might prevent hundreds of others from being led into heresy.’
Philippe dropped his head. ‘If only it was a simple as that, your Eminence.’
‘What do you mean?’
‘I have been here for six weeks and I have seen no one capable of reading a heretical text, let alone preaching heresy.’
‘We torture them all and… some of my colleagues seem to enjoy it.’
‘What do you mean?’ The Cardinal hesitated. ‘Be specific.’
‘Well, the interrogations I have taken part in have been focussed on very ordinary people’
‘Who may well be agents of the devil.’
“ Is a witch an agent of the devil?’
The cardinal now bristled with indignation.
‘Of course a witch is an agent of the devil, why do you ask’
‘Because four out of five of the poor unfortunates I have seen have been women’
‘That does not really surprise me, the Cathar heresy has long been supported, no, promoted by women.’
Philippe raised his head and looked directly into the cardinal’s eyes.
‘We start by stripping them naked’
The Cardinal nodded.
‘Philippe, it is standard procedure. Then you stick barbs into every part of their body searching for the areas in which they feel no pain, if you find such an area, where they feel no pain, it proves they are a witch.’
‘Your Eminence it is not easy to perform that task, it inflicts great suffering. Those under suspicion must be tied down. In the case of women they are always spreadeagled. My colleagues are visibly excited by this procedure’, Philippe hesitated, ‘they get erections’
‘Again I am not surprised, it is the devils work we are fighting, and the devil tries to deflect our brethren from their true vocation.’
‘But if it is not possible to find an area in which they have no pain, we still proceed with further interrogation.’
The Cardinal could not conceal his annoyance.
‘ Of course you do, it is not necessary to be a witch to be a heretic, are the correct procedures then followed?’
‘Oh! Yes, your Eminence, religiously, the various instruments of torture are demonstrated to them and they are given every opportunity to recant.’
‘So what are you concerned about? Only committed heretics would face the pain we can inflict.’
‘It is the nature of the torture, the next stage for men is to have their hands tied behind their back and then hoisted into the air by a rope tied around their wrists. It results in the dislocation of their shoulders and the ripping of tendons. Whatever happens subsequent to that they will be cripples for the rest of their lives.’
‘ Yes your Eminence, for women the first stage it is an attack on their most sensitive parts, usually with red hot tongs”
‘So them women are treated more leniently than the men?’
‘I doubt if they would see it that way your Eminence.’
‘ And what would you suggest as an alternative? We must use every means at our disposal to save these peoples souls.’
‘We could put them in a school where they could be re-educated, could receive instruction in the Roman faith’
The Cardinal eyed Phillipe very carefully before coming to a decision.
‘Thank you my son, I will consider carefully what you have said.’
Six days later Phillipe de l’Isle was accused of sympathy with heretics and two days after that with heresy itself. Phillipe was imprisoned and interrogated by the same inquisition for which he had been appointed deputy. Eight weeks later he was dead.
The Cardinal did not eat “chicken with olives” in the whole of the intermediate period.
After a suitable interval he invited Phillipe’s successor Henri de Latour to dinner, but gave him little time to philosophise.
‘There is a nest of heretics in the Château de Foix,’ he told Henri, “It is your job to draw them out and eliminate them. Do it in such a way that they are humiliated and do it publicly, to intimidate the local populace. Oh, and try to avoid the mistake made by your predecessor, have no sympathy for the heretics. They often give an image of being god fearing and responsible, but in private they indulge in the most appalling depravity. They believe that sexual pleasure, however it is obtained is not in any way sinful and they train their children how to pleasure each other. The women are the worst. These heretic women try to prevent the collection of revenue, which is essential to continue the church’s great mission.’
The Cardinal paused and preened himself, adjusting both the heavy gold chain around his neck and the bejewelled ring on his finger. Displaying an image of great crusading piety he then moved the conversation to administrative matters.
‘It is very expensive training people to the level of theocracy needed to lead a mission like this and it was all wasted on your predecessor. I personally supervised the latter stages of his inquisition and it was most distasteful. If you don’t particularly like the work get someone else to do it. You will find there is no shortage of volunteers.’