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.




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3 wins & 2 nominations. See more awards »


Series cast summary:
 Narrator (4 episodes, 2006)
 Giovani Pietro Carafa / ... (3 episodes, 2006)
Nick Rice ...
 Donzelino / ... (3 episodes, 2006)
 Baldo Lupetino / ... (2 episodes, 2006)
David Calderisi ...
 Cardinal / ... (2 episodes, 2006)
Nicola Carpi-Neli ...
 Ferdinand de Aragon / ... (2 episodes, 2006)
Tracy Dethlefs ...
 Momolo Mortara / ... (2 episodes, 2006)
 Llorente / ... (2 episodes, 2006)
Natacha La Ferriere ...
 Beatrice de Planisoles / ... (2 episodes, 2006)
Amanda Martínez ...
 Anna Morisi / ... (2 episodes, 2006)


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 Anonymous

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Plot Keywords:

reenactment | See All (1) »


A tale of faith, fervor, torture and courage. See more »







Release Date:

2006 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Oi mystikoi fakeloi tis Ieras Exetasis  »

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Technical Specs


(4 episodes each)


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User Reviews

Hating The Church Then Working Backward From There
14 May 2007 | by (California) – See all my reviews

Saw this "documentary" on PBS. The production values are first-rate and the direction takes a page (or a whole script's worth) from mini-series melodramas in its non-stop use of flaming motifs such as burning Church candles fading in dramatically to Jews dying in bonfires under the approving eye of Catholic villains.

The program then goes on to juxtapose images of noble individual heretics with spurious claims such as the following from the episode 'The Tears of Spain'- "In its first five years the fires of the Inquisition had purified the souls of thousands, and one Spanish historian wrote that in its first hundred years, the Inquisition had touched the lives of 15% of Spain's population".

By now, even lapsed Catholics like myself can discern the dishonest slight-of-hand used by the writer, director and producers of this show.

One has to scour the PBS website to discover the name of this Spanish "historian" is none other than the discredited Juan Antonio Llorente, the ex Catholic official who sided with the Napoleanic invaders against his native Spain in the 1808 War between the French and Spanish. Later, when Napoleon and the French anti-Catholics were expelled from Spain, Llorente fled with them back to France to avoid a traitor's punishment. During the French invasion, Llorente helped oversee the repression of the Spanish Church and shuttering of Catholic Monasteries. But despite this shady background, the director and producers try to hustle the thinking audience by quoting Llorente anonymously. Clearly, Llorente's horror fables were exploited with a firm eye on ratings and over-the-top t.v. melodrama.

To be sure, thousands were killed in the Inquisition fires but modern up-to-date scholarship like that of Henry Kamen of Yale University show that 350 years of the Inquisitions resulted in. . . 3500 deaths(average less than 10 a year). Many more were subjected to trial and torture, nonetheless, PBS continues in its well-earned reputation for factual manipulation and Church-bashing.

One can imagine this show's producers throwing each other a cynical wink as the narrator breathlessly claims that "everything in the series is true". What is even more troubling is the media elite's contempt for the online audience's ability to instantly verify their show's claims.

Maybe the producers felt they could pass off the Black Legend libel as unquestioned fact because liberal Jews, nominal Protestants and secular elites form much of PBS' core audience. The show's producer's are then simply serving the prejudices of their target demographic under the guise of "documentary". Interestingly, the Canadians bestowed a Gemini award on the the director of this fairy tale. Apparently, Canadians don't consider historical accuracy a criteria for documentary awards. Michael Moore must be jealous.

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