Ten of The Most Gruesome Facts About The Spanish Inquisition

Ten of The Most Gruesome Facts About The Spanish Inquisition

The formal denial or doubt of the core doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church is defined by the catholic church as heresy and that definition has caused the death of thousands and probably millions of people. It was the basis upon which The Inquisition was set up by the catholic church back in the 1100s. The church was very powerful then and didn’t have much faith in repentance and so execution was its preferred penance for the sin of heresy. The Inquisitions by the church were bad enough but the Spanish Inquisition that started in 1487 took on another level of brutality. It was ordered by the church and the crown which made it formal and the details became horrific. Here are 10 things you should know about it.

It Was Not Limited To Spain

When they mention the Spanish Inquisition, many people assume that it was limited to mainland Spain but the hunt for heretics extended well beyond Europe. In the beginning, the Spanish crown just wanted to root out people who didn’t practice Catholicism which meant Jews and Muslims. When most of these people fled Spain, the population turned on itself and started using the heresy rules to root out Jews and Muslims that had converted to Catholicism then called Conversos. The government would chase down accused heretics all over Europe into North Africa and even into the Americas and other territories that were then colonized by Spain. Many people were burned at the stake for Heresy in Africa, Mexico And other parts of the Americas before the practice was abolished.

The Council For The Inquisition Still Exists

The catholic church ran inquisitions through a powerful church council called The Supreme Sacred Congregation Of The Roman and Universal Inquisition. They no longer have the power to torture anyone or look for heretics but they are still responsible for certain roles in the catholic church. Due to the council’s gruesome history, it is one of the least talked about councils of the catholic church and has changed names over the years. It is currently called The Congregation for The Congregation Of Faith.

The Spanish Inquisition Fathered Auto-Da-Fe

Auto-da-fe is translated as acts of faith but the practice has very little to do with faith and more to do with public executions. Many people were burned at the stake publicly in Spain and other countries in Europe including Joan of Arc. People accused of heresy would be sentenced publicly in front of huge crowds and they were all arraigned wearing sackcloth over their heads with a single eye hole. Many would-be whipped and even maimed. The worst ones included public burning at the stake for those that refused to confess to heresy.

Lutherans And Other Protestants Were Not Spared

The main purpose of the inquisition was to increase the stronghold of the catholic church over the European population which is why protestants were an unwelcome addition to the list. The 16th century brought lots of revolts against the catholic church with the Lutherans being the most vocal of them all. The Spanish Inquisition extended its definition of heresy to cover protestants which saw inquisitors go after protestants in its territories including Mexico and Peru. In Mexico, Philip II ordered the slaughter of Lutherans at the Stake in Mexico in 1578 before going for Lutherans and Methodists in Peru. He also hunted for jews and Muslims that had escaped the Inquisition in Spain.

It Was Finished By Napoleon Bonaparte

Napoleon Bonaparte is one of the greatest leaders in European history and ending the Inquisition after conquering Spain was one of the best things he did. He wasn’t exactly a great fan of the Catholic church’s puritanism. The inquisition had also fallen out of favour with the rest of the Spanish population since it was being used as a political tool rather than a tool for uniting Spaniards in faith. When Napoleon was defeated in 1814, King Ferdinand VII brought back the inquisition and killed dozens of his enemies and other people that protested against the monarchy with the last person being executed in 1826. The French government ordered the king to abolish the inquisition altogether as a condition for helping him quash an uprising.

Ten of The Most Gruesome Facts About The Spanish Inquisition

Inquisitors Hold The Record For History’s Worst Torture Methods

The breast ripper was used to rip off women’s breasts when they refused to confess to heresy during the inquisition. The most widely used torture tool was the rack where someone would be tied and their limbs would be pulled out to their limits. They also used Catherine’s wheel and the skull crusher which are some of the worst torture devices in human history. It is hard to believe that these tools were being used by priests but they were actually authorized by the church itself.

The Rich Could Bribe Their Way Out

The Spanish inquisition was one of the most corrupt institutions in European history. Jews and Muslims fled Spain during the inquisition but the Inquisition didn’t go away and leading to the population turning on itself. People used the inquisition to settle scores with their neighbours or make political gains. Many local leaders and inquisitors killed people for their property. It became worse when leaders of the catholic church including the famous Ignatius of Loyola were also accused of heresy. The rich could bribe inquisitors and have their trials abolished or bribe their way to freedom.

Inquisitors Worked For Both The Pope And The King

The Inquisition was already happening all over Europe since the 12th century and it was brutal but never racist until King Ferdinand II and his queen Isabella decided to eliminate successful Jewish businessmen from Spain and take their property. They empowered inquisitors and used them to kill and intimidate Jewish and Muslim elites taking their property and banishing them all on the basis of heresy. Pope Sixtus received complaints about the politicization of the Inquisition in Spain and decided to appoint a council to oversee inquisitions there. The council turned out to be more politicized as it only served the interests of whoever gave them the most benefits.

Converted Jews And Muslims Were The Worst Affected

Anti-Semitism was rife in Europe especially in Spain since the 12th century but Spain had a big Muslim and Jewish population and everyone lived there in spite of the religious differences. An increase in power of the catholic church and its hold on the Spanish crown led to hostilities against Jews and Muslims that peaked in the 15th century under the reign of Henry III of Castile and Leon. He forced Jews and Muslims to convert to Catholicism or be banished from Spain and many did.

Most prominent Spanish families distrusted the Jews and Muslims even after they converted leading to the many accusations against them for heresy. King Ferdinand II and Isabella decided to go on a whole choked Earth policy which led to the deaths of thousands of the Converts with hundreds of thousands fleeing Spain to save their heads. Spain had the largest Jewish population of any European nation by the end of the 14th century but there were hardly any left by the end of the 15th century which shows how cruel the inquisition was.

Burning At The Stake Was The Preferred Execution Method For Inquisitors

The torture methods employed by the inquisitors still cause people to cringe today because they were just too brutal. The inquisitors would do anything to get a confession and if words didn’t work, they would resort to torture. The most criticized one is a mass confession of 20,000 people which was then followed by torture and burning at the stake for those who refused to name their accomplices. You had to confess to avoid burning at the stake and even then, your life would be ruined forever.

Join the conversation