edieval Spain was divided for many years between Muslims and Christians. Around 1250 the Christians ruled most of Iberia except for the Moorish Kingdom of Granada. The Christians were basically divided into three Kingdoms: Castile (north and central), Portugal (west) and Aragon (northeast). In 1469 Ferdinand II of Aragon married Isabella I of Castile. Their marriage created more or less modern Spain. Together, as a united front, both Kingdoms started a war with the Moorish Kingdom in 1482, which ended with a win over the Moors on 2 January 1492.
Meanwhile, on 1 November 1478 Pope Sixtus IV gave his approval, in a bull named ‘Exigit Sinceras Devotionis Affectus’, to the rulers of the newly united kingdom of Spain to establish the Spanish Inquisition. They preferred to have only one religion in their Kingdom and choose Catholicism. The initial goal of the Spanish Inquisition was to make sure that converted Muslims and Jews practiced Catholicism correctly. On 31 March 1492 (Alhambra Decree) and on 14 February 1502 two royal decrees were issued to order mainly Muslims and Jews to become Catholic or leave the country. On August 1492 many Jews were forced to leave Spain as they refused to be baptized.
Everybody suspected of heresy, even if you were converted, would be investigated. Marrano (Spanish for pig) Jews were Jews who had converted to Catholicism to avoid being persecuted, but many continued to practice Kabbalism or Judaism in secret, were targeted as well. This also goes for converted Muslims called Moriscos.
During the Counter-Reformation, around 1540, the Spanish Protestants where the next group to be targeted.
When found guilty, you would be imprisoned and your property confiscated to cover the legal and prison costs. Torture was not uncommon to force confessions. In some cases even the death penalty could be given. However according to the Church only a mere 0.1% of all trials end with the death penalty given.
The Spanish Inquisition was officially abolished in July 1834 by royal decree.
It is well known that Religion is used as a means of control. During all these years of Inquisition, the Catholic Church used their power mainly to control other minded people to convert.
However do remember that these were different times. There was a real threat from outside Europe from the Islam. For example Granada in Spain was a Moorish colony and only liberated after almost 800 years in 1492. Besides this one, there also have many crusades to liberate Jerusalem and to deny Islam from spreading
To keep the peace within, the Catholic Church might have seen it necessary to enforce Catholicism over other religions, even if the differences between them was small. It might have been to risky to leave other religions be, with the risk of dividing Europe and ‘invite’ Islam in.To the question if the Inquisitions were as bad as the Protestants want us to believe, or not all that bad but necessary as the Church wants us to believe, is a the truth most likely somewhere in the middle.
We do see that the Reformation caused division, but at the same time religion became less important and the state took over control to protect the borders.
Next Story: Reformation
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Read Again: Medieval Inquisition