When dealing with inquisition records, one has to face the issue of Memory under many respects. Inquisitorial registers are entirely constructed on a memorial structure, being the result of crossed narration of past events by people accused by the inquisition and witnesses. Moreover, the system of punishment was deliberately aimed at preserving a memory of heretical crime even in the next generations. The confiscation of goods, for example, was a punishment imposed on descendants for the crimes of their fathers; the sermones generales, public ceremonies during which sentences against heretics were pronounced, contributed to shift crimes against faith from the private level to the public sphere of collective memory. Another example is provided by the creation of inquisitorial archives as recipients of the memory of an institution. Such archives supported the development of a shared public memory of the inquisitorial institution, legitimising its work and repressive action. As shown by these examples, memory crosses inquisitorial documents as a multi-faced issue. I will focus on the significance of memory within trial procedure, discussing in particular the late medieval system of proof and the role of remembrance as proving element. I will try to highlight the main features and characteristics of what suspected heretics recalled in front of the judge, and reflect on the meaning of their words for judicial procedure. How do such memories provide evidence of guilt? What sort of evidence was that? How did inquisitors measure the reliability of memorial narration? And how did these memories match the expectations of the judge? In the framework of the trial, memorial narration was necessarily biased by the pressure of the environment. This context of violence produced a selection of information provided to the judge and recorded by notaries. I will examine the ground for “selective memory” and describe the way it affected depositions. At the core of my investigation is the inquisitorial register of Jacques Fournier, a well known record that gave light to LeRoy Ladurie’s Montaillou. Bishop of the diocese of Pamiers (Languedoc) from 1318 to 1325, Fournier undertook a thorough investigation in that area in cooperation with the inquisitorial seat of Carcassonne. The result of this campaign is partially preserved in the codex 4030 of the Vatican library, an impressive collection of about 90 depositions characterised by unusual length and abundance of details. The majority of the trials concern Cathar believers; however, the register also contains depositions of people condemned because of personal or anticlerical beliefs, valdensians, a relapsed Jew, a leper, a homosexual. The aim of the process was to obtain a probatio plena (full proof) regarding the matter of accusation. In the late Middle Ages, with the gradual disappearance of the archaic proofs related to supernatural powers – such as ordeals or judicial duels – the confessions of the accused were regarded as the chief testing proof in Western courts of justice. Direct living memory of the accused was in fact considered to be most trustworthy. Suspected heretics shaped their confession recalling in front of the judge what they had personally seen or heard. Most often, the result was a narration concerning a factum hereticale, such as a meeting, the participation to a ritual, the donation of food or wine to heretics. Time, place, and participants were usually specified. However, this narration may involve beliefs as well, as for example when the accused recalled what they had heard and memorised during heretical preaching. Because it was easier to verify and ascertain facts, by resorting for example to crossed testimonies, confessions were usually concerned with what heretics had done, rather than believed. A mechanism of “selective memory” was already at work, since verifiable information was regarded as more reliable and ultimately more useful for the investigation. Obtaining a true and full confession from the accused became a primary concern for inquisitors. But how could they make sure that a confession was true and complete, what was the ground for their evaluation, and how could they discern truth from falsehood in the depositions of their accused? Many treatises and summae, such as Bernard Gui’s Practica inquisitionis (1324), were employed by judges as points of reference for the detection of heretics. These treatises provided the tools to help the ecclesiastical judges in identifying heretics, collecting adequate evidence against them, and re-establishing the truth against any attempt to conceal it. Specific questionnaires were elaborated in order to effectively lead interrogations, proving guilt, distinguishing veritas from falsitas, detecting fictive conversions and verisimiliter simulated ones. As a result, confessions were deeply biased by a precise and defined notion of proof. They were in fact framed on what the ecclesiastical judges regarded as being heretic. Observing trial proceedings of the same period, one can notice a close similarity, even expressed by the same formulas, between the clues which were listed in the manuals and the actual content of confessions. Questionnaires had therefore a strong influence on the quality of confessions: while searching for memories, inquisitors were actually shaping the memorial narration itself. Moreover, a full confession – which means, as we have seen, a full proof for the trial – was not necessarily supposed to provide new information: rather, it had to confirm the single elements of the accusation. In particular, the confession was expected to coincide with the testimonies of witnesses. In this sense, the inquisitor was mostly interested in collecting memories which would eventually confirm his initial hypothesis. Rather than providing additional elements, memorial narration was supposed to corroborate information previously collected from witnesses. Searching for full confessions, the inquisitor did not pursue the discovery of new events as much as the confirmation of already known ones. Confessions were regarded as true and reliable especially when they were shaped according to a pre-defined model of heretical dissent. As a consequence, depositions are characterised by close similarity to each other and frequent iteration of recurring elements. Conformity to a given textual tradition provides itself the ground for the reliability of a given text, as for example in the case of lives of saints. As Mary Carruthers pointed out, retentive memory rather than intuition and imagination actually constitutes the ground for medieval knowledge. Moreover, one has to consider that oral confessions delivered in vernacular were later transformed into formal documents registered in Latin. The notary was responsible for this process of transcription and translation, crossing the border between private experience and public sphere. Through the iteration of formulas and narrative modules, the production of a public record automatically performed further and unavoidable selection of data from the original deposition. These texts rely upon authorities, such as handbooks and treatises, and are thoroughly biased by the use of formularies. However, the accused himself performed a certain memory control. Given the central role of memorial narration as proving element in inquisitorial trials, memory is also the territory where truth disappears, hides itself, and eventually comes back to light. Whereas confessions are shaped by surfacing memories, lie and guilt are inextricably intermingled with forgetfulness. Attempts to hide one’s involvement with heresy are frequently performed precisely in the field of memory. Numerous defendants try to conceal the truth, they omit details, and justify self-contradictions simply by forgetting or pretending to forget. Consequently, the formula “dixit quod non recordatur” is a refrain which runs through the whole register, often appearing as soon as there was a discrepancy between the memory of the accused and the story already known by the inquisitor. To conclude, during a trial many factors occur to contaminate the production of a written confession. What ultimately derives is a fragmentary and incomplete memory of past events. On the one hand, memorial narration was shaped by the needs and requirements of orthodoxy. The past of the suspected heretic is enclosed in well-defined conceptual schemes imposed in the violent context of the inquisitorial trial. Pressured by the interrogation, the accused is forced to select information and re-organise his past on the basis of a rigid set of questions. Moreover, oral confessions are farther biased by the production of a written record. On the other hand, heretics sought to sidetrack inquisitorial investigations: they tried to lessen their culpability by selecting memories and resorting to intentional amnesia.

Dixit quod non recordatur. Memory as Proof in Inquisition Records (Early Fourteenth Century France)

BUENO, IRENE
2009

Abstract

When dealing with inquisition records, one has to face the issue of Memory under many respects. Inquisitorial registers are entirely constructed on a memorial structure, being the result of crossed narration of past events by people accused by the inquisition and witnesses. Moreover, the system of punishment was deliberately aimed at preserving a memory of heretical crime even in the next generations. The confiscation of goods, for example, was a punishment imposed on descendants for the crimes of their fathers; the sermones generales, public ceremonies during which sentences against heretics were pronounced, contributed to shift crimes against faith from the private level to the public sphere of collective memory. Another example is provided by the creation of inquisitorial archives as recipients of the memory of an institution. Such archives supported the development of a shared public memory of the inquisitorial institution, legitimising its work and repressive action. As shown by these examples, memory crosses inquisitorial documents as a multi-faced issue. I will focus on the significance of memory within trial procedure, discussing in particular the late medieval system of proof and the role of remembrance as proving element. I will try to highlight the main features and characteristics of what suspected heretics recalled in front of the judge, and reflect on the meaning of their words for judicial procedure. How do such memories provide evidence of guilt? What sort of evidence was that? How did inquisitors measure the reliability of memorial narration? And how did these memories match the expectations of the judge? In the framework of the trial, memorial narration was necessarily biased by the pressure of the environment. This context of violence produced a selection of information provided to the judge and recorded by notaries. I will examine the ground for “selective memory” and describe the way it affected depositions. At the core of my investigation is the inquisitorial register of Jacques Fournier, a well known record that gave light to LeRoy Ladurie’s Montaillou. Bishop of the diocese of Pamiers (Languedoc) from 1318 to 1325, Fournier undertook a thorough investigation in that area in cooperation with the inquisitorial seat of Carcassonne. The result of this campaign is partially preserved in the codex 4030 of the Vatican library, an impressive collection of about 90 depositions characterised by unusual length and abundance of details. The majority of the trials concern Cathar believers; however, the register also contains depositions of people condemned because of personal or anticlerical beliefs, valdensians, a relapsed Jew, a leper, a homosexual. The aim of the process was to obtain a probatio plena (full proof) regarding the matter of accusation. In the late Middle Ages, with the gradual disappearance of the archaic proofs related to supernatural powers – such as ordeals or judicial duels – the confessions of the accused were regarded as the chief testing proof in Western courts of justice. Direct living memory of the accused was in fact considered to be most trustworthy. Suspected heretics shaped their confession recalling in front of the judge what they had personally seen or heard. Most often, the result was a narration concerning a factum hereticale, such as a meeting, the participation to a ritual, the donation of food or wine to heretics. Time, place, and participants were usually specified. However, this narration may involve beliefs as well, as for example when the accused recalled what they had heard and memorised during heretical preaching. Because it was easier to verify and ascertain facts, by resorting for example to crossed testimonies, confessions were usually concerned with what heretics had done, rather than believed. A mechanism of “selective memory” was already at work, since verifiable information was regarded as more reliable and ultimately more useful for the investigation. Obtaining a true and full confession from the accused became a primary concern for inquisitors. But how could they make sure that a confession was true and complete, what was the ground for their evaluation, and how could they discern truth from falsehood in the depositions of their accused? Many treatises and summae, such as Bernard Gui’s Practica inquisitionis (1324), were employed by judges as points of reference for the detection of heretics. These treatises provided the tools to help the ecclesiastical judges in identifying heretics, collecting adequate evidence against them, and re-establishing the truth against any attempt to conceal it. Specific questionnaires were elaborated in order to effectively lead interrogations, proving guilt, distinguishing veritas from falsitas, detecting fictive conversions and verisimiliter simulated ones. As a result, confessions were deeply biased by a precise and defined notion of proof. They were in fact framed on what the ecclesiastical judges regarded as being heretic. Observing trial proceedings of the same period, one can notice a close similarity, even expressed by the same formulas, between the clues which were listed in the manuals and the actual content of confessions. Questionnaires had therefore a strong influence on the quality of confessions: while searching for memories, inquisitors were actually shaping the memorial narration itself. Moreover, a full confession – which means, as we have seen, a full proof for the trial – was not necessarily supposed to provide new information: rather, it had to confirm the single elements of the accusation. In particular, the confession was expected to coincide with the testimonies of witnesses. In this sense, the inquisitor was mostly interested in collecting memories which would eventually confirm his initial hypothesis. Rather than providing additional elements, memorial narration was supposed to corroborate information previously collected from witnesses. Searching for full confessions, the inquisitor did not pursue the discovery of new events as much as the confirmation of already known ones. Confessions were regarded as true and reliable especially when they were shaped according to a pre-defined model of heretical dissent. As a consequence, depositions are characterised by close similarity to each other and frequent iteration of recurring elements. Conformity to a given textual tradition provides itself the ground for the reliability of a given text, as for example in the case of lives of saints. As Mary Carruthers pointed out, retentive memory rather than intuition and imagination actually constitutes the ground for medieval knowledge. Moreover, one has to consider that oral confessions delivered in vernacular were later transformed into formal documents registered in Latin. The notary was responsible for this process of transcription and translation, crossing the border between private experience and public sphere. Through the iteration of formulas and narrative modules, the production of a public record automatically performed further and unavoidable selection of data from the original deposition. These texts rely upon authorities, such as handbooks and treatises, and are thoroughly biased by the use of formularies. However, the accused himself performed a certain memory control. Given the central role of memorial narration as proving element in inquisitorial trials, memory is also the territory where truth disappears, hides itself, and eventually comes back to light. Whereas confessions are shaped by surfacing memories, lie and guilt are inextricably intermingled with forgetfulness. Attempts to hide one’s involvement with heresy are frequently performed precisely in the field of memory. Numerous defendants try to conceal the truth, they omit details, and justify self-contradictions simply by forgetting or pretending to forget. Consequently, the formula “dixit quod non recordatur” is a refrain which runs through the whole register, often appearing as soon as there was a discrepancy between the memory of the accused and the story already known by the inquisitor. To conclude, during a trial many factors occur to contaminate the production of a written confession. What ultimately derives is a fragmentary and incomplete memory of past events. On the one hand, memorial narration was shaped by the needs and requirements of orthodoxy. The past of the suspected heretic is enclosed in well-defined conceptual schemes imposed in the violent context of the inquisitorial trial. Pressured by the interrogation, the accused is forced to select information and re-organise his past on the basis of a rigid set of questions. Moreover, oral confessions are farther biased by the production of a written record. On the other hand, heretics sought to sidetrack inquisitorial investigations: they tried to lessen their culpability by selecting memories and resorting to intentional amnesia.
The Making of Memory in the Middle Ages
365
393
Bueno, Irene
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/11585/516510
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