Cause and Effects

Causes and Effects of the Spanish Inquisition

The Spanish Inquisition was used for both political and religious reasons. Spain is a nation-state that was born out of religious struggle between numerous different belief systems including Catholicism, Islam, Protestantism, and Judaism. Following the Crusades and the Reconquest of Spain by the Christian Spaniards the leaders of Spain needed a way to bring the country together as a strong nation. Ferdinand and Isabella chose Catholicism to combine Spain and in 1478 asked permission of the pope to begin the Spanish Inquisition to clarify the people of Spain.

In 1483 Thomas de Torquemada became the inquisition-general for most of Spain. He was responsible for creating the rules of inquisitional policy and creating branches of the Inquisition in various cites. He stayed the leaders of the Spanish Inquisition for fifteen years and is believed to be responsible for the execution of around two-thousand Spaniards. The Catholic Church and the Pope tried to step in the bloody Spanish Inquisition but were unable to wrench the extremely useful political tool from the hands of the Spanish rulers.

Accused misbelievers were identified by the general population and brought before the court. They were given a chance to confess their misbelieve against the Catholic Church and were also encouraged to accuse other misbelievers. If they admitted to their mistakes and turned other misbelievers against the church they were either released or sentenced to a prison penalty. If they did not admit their mistakes or tell on the others accused were publicly introduced in a large ceremony before they were publicly killed or sentenced to a life in prison.

The Jewish people are often associated with wealth and with being a plague to the group which they belong. Fourteenth-century Spain was no different. In the city of Seville, there was an archdeacon names Martinez who continually tried to get the people to come together and get ride of the dirty Jewish citizens. On Ash Wednesday (March 15, 1391), Martinez finally got his congregation to riot. Some of the people that were rioting were captured by the police and clogged or beaten, but that was not enough to stop the mob. Although they did not succeed that day to get ride of the Jews, the feelings that Martinez has started simmered until June 6th when the mob took hold of the Juderia of Seville. After that episode and a few others, the Jews thought themselves to be free of those problems, but this was not to be the case.

When Ferdinand V and Isabella were married, it united Aragon and Castille, the two most powerful states in Spain. At the time, Spain was on the verge of becoming one of the wealthiest nations of the period. A large part of that was due to the Jewish community. After their episode with Archdeacon Martinez, many Jews had professed to believe in Christianity to free themselves from persecution. It is doubtful, however, that many of the conversos, as they were to become known as, were truly converted to the Christian faith. The problem was that the Jews were getting all of the things the non-jewish, Catholic people wanted. The jews were able to gain wealth and positions of power and authority by acting as new Christians. The Catholics, however, could not do anything to them.

In 1478, the time came that the ‘true Christians” had been waiting for. A young boy, who was trying to court a Jewish girl, went to meet the girl and came upon a group of Jews and conversos in a different celebration. that night was the Jewish Passover, and the group had come together to celebrate it. The problem was that that same week was also the Holy Week for the Catholic church. A few months later, at the requesting of the heads of the Spanish church, Pope Sixtus issued a Papal Bull giving the ok for an Inquisition.

The Spanish Inquisition was particularly weird because of its characteristics. The accused never knew who their accusers were. Once arrested, the accused heretic’s properties were seized. These properties were then administered at first by the crown, and later by the General Inquisitor. The Inquisition certainly did not limit itself to purifying only those of the Jewish faith. This was especially true if the accused was found to have any Jewish blood in his roots. Even if the accused was now a devoted Christian, he was tried as severely as possible because of his roots. The accused was also not allowed to have a lawyer or counsel for his defense.

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