The Spanish Inquisition. One of the most notorious organizations in the history of the World. It has also been demonized by some historians and in popular culture. But in reality, it wasn’t as bad as some people think.
First of all, the Spanish Inquisition is not to be confused with the Papal Inquisition, the latter of which was established in 1231 by Pope Gregory IX, and was under Papal control. In fact, the Spanish Inquisition was established by Ferdinand I of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile in 1478 after being authorized via a papal bull from Pope Sixtus IV that year, and it answered to the Spanish crown instead of the Pope.
The Spanish Inquisition investigated heretics and witches, just like its Papal counterpart did. But it also investigated conversos (Jews and Muslims) who were thought to have converted to Christianity but were still secretly practicing their original faith.
Muslims were the main target of the Spanish Inquisition, partly due to the fact that the Reconquista (the Christians taking back Spain from the Moors) was in its final stages. Granada, the last Muslim stronghold in Spain, fell to the Christians in 1492.
The Muslims who still lived in Spain after the Reconquista were allowed the same rights as other Spanish citizens, including freedom of religion. But some of these Muslims would abuse their freedoms by means of rebellion, subversion, and collaboration with Muslim nations. Some of them even converted to Christianity in order to avoid suspicion by the authorities, but remained secretly remained Muslim for the purpose of subversion.
Hence, the Spanish Inquisition was established primarily to investigate these individuals. Torture was used, but it was not as severe as some people claim.
Many of the methods of torture were the same methods that the Romans had used centuries earlier. The Spanish Inquisition also borrowed methods of torture from the Muslims. There were also rules established regarding the use of torture, which are as follows:
- No bloodletting was allowed.
- A doctor would always be present.
- Torture would only be used on an individual for no more than 15 minutes.
It should be noted that torture was rarely used during the second interrogation
for a suspect, and never used on that individual after that. In addition, many
people were acquitted by the Spanish Inquisition.
The number of people executed during the period of the Spanish Inquisition (1478-1834) was in the thousands, not in the millions as some people claim.
Although historians disagree on the actual number, it appears to range from 3,000 to 5,000. Some say even as many as 300,000 executions took place, although it is unlikely that was the case. In addition, the Spanish Inquisition did not carry out the executions. That was the responsibility of the Spanish authorities. Being burned at the stake was the usual method of execution, but the condemned could be strangled to death beforehand if they repented or bribed the executioner.
As for book burning, the books that were burnt turned out to be pornographic
Portugal, which for a time was part of Spain, also had its own inquisition.
So why did the Spanish Inquisition become so demonized over the centuries? It was mainly due to anti-Catholic propaganda being launched in in the aftermath of the Reformation, particularly in Protestant England.
Thus, the Spanish Inquisition was no different than the Papal Inquisition. The interrogations and trials it carried out were fair. And there no iron maidens or the use of red hot pokers.