The Spanish Inquisition.

As we promised in the previous post of the Catholic Kings, this time we bring you one dedicated to the Holy Spanish Inquisition.

Before starting, it is better that you forget everything you thought you knew about this institution. Today, we will kill a myth. We will tell you a truth that, perhaps, you had never heard.

"Inquisition: Ecclesiastical Court that inquired and punished crimes against the faith."

That is the definition offered by the Dictionary of the Royal Spanish Academy on the Inquisition.

But the Inquisition was more than that, behind this ecclesiastical institution, the most ambitious and obscure desires of the human being were hidden.

Contrary to what everyone may think, the Inquisition or Holy Inquisition does not arise for the first time in Spain, but in France. It was founded in 1184 in the area of ​​Languedoc, in the south of France, to combat the heresy of the Cathars or Albigensians.

The Inquisition arrived in Spain about 65 years later, in 1249, implanted in the Kingdom of Aragon. This was the first state Inquisition.

It is very likely that this information has reached your ears for the first time but, now, let us go to a moment in history that is best known to all.

In 1469, Isabella of Castile and Ferdinand of Aragon, known by the Catholic Kings, marry, thus uniting the Spanish territory.

One of the most important missions for monarchs, especially for Isabella, was to unify religion in the territory, thus being Catholicism, the only religion accepted by the kings.

Therefore, all those Jews and Muslims who still lived in the territory had to convert to Catholicism or leave.

This is one of the main reasons why the Inquisition, as we know it today, emerges in this new unified territory.

In one of his visits of Queen Elizabeth to Seville, between 1477-1478, the Dominican Alonso de Ojeda, convinced the queen that the converts continued with their Jewish and Muslim customs. So, they were false Christians.

Shocked, the queen consulted the archbishop of Seville Pedro González de Mendoza and the Dominican Tomás de Torquemada if the situation was as serious as Alonso de Ojeda mentioned. They prepared a report and sent it to the queen, confirming the situation.

This is how Queen Isabel requested permission to the Pope, to establish the Inquisition in Castile and all its territories.


On November 1, 1478, Pope Sixtus IV issued the Bull Exigit sinceras devotionis affectus, by which the Inquisition for the Crown of Castile was constituted, and according to which the appointment of the inquisitors was the exclusive competence of the monarchs.

This information is very important: the appointment of the inquisitors was the exclusive competence of the monarchs.

What did that mean? Unlike the rest of Europe, the Inquisition in Spain was the responsibility of the Catholic Kings, not the Pope.

This will make a big difference between the Spanish Inquisition and the Inquisition in the rest of the continent's territories.

Being governed by the kings, who were very Catholic, the inquisitors were required to strictly follow the Ten Commandments. Of all, the one that stands out the most regarding the inquisition is the fifth commandment: YOU WILL NOT KILL.

Indeed, the Inquisition could not kill the detainees. The process was the following:

  • Accusation: "Edict of Grace". Acts in which different heresies were explained and parishioners were encouraged to release their conscience.

  • Detention: The "qualifiers" analysed the case and determined if there was heresy. Next, the accused was arrested.

  • Process: Hearings were held where the witnesses and the accused made their statements.

The Inquisition was nothing more than a cruel research group with the capacity to torture and manipulate the truth for the sake of religion and for its own benefit.

With their tortures, they forced the inmate to confess those crimes that he had committed and those that did not. These were so brutal that they made the prisoner go crazy or even commit suicide.

There is no denying that the Inquisition did no good, but we cannot accuse this institution of the murders. They made the reports specifying the crimes and the sentence. Then, civil justice was the one who carried out the sentence.

What does this mean? Although it seems ironic, the Spanish Inquisition never stained its hands with blood. All those torture devices that can be seen in museums like "The Museum of Torture - Santillana del Mar (Cantabria)", were not used in Spain.

In Spain only methods of torture that did not kill or bleed the prisoner were allowed. Those like the colt, torment of water or the garrucha.

With these methods of torture, the inmates' joints were broken, they suffocated to the point of almost drowning, but without letting them die. But the prisoner's body was never mutilated by cutting off members of the body or by making open wounds.

In Spain, the Inquisition was not definitively abolished until July 15, 1834, well entered in the 19th century. In its beginnings, they followed the guidelines of the Catholic Kings with rectitude: a unique religion. But as the centuries passed, it went out of control, with no limits or laws to control them.

In their last years, it wasn’t about Jews convert, heretics or Muslims convert; but of anyone who opposed their power.

The exact number of victims who suffered the yoke of this institution is unknown since the only files that are kept are from 1560 to 1700, where 49,092 Jews were processed. Only a 1'9% of them were sentenced to death (around of 980 people).

In the Saint George Castle, located next to the Triana Market in Seville, it appeared a tombstone in which more than 1,000 executed were mentioned. Ricardo García Cárcel (Valencia, 1948), Spanish historian and essayist, estimates that 150,000 people were processed by the institution, with 2% of the cases being sentenced to death.
Of all the cases opened by the Holy Inquisition in Spain, only 4% obtained the death penalty. While, in Germany, France and other kingdoms of the Middle Ages, the number of people being kill by the inquisition that are shuffled are much higher.
Even so, it is impossible to estimate the exact number of victims due to the documentary gaps that exist. That is why it is very likely that we won’t be able to know the exact number.




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