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The Unholy Alliance of Church and State
women, babies and invalids were butchered outright. Over two hun–
dred staunch "heretics" in the neighboring city of Montsegur had
their trial by fire. They were dragged from the city and incinerated in
one massive funeral pyre. In Toulouse. an old bedridden woman
thought to be a heretic was hauled out of bed to meet her fiery death.
According to one account of the incident: " 'This done,' Pehlhisson
tells us, 'the Bishop, together with the monks and their attendants,
returned to the refectory and, after giving thanks to God and St .
Dominic, fell cheerfully upon the food set before them' "
at Montsegur,
p .
291 ).
Few voices were raised in protest against these gruesome in–
humanities. Granted, no one outside the established church would
have been heard. but the remarkable part is that there were hardly
any vigorous objections from within .
Some two hundred years later, the same type of terror began in
Spain . But times had changed and the Spanish inquisitors now had
at their disposal new and sophisticated tools for turning up heretics.
The sudden knock on the door in the middle of the night was one
ploy they used very effectively. Like the Nazis of World War II , they
too had a special penchant for persecuting members of the Jewish
race . Communities were constantly under surveillance in order to
turn up any telltale signs of Jewish activities. Sharp-eyed clerics were
always on the lookout for even the slightest hint of Sabbath-keeping.
One friar is said to have climbed out on a rooftop on Saturday morn–
ing in order to observe which houses had no smoke coming from
their chimneys .
The inquisitors also kept a firm hand on the intellectual activities
of their faithful. All vernacular translations of the Bible were strictly
banned . So was any literature with an anti-Catholic bias. or any other
religious works written in the common language.
Inquisitors often gave the populace a period of grace when they
set foot in a particular locale. People who c:ame forward voluntarily
during the time would receive a much lighter sentence. But in order
to prove his sincerity the individual was often asked to inform on
friends. relatives and neighbors. So great was the fear these terror
tactics inspired, that people often came forward on their own volition
- not wishing to first be incriminated by someone else.
The inquisitors had sterner measures in store for those few stub–
born souls who would not recant. The excruciating pain of the rack,
water torture or suspension by the wrists often worked wonders on