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The early inquisition in the Iberian peninsular Research Paper


Introduction

Inquisition is perhaps one of the most studied topics in medieval history. A proper understanding of European history can never be understood without delving deeply into the issues surrounding inquisition. Religious conflicts that started off with inquisition intensified and introduced European nationalism. Secular rulers started to assert their authority against encroachment from the church. This development was important because people started to desire separation of church from the state.

In Spain, inquisition was prolonged than anywhere else, and was more brutal. The process in Spain was started off by Isabella and Ferdinand. Historians have always been interested in discovering the motive behind the action of the monarchs to start inquisition in Spain at a time when elsewhere in Europe it was declining. There have been disagreements about the extent of inquisition in Europe, and its role in defining the Europe that emerged during and after inquisition.

Literature review

In his book, A history of the Inquisition of the Middle Ages, Lea (2010) takes a wider look at inquisition to determine what started it the first place. He concluded that the dynamics in the society extant then led to religious persecution. The church had accumulated too much power, and the people were very fanatical in their beliefs. He also contends that it also changed the Catholic Church, as well at its institutions that were leading inquisition.

In The Spanish Inquisition: a history, Perez (2005) looks as the common misconceptions about the Spanish inquisition to set the record straight. Although it is commonly regarded that the Spanish inquisition was carried out in exceptionally cruel manner, he suggests that the truth was different. By carefully chronicling the events, he agree that, compared to inquisition in other parts of Europe, Spanish inquisition was harsher.

Sabatini (2000) and Deane (2011) look into the major personalities involved in the Spanish inquisition and their contribution to the direction it took. Deane specifically looks at the concept of heresy and concludes that it was a tool used by the dominant group to suppress those who held contrary beliefs.

Research question

This research paper will endeavor to answer the following key questions:

  • How did inquisition start in Europe in general and Spain in particular?
  • How was it carried out?
  • Who were the key players?
  • What was its effect in Europe and Spain?
  • Why was it started?
  • What was the role of Isabella and Ferdinand in Spanish inquisition?

Methodology

To answer this question, I will rely on secondary sources which are the book listed below.

Works Cited

Annotated bibliography

Lea, Henry Charles. A history of the Inquisition of the Middle Ages. Cambridge [England: Cambridge University Press, 2010. Print.

In this book, Lea captures the history of inquisition in medieval times comprehensively. He used Primary sources to develop a proper narrative of events as they were. He departs markedly with reverential approach adopted by many earlier writers covering the history of inquisition.

The thesis of his work is that inquisition was developed systematically, and was a product of dynamic forces at play in the Christian society then. He dwells on the impact of inquisition on learning in Europe, culture, and faith. He also looks at the impact the inquisition on catholic orders that were at the forefront of inquisition. One of the most surprising conclusions of his work is that belief in sorcery and witchcraft was a creation of the church. Lea shows how church and the state used the concept of hereby to achieve narrow objectives.

Perez, Joseph. The Spanish Inquisition: a history. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2005. Print.

Spanish inquisition is widely studied for its intensity and brutality. Perez goes in-depth in his dissection of the state of affairs during this dark period. His approach seems as an attempt to separate truth from half-truths and outright lies. He first observes that the main reason for the creation of tribunals was to solve the problem of conversos (converted Jews).

He then delves into the details of how the inquisition was conducted to solve this problem from the time of Isabella and Ferdinand, Hapsburg to Bourbon rulers of Spain. Perez tells how Isabella and Ferdinand had initially promised religious tolerance, but later adopted a policy of molding a united Spain around Catholicism.

Towards that end, they expelled Jews and forcibly converted Castilian Muslims to Catholicism. The book captures the shenanigans that played out during the inquisition in Spain. This book also captures very well the critical role the two sovereigns played during the inquisition. It offers possible reasons that led them to request the pope to start the inquisition. These reasons were not very obvious then, but they influenced the direction the inquisition took.

Sabatini, Rafael. Torquemada and the Spanish Inquisition: a history. S.l.: Kessinger Pub., 2000. Print.

Sabatini traces the history of religious persecution from the down of Christianity to the time of inquisition. Without appearing to justify it, he shows that inquisition-type of persecution had always been there to a lesser degree. In his words, the Spanish inquisition was the high point of religious intolerance that was always there. The paradox that he notes is that former victims of persecution would later become persecutors.

For instance, early Christians were persecuted by pagan rulers of Rome. Later, Christians themselves started persecuting other Christians. In Spain during Muslim era, Christians were discriminated. Later, though, Muslims became objects on inquisition. The history of religious persecution shows the reader that Spanish inquisition was a result of wider religious struggle in Christendom and Spain in particular, and was informed by history of oppression.

The history of Spanish inquisition can never be complete without the mention of Torquemada. He was the first grand inquisitor in Spain and his focus and commitment explains, as Sabatini writes, the intensity and extent of Spanish inquisition.

Deane, Jennifer Kolpacoff. A history of medieval heresy and inquisition. Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield, 2011. Print.

Inquisition was established to deal with the problem of heresy. “Heresy” can only be understood to mean deviation from “orthodoxy”. The problem is that “heresy” can only be defined by an authority referring itself as “orthodox”. Of course the other side does not consider them orthodox. Deane deals with the problem of heresy that led to inquisition.

The study of inquisition is also the study of religious controversies over doctrinal issues. Initially, this disagreement did not lead to persecution, but as the church accumulated more power, these heresies seemed to undermine the power of the church and its leadership. Deane discusses the origin of heresy and orthodoxy and concludes that inquisition was bound to happen, sooner than later.

The contrary beliefs tended to put a wedge between the two groups. The more powerful was determined to wipe out what it considered erroneous beliefs. Deane seems to think that the so called heretics could have behaved in the same way if they were in position of power and influence.

Kamen, Henry Arthur Francis. The Spanish inquisition: a historical revision. New Haven: Yale university press, 1997. Print.

Lang, Sean. European history for dummies. 2nd ed. Chichester: John Wiley, 2011. Print.

Macdonald, Eugene Montague. A short history of the Inquisition, what it was and what it did, to which is appended an account of persecutions by Protestants, persecutions of witches, the war between religion and science, and the attitude of the American churches toward African slaver. Whitefish, MT: Kessingger Pub., 2009. Print.

Peters, Edward. Inquisition. Berkeley: University of California Press, 19891988. Print.

Thomsett, Michael C.. The Inquisition: a history. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Co., 2010. Print.

Research paper

Inquisition

The Catholic Church used a part of the Roman law referred to as “inquisitor” or the inquiry to justify the practice of inquisition. The inquisition was not a penal council, but an office for extracting a promise of penance or conversion from those targeted (Thomsett 23). The chief objective of inquisition was to get acknowledgement of infallibility of the church and get a promise of perpetual loyalty and obedience.

The church required the accused to accept that heresy was sinful and, therefore, punishable before one could be reconciled back to church.

Heresy was considered a sin for which confession was deemed necessary. If the accused refused to acknowledge their sin and confess, they were turned over to the state. According to the church, the inquisitor, who would ordinarily be a priest, who failed to extract confession from a “heretic”, was viewed to have failed to bring a lost sheep to the fold of the Christ faithful.

Each inquisitor was in charge a large geographical area. The area under the jurisdiction of an inquisitor had its own headquarters where documents were kept, as well as proceedings took place. In most cases, the convents of Dominican friars or bishops official residence served as the headquarters (Thomsett 98). For the inquisitor, their work was not always easy because they had to deal with the heretics on one hand, and the church on the other.

How it was carried out

Before the accused was presented before the tribunal, they would first be urged to acknowledge their doctrinal error and confess. This worked with many people. Those who refused, however, were taken for the inquisition. The case against the heretic was built through use of evidence presented by the witnesses.

These witnesses would normally consist of close family members and other members of the public privy to the issues for which the accused was brought before the Inquisition (Peters 14). Evidence against the accused was collected in confidence. The accused were not allowed information on who had witnessed against them.

If the accused were citizens of good reputations, more evidence would be gathered to bolster the case against them. Two witnesses were enough to force the arrest of suspected heretic. Information gathered from the witnesses would be reviewed by the inquisitor, who would then decide whether to arrest the suspect for appearance before him.

If the inquisitor was satisfied that the information gathered implicating a suspect had merit, a junior officer of the inquisition would be dispatched with sermons to the suspect (Peters 200). The summons contained statement of evidence the Inquisition had against the accused. A suspect who would give indications of running away would be arrested immediately.

The stated goal of the inquisitor was to secure a confession, and towards this end, every tactic was employed. One common tactic used was long cross examination to trap the accused to into confession. Also, the proceedings would be adjourned for long periods to frustrate the accused towards confession so that he/she could know their fate.

Torture was used against those who refused to confess and recant erroneous beliefs. Strappado was the most widely used method of torture that led to dislocation of shoulder blades. Torture continued until the accused was ready to confess. Once the inquisitor got the confession, he immediately pronounced his sentence, which would be a performance of small act such as wearing crosses, or as heavy as burning at the stake.

History of inquisition

Pope Gregory IX established the inquisitions, which were tribunals set up to fight heresy. Inquisitions evolved out of new procedure developed by pope Innocent III, which allowed designated officials of the church to look out for people suspected or accused of heretical beliefs. From the outset, inquisition was set up to fight Waldenses and the Cathari, which were two groups accused or having contrary beliefs (Lang 10). Later, however, inquisition was extended to other groups, including suspected witches.

From time to time, Catholic Church, especially from the middle ages, felt obliged to fight what it considered heretical beliefs. These were beliefs which were contrary to church teachings. In pursuant of this longstanding policy of suppressing heresy, the 2nd Lateran council in 1139 directed political rulers to suppress heresy in their dominions.

Alexander III affirmed the decrees of the Lateran council and extended them. He ordered the despoiling property of those accused of heresy, as well as putting them in prison. The third Lateran council, which met in 1179, condemned heresy, allowed for searches to identify heretics, and empowered bishops to investigate all cases of heresy (Perez 45)

In 1215, the fourth Lateran council affirmed previous decrees. Bishops who were not firm in their dealing with heretic were warned that they could be deposed. Secular rulers who were reluctant to assist the church were forced to forfeit their positions of authority. Frederic II and others released laws for the condemnation of the heretics.

Its establishment

Although the church establishment had passed decrees aimed at repressing all heresy, repression remained unorganized. In 1231, Pope Gregory IX started to remedy this with by publishing Excommunicamus. This document provided for imprisonment for heretics who repented, and death sentence for those who refused to abjure. In Germany, the pope entrusted the implementation of the decree to Conrad of Marburg.

Other officials throughout Christendom were empowered through papal bulls to punish heretics. The decretal, Excommunicamus, coming out of the initiative of the pope, founded a law that allowed perceived enemies of the church to be punished by the church itself, with limited role on secular authorities (Perez 23). Inquisition is widely regarded to have started at this time.

Inquisition started in Germany, but later spread to other areas such as Aragon. In 1233, though, inquisition was an established institution. In France, some work of inquisition was entrusted with Dominicans (Kamen 15). Inquisitors were selected by provincial officials. In Italy, inquisition was not well established until 1237.

In almost all cases, the inquisitors were drawn from Dominican and Franciscan orders. Each tribunal was controlled by two judges with equal powers. These judges were answerable to the pope from whom they directly got their powers. Initially, the inquisitors rode the circuit looking for heretics. However, with time, they got the powers to summon people suspected of heresy to their inquisition centers. The inquisitors could delegate their powers to assistants.

The area under each inquisition tribunal followed political boundaries. For instance, the inquisitor at Paris was responsible for fighting heresy in the kingdom of France. Even with their wide powers and support from the pope, inquisitors often faced difficulties from local authorities and bishops who were unwilling to assist. Also, the local population was often against inquisition (Lang 14). The Conrad of Marburg was himself killed by the heretics. There were other inquisitors who were murdered by the local people.

To effectively fight heresy, new procedures were introduced into the Roman law. The accused was not allowed to know those who witnessed against him/her. Hiding the identity of the informers was to protect the informers from the wrath of the friends or relatives of the accused. Testimony from people of questionable character such as criminals was acceptable during inquisition (Kamen 80). Lawyers could not act for the accused for fear of being branded accomplices. This was a marked departure from law.

Verdict against conviction for heresy could not be appealed. Interlocutory judgments, as opposed to definitive judgments, could however be appealed to the pope.

Inquisitors were guided by manuals developed for the purpose. One such guide was called Processus inquisitionis. Interrogations by the inquisitors could be general, or would cover the entire population.

Summons to appear before the judges at the Inquisition were served by the local pastor. Those who refused to appear within the period were temporarily excommunicated. If need be, the local authorities helped in arresting the suspect. Suspects were questioned under an oath, and substance of their submissions written down. Refusal to take an oath was taken as a presumption of guilt.

To get the information the inquisitor desired, the suspect could be detained or jailed. If the suspect persisted in denials and refused to confess, confession of two witnesses was used for conviction (Lea 65).

Torture was later adopted in Italy to force confession from the accused. By 14th century, abuse of suspect was widespread that the pope was forced to intervene.

Converted heretic were imprisoned, but those who refused to abjure were surrendered to secular authorities for execution. Dead heretics could also be condemned posthumously and their remains exhumed and burnt. Properties of those sentenced for execution or imprisoned were confiscated.

Inquisition peaked in towards the end of the 13th century, but later it started to decline. This decline is commonly associated with the reforms of pope Clement V instituted to correct widespread abuses (Lea 56). The powers of inquisitors were greatly reduced. Secular authorities become increasingly assertive with time, and inquisitors could not do all they wanted.

Spanish inquisition

Before Ferdinand and Isabella assumed power in Spain, the country was wracked by religious divisions and political infighting. To unify the county, the two chose Catholicism as the vehicle to unite the county. In pursuant of this objective, they started the Spanish inquisition in 1478.

The rulers of Spain obtained papal authority to deal with false converts. Permission was granted in 1478 by pope Sixtus IV. Inquisitors were however named two years later.

Inquisition was initially restricted to Seville and Cordoba. By 1482, inquisition tribunals had been established in the major cities of Castile (Lang 68). Inquisition was met with hostility in Aragon, but was established despite protestations. Opposition continued until the murder of inquisitor Pedro Arbues in Zaragoza. This murder turned public opinion against conversos, who were the targets of inquisition (Macdonald 74). In Aragon, conversos were influential in state affairs and inquisition ending their power completely.

After the fall of Granada, Ferdinand and Isabella expelled Jews from Spain. This was ostensibly done to protect the conversos from being seduced back to Judaism by the Jews. Most of these expelled Jews escaped to Portugal where they were later kicked out.

Later during the reign of Charles I, persecution of Protestants was stepped up. Many protestant reformers were put in prison and suffered horribly. Inquisition aimed at protestant was intense in Valladolid and Seville (Deane 150). Executions were however limited because protestants in Spain were not many.

Inquisition in Spain took an active part in preventing the ideas of reformation spreading in Spain. A list of prohibited work was released, which included vernacular translation of the bible.

Converted Muslims in Granada, Valencia, and Aragon, known as moriscos, were also targeted for inquisition. Because former Muslims were drawn from former ruling class in conquered territories, their persecution was not as rigorous. Towards the end of 16th century, this policy changed and mosriscos started to be aggressively targeted. By 1614, a lot of mosriscos were expelled from Spain to cure the permanent tension brought about by the large numbers of mosriscos (Macdonald 41).

Influence of Isabella and Ferdinand on the Spanish Inquisition

Ferdinand and Isabella took a county that was fractured along religious lines. They both used their influence on pope to get permission to start inquisition. At that time, Rome was under constant threat from ottoman Turkey. Spanish forces protected Rome.

Ferdinand and Isabella threatened to withdraw Spanish troops if the pope did not allow inquisition. Their goal was to unite Spain around Catholic Church. Religious suspicion that led them to start inquisition made the mosriscos to be expelled completely from Spain in the 17th century (Macdonald 59).

The practice and motive for the inquisition

Inquisition as conducted in Spain was not different from other areas of Europe. The inquisitor held wide powers in dealing with Protestants, moriscos, or conversos. They had power to summon suspects, hold them in detentions, and eventually pass sentence (Sabatini 130). Inquisition was set up to achieve a number of goals some of which were:

Achieve religious and political unity

Ferdinand and Isabella understood that religious diversity was a threat to their own position. Inquisition allowed them to manage religious affairs of the Spain without the interference from the pope (Sabatini 100). Also, through inquisition, they meddled with religious affairs without appearing to doing so.

Strengthen political positions of the rulers

Inquisition is Spain was also started to strengthen political positions of Isabella and Ferdinand. Moriscos and conversos were powerful minorities politically and if left intact, could have undermined the position of the monarchs (Deane 215). Therefore, inquisition was a clever ploy to destroy political opposition to the king and the queen.

To expel powerful groups such as conversos

In Aragon, conversos were powerful, and were a threat to the king.

Economic consideration

Inquisition led to expulsion of many rich coversos and mosriscos who were rich. Their riches were taken up by the rulers.

Conclusion

Religious turmoil in Europe, powerful church, weak secular rulers, and widespread illiteracy made possible the Spanish inquisition. Isabella and Ferdinand cleverly used inquisition to unite the country and strengthen their own positions. Economically, the county lost is most enterprising citizens. Psychologically, however, defeat of Muslims and the new found Spanish unity brought a sense of confidence, and this explain the pioneering role of Spain in exploration and conquest on the new world.

Works Cited

Deane, Jennifer Kolpacoff. A history of medieval heresy and inquisition. Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield, 2011. Print.

Kamen, Henry Arthur Francis. The Spanish inquisition: a historical revision. New Haven: Yale university press, 1997. Print.

Lang, Sean. European history for dummies. 2nd ed. Chichester: John Wiley, 2011. Print.

Lea, Henry Charles. A history of the Inquisition of the Middle Ages. Cambridge [England: Cambridge University Press, 2010. Print.

Macdonald, Eugene Montague. A short history of the Inquisition, what it was and what it did, to which is appended an account of persecutions by Protestants, persecutions of witches, the war between religion and science, and the attitude of the American churches toward African slaver. Whitefish, MT: Kessingger Pub., 2009. Print.

Peters, Edward. Inquisition. Berkeley: University of California Press, 19891988. Print.

Perez, Joseph. The Spanish Inquisition: a history. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2005. Print.

Sabatini, Rafael. Torquemada and the Spanish Inquisition: a history. S.l.: Kessinger Pub., 2000. Print.

Thomsett, Michael C.. The Inquisition: a history. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Co., 2010. Print.

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IvyPanda. 2018. "The early inquisition in the Iberian peninsular." November 11, 2018. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-early-inquisition-in-the-iberian-peninsular/.

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