The word "inquisition" means to examine. Inquisitors would

"examine" suspected Heretics, people whose ideas do not match

those of the Roman Catholic Church, and punish them

accordingly. This meant torture and burning was involved. The

great inquisitional movement that took place in Hispania (before

Spain was unified, the area was known as Hispania), and it was

called The Spanish Inquisition. It took place for approximately

five-hundred years, from the late 15th century to the mid 19th

century. Many ironic elements were involved in the history of

the Inquisition. The Spanish Inquisition lasted longer than any

other preceding it and was the most cruel, bloodthirsty, and

festive of all. The objective of the inquisition, in its early

state, was to convert all Jews into Christians, but later it

contradicted itself by making the new objective to rid the

country of the newly converted Christians. In an age where the

close bond between church and state existed, opposition to the

church was intolerable. The Inquisition caused Spain to become

intellectually backward, and economically and industrially

damaged. The powerful influence of the Inquisition

forbiddened social influences, such as books, from other parts

of Europe to enter Spain. Because of this, the universities

remained stagnant from the lack of understanding about other

civilizations in the rest of Europe. They were unable to keep up

with the rest of the early modern world. As a result of this,

they came into the 20th century intellectually inferior and

bankrupt. With the banished, tortured, and persecuted

heretics in mind, it is possible that the Spanish Inquisition is

perhaps one of the most cruel acts performed on innocent

people in the name of religion.

Before the Spanish Inquisition took place, several other

inquisitional movements appeared, but none quite so barbaric

and brutal as the Spaniard's. Waves of opposition towards the

church swept Europe in the Middle Ages. In the 12th century

it was a modern belief that a peaceful, utopian government

could be obtained if all of the population of the society were

"pure" and Catholic. The Medieval Inquisition was famous

inquisitional movement also. It started in France and Italy.

During this time a group of people called the Albigensies lived in

northern Italy and southern France. They had established a

religion called Manichaeanism which was the belief in two gods,

one for good and one for evil. Pope Gregory IX felt that it was

right to establish the Inquisition as a church law to rid the Holy

Roman Empire from the Albigensies in 1231 AD. This was the

start of the first inquisition. After that it was a common

practice in much of Europe to take Heretics before a trial, then

inflict torture on them forcing them to convert. Those that did

not convert were sent to a public burning or hanging. In 1252

AD, Pope Innocent IV agreed to use inquisitors to torture

sinners who would not repent their sins and confess. By the

fifteen hundreds, the Inquisition became wealthy, powerful,

and greedy.

In the late 15th century, Spain gained its freedom from

the Moors. They were North African people that were Islamic

and controlled much of Spain. The wealthy, educated Jewish

population financially assisted the monarchy to take back Spain

from the Moors. Large prosperous Jewish communities existed

in Spain where they were respected, unlike other areas of

Europe where the Jews were hated, persecuted and were

victims of organized massacres in the late Middle Ages. In

Spain they remained the financial and scientific leaders in the

15th century. Many of the Jews married into Catholic families,

and as a result, many of Spain's Christian leaders were of

Jewish descent. As Spain became a unified country, many

Hispanics forgot the services from which the Jewish had

provided them. All of the sudden, the economy was not in as

good of a shape as it was before, and the Jews became the

center of blame for everything that went wrong. They became

targets for bigotry. False legends were made up about them. A

couple of them included Jews murdering innocent Christian

children. These such legends fueled the expulsion of the Jews

from France and England, and then later the eventual expulsion

from Spain in 1492 AD.

In fear of persecution, thousands of Jews flocked to

churches to convert to Christianity. The government of Spain

started raiding Jewish communities, in search of wealth to

steal. The new group of newly converted Christians were called

Marranos. They made up another large portion of the Hispanic

population. For a while the Marranos had their full rights

restored again. Many of them still practiced Judaism at home

though, out of view of the government. The Jews had to

convert to Christianity, if they did not, they had the choice of

leaving the country or dying. After the Jews were banned from

Spain and the Inquisition was constituted, the Marranos became

the object of attack for the inquisitors. If someone was

suspected of having a tad of Jewish blood, which was ironic

since everyone did, they had the choice of leaving Spain or


During the reign of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella,

the Inquisition was established for the first time in Spain in

the Kingdom of Aragon. This was before the unification of

Spain took place. The office of Grand Inquisitor was

appointed by the monarchy with the approval of the Pope.

The first and most notorious Grand Inquisitor was a

Dominican Monk named Tamas de Torquemada. Even though

he was of Jewish descent, he was obsessed in the act of

making heretics confess through torturous, inquisitorial

methods. After the unification of Spain, he convinced King

Ferdinand and Queen Isabella to extend the Inquisition to

the entire Kingdom of Spain. Torquemada told the King and

Queen that the government can obtain great wealth from

confiscating the property of the Jews and Morranos. As a

result, the spread of the Inquisition through the rest of

Spain was more in the act of greed than in the act of the

religious purification of the nation.

There were many accounts leading up to the expulsion

of the Jews from Spain, but the major reason is described

as the La Guardia Case. It is a case about a Jewish man, by

the name of Garcia, who was dragged into an Inquisitorial

Court to be examined. Under extreme torture, the

inquisitors lead the Jewish man into confessing that he,

along with other Jews, took a four year old Christian boy

and crucified him to a wooden cross, which was not true.

Although nobody was ever found or reported missing, it still

fueled an outrage in thee Christian community. Torquemada

took advantage of this situation by persuading the King and

Queen to expel the Jews from Spain. Because of bribery

and gifts from the Jews, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella

were hesitant to expel them, but Torquemada's

overwhelming influence on them lead to the expulsion of the

Jews in 1492 AD. The summer of 1492 was a sad one by

which the Jews were given four months to leave. The loss

of the Jew's social, commercial, economical, scientific, and

educational skills, did immense damage onto Spain as a

whole, but nobody realized it. The people of Spain thought

that they were actually better off without the Jews.

Once the Inquisition was established all throughout

Spain in 1478 AD, an effective way of governing was needed.

The main office of the Inquisition, located in Madrid, was

called the Suprema. It was named as a branch of

government in Spain. In every major city of the Spanish

Empire there consisted an Inquisitorial Court who reported

to the Suprema. The Grand Inquisitor governed the

Inquisitorial Courts from the Suprema. At the time, the

Spanish government was very unstable and unorganized. It

was said that the Suprema was the only effective branch of

the Spanish government. Because of this, the Suprema rose

to great power. At times, the power of the Grand Inquisitor

rivaled and overpowered the monarchy. With the

establishment of the Suprema and the Inquisitorial Courts,

the Inquisition became very effective and the death tole of

heretics and morranos sky-rocketed.

Along with the spread of the Spanish Empire to the

Americas in the 16th and 17th centuries, the Inquisition also

spread. Inquisitorial Courts were set up all over Mexico,

Central America, the Caribbeans, and South America. The

new world offered a new variety of victims to fill its

prisons, since the amount of Jewish and Morrano victims

were growing scarce. Because Spanish women were not

allowed to colonize in the new world, the men interacted

with native women. This sin was called cohabitation and the

church viewed it with extreme disfavor. It then became

the major crime to be dealt with in the Inquisitorial Courts.

Through the strength of the Spanish Empire, the Inquisition

became the most dominant in Spanish society. By this point,

when the Suprema challenged the authority of the monarch,

the Grand Inquisitors were appointed by the Suprema

instead of the monarches. The Suprema had great power

and took out political and criminal cases just as the state

would. The remaining heretics left were dealt in mass

burnings in festival type atmospheres.

The way the Inquisitors dealt with executions were in

carnival type occasions called Auto-da-fes, or Sermo

Generalises. These festivals required elaborate preparations

and would attract thousands. The accused heretics would

be dressed in a comical but satanic attire and put on display

for the people to laugh at as they walked by. At the end of

the festival, the crimes of each heretic were announced.

Then the thousands would gather and watch the heretics go

up in flames on steaks. The church officials were forbidden

to shed blood, so the executions were carried out by the

state. While the heretics were burning, the King, Queen,

and the church officials sat in the front row snickering at

the burning corpses.

In the late 1700's and early 1800's there were few

heretics left the Spanish Empire. Only a handful of the

cases dealt by the Inquisitorial Courts were actually dealing

with religion. By this time the state was dealing with real

criminals through the Inquisitors. The papacy became angry

at this abuse, but did not have the power to stop it at the

time. The Inquisition gradually came to an end in the mid

1800's, as Spain completed its task of "purifying the

nation". By this point they were in a huge lack of education

and were not industrially adequate to enter the 20th

century along with power-house industrial neighbors such as

England. Reminisce of the Inquisition lasted into the early

20th century where suspected descendents of Jews were

punished, which was pointless because practically everyone

in Spain were descendents of these people. It was not till

1992, five-hundred years after the expulsion of the Jews

from Spain, when King Juan Carlos officially invited the

Jews to return to their homeland in Spain and addressed a

formal apology to them.

The long history of the Spanish Inquisition serves as a

reminder of the bigotry and the persecution that took place.

It is only one of many persecuting acts that are piled on top

of Jewish history. Many Christians look back onto the

Inquisition with shame and humidity. The Spanish

Inquisition has inflicted untold amounts of damage onto the

Spanish society and everyone else's. It was one of the

worst religious acts of ignorance and bigotry ever

orchestrated by a group of people. Today's bigotry and

prejudices are just remnants of the religious intolerance

that originated half a millennium ago.

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