Spanish Inquisition

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The Tribunal of the Holy Office of the Inquisition (Tribunal del Santo Oficio de la Inquisición), commonly known as the Spanish Inquisition (Inquisición española), was established in 1478 by Catholic Monarchs Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile. It was intended to maintain Catholic orthodoxy in their kingdoms and to replace the Medieval Inquisition, which was under Papal control. It became the most substantive of the three different manifestations of the wider Inquisition along with the Roman Inquisition and Portuguese Inquisition. The Spanish Inquisition operated in Spain and in all Spanish colonies and territories, which included the Canary Islands, the Spanish Netherlands, the Kingdom of Naples, and all Spanish possessions in North, Central, and South America.

The Inquisition was originally intended in large part to ensure the orthodoxy of those who converted from Judaism and Islam. This regulation of the faith of the newly converted was intensified after the royal decrees issued in 1492 and 1502 ordering Jews and Muslims to convert or leave Spain.[1]

The body was initiated and under the control of the Spanish monarchy. It was not definitively abolished until 1834, during the reign of Isabella II, after a period of declining influence in the previous century.

Various motives have been proposed for the monarchs' decision to found the Inquisition such as increasing political authority, weakening opposition, suppressing conversos, profiting from confiscation of the property of convicted heretics, reducing social tensions, and protecting the kingdom from the danger of a fifth column.

Less politically correct views

The Spanish Inquisition is often cited in popular literature and history as an example of Catholic intolerance and repression. Modern historians have tended to question earlier and wildly exaggerated accounts concerning the severity of the Inquisition. Henry Kamen asserts that the 'myth' of the all-powerful, torture-mad inquisition is largely an invention of nineteenth century Protestant authors with an agenda to discredit the Papacy.[2] Although records are incomplete, about 150,000 persons were charged with crimes by the Inquisition and about 3,000 were executed. According to actual records the Spanish Inquisition was arguably the most humane court in Europe.[3][4] There are records of people committing blasphemy in secular courts so they could have their case fall under the Inquisition’s jurisdiction. Further, the Inquisition was the first to pronounce Europe’s witch hunt a delusion and prohibited anyone from being tried or burnt for witchcraft.[5]

Kevin MacDonald has written that were individuals "called Conversos or Marranos (pigs)—Jews who had the appearance but not the reality of having converted to Catholicism. The Inquisition was designed to ferret such people out and subject them to penalties. Indeed, a major problem in the eyes of the Inquisition was that the Church itself had been infiltrated by Jews pretending to be Catholics (see here, p. 118; I deal with Jewish apologia on the Inquisition, including denials that crypto-Jews had infiltrated the Catholic Church here, p227ff)."[6]

External links


  1. Hans-Jürgen Prien (21 November 2012). Christianity in Latin America: Revised and Expanded Edition. BRILL, 11. ISBN 90-04-22262-6. 
  2. Henry Kamen: The Spanish Inquisition: A Historical Revision. 1999
  3. Haliczer, Stephen, Inquisition and society in the kingdom of Valencia, 1478-1834, p. 79, University of California Press, 1990
  4. by Peters, Edward, Inquisition, Dissent, Heterodoxy and the Medieval Inquisitional Office, pp. 92-93, University of California Press (1989), ISBN 0-520-06630-8.
  5. Doug Beaumont:The Spanish Inquisition: Debunking the Legends
  6. Crypto-Judaism in the Catholic Church
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