Describes the western world's most potent religion, Catholicism, and its determination to maintain power at any cost in medieval France, 15th century Spain, Renaissance Italy and even into the 19th century. Historians, experts and Church authorities advise on the handling of this controversial subject matter.
EPISODE 1 - THE LAND OF ERROR - In the 12th century, an upstart Christian sect called Catharism challenges Church doctrine and the absolute power of the Pope. Pope Innocent III declares a Holy War to kill these people. The remote French village of Montaillou is the last stronghold of the Cathars. One man, Bishop Jacques Fournier, becomes one of the most skilled interrogators of the Holy Inquisition. EPISODE 2 - THE TEARS OF SPAIN - Fernando and Isabel proclaim themselves the Catholic Monarchs. In the war to drive the remaining Muslims from the south of the Kingdom their scapegoats become the Conversos, Jews who have converted to Christianity and who are now accused of being traitors and heretics secretly trying to undermine the Church. The Spanish Inquisition is born and a campaign of terror begins. EPISODE 3 - THE SWORD AND THE SHIELD - In 16th century the rise of Protestantism weakens the Church's spiritual control and its political influence. To protect the Roman Church from these ... Written by
A dispassionate, factual look at a vitally important chapter of European history
For anyone interested in the history of Europe or Western civilization, this documentary should be required viewing.
Yes, it is about the Inquisition by the Catholic Church, but the documentary also shows the larger historical context, how the Inquisition affected politics in Europe, and, finally, how politics, particularly Napoleon, affected the Catholic Church's Inquisition, which was still in force.
The information is presented factually and dispassionately, with excellent narration by Colm Feore and commentary by a variety of historians who maintain an equally rational tone.
The representative of the Vatican does not defend the Church's actions beyond pointing out that the society and values were very different hundreds of years ago. He makes some oblique remarks condemning the actions of the Inquisition, saying they would be totally unacceptable today. But the filmmaker wisely does not turn this into a debate of the Church, right or wrong; that is for the viewer to decide.
A more argumentative documentary maker might have had someone condemning the Church's actions, and pointing out that the values of society at that time were not necessarily the values of the Church, and that plenty of people undoubtedly were horrified and terrified by the actions of the Church's Inquisition.
Instead, it is up to the viewer to assimilate the great quantity of facts presented, digest them and make one's own judgment.
From a devout Catholic's perspective, one might say that the Inquisition was necessary to preserve the existence of the Catholic Church, which might have fractured into countless churches guided only by individual conscience.
However, it seems to me, viewed objectively, there is no civilized way a person could justify the actions of the Inquisition, the killing, the sadistic torture, the barbaric imprisonment of people of conscience.
Therefore, if you are a devout Catholic who believes the Church in Rome is the divine heir of the rule of Christ and the incarnation of holy will, and always has been, don't bother watching this documentary. You won't like it, as should be obvious from the other biased reviews. If you want to understand history, watch it.
The cinematography is gorgeous, the re-enactments meticulously detailed and well acted, the narration does not try to manipulate emotions, the music does not become overbearing, there are no distracting MTV-type special effects as with the Murdoch-National Geographic documentaries, and there is an enormous amount of information.
The documentary focuses on the lives of key or representative individuals to tell the story, and frames this within the larger historical context. My only complaint is that I left not feeling I had a clear grasp of the total impact of the Inquisition, particularly in terms of statistics, but perhaps I missed it.
Inevitably, four 45-minute programs cannot encompass 800 years of history, so there are some gaps, as with almost any historical documentary. Most of all, this documentary is based on some files the Catholic Church chose to release, and focuses on a handful of individuals. We can only wonder what is in the files the Church still keeps secret. I suspect what was presented here was an understatement of the horrors committed over the course of the Inquisition.
While there is a ton of factual information contained in this series, I came away with a clear sense of the broad outline of events and a changed view of this period. For a documentary to work successfully on both levels, detail and big picture, is a major accomplishment. This is what an historical documentary should be like.
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