European History - The Spanish Inquisition


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The Spanish Inquisition


This paper will attempt to accurately examine the development of the Spanish Inquisition, from the spread of the Inquisition into the Spanish territories through the ultimate upheaval, and the initial dissolvement, of the authority it held over the public who feared it. It will endeavor to show the implications of the Spanish Inquisition and how it was ultimately used as a device in its own undoing. Such an examination helps to explain the use of Church authority in secular governing, and later the separating of the Church from the crown. The paper will also take a closer look at this racial injustice in an attempt helping to see just how this may happen again if not understood and foreseen.
The Church since its origins has suffered from the attack of heretics and their heresies, which have, caused many controversies and schisms within it. The Spanish Inquisition was independent of the medieval Inquisition, which evolved in the Middle Ages as an effective means of coping with the problem of heresy, which became a serious menace to the Catholic Church in the twelfth century. The fame of the Spanish Inquisition, as Ferdinand and Isabella established it at the close of the fifteenth century, was directed at Jewish merchant and Muslim traders, even under reluctant approval of Sixtus IV. The literal meaning of the word heretics is choosing, selecting beliefs outside or of different religions instead of accepting obediently the whole faith of the Catholic Church. Although, no authorities could completely agree on how to deal with the so-called problem of heretics, they did all agree that it had to be dealt with. A heretic is a highly unpopular person in a Middle Age town, the heretic is, then, seen as an equal to any common criminal, a rebel, and a pariah. Both civil and church authorities can run an inquisition in order to root out non-believers from a nation or religion in the wake of the decline of the Roman Empire.

The Spanish Inquisition was used for both political and religious reasons and founded by the Catholic Kings in 1478 . Spain at the time was a nation-state that was born out of religious struggle between numerous different belief systems including Catholicism, Islam, Protestant and Judaism. Following the Crusades and the Reconquest of Spain by the Christian Spaniards the leaders of Spain needed a way to unify the country into a strong nation.

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Under the reign of Henry IV, the central and southern parts of the peninsula, populated largely by non-Christians: Muslims and Jews. A series of economic and natural catastrophes beginning in the mid-fourteenth century, from the Black Death of 1348-1349 on, increased widespread resentment against the tax collectors, whose positions happened to be performed by the Jews and Muslims which the Christian population was unwilling to undertake . Eventual build-up of these anti-Jewish feelings made the Jews (and Muslims) targets of a number of urban revolts and demonstrations.

When these racial injustices were committed, large numbers of the Jewish populations were killed, driven into the countryside, or forced to convert to Christianity. The population, who converted them, as a mocking term of distaste, later referred to these forced converts as conversos. Although most of the conversions were forced, Christian canon law held that even forced conversion was biding, and the conversos, against their will or not, were now to be held fully accountable and privileged members of the Spanish Christian society in which they lived.


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