14
TWILIGHT OF THE HOLY OFFICE

In a nation like Spain there are many nations, so intermingled that the original one can no longer be recognized. Israel, by contrast, is one people among many, one even though scattered, and in all places separate and distinct.

—ISAAC CARDOSO, THE EXCELLENCES OF THE JEWS, 1679

The large number of judaizing cases with which the Inquisition dealt in the early years of the sixteenth century marked the end of the generation of ex-Jews who had had direct acquaintance with the Mosaic law taught before 1492. Anyone punished for judaizing in 1532 at the age of fifty would have been ten years old in 1492, old enough to remember the Jewish environment and practice of his family. Approximately after the 1530s, this generation and its memories disappeared. The figures suggest that from 1531 to 1560 possibly only 3 percent of the cases dealt with by the tribunal of Toledo concerned judaizers.1

For the rest of the sixteenth century Spain was, with a few exceptions, no longer conscious of a judaizing problem. By the 1540s conversos had virtually disappeared from Inquisition trials.2 In many sectors of public life, particularly in the early part of the century, there was little discrimination against conversos. Samuel Abolafia, who returned voluntarily to Spain in 1499 and became a Christian as Diego Gomez, became integrated into Old Christian society despite a brush with the Inquisition.3 Feeling against people of Jewish origin showed itself more in prejudice than in persecution. Anti-Semitism existed, as in other European states, but the discriminatory statutes of limpieza were seldom enforced and seem to have had little impact. There were attempts to restrict socially damaging aspects of anti-Semitism. It was, as we have seen, a common insult in Spain to call someone a Jew. The Inquisition tried to stamp on the practice. The aggrieved party could take his case to the Holy Office as the body best qualified to examine his genealogy, disprove the accusation publicly, and thus uphold his “honor.” By the 1580s, as the growing feeling against statutes of limpieza shows, anti-Semitic prejudice was itself being called in question. It was a key argument of Salucio that judaizers had almost totally disappeared from the realm, “and although there are signs that some remain, it is undeniable that in general there is no fear or suspicion of them.” He may have been optimistic, but the phrase “no fear or suspicion” in a document that received the approval of the crown, the inquisitor general and the Cortes of Castile, cannot be taken lightly. Other writers admitted that most conversos were now peaceful and reliable Christians. Diego Serrano de Silva in 1623 argued: “we see by the experience of many years that families of this race are at heart thorough Christians, devout and pious, giving their daughters to convents, their sons to the priesthood.”

Many conversos of course retained their hatred for the Inquisition. In 1528 in Catalonia the tribunal arrested a man for distributing a manuscript which accused the Inquisition of lies, perjury, murder, robbery and raping women in prison. His offense, we should note, was also an offense against public law, which prohibited the distribution of slanders. In 1567 in Badajoz the inquisitors seized a notice that had been posted up in public and stated that “the property of every New Christian is at risk, six years from today not a single one will be left to arrest.”4 We cannot doubt that in many corners of Spain there were groups of families who led crypto-Jewish lives, generation after generation, but we venture into the world of make-believe when we imagine—as some writers do—the survival of a Jewish underground that managed somehow both to remain submerged and to dominate Castilian culture in the early modern period.

By and large the conversos, if we follow the testimony of witnesses such as Serrano de Silva, appeared to be integrated. In 1570 when an inquisitor of Cuenca was asked to go on a visit of his district, he preferred not to visit the areas of Castile, “where, by the grace of God, it is believed that there are no heretics,” but instead towards the Morisco areas near Aragon.5 Most conversos seem to have felt no affinity with their distant origins. Occasional problems might be caused by the limpieza regulations where they existed, but these were commonly overcome. In Fregenal de la Sierra (Extremadura) most of the townspeople were conversos and therefore conveniently swore to each other’s Old Christian credentials. The inquisitor reported that the people apparently believed sincerely that baptism made one automatically into an Old Christian. During an inquisitorial visit in 1576, he said, over four hundred false witnesses to proofs of limpieza were found, and “most of those who go to America from this district are conversos.”6Higher up in elite society, where there was more contempt for limpieza, false testimonials were winked at and some conversos had little difficulty in making their way. The wealthy Márquez Cardoso family, for example, employed agents of Old Christian origin and noble rank to swear to their limpieza.7

There continued, however, to be judaizers. For the most part, it is difficult to describe them as Jews, since their heresies owed more to strong family and community traditions than to active Jewish belief.8 Most external signs of Judaism had disappeared. Circumcision was no longer practiced, since children were liable to discovery; synagogues or meeting places were no longer possible; the sabbath was normally not observed, though token observances might be made or observance even moved to a different day; the great festivals of the year were not celebrated, though there appears to have been a general preference to celebrate at least one—the fast of Esther. Many learned to eat the forbidden foods since there was no better way of dissimulation. Judaizers of the late sixteenth and early seventeenth century were often unrecognizable as Jews. Those who clung fast to their identity, nevertheless, maintained an ineradicable faith in the one God of Israel, passed down from father to son the few traditional prayers they could remember and used the Catholic Old Testament as their basic reading.

Occasionally, the capacity to conserve age-old beliefs and customs was astonishing. One such survival group was discovered in 1588 in the heart of Castile, in and around the town of Quintanar de la Orden (La Mancha).9 Over a period of several months, culminating in autos de fe in 1590–92, a hundred people here of pure Castilian origin were identified and punished as judaizers. They managed, without access to outside contact or their own sacred texts, to preserve faithfully (in Castilian) the key rituals and prayers of Judaism. A number of other cases came to light in the south of the peninsula in the last decade of the sixteenth century. An auto at Toledo on 9 June 1591 included twenty-seven judaizers, of whom one was relaxed in person and two in effigy (these were from the Quintanar case). In that year 1591 a number of denunciations were made in the tribunal of Granada. “In this case,” the inquisitors reported, “up to now 173 judaizers have been discovered, without counting the deceased, and every day more are being discovered.”10The accused were natives of the region and mostly women. Their Mosaic practices were purely residual, transmitted stubbornly over two generations by the women.11 A large auto was held in Granada on 27 May 1593, with 102 penitents, 89 of them alleged judaizers. Further accused from the same case were displayed in the auto there on 25 October 1595, with 77 penitents, of whom 59 were alleged judaizers. An auto at Seville in 1595 included 89 judaizers.12

However, the high degree of integration of conversos calls seriously in question any attempt to identify them as a separate religious identity within the population.13 The Inquisition of this period, if we may judge by its edicts of faith, had a somewhat confused image of the type of offense committed by alleged judaizers. In the late fifteenth century and the early sixteenth, edicts issued by distinct tribunals listed the offenses that could be identified. By around 1630 the Holy Office settled for a single standard edict, common to all the tribunals.14 The text of this edict, whether through the sloth or the ignorance of the inquisitors, described judaizing practices as they may possibly have been identified around the year 1490, but which a century and a half later were evidently no longer practiced as stated. The edicts issued in the seventeenth century described full Jewish customs, when common sense indicated that only an utterly crazy judaizer would have openly practiced any of them. A typical edict, evidently using text dating from a century before, contains the following passage inviting people to identify judaizers in their midst:

If you know or have heard of anyone who keeps the Sabbath according to the law of Moses, putting on clean sheets and other new garments, and putting clean cloths on the table and clean sheets on the bed on feast-days in honor of the Sabbath, and using no lights from Friday evening onwards; or if they have purified the meat they are to eat by bleeding it in water; or have cut the throats of cattle or birds they are eating, uttering certain words and covering the blood with earth: or have eaten meat in Lent and on other days forbidden by Holy Mother Church; or have fasted the great fast, going barefooted that day; or if they say Jewish prayers, at night begging forgiveness of each other, the parents placing their hands on the heads of their children without making the sign of the cross or saying anything but, “Be blessed by God and by me”; or if they bless the table in the Jewish way; or if they recite the psalms without the Gloria Patri; or if any woman keeps forty days after childbirth without entering a church; or if they circumcise their children or give them Jewish names; or if after baptism they wash the place where the oil and chrism was put; or if anyone on his deathbed turns to the wall to die, and when he is dead they wash him with hot water, shaving the hair off all parts of his body . . .

The references made, such as to the giving of Jewish names or the eating of “meat prepared by Jewish hands,” were evidently out of touch with reality, since Jewish names and Jewish butchers had not existed in Spain for a century and a half.15

The genuineness of some of the “judaizing” of these years must, therefore, be called in question. The inquisitors were only too ready to identify a heresy where there was none, on the testimony of uninformed members of the public. Quite apart from recording the animosity of hostile and ignorant witnesses, the Inquisition trial papers also record attitudes and statements that were not peculiar to conversos but were shared by broad sections of the Christian population. Insults to saints, the Virgin, priests, the mass and Christ himself, were (as we have seen) commonplace among the Spanish people. It is possible that such insults were among the few options available to disgruntled conversos.16 But they were no evidence of a tendency to judaize.

The degree of integration can be seen precisely in contexts which appear to show the contrary. The groups of families involved in the autos de fe in Granada in the 1590s were all from the well-to-do bureaucracy, occupying important posts in the city council and the high court (Chancillería). Though scores of their relatives were punished by the Inquisition (mostly the women), not a single male member of these families lost his job.17 As in most of Spain, limpieza rules were a dead letter. The men freely went to university and occupied posts in every major institution. The 1590 cases were a mere hiccup. As the city of Granada stated, the hope was that soon all this would be a mere memory, as had transpired with the cases at Murcia in the 1560s: “not a trace remains of those events.”18

The relatively undisturbed life of Spanish conversos was transformed from the late 1580s by an influx of Portuguese conversos. Of the refugees who fled from Spain before and during 1492, a great number went to Portugal, swelling its Jewish community to about a fifth of the total population. Portugal did not yet have an Inquisition, so the trials now suffered by the Spanish exiles who had gone there were caused by the crown, the clergy and the populace. The permission that had been granted to Jews to reside (at the price of nearly a ducat a head) was limited to six months only, after which they were offered the same alternatives of conversion or expulsion. When the time was up the richer Jews bought themselves further toleration, but the poorer were not so lucky and many went into exile again, over the sea and across to Africa. The final imposition of conversion on the Jews in Portugal was modified in 1497 by the promise not to persecute conversos for a period of twenty years. Although the crown benefited from tolerating this active minority, communal hatreds were soon stirred, and in 1506 Lisbon witnessed the first great massacre of New Christians. Despite such outbreaks, there was little official persecution until about 1530, so that the conversos in Portugal were flourishing undisturbed at precisely the time that their generation was being rooted out in Spain.

In 1532 King João III determined to introduce an Inquisition on the Spanish model. The institution of this tribunal was delayed only by the powerful support commanded in Rome by wealthy New Christians.19 Eventually in 1540 the Portuguese Inquisition celebrated its first auto de fe; but its powers were still not fully defined, thanks to the vacillation of Rome and the enormous bribes offered periodically by the conversos. Only on 16 July 1547 did the pope issue the bull which finally settled the structure of an independent Portuguese Inquisition.

The presence of a native Inquisition was one of the factors provoking a mass emigration of Portuguese New Christians back into Spain, which for many of them had been the land of their birth. In the three tribunals of the Portuguese Inquisition, at Lisbon, Evora and Coimbra, there were between 1547 and 1580 thirty-four autos de fe, with 169 relaxations in person, 51 in effigy and 1,998 penitents.20 This activity, for a country with so large a percentage of Jewish descendants, was arguably less intense than in the early years of the Spanish Inquisition; but had an impact nevertheless on those affected. The move of conversos back to Spain began around 1570,21 before the union of the crowns in the person of Philip II in 1580. The union, which had as one consequence an increase in inquisitorial rigor, probably accelerated the return movement. In 1586 the cardinal archduke Albert of Austria, at that time governor of Portugal, was named inquisitor general of the country, with the result that within nineteen years (1581–1600) the three Portuguese tribunals held fifty autos de fe, in forty-five of which there was a total of 162 relaxations in person, 59 in effigy and 2,979 penitents.22

It is small wonder that by the end of the reign of Philip II the Spanish Inquisition was alarmed to discover within Spain the existence of a new threat, this time from the Portuguese who had fled from their own Inquisition. Having seen the hostility of the Inquisition to racial minorities, specially the Moriscos, and to foreigners in general but specially to the French, it would be rash to imagine that the tribunal viewed Portuguese immigrants with equanimity. There is every reason to consider that their condition as foreigners, no less than their lineage, made them an immediate focus of attention.

From the 1590s judaizers of Portuguese origin began to make a significant appearance in trials. In 1593 the inquisitors of Cuenca, alerted no doubt by the recent case of native judaizers in Quintanar, began a far-reaching inquiry into a group of Portuguese families in Alarcón.23 In the 1600s the preponderance of Portuguese among judaizers became clear and undeniable. To take a few examples at random: in the auto at Córdoba on 2 December 1625, thirty-nine of the forty-five judaizers made to do penitence were Portuguese, and the four relaxations were all of Portuguese; another auto there, on 21 December 1627, included fifty-eight judaizers, all of them Portuguese, and Portuguese represented all the eighteen relaxations, of which five were in person. An auto at Madrid on 4 July 1632 featured seventeen Portuguese among the forty-four accused, and similarly one at Cuenca on 29 June 1654 featured eighteen of the same nation out of fifty-seven cases. Finally, in the Córdoba auto of 3 May 1655 three out of five judaizers relaxed were Portuguese, as were seven out of nine made to do penitence, and almost all the forty-three reconciled were of the same nationality.24 The ebb of Castilian Jewry was replaced by a tide of Portuguese New Christians who fed the flames and coffers of the Holy Office. Of over twenty-three hundred persons prosecuted for judaizing by the Spanish tribunals between the 1660s and 1720s, 43 percent were Portuguese by origin.25

Many of the converso families of the earlier generation were by now merged into Castilian society. The families around Ciudad Rodrigo, for example, were dedicated to the soil and to herding.26 By contrast the newer conversos, who had not yet had the opportunity of integrating, earned their living in commerce and the professions. The Portuguese newcomers around Ciudad Rodrigo and Badajoz were traders and administrators of taxes. Of 343 known occupations among judaizers tried in Granada during the seventeenth century, just over half were traders, with shop keeping, medicine and tax collecting figuring prominently among the professions.27 In the Cuenca area the new immigrants were small traders and dealers in money. Their aptitude for business prompted Spaniards in the area to claim, in a phrase that explains much about the subsequent persecution, that they were “very rich and grasping people” and “ate in style and did much business.”28

The return to Spain signified the emergence of a new tendency in the life of peninsular Jews. Till then the general trend had been towards emigration or integration. Since well before 1492, conversos and Jews had fled abroad. A feeling for Sepharad permeated the memory of exiles and helped to stimulate developments in thought and literature. Jews and conversos living outside Spain felt that they were different from others and different even from other Jews, precisely because they were from Sepharad. The wordSepharad, however, was always imprecise, because at most it could refer to the old areas of Jewish settlement in southern Spain, mainly Andalucia and part of Castile; it never signified what we know today as “Spain.” The cultivation of specific Hispanic cultural habits, which meant combining features of both Spain and Portugal, became a distinguishing feature of the communities that left the peninsula. Everywhere, the refugees clung on to the memory of where they came from. One hundred years after the expulsion, the Jews who had ended up in Tunis were still called “the community of the exile,” and in the eighteenth century their insistence on their origins made them set up their own synagogue and cemetery, separate from that of the other Jews.29

The yearning for Sepharad, however, changed perspectives and brought a new generation back to the land of their fathers.30 Hundreds returned to the peninsula though they knew full well that as practicing Jews they might fall foul of the Inquisition. Their motives included a wish to live again in a cultural environment that formed part of their being, and for it they were willing to accept the Christian faith. Many also were part of the mercantile network run by Jews in Western European ports.31 They had no problems crossing the land frontier or entering through Portugal. Several lived to regret having come back. One such was Baltasar López, arrested in Santiago in 1677, who regretted that he had not stayed in Bayonne (France), where he had his home and his wife and had at least been able to “live freely as a Jew.”32

The immigrants brought a new perspective into the life of the Inquisition, which now found that it had to struggle against the royal wish to tolerate such wealthy subjects as the Portuguese. Just after 1602 the Portuguese offered Philip III a gift of 1,860,000 ducats (not to mention enormous gifts to the royal ministers) if the crown would issue a general pardon to judaizers of their nation for past offenses. That the conversos could afford so great a sum is clear from their own admission that they were worth 80 million ducats all told. Royal penury gave way before such a magnificent offer, and application was made to Rome. The papal decree for a pardon was issued on 23 August 1604 and published on 16 January 1605; on the latter date the three Portuguese tribunals released a total of 410 prisoners.33 By this astonishing agreement the Spanish crown revealed its own financial bankruptcy and its willingness to jettison religious ideals when the profits from a bribe exceeded those from confiscations.

This did not mean any more than a temporary respite in the work of the Inquisition, which resumed activity in both Portugal and Spain as soon as the terms of the pardon had been worked off. In Portugal particularly, the Inquisition resumed work with a thoroughness it had not shown in the old days, and when in 1628 the prelates of Portugal proposed new measures to be enforced against the New Christians, the latter paid Philip III another handsome sum, probably well over 80,000 ducats, to allow them to leave for Spain. The emigrants, however, left not only for Spain but also for foreign lands of the dispersion, so swelling the numbers of the communities in France, Holland and England. It was perfectly obvious to everyone that such emigration was a grave loss to Spain, and the matter was discussed with the royal ministers by the Portuguese residing in Spain under Philip IV. A memorandum sent to the king by the New Christian merchants claimed that they were the financial mainstay of the crown, since their contribution lay in

sending to the East Indies countless ships laden with merchandise, whose customs duties maintain the navy and enrich the kingdom; supporting Brazil and producing the machinery to obtain sugar for all Europe: maintaining the trade to Angola, Cabo Verde and other colonies from which Your Majesty has obtained so many duties; delivering slaves to the Indies for their service, and journeying and trading from Spain to all the world. Finally, the New Christians are today in Portugal and Castile those who maintain commerce, the farming of the revenues to Your Majesty, and the agreements to supply money outside the realm.34

Because of emigration, they claimed, the advantages of their services were being lost and Rouen, Bordeaux, Nantes and Florence were benefiting from it. The Spanish authorities were susceptible to this kind of argument, and to stories that the commercial powers—particularly Holland and, in Cromwell’s day, England—were controlled by Jews. The Portuguese merchants must therefore be retained in the peninsula. This became easier after the first state bankruptcy of Philip IV’s reign, in 1626. The losses suffered on that occasion by the Genoese bankers created a vacuum into which Portuguese financiers moved, although not without great protests from contemporaries. One of these, the writer Pellicer de Ossau, in 1640 expressed the following objections:

It was thought that the evils brought about by the Genoese financiers could be cured by resorting to the Portuguese, for since they were at the time subjects of the crown, to make use of them would also benefit the crown. But this was only to go from bad to worse. For since most of the Portuguese merchants were Jews, fear of the Inquisition made them establish their main trading houses in Flanders and cities of the north, keeping only a few connections in Spain. The result was that far from Spain benefiting, most of the profits went to the Dutch and other heretics.35

The count duke of Olivares, prime minister of Philip IV, saw matters in quite a different light. He ignored any protests which might interrupt his plans to use Jewish finance to restore the fortunes of the monarchy, and the years of his ministry in Spain were those when converso bankers flourished most.36 His modification of the statutes of limpieza in 1623 was the first public break to be made with official anti-Semitism. In 1634, and again in 1641, he is said to have opened negotiations with the exiled Jews in Africa and the Levant, to persuade them to return to Spain under guarantees which would reverse the negative consequences of their expulsion. This radical and certainly unpopular policy seems to have contributed eventually to the downfall of Olivares.

In 1628 Philip IV granted the Portuguese financiers freedom to trade and settle without restriction, hoping thereby to win back from foreigners a section of the Indies trade. Thanks to this, the New Christians extended their influence to the principal trading channels of Spain and America. However successful they may have been in business, they could nevertheless not escape the consequences of their cultural origin, and several of them had to suffer the rigors of the Inquisition. From the 1630s to the 1680s some of the wealthiest men in Spain were ruined in fame and fortune by the Holy Office. The Portuguese financiers among them were, in addition, tarnished by identification with their nation, which was in revolt against Madrid after 1640; and with the disgrace of Olivares in 1643 their last great protector disappeared.

In 1636 the Inquisition brought the financier Manuel Fernández Pinto to trial for judaizing. On one occasion during his career he had lent Philip IV the sum of 100,000 ducats. Now the tribunal extorted from him the enormous sum of 300,000 ducats in confiscations.37 Even more prominent than Pinto was Juan Núñez Saravía,38 whom we first meet as contributor, with nine other Portuguese financiers, to a loan of 2,159,438 ducats made to Philip IV in 1627. In 1630 Saravía was denounced to the Inquisition as a judaizer and protector of judaizers. No action was taken by the tribunal, which continued to accumulate evidence from France and America showing that, besides his religious errors, Saravía was also guilty of exporting bullion to his co-religionists abroad and importing base money in its place.

Early in 1632 Saravía and his brother Enrique were arrested, and after the usual delays of the Inquisition Juan was finally in 1636 put to mild torture, under which he admitted nothing. He was condemned to abjure de vehementi and fined 20,000 ducats, appearing with his brother and other judaizers in the Toledo auto of 13 December 1637. From men of Saravía’s standing the tribunal could expect to make large profits, and besides the fine on Juan it is estimated that his brother Enrique was condemned to confiscations which amounted to over 300,000 ducats. Juan Saravía was no doubt ruined by a case which had destroyed his good name and obliged him to fritter away five years in an inquisitorial prison, for he never makes any further appearance among the number of bankers who served the crown.

After 1640, as we have observed, the Portuguese financiers in Spain were in a difficult position, without a native country and without official support, particularly after the fall of Olivares.39 The wealthier among them were eliminated one by one. In 1641 a probable relative of Saravía called Diego de Saravía was tried by the Inquisition and suffered the confiscation of 250,000 ducats in gold, silver and coin. In 1646 the aged financier Manuel Enrique was arrested and condemned, and in 1647 another financier (not named in the records I have consulted) was tried at Toledo. The documents bring out the close connections between the accused. In 1646, for instance, the property of the wealthy financier Esteban Luis Diamante was sequestrated by the Inquisition. Diamante was a colleague in the banking firm of his brothers-in-law Gaspar and Alfonso Rodríguez Pasarino, of whom the latter was in prison accused of judaizing, while the former had saved himself by flight. Alfonso had a daughter named Violante who was married to the eminent banker Simon de Fonseca Piña, an astute and wealthy businessman who seems never to have come into conflict with the Holy Office. The property confiscated from the Pasarinos on this occasion probably exceeded 100,000 ducats.40

Apart from the wealthy few, there were whole families of ordinary conversos living in Madrid who suffered from the renewal of persecution. The 1650s saw the beginning of wholesale arrests and trials which turned into a reign of terror for the Portuguese converso minority in the capital. A contemporary living in Madrid in mid-century supplies us with a dramatic account of facts and rumors about arrests.41 “No one trusts the Portuguese financiers any more. They are going bankrupt and fleeing from the Inquisition. I have been assured that after the auto at Cuenca over two hundred families took to flight during the night. This is what fear can do” (22 August 1654). “In Seville at the beginning of April four wealthy Portuguese merchants were seized at night by the Inquisition” (17 May 1655). “The Cardosos have fled to Amsterdam, taking 200,000 ducats in wool and 250,000 in gold. It is said this was because the Inquisition wished to arrest them, and so they are in search of a land where one lives in greater freedom than in Spain” (2 June 1655). The wealthy Cardoso brothers, who administered taxes in several provinces, fled because a blackmailer had threatened to testify that they were judaizers unless they paid for silence. Faced with the possibility of having to prove their case against false testimony, “they preferred to fly from punishment rather than remain in jail until the truth was established” (29 May 1655). The diarist thought it a serious matter that lying witnesses should be able to ruin the lives of prominent men like these.

The fact is that if it is the practice in the Holy Office, as they say it is, not to punish false witnesses because no one would denounce if they did so, then that is terrible and even inhuman, to leave the life, honor and property of one who may be innocent to the mercy of his enemies. Every day we see many people like this emerging from their travails after great sufferings and years of prison.

“On Monday the thirteenth at midnight the Inquisition seized fourteen Portuguese traders and financiers, in particular two tobacco merchants. These people sprout like mushrooms” (15 September 1655). “Since last Saturday the Inquisition in Madrid has imprisoned seventeen Portuguese families. . . . In the street of the Peromostenses they are hurriedly building a prison big enough to hold all the people that fall every day into the trap. It is said for certain that there is not a Portuguese of high or low degree in Madrid who does not judaize” (18 September 1655). “There is not a single tobacco merchant in Madrid whom the Inquisition hasn’t arrested. The other day they took away two entire families, both parents and children. Many others are fleeing to France” (23 October 1655).

The condemnation of judaizers and the flight of wealthy fugitives brought about precisely the situation Olivares had attempted to avoid: bankruptcies among the trading classes of Madrid and other cities, leading to a collapse of confidence in some leading financiers and a consequent contraction in the size of the group of bankers on whom the crown could ultimately rely. Heads continued to roll. “There has been an auto at Cuenca. Brito abjured de vehementi; he was condemned to the sanbenito, banishment and to pay 6,000 ducats. Montesinos met the same fate, but the fine was higher: 10,000 ducats. Blandon, 4,000. El Pelado, 300. . . . All were from Madrid and had lived years there; very rich men” (8 January 1656). Brito was the financier Francisco Díaz Méndez Brito, who was made to do penance this once, and then again at a later date imprisoned by the Inquisition. Montesinos was the banker and merchant Fernando de Montesinos Téllez, a prominent financier who at the age of sixty-six was imprisoned together with his wife, Serafina de Almeida, in 1654, by the Inquisition of Cuenca. Serafina was a cousin of the Cortizos family, whom we shall meet presently. Fernando was a man of enormous fortune. His assets at the time of his arrest amounted to 567,256 ducats; of this sum a substantial part was tied up in Amsterdam, so that his effective assets were put at 474,096 ducats. His household goods alone, worth 10,000 ducats, were a testimony to his affluence,42 yet the Inquisition penalized the couple only, and left the fortune undisturbed. Fernando and Serafina were fined a total of 8,000 ducats. After this “he went to Amsterdam to live there freely, terrified of being burnt if he returned. He left his sons behind, having given them all his property. It is said that they will send the property over there bit by bit, and then one day do the same as he” (22 November 1656). Montesinos, therefore, apparently returned to the open practice of Judaism in Amsterdam. But his sons, far from following his example, continued the family’s financial services to the crown. The great deflation of 1680 began their ruin as bankers, and by the beginning of the eighteenth century they had gone into liquidation.

The liberal attitude of the Inquisition towards Montesinos’s fortune was not dictated by unselfishness. The fact was that so many wealthy financiers were appearing before the tribunal that the government took alarm at the possible threat to the financial stability of the state. On 7 September 1654 the council of Finance came to an agreement with the Inquisition that the latter was to attend only to the personal property of those accused, and that money which was involved in official contracts was to be dealt with by the former. The agreement had the virtue of differentiating between a financier and his firm. As a result we find that the imprisonment of principals such as Fernando Montesinos did not automatically lead to the dissolution of their business.

The auto de fe held at Cuenca on 29 June 1654 included among its accused the financier Francisco Coello, administrator of taxes in Malaga.43 In 1658 Francisco López Pereira, administrator of taxes in Granada, who had once before been tried by the Inquisition of Coimbra, in 1651, made another appearance before the tribunal in Spain but had his case suspended. Diego Gómez de Salazar, administrator of the tobacco monopoly in Castile and a fervent judaizer, was reconciled in the auto held at Valladolid on 30 October 1664 and almost all his family suffered condemnation in due course.

Among the most prominent conversos in mid-century was the financier Manuel Cortizos de Villasante, born in Valladolid of Portuguese parents.44 His astuteness and financial dealings raised him to the highest ranks in the kingdom, and he had become by the end of his life a knight of the Order of Calatrava, lord of Arrifana, a member of the council of Finance and secretary of the Contaduría Mayor de Cuentas, the principal department of the treasury. All this occurred at a time when the statutes of limpieza were theoretically in full force, so that his rise confirms what we know of their peripheral role in public life. Suddenly, after his death in 1650, it was discovered that he had been a secret judaizer and had been buried according to Jewish rites. The discovery would normally have led to the ruin of his family, but their rank and influence saved them from disaster. Indeed, notwithstanding the strong suspicion that other members of family were also secret Jews, Manuel’s son Sebastian was in 1657 appointed Spanish ambassador to Genoa; while another son, Manuel José Cortizos, continued his father’s work as a financier of the crown, obtained the title of viscount of Valdefuentes in 1668 and shortly afterwards that of marquis of Villaflores. Throughout the reign of Charles II, Cortizos was second to none in the financial services he rendered the crown. In 1679, thanks to defaulting by his creditors, he was obliged to ask for a moratorium on his transactions, even though his assets were worth several million ducats.

Another tobacco administrator in a high social position, Luis Márquez Cardoso, was reconciled together with his wife at an auto in Toledo in November 1669. In August 1691 Simon Ruiz Pessoa, a leading Portuguese financier who had managed the customs duties of Andalucia from 1683 to 1685, was arrested by the Inquisition in Madrid. In 1694 Francisco del Castillo, a member of the Contaduria Mayor de Cuentas, born in Osuna and resident in Ecija, was arrested in Seville by the tribunal.

The most eminent Portuguese financier to suffer in this reign was Francisco Báez Eminente. He took no part in international exchange but restricted his considerable fortune to the administration of the customs duties of Andalucia, Seville and the Indies (thealmojarifazgos), as well as provisioning the royal army and navy in Andalucia. During his term of administration in 1686 such severe measures were taken against smugglers that, according to one source, “we came to experience what was held to be impossible in Cadiz, namely that there should be no smuggling.” Eminente was a member of the Contaduría Mayor, and in view of the fact that a good part of Castile’s trade passed through Andalucia his work was of the highest importance to the crown, which he served, as the government later admitted, “for over forty years with credit, industry and zeal that were well known.” Despite this long service and his advanced years, on 6 December 1689 he was suddenly arrested by the Inquisition in Madrid. His colleague Bernardo de Paz y Castañeda was arrested at about the same time. The arrests made no difference to the firm of Eminente, which had been handed over to his son Juan Francisco in April 1689, and continued successfully under him well into the next century.

Thus, once again in the later seventeenth century, judaizers were the main preoccupation of the Inquisition. In the tribunal of Toledo they made up nearly half of all cases, and in the 1670s in Andalucia there was a notable increase in prosecutions.45

The more active Judaism of the Portuguese brought new life to the conversos of Spain. It also helped to create a wholly new Judeo-converso consciousness in Western Europe. The consciousness, ironically, had its roots in Spain. Within the peninsula most conversos remained cut off from the development of international Jewry. It is remarkable, for instance, that the millenarian movement of Sabbatai Zvi, which shook the entire Jewish world and found its ablest controversialist in the North African rabbi Jacob Saportas,46 seems to have caused no tremor in Spain, even though the Inquisition was aware of the phenomenon and warned its tribunals to keep a watch at the ports for any unusual emigration of conversos.

A feeling for Sepharad, however, permeated the thought of West European Jews outside the peninsula and helped to stimulate developments in thought and literature. Ironically, the conversos who lived abroad felt that they were different from others and different even from other Jews, precisely because they were from Sepharad. The cultivation of Iberian cultural habits became a distinguishing feature of exile communities.47 Amsterdam afforded liberty of printing to those who wished to publish. But Sepharad was still home, and many were deeply conscious of their roots there. Among them was the young Spinoza, of Spanish origin even though he lived all his life outside the peninsula. The peninsula itself did not provide congenial ground for Jewish speculative thought, a fact that prompted the exile of one of the best-known converso figures of the period, Isaac Cardoso.

Cardoso (1603–83) was born in Portugal but when he was six his family moved to Spain, where he showed promise as a pupil of the Jesuits, became a professor of philosophy at Valladolid and in 1640 a physician to Philip IV. Direct experience of the treatment of Portuguese immigrants at the hands of the Inquisition began his disillusion with his life as a Christian. He left the country in 1648 at the mature age of forty-five and went to live as a Jew in Venice.48 Here he published his Philosophia libera (1673), which was an exposition of atomist philosophy based on Gassendi, and owed little to Judaism. Six years later, he published at Amsterdam his The Excellences of the Jews, a polemic directed against Spinoza and written deliberately in Spanish for the benefit of the Sephardi community.

A few writers exiled themselves, but could not resist the call home. Enriquez Gómez (b. Cuenca, 1600), whose parents had been tried by the Inquisition and who himself became a Jew in France, remained so attracted by the pull of Sepharad—the only land that could provide him with a public for the language in which he wrote—that he returned to Spain in 1650 and wrote for thirteen years in Seville under the pseudonym Fernando de Zárate. While abroad in Rouen in 1647 Gómez wrote the second part of his Política angélica, a reasoned program for reform of the Inquisition: he asked for the identification of witnesses, the suppression of confiscations, a ban on sanbenitos and speedy trials. He reserved his harshest strictures for the practice of limpieza, which he called “the most barbarous seed sown by the devil in Christendom. . . . Because of it the best families have left the realm; it has created thousands of godless, has injured neighborly love, has divided the people and has perpetuated enmities.”49 While in Seville he had the unusual opportunity to see himself burned in effigy in an auto there in April 1660. The inquisitors eventually caught up with him. He was arrested in September 1661 and died of a heart attack in the cells in March 1663. In July that year he was once again condemned in effigy in an auto.50

A more determined exile was Gaspar Méndez, who fled to Amsterdam, where he changed his name to Abraham Idana and in 1686 wrote a stinging attack on the Inquisition for “using unheard-of tortures to force many to confess what they have not done, this being the cause why many who have been arrested and have entered the prisons without knowing anything other than that they are Christians, have come out as Jews. This is the reason why I left a country where such a tribunal holds sway.”51

Iberia, despite the echoes of the Inquisition, gave to Jewish and converso exiles a common bond that made them all “men of the nation.”52 Even those who were no longer practicing Jews felt a profound kinship, based less on religion than on origins, with the converso world from which they had emerged.53 A few of those who contributed to the new brand of converso consciousness in Europe broke firmly with orthodox Judaism. They included Uriel da Costa, Isaac Orobio de Castro and, at one remove, Spinoza. Orobio, born 1617 in Portugal, moved with his parents around mid-century to Málaga.54 He studied medicine at the University of Osuna. In 1654 he and his family were arrested by the Inquisition of Seville on a charge of judaizing. They appeared in an auto de fe but were lightly punished and eventually, in 1658, released. A couple of years later they left Spain. Orobio arrived in 1662 in Amsterdam, where he participated in the rich intellectual world of the Jews. In the background of the thinking of the Sephardic diaspora, there always remained the memory of Spain. Through men such as Orobio, “the social thinking of Spain found its way into the writings of the Jews of Amsterdam.”55 The undoubted interplay between displaced conversos and the European intellectual environment has inspired Jewish scholars in our day to open up new perspectives about the relationship between the Inquisition, Jewish thought and the modern world.56

The closing years of the seventeenth century, no longer viewed by historians as years of decay, were thus a period when conversos not only looked to new horizons, but also contributed to new trends of thought. In the peninsula, they emerged into public life. Tolerance for them was, however, balanced by residual surges of persecution in several tribunals of the peninsula, notably in the Balearic Islands. The French ambassador, the marquis of Villars, was a witness to this blend of tolerance and persecution. He was present at the great auto of June 1680, and observed that “these punishments do not significantly diminish the number of Jews in Spain and above all in Madrid where, while some are punished with great severity, one sees several others employed in finance, esteemed and respected though known to be of Jewish origin.”57

Among the most significant conversos of the late century, and a man whose career aptly illustrates the strange mixture of tolerance and intolerance of those days, was Dr. Diego Mateo Zapata.58 Born of Portuguese parents in Murcia in 1664, Zapata was brought up by his mother as a secret Jew. In 1678 she was arrested, tortured and emerged in an auto de fe in 1681. His father was arrested on suspicion, but set free. Zapata went to the University of Valencia to study medicine, and then to Alcalá, where he was befriended by Francisco Enríquez de Villacorta, a doctor of Jewish origins. He moved to Madrid and thanks to his connections managed to prosper. In 1692 he was arrested in Madrid by the Inquisition on charges of Judaism, and spent a year in the cells of the tribunal at Cuenca; the prosecution was suspended, and he was released in 1693. In 1702 he was elected president of the Royal Society of Medicine in Seville. The early eighteenth century found him rich and successful in Madrid, in possession of a large library that included the works of Bacon, Gassendi, Bayle, Paracelsus, Pascal and other philosophers, many of them prohibited by the Holy Office. In 1721 he was suddenly arrested again on charges of Judaism, and appeared in an auto de fe in Cuenca in 1725, condemned to ten years’ banishment and the loss of half his goods. He returned to active work in Madrid, helped to found the Royal Academy of Medicine in 1734 and died in 1745.

His posthumously published Sunset of the Aristotelian Forms, which appeared in 1745, was a radical departure from his earlier devotion to the principles of Galen, which still dominated orthodox medicine in Spain. Zapata shares with Dr. Juan Muñoz Peralta the sad fame of being among the last men of medicine to suffer at the hands of the Inquisition.59 Peralta was distinguished enough to have been physician to the king and queen in the War of Succession, and was subsequently summoned to Versailles to attend to Louis XIV himself. In 1700 he was elected first president of the Royal Medical Society of Seville. Tried and imprisoned by the Inquisition shortly before 1724, he never returned to practice as a royal physician.

Thanks to the immigration from Portugal, conversos predominated in the autos of the late seventeenth century. In the Granada auto de fe of 30 May 1672 there were 79 judaizers out of 90 accused, 57 of them Portuguese. The great Madrid auto of 30 June 1680 included 104 judaizers, nearly all Portuguese. The Córdoba auto of 29 September 1684 included 34 judaizers (some of them cried out, “Moses, Moses” as they perished in the flames) among the 48 penitents.60 Autos de fe after the 1680s show a definite decline from these numbers, indicating that the first generation of Portuguese conversos had been purged as surely as the native conversos had been at the beginning of the sixteenth century.

A special exception to this decline of persecution must be noted in Mallorca, where the burnings erupted only in the closing years of the seventeenth century. Mallorca followed a slightly different development from the rest of Spain.61 The medieval Inquisition had existed there since 1232 and the new tribunal was introduced only in 1488. Even before this, the island had a Jewish problem which paralleled that on the mainland. The great massacres of 1391 were repeated here in riots in August 1391, and Vincent Ferrer extended his proselytizing activities to the island in 1413. By about 1435 it was reckoned that the whole Jewish population had embraced Christianity, but as on the mainland it was found necessary to introduce the Inquisition to root out the doubtful cases. The first autos de fe showed the existence of a problem. In 1489 there were 53 relaxations of conversos, most of whom were burnt in effigy as fugitives. On 26 March 1490, after fewer than 424 conversos had responded to the terms of clemency offered in an edict of grace, 86 conversos were reconciled; and on 31 May 1490 there were 36 relaxations and 56 reconciliations. Up to September 1531 every person condemned in the Mallorcan Inquisition was of Jewish origin, and the total number of “relaxations” to that date was 535 (of these, 82 were executed in person, the others were condemned in effigy).62

By the 1530s the same phenomenon that we have noted for peninsular Spain occurred: the number of converso victims declined sharply and a whole generation of judaizers ceased to exist. Now, however, the Morisco problem took its place, aggravated by the fact that Morisco refugees from Valencia often chose to flee to the Balearic Islands. Mass reconciliations of Moriscos occurred in Mallorca from the 1530s, and the first condemnations took place in the auto of 10 July 1535. Between 1530 and 1645 there were ninety-nine Moriscos reconciled in Mallorca, twenty-seven of them in 1613 alone.63 The corresponding absence of judaizers is shown by the fact that between 1535 and 1645 there were only ten people accused, seven of them Moriscos. The absence of judaizers at this particular period, when they proliferated in Spain, is evidence that the Portuguese emigrants did not make their way to the Balearics in any numbers.

After a lull of well over a century, the storm burst eventually over the converso descendants—the Chuetas—in 1675, when a young man of nineteen years, Alonso López, was burnt in the auto of 13 January.64 With him were burnt the effigies of six Portuguese judaizers, indicating that persecution in the Spanish peninsula had at last driven them out into the Mediterranean. Repercussions from this case led in 1677 to a general arrest of conversos, and by 1678 the Inquisition had arrested 237 people on the charge of complicity in what seems to have been a genuine attempt to assert their political and human rights. Now followed two great waves of devastation in 1679 and 1691. In the spring of the former year no fewer than five autos de fe were held in Mallorca, with a total of 221 reconciliations. As we have seen, the confiscations made at these autos reached a record total of well over 2.5 million ducats. Crushed by these events, the conversos waited ten years before they could stir again. In 1688 some of them, led by Onofre Cortes and Rafael Valls, attempted to recoup all in a plot which fell through and led directly to the four autos de fe held in 1691, at which thirty-seven prisoners were relaxed in person; those reconciled or burnt in effigy increased this figure to a total of eighty-six converso victims. After this great suppression, the conversos of Mallorca made no further attempt to improve their position. They remained into modern times a depressed community, subjected to calumny and discrimination.

Throughout Spain, the seventeenth century closed with a renewed attack on conversos. The eighteenth century opened with a new dynasty and an apparently new outlook on religion. Philip V marked the change by refusing to attend an auto de fe held in his honor. The year was 1701 and the Inquisition, wishing to assert its role with the new king, invited him to attend. As we have seen (chapter 10), Philip was advised by his tutor not to show up. The public auto de fe was a disagreeable phenomenon in the eyes of the French and indeed of all foreigners. With the purging of native judaizers and then of the Portuguese immigrants, it appeared that the book was being closed on the converso problem.

However, it appears that very much later the king attended an auto in Madrid in 1721. His presence coincided with a new outbreak of persecution, so that the change of dynasty involved very little change in religious practice, and the persistence of judaizers in Spain was treated with almost as much severity as in the preceding century. The toll of judaizers in the 1720s, though substantial, represented the tail end of a long history of persecution. There were several important autos in 1720 in Madrid, Mallorca, Granada and Seville, but the real wave of repression broke out in 1721 and lasted to the end of the decade. The peak years were 1721–25, when sixty-six autos appear to have been held. We should remember that the auto at this period was usually a small, private ceremony, with a couple of priests and a handful of accused, held for convenience inside a church. Between 1726 and 1730 possibly another eighteen were celebrated. The persecution of the 1720s was directed almost exclusively against Portuguese immigrants, who made up nearly 80 percent of the cases of those years.65 Over the whole period from the 1660s to the 1720s, the Spanish tribunals prosecuted over twenty-two hundred persons for judaizing.66 Some 3 percent of these were burnt at the stake (in the 1720s the incidence was higher, over 8 percent).67 The majority—over three-fourths—spent a short period in confinement.

In the years after 1730 the number of autos and of accused declined rapidly, and by mid-century the converso community had ceased to be a major religious issue. With this last great persecution the practice of Judaism in Spain crumbled and decayed. Cases were rare in the later eighteenth century, the last one to occur at Toledo being in 1756. Among more than five thousand cases coming before the tribunals between 1780 and 1820, when the Inquisition was suppressed, there were only sixteen cases of judaizing, and of these ten were of foreigners while the remaining six were prosecuted only on suspicion.68 The practice of Judaism had been to all appearances eliminated from Spain, the last prosecution being the case of Manuel Santiago Vivar at Córdoba in 1818.

Meanwhile, there were promising signs for Spanish Jews, thanks in part to the capture of Gibraltar by the British in 1704 and its cession to Britain by the Peace of Utrecht (1713). In the peace treaty Spain insisted on a condition “that on no account must Jews and Muslims be allowed to live or reside in the said city of Gibraltar.” The British made no attempt to observe these discriminatory demands, and very rapidly the Jewish community grew. By 1717 there were three hundred Jewish families there, with their own synagogue, and by the nineteenth century Jews were a tenth of the population on the Rock. When I visited the town a few years ago, it had four synagogues. Some of the leading members of the community are direct descendants of Jews who were expelled in 1492.

In Spain, the presence of the Jew continued to be felt long after this date. As long as anti-Semitic prejudices continued to exist, of course, cultural discrimination would be practiced. Nineteenth-century liberals tried to confront the issue by the strategy of passing laws against discrimination. The Cortes of Cadiz in 1811 abolished the practice of limpieza in several areas but the conservative regime of Ferdinand VII in 1824 reinforced all the old regulations. The Liberals under Isabella II in 1865 repeated the ban on discrimination. None of this affected deep-seated prejudices. When in 1797 finance minister Pedro Varela resurrected the long-forgotten idea of Olivares and attempted to bring the Jews back into Spain, his suggestions were firmly rejected by Charles IV. As late as 1802 the crown was issuing threats against those of its subjects who were shielding Jews from the Inquisition. In 1804 a French Jewish merchant of Bayonne was molested by the tribunal, whereupon the indignant French ambassador intervened to say “that the exercise of international rights ought not to depend on an arbitrary distinction about the religion in which a man was born and the religious principles he professed.”69 The struggle continued into the opening decades of the twentieth century, where it merged into problems that are part of contemporary history.

To the new generation of Spaniards, Jews were the dark stain on the history of their country. Their shadow was everywhere present, yet they themselves were extinct. The only surviving memory of them was in the sanbenitos that foreign travelers report having seen hung in churches in the peninsula well into the nineteenth century. But if the Inquisition could claim to have rid Spain of the Jewish menace, it was still partly to blame for the bitter legacy of anti-Semitism in the country. The political right wing in nineteenth-century Spain and Europe adopted the Jew as its prototype enemy, sometimes distinct from and sometimes identified with the Freemason. The Jew, who was now little more than a myth, became identified in certain minds with all that was hostile to the tradition represented by the Inquisition. To be a Jew meant not being a Catholic, therefore not to be a Catholic meant being a Jew: one result of this popular reasoning meant that “Jews and Freemasons,” “Jews and Protestants” and “Jews and foreigners” became self-explanatory identifications. In the constant struggle waged by the right wing to preserve Catholic Spain, all that was hostile and sinister became personified in the Jew who was on the other side. The aberrations of the nineteenth century found their last heyday in the racist literature circulated in Spain during the Second World War, but anti-Semitism as a prejudice continues to feature down to our own day in public attitudes and in the thinking of both right-wing and left-wing politicians.70

Speculation and curiosity still hang around the issue of Jewish survivals in the nineteenth century. The question was put at its most dramatic by the English traveler and linguist George Borrow during his indefatigable journeys with the Bible round western Spain. In 1836 he was riding by night on his donkey through Old Castile, when about two leagues before Talavera he fell into conversation with a figure making the same journey on foot.

Hardly had a few words been exchanged than the man walked on about ten paces, in the same manner as he had previously done: all of a sudden he turned, and taking the bridle of the donkey gently in his hand, stopped her. I had now a full view of his face and figure, and those huge features and Herculean form still occasionally revisit me in my dreams. I see him standing in the moonshine, staring me in the face with his deep calm eyes. At last he said: “Are you then one of us?”71

In this way, in the middle of the nineteenth century, Borrow claimed to have come upon one of the few remaining communities of secret Jews in Spain. The incident has been attacked by writers of all shades of opinion, and there is little doubt that the speeches Borrow puts into the mouth of his new friend Abarbanel verge on fantasy. Yet there seems no reason to doubt that Borrow did meet Spaniards—as he later met an ex-inquisitor—who claimed to know of secret judaizers in the country. Several other travelers made similar reports. One of his predecessors, Joseph Townsend, reported in 1787 after traveling through the country:

Even to the present day both Mahometans and Jews are thought to be numerous in Spain, the former among the mountains, the latter in all great cities. Their principal disguise is more than common zeal in external conformity to all the precepts of the Church: and the most apparently bigoted, not only of the clergy, but of the inquisitors themselves, are by some persons suspected to be Jews.72

Whatever the truth of the matter, the fact remains that Judaism continued to be an issue in Spain long after the last heretic had died at the stake. On the one hand, there was a legacy of suspicion and fear based on anti-Semitism—the willingness to blame the secret and concealed enemy for all the evils of policy and history. On the other, there was a distinct atmosphere of racialism that persisted into modern times. Spain remains still the European country with the highest level of prejudice against Jews and against Israel.73 On both counts the Inquisition had some (and not necessarily a principal) part to play, and some responsibility to bear, in the tragedy of a hunted people.

During the later eighteenth century the Inquisition became openly political in its hostility to the Enlightenment, as we have seen from the case of Pablo de Olavide (chapter 8), and lost the little support it had enjoyed among the progressive elite in Spain.74 The relative frequency of executions in the earlier years disappeared in the eighteenth century, and in the twenty-nine years of the reigns of Charles III and Charles IV only four people were executed by burning.75

In the epoch following the French Revolution, one of the first acts of the French regime that occupied Spain in 1808 was to abolish the Holy Office, on 4 December. The patriotic forces in the country were represented at the Cortes of Cadiz (1810), which on 22 February 1813 also decreed the abolition of the Inquisition, by a margin of ninety votes against sixty. It was an act that provoked considerable opposition from traditionalists, and on 21 July 1814 Ferdinand VII restored the tribunal, but in name rather than in reality. Effectively the Holy Office was now moribund. On 9 March 1820 the king was forced by Liberal opposition to abolish it yet again. In Rome the papal authorities objected on the principle that the tribunal had been founded by papal bull and only the papacy could abolish it. However, they conceded, “there is no reason to regret the disappearance of the Inquisition in Spain.”76 The final decree of suppression, issued by the government of Queen Isabella II on 15 July 1834, was little more than a formality. From this date the Inquisition ceased to exist in the Spanish monarchy.

The last person known to have been executed for heresy in Spain was sentenced not by the Inquisition, as often stated, but by a tribunal that replaced it when it was suspended.77 A schoolmaster of Valencia named Cayetano Ripoll had been captured by the French army during the Peninsular War and taken to France, where he became a convert to Deism. Returning home, he took up his post but was accused of not taking his pupils to mass, and of teaching them to say “Praise be to God” instead of “Ave María purissima.” Arrested in 1824, his trial lasted nearly two years. A secular court sentenced him to be hanged and burnt: he was hanged on 26 July 1826, but the burning was only symbolic, in the form of flames painted on a barrel. Execution of heretics had long since disappeared from the penal system of other European states.78

Long before it disappeared, the Holy Office had entered the realm of mythology. Since the sixteenth century, opponents of the tribunal had taken the initiative in attacking it through the useful medium of the printing press. Clinging to its rule of secrecy, it refused to be drawn into any public debate and thereby left the field wide open to its enemies, who set about “inventing” their own image of the Inquisition.

If you find an error please notify us in the comments. Thank you!