Although the Catholic Church had long laid down what its adherents should and should not believe, and had long had its own judges and prisons, the institution known as the Inquisition was only developed in the 12th century. This famous arm of the Church, which is today known as the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, was established to prosecute those that offended canon law, particularly heretics. Although particularly associated with the Iberian Peninsula, it functioned throughout the Catholic world, often using torture (as did secular courts) to extract the required confessions. Those found guilty were always handed to the secular authorities, who carried out their execution or other punishment, but the inquisition sat in judgement of their victims, and that is what this set portrays.
Here we find a great chair on which the judge no doubt sits, along with a cleric seated at a desk to record proceedings. Another clerical-type figure can be seen in the top row, and there are four men armed with spears (all of which are separate) plus one holding the long crucifix shown. The third row includes the accused, tightly bound at the elbows behind his back, and what looks to be a knight or similar astride his horse. Clearly such a man would not be in the courtroom, so presumably this figure must be for a procession or execution of the court’s verdict. As the principal members in the workings of the inquisition at the local level all these poses are fine, and indeed as individual pieces of sculpture they are much more than that.
Their costume is appropriate for such clerics and guards, and the standard of sculpting is the usual high level we would expect from Valdemar. Lovely faces and the smallest of details mark these as very fine pieces, although the relatively (and deliberately) simple costumes do not make the greatest demands on the sculptor’s art. Some inquisition courts were run with secular staff, but as their costume was little different to that of the Church this is still well covered here. A flexible mould must have been used as there is considerable undercutting to produce some excellent poses without need for assembly. The only putting together is in adding the long slender spears and crucifix to the hands of the men, although this is a challenging task as the hands are not drilled to take these. This means the customer must either drill them themselves, or else cut the spears and place them either side of the hand as if being held. This would result in a highly delicate bond, although in truth these are quite delicate figures anyway and will not suffer the same rough treatment more conventional plastic figures will.
Another very attractive set for an unusual and interesting subject, although a fair degree of competence is required to put the spears in the hands so this is not a set for inexperienced or impatient modellers.