Page:A History of the Inquisition of the Middle Ages-Volume I .pdf/476

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of his own rank in life, who knew him personally and who swore to their belief in his orthodoxy and in the truth of his exculpatory oath. Their number varied, at the discretion of the inquisitor, with the degree of suspicion to be purged away, from three to twenty or thirty, and even more. In the case of strangers, however, who had no acquaintances, the inquisitor was advised to be moderate. It was no mere idle ceremony, and, as usual, all the chances were thrown against the defendant. If he was unable to procure the required number of compurgators, or neglected to do so within a year, the law of Frederic II. was enforced, and he was usually condemned as a heretic to burning alive; although some inquisitors argued that this was only presumptive, not absolute, proof, and that he could escape the stake by confessing and abjuring — of course being subject to the penance of perpetual prison. If he succeeded and performed his purgation duly, he was by no means acquitted. If the suspicion against him was vehement he could still be punished; even if it was light the fact that he had been suspected was an ineradicable blot. With the curious logical inconsequence characteristic of inquisitorial procedure, in addition to the purgation, he was obliged to abjure the heresy of which he had cleared himself; this abjuration remained of record against him, and in case of a second accusation his escape from the previous one was not reckoned as having proved his innocence, but as an evidence of guilt. If the purgation had been for light suspicion, his punishment now was increased; and if it had been for vehement suspicion, he was now regarded as a relapsed, to whom no mercy could be shown, but who was handed over to the secular arm without a hearing. Practically, however, this injustice is important chiefly as a manifestation of the spirit of the Inquisition; its methods were too thorough to render frequent a recourse to purgation, and Zanghino, when he treats of it, feels obliged to explain it as a custom little known. One case, however, at least, is on record at Angermünde, where the inquisitor Friar Jordan, in 1336, tried by this method a number of persons accused of the mysterious Luciferan heresy, when fourteen men and women who were unable to procure the requisite number of compurgators were duly burned.[1]

  1. Concil Tarraconens. ann. 1242. — Eymeric. Direct. Inq. pp. 376-8, 475-6.—