inquisitors manual

Female voice, 2 flutes, 2 keyboards, accordion, 2 electric guitars, electric violin (5-string), electric cello, electric bass (5-string), 3 saxophones, percussion, pre-recorded tape.

The text derives from a manual on the methods of interrogation used against so called ‘Heretics’, during the Albigensians crusades. It was written in 1316 by the Dominican friar, Bernard Gui (servant of the Vatican) and translated by N.F.Cantor (“The Medieval Reader”, HarperPerennial, 1994). The text comprises of, among other things, thinly veiled references to self-incrimination through torture, twisted moral arguments, and the mundane bureaucracy of inquisition. Seeming to show that there cannot be two versions of the truth, when being propagated by such a powerful truth machine as religion.

Notes on text for inquisitors manual


The date of the hearing may be entered by a notary, thus music begins on last word.

Sung (bar 1-3) x2

In such a year
On such date
One N.
From such town or village
who came of his own free will
was cited or summoned
was placed in judgement
before the person N.
having taken oath

Recit on paused chord

to speak the whole truth
and nothing but the truth
about the fact
or the crime of heresy
and everything pertaining thereto
both in respect of himself as a principle
and as a witness in the case of other persons
living or dead
has said and confessed

Section A Spoken in free time

It should be noted further that if anyone should argue openly and obviously against the faith, adducing the arguments and the authorities upon which heretics are wont to rely, such a person may easily be proved guilty of heresy by loyal, learned sons of the church, for one is presumed to be a heretic from the very fact of striving to defend error

Section B Sung

show them their error
exhort them to confession
they cannot hide
use the service of trained men
diligent men

Section C Spoken on Tape

But because - modern - heretics - endeavour and seek - - covertly - - to disguise - their errors - rather than - -openly - to confess them - - - even men - versed - in the scriptures - cannot - prove their guilt - because - they manage to - escape - by verbal - trickery - - and - - carefully - contrived - subtleties - - (32 beats)

continuing over section E (on tape)

The result of this - is that men of learning - are rather thrown - into confusion by them - and those heretics - glorying therein - are further encouraged - by observing - how they thus elude - learned men - slipping cleverly - out of their hands - by the sly cunning - and tortuous ambiguity - of their replies (15 beats)

Section E Sung

Once the oath
has been
taken and registered

Section F Sung

let the witness be urgently exhorted
to tell
tell the truth
tell the truth
of his own accord
in the matter of heresy
so far
as he knows
so far as he knows or has known
(section G) as he has known
or has heard of
let the witness be urgently exhorted
to tell the truth
the truth
as he has known

Section G Spoken on tape

If - however - he requests - time - or opportunity - for deliberation - in order to give- a more- carefully -considered - response - - that may be granted - - if it seems - expedient - to the inquisitor - - especially - if he seems - to be seeking - it - in good faith - not - guilefully - - otherwise - he is - required to - answer - about himself - without delay (32 beats)

Section I Sung

The inquisitor
like a prudent physician of souls

Section J Sung

with care
in regard
to the persons whom he questions

Section K Sung

let him harness
with the
bridle of discretion
the wiles of heretical persons that
with the help of God
and the skill of a mid-wife
he may draw the writhing serpent
from the sink and abyss of errors

Section M,N Spoken on tape (unmetered)

In these matters, no single and infallible pattern can be set, for, if that were done,the children of darkness might anticipate too far in advance the sole customary method and might to easily avoid or guard against it as a trap. Therefore the wise inquisitor should be careful to set his course by the replies of the witnesses, the sworn statements of accusers, the council of men taught by experience, the shrewdness of his own natural intelligence, and the following questions or interrogatories, as God shall direct. (80 seconds)

Section N Sung

The investigator's conscience
suffers torment
if he is punished
who has neither confessed nor been proved guilty

Section O Sung

On the other hand
inquisition cannot be abandoned
once it is started
as it were in confusion
weakening the faith of laymen
in the system

Section P Spoken on Tape (slowing down uniformly, voice disguised)

For - they - be- lieve - that - we - have - at - our - command - in - support - of - the faith - arguments - so clear - and obvious - that - no-one - may - oppose us - in these matters - without - our - knowing at once - how to overcome him - in such wise - that even - laymen - may clearly perceive - just what - these reasons are

Section Q Sung

The detention of those
who convert
who tell all
is in normal practice
They betray their confederates
whence results
a great harvest
as long as such perfected heretics are held
their accomplices expose themselves
fearing betrayal

Section T Sung

After a conversion
has been urged repeatedly
and invited
if they are unwilling
sentence is pronounced against them
and they are abandoned to the secular arm for trial

Section X Sung

God shall direct
God shall direct
God shall direct
God shall direct
God shall direct
God shall direct
God shall direct

performance history

  • July 1996; Premiered by Melanie Papenheim and Icebreaker Ensemble, The Place Theatre, London.