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The Spanish Inquisition And Christianity Essay, Research Paper

The Spanish Inquisition and Christianity

The Spanish Inquisition began as a quest to purify Spain of heretics, but it soon became much more than that. There are two very distinct views of what really happened during the time of the Inquisition. One longstanding belief is that of the terror of the Inquisition as a thing of nightmares where thousands of people were subjected to cruel torture. The other, more modern, view is that the Inquisition was no where near as terrible as it had been proclaimed. The main foundation behind the second idea is that the facts of the Inquisition were over-exaggerated to give ammunition against Spain and the Catholic Church. The second idea says that, the Spanish Inquisition is only part of the `Black Legend`- that body of writings which, since the 16th century, has vilified both Spain and its Catholic faith (O Brien 1). Many also consider the second idea to be totally wrong and agree with Plaidy, who writes, The Inquisition was surely one of the most cruel institutions ever set up by man It was an evil thing and from it grew evil. (16). Many people believe that the newer idea is incorrect because many of the most prominent exponents for the second idea are Catholics and Spaniards, who are most probably trying to restore good name to their ancestors whether or not they deserve it. Whichever one of these theories is true the fact remains that while the Spanish Inquisition helped to make Christianity the largest religion it also weakened the power and wealth of the Church.

The Spanish Inquisition is said to have begun with the reign of Ferdinand V and

Isabella s reign as the king and queen of Spain. There were some issues that planted the seed for the Inquisition before the rule of Ferdinand and Isabella. One factor was that many were jealous of the Jews of Spain. They were on average very rich and tended to flaunt their wealth. They wore richly colored clothes and shimmering jewels. This envy and the hatred that the Christians of the time had for Jews due to the murder of Jesus Christ helped to fuel Inquisition. Jews also tended to be smart and artistically gifted so the practice of the Inquisition would prove self-defeating because Jews had a lot to offer to the country in which they lived. Even before the Inquisition itself the Jews found themselves the target of violence. Before the Inquisition a Dominican fanatic named Fernando Martinez was determined to turn the people against the Jews of Spain. He believed that Jews were not as clean as Christian people and that Jesus wanted to punish the Jews. This led to his belief that the Jews had been responsible for the Black Death. The Pope Boniface IX himself warned Martinez that he should stop with his teachings and work to harm the Jews. Martinez, however, was a fanatic and would not listen to the words of the Pope. The Archbishop of Seville brought Martinez to trial for his impudence in not heeding the Pope s words. The unfortunate incident of the archbishop s death a few days before the examination of Martinez brought people to believe that God had struck him down. This brought more support behind Martinez and he was given a position of high responsibility in the diocese. Now he was free to continue his preaching and be even more influential. He was like someone leading sheep

to the slaughter as he ordered all of the Jews to live in their own quarters called juderias and then attacked these ghettos killing 4,000 people in Seville alone. Other towns soon

realized the riches they could gain by this and the death toll rose to 50,000 as the people were heard to cry out, BAPTISM OR DEATH! . Jews who lived had humiliating restrictions placed on them but if the Jew would become baptized all these restrictions were lifted. As baptized Christians the Jews once again began gaining wealth and power. And once again the Christians rioted, this time against the converted Christians who they believed practiced Judaism in secret. Rumors also spread fast about Jews crucifying Christians and burning them to mock Jesus.

Much of these events happened before the marriage of Ferdinand V and Isabella. This marriage brought together the two most powerful states of Spain, Aragon and Castile. In 1474 CE Pope Sixtus IV ordered the Inquisition into Spain. Isabelle was reluctant to establish the Inquisition in Spain because she asserted that she alone was ruler of Castile and she had no wish to put herself under the influence of Rome. Isabella eventually agreed to the Inquisition and, being a devout Catholic, wanted one country, one ruler, one faith . Slade says, Although purification was the original intent for the Inquisition, it came to have more materialistic, racial, and political motives, which led to the terror for which it is infamous (2). Tortures were subjected to those thought to be heretics to gain confessions and learn who else had been involved in the heresy. Such tortures include racking, water torture, and many different types of burning. They were used on all

people regardless of sex or age. If the person confessed they would most likely be killed or sent to prison.

The Spanish Inquisition finally ended 1808 CE as the War of Independence against Napoleon began to make people more concerned with keeping their freedom than prosecuting heresy. The thing that made the Spanish Inquisition different from the previous inquisitions was that it was much more gruesome due to the fact that the Church would hand over the believed heretics to secular authority. The authority Pope Sixtus gave to the Spanish crown made the Catholic Church lose control of Spain. Though other religions now held even less power in Spain and there were more Christians, the Church became weaker then it had been. In conclusion, Slade says:

The Inquisition is like most other dark periods of history. It was primarily brought on because of prejudices and greed. When one people excel within a society. And they make up the minority, they historically are labeled as scapegoats for the problems of the rest of society. The Renaissance period was obviously the same. It seems strange that in the history of man we still have not found a way to deal with our own petty jealousies. (4-5)


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