Page:A History of the Inquisition of the Middle Ages-Volume I .pdf/499

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479
EXTORTIONATE ABUSES.

came from all parts of Italy that the inquisitors extorted money, received presents, allowed the guilty to escape, and punished the innocent, through hatred or avarice, and empowered him to make removals in consequence ; and the exercise of this power shows that the complaints were well founded. The effects of the measure, however, were evanescent. In 1346 the whole republic of Florence rose against their inquisitor, Piero di Aquila, for various abuses, among which figured extortion. He fled and refused to return during the investigation which followed, in spite of the offer of a safe-conduct. A single witness swore to sixty-six cases of extortion, and in a partial list of them which has been preserved the sums exacted vary from twenty-five to seventeen hundred gold florins, showing how unlimited were the profits which tempted the unscrupulous. Villani tells us that in two years he had thus amassed more than seven thousand florins, an enormous sum in those days; that there were no heretics in Florence at the time, and that the offences which thus proved so lucrative to Mm consisted of usury and thoughtless blasphemy. As for usury, Alvaro Pelayo tells us that at that time the bishops of Tuscany set the example by habitually so employing the church funds, but the inquisitors did not meddle with the prelates. As for blasphemy, the subtle refinements which converted simple blasphemous expressions into heresy, as set forth by Eymerich, show how readily a skilful inquisitor could speculate on idle oaths. Boccaccio doubtless had Fra Piero in memory when he described the recent inquisitor of Florence who, like all his brethren, had an eye as keen to discover a rich man as a heretic, and who extracted a heavy doucœur from a citizen for boasting in his cups that he had wine so good that Christ would drink it. The keenness which thus made profitable business for the Holy Office, when heresy was declining, is illustrated by the case of Marie du Canech, a money-changer of Cambrai, in 1403. In a case before the Ordinary she incautiously expressed the opinion that when under oath she was not bound to give. evidence against her own honor and interest. For this the deputy inquisitor, Frere Nicholas de Peronne, prosecuted her and condemned her to various penances, including nine years' abstention from business and eighty gold crowns for expenses.[1]


  1. Molinier, op. cit. pp. 299-302. — Arch, de I'lnq. de Carcassonne (Dost,