. . .
The Spanish Inquisition, however, properly begins with the reign of Ferdinand the Catholic and Isabella. The Catholic
faith was then endangered by pseudo converts from Judaism (Marranos) and Mohammedanism
(Moriscos). On 1 November, 1478, Sixtus IV
empowered the Catholic sovereigns to set up the Inquisition.
. . .
In a Brief of Sixtus IV
of 29 January 1482, they were blamed for having, upon the alleged authority of papal Briefs, unjustly imprisoned many people,
subjected them to cruel tortures, declared them false believers, and sequestrated the property of the executed. They were
at first admonished to act only in conjunction with, the bishops, and finally were threatened with deposition, and would indeed
have been deposed had not Their Majesties interceded for them. Fray Tomás Torquemada
(b. at Valladolid In 1420, d. at Avila, 16 September, 1498) was the true organizer of the Spanish Inquisition. At the solicitation
of their Spanish Majesties (Paramo, II, tit. ii, c, iii, n. 9) Sixtus IV
bestowed on Torquemada the office of grand inquisitor, the institution of which indicates a decided advance in the development
of the Spanish Inquisition. Innocent VIII
approved the act of his predecessor, and under date of 11 February, 1486, and 6 February, 1487, Torquemada was given dignity
of grand inquisitor for the kingdoms of Castile, Leon, Aragon, Valencia, etc. The institution speedily ramified from Seville
to Cordova, Jaen, Villareal, and Toledo, About 1538 there were nineteen courts, to which three were afterwards added in Spanish
America (Mexico, Lima, and Cartagena). Attempts at introducing it into Italy failed, and the efforts to establish it in the
Netherlands entailed disastrous consequences for the mother country. In Spain, however, it remained operative into the nineteenth
century. Originally called into being against secret Judaism and secret Islam
, it served to repel Protestantism
in the sixteenth century, but was unable to expel French Rationalism and immorality of the eighteenth. King Joseph Bonaparte
abrogated it in 1808, but it was reintroduced by Ferdinand VII in 1814 and approved by Pius VII
on certain conditions, among others the abolition of torture. It was definitely abolished by the Revolution of 1820.
. . .
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The Spanish Inquisition
The Spanish Inquisition is known for the terror it caused the inhabitants of the Iberian peninsula.
Although the Inquisition originally began to purify the nation from heretics, it came to have more materialistic, racial,
and political motives, instead of just purification. The beginning of the Inquisition is generally credited to the reign of
Ferdinand V and Isabella. In truth, it began before that time, and carried on long after Ferdinand and Isabella passed away.
In order to better understand the Inquisition and the reasons behind it, it is necessary to first examine the events that
led up to it.
. . .
An anonymous Englishman writing about 1600 ... shows how secrecy was used to create fear:
But if the accused does not sifficientlie justifie himself, he is
condemned to torture. And with his Curate he is constrained to goe, through a place virie hidious, to a rome underground,
where he findeth the Judges set. There is ye Executioner, covered with a long black linen robe verie straight like a
sacke, having his head and face covered with a blacke hoode having but two holes before his eies--this done to amaze the Patient,
as if a devil came to punish his misdeeds. If he confesse nothing, they sometimes martyre him more than two howers.
Article XVIII of Torquemada's Copilacion de las instructiones del Officio de la Santa Inquisicion states that
'when any person is put to the torture the inquisitors and the ordinary should be present--or, at least, some of them.
But when this is for any reason impossible, then the person entrusted to question should be a learned faithful man.
In 1568, a woman was arrested on the grounds of not eating pork and changing her linen on Saturdays; these innocous activities
had led to an accusation of her being jewish. This is the record of her torture:
She was ordered to be placed on the potro. She said, 'Se`nores, why will
you not tell me what I have to say? Se`nor, put me on the ground--have I not said that I did it all?' She was
told to tell it. She said, 'I don't remember--take me away--I did what the witnesses say.' She said, 'Se`nor, as I have
told you, I do not know for certain. I have said that I did all that the witnesses say. Se`nores, release me,
for I do not remember it.' She was told to tell it. She said, 'Se`nores, it does not help me to say that I did
it and I have admitted that what I have done has brought me to this suffering--se`nor, you know the truth--se`nores, for God's
sake have mercy on me. Oh, Se`nor, take these things from my arms--Se`nor, release me, they are killing me.' She
was tied on the potro with the cords, she was admonished to tell the truth, and the garrotes were ordered to be tightened.
She said, 'Se`nores, do you not see how these people are killing me? I did it--for God's sake let me go,'
William Lightgow's first-person account is equally terrifying, but with a different timbre hightenen by his obvious hatred
for his tormentors. These extracts will give some idea of the working methods of the tortures, with Lightgow's comments
and criticism omitted:
I was by the executioner stripped to the skin, brought to the rack, and then
mounted by him on the top of it, where soon after I was hung by the bare shoulders with two small cords, which went under
both my arms, running on two rings of iron that were fixed in the wall above my head. Thus being hoisted to the appointed
height, the tormentor descended below, and drawing down my legs, through the two sides of the three-planked rack, he tied
a cord about each of my ankles and then ascending upon the rack he drew the cords upward, and bending forward with main force
my two knees against the two planks, the sinews of my hams burst asunder, and the lids of my knee being crushed, and the cords
made fast, I hung so demained for a large hour.
. . . Then the tormentor, laying the right arme above the
left, and the crown upmost, did cast a cord over both arms seven distant times: and then lying down upon his back, and setting
both his feet on my hollow pinched belly, he charged and drew violently with his hands, making my womb suffer the force of
his feet, till the seven several cords combined in one place of my arme (and cutting the crown, sinews, and flesh to their
bare bone) did pull in my fingers close to the palm of my hands; the left hand of which is lame so still and will be for ever.
. . . Then by comman of the Justice, was my trembling body laid above,
and along, upon the face of the rack, with my head downward, inclosed within a circled hole; my belly upmost, and my heels
upward toward the top of the rack, my legs and arms being drawn asunder, were fastened with pins and cords to both sides of
the outward planks; for now I was to receive my main torments. . . .
Lithgow was then racked, and recounts the process with the same minute details of ropes and planks. When this was
finished, he was subjected to the water torture:
Then the tormentor having charged the first passage above my body (making fast
by a device each torture as they were multiplied), he went to an earthen jar standing full of water, a little beneath my head:
from whence carrying a pot full of water, in the bottom whereof there was an incised hole, which being stopped by his thumb,
till it came to my mouth, he did pout it in my belly (*about four pints); the first and second devices I gladly received,
such was the scorching drought of my tormenting pain, and likewise I had drunk none for three days before. But afterward,
at the third charge perceiving these measures of water to be inflicted upon me as tortures, O strangling tortures! I
close my lips again-standing that eager crudelity. Whereat the Alcaide enraged, set my teeth asunder with a pair of
iron cadges, detaining them there, at every several turn, both mainly and manually.
Auto de fe
The burnings took place within the auto de fe, and it was perhaps their
spectacular nature that impressed them upon the minds of so many travellers who watched them. They usually took place
on a feast day in the presence of king or nobles, and followed a public procession, a mass, a sermon and the reconciliation
of sinners. The most celebrated autos de fe were held in the elegant Plaza Mayor, a square in the center of
Madrid, in the presence of the King and his court. A contemporary description of the auto de fe of 1690 will
illustrate the pomp, grandeur and excitement:
The officers of the Inquisition, preceded by trumpets, kettle-drums and their
banner, marched on the 30th of May, in cavalcade, to the palace of the great square, where they declared by proclamation that
on the 30th June the sentence of the prisoners would be put in execution. There had not been a spectable of this kind
at Madrid for several years before, for which reason it was expected by the inhabitants with as much impatience as a day of
the greatest festivity and triumph. When the day appointed arrived, a prodigious number of people appeared, dressed
as splendid as their respective circumstances would admit. In the great square was raised a high scaffold; and thither,
from seven in the morning until the evening, were brought criminals of both sexes; all the Inquisitons in the kingdom sending
their prisoners to Madrid. Twenty men and women out of these prisoners, with one renegade Mahometan, were ordered to
be burned; fifty Jews and Jewesses, having never before been imprisoned, were sentenced to a long confinement, and to wear
a yellow cap; and ten others, indicted for bigamy, withcraft and other crimes, were sentenced to be whipped and then sent
to the galleys: these last wore large pasteboard caps, with inscriptions on them, having a halter about their necks, and torches
in their hands. On this solemn occasion the whole court of Spain was present. The grand Inquisitor's chair was
placed in a sort of tribunal far above that of the King. The nobles here acted the part of the sheriff's officers in
England, leading such criminals as were to be burned, and holding them when fast bound with thick cords; the rest of the criminals
were conducted by the familiars of the Inquisition.
At the place of execution there are so many stakes set as there are prisoners
to be burned, a large quantity of dry furze being set about them. The stakes of the Protestants, or, as the inquisitors
call them, the professed, are about four yards high, and have each a small board, whereon the prisoner is seated within half
a yard of the top. The professed then go up a ladder betwix two priests, who attend them the whole day of execution.
When they come even with the aforementioned board, they turn about to the people, and the priests spend near a quarter of
an hour in exhorting them to be reconciled to the seed of Rome. On their refusing, the priests come down, and the executioner
ascending, turns the professed from off the ladder upon the seat, chains their bodies close to the stakes, and leaves them.
Then the priests go up a second time to renew their exhortations; and if they find them ineffectual, usually tell them at
parting, that 'they leave them to the Devil, who is standing at their elbow ready to receive their souls, and carry them with
him into the flames of hell-fire, as soon as they are out of their bodies.' A general shout is then raised, and when
the priests get off the ladder, the universal cry is: 'Let the dogs' beards be made!' (which implies, singe their beards).
This is accordingly performed by means of flaming furzes, thrust against their faces with long poles. This barbarity
is repeated till their faces are burnt, and is accompanied with loud acclamations. Fire is then set to the furzes, and
the criminals are consumed.
The intreopidity of the twenty-one men and women in suffering the horrid death
was truly astonishing; some thrust their hands and feet into the flames with the most dauntless fortitude; and all of them
yielded to their fate with such resolution that many of the amazed spectators lamented that such heroic souls had not been
more enlightened. The near situation of the king to the criminals rendered their dying groans very audible to him; he
could not, however, be absent from this dreadful scene, as it is esteemed a religious one, and his coronation oath obliges
him to give a sanction by his presence to all the acts of the tribunal.
The Spanish Inquisition Caused great suffering, thousands of deaths, and serious economic and cultural effects on the
history of Spain. But it must not be forgotten that Spain enjoyed her greatest moment of power and prestige during the
centuries in which the Inquisition was at full spate. The colonies were established, literature, music and painting
flourished--especially from about 1550 to 1700--and modern Spain was created.
Inquisition, The Hammer of Heresy/1803857
Tomás de Torquemada
Accusations of excesses can be supported by reference to Pope Sixtus
early in 1482, that the Inquisitors at Seville,
"without observing juridical prescriptions, have detained many
in violation of justice, punishing them by severe tortures
and imputing to them, without foundation, the crime of heresy,
despoiling of their wealth those sentenced to death, in such form
that a great number of them have come to the Apostolic
from such excessive rigor and protesting their orthodoxy."
The Inquisition: excellent primary and secondary sources
De Landa Inquistion
After hearing of Roman Catholic Mayans who continued to practice Idol
ordered an Inquisition in Mani ending with a ceremony
called auto de fe. During the ceremony on July 12, 1562, a disputed
of Mayan books (de Landa admits to 27, other sources claim "99
times as many") and approximately 5,000 Mayan idols were
Describing his own actions later, de Landa said that, "We found a large
number of books in these characters
and, as they contained nothing in
which were not to be seen as superstition and lies of the devil, we
burned them all,
which they (the Maya) regretted to an amazing degree,
and which caused them much affliction".
Only three Pre-Columbian
Mayan heiroglyphic texts (a.k.a. a codex) and
fragments of a fourth survived.
Richard Hakluyt and the Inquisition in Mexico
After hearing of Roman Catholic Mayans who continued to practice
worship, he ordered an Inquisition in Mani ending with a ceremony
called auto de fe. During the ceremony on July
12, 1562, a disputed
number of Mayan books (de Landa admits to 27, other sources claim "99
times as many") and approximately
5,000 Mayan idols were burned.
Describing his own actions later, de Landa said that, "We found a
of books in these characters and, as they contained nothing in
which were not to be seen as superstition and lies of the
burned them all, which they (the Maya) regretted to an amazing degree,
and which caused them much affliction".
three Pre-Columbian Mayan heiroglyphic texts (a.k.a. a codex) and
fragments of a fourth survived.
Inquisition and King Philip II of Spain:
'Since all those
outside the obedience and service of our Holy Mother the Catholic Church, fixed in their errors and heresies, strive to estrange
pious and faithful Christians from Our Holy Faith, we have decided that the true remedy is to avoid all contact with heretics
and suspect persons and to extirpate their errors in order to avoid the danger of so great an offense to the Holy Faith and
the Catholic Religion in this part of the world.
The General Apostolic Inquisitor of our realms and possessions, with
the agreement of the members of the General Counsil of the Inquisition and after consulting Us, has decided to set up the
Holy Office of the Inquisition in these new provinces.'
Philip II 25 of January 1569
Victims of the Catholic Inquisition,
exorcised of their demons through torture, used to confess this way ...
'I am a satellite and disciple
of Satan. For a long time I was a potter at the gate of hell, but several years ago, with eleven of my companions, I began
to lay waste the Kingdom of the Franks. As we were ordered, we destroyed the corn, the wine and all the other fruits produced
by the earth for the use of man.'