Throughout the centuries, people have been persecuted, hounded, brutalised and punished simply because of their beliefs – and it’s still going on today. This hard-hitting, powerful new series features specially filmed recreations and reconstructions to tell the dramatic stories of how men and women have died for something in which they believe. From the Templars and Cathars, to the bloody Torquemada and the Marian ‘heretics’, we hear stories of incredible courage, raw savagery and brutal torture that go back almost a thousand years.
Episode One: Templars And Cathars
It’s not clear if the process against the Templars was initiated by the Inquisition on the basis of suspected heresy or if the Inquisition itself was exploited by the king of France, Philip the Fair, who wanted the knights’ wealth. But in 1307 the King ordered the arrest of all Knights Templar across Europe and the seizure of all their assets. The Templars had simply become too powerful, too rich and too much of a threat to the crown. Like the Templars, the Cathars were mostly in the South of France, in cities like Toulouse. The Cathars main heresy was their belief in dualism: the evil God created the materialistic world and the good God created the spiritual world. Therefore, Cathars preached poverty, chastity, modesty and all those values which in their view helped people to detach themselves from materialism. To the Church in Rome, this was simply not acceptable.
Episode Two: The Spanish Inquisition
The Tribunal of the Holy Office of the Inquisition, commonly known as the Spanish Inquisition, was a tribunal established in 1480 by Catholic Monarchs, Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile. It was intended to maintain Catholic orthodoxy in their kingdoms, ordering Jews and Muslims to convert or leave. In 1483, Jews were expelled from all of Andalusia. Evidence that was used to identify a Jew included the absence of chimney smoke on Saturdays or the buying of many vegetables before Passover or the purchase of meat from a converted butcher. The court employed physical torture to extract confessions.
Episode Three: The Tudor Heretics
England has a rich and bloody history when it comes to Religious Persecution. The religious persecutions started when Henry Vlll split with Rome in 1534 and started his own ‘Church of England’ with the King being its head. Suddenly, Catholics were persona non grata and arrested in large numbers, suspected of being behind ‘Papist Plots’ to bring down King Henry. In a reversal of fortune, his daughter, Mary I was motivated by a religious zeal to purge this new heresy from her land, and during her short reign about 290 Protestants had been burned at the stake. Later, in another turnaround, Queen Elizabeth 1 hunted down Catholics once more, and executed hundreds for secretly practicing their faith.
Episode Four: The Witch Hunts
There were many witch hunts in the 17th Century across Britain, with dozens of well known ‘witch hunters’ scouring the land. The most famous of which was Mathew Hopkins, the ‘witch finder general’ who was based in Essex. Witches were heretics to Christianity, and the act of witchcraft was considered a crime so foul that all normal legal procedures were superseded, and because the Devil was not going to “confess”, it was necessary to gain a confession from the human involved. By all and any means necessary.