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After the papacy of Clement VII —34 , priests and bishops were at times judged by the Inquisition. In procedure the Spanish Inquisition was much like the medieval inquisition. Torquemada used torture and confiscation to terrorize his victims, and his methods were the product of a time when judicial procedure was cruel by design. The condemned were presented before a large crowd that often included royalty, and the proceedings had a ritualized, almost festive, quality.

In he ordered the proscription of Islam in Granada , the last of the Muslim kingdoms in Spain to fall to the Reconquista. Muslims in Valencia and Aragon were subjected to forced conversion in , and Islam was subsequently banned in Spain.

The Inquisition then devoted its attention to the Moriscos , Spanish Muslims who had previously accepted baptism. Expressions of Morisco culture were forbidden by Philip II in , and within three years, persecution by the Inquisition gave way to open warfare between the Moriscos and the Spanish crown. The Moriscos were driven from Granada in , and by some , had been expelled from Spain entirely. When the Reformation began to penetrate into Spain, the relatively few Spanish Protestants were eliminated by the Inquisition. Foreigners suspected of promoting Protestant faiths within Spain met similarly violent ends.

Having largely purged the country of Jews and Muslims—as well as many former members of those faiths who had converted to Christianity—the Spanish Inquisition turned its attention to prominent Roman Catholics. Under the supreme council of the Spanish Inquisition were 14 local tribunals in Spain and several in the colonies; the tribunals in Mexico and Peru were particularly harsh.

The Spanish Inquisition spread into Sicily in , but efforts to set it up in Naples and Milan failed. Ironically, the well-established bureaucratic structure of the Inquisition would help insulate Spain from the effects of ad hoc witchcraft trials that swept Europe and claimed tens of thousands of lives in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. The Spanish Inquisition was suppressed by Joseph Bonaparte in , restored by Ferdinand VII in , suppressed in , restored in , and finally suppressed permanently in The Portuguese Inquisition was suppressed in We welcome suggested improvements to any of our articles.

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See Article History. Top Questions. Read more below: Timeline of the Spanish Inquisition. Catholic Monarchs. Monty Python's Flying Circus. Read More on This Topic. With its large Muslim and Jewish populations, medieval Spain was the only multiracial and multireligious country in western Europe, and…. Start Your Free Trial Today. Execution was public.

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If the condemned repented he was garroted before giving his body to the flames. If not, they were burned alive. Frequently, cases judged in absentia, or in which the accused died before the trial finished, the condemned were burned in effigy. The distribution of the punishments varied much over time. It is believed that sentences of death were frequent mainly in the first stage of the history of the Inquisition.

Unlike their medieval predecessor, however, the Spanish and Portuguese Inquisitions were controlled by the crown, and in Italy, there was considerable secular oversight as well, except in the Papal States. In Spain, Ferdinand created a government board, the Council of the Supreme and General Inquisition, which established policies and procedures, oversaw the appointment of officials and functioning of tribunals throughout the Spanish realms, and served as the court of appeals. Until , the number and territories of the Spanish districts fluctuated considerably; thereafter they remained stable at fourteen peninsular tribunals and four island tribunals Mallorca, Sardinia , Sicily, and the Canaries.

Additional tribunals were added as the empire expanded: Mexico, Lima, Cartagena de Indias, Manila , and finally, the royal court at Madrid. Portugal's Inquisition was also placed under the direction of a royal board, known as the General Council. In Italy, the papacy attempted to exert some control over the Inquisitions outside the Papal States; this process culminated in the establishment of the Congregazione del Sant' Ufficio in As was the case in Portugal and Spain, the Congregation functioned as the supreme appellate court for the tribunals in Italy.

In each of the states with Inquisitions, the network of local tribunals followed the preexisting structure of bishoprics. Thanks to a shared legal tradition, the operation of the Inquisition in each area was similar. Strict guidelines established the qualifications for various members of the tribunal.

Inquisitors had to be at least forty years old, licentiates or doctors in theology or canon law. After the fifteenth century, few Spanish inquisitors were drawn from the religious orders such as the Dominicans, who had once dominated the medieval institution. Comisarios were drawn from the local secular clergy, and familiars were laymen of uncontested Christian ancestry.

Portugal's tribunals were structured along the same lines, while in Italy, often only one inquisitor led the court in Iberia there were two , while the local legal representatives, known as vicarii, held more power than their Iberian counterparts. Unlike their Iberian counterparts, both the inquisitors and the vicars came from the ranks of the regular religious orders, primarily the Dominicans and Franciscans.


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A tribunal generated its cases in a variety of ways. The standard method was for the inquisitor to go on a visitation of his district. First, the inquisitor would issue the Edict of Grace, a sermon that defined the heresies sought after and promised leniency for those who confessed within thirty days. The follow-up sermon, the Edict of Faith, offered no leniency but continued the exhortations to confess. Voting members of the tribunal would examine the resulting confessions and issue a warrant for arrest.

Once detained, the prisoner disappeared to the outside world: in order to inspire fear and prevent reprisals, the courts attempted to conduct their business in the strictest secrecy. Similar secrecy within the proceedings kept the prisoner at a disadvantage. Not until well into the trial did the prisoner learn the charges against him, and never was the accused allowed to know who had given evidence against him—or, once freed, to speak about his experiences. With the inquisitor acting as both judge and investigator, the prosecution presented its case first, and the defendant, with the aid of a court-appointed lawyer, could respond.

At this point, if the defendant's confession was not seen as sufficient, the tribunal would vote on the question of torture: what kind and how much. In reality, torture was employed rarely in less than 3 percent of cases and frequently was overcome. The large majority of cases ended in guilty verdicts. An important tool of the Iberian Inquisition was public humiliation: those convicted of serious offenses were required to wear the sanbenito, a distinctive outer tunic that was also displayed in the convict's parish church.

Abolition came slowly, with the advance of the Enlightenment and then French troops to southern Europe. Generally, the Italian tribunals were disbanded between and , and the Iberian ones disappeared between and , although the Spanish and American tribunals effectively ended operation in The fate of each tribunal's archives is capricious: some survive virtually intact, while others disappeared during the Napoleonic Wars.

Considerable controversy exists over how many individuals were tried and executed by the courts, but the loss of so many records makes precise accounting impossible. A survey of nineteen Spanish tribunals from to yielded 49, cases. The Portuguese Inquisition tried 44, cases between and , the most active court being Goa. Naples between and tried 3, cases, and Venice between and tried 3, cases. The death sentence was invoked in less than 5 percent of all trials. In Spain and Portugal the first victims were conversos, many of whom were sentenced to death often in absentia , while the Italian courts pursued Protestants.

With time, the tribunals changed their focus and moderated their severity: in Spain, converted Muslims Moriscos , homosexuals, Protestants, witches, and ordinary Spaniards guilty of making crude theological statements all at some point became the focus of the tribunals' attention. Indeed, relatively minor crimes such as blasphemy accounted for much of the Spanish Inquisition's caseload. In addition to punishing religious crimes, all of the Inquisitions were responsible for enforcing censorship of printed materials and searching for contraband. Institutional Structure and Procedure.

Philadelphia: and Beinart, Haim. Jerusalem: — Idem, Conversos on Trial. Jerusalem: Cohen, Martin A.


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