Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh have (together and seperately) written an agreeable amount of books about Christianity and its side-issues.
“The Inquisition – bizarre crusade against heretics and people thinking differently” (I don’t know the exact original title, but it should be something like that), seems to be their latest work.
The writers claim to give a full history of the Inquisition, starting with the events leading to the establishment of the Inquisition in 1234 straight to the present day. As it seems to me, they reached their goal.
Most people only know the worst of all inquisitions, being the Spanish version, but actually most countries had their own inquisition, sometimes under authority of the Pope, sometimes of the crown. The book deals with several versions of the inquisition and also with several meriting point, spead over various chapters. These are as follows:
-a fiery zeal for the faith;
-origins of the Inquisition;
-enemies of the Black Friars;
-the Spanish Inquisition;
-saving the New World;
-a crusade against witchcraft;
-fighting the heresy of Protestantism;
-fear of the mystics;
-Freemasonry and the Inquisition;
-the conquest of the papal states;
-the Holy Office;
-the Dead Sea Scrolls;
-the congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith;
-visions of Mary;
-the Pope as the problem.
The best thing of this book is that in totality it is chronological, but the subjects are dealt with seperately. Therefor the chapters overlap in time, but this is really not irritating, but helpfull. For example reading the chapter “Fear of the mystics” spans some time in the 19th century and the Freemasons are mentioned, but these are dealt with fully in the next chapter, repeating a few things, dealing with some of the same periods, but nowhere giving infomation twice, only mentioning a few things from a previous chapter. This makes the book perfect to read chapter by chapter and also as reference when you want to know something about a certain subject. Also there is an index and literature-referral to point you at more in depth information.
Known and less-known information is giving, tracing the inquisition through the Holy Office to the Congragation of the Religious Doctrines (or however the official name in English is) of the present day.
Numerous quotes are taken from a lot of sources. This seems very impressive at first, but most quotes are taken from other works about the subject. Still they make good evidence for historical facts.
About many popes quite a lot of information is given (of course especially about the notorious pope Pius IX) which made me wonder if we would also get some nice details about the recent pope John Paul II and indeed around the end there are quite some pages spent on him and his cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. Some things I knew, most I didn’t. Unfortunately nothing about the (political) group Opus Dei of which the recent pope is a supporter. An organisation that has been battling the Jesuits (founded in 1540 by Ignatius of Loyola and pope Paul III) for political religious power. Maybe something for a future book?
The writing style of the writers is witty and more than once I was laughing out loud over dead serious subjects. The inquisitors do their jobs with great enthousiasm; they couldn’t shed blood, so they creatively found other ways of torturing (thumbscrews and the like); the Pope not only had split feet, but also a split head (this was a quote); and more of such expressions making the read even more enjoyable.
Because the writers have written books about many side-issues of Christianity, like the Dead Sea Scolls, Freemasonry, The Knight Templars, etc. and their investigations often overlap, they by now know a lot about the subject in a greater sence which gives a growing value to every new book of them. However I was more impressed by “The Templar Revelation” (probably caused by the subject) I definately plan to read more books of Baigent/Leigh. This is especially made easier, because it only takes me a few nights to read the 250 pages of this book -for example-, because this kind of works are much different from what I usually read. They only require absorbing information and not too much need to think about that or to understand it.
A very interesting and unorthodox history of the basis of our culture.