Can a Spanish inquisition be expected?

The Spanish Inquisition

Inquisition for the internal unity of Spain

At the end of the 15th century, the Spaniards had finally recaptured their country from the Muslims. The last Muslim bastion in Granada fell in 1492 and the last Muslim occupiers were driven from Spanish soil.

The country now faced the problem of internal unity. The pragmatic coexistence of Christians, Jews and Muslims came to an end. The coexistence of the different cultures got out of hand, so that Jews and Muslims were forced to convert to the Catholic faith.

The task of the Inquisition was to track down those Jews and Muslims who, although calling themselves Christians, were in fact still practicing their old religion - so-called "Conversos" and "Moriscos".

The Spanish royal family controls the inquisition

After just a few years, the inquisition was only controlled by the royal family. The Spanish Inquisition became part of the state apparatus and a kind of state security service developed.

At the head was a cardinal proposed by the King and formally appointed by the Pope. The sphere of influence extended over today's Spain, the islands of Sicily and Sardinia as well as the colonies in America.

The Inquisition's approach was very similar to its medieval model. Denouncing and self-reporting were still successful methods of apprehending heretics.

The Inquisition was not limited to heresy and moral matters, its arm extended as a unique authority and control in all areas of daily life. For example, the painter Francisco de Goya had to answer to the Inquisition for the painting "The Naked Maja". He was accused of being lewd.

A profitable source of income

For more than three centuries, from 1480 to 1820, the Inquisition was active in Spain - most heavily from 1485 to 1520.

Almost the only target group during this time were the conversos. If they fell into the clutches of the Inquisition, they still had 40 days to report themselves and get away with a slight penance. They were able to avoid the confiscation of their goods with a cash payment, a popular source of income for the inquisitors.

All of the accused were convicted in ostentatious religious courts, so-called autodafés, in the presence of secular and clerical dignitaries, and the judgments were carried out directly.

During this time, the royal couple's confessor, Tomàs de Torquemada, was the Grand Inquisitor. In his 11-year tenure, he is said to have been responsible for 2,000 executions.

Fight against superstition and bigamy

From 1525 to 1630 the action of the authority shifted against the Moriscos. At first the Inquisition behaved rather cautiously towards them, but after they were forced to be baptized in 1502, the Moriscos were subject to many restrictions. They were not allowed to carry weapons and their Arabic language was outlawed.

Coexistence with the early Christians deteriorated significantly and escalated in 1568 in a civil war in Granada. As a result, there was a wave of proceedings against the Moriscos. The Protestants formed a third target group for the Inquisition, but they were comparatively small.

From 1630 to 1720 the Inquisition focused on the moral and religious shortcomings of the early Christians: bigamy, sorcery, superstition. The Conversos were also targeted again. In contrast to state courts such as in Germany, witchcraft was, with a few exceptions, not punishable by death.

After 1730 the number of those convicted fell significantly, and in 1834 the Spanish Inquisition finally ceased its activities. The Italian historian Andrea Del Col, one of the best experts on the matter, estimates that around 12,000 people were executed over the course of 300 years of the Spanish Inquisition.