CHAMBRE ARDENTE (Fr. “burning chamber”), the term for an extraordinary court of justice in France, mainly held for the trials of heretics. The name is perhaps an allusion to the fact that the proceedings took place in a room from which all daylight was excluded, the only illumination being from torches, or there may be a reference to the severity of the sentences in ardente, suggesting the burning of the prisoners at the stake. These courts were originated by the Cardinal of Lorraine, the first of them meeting in 1535 under Francis I. The Chambre Ardente co-operated with an inquisitorial tribunal also established by Francis I., the duty of which was to discover cases of heresy and hand them over for final judgment to the Chambre Ardente. The reign of Henry II. of France was particularly infamous for the cruelties perpetrated by this court on the Huguenots. The marquise de Brinvilliers (q.v.) and her associates were tried in the Chambre Ardente in 1680. The court was abolished in 1682.
See N. Weiss, La Chambre Ardente (Paris, 1889), and F. Ravaisson, Archives de la Bastille (Paris, 1866–1884, 16 vols.).