This papal act met with some opposition from the bishops, upon whose prerogatives it encroached; and it provoked rebellion among those against whom it was directed, the Albigenses of Southern France, whose doctrines were spreading into Italy. In 1208 Innocent began a crusade against them, which was led by Arnold of Citeaux and Simon de Montfort, and proved a bloody war of extermination, lasting several years.
Meanwhile the papacy gradually proceeded in the design of creating a tribunal under its own direct control. Such a tribunal was soon practically instituted. Its leading spirit was St. Dominic, founder of the Dominican order of preaching friars, but the title of Inquisitor was not yet adopted at the time of his death, in 1221. St. Dominic, however, is with good reason regarded as the founder of the Inquisition.
After the death of St. Dominic the Inquisition gradually assumed a more definite and avowed character, and its repressive hand, inflicting terrible punishments upon accused heretics, was soon felt throughout Southern Europe, and later in the Netherlands, the order of St. Dominic at first furnishing its principal agents.
But later the Inquisition entered upon another stage, under Spanish direction, through a specific organization, practically independent of papal or royal control, though acting under the sanction of both church and state. It became “the most formidable of irresponsible engines in the annals of religious institutions.” Two points of view—Protestant and Catholic—are here presented of the Spanish history of the Holy Office.
“Better and happier luck for Spain”—I translate the words of Mariana—“was the establishment in Castile, which took place about this time, of a new and holy tribunal of severe and grave judges, for the purpose of making inquest and chastising heretical pravity and apostasy, judges other than the bishops, on whose charge and authority this office was anciently incumbent. For this intent the Roman pontiffs gave them authority, and order was given that the princes should help them with their favor and arm. These judges were called ‘inquisitors,’ because of the office which they exercised of hunting out and making inquest, a custom now very general in Italy, France, Germany, and also in the kingdom of Aragon. Castile, henceforth, would not suffer any nation to go beyond her in the desire which she always had to punish such enormous and wicked excesses. We find mention, before this, of some inquisitors who discharged this function, but not in the manner and force of those who followed them.