This article investigates the actions of the eighteenth-century Roman Inquisition, looking at controlling sexuality and social control in particular. To this end, it examines the actions of an “atypical” outlying tribunal: the Modena tribunal. In the 1700s, the tribunal's activities did not decline, as the number of trials held increased. Possible reasons for this anomaly and its characteristics are illustrated in response to certain questions: what instructions did Modena receive from the Holy Office in Rome? What was the Modena tribunal's actual reaction? The article demonstrates the existence of not only a discrepancy between the Roman Congregation's instructions and the behavior of the judges in Modena, but also differing priorities regarding which crimes to pursue. The Modena anomaly is compared with other Italian inquisitorial offices, identifying idiosyncrasies and points of convergence: in the case of Modena—capital of the Duchy of Modena—it seems the Inquisition acted as a tool of social control and moralization, alongside a relatively weak political power. Lastly, the case in question highlights a methodological matter: the documentation from Rome (e.g. correspondence with local inquisitions) does not reflect the reality of events in the outlying offices, thus requiring caution and, where possible, verification, when used.
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