At one time or the other, you must have used or heard someone use the phrase “face the inquisition”. This often refers to a form of questioning or investigation that is meant to be harsh and will have the tendency of ending up in some form of punishment or sanction(s). In actual fact, the origin of the phrase can be traced partially to Spain. Often when people refer to an inquisition, what they have in mind is the Spanish inquisition. We describe the roots as partially traceable to Spain because Spain was not the only country in which the inquisitions took place. There were also the Roman and Portuguese inquisitions too, but the Spanish inquisition was the most prominent, and since we’re talking about Spain, we’ll focus on the Spanish inquisition.
What exactly was the Spanish Inquisition?
The official name for what is today known as the Spanish inquisition is Tribunal of the Holy Office of the Inquisition in Spain. It was a sort of tribunal for trying people who were accused of being heretics. Since the Spanish state as at that time was majorly Catholic and was strongly influenced by the Pope and the papacy, heresy was considered a serious crime and was punishable by death by burning at the stake. Suspects were sometimes made to undergo physical torture in order to extract confessions from them. Apart from heresy, the inquisition also had under its jurisdiction the trial and punishment of other sins like Sodomy, bigamy, blasphemy, and freemasonry. All of these were considered sinful acts by the church and by extension the Spanish state. Although witchcraft was one of the crimes to be handled by the Spanish inquisition, it appears historical accounts over exaggerated the role of the inquisition as most inquisitors often believed that witchcraft was more superstitious than real
Why Was the Spanish inquisition instituted?
During the reign of King Ferdinand II of Aragon, he considered the Jewish and Islamic populations within Spain as harmful to the Catholic faith of people, there was therefore a royal declaration that all Jews and Muslims were to either convert from Judaism and Islam to Catholicism or move out of Spain. For many Jews and Muslims, leaving Spain wasn’t practical, and so, a large number of them decided to stay and get converted. However, there were some who publicly claimed to have converted to Catholicism but still secretly practiced Islam and Judaism. Refusal to convert was punishable by being burned to death at a stake. The inquisitions were thus set up to try people who were accused of either being non-converts of heretics.
The Effects of the Spanish Inquisition.
Although it has been claimed that over-estimations were made during a period of anti-Catholicism, modern estimates state that about 150,000 people were brought to trial before the Spanish inquisition and out of this, around 3,000 to 5,000 were said to have been executed.
How long did the Spanish Inquisition last?
The Spanish inquisition was instituted by the decree of Ferdinand II of Aragon and Queen Isabella I of Castile in 1478 and spanned a period of about 356 years before being abolished in 1834 by Queen Isabella II