Use of Christianity
During the middle ages, the Catholic Church established itself as the most powerful feudal institution. It positively used Christianity to strengthen the bonds between the European kingdoms and establish social behaviors to guide the lifestyles of the common people. However, it is also unarguable that there were many episodes of power abuse and violence in the name of faith throughout history. Among these events are the Medieval Inquisitions arising as a response to growing religious movements that defied Catholic Sovereignty and were seen as a heretical offense against God and Church.
History of Inquisition
There have been Inquisitions as early as 1184 such as the Episcopal Inquisition and later the Papal Inquisition of 1230. The Spanish Inquisition was notable for having played a leading role in one of the darkest and most cruel periods of human history. whose consequences lasted for many centuries.
Roots of Spanish Inquisition
The roots of the Spanish Inquisition have their origins in the multi-ethnic and multi-religious character of Spanish society. In 711 the Islamic Arabs and Morbes crossed the Gibraltar strait to the Iberian Peninsula. In a succession of military incursions, they conquered Christian Spain at which time was ruled by the Visigoths. The moors ruled large areas of the Iberian Peninsula until 1250 but gradually lost their territories being restricted to the Granada region.
The Reconquista did not lead to the full removal of Muslims from Spain. They along with the Jews were tolerated by the ruling Christian elite. Large cities like Seville and Barcelona had substantial Jewish populations centered in neighborhoods called Judea.
Post Reconquista Medieval Spain was typically characterized as a society of fairly peaceful coexistence between Catholics, Muslims, and Jews punctuated by occasional conflicts between the three religions. Despite its unevenness, there was a long tradition of Jewish service to the crown of Aragon. Jews held many important positions both religious and political. The Castilian kingdom itself had an unofficial rabbi who worked for the crown.
Anti-semitic attitudes escalated throughout Europe during the late 13th century and into the 14th century. England and France expelled their Jewish populations in 1290 and 1306 with such anti-jewish sediment. Also increasing in Spain the overall unrest impacted almost all jews in Spain and about 200000 changed are hid their religion becoming known by the Hebrew term Anusim. Meaning of Anusim was those who hide their religion. Only a handful of the top people in the Jewish community found shelter among the viceroys in the cities and outlying districts managed to escape.
How New Christians Came into Existence
In 1391 a new social group appeared referred to as the converts or new Christians. Many converts now free from anti-semitic restrictions enforced on Jewish employment attained important positions. In the 15th century Spain included offices in the government and the church. However, the newly converted jews generated much suspicion among the catholic population. Since they were seen as traitors to their old faith and many still secretly celebrated their prayers and religious dogmas.
Religious intolerance against the jews would increase as the years went by but the nightmare was just beginning. The most powerful kingdoms of Spain were united in 1469 by the marriage of queen Isabel the first of Castile and King Ferdinand II of Aragon. Both monarchs were given the title of catholic monarchs by pope alexander VI in recognition of their defense of the catholic faith within their kingdoms.
How Spain Became a Fully Christian kingdom
There are many theories about the real reasons behind Ferdinand and Isabelle’s proclamation of an inquisition were. The assumptions range from the need to gain political support from the Christian population to reduce Jewish financial power and influence Spanish society. Or even to accomplish a religious mission by expelling those who were considered heretics by the church. Thereby creating a fully Christian kingdom in Spain.
By 1478 the tribunal of the holy office of the inquisition was established. Granted authorities functioned in Spain and in all Spanish colonies and territories which included the canary islands the kingdom of Naples and all Spanish possessions in North, Central and south America. The royal decrees issued in 1492 and 1502 require Jews and Muslims to convert to Catholicism or leave Castile. This resulted in hundreds of thousands of forced conversions as well as the mass expulsion of Jews and Muslims from Spain.
Cruelty of Tomás de Torquemada
Tomás de Torquemada a dominican friar from castile was appointed general inquisitor. Torquemada quickly established inquisitional procedures. The court could use physical torture to extract confessions once the guilt of the cues was established. Owing to his widespread use of torture to elicit confessions as well as his advocacy of burning the guilty at the stake. Torquemada’s name became synonymous with cruelty religious intolerance and bigotry.
Many people were detained in custody accused of committing some form of heresy. There were many cases of long-term incarceration lasting up to two years before the inquisitorial authorities
could examine the case. Witchcraft and superstition blasphemy against the name of God or Questioning the church’s holiness. Sodomy, Bigamy, and even forms of other Christianity such as Protestantism and Orthodoxy could be regarded as heresy.
Torture Methods in Spanish Inquisition
During the Spanish Inquisition, a variety of torture methods were employed. The torturer’s objective was to extract a confession of heresy from the prisoner. They spared no effort in creating different procedures of physical and psychological torture. Besides using tools and mechanisms designed to inflict fear and agonizing pain on their victims.
One method most commonly used was the Strappado consisting of a form of torture. In which the victim’s hands were tied behind their back and then suspended by a rope attached to their wrist. Usually leading to dislocated shoulders weights could be added to the body to intensify the effect and increase the pain.
The rack was also widely used during the middle ages. A person would be attached to a board at the wrist and ankles with some sort of shackle. The chains would be fastened to the cuffs the chains would be hooked to a wheel and a crank would turn it. As the chains were pulled tight the body would stretch and the joints ligaments and tendons would snap crack and break.
Other torture methods
Many other torture methods such as Drowning, Suffocation, Skinning Bone-breaking, and Humiliation were deployed against thousands of inquisition victims. Once a prisoner gave in to torture and confessed their crimes even if they had not actually perpetrated them. They would be judged by a court and the sentence would be passed. The sentence could range from the confiscation of all the accused goods and property for the crown in the church or death by torture in a public square.
How Spanish Inquisition lost its importance
The Inquisition lost its power and importance throughout Europe over the centuries. It was first abrogated during napoleon’s rule and the reign of his brother Joseph Bonaparte between 1808 and 1812. Finally, on July 15 1834 the Spanish Inquisition was finally abolished by a royal decree signed by the region Maria Christina of the Two Sicilies, queen consort of Spain.
In 2000 pope John Paul II asked forgiveness for the errors done in the service of truth through the use of methods that bear no connection with the lord’s word. The papal statement was referring to the barbarities committed by the inquisition during the middle ages.
The sorrowful history of the Spanish Inquisitions can serve as a warning that the misleads of the past should not be committed again and that religious freedom should be respected by all people on Earth.