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The Spanish Inquisition

The word “inquisition” means to examine. Inquisitors would “examine” suspected Heretics, people whose ideas do not match those of the Roman Catholic Church, and punish them accordingly. This included torture and burning. The great inquisition movement that took place in Spain, or Hispania as it was called before Spain united. It was called The Spanish Inquisition. It took place for approximately five hundred years, from the late 15th century to mid 19th century. Many ironic elements were involved in the history of the Inquisition.

The Spanish Inquisition lasted longer than any other preceding it, and was the most cruel, bloodthirsty, and festive of all. The objective of the inquisition, in its early state, was to convert all Jews into Christians, but later it mutated into an ugly machine who’s new objective was to rid the country of the newly converted Christians. In an age where there was such a close bond between church and state, opposition to the church was intolerable. The Inquisition caused Spain to become intellectually backward, and economically and industrially damaged.

The powerful influence of the Inquisition forbade social influences, such as books from other parts of Europe, to enter Spain. Consequently, the universities remained stagnant, unable to produce graduates understanding the world around them. from the lack of information on the other civilizations in the rest of Europe. As a result of this, they came into the 20th century intellectually inferior and bankrupt. With the banished, tortured, and persecuted heretics in mind, it is possible that the Spanish Inquisition is perhaps one of the most cruel acts performed on innocent people in the name of religion.

Before the Spanish Inquisition took place, several other inquisition movements appeared, but none quite so barbaric and brutal as the Spaniard’s did. Waves of opposition towards the church swept Europe in the Middle Ages. In the 12th century, it was a modern belief that a peaceful, utopian government could be obtained if all of the population of the society were “pure” and Catholic The Medieval Inquisition started in France and Italy. During this time a group of people called the Albigensies lived in northern Italy and southern France.

They had established a religion called Manichaeanism, which was the belief in two gods, one for good and one for evil. Pope Gregory IX felt that it was right to establish the Inquisition as a church law to rid the Holy Roman Empire from the Albigensies in 1231 AD. This was the start of the first inquisition. After that, it was a common practice in much of Europe to take Heretics before a trial, then inflict torture on them forcing them to convert. Those that did not convert were sent to a public burning or hanging.

In 1252 AD, Pope Innocent IV agreed to use inquisitors to torture sinners who would not repent their sins and confess. By the fifteen hundreds, the Inquisition became corrupt, powerful, and greedy. In the late 15th century, Spain gained its freedom from the Moors. They were Islamic North African people that were and controlled much of Spain. The wealthy, educated Jewish population financially assisted the monarchy to regain Spain from the Moors. Large prosperous Jewish communities existed in Spain.

They were respected, unlike other areas of Europe where the Jews were persecuted and victims of organized massacres. In Spain, they remained the financial and scientific leaders in the 15th century. Many of Jews married into Catholic families, consequently, many of Spain’s Christian leaders were of Jewish descent. As Spain became a unified country, many Hispanics forgot the services from which the Jewish had provided them. The economy plummeted, and to many, the Jews became a scapegoat.

They became targets for bigotry. Stories were created to lessen the Jews image. These stories included Jews murdering innocent Christian children. Such legends fueled the expulsion of the Jews from France and England, and then the later expulsion from Spain in 1492 AD. In fear of persecution, thousands of Jews flocked to churches to convert to Christianity. The government of Spain started raiding Jewish communities, in search of wealth plunder. The new groups of newly converted Christians were called Marranos.

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