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The History of the Church 210 Mounting Criticism Antireligious polemics are as old as religion itself, and have been expressed more or less openly according to the times. In the seventeenth century, the French poet Nicolas Boileau-Déspreaux already attacked the ostentation of one’s impiety as being a form of snobbishness: Vois-tu ce libertine en public intrépide, Qui prêche contre un Dieu que dans son âme il croit? Il irait embrasser la vérité qu’il voit; Mais de ses faux amis il craint la raillerie, Et ne brave ainsi Dieu que par poltronnerie. [Seest thou this intrepid public libertine, preaching against a God in whom, within his soul, he believes? He would embrace the truth that he sees; But he fears the mockery of his false friends, So thus defies God solely out of cowardice.] Starting with Voltaire and the philosophers of the Enlightenment, the Inquisition (particularly the Spanish Inquisition) became the target par excellence of indignation and the unbridling of the imagination. Edgar Allan Poe’s short story, “The Pit and the Pendulum,” is a masterpiece in this regard, including the invention of the most terrifying tortures. TheSpanish Inquisition was abolished by Napoleon in 1808, a decision opposed by Joseph de Maistre, a key figure of French counterrevolutionary thought, in his 1822 Lettres sur l’Inquisition espagnole: “The abuses perpetrated by ancient institutions prove nothing against their fundamental merit, and I hold that nations have everything to lose from abolishing their ancient institutions, instead of perfecting and correcting them.” Nonetheless, at the example of Goya, the Romantic period created an effusion of paintings depicting scenes of the Inquisition, often quite horrific Francisco Goya (1746–1828) The Tribunal of the Inquisition Real Academía de Bellas Artes de San Fernando, Madrid ...


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