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Nicholas Eymerich (Catalan: Nicolau Aymerich) (c. 1316 – 4 January 1399) was a Roman Catholic theologian and Inquisitor General of the Inquisition of the Crown of Aragon in the later half of the 14th century. He is best known for authoring the Directorium Inquisitorum.
Education and early tenure as Inquisitor General
Nicholas Eymerich was born in Girona c. 1316. He entered the local monastery of the Dominican Order on 4 August 1334. Here, during his novitiate he was instructed in theology by the friar Dalmau Moner. In order to complete his studies, he went to Toulouse, and then to Paris, where he obtained his doctorate in 1352. He then returned to the monastery in Girona where he replaced Moner as the teacher of theology.
In 1357, Eymerich replaced Nicola Roselli as the Inquisitor General of Aragon, as Roselli had been raised to a cardinal. A year after obtaining the position, Eymerich was given the honorific Chaplain of the Pope as a recognition of his diligence in pursuing heretics and blasphemers. However, the zeal he displayed as Inquisitor General earned him many enemies, including King Peter IV of Aragon. Peter IV sought to have Eymerich removed from office in 1360 when the inquisition interrogated the Franciscan spiritualist, Nicholas of Calabria. A further example of Eymerich as Inquisitor General is his sentence of the Jew Astruc Dapiera in 1370. Dapiera was a native of Barcelona accused of sorcery. He was sentenced to publicly repent in a cathedral and then to life imprisonment. Eymerich also ordered the piercing of heretics' tongues with a nail so they could not blaspheme. He was the first inquisitor to get around the Church's prohibition against torturing a subject twice by interpreting directive very liberally, permitting a separate instance of torture for a separate charge of heresy.
Eymerich was elected to be the Vicar General of the Dominicans in Aragon in 1362 however, this election was contested by one Father Bernardo Ermengaudi who, in addition to having a long standing dispute with Eymerich, was also politically backed by Peter IV. When called on to settle the matter, Pope Urban V, invalidated Eymerich's election on the grounds that the office of Vicar General conflicted with the office of Inquisitor General. He did not, however, confirm Ermengaudi in the position, opting for a neutral third, Jacopo Dominici.
Peter IV's hostility toward Eymerich intensified in 1366 when Eymerich began to attack the written works of Ramon Llull and to harass his followers, who were known as Lullists. The king forbade Eymerich to preach in the city of Barcelona. Eymerich disobeyed covertly and subsequently supported the revolt of the diocese of Tarragona against the monarch. This conflict ended around 1376 when the local governor took 200 horsemen and encircled the Dominican monastery where Eymerich was residing. Eymerich fled to the papal court of Pope Gregory XI in Avignon.
First exile and return
While living in Avignon, Eymerich completed his most famous work, the Directorium Inquisitorum. In 1377, he accompanied Gregory XI to Rome, where he remained until the Pope's death in 1378. In the schism that erupted after the death of Pope Gregory XI, Eymerich sided with Antipope Clement VII, and so returned to Avignon late in 1378. While living in Avignon, Eymerich conflicted with St. Vincent Ferrer, because Eymerich believed that Ferrer had begun to sympathize with Pope Urban VI, the Pope in opposition to Clement VII.
Eymerich returned to Aragon in 1381. Where he discovered that in his absence, Bernardo Ermengaudi had assumed the position of Inquisitor General. Eymerich refused to recognize Ermengaudi in that office, and in 1383, acting as Inquisitor General, notified the inhabitants of Barcelona that he had banned the works of Ramon Llull. Furious, Peter IV ordered Eymerich to be drowned, however the Queen Eleanor of Sicily influenced him to change the sentence to permanent exile. Once again, Eymerich ignored the sentence and remained in his native land, thanks largely to the support of Peter's son, John.
King Peter IV died in 1386 and was succeeded by his son, John I, who recognized Eymerich's authority as Inquisitor General. At first, John I favored the repression of the Lullists, but this lasted only until 1388 when Eymerich decided to investigate the entire town of Valencia for heresy. King John I intervened to free the Chancellor of the University (secretary of the municipality), who had been imprisoned. The King then asked the Church to rein in the violence of Eymerich and that the works of Llull be newly examined.
Second exile and return
After the violence at Valencia, Eymerich sought shelter from John's reprisals in a church, but two years later, retreated again to Avignon, where he remained until the death of King John I. In Avignon, Eymerich devoted himself to the defence of the legitimacy of Clement VII as Pope. He remained in Avignon after the death of Clement VII in 1394, writing in support of Clement's successor, Antipope Benedict XIII. After King John's death in 1396, Eymerich returned to the Dominican monastery in Girona, where he remained until his death on 4 January 1399. His epitaph describes him as praedicator veridicus, inquisitor intrepidus, doctor egregius.
The Directorium Inquisitorum
Eymerich's most prominent and enduring work was the Directorium Inquisitorum, which he had composed as early as 1376. It defined witchcraft, and described means for discovering witches. In compiling the book, Eymerich used many of the magic texts he had previously confiscated from accused sorcerers. The Directorium Inquisitorum was to become the definitive handbook of procedure for the Spanish Inquisition until into the seventeenth century. It can also be considered as an assessment of a century and half of official Inquisition in the conquered "albigensian" country.
Although the Directorium Inquisitorum was Eymerich's only book length work, he wrote numerous tracts and papers on various theological and philosophical subjects.
A good deal of Eymerich's life and writings were taken with opposing the writings of Ramon Llull. Owing to Aymerich's work, Pope Gregory XI banned several of Llull's writings and issued a papal decree against some postulates derived from his works. He would later dedicate his Tractatus contra doctrinam Raymundi Lulli to Clement VII. In this document he indicated 135 heresies and 38 errors in the Lullists' theology. His Dialogus contra Lullistas is another example of his anti-Lullist works.
Eymerich also wrote numerous works, including his Tractatus de potestate papali (1383) defending the legitimacy of the Avignon popes, Clement VII and Benedict XIII.
Variant spellings of Aymerich's name
There appears to be very little scholarly consensus on the spelling of Aymerich's name. "Nicolau Aymerich" is the correct form of his name in medieval Catalan language spelling, and the most used form in Catalan, although nowadays it would be spelled "Eimeric". Aymerich, or Eimeric, is still a common Catalan surname, and "Nicolau" is the Catalan spelling for "Nicholas". The Spanish spelling, "Nicolas" is also occasionally used. The title page of the 1578 impression of the Directorium Inquisitorum, which is printed in Latin gives his name as "Nicolai Eymerici". The most common ways his name is spelled in English writing on the subject is "Nicholas Eymerich", with the spelling "Eymeric" being a close second. Occasionally, the Spanish form of Nicolas is used in English writings as well. Other, less common, variant spellings of his last name include, Emeric, Eimeric, and Eymericus.
There is also a French comic book series on Eymeric, which is an adaptation of Evangelisti's novels.
- Although the most commonly given birth year of Eymerich is 1320, he actually couldn't have been born later than in 1317. According to the canon law, he must have been at least 40 when became inquisitor, and his nomination to that post took place in 1357; besides, it has been reported that he was over 80 in 1397. See Claudia Heimann, Nicolaus Eymerich (vor 1320-1399): praedicator veridicus, inquisitor intrepidus, doctor egregius, Aschendorff, 2001, p. 11. ISBN 3-402-06361-1, ISBN 978-3-402-06361-3
- Brian A. Pavlac, Important Events for the Witch Hunts Retrieved 7 April 2005
- J.P. Kirsch, Nicolas Eymeric at New Advent Retrieved 7 April 2005
- Richard Gottheil & Meyer Kayserling, Astruc Dapiera at Jewish Encyclopedia Retrieved 8 April 2005
- Nicholas Eymeric at Encyclopædia Britannica Retrieved 8 April 2005
- Inquisition Retrieved 8 April 2005
- Valerio Evangelisti, Eymerich Storico (Historical Eymerich) Retrieved 7 March 2011
- Text of the Directorium Inquisitorum (1578) in Latin
- "Eymericus, Nicolas". Encyclopedia Americana. 1920.