This essay discusses Andrea del Col’s Inventory of the Archive of the Holy Inquisition of Udine (formerly Aquileia-Concordia), perhaps the best known among the Inquisitorial archives surviving in Italy. Alongside the ordinary, ‘Roman’ procedure, a second type of legal proceeding has emerged from the documents produced by the early modern Inquisition: while the sources call it spontanea comparitio, in the Inventory Del Col has re-named it summary process. This kind of procedure became more and more widespread throughout the history of the Tribunal. Del Col’s terminology unintentionally conceals the primary function of this practice, which was linked to sacramental confession and was compulsory, since Easter Confession was controlled by parochial censuses. The so-called "spontaneous", but in fact compulsory self-accusation was rewarded with absolution from excommunication and with a lighter penalty, on condition that the confession made to the inquisitor included the names of accomplices and was followed by abjuration. It is argued here that the processo sommario actually broke the sacramental secret and used the sacramental confession to persecute heretics. Moreover, it encouraged abjuration and delation and brought about a substantial increase in the number of informers to the "Holy Inquisition", which was not just a criminal court, but an instrument for the repression of the freedom of thought.
Keywords: Inquisition; spontanea comparitio; summary trial; sacramental confession.