Spanish Inquisition

Tribunal of the Holy Office of the Inquisition in Spain

Tribunal del Santo Oficio de la Inquisición

Spanish Inquisition
Coat of arms or logo
Seal for the Tribunal in Spain
Type
Type
Tribunal under the election of the Spanish monarchy, for upholding religious orthodoxy in their realm
History
Established1 November 1478
Disbanded15 July 1834
SeatsConsisted of a Grand Inquisitor, who headed the Council of the Supreme and General Inquisition, made up of six members. Under it were up to 21 tribunals in the empire.
Elections
Grand Inquisitor and Suprema designated by the crown
Meeting place
Spanish Empire
Footnotes
See also:
Medieval Inquisition
Portuguese Inquisition
Mexican Inquisition

The Tribunal of the Holy Office of the Inquisition (Spanish: 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 Catholic Inquisition along with the Roman Inquisition and Portuguese Inquisition. The "Spanish Inquisition" may be defined broadly, operating 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. According to modern estimates, around 150,000 were prosecuted for various offenses during the three-century duration of the Spanish Inquisition, out of which between 3,000 and 5,000 were executed (3% of all cases).

The Inquisition was originally intended primarily to identify heretics among those who converted from Judaism and Islam to Catholicism. The regulation of the faith of newly converted Catholics was intensified after the royal decrees issued in 1492 and 1502 ordering Jews and Muslims to convert to Catholicism or leave Castile.[1] The Inquisition was not definitively abolished until 1834, during the reign of Isabella II, after a period of declining influence in the preceding century.

The Spanish Inquisition is often cited in popular literature and history as an example of religious intolerance and repression. Some historians have come to conclude that many of the charges levied against the Inquisition are exaggerated, and are a result of the Black Legend produced by political and religious enemies of Spain, especially England.[2]

Previous Inquisitions

The Inquisition was created through papal bull, Ad Abolendam, issued at the end of the 12th century by Pope Lucius III to combat the Albigensian heresy in southern France. There were a large number of tribunals of the Papal Inquisition in various European kingdoms during the Middle Ages through different diplomatic and political means. In the Kingdom of Aragon, a tribunal of the Papal Inquisition was established by the statute of Excommunicamus of Pope Gregory IX, in 1232, during the era of the Albigensian heresy, as a condition for peace with Aragon. The Inquisition was ill-received by the Aragonese, which led to prohibitions against insults or attacks on it. Rome was particularly concerned about the 'heretical' influence of the Iberian peninsula's large Muslim and Jewish population on the Catholic. It pressed the kingdoms to accept the Papal Inquisition after Aragon. Navarra conceded in the 13th century and Portugal by the end of the 14th, however its 'Roman Inquisition' was famously inactive. Castile refused steadily, trusting on its prominent position in Europe and its military power to keep the Pope's interventionism in check. By the end of the Middle Ages, England, due to distance and voluntary compliance, and Castile (future part of Spain) due to resistance and power, were the only Western European kingdoms to successfully resist the establishment of the Inquisition in their realms.

Medieval Inquisition in Aragon

Although Raymond of Penyafort was not an inquisitor, as a canon lawyer and the king's advisor, James I of Aragon, had often consulted him on questions of law regarding the practices of the Inquisition in the king's domains. "...[T]he lawyer's deep sense of justice and equity, combined with the worthy Dominican's sense of compassion, allowed him to steer clear of the excesses that were found elsewhere in the formative years of the inquisitions into heresy."[3]

Despite its early implantation, the Papal Inquisition was greatly resisted within the Crown of Aragon by both population and monarchs. With time, its importance was diluted, and, by the middle of the fifteenth century, it was almost forgotten although still there according to the law.

Regarding the living conditions of minorities, the kings of Aragon and other monarchies imposed some discriminatory taxation of religious minorities, so false conversions were a way of tax evasion.

In addition to said discriminatory legislation, Aragon had laws specifically targeted at protecting minorities. For example, crusades attacking Jewish or Muslim subjects of the King of Aragon while on their way to fight in the reconquest were punished with death by hanging. Up to the 14th century, the census and weddings records show an absolute lack of concern with avoiding intermarriage or blood mixture. Said laws were now common in most of central Europe. Both the Roman Inquisition and neighbouring Christian powers showed discomfort with Aragonese law and lack of concern with ethnicity, but to little effect. High-ranking officials of Jewish religion were not as common as in Castile, but were not unheard of either.[4] Abraham Zacuto was a professor at the university of Cartagena. Vidal Astori was the royal silversmith for Ferdinand II of Aragon and conducted business in his name. And King Ferdinand himself was said to have Jewish ancestry on his mother's side.[5]

Medieval Inquisition in Castile

There was never a tribunal of the Papal Inquisition in Castile, nor any inquisition during the Middle Ages. Members of the episcopate were charged with surveillance of the faithful and punishment of transgressors, always under the direction of the king.

During the Middle Ages, in Castile, heresy was paid little to no attention by the Catholic ruling class or by the population. Castile did not see the proliferation of anti-Jew pamphlets like England and France did during the 13th and 14th century, and those which have been found had modified, watered down versions of the original stories.[6] Jews and Muslims were tolerated and generally allowed to follow their traditional customs in domestic matters.[7]

The legislation regarding Muslims and Jews in Castilian territory varied greatly, becoming more intolerant during the period of great instability and dynastic wars that occurred by the end of the 14th century. The Castilian law is particularly difficult to summarize since due to the model of the free Royal Villas mayors and the population of border areas had the right to create their own fueros (law) that varied from one villa to the next. In general, the Castilian model was parallel to the initial model of Islamic Spain. Non-Catholics were subject to discriminatory legislation regarding taxation and some other specific discriminatory legislation-such as a prohibition on wearing silk or "flashy clothes" [8]- that varied from county to county, but were left alone besides that. Forced conversion of minorities was against the law, and so was the belief in the existence of witchcraft, oracles or similar superstitions. In general, all "people from the book" were permitted to practice their own customs and religions as far as they did not attempt proselytizing on the Christian population. Jews particularly had surprising freedoms and protections compared to other areas of Europe and were allowed to hold high public offices such as the counselor, treasurer or secretary for the crown[9].

During most of the medieval period intermarriage with converts was allowed and encouraged. The intellectual cooperation between religions was the norm in Castile. Some examples are the Toledo School of Translators from the 11th century. Jews and moriscos were allowed to hold high offices in the administration(See Abrahám Seneor, Samuel Abolafia, Yusé Abrabanel, López de Conchillos, Miguel Pérez de Almazán, Jaco Aben Nunnes and Fernando del Pulgar).[8][verification needed]

A tightening of the laws to protect the right of Jews to collect loans during the Medieval Crisis, was one of the causes of the revolt against Peter the Cruel and catalyst of the anti-semitic episodes of 1490 in Castile, a kingdom that had shown no significant antisemitic backlash to the black death and drought crisis of the early 14th century. Even after the sudden increase in hostility towards other religions that the kingdom experienced after the 14th-century crisis, which clearly worsened the living conditions of non-Catholics in Castile, it remained one of the most tolerant kingdoms in Europe.[10][11]

The kingdom had serious tensions with Rome regarding the Church's attempts to extend its authority into it. A focus of conflict was Castilian resistance to truly abandon the Mozarabic Rite, and the refusal to grant Papal control over Reconquest land (a request Aragon and Portugal conceded). These conflicts added up with a strong resistance to allow the creation of an Inquisition, and the kingdom´s general willingness to accept the heretics that came in seeking refuge from prosecution in France.