Encyclopedia of Medieval Philosophy

Living Edition
| Editors: Henrik Lagerlund


  • Edward M. PetersEmail author
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-024-1151-5_241-2


The entry begins with a consideration of the different general and particular meanings of the term inquisition, first focusing on its sense as a term of legal procedure in the late twelfth century and its later specialized meaning in the criminal prosecution of heresy. The entry continues with a brief history of the juridical procedure in comparison to other forms of procedure: accusatio and denuntiatio. The entry then describes the use of the procedure in episcopal law courts that tried clerics and others charged with an ecclesiastical crime, its value in overcoming formidable rules favoring clerical defendants, and its prominence in the Fourth Lateran Council of 1215 and subsequent influence on secular courts as well. It then moves on to the history of the criminal prosecution of heresy, the emergence of the Mendicant Orders and the pastoral concerns for penance, the papal commissioning of Dominicans as inquisitors of heretical depravity (inquisitio hereticae pravitatis) in the 1230s.

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Primary Sources

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    Journal Articles

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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of History School of Arts and SciencesEmeritus University of PennsylvaniaPhiladelphiaUSA