Theodosius was the last Emperor of both eastern and western halves of the Roman Empire.  In his day, heresy was a punishable crime and the Church had the right to call on secular authorities to take action against heretics.  After the division of the Roman Empire, these policies continued and heretics could be punished by exile, branding, confiscation of wealth, and death (Lambert, 1992). After council of Constantinople, an accepted punishment for heretics was burning them alive (Coulton, 1969).

     Church councils became more specific in declaring in the punishment that heresy deserved.  The faithful were obliged to hand heretics over to secular authorities for punishment and these secular authorities were obliged to mete out punishment on those designated heretics by the Church.  Any secular authorities which refused to do so would be stripped of their power and any clergy which refused would be stripped of their office.

Fourth Lateran Council


3. On Heretics

We excommunicate and anathematize every heresy raising itself up against this holy, orthodox and catholic faith which we have expounded above. We condemn all heretics, whatever names they may go under. They have different faces indeed but their tails are tied together inasmuch as they are alike in their pride. Let those condemned be handed over to the secular authorities present, or to their bailiffs, for due punishment. Clerics are first to be degraded from their orders. The goods of the condemned are to be confiscated, if they are lay persons, and if clerics they are to be applied to the churches from which they received their stipends. Those who are only found suspect of heresy are to be struck with the sword of anathema, unless they prove their innocence by an appropriate purgation, having regard to the reasons for suspicion and the character of the person. Let such persons be avoided by all until they have made adequate satisfaction. If they persist in the excommunication for a year, they are to be condemned as heretics. Let secular authorities, whatever offices they may be discharging, be advised and urged and if necessary be compelled by ecclesiastical censure, if they wish to be reputed and held to be faithful, to take publicly an oath for the defense of the faith to the effect that they will seek, in so far as they can, to expel from the lands subject to their jurisdiction all heretics designated by the church in good faith. Thus whenever anyone is promoted to spiritual or temporal authority, he shall be obliged …

…He shall be intestable, that is he shall not have the freedom to make a will nor shall succeed to an inheritance. Moreover nobody shall be compelled to answer to him on any business whatever, but he may be compelled to answer to them. If he is a judge sentences pronounced by him shall have no force and cases may not be brought before him; if an advocate, he may not be allowed to defend anyone; if a notary, documents drawn up by him shall be worthless and condemned along with their condemned author; and in similar matters we order the same to be observed. If however he is a cleric, let him be deposed from every office and benefice, so that the greater the fault the greater be the punishment. If any refuse to avoid such persons after they have been pointed out by the church, let them be punished with the sentence of excommunication until they make suitable satisfaction. Clerics should not, of course, give the sacraments of the church to such pestilent people nor give them a Christian burial nor accept alms or offerings from them…



     About 1140, Gratian’s Decretum established that heresy on religious matters was a secular crime in addition to a religious one and that secular authorities were obligated to punish it.  Starting in the 12th century, the church began to rely more on force (potestas) against heretics.  Pope Lucius III instituted the inquisition and condemned heresy in 1184.  When Pope Innocent III declared (in 1199) that heretics were comparable to traitors, a broader range of judicial punishments could be brought against them (Waugh, ).  Pope Innocent III was the first pope to make heresy a primary focus of his pontificate and Emperor Frederick made burning the punishment for heresy as quid pro quo for his coronation by the pope (Lambert, 1992).

The trials for heresy and witchcraft there was absolutely no limit to torture.  This new evolution of cruelty received the highest infallible sanction when in 1252 Innocent IV issued his directions to the Inquisition in Tuscany and Lombardy that confessions should be extorted from heretics by torture, and this sacred precedent was followed for centuries by new and even more cruel decrees of Popes, Councils, and Bishops regarding procedure against both heretics and witches throughout Europe.

–White, 1926, p.150-151


     Pope Innocent launched the Albigensian Crusade against heretics in Southern France.  Shortly afterwards, Emperor Frederick II passed a series of harsh laws against heresy which included exile, seizure of goods, disinheritance of children, and execution (Peters, 1980)  The use of physical coercion in dealing with heresy increased after 1200.  Mass executions for heresy in Italy began in early 1230s and continued throughout century.  Heretics were burned at stake in Rome, Milan, and Verona (Waugh, ).  The following are excerpts from papal laws on the punishment of heretics from the early 13th century.


The prelates of this church give their strength and work as hard as they can so that it may be ordained in the writings of cities that those whom they call heretics should be tortured with various torments.  And if the commune of the cities does not want to do this they attack them saying “We will excommunicate you, and it is right that this be done.”

--1235, from --Waugh, p. 60


The Council of Toulouse, 1229

Canon 1.  We appoint, therefore, that the archbishops and bishops shall swear in one priest…who shall diligently, faithfully, and frequently seek out the heretics in those parishes, by searching all houses and subterranean chambers which lie under any suspicion.  And looking our for appendages or outbuildings, in the roofs themselves, or any other kind of hiding places, all which we direct to be destroyed.

Canon 6.  Directs that the house in which any heretic shall be found shall be destroyed.

-- Peters, 1980, p. 194-5


…at the great Lateran Council of 1215, in which Innocent made it a definte law for every orthodox Chrisitan to seek out and “exterminate” heretics. 

--Coulton, 1969, p. 109


Heretics, ran his [Frederick II’s] decree, “offend the Divine Majesty, which is far worse than to offend human majesty,”…As a natural corollary, in 1224, he condemned all future heretics to the stake….But [Pope] Gregory did  in fact keep step with Frederick in severity.  In 1231 he burned a group of heretics at Rome

--Coulton, 1969, p. 111-112


   Not only were there penalties against heretics, but against secular authorities which did not take it upon themselves to punish heretics.

The Schwabenspiegel; Concerning Heretics, 1235

In case a feudal prince does not bring heretics to judgment, but protects them, the ecclesiastical court shall excommunicate him… Then shall he [the pope] with propriety deprive him of his princely office and of all his dignities.  The pope shall bring his sentence to the notice of his king and his other judges.  These shall substantiate the sentence of the pope with their sentence.  The offender shall be deprived of all goods, his fiefs and all his worldly honors.  Thus shall lords and poor men be judged….This the popes have a right to do, as God spake to Jeremiah, saying “I have set thee over al the nations and over all the kingdoms to judge.”

-- Peters, 1980, p. 209-10


Canon law defined any one who did not believe in the whole of Catholic dogma as an unbeliever.

The Text from canon law “He who doubts the faith is an unbeliever,” should be understood as follows: “He who doubts the faith,” that is, who doubts the faith is true, “is an unbeliever, “ that is, has a weak faith.  For the faithful ought to believe firmly the whole Catholic truth and, furthermore, must adhere firmly—that is, with steadfast faith—to any article in particular which is implicit. 

--John of Brevicoxa, from Peters, 1980, p. 1375


     In addition to these obvious forms of physical pressure, the faith could be spread through more subtle psychological pressures as well.  Adults even imposed their religious differences on children and thus children were indoctrinated in intolerance.

The man of God [bishop] halted, and addressed those [boys who had been playing] around him in a kindly way, asking if any of them had been baptized.  They looked at each other, and began to point out those among them who had been baptized.  The bishop called them to one side, and asked them if they wanted to stick to the faith which goes with baptism, or not.  And, when they affirmed that they wanted to hold fast to their faith, the bishop said, ‘If you want to be Christians, and keep the faith of baptism, you should not allow those unbaptised infidel boys to join in your game.’  Immediately, like joined together with like, as the bishop had suggested, and the baptized boys began to reject and abominate the unbaptized, and stopped them from sharing in any of their games.  And so it was beautiful to see how these boys gloried in their profession of the Christian name…

--Herbod of Michelsberg, 1147, from Christiansen, p.  55-6


    Pelagius was a heretic who argued that men can use their rational will and good nature to accomplish good works without the aid of God.  He was opposed to the concept of original sin and felt that there was no sin unless the will was absolutely free (Cahill, 1995).  Some feel that some heresies, such as those of Pelagius, might have been inspired by pre-Christian philosophies (in his case, the druidic philosophies of the Celts).  Pelagius was accused of preaching a Druidic philosophy and Pelagian doctrines seem to have been supported by druids.

…when the Celtic king Vortigern was excommunicated by Germanus of Auxerre (c. AD 378-448) for adhering to the teaching of Pelagius, he invited twelve Druids to assist him in his councils.

--Ellis, 1994, p. 19



     The Inquisition killed more than one million people, often employing attitudes like the one expressed in the following statement.

I would burn a hundred innocents if there was one guilty among them.

--Inquisitor Conrad Tors, from White, 2002 p. 23


     Under Gregory in 1231 the papal inquisition was formed and replaced local investigations into heresy by bishops.  Although there were judicial checks in normal religious trials to ensure fairness and prevent the abuse of power, these were removed from the proceedings of the Inquisition.  As a result, Inquisitors had almost absolute power over the suspects brought before them.  Inquisitors had the power to punish with fines, imprisonment (including life imprisonment), confiscation of property, destruction of homes, restrictions on the positions that could be held by descendants, and death by burning at the stake (Lambert, 1992).  

     There were no formal torture laws during the Dark Ages (except by the Visigoths) before being established by the Council of Reims in 1157 where torture was established for all suspected heretics.  Later, Church trials would use torture not only of the accused, but of witnesses as well (Coulton, 1969).  In one case a notary of the tribunal Antonio de Barcena imprisoned a fifteen year old girl, stripped her, and scourged her until she offered testimony against her mother (A Short History of the Inquisition, 1921).  Imprisonment by the Inquisition was a horrible fate and thousands of innocents from among the faithful were abducted to rot in these prisons.  When there was not enough food to maintain the prisoners, the faithful living outside the walls were asked to provide it (Coulton, 1969).


--Inquisitors were accused of fitting cells “for torturing and racking men with diverse kinds of torments,” injuring victims “very many, through the severity of these torments lose the use of their limbs and are rendered utterly impotent.  Some also, by reason of impatience and excessive pain, end their days by the cruelest death….Some of those cells are so dark and airless that the prisoners cannot discern night from day; and thus they are in continual and complete lack of air of light.  In other cells there are poor wretches, in wooden stocks or iron chains, who cannot move even for the necessities of nature, nor can they lie except on their backs and on the cold earth; and in such torments, by night and day, they remain daily for long times.”

…One woman after being kept by the Inquisition “after long detention in prison, added to her testimony…”

--Coulton, 1969, p. 141


The deepest shame of the Inquisitorial system in their matter of the prisons, if not the very worst plight of the prisoners, is recorded in a bull of Gregory XI in 1376…..Finally [Gregory] appealed to the faithful at large by offering an Indulgence for all who all help to feed “these many heretics and those defamed for heresy, who in consequence of their poverty cannot be sustained in prison…We wish that these prisoners shall not starve, but shall have time for repentance in the said prisons.”  Yet, at the same time, he pressed the royal officials on two separate occasions to do their duty more zealously and bring in more abundant victims.

--Coulton, 1969, p. 151


In those ages, when the priest, in the popular estimation, was little less than a god, a curse from his lips was often more feared than physical torments.  Here is one of the priest’s formal fulminations:

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, the blessed Virgin Mary, John the Baptist, Peter and Paul, and all other saints in heaven, do we curse and cut off from our communion him who has rebelled against us.  May the curse strike him in his house, barn, bed, path, city, castle.  May he be cursed in battle, accursed in praying, in speaking, in silence, in eating, in drinking, in sleeping.  May he be accursed in his taste, hearing, smell, and all his senses.  May the curse blast his eyes, head, and his body, from his crown to the soles of his feat.  I conjure you, devil, and all your imps, that you take no rest till you have brought him to eternal shame; till he is destroyed by drowning or hanging, till he is torn to pieces by wild beasts, or consumed by fire.  Let his children become orphans, his wife a widow.  I command you devil, and all your imps, that even as I now blow out these torches, you immediately extinguish the light from his eyes.  So be it—so be it.  Amen.  Amen.

Family and friends could recoil in fear from any one thus accursed.

A Short History of the Inquisition, 1921, p.  184-5

(THis curse is a modified version or Psalm 109)


    Inquisitors could excommunicate and declare a heretic any civil magistrate which did not inflict the punishments required by the laws made by the church.  The Inquisition could punish “heresies” as minor as the possession of a Bible written in a native language or the wearing of clothes the authorities didn’t approve of with a death sentence (Coulton, 1969).


To secure confessions and information the Inquisition published what it called an Edict of Grace…:

We excommunicate and anathematize, in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, in form of law, all apostate heretics from our holy Catholic faith, their fautors and concealers who do not reveal them, and we curse them that they may be accursed as members of the devil and separated from the unity of the holy mother church.  And we order all the faithful to hold them as such and to curse them so that they may fall into the wrath and indignation of Almighty God.  May all the curses and plagues of Egypt which befell King Pharaoh come upon them because they disobey the commandments of God.  May they be cursed wherever they be, in the city or in the country, in eating and in drinking, in waking and in sleeping, in living and in dying.  May the fruits of their lands be accursed and the cattle thereof.  May God send them hunger and pestilence to consume them.  May they be a scorn to their enemeies and be abhorred by all men.  May the devil be at their right hand.  When they come to judgement may they be condemned.   May they be driven from their homes….May they be accursed as Lucifer, with all the devils of hell, where they may remain with Judas and the damned forever, if they do not acknowledge their sin, beg mercy, and amend their lives.

--A Short History of the Inquisition, 1921, p. 151-2


Venice kept Inquisition out until the ruler was threatened with excommunication (White, 2002).

     On January 2, 1481, the Inquisition appointed by Ferdinand and Isabella ordered the arrest of heretics.  Six people were burned in 4 days.  By November, almost three hundred were burned.  Soon after, two thousand were burned and seventeen thousand suffered other punishments.  In the eighteen years of Torquemada’s appointment as Grand Inquisitor starting in 1483, an estimated 9 to 10,000 were burned alive with about 100,000 suffering other punishments.  Thousands more were burned alive under the subsequent Grand Inquisitors.  In 1554, Philip of Spain took the inquisitor Archbishop Carranza to England.  Upon his return several years later, the Archbishop boasted that he had “burned, reconciles, and driven from the land thirty thousand heretics, and had brought two million souls back to the church.”   (A Short History of the Inquisition, 1921, p. 176)

     The Inquisition became concerned with the “purity of blood” in a campaign known as the “limpieza” (the cleaning).  People were encouraged to trace the geneaologies of those whom they knew for relatives of Jewish or Moorish origin up to great grandparents.  A list was drawn up of “infected” families.  “Tainted” individuals could not hold office, marry into “pure” Spanish families, or leave the country (A Short History of the Inquisition, 1921).

     Charles V of Spain inherited the Netherlands.  In 1521, he condemned them:

 As it appears that the aforesaid Martin [Luther] is not a man, but a devil, under the form of a man, and clothed in the dress of a priest, the better to bring the human race to hell and damnation, therefore all his disciples and converts are to be punished with death and the forfeiture of their goods.” 

--A Short History of the Inquisition, 1921, p. 186

   Upon Philip’s accession, tens of thousands of men, women, and children in the Netherlands were killed.  Philip boasted that in the Netherlands, the Inquisition was “much more pitiless than that of Spain.” (A Short History of the Inquisition, 1921, p. 202).  Even children were burned alive.  Pope Paul instigated a war between Philip of Spain and France.  When the French city of St. Quentin was taken, the men were murdered and three thousand women were stripped and marched out of town after their faces were slashed and many had their arms cut off.  This was done at Philip’s express command.  In 1567, Philip sent the Duke of Alva to the Netherlands to exterminate Protestants with ten thousand soldiers (and two thousand prostitutes).   In less than 3 months, almost two thousand people were killed.  On 2/16/1568, the Holy Office ordered the entire population of the Netherlands murdered for heresy (which numbered 3 million at the time) and Philip confirmed the order ten days later.  Alva “issued distinct orders to butcher ‘every mother’s son’ in the cities which he captured (p. 219).   Thousands were killed and the fate of the women at the hands of the soldiers was described as worse than death.  After eighty years of struggle and the cost of millions of lives, Netherlands became independent (A Short History of the Inquisition, 1921).



     At the beginning of the 11th century, France the only feudal state in Europe but feudalism rapidly expanded throughout Europe after this.  During this epoch, the Church was an incredibly strong institution.  It was literally a state within a state, armed well enough to resist the armies of national governments.  It had its own laws and ran the only schools in existence.  This powerful church and the feudal system constituted the two societal forces which made crusades possible.   Religious fervor added to the momentum of the Crusades:  the pope granted indulgences to those who fought so that they could be assured of eternal life despite past sins, millenarians of the day had convinced many that the end of the world was near and that a crusade would usher in the Second Coming of Christ, and many of the soldiers felt as if Christ himself was leading the armies to the Holy Land (Oldenbourg, 1966; Setton, 1969, Vol. I).

     Although the first crusade was surprisingly successful in its capture of the Holy Land from Moslem control, the actions of the crusaders cast a stain on Christianity which darkens its image to this day.  The first victims of the crusaders were several thousand European Jews who were killed for the crime of not being Christian.   Religious leaders had depicted Jews and Moslems and servants of the Antichrist and claimed that the Last Days would not be ushered in until unbelief had been abolished.   Since Jews had been denied most types of employment in medieval society, they had no choice but to loan money which was a prohibited profession for Christians.  The crusaders were forced to borrow considerable sums to finance their crusade and the Jews thus suffered their resentment.  During the massacres which spread throughout the Rhineland, many Jews converted to save their lives while others drowned themselves rather than convert (Runciman, ).  The following is an account of the massacre of Jews in Worms by the crusaders in 1096.

On the twenty-third of Iyar (18 May 1096) they attacked the community of Worms.  The community divided into two groups; some remained in their homes and others fled to the local bishop seeking refuge.  Those who remained in their homes were set upon by the steppe-wolves (Jeremiah v. 6) who pillaged men, women and infants, children and old people.  The pulled down the stairways and destroyed the houses, looting and plundering…Seven days later, on the new moon of Sivan, those Jews who were still in the court of the bishop were subjected to great anguish.  The enemy dealt them the same cruelty as the first group and put them to the sword…THe enemy stripped them naked, dragged them along, and then cast them off, sparing only a small number whom they forcibly baptized in their profain waters.  The number of those slain during the two days was approximately eight hundred.

--Fletcher, 1997, p. 317-8


     Afterwards this ignoble start, the Crusaders traveled to eastern Europe where they massacred Christians of the Eastern Church as well as Moslems.  Not even infants were safe from their savagery.

Both the Germans and Italians, under Rainald, and his own Frenchmen, over whom Geoffrey Burel seems to have held the chief influence, instead of quietly recuperating their strength, vied with each other in raiding the countryside.  First they pillaged the immediately neighborhood; then they cautiously advanced into territory held by the Turks, making forays and robbing the villagers, who were all Christian Greeks….They sacked the villages of the suburbs [of Nicea]…torturing and massacring the Christian inhabitants with horrifying savagery.  It was said that they roasted babies on spits.

--Runciman, p. 128


     As the crusaders reached the Middle East, they devastated the area near Antioch.  When Antioch was taken, not a Moslem was left alive inside the city (Setton, 1969, Vol. I).  After the sac of the town of Maarat an-Numan near Antioch, the men were killed and the women and children were sold into slavery (Runciman, ).

     When the Crusaders took Jerusalem, they massacred an estimated 70,000 men, women, and children.  Jerusalem’s Jews sought shelter in their main synagogue but the crusaders set it ablaze and burned all of them alive.  The entire world was horrified by the magnitude of the slaughter.


On top of Solomon’s Temple, to which [the defenders of Jerusalem] had climbed in fleeing, many were shot to death with arrows and cast down headlong from the roof.  Within this Temple about ten thousand were beheaded.  If you had beem there your feet would have been stained up to the ankles with the blood of the slain.  What more shall I tell?  Not one of them was allowed to live.  They did not spare the women and children.

     After they had discovered the cleverness of the Saracens, it was an extraordinary thing to see our squires and poorer people split the bellies of those dead Sarascens, so that they might pick out the [gold coins] from their intestines which they had swallowed down their horrible gullets while alive.  After several days, they made a great heap of their bodies and burned them to ashes and in these ashes they found the gold more easily.

With drawn swords, our people ran through the city;

Nor did they spare anyone, not even those pleading for mercy.

The crowd was struck to the ground, just as rotten fruit

Falls from shaken branches, and acorns from a wind-blown oak.

--Fulcher of Chartres, French Chaplain, from Lapham, p. 52-4


[Jesuit Louis Maimbourg] described with relish now the Christians, once in possession of Jerusalem, ‘used to their full extent the rights of victory…Everywhere one could see nothing but heads flying, legs hacked off, arms cut down,  bodies in slices…they killed the very children in their mothers’ arms to exterminate, if possible, the accursed race, as God formerly wished should be done to the Amalekites.’

-- Trevor-Roper, 1965, p. 101-2


    When Saladin recaptured Jerusalem from the Christians, his actions were very different from those of the Crusaders.  He didn’t massacre the populace and Christians were still permitted to use Holy Sepulcher and other churches.  Both the Eastern and Latin clergy were permitted and the Jews were free to worship.  (Oldenbourg, 1966).  The Western Christians had such a dark reputation, many Jews and heretic Christians far preferred Arab rule to that of the Latins.  A Nestorian wrote

‘The hearts of the Christians rejoiced at the domination of the Arabs—may God strengthen it and prosper it!’

--Runciman, p. 20


     The recapture of the Holy Land by Moslems inspired additional crusades and atrocities were committed in the subsequent crusades as well.  In the Crusade of 1101, Greek shrines were violated and atrocities were committed.  During the second crusade Jews in Germany were massacred in the year 1145.  In the Third Crusade German crusaders plundered the Byzantines, sacking churches, plundering land and killing the populace (Setton, 1969, Vol. II).  Crusaders were reported to have sung Te Deums throughout massacres and to have catapaulted the heads of their prisoners into besieged cities.  During the Fourth Century crusaders set out to recapture the Holy Land from the Moslems but diverted themselves to Constantinople where they sacked this greatest Christian city in Europe and plundered its legendary wealth (Trevor-Roper, 1965).

      Prior to the Fourth Crusade, tension had built between the Latin and Byzantine churches.  Twenty years before the sac of Constantinople, the Byzantines massacred the Latins living in Constantinople without regard to gender or age, even those in hospitals (Barlett, 2000).  The Fourth Crusade traveled to Constantinople in an effort to raise the money they needed for the remainder of the Crusade because of their support for a pretender to the Byzantine throne.    When the crusaders lacked the funds to pay Venetian merchants to transport them to the Holy Land, the merchants convinced the crusaders to conquer the port of Zara as payment.  The Venetians had repeatedly attacked Zara, which had sought protection from Hungary and Pisa.  The crusaders sacked and looted Zara and even robbed and profaned churches.

     To repay the Latins for their help in putting him on the throne, Alexius worked to raise the promised sum of money.  The Byzantines were angered when they saw their money being sent to the Latins and were infuriated when the precious metal of church utensils and icons was melted to pay them.  A mob of Byzantines attacked every Latin they could find, even old established communities which had allied themselves with Constantinople.  It was estimated that more than 15,000 Westerners fled the mob and went to the crusader camp (Barlett, 2000).

     The crusaders abandoned their original purpose of seeking to recapture the Holy Land and laid siege to Constantinople instead.

The crusaders convinced themselves that a war against the Christian city of Constantinople was just; one monk preached that God wanted to punish the pride of the Greeks even more than Saracens (Queller, 1977).  Priests and bishops swore that those who died in this crusade would have their sins forgiven.  The Latin Church declared that the war on Constantinople was “lawful and just” because “the Greeks had withdrawn themselves from obedience to Rome.”  This legitimized the war and made it religious for many of the crusaders (Barlett, 2000).  Three great fires were set by crusaders; one of them was said to have burned more houses than existed in France’s three greatest cities (Queller, 1977).


The army made its way into the city in search of loot.  Quickly, they started to help themselves to the wealth of the city…The mob—for it deserved no better name by now—helped itself to everything that it wanted.  Women were thrown to the ground and raped where they were in the streets.  Men who tried to intervene and protect wives or daughters were killed on the spot.  Even the nuns in their convents were violated…and the virgins dedicated to Christ were defiled by the very men who had sworn on holy relics to fight to the death for the faith that they held clear.  In a desperate attempt to squeeze every last drop of wealth from the city, citizens were tortured until they blurted out where they had hidden their treasures….Statues that had been founded half a millennium before the birth of Christ were melted down for their scrap value.  The antique heritage of the city was decimated ….

(Barlett, 2000, p. 154


     It is estimated that 2,000 were killed when fourth crusade took Constantinople (Gibbon, 1960).  Other atrocities were committed during the sac of Constantinople ranging from raiding the tombs of the emperors for their jewels to putting a prostitute on the thrown of the Patriarch while the Church of St. Sophia was stripped of precious metals (Barlett, 2000).  It was said at no other time in the history of the world had so much loot been removed from a city; images of Jesus, Mary, and saints were destroyed for no reason.  Women were even raped in churches (Queller, 1977)

     Recapturing the Holy Land was not the only motive for Crusades; some crusades were proclaimed to exterminate heretics from Europe or to conquer pagan nations on the borders of Christendom and compel them to accept the new faith.  The popes granted the same remission of sins and right to unrestricted loot to the crusaders that fought European heretics and pagans as were bestowed on crusaders in the Holy Land.  In Southern France, heretics known as Cathars were attacked by crusading armies and faced the choice between death and conversion to orthodox beliefs.


      One Crusade was waged against heretics in southern France.  Pope Innocent III called for crusade in southern france 1208  Albigensian Crusade.  Catholics and Cathars alike had abandoned their homes and taken refuge in the churches, but church doors could not keep the invaders at bay.  “All inside were slaughtered wholesale’” writes one historian, “women, invalids, babies, and priests, the latter clasping the Chalice or holding aloft a crucifix.”

…”Kill them all, God will recognize his own.”  The legate may not have uttered those words, but he most certainly did write Innocent shortly afterward, declaring proudly that “nearly twenty thousand of the citizens were put to death, regardless of age and sex.”

--Rubenstein, p. 156


In the Cathars,  a papal legate stated “Nearly twenty thousand of the citizens were put to the sword regardless of age and sex.  The workings of divine vengeance have been wondrous.”

--Freeman, 2004, p. 296


[In an account of the Albigensian Crusade written in 1209] while the cry was raised To arms! To arms! Within the space of some two or three hours the moats and the wall were crossed and the city of Beziers was taken; and our men, sparing neither rank nor sex nor age, slew about 20,000 souls with the edge of the sword; and, making a huge slaughter, pillaged and burned the whole sity, by reason of God’s wrath wondrously kindled against it.

--Coulton, 1969, p. 98-99


Guilaume de Tudele, 1210 on the Albigesian Crusade

THe inhabitants of the city saw the crusaders coming and the king of the vagabonds who was going to invade them.  They saw the beggars leap from all around into the ditches and break the walls and open the doors and they saw the French troops arm themselves in great haste.  They knew in their hearts that they could not hold out.  They took refuge as quickly as possible in the grand monastery…[The beggars] killed every one they could find.  And they seized great riches….The crusaders killed all of those who had taken refuge in the monastery.  Nothing could save them, neither the cross nor the altar, nor the crucifix.  And these mad medicant vagabonds massacred the clerics, and the women and children, such that I believe not a single one escaped.

--Lapham, p. 58-60


    One of the most pathetic endeavors was called the “Children’s Crusade.”  A shepherd boy named Stephen had a vision of Jesus in the form of a pilgrim.  He started a pilgrimage which quickly gained popular support.  Thousands of children set out on the Childrens Crusade convinced that their faith would insure that the Mediterranean Sea would be parted before them as they marched to victory in retaking the Holy Land from the Moslem Armies.  The Children either drowned, starved to death, or were sold into slavery (Cohn, 1970)


In this year [1212] there was a quite miraculous expedition of children, coming together from all around.  They first came from the area of Vendoem to Paris.  When they numbered around 30,000 they went to Marseilles, intending to cross the sea against the Saracens.  The ribaldi and other evil men who joined them sullied the entire army, so that while some perished at sea and others were sold, only a few of so great a multitude made their way home.  Now, the betrayers of those children are said to have been High Ferreus and William Porcus, merchants of Marseilles.  Since they were the captains of the vessels, they were supposed to carry them overseas in the cause of God at no cost, as they had promised to them.  They filled seven large ships with them, and when they were two days out, off the island of St. Peter ad rupem which is called Recluse, a storm blew up, two of the ships were lost, and all of the children aboard were drowned…The betrayers meanwhile sailed the other five ships to Bougie and Alexandria, and there sold all those children to Saracen princes and merchants….Eighteen years after the expedition, adds my informant, Mascemuch of Alexandria still possessed seven hundred—no longer children, but grown men.

--Aubrey of Tros-Fontaines, from Setton, 1969, p. 335-7

     In 1315, many felt that the end of the world was near in the aftermath of a great famine.  This inspired processions of naked penitents begging God for mercy.  Hordes of them formed an army which marched on the Shephards Crusade.  Although most Jews had left France after being expelled in 1306, those which remained were killed and their property looted.  Virtually all Jews which remained in the southwest of France were killed during this crusade (Cohn, 1970).

     Later crusades were largely political ones and many people questioned morals of such crusades. 



      Before the Reformation, Christians of the orthodox belief felt justified in murdering all those who disagreed with them.  After the reformation, entire countries had left the church to become Protestant and the Protestant groups splintered into a number of sects.  For several centuries there war after war would be waged between groups whose methods of worshipping the same God differed slightly.  Catholics and Protestants warred upon each other and Protestants warred on different sects of Protestants.  Many Christians apparently accepted that entire nations deserved to be persecuted in this lifetime and would burn in hell in the next because of their faith.  For example, on February 16, 1568, the Holy Office of the Inquisition condemned all of the inhabitants of the Netherlands (men, women, and children) to death as heretics and King Philip II confirmed this decree 10 days later (Netanyahu, 1995).  The brutality of this constant state of warfare in which differing tenets of faith was the justification for Christians butchering each other is often considered to be the most shameful period in European history.

The Emperor was livid.  The pope had wanted him to punish the Lutherans—so let the Lutherans punish the pope!  The emperor’s brother, Ferdinand of Austria, gathered a vast army, and easy twenty-thousand…[On May 6, 1527] The city [of Rome] was now open, defenseless.  The Spanish commander Gian d’Urbina led his men through the Borgo, butchering everyone, armed and unarmed alike.  They broke into the Hospitale de Santo Spirito and threw the patients into the Tiber while they were still alive.  Then they murdered all the orphans.  Once across the Ponte Sisto, the plunder started in earnest.  Palaces, monasteries, churches, convents, workshops—they attacked them all…They dragged citizens, even those who supported the emperor, even their own countrymen living in Rome, and tortured them until they handed over whatever money they had…Those who suffered the most were those who had nothing to give...

     When they found a priest, they cut him open until his guts ran out onto the street.  Some they stripped and at sword point commanded to blaspheme the name of God.  They held satiric masses and forced what priests they could find to participate.  The Lutherans killed one priest who refused to give Communion to a donkey.  The marauders then shot at holy relics, spat on them, and played football with the severed head of St. John.  They tortured on, grabbing any man or woman they could find, still searching for hidden riches.  Some they branded with red hot irons.  Others they tied by their genitals.  Some they hung up by their arms for hours, some for days.  Some they forced to eat their own severed ears, noses, or penises.  They raped every woman they could find, young and old, married and single, including nuns.  They forced mothers and fathers to watch the rape of their daughters.  Some they forced to assist in it…

--Connor, p. 110


Millenarian beliefs had roles in the three peasant revolts of the 14th century and in the Taborite unrest of the 15th century which ended in the massacre of the Taborites.  Thomas Munster convinced his followers that the end was near and thousands of his followers participated in a peasant revolt which was violently put down.

     A number of preachers declared that the end of the world was near and this contributed to the religious enthusiasm during these struggles.  Such millenarian beliefs were a factor in the three peasant uprisings of the 14th century and the Taborite revolt of the 15th century described below:

--the propheta made a passionate speech in which he declared that God had spoken to him and had promised victory; that he himself would catch the enemy cannon-balls in the sleeves of his cloak, and that in the end God would transform heaven and earth rather than allow his people to perish…The peasants had made no preparations to use what calvary they had nor even to escape.  Indeed they were still singing, ‘Come Holy Spirit’ –as though expecting the Second Coming at that very moment—when the first and only salvo was fired.  The effect was immediate and catastrophic: the peasants broke ranks and fled in panic, while the enemy cavalry ran them down and slaughtered them in hundreds…and captured Frankenhausen, killing some 5,000 in the process.

--Cohn, 1970, p. 250


     After this peasant uprising, another movement called the Anabaptists, spread through Switzerland and Germany.  Fearful of a peasant revolt, the persecution of the Anabaptists actually encouraged militant millenarianism.  Some Anabaptists armed themselves and captured several towns (such as Munster) from which they expelled all the “godless ones”.  During a snowstorm on a bitterly cold day, all the non-believers were forced to march out of town, including children, elderly, and women who had just given birth.  Hundreds of Anabaptists were killed in 1535-6 when this uprising was suppressed (Cohn, 1970).

     The Waldenses spread their movement of preaching among the people throughout much of Europe.  The fourth Lateran Council condemned them and the  Spanish Inquisition burned thousands of them.  A war against them in the fifteenth century killed 18,000 of them.  Thousands more were killed in the sixteenth century.  Many men, women, and children were sold into slavery.  During a war against them in 1685, horrible atrocities were committed:

The heads and breasts of the teachers were cut off, boiled, and eaten; to the most tender parts of some fire was applied; women were cut open with flints; limbs were broken and exposed to fires; nails were pulled out with pincers; men half-dead were tied to the tails of horses and dragged over the sharp rocks; young women were impaled by the most sensitive parts and carried about as standards; into the mouths of living men were thrust their dissevered parts…infants were snatched from cradles and torn in pieces…young girls were roasted alive, and their breasts cut off and eaten before they were dead; from other victims the ears, nose, and other parts were cut; the mouths of men were filled with gunpowder and fire applied…

--(A Short History of the Inquisition, 1921, p. 284-5)


The Hugenots (Calvinists in France) were persecuted from the beginning of the 16th century to 1789.  Thousands of Hugenot men, women, and children were burned, drowned.  Some were skinned (and even eaten) and women were buried alive.  Lutheranism was established in Norway and Iceland by force.   Luther and Zwingli were as harsh on Anabaptists as the emperor.  Zwinglians drowned and persecuted Anabaptists who, after achieving power, killed men who refused to join them (A Short History of the Inquisition, 1921).

     Upon the independence of the Netherlands, Catholicism was outlawed.  Many were tortured for confessions and executed.   Anabaptists were persecuted in the Netherlands, Lutherans by Calvinists, Catholics by Hugenots.  Hugenots killed priests by hanging, burning, hunger, buried to their heads and used as target practice or as part of game in which large wooden balls were rolled at their heads, and some were eaten.  Thousands of men women and children were killed (A Short History of the Inquisition, 1921).

     Many reproached the Protestants who had formerly complained of Catholic cruelty and oppression.

Tell me, my learned friend, now that the Calivinists have burnt Servetus, and beheaded Gentilis, and murdered many others, having banished Bernard Ochin with his wife and children from your city in the depth of a sharp winter; now that the Lutherans have expelled Lacso, with the congregation of foreigners that came out of England with him, in an extremely rigorous season of the year; having done a great many of such exploits, all contrary to the genius of Christianity, how, I ask, how shall we meet the papists?  With what face can we tax them with cruelty? …Let us cease to boast that faith cannot be compelled and that conscious ought to be free.

Andrew Dudith, from (A Short History of the Inquisition, 1921, p.



    Oliver Cromwell began an era of protestant oppression of Catholics in Ireland.  Six sevenths of the Irish land was given to protestants.  Irish were not allowed to buy land.  It was a crime for a Catholic teacher to teach literature or science, punishable by banishment (or hanging if he returned after banishment).  Any Catholic who attended a Catholic school or private instruction, even if a child, forfeited all rights to property.  Teaching the Catholic religion was a felony.  Any Catholic priest or monk was banished and those who returned were executed.  If the eldest son of a catholic became a protestant, he immediately gained power over the land and his father became his tenant.  Catholics were excluded from the military and government (A Short History of the Inquisition, 1921).

    Even those religious minorities who had fled religious oppression in Europe were quick to oppress other faiths in the New World.  In England, Quakers had been persecuted and many hung.  For example, Thomas Prince, the governor of Plymouth said “that in his conscience the Quakers were such a people as deserved to be destroyed, they, their wives and children, their houses and lands, without pity.” (A Short History of the Inquisition, 1921, p. 364).  In America, Puritans banished, tortured, mutilated, and hung Quakers.  Quaker women were stripped to the waist and whipped as carts led them through town (A Short History of the Inquisition, 1921).

    In New England, Puritans set up a theocracy and became persecutors.  Every citizen was obligated to be a Puritan.  Those who did not attend Sunday services were fined or whipped.  Those who disagreed with the tenets of their faith were banished.  Any one who doubted the infallibility of the Bible was “openly and severely whipped by the executioner” for the first offence and could be killed for the second (A Short History of the Inquisition, 1921).



     The persecution of the Jews continued.   Thousands were killed as punishment for the imagined crimes of host desecration and ritual murder of Christians.  Many of these imagined crimes became accepted as fact once Jews admitted to them under torture.  Jews were tortured to obtain confessions of host desecration, the murder of Christians, and other crimes (Wistrich, 1991).

…about 1332, a Christian servant fled from a house of Jews, crying out, “The body of Christ is being horribly tortured by the Jews,” whereupon twelve Jews were burnt, six were drowned, and ten cut down.  By the early fourteenth century, Jews were being accused of torturing the body of Christ and killed by the thousands.

--Waugh, p.  287


…fantastic accusations against the Jews had been spreading widely in the second half of the thirteenth century.  The first ritual murder accusation in Germany, the new accusation of ritual cannibalism at Fulda in 1235, had attracted attention throughout Europe, wider attention than any previous ritual murder accusation.  Other accusations followed in Germany, and in 1287 another ritual murder accusation attracted wide attention.  The Jews at Oberwesel were accused of ritually crucifying—or killing and taking the blood of—a Christian named Werner, soon known as “good Werner”.  He was then buried at Bacharach, where miracles promptly occurred.  The accusation incited a major massacre of Jews in the surrounding region…

--Waugh, p.  302


As early as 1294, Jews were killed at Laa, Austria, for mistreating a host.  Then, in 1298, just when the civil war broke out, the accusation that Jews were torturing the host incited the so-called Rintfleish persecutions “whose scale in breadth, violence, and the number of the victims threw even the massacres of the First Crusade in the shade”.  At least 3,441 Jews were massacred in some forty-four places in Germany by Rintfleish’s band and other groups of individuals.  A generation later, between 1335 and 1338, as many as 6,000 Jews were massacred over a wide area by the so-called Armleder movement.

--Waugh, p. 302


     The Council of Toledo (633) decreed “that all children of Jews should be taken away from their parents and put into monasteries, or into the hands of religious persons to be instructed in Christianity (A Short History of the Inquisition, 1921, p. 259).  The 4th Lateran Council forced Jews to wear some sign such as a pointed hat or a yellow badge on their clothes.  They were forbidden to walk the streets on holy days or work on Sundays and it was declared that synagogues could not be beautiful buildings (Wistrich, 1991).   Millenarians were always looking for Antichrist among the Jews because the book of Revelation predicted a Jewish origin for the Antichrist.   Pope Benedict VIII (1012-24) “saved the city of Rome from a great storm which seems was caused by some Jews.  The Jews being immediately executed, the storm ceased”! (A Short History of the Inquisition, 1921, p. 276)

     In the 13th century, the Church enacted the canon of Servitus Judaerum (the ‘perpetual servitude of the Jews’) which declared that Jews had to be subordinate to Christians, Jews were prohibited from holding positions of authority,  and Christians were prohibited from eating, living, or having sexual relations with Jews (Wistrich, 1991)  Jews were expelled from Vienna in 1196, Mecklenberg in 1225, Breslau in 1226, Frankfort in 1241, Brandenburg in 1243, and Munich in 1285.“…throughout all Germany few places can be mentioned where [Jews] were not regarded as outlaws, and martyred and burnt.”  In Basle a wooden building was constructed, all the Jews in the city driven into it, and burned…At Mayence twelve thousand perished…(A Short History of the Inquisition, 1921, p. 262-3)

     One 15th century inquisitor threatened anyone who associated with Jews with hellfire.   Martin Luther preached that Jews should be converted or exiled (Wistrich, 1991).  The Protestants were just as intolerant of the Jews as the Catholics had been.  Jews were expelled from Bavaria in 1533, Brandenburg in 1573, and Vienna in 1699 (A Short History of the Inquisition, 1921).



In modern times, laws have been passed which make the religious persecution which was so commonplace in the Dark and Middle Ages illegal.  Nevertheless, there are believers who continue to advocate forcing their religion on others or persecuting those who belong to other religions, even in a country in which freedom of religion is recognized as a basic human right.


Robertson remarked, “Individual Christians are the only ones really—and Jewish people, those who trust the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—are the only ones that are really qualified to have the reign, because hopefully, they will be governed by God and submit to Him.”

    Robertson’s co-host, Ben Kinchlow, tried to rescue him asking, “Obviously you’re not saying that there are no other people qualified to be in government of whatever if they aren’t Christians or Jews.”

     Robertson replied, “Yeah, I’m saying that.  I just said it.  …Yes I did say that.  You can quote me.”

Boston, p. 50-1


     Some Christians have continued to advise the use of force in spreading the faith.

 “We should invade their countries, kill their leaders, and convert them to Christianity!”

--Ann Coulter on 9/11 terrorists From Moore, p. 176-7