History : Jan-Feb 2019
The Inquisition’s medieval origins can be traced back to the 12th century when Pope Lucius III instructed bishops to root out heresy in their dioceses. Across Europe, agents of the Inquisi- tion had the power to accuse, arrest, imprison, torture, and execute suspected heretics. The Inquisition officially came to Spain in 1478. Pope Sixtus IV authorized Isabella of Cas- tile and Ferdinand of Aragon to identify heretics to strengthen Catholic orthodoxy in Spain. The two Catholic monarchs had recently conquered territory in Andalusia, in southern Spain, the outposts of a Muslim presence that had endured for more than seven centuries. It had produced one of the most sophisticated scholarly and ar- tistic cultures in medieval Europe. To secure their hold on these“reconquered”lands, the monarchs founded the Holy Office of the Inquisition. The office was overseen by the grand inquisitor whose jurisdiction included Spain and all of its territories, including those in the Americas. The Spanish Inquisition aimed to create spir- itual and national unity through the Catholic Church. In addition to large numbers of Mus- lims, 15th-century Spain was home to a strong Jewish community, one of the first targets of the grand inquisitor. In 1492 Ferdinand and Is- abella issued an edict that ordered Spanish Jews to convert or be exiled; historians believe that more than 160,000 Jews“chose”exile. Jews who converted were typically viewed with suspicion; some were accused of being Marranos, Jews who feigned baptism and covertly practiced Judaism. In the 16th century Spain began targeting its Muslim community in earnest. In the 1520s Muslims became subject to forced conversions. As with the Jewish community, Muslims who had converted, the Moriscos, were often per- secuted. By 1614 approximately 300,000 were exiled from Spain. As the Inquisition continued, the Holy Office also targeted sinners, free think- ers, the mentally ill, and homosexuals. The testimonies of the people who lived through the Spanish Inquisition reveal the per- sonal dimension of living in a climate of para- noia, desperation, and fear. From 1478 until the Spanish Inquisition’s official end in 1834, Span- iards across all social classes were vulnerable to the expanding reach of the Holy Office. They could be labeled heretics, lose their property, be imprisoned and tortured, and even be executed —all in the name of faith. ISLAMIC ART INSPAIN A 10th-century ivory pyx (casket) bears the name of the son of the caliph Abd ar-Rahman III. His capital, the Andalusian city of Córdoba, was, at the time, the largest city in Europe. WERNER FORMAN/GTRES FAITH AND OPPRESSION 1184 Pope Lucius III lays the groundwork for the Inquisition throughout Europe. 1834 Following several suppressions and restorations, the Spanish Inquisition is abolished. 1808-09 Napoleon suspends the Inquisition in Spain. After his 1814 withdrawal, it is restored. 1478 The Spanish Inquisition begins. Persecution of Jews will extend to Muslims and Protestants. POPE SIXTUS IV, WHO AUTHORIZED THE SPANISH INQUISITION. PORTRAIT BY TITIAN (1546). UFFIZI GALLERY, FLORENCE SCALA, FLORENCE L asting more than 350 years, the Spanish Inqui- sition left behind a legacy of cruelty, intolerance, and inhumanity. The rulers of Spain arrested, tor- tured, and executed thousands of their own peo- ple in pursuit of power and national unity. The sto- ries of the Inquisition’s victims reveal a climate of fear and paranoia that took root in a time devoid of religious freedom.