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About Tomás de Torquemada
Tomás de Torquemada, O.P. (1420 – September 16, 1498) was a 15th-century Spanish Dominican friar and the first Grand Inquisitor in Spain's movement to restore Christianity among its populace in the late 15th century. As well as being the Grand Inquisitor, Torquemada was also the confessor to Isabella I of Castile. He is notorious for his zealous campaign against the crypto-Jews and crypto-Muslims of Spain. He was one of the chief supporters of the Alhambra Decree, which expelled the Jews from Spain in 1492. About 2,000 people were burned at the stake by the Spanish Inquisition between 1480 and 1530. In modern times, his name has become synonymous with the Christian Inquisition’s horror, religious bigotry, and cruel fanaticism.
Tomás de Torquemada was born in Valladolid, Castile-León, Spain. He was the nephew of a celebrated theologian and cardinal, Juan de Torquemada, who himself was a descendant of a converso (someone who had converted to Christianity from Islam or Judaism).
Tomás de Torquemada entered the local Dominican monastery of San Pablo at a very young age. As a zealous advocate of church orthodoxy, Torquemada earned a solid reputation for the triple virtues of learning, piety, and austerity. As a result, he was chosen to be prior of the monastery of Santa Cruz at Segovia. During this time, Torquemada met the young Princess Isabella I and the two immediately established good relations. For a number of years, Torquemada served as her regular confessor and personal advisor. He was present at Isabella’s coronation in 1474, and remained her closest ally and supporter. Torquemada even advised her to marry King Ferdinand of Aragon in 1469 in order to consolidate their kingdoms and form a power base that he could draw upon for his own purposes. In 1492, he was one of the chief supporters of the Alhambra Decree, which resulted in the mass expulsion of Jews from Spain.
Establishment of the Holy Office of the Inquisition
Torquemada's concern towards the Spanish Jews grew as he perceived them gaining increasing religious influence on and economic domination of Spain; he firmly believed that the Jews were undermining the Sovereigns’ power and, even more important, the Catholic religion. King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella agreed, and so implored Pope Sixtus IV to grant their request for a Holy Office to administer an inquisition in Spain. The pope having granted their request, the Holy Office was established late in 1478.
The pope appointed a number of inquisitors for the Spanish Kingdoms early in the year of 1482, and Torquemada was one of them. A year later, he was named Grand Inquisitor of Spain, which he remained to his death in 1498, leaving to posterity an extraordinary picture of absolute devotion and apostolic implacability. In the fifteen years of his direction, the Spanish Inquisition grew from the single tribunal at Seville to a network of two dozen 'Holy Offices'.
As the Grand Inquisitor, Torquemada reorganized the Spanish Inquisition, which had been set up in Castile in 1478, establishing tribunals at Sevilla (Seville), Jaén, Córdoba, Ciudad Real, and, later, Zaragoza. Torquemada’s quest was to rid Spain of all heresy. Jewish conversos and Marranos (Jews who converted to Christianity, but continued practicing their religion in secret) all fell prey to his fanatical hunt for heretics. Torquemada and his followers accused the marranos of proselytizing to Christian communities. Consequently, Torquemada urged all Catholics to spy on the marranos. Torquemada was described by the Spanish chronicler Sebastián de Olmedo as "the hammer of heretics, the light of Spain, the saviour of his country, the honour of his order".
In 1484, he promulgated 28 articles for the guidance of inquisitors, whose competence was extended to include not only crimes of heresy and apostasy, but also sorcery, sodomy, polygamy, blasphemy, usury, and other offenses; torture was authorized in order to obtain evidence. These articles were supplemented by others promulgated between 1484 and 1498. Known for an extreme devotion to his cause, and loyalty to his patrons, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, Torquemada headed an organization of ecclesiastical courts which imprisoned, tortured, and burned suspected nonbelievers at the stake. The number of burnings at the stake during Torquemada’s tenure is estimated at about 2,000. Torquemada’s implacable hostility to the Jews probably exercised an influence on the decision of Ferdinand and Isabella to expel from their dominions all Jews who had not embraced Christianity. Under the edict of March 31, 1492, known as the Alhambra Decree, more than 40,000 Jews left Spain. Accusations of excess regarding the Spanish Inquisition can be supported by reference to a papal bull by Pope Sixtus IV dating from early 1482 (before Torquemada's appointment as Grand Inquisitor), affirming that, many true and faithful Christians, because of the testimony of enemies, rivals, slaves and other low people—and still less appropriate—without tests of any kind, have been locked up in secular prisons, tortured and condemned like relapsed heretics, deprived of their goods and properties, and given over to the secular arm to be executed, at great danger to their souls, giving a pernicious example and causing scandal to many.
Torquemada, for the first while, improved the procedures of previous inquisitions by moderating the (then widespread) use of torture. Torture was to be used only against those accused who were denounced by two or more people of good nature. The use of torture was intensified only if the accused refused to confess. However, Torquemada showed no mercy to those who refused to repent. Many people were thrown into prison and remained there until death. Many others were either publicly beheaded or burned at the stake. Those condemned to death were forced to wear a sambenito, a black cloak that had designs of hell’s flames or sometimes demons, dragons and snakes engraved on it. Every Spanish Christian over the age of twelve (for girls) and fourteen (for boys) was accountable to the Inquisition. The Inquisition only held jurisdiction over those who had converted to Christianity from Judaism or Islam but who were suspected of secretly practising their old rites, as this corrupted the pure doctrine and faithful practice of the Christian faith. Forced conversions by large numbers, as ordered by cardinal fray Francisco Jiménez de Cisneros, took place under significant government pressure. The Treaty of Granada (1491), as negotiated at the final surrender of the Muslim state of Al-Andalus, issued clear protection of religious rights, but with the Alhambra Decree (1492) the reversal began.
Anyone who spoke against the Inquisition could fall under suspicion – as with the saints Teresa of Ávila and John of the Cross. Although the Inquisition is often viewed as being directed against Jews, it actually had no jurisdiction or authority over unconverted Jews or Muslims, and never claimed to have any; only baptised Christians—in other words, persons who claimed to be Catholics—faced possible investigation. Furthermore, of those called to appear before the Holy Office, most were released after their first hearing without any further incident.
There is slight disagreement as to the number of victims of the Spanish Inquisition during Torquemada's reign as its Grand Inquisitor. Some scholars believe that he was responsible for the death of 2,000 people. Hernando del Pulgar, Queen Isabella’s secretary, wrote that 2,000 executions took place throughout the entirety of her reign which extended well beyond the death of Torquemada.
During his final years, Torquemada’s failing health and advancing age, coupled with widespread complaints, caused Pope Alexander VI to appoint four assistant inquisitors in June 1494 to restrain the Spanish Inquisition. After 15 years as Spain's Grand Inquisitor, Torquemada died in the monastery of St. Thomas in Ávila in 1498. In 1832, Torquemada's tomb was ransacked, his bones stolen and burnt to ashes.
For his role in the Spanish Inquisition, Torquemada's name has become synonymous with fanaticism in the service of the Catholic religion. Within his own order, Torquemada was influential as visitator of the reformed Dominican priories of Aragon (1481–88), and his interest in the arts is evidenced in the monastery of St. Thomas at Ávila, where he died. In his private life, Torquemada seems to have been pious and austere, but his official career as an inquisitor was marked by a harsh intransigence, which nevertheless was generally supported by public opinion, at least in the early years. Eventually, Torquemada garnered so much hatred that he traveled with a bodyguard of 50 mounted guards and 250 armed men.
Secrecy being one of the keys to the workings of the Inquisition, Torquemada's manual of instructions to the Inquisition (Copilacion de las Instruciones del Offico de la Sancta Inquisicion) did not appear in print publicly until 1576, when it was published in Madrid.
Torquemada appears to have had Jewish ancestry: the contemporary historian Hernando del Pulgar (himself a converso) recorded that Torquemada's uncle, Juan de Torquemada, had an ancestor Alvar Fernández de Torquemada married to a first-generation Jewish conversa: "sus abuelos fueron de linage de los convertidos a nuestra santa fe católica" (translates as "his grandparents were amongst those converted to our Holy Catholic Faith").
According to biographer Thomas Hope's book, Torquemada, too, Torquemada's grandmother was a conversa.
Torquemada in fiction
- ▪ Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov features a famous parable involving Christ coming back to Seville in the days of the Spanish Inquisition, and being confronted by Torquemada as the Grand Inquisitor.
- ▪ Torquemada, a play by Victor Hugo.
- ▪ Torquemada, an opera by Zoltan Demme based on the above play by Victor Hugo.
- ▪ Torquemada, an opera by Nino Rota based on a libretto by Ernesto Trucchi.
- ▪ "Torquemada", The Theologian's Tale from Part One of Tales of a Wayside Inn, by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.
- ▪ In Stuart Gordon's 1990 film adaptation of The Pit and the Pendulum, Lance Henriksen portrays Torquemada.
- ▪ Marlon Brando portrayed Torquemada in the 1992 film Christopher Columbus: The Discovery.
- ▪ Tomás de Torquemada is one of the main protagonists of Jerzy Andrzejewski's novel And Darkness Covered the Earth (also translated as The Inquisitors).
- ▪ Tomás de Torquemada is one of the main characters of Gilbert Sinoué's novel Le livre de saphir.
- ▪ Mel Brooks portrayed Torquemada in the musical song "The Inquisition" in the 1981 comedy movie History of the World, Part I. During the scene about the Spanish Inquisition, an inquisitor introduces Torquemada by saying, "Torquemada – do not implore him for compassion. Torquemada – do not beg him for forgiveness. Torquemada – do not ask him for mercy. Let's face it, you can't Torquemada ('talk him out of') anything!"
- 1. ^ Henry Kamen,Inkwizycja Hiszpańska, Państwowy Instytut Wydawniczy, 2005, p. 62; Helen Rawlings, The Spanish Inquisition, 2004, p. 15; William Monter, Anticlericalism and the early Spanish Inquisition, [in:] Anticlericalism in Late Medieval and Early Modern Europe, BRILL, 1993, p. 238
- 2. ^ see Longhurst
- 3. ^ Cited in Kamen, The Spanish Inquisition: A Historical Revision, p. 49.
- ▪ Rafael Sabatini, Torquemada and the Spanish Inquisition, (Bretano's 1913; reprinted BiblioLife, 2009). # Paperback: 304 pages, Publisher: House of Stratus; New edition edition (31 May 2001) # Language English # ISBN 1-84232-834-4 # ISBN 978-1-84232-834-7
- ▪ William Thomas Walsh, Characters of the Inquisition, (Tan Books and Publishers, 1987). ISBN 0-89555-326-0 .
- ▪ Henry Kamen, The Spanish Inquisition: A Historical Revision, (Yale University Press, 1999). ISBN 0-300-07880-3.
- ▪ Alphonsus Maria Duran, Why Apologize for the Spanish Inquisition?, (Eric Gladkowski,Ed., 2000). ISBN 0-9702235-0-1.
- ▪ Enid A. Goldberg & Norman Itzkowitz, "Tomas de Torquemada" (A Wicked History), (Scholastic Books, 2008) ISBN 1-4351-0322-X . Norman Itzkowitz (1931 - ),
- ▪ Thomas Torquemada, article in 1911 Britannica.
- ▪ Tomás de Torquemada.
- ▪ The Age of Torquemada, by John Edward Longhurst (1962).
- ▪ Henry Charles Lea, The history of the Inquisition of Spain, (Macmillan, 1906–07) Wikisource:A History of the Inquisition of the Middle Ages/Volume I
- ▪ Letters on the Spanish Inquisition by Joseph de Maistre.
- ▪ The Scales of Good and Evil by Cliff Pickover.