medieval, law, legal history, trials, religious history


Trials by ordeal in the Middle Ages prove to be some of the most complex secular trials in all of history. Both trial by fire, and trial by water looked to call God's judgment into play, hoping that He would make the decisions of guilt or innocence. God is all-knowing. He is all-powerful. Therefore He has all of the relevant information to determine the fates of those who go through the ordeals. Despite this, the theologians in the medieval Church looked to lessen clerical involvement in the ordeals. In 1215, the Fourth Lateran Council met, and the ordeals ceased to exist. Even though they were secular, the ordeals could not survive without the help of priests. Why is it that the theologians so desperately wanted to end the use of the ordeals in Europe?