Indeed no firm references to the use of torture by the Inquisition are to be found in surviving documents through the end of the thirteenth century. Other, less drastic means, it appears, were employed to pressure witnesses to reveal what they knew: close imprisonment, chaining in small cells, restrictions on food. Physical torture seems not to have been part of the ordinary scene of the inquisitorial procedure in Languedoc at the height of the Inquisition.

Unfortunately, torture did continue as a legal method for obtaining evidence in secular courts all over Europe throughout the late Middle Ages and well into the High Renaissance, and beyond. England under the Tudors equated heresy with treason, and by order of the Privy Council the Jesuit Edmund Campion, among others, was tortured and eventually hanged, drawn and quartered at Tyburn Hill. The charge? He was a Catholic priest living in England. In time, torture was no longer employed in Europe, not because it came to be perceived as being inhumane (it had always been recognized as being a repulsive way of obtaining evidence), but because circumstantial evidence came to be accepted as sufficient proof to convict…With the emergence of the jury system the legal proofs which were required to be present in order to convict were done away with.

Albert Shannon, The Medieval Inquisition (1991)


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