In the days of the blessed memory of Philip II, the Inquisition experienced great felicity.


Before modern research began to analyze the nature and activity of the Holy Office, it was common to exaggerate its authority and influence. In 1827 the German historian Ranke argued that “the Inquisition was the most effective instrument in completing the absolute power of the monarch.”1 His opinion (not a careless one, for as we shall see it was based on reports of the time) influenced subsequent writers,2 and the view can still be found that “the Inquisition was used as the first centralized institution, essential for the process of state-building in Italy, Spain and Portugal,”3 and that the monarchy established it in order “to attain absolute power.”4 The reality is that in traditional Spain the king did not aspire to nor have absolute powers,5 and seldom if ever attempted to extend his authority through the Holy Office, which played no part whatsoever in the building of the modern Spanish state.6

To avoid attributing to the tribunal of the Inquisition a power that it did not possess, we should bear in mind that it was only one royal court among others, and always had quarrels over jurisdiction with other legal entities. Spain before the eighteenth century was (like other European regions such as France and Italy) not a unified country: there was a multitude of judicial systems and tribunals, often with overlapping competence, and even the crown was not deemed the supreme authority in regions (particularly outside Castile) where noble and local courts might in certain matters enjoy higher standing. In addition, throughout Spain there were Church courts, which by medieval tradition derived their authority from the pope and not the crown. The new Inquisition, when it was created, entered a world where asserting its authority against other entities was no easy matter.

From its inception, it was meant by Ferdinand and Isabella to be under their control and not, like the medieval tribunal, under that of the pope. Sixtus IV was surprisingly cooperative. His bull of institution of 1 November 1478 gave the Catholic monarchs power not only over appointments but also, tacitly, over confiscations. The inquisitors were to have the jurisdiction over heretics normally held by bishops, but were not given any jurisdiction over bishops themselves. Subsequently the pope saw his error in granting independence to a tribunal of this sort, and stated his protest in a brief of 29 January 1482. At the same time he refused to allow Ferdinand to extend his control over the old Inquisition in Aragon.

Further conflict ensued with the bull issued by Sixtus on 18 April that year, denouncing abuses in the procedure of the Inquisition. Ferdinand held firm to his policy despite opposition in Rome and Aragon. His victory was confirmed by the bull which on 17 October 1483 appointed Torquemada as chief inquisitor of the crown of Aragon. Earlier that year Torquemada had also received a bull of appointment as inquisitor general of Castile. He was now the only individual in the peninsula whose writ extended (in theory) over all Spain, unlike the king, who enjoyed considerable authority in Castile and rather less in the crown of Aragon and the Basque country. In practice, of course, the inquisitor general’s powers were very limited and always relied on the crown for backup.

The Holy Office was in every way an instrument of royal policy, and remained politically subject to the crown. “Although you and the others enjoy the title of inquisitor,” Ferdinand reminded his inquisitors of Aragon firmly in 1486, “it is I and the queen who have appointed you, and without our support you can do very little.”7 But royal control did not imply royal support (as we shall see) and did not make it exclusively a secular tribunal. Any authority and jurisdiction exercised by the inquisitors came directly or indirectly from Rome, without which the tribunal would have ceased to exist. Bulls of appointment, canonical regulations and spheres of jurisdiction—all had to have the prior approval of Rome. The Inquisition was consequently also an ecclesiastical tribunal for which the Church of Rome assumed ultimate responsibility, a status that could also be convenient for the inquisitors when they wished to evade instructions from the crown.

The central organization of the new tribunal was in 14888 vested in a council, the Consejo de la Suprema y General Inquisicion, known for short as the Suprema. This joined the crown’s other administrative councils whose existence had been confirmed at the Cortes of Toledo in 1480. Although Torquemada was the first inquisitor general, the effective “father” of the Inquisition was Cardinal Mendoza, archbishop of Seville and later of Toledo. It was this prelate, famous as a patron of Columbus, who put in motion the negotiations with Rome leading to the establishment of the tribunal. Yet above him towers the shadow of Torquemada. The austere Dominican friar, prior of the monastery of Santa Cruz at Segovia, left his indelible mark on the tribunal, and in 1484 Sixtus IV praised him for having “directed your zeal to those matters which contribute to the praise of God and the benefit of the orthodox faith.”9 Of distant converso origin, he was the first Dominican to introduce (1496) a statute of blood purity into a religious house, his new foundation at Avila dedicated to St. Thomas Aquinas. It was the place where he eventually retired, confessing that “I feel free of passions since I came to live here.”10 He died in 1498, at the age of eighty. A leading minister of Philip II later commented: “Because he was a poor friar, he was the best inquisitor general there ever was.”11 There were obviously other opinions about him: around 1485 a lawyer in Soria felt Torquemada was “a vile heretic, the most accursed man in the world.”12

Torquemada’s importance suggests that the Dominicans were controlling the new Inquisition as they had controlled the medieval one. From 1231 in Germany and then from 1233 in Provence, the Dominicans were the order specially chosen by the pope for the task of inquiring into heresy. In Spain, however, though all the early appointments were of Dominicans, and they continued to play an important role, only a minority of inquisitors came from the order. In Valencia there were only six Dominicans among the fifty-two for whom details are available over the period 1482–1609,13 and in Toledo only one among the fifty-seven inquisitors recorded between 1482 and 1598. The same picture is true for the summit: out of the forty-five inquisitors general who held office, only six were Dominicans. A special privilege was obtained on 16 December 1618 when Philip III, at the request of the duke of Lerma, created a permanent place in the Suprema for a member of the order, to be occupied in the first place by the then inquisitor general, Aliaga.14By the late seventeenth century, in contrast, Jesuits had become influential in the Inquisition.

Although the inquisitor general may seem to have been a powerful individual, in practice his commission was often limited in authority and renewable only after papal approval. Moreover, the pope could grant equivalent powers to other clerics in Spain, as in 1491 when a second inquisitor general of Castile and Aragon was appointed for a brief time, and in 1494 when four bishops in Spain were promoted to this post to help the now senile Torquemada. When Torquemada died, he was succeeded by Diego Deza, who in 1505 became archbishop of Seville. It was not until 1504 that Deza became sole head of the Inquisition, because the bishops appointed under Torquemada continued to hold office up to that date. The death of Queen Isabella on 26 November 1504 led to a temporary separation of the kingdoms of Castile and Aragon, because of Ferdinand’s quarrels with his son-in-law, Philip I of Castile. As a result, Ferdinand asked the pope to appoint a separate inquisitor for Aragon. This occurred in June 1507 when Cisneros was appointed to Castile and the bishop of Vic, Juan Enguera, to Aragon. The two posts remained separate until the death of Cisneros in 1518, when Charles I appointed Cardinal Adrian of Utrecht, bishop of Tortosa and since 1516 inquisitor general of Aragon, as inquisitor for Castile as well. After this the tribunal remained under one head alone.

In historical fiction the person of the inquisitor general seems to assume an almost sinister identity when he is termed the Grand Inquisitor, a title that is used, for example, in Schiller’s drama Don Carlos and in Dostoyevsky’s novel The Brothers Karamazov. The truth is that by virtue of his distinctive office, the inquisitor general was indeed a figure of power. In the last days of the Holy Office, in the Cortes of Cadiz in 1813, the question was even raised whether the absence of an inquisitor general (there was none at that moment) meant that in consequence no Inquisition existed.15 As president of one of the permanent administrative councils of the monarchy, the inquisitor general always played a very important role in politics, though it did not follow that he carried exceptional weight. Apart from his functions as a state councilor, he was personally responsible for all senior appointments in the Inquisition and at the same time had special powers in such matters as permission to read prohibited books or dispensation from certain legal impediments.16

The council of the Inquisition (the Suprema) was presided over by the inquisitor general. All authority exercised by inquisitors was at one time held to be by direct delegation from the pope, but later this was modified to the opinion that it was the inquisitor general himself who delegated the papal powers. Though he might be nominated by the crown, only the pope could appoint him. Growth of the inquisitor general’s power was modified by the increasing authority of the Suprema. The relationship between Suprema and inquisitor general was never satisfactorily settled, because they usually acted in concert and did not dispute supremacy. But there were several occasions when the council attempted to take an independent line. In the early years of Philip IV, conflicts between the council and its chairman were persistent. But the inquisitor general of the time, Cardinal Zapata, angrily told his councilors not to interfere in what did not concern them. “There was dead silence,” a secretary recorded, “and none of the members of the council said a word.”17

In the early seventeenth century the Suprema consisted of about six members, who usually met every morning and also three afternoons a week. The afternoon sessions, normally on legal business, were also attended by two members of the council of Castile. Correspondence was divided between two secretariats, one for “Aragon”18 and one for Castile. Members of the Suprema were appointed by the king alone, and the Suprema usually issued orders without any need to have the vote of the inquisitor general. When divisions arose in the council, a decision was taken by majority vote, in which the vote of the inquisitor general counted no more than that of another. This did not affect his unique authority. Inquisitors general, such as Antonio de Sotomayor in 1643,19 continued to insist unequivocally on their exclusive right to exercise the powers conferred by the pope.

The substantial autonomy of the inquisitor general, however, was confined to matters of ecclesiastical jurisdiction. In political matters, the authority of the crown could always prevail. One outstanding case of very much later, that of Fray Froilán Diaz, brought out clearly the extent to which the crown could decide the relative roles of the inquisitor general and the Suprema.

Froilán Díaz, a Dominican who had been confessor since 1698 to the king, Charles II (1665–1700), was arrested in 1700 after various palace intrigues on the charge of having helped to cast a spell over the hapless king, known in Spanish history as el Hechizado, the Bewitched. The prosecution was at the instance of the German queen and her friend Balthasar de Mendoza, bishop of Segovia, who in 1699 had been appointed inquisitor general. Díaz, an ex-officio member of the Suprema, was imprisoned while an investigation was made by five theologians. They found that there was no basis for charges against him. Accordingly, in June 1700 all the members of the council except Mendoza voted for Díaz’s acquittal. Mendoza refused to accept the findings and ordered the arrest of the other members of the Suprema until they assented to the arrest of Díaz. At the same time he ordered the tribunal of Murcia to bring Díaz to trial. This the inquisitors did—and acquitted him. Mendoza thereupon ordered a retrial and kept Díaz in prison. Opposition to the actions of the inquisitor general was by now universal. There was consequently wide support for the new French king, Philip V, when he discovered that Mendoza was politically opposed to the Bourbon dynasty. He confined him to his see of Segovia, but Mendoza now made the mistake of appealing to Rome, an act unprecedented in the whole history of the Spanish Inquisition. The crown immediately stepped in to prevent any interference from Rome, and finally in 1704 Díaz was rehabilitated and reinstated in the Suprema, while Mendoza was replaced as inquisitor general in March 1705.20

The case proved to be the last important one in which the inquisitor general attempted to assert his supremacy. Thereafter the concern of the tribunal with administrative routine and censorship, rather than great matters of state, involved fewer opportunities for personal initiative, and authority came more and more to reside in the Suprema and the machinery it controlled. More obscure prelates were also chosen as inquisitor general, a significant example being the choice of the bishop of Ceuta (in North Africa) to succeed Mendoza in 1705.

The growth of the Suprema’s authority led to greater centralization of decisions, a process that accelerated in the seventeenth century as the volume of heretics, and therefore of business, diminished in the provincial tribunals. In the early days, as the case of Lucero showed, local autonomy could be carried to scandalous extremes. At first, cases were referred by provincial tribunals to the Suprema only if agreement could not be reached, or if the council summoned a case before it. In 1550, when it was felt that the Barcelona tribunal was showing excessive severity in suppressing a witch craze in Catalonia (chapter 11), all sentences passed by it were required to be confirmed by the Suprema. The Barcelona inquisitors do not seem to have accepted interference from the center, for the inquisitor general in 1566 was obliged to examine their records and denounce the irregularities and cruelties in the tribunal. From this time onwards, greater attention was paid by the Suprema to the procedure and sentences of local tribunals. These were required after 1632 to send in monthly reports of their activities. By the mid-seventeenth century all sentences were required to be submitted to the Suprema before being carried out. With this, the machinery of the Inquisition reached its most complete stage of centralization. In the eighteenth century business became so rare that the tribunals became mere appendages of the Suprema, which initiated all prosecutions.

These bureaucratic details about organization do little to help us understand how a tiny body like the Inquisition managed to leave so large a footprint on the fabric of history. The truth is that the tribunal created in Castile in 1478 was heir to and formed part of an impressive medieval tradition of vigilance against heresy; it did not have to invent anything new in rules and structure, because it simply took over what had been practiced two centuries before in France. If there were doubts about how to proceed, the experts simply looked up what had been done by the French.

The Spanish Inquisition was based essentially on the medieval one. The crucial fact may easily be overlooked because of the wholly different conditions under which each tribunal came into existence. There was in reality no other precedent from which to work, and the Spanish inquisitors followed down to the last detail—in all aspects of arrest, trial, procedure, confiscations and recruitment of personnel—the regulations that had been in use in thirteenth-century Languedoc and Aragon. As late as the reign of Philip II, the classic Aragonese manual of Nicolau Eimeric could be accepted as a standard guide by its Spanish commentator, Francisco Peña.21 There is no reason, therefore, to think of the Inquisition in the peninsula as peculiarly Spanish. Apart from some obvious differences, such as the transfer in Spain of authority over heresy from bishops to inquisitors, the Inquisition in the peninsula was simply an adaptation to Spanish conditions of the medieval French tribunal.

At the same time, of course, the social context within which the two Inquisitions worked was wholly different. Unlike the Inquisition of Languedoc two centuries before, the Spanish tribunal was installed from above, by pope and king, and enjoyed state support until the end of its existence. It did not restrict its operations to one local society but attempted to penetrate all the societies of the peninsula. Though concerned initially with one form of religious error, it quickly extended its inquiries to many others. Finally, the inquisitors of Spain never became agents of control, as those of Languedoc apparently did, “devising methods of using power and coercion to give fantasies a legally validated and socially accepted reality.”22

In attempting to understand the structure of the Spanish Inquisition, we must not suppose that it was a carefully planned organization. The admirable description of its structure given by Lea23 leaves the reader with a deceptive impression of efficiency, because it summarizes in one masterly chapter a process that in fact covered over three centuries. The tribunal evolved very slowly and not always efficiently. The first rules drawn up were those agreed upon in a meeting at Seville on 29 November 1484. There was at yet no formal body called “inquisition,” and the rules of 1484 used the word only to refer to the work that the inquisitors were doing,24 that is, they were inquiring (the Latin verb was inquirere) into matters for which they had a papal commission. The rules of 1484 did not even contemplate a “Spanish” area of operation: the inquisitors who came together to consult on the proposed rules were those functioning in Seville, Córdoba, Jaén and Ciudad Real, cities in the south of the peninsula belonging to the crown of Castile. Some of the terminology used was still based on medieval France: they referred to a “sermón de fe,” which in Spain later became the procedure known as an “auto de fe.” Above all, the Castilians seem to have learnt from the way in which the French had run their inquiries: keeping exhaustive records, making copies of the documents, and employing a reference system to make it easier to consult and compare the documents, especially through use of an index of names. The said documents were always to be kept in a special chest with multiple keys, so that they remained inviolably secret. A century before the state in Castile (under Philip II) began the systematic keeping of government archives, the Inquisition was quietly and efficiently storing away a vast pile of documents that four centuries later would serve as the raw material for the first noninquisitorial histories of the Inquisition. It was the first time in European history that a policing body managed to create a data bank of all its proceedings and of all the accused who passed through its chambers.

Under Torquemada the rules were amplified in 1485, 1488 (when for the first time each tribunal of officials was referred to as an “inquisition”) and 1498. His successor Diego Deza added some articles in 1500. All these regulations were later known under the collective title of Instrucciones antiguas (Old Instructions). They were unsystematic, had to be regularly modified and led to variations of practice between different tribunals. Over half a century went by before more detailed rules were drawn up. By that time, it is crucial to remember, there was no longer any substantial problem of Jewish or Islamic origin, so it is pertinent to ask why further development was necessary. The interesting fact is that an organized, bureaucratic Inquisition emerged only with the issue in September 1561 of the Instructions of Inquisitor General Fernando de Valdés, in eighty-one clauses. These set out to achieve a centralized organization, firm control by the Suprema and financial stability for the tribunals. A product of the crisis years after 1558, the ValdésInstructions gave the Holy Office a reputation for rigidity, and we shall look presently at some aspects.25 Subsequent modifications were collected and printed by Gaspar Isidro de Argüello at Madrid in 1627 and 1630 (Instrucciones del Santo Oficio de la Inquisición, sumariamente, antiguas y nuevas) (Summary of the Old and the New Instructions). This was followed by the comprehensive Compilación de las Instrucciones (Collected Instructions) published at Madrid in 1667.26

The tribunals of the Inquisition in their early days were itinerant and active mainly in the southern part of Castile, where the religious minorities were most numerous. It was several years before King Ferdinand brought the crown of Aragon into the framework. Inquisitions were set up wherever there seemed to be a need and political conditions permitted. In 1486, for example, a special inquisition was sanctioned by Torquemada to act solely within the Jeronimite order. It seems to have functioned for about five years. Even when inquisitors had a fixed base, they moved around for their duties. The Barcelona inquisitors, for example, celebrated autos de fe in Girona and Tarragona. In the first years of the Inquisition the following tribunals were established:27 1482, in Seville, Córdoba, Valencia and Saragossa; 1483, in Jaén and Ciudad Real (moved to Toledo 1485); 1484, in Barcelona and Teruel; 1485, in Toledo, Llerena and Medina del Campo (moved to Salamanca 1488); 1486, in Segovia and Lleida; 1488, in Salamanca, Murcia, Alcaraz, Mallorca and Valladolid (moved to Palencia 1493); 1489, in Burgos, Cuenca and Osma; 1490, in Avila; 1491, in Calahorra, Sigüenza and Jérez; 1492, in León. This proliferation of tribunals became uneconomic once the number of prosecutions decreased. In 1503, therefore, the five tribunals of León, Burgos, Salamanca, Avila and Segovia were suppressed and merged into the single vast tribunal of Valladolid. By 1507 there were only seven tribunals in Spain where in 1495 there had been sixteen.


Map 1. The districts of the Spanish Inquisition, 1570–1820.

Table 1


Several changes occurred in the sixteenth century, including the establishment of the tribunal at Granada in 1526. After two unsuccessful attempts, an Inquisition was finally set up in Galicia in 1574 (some years after the tribunal had begun to operate in America). The network, which theoretically covered all Spain’s territory, had enormous gaps in it. Inquisitors did not venture into the area of the Pyrenees until the end of the sixteenth century. When in 1582 they first entered the Vall d’Áneu, in the Pyrenees of Catalonia, they were attacked by a gang of clergy “numbering over forty, with red caps and feathers and each with two pistols.”28

The permanent tribunals of Spain, with dates of first establishment, are shown in table 1.29

The location of the districts is shown on map 1. It is evidence of the remarkable indifference of the Inquisition to other secular or ecclesiastical authority that its districts often crossed political frontiers. The territory of Orihuela in Valencia, for example, was put under the tribunal of Murcia; Teruel in Aragon was put under the tribunal of Valencia; Calahorra in Castile was put under the Navarrese tribunal of Logroño; and Lleida in Catalonia fell under the control of the tribunal of Aragon. The Inquisition was able to do this because its authority in matters of heresy (and not, we should emphasize, in other matters) covered the whole of Spain regardless of frontiers. Portugal, for the period 1580–1640, when it came under the Spanish crown, at first kept its Inquisition entirely independent. In 1586, however, Philip II nominated the cardinal Archduke Albert of Austria, who was governor of Portugal, as head of the Portuguese Inquisition, so bringing the Portuguese tribunal more into touch with Spain.

Because the Inquisition of Spain was a direct instrument of the Spanish crown and therefore in some sense functioned in a uniform way throughout the Spanish empire, it is common practice among some scholars to look at its activity without making any distinction between countries. This can give rise to serious confusion of theme and context. The present study, which attempts to limit its survey to the peninsular Inquisition, inevitably incurs problems when touching on matters of race, society and politics that had a widely different framework in Andalucia, the Canary Islands, Sicily or Catalonia. The framework would become yet more intricate were we to include in our focus the American tribunals of Lima (1570), Mexico (1571) and Cartagena (1610), or the territories of the Philippines and Goa, all of which had entirely different societies and historical contexts. A feature such as the auto de fe, for instance, might be formally the same in each of these areas, but its origins and context would usually be distinct, so that a broad comparison between countries would have doubtful validity. In the same way, racialist attitudes as experienced in Spanish society would have little in common with the same attitudes in Mexico or the Philippines.

Each tribunal, according to Torquemada’s Instructions of 1498, was to consist of two inquisitors (“a jurist and a theologian, or two jurists”), an assessor (calificador), a constable (alguacil) and a prosecutor (fiscal), with any other necessary subordinates. The number of personnel grew over time. A century later, the major tribunals of the peninsula had three inquisitors each.30 Contrary to the image—still widely current—of inquisitors as small-minded clerics and theologians fanatically dedicated to the extirpation of heresy, in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries the inquisitors were drawn from qualified personnel and developed over time into an elite bureaucracy.31

Because the Holy Office was in a sense a court of law, its administrators should ideally have been trained lawyers: the sixteenth-century lawyer Diego de Simancas thought that “it is more useful to have jurists (letrados) rather than theologians as inquisitors.” In practice, since they were drawn from the religious orders, they were often theologians. By the same token, inquisitors did not have to be clergy and could be laymen (well into the seventeenth century there were occasional examples of laymen). All this shows that the inquisitors were in principle a bureaucracy not of the Church but of the state. They received their training in the same institutions that contributed personnel to the councils of state and the high courts. An analysis of fifty-seven inquisitors of Toledo, from the period 1482–1598,32 shows that all but two had degrees and doctorates based on the study of canon law at university, and that nearly half had been trained in the exclusive colleges known as Colegios Mayores.

Philip III in 1608 stipulated that all inquisitors must be jurists. These men were of course trained only in the law of the Church, or canon law; they were not equipped for matters touching on criminal law, a discipline that developed in Europe only after the eighteenth century.33 This meant that in crucial matters, such as the rules of evidence, which today are assumed to play a vital role in court trials, the inquisitors had to develop their practice as they went. They would have learnt a bit from works such as Eimeric’s manual for the medieval French inquisitors, but in cases where criminal matters might be directly at issue they normally called in a civil lawyer to advise them.34

Many went on to serve in the high courts of the realm.35 For these, service in the Inquisition was merely a stepping-stone to a further career. In practice, of course, the bureaucracy of state and Church overlapped, so that although some inquisitors were laymen it was more useful to be in holy orders. Moreover, the ecclesiastical character of inquisitors was underlined by their dependence on canonries for income and by the subsequent promotion of many to bishoprics.

The tribunals of the Holy Office were few in terms of geographical coverage, and staffed by only a small handful of personnel. The fact is enough to explode any idea about its capacity to impose its presence in a pre-modern world without adequate roads, bureaucracy or communications. It became essential to seek help from the local population in all the areas that a policing body would today require: collecting information, detaining suspects, transporting prisoners. These functions could be carried out thanks to help from familiars and comisarios.

The familiar, a common feature of the medieval Inquisition, was continued in the Spanish one. Essentially he was a lay servant of the Holy Office, ready at all times to perform duties in the service of the tribunal. In return he was allowed to bear arms to protect the inquisitors, and enjoyed a number of privileges in common with the other officials. To become a familiar was normally an honor, and the Inquisition in its peak days could boast of a high proportion of nobles and titled persons among its familiars. By the beginning of the sixteenth century the familiars were banded together in a confraternity (hermandad) known as the Congregation of St. Peter Martyr, modeled directly on the associations founded by the medieval Inquisition after the murder of an inquisitor, Peter Martyr, in Verona (Italy) in 1252.

Familiars acquired notoriety in fact and in legend for acting as informers, but this was never their real purpose; neither familiars nor comisarios were meant to be spies. The Spanish government, like those of England and France, had a few political spies in its employment, but there is no record of attempts to spy on the religion of Spaniards. The documents of the Inquisition show clearly that most denunciations were made not through a secret police system but by ordinary people—neighbors, acquaintances—in response to appeals made in the edicts of faith or simply as a result of personal conflicts (see chapter 9).

Since familiars were usually laymen,36 it was inevitable that jurisdiction over them in cases of crime would be claimed by the secular courts. Conflicts arose regularly and more so after 1518 when Charles V decreed that the cognizance by secular courts of criminal cases concerning familiars and other officials and servants of the Inquisition was contrary to its privileges. After this ruling the tribunal did not hesitate to protect even the humblest of employees from the justice of the civil courts, a position that led to further friction and quarrels. For example, two of the biggest and most dramatic conflicts between the Catalan authorities and the Inquisition, in 1568 and 1611, were provoked by a quarrel over butcher’s meat and by officials confiscating a weapon from an Inquisition employee.37 The tribunal also had to be wary of Church authorities, who did not hesitate to arrest personnel of the Inquisition when necessary. Referring to the archbishop of Tarragona, the highest Church dignitary in the crown of Aragon, the inquisitors of Barcelona observed in 1615 that “we are very careful not to give him any reason to be dissatisfied with us or with the familiars.”38

Because the number appointed was often excessive, accords (concordias) between state and Inquisition in both Castile and Aragon attempted to set ceiling figures. The Castile agreement of 1553 suggested a maximum of 805 familiars for Toledo, 554 for Granada and 1,009 for Galicia, though in reality the number varied widely. In Galicia in 1611 there were a total of 388 familiars and 100 comisarios for the whole province (a theoretical ratio of 1 official per 241 households in the population), but they were distributed through less than 6.4 percent of the towns and villages—evidence of a very low level of contact between Inquisition and people.39 In Valencia, by contrast, in 1567 there were as many as 1,638 familiars (a ratio of 1 for every 42 households).40

One solution to which the Inquisition agreed was a voluntary limitation on the number of familiars. An accord made for Castile in 1553 was devoted largely to defining the number of familiars and the jurisdiction of the civil courts. In all serious crimes secular justice was to hold good and the Inquisition was limited to the cognizance of petty offenses only. Although this remained in force until the end of the Inquisition, it was only partly successful. Disputes continued as before, and neither the secular nor the inquisitorial courts were concerned to observe it. In the crown of Aragon new accords had to be made because they were even less observed than in Castile. Although Valencia received an accord in 1554 by which the number of familiars was reduced and jurisdiction defined, it was found necessary in 1568 to issue a new one. Philip II, in a note to the inquisitor general in 1574, admitted that he had personal experience of the problems: “we all know that in the past there have been very great irregularities, and I can assure you that I saw it in Valencia with my own eyes.”41 Reforms were not effective, to judge by a report of the council of Aragon on 21 July 1632, which claimed that no peace or safety could be expected in Valencia unless there was a reform in the selection of familiars, since nearly all the crimes committed involved familiars who were sure to escape with impunity, relying as they did on the intervention of their protectors the inquisitors.42

In Aragon the struggle was even more pronounced because of the great pride taken in their constitutional liberties by the aristocracy of the realm. Here the question of familiars was not resolved by the accord of 1568, which was the same as that issued in Valencia the same year. It was only after 1646, when the Cortes of Aragon had passed measures which restricted the jurisdiction of the Inquisition, that some satisfaction was gained by the secular tribunals of the realm.

In Catalonia conflicts over familiars were nominally settled by an agreement made at the Cortes of Monzón in August 1512, but the Inquisition never really accepted this. Then in 1553 the Cortes ruled that no official exercising civil jurisdiction in Catalonia could be a familiar. Further disputes ended in the Inquisition proposing a settlement in 1568. This was violently opposed by the Catalans. The viceroy reported that “all the courts, the consellers, the diputats and other judicial officers are determined to lay down their lives” rather than accept it. Small wonder that the Barcelona inquisitors reported that the Catalans “will not be content until they have driven the Inquisition from this realm.”43 Finally in 1585 it was conceded by the Inquisition at Monzón that in Catalonia “familiars and officials of the Holy Office cannot be admitted to office in the courts or in public administration.” It was a unique concession, very detrimental to the interests of the Catalan Inquisition, which reported in 1609 that “for a long time now people do not seek to become familiars, in order not to disqualify themselves from holding [civil] posts.”44 In that year there were only fifteen familiars in the entire territory of Catalonia. In the Vall d’Arán, technically in Catalonia and ruled over by the king but forming part of a French diocese, “no one wants to be a familiar even though we go to their houses and beg them.”45

The endless story of disputes over the numbers of familiars and problems over jurisdiction has tended to overshadow the history of the familiars themselves. By creating a network within each tribunal district, the Inquisition hoped to attach to its interests a section of the local population that made it possible for the two or three resident inquisitors to carry out their duties adequately. The social standing of familiars was therefore of paramount importance, and attempts were made to recruit from the highest circles and the purest blood. In Galicia the policy seems to have succeeded in one or two towns, for the twenty-five familiars in Santiago were successful merchants in the city, a sort of businessman’s club. Likewise, in the seaport of Mataró (Catalonia) in 1628, the familiars were two business partners who formed the core of a flourishing trade network.46 As a rule, people were eager to accept the post if it protected them from secular jurisdiction and gave them privileges of freedom from some types of taxation. In both Andalucia and Valencia lesser gentry were a small but significant portion of familiars.47 In the predominantly rural society of those times, however, most familiars in the crown of Aragon were inevitably peasant farmers (labradores).48 In Catalonia, outside the cities virtually all familiars were farmers, with merchants as a significant proportion only in the ports.49

Although the network established a presence for the Inquisition, it did little else. It by no means acted as a form of social control, for familiars very rarely figured as suppliers of information, nor is it likely that anyone in a rural community would have risked his life to become a professional informer. In some areas familiars were openly discriminated against, if we may believe the inquisitors of Llerena (Extremadura), complaining in 1597 of “the injuries which the corregidores, legal officials and town councils commit against the familiars of this Holy Office simply because they are familiars. The fact is that a man can live in his village for twenty or thirty years without the officials doing anything to injure him, but as soon as he becomes a familiar they move against him, especially if there are conversos in the town council.”50

The steady decline in the number of familiars suggests that the post, even with its privileges, was not always much sought after. Between 1611 and 1641 in Galicia the number of familiars fell by 44 percent; where previously they had existed in 226 villages, now they were to be found in only 108.51 Writers of that time continued nevertheless to give wholly misleading figures for the numbers of familiars in Spain. In a well-known book published in 1675 the author Alonso Núñez de Castro claimed that “there are more than 20,000 familiars in Spain.”52 Another contemporary, the French ambassador, borrowed the wholly inaccurate figure from him and repeated it in his memoirs. Their testimony helped to maintain the legend of a Spain overrun by officials of the Inquisition. In fact, the numbers were shrinking. An account given by the Holy Office in 1748 shows that the province of Toledo had less than a hundred familiars instead of the eight hundred to which it was entitled, and the entire kingdom of Aragon had only thirty-five instead of the thousand or more it was permitted.53 The evidence suggests that the organizational apparatus built up by the Inquisition was flimsy, did not exercise social control and had only a marginal impact on the daily lives of most Spaniards.

A similar conclusion may be applied to the role of comisarios, brought into existence from the 1560s.54 They were normally local parish priests who acted for the Inquisition on special occasions and supplied it with data on births and marriages. They also frequently passed on denunciations from their parishioners to the regional inquisitors, in the way they had done in Languedoc in the medieval Inquisition.55 Without their essential help, the inquisitors would have been wholly unable to carry out their role in the Spanish countryside. In some areas, commensurate with the duties they had to carry out, comisarios could be men of education.56 In others, they fell far short of the required standard. In 1553 the bishop of Pamplona complained that those in his diocese were “idiots,” and had elected to become comisarios only in order to escape from his jurisdiction.57 In Catalonia in 1570 the inquisitors reported that nobody wanted the post, and by the mid-seventeenth century there were almost no comisarios in the province.

The most surprising aspect of the administration of the Holy Office was its often inadequate financing. Even though it was a government department, it was left to fend for itself. In this it mirrored the model of the medieval French Inquisition, which never received a fixed source of revenue. The Spanish tribunal was from the first financed out of the proceeds of its own activities. Confiscations were, in the early period, far and away the most important source.58

Confiscation of property was the standard punishment prescribed by canon law for heresy. Ferdinand stated in 1485 that confiscations imposed in Spain were by order of the pope, so it would seem that the Church controlled the process. In fact, at the beginning it was the secular authorities who carried out confiscations. Only later did the inquisitors take over control. There were normally two stages to the exercise. At the first stage, upon the arrest of a suspect his goods and income might be “sequestrated.” This could have terrible consequences and was much dreaded. The sequestrations were used to pay the costs of the prisoner in jail. If he were there long enough the money might all be used up, thereby driving his dependents into poverty. In effect, therefore, a sequestration might amount to a confiscation. Confiscation proper, which occurred only at the second stage, resulted from a judicial verdict and was a regular penalty for major offenses.

The principal victims of confiscations were the richer conversos, whose wealth must have stirred many an orthodox spirit. As Queen Isabella’s secretary Hernando del Pulgar wrote sardonically of the citizens of Toledo during a time of civil disturbances: “What great inquisitors of the faith they must be, to be finding heresies in the property of the peasants of the town of Fuensalida, which they rob and burn!”59 The initial seizures carried out by the Inquisition were substantial. The alleged plot of conversos against the Inquisition in Seville in 1481 was followed by confiscation of the property not only of the fabled Susán but of “many others, very prominent and very rich,” to quote Bernáldez. In the words of a later chronicler of Seville, “what was noticeable was the great number of prosecutions against moneyed men.”60 In the years after this, great and wealthy converso families could be ruined by even the slightest taint of heresy, since being condemned to “reconciliation” (see chapter 9) meant that all the culprit’s property was confiscated and not allowed to pass to his descendants, so that widows and children were often left without any provision.

Not surprisingly, many ordinary Spaniards came to the conclusion that the Inquisition was devised simply to rob people. “They were burnt only for the money they had,” a resident of Cuenca declared. “They burn only the well-off, because they have property; the others they leave alone,” said another. In 1504 an accused stated that “only the rich were burnt by the Inquisition, not the poor.”61 When a woman in Aranda de Duero in 1501 expressed alarm about the announced coming of the inquisitors to those parts, a man retorted: “Don’t be afraid of being burnt, they’re only after the money.”62 In 1483 after a city councilor of Ciudad Real, the converso Juan González Pintado, was burnt for heresy, Catalina de Zamora was accused of asserting that “this Inquisition that the fathers are carrying out is as much for taking property from the conversos as for defending the faith.”63 “It is the goods,” she said on another occasion, “that are the heretics.” This saying appears to have become common usage in Spain. The city authorities of Barcelona, protesting in 1509 against the technique of confiscations, complained that “goods are not heretics.”64 The issue certainly influenced the advice given by the Suprema in 1539 to the inquisitor of Navarre, that he should go easy on confiscations “so as not to cause people to say that the Holy Office is doing this out of cupidity.”65 People continued all the same to believe it. The Inquisition was there, a Catalan commented in 1572, “only to get money.” In addition to the profits made at Seville, the Inquisition found confiscations could be profitable elsewhere. During its brief year-long stay in the small town of Guadalupe in 1485, enough money was raised from confiscations by the tribunal to pay almost entirely for the building of a royal residence costing 7,286 ducats.66

In most of the cases we have on record, the money from confiscated property seems to have been largely disposed of by the Inquisition. It will probably never be clear what proportion of money went to the crown and what to the tribunal. Whatever King Ferdinand’s expectations may have been,67 no available documentation supports the idea of the crown raking in profits. In 1524 a treasurer informed Charles V that his predecessor had received 10 million ducats from the conversos, but the figure is both unverified and implausible.68

From time to time confiscations might be substantial. In 1592 in Granada an inquisitor admitted that of the fifty-odd women he had arrested “many or most were rich.”69 In later periods there were bonanzas. In 1676, towards the end of the last great and fruitful campaign of the Inquisition against the Portuguese judaizers resident in Spain, the Suprema claimed that it had obtained from the royal treasury confiscations amounting to 772,748 ducats and 884,979 pesos. These sums are extremely large for the period, and suggest that the crown was receiving a high proportion of confiscations. But that was not always true. If we look at the value of property confiscated on Mallorca after the alleged converso conspiracy of 1678 had been discovered, we find that the totals come to well over 2.5 million ducats,70 certainly the biggest single sum gathered in by the Inquisition in all the three centuries of its existence. Of this vast sum, however, it seems that the crown received under 5 percent.

Invariably judicial disputes arose over property that had been seized. Debts of the accused had to be paid; the expenses of officials and of court cases had to be met. The crown could claim a third, as had apparently occurred under Ferdinand and Isabella. Some of the money was invested in censos (annuities) and houses by the inquisitors. In the city of Lleida in 1487, the confiscations from converso property were assigned to the city council, a religious order, a hospital and to various other needs, so that the Inquisition did not manage to control all the revenue available.71 By a thousand different routes the money trickled out of the hands of the inquisitors. When the reason was not mismanagement, it was the sheer dishonesty of minor officials. Whatever the income from confiscations at any time, it is safe to assume that the tribunals did not grow appreciably wealthier, or at least did not keep up their temporary wealth for long periods.

After confiscations, there were three important sources of flexible revenue. These were “fines,” which could be levied at any rate desired and were often used simply to raise money to cover expenses; and “penances” (penitencias), which were more formal and were usually decreed at a solemn occasion such as an auto de fe. Both fines and penances could, of course, be realized out of sequestrated property. Finally, there was the category of “dispensations” or “commutations,” when a punishment decreed by the Inquisition was commuted to a cash payment. This penalty, also sometimes called a “composition,” seems to have been most in use in the decade after the expulsion of the Jews and was levied on conversos who wished to be “rehabilitated,” that is, wipe their slate clean of offenses. Nearly two thousand persons paid this fine in Seville in 1494, and about the same number in Toledo the year after. The income, with so many people involved, could be substantial. Many with money were only too willing to pay for relief from the public shame of having to wear a sanbenito or penitential garment. At later periods, the method served to purchase relief from certain penalties: some, for example, managed to escape service in the galleys by paying for dispensations.

Together, these apparently small sources of income produced respectable sums, though never enough to substantiate the sweeping view that the Inquisition was founded to rob the conversos. Between 1493 and 1495 the various tribunals handed to the council of the Inquisition some 45,000 ducats for fines.72 In 1497 the royal treasurer acknowledged receipt from the Toledo Inquisition of about 17,000 ducats realized from dispensations.73 In general, it is likely that these various sources of income never came to more than 2 percent of government treasury receipts in any year.74 The crown was not in the business for profits. It does not alter the fact that many families might face misery as a result of the fines.

Why, during this phase of comparatively high income, was no provision made for a secure financial base? This may have been in part, as we have mentioned, because the Spanish Inquisition was modeled on the medieval, which had no secure funds either. But we must also take into account the fact that the early Inquisition in Spain was an itinerant tribunal, created for an emergency and with no long-term plans, as the various Instructions of Torquemada show clearly. The Catholic Kings may well have thought of it as being no more permanent than that other useful organization of theirs, the Hermandad.

There were certainly no financial problems in the first years. After Isabella’s death in 1504, however, there was a sharp drop in confiscation income. “It is reported that the costs of the Inquisition exceed its income,” an official noted.75 The treasury of the Inquisition received in 1509 one-tenth of what it was receiving in 1498.76 Over the next generation, with the disappearance of the great persecution of conversos, income plummeted. The crown had to decide what to do about this situation. Because the Inquisition was strictly a royal tribunal, revenue from confiscations and fines went in the first instance to the crown, which then paid out for the salaries and expenses of the inquisitors. Under the Catholic Kings, the Holy Office was totally subject to the crown for finance. As late as 1540 the Suprema reported that orders for salaries of inquisitors in the crown of Aragon were always signed by the king and not by the inquisitor general.77

The crown, however, helped itself to so much inquisitorial income that very soon it had to find extra money for salaries, and Ferdinand therefore turned to the Church. In 1488 the pope granted him the right to appoint inquisitors to one prebend78 (when vacant) in each cathedral or collegiate church. The king made ten appointments that year. He had, however, endangered the financial position of the Inquisition, and under the absentee Charles V the Suprema slowly began to take control away from the crown. In the 1540s royal control was virtually nominal, and by the 1550s the Suprema was actually withholding details of confiscations from the king.79 It was at this period that the Inquisition obtained its next secure source of revenue.

Already, in 1501, the pope had granted to all the tribunals of Spain the income from specified canonries and prebends, but for several reasons this had never fully taken effect. The government was still wrestling with the problem half a century later. In 1547 Prince Philip informed his father that he was discussing with Inquisitor General Valdés and Francisco de los Cobos “a memorandum they have drawn up on their ideas for the reform and supply of the salaries of the Inquisition.” The emperor, he added, “knows better than anybody how important it is to maintain the Inquisition in these realms, and how great an advantage it would be if they had secure salaries.”80 Impressed by the struggles of the Inquisition against heresy within Spain, the pope in 1559 generously repeated the terms of the grant of 1501. The concession responded to efforts which Valdés and Philip II had been making for several years. From now on, aided by the income from ecclesiastical offices and from various financial agreements made with the Moriscos in the 1570s, the Inquisition became less dependent on the crown for survival. It also ceased to rely on (dwindling) confiscations. The canonries and investments (censos) were more secure and became, at last, a reliable basis of income for the Holy Office.

The evolution from deficit to relative stability can be seen in the case of the tribunal of Llerena. In the early sixteenth century, with profitable income from judaizers now virtually a thing of the past, most tribunals faced severe problems. The dangers of this situation were certainly in the mind of the anonymous converso of Toledo who in 1538 directed a memorial to Charles V: “Your Majesty should above all provide that the expenses of the Holy Office do not come from the property of the condemned, because it is a repugnant thing if inquisitors cannot eat unless they burn [recia cosa es que si no queman no comen].”81 Unfortunately, this is exactly what the inquisitors of Llerena were forced to do. With no revenue coming in, they were obliged to go out and look for it. “We must look out,” one inquisitor commented, “for a solution to maintain the said tribunal in the future.” In 1550 the salaries of officials, amounting to 1,395 ducats, could not be met by income from current fines, which brought in only 1,000 ducats.82 In July 1554 the inquisitor Dr. Ramirez informed the Suprema that “this Inquisition cannot subsist without going on a visitation every year.” As remedies he proposed that one of the two posts of inquisitor be suppressed; that the post of receiver be dropped and the work given to the notary; that confiscations be looked after directly by the remaining inquisitor; and that further visitations be made to the diocese of Badajoz, which was promisingly full of suspicious people, so that “with a bit of care there will be no lack of business whereby God our Lord will be served and the Holy Office be able to sustain itself.” By July 1572, with the new system of canonries, all this had changed. Two canonries, in Badajoz and Ciudad Rodrigo, now brought in 1,813 ducats, and extensive confiscations from the wealthy family of Lorenzo Angelo in Badajoz raised income in 1572 to nearly 5,000 ducats.83

For the next two centuries confiscations and canonries remained the chief direct sources of finance for each tribunal. Two canonries, in Málaga and Antequera, provided the tribunal of Granada with 12.8 percent of its income in 1573;84 three canonries, in Córdoba, Jaén and Ubeda together provided 40 percent of the income of the tribunal of Córdoba in 1578;85 and four canonries—in Badajoz, Plasencia, Coria and Ciudad Rodrigo—provided 37.1 percent of that of the tribunal of Llerena in 1611.86 Without the regular annual income from these Church offices, the Inquisition would have gone bankrupt.

By their nature, confiscations and sequestrations could never bring in a reliable income. The vast majority of all those accused by the Inquisition were people of humble means and the inquisitors would need to have had a regular annual turnover of hundreds of prisoners in order to get anything like a substantial revenue. Windfalls like the great persecution of Chuetas in Mallorca in the 1680s were exceptional. The normal picture was of tribunals trying desperately to find income for the costs of administration, prosecution, maintenance of prisoners and the increasingly expensive autos de fe. The documentation is full of complaints by local inquisitors that they cannot provide either for themselves or for their prisoners.

The regular state of deficit in the tribunals can be seen by looking at the percentage shortfall of expenses against income over a period of time. For example, income in Granada in 1618 was 3 percent more than costs, but in 1671 expenses were 3 percent more than income and in 1705 27 percent more.87 The figures leave no doubt that the Inquisition was in a parlous financial state. The accounts of income and expenditure of the tribunal of Córdoba show us a persistent history of debt over three centuries: in 1578 expenses exceeded income by 14.6 percent, in 1642 by 26.8 percent, in 1661 by 33.8 percent, in 1726 by 11.2 percent.88

Why were the tribunals in constant debt? Quite apart from insufficient income and difficulties caused by the highest inflation rate in Europe, the problems of the Inquisition can be explained simply by the fact that bureaucracy was absorbing an enormous proportion of income. In 1498 Torquemada had suggested that each tribunal have two inquisitors and a small number of officials. By the late sixteenth century this concept of a modest establishment had disappeared forever. Córdoba in 1578 had twenty-six officials, Llerena in 1598 had thirty;89 the number in each case included three inquisitors. In Córdoba salaries consumed 75.6 percent of income. In addition to this, each tribunal had to send a proportion of income to the Suprema, which had its own expenses. The sum contributed by Córdoba to the Suprema in 1578 represented nearly a fifth of its costs. At this period the salaries of the Suprema bureaucracy were impressively high.90 The Council spent 15,500 ducats a year on wages (the inquisitor general got a quarter of this), compared with an average total wage bill for each of the bigger provincial tribunals of around 3,200 ducats. Local tribunals also had to finance special expenses such as the autos de fe. In 1655, at a time when its normal annual income was around 9,300 ducats, Córdoba put on an auto which cost over 5,300 ducats.91

This brings us to the most crucial source of inquisitorial income: censos, or investment income. We know that the Inquisition never became a great property-owning institution, and that the estates owned at the end of the eighteenth century were of modest value only. The tribunal of Seville, for example, owned a total of twenty-five rented dwellings and two small estates in 1799.92 The Holy Office had never lacked the opportunity to become rich, but several factors hindered it doing so. Sequestrations and confiscations did not always produce their full values. Against them had to be set the cost of maintaining prisoners, the debts already owed by those arrested and the claims of innocent dependent relatives. For example, when in 1760 a royal official in Santander was arrested, his sequestrated property was valued at 32,000 ducats, but of this 36.6 percent went to payment of his debts, 31.7 percent to his heirs, and only the remaining 31.7 percent to the Inquisition.93 The example is not necessarily typical: in all too many cases the Inquisition refused to pay creditors or family, and kept confiscated property for itself. From the beginning, moreover, the crown had decided that the tribunal required cash rather than an accumulation of property. Confiscations were therefore put up for sale in the open market, and the cash obtained was invested, “as ordered by the Catholic king” (the reference, to King Ferdinand, was in 1519).94 Many tribunals were very lax in buying censos, and in 1579 the Suprema had to insist that as soon as one censo was paid off the cash must be reinvested in another. The need to have a steady income—one quite independent of the unreliable and irregular income from confiscations—was undoubtedly the main reason why by the sixteenth century most tribunals were investing heavily in censos. After the turmoil of the Morisco expulsions, we find the Valencia tribunal in 1630 with 45,500 ducats invested in censos at 5 percent, yielding an annual income of 2,275 ducats.

Censos, in short, became the regular cash source of the Inquisition. In 1573 no less than 74 percent, and in 1576 80 percent, of the income of the Granada tribunal came from censos and house rents;95 in 1611, 63.3 percent of the income of Llerena came from censos.96 Everywhere the tribunals began to rely on investment income for survival. In the tribunals in Morisco territory the Inquisition was excessively vulnerable because most of the censos were on land worked by the Moriscos. Events such as the Alpujarra risings or the Morisco expulsion after 1609 were therefore disastrous, not simply because of the loss of the special payments made by the racial minorities but because most of the cash income, in censos and rents, came from Moriscos.

The Inquisition, in financial terms, became a sort of bank through which money from various sectors of society—conversos, Moriscos, financiers—was channeled. Since the inquisitors needed a regular flow rather than future benefits, censos were a fair business risk and preferable to any other economic activity (they brought in 7 percent in the late sixteenth century, arguably a higher rate of return than most other investments). Thus the Holy Office joined other ranks of society which the writer González de Cellorigo was later (in 1600) to condemn for their devotion to the quick profit from censos, “the plague and ruin of Spain.”

Inevitably, individual inquisitors saw no reason why they should not also profit. Lea cites the cases of the Suprema president who was banished in 1642 for malversation of funds, and the inquisitor who died in 1643 allegedly leaving 40,000 ducats in gold and silver.97 One may well suspect that some tribunals were richer than their financial statements suggested. Take, for instance, the tribunal of Toledo, which on paper had a permanent deficit. If this were really true, how does one explain the interesting case history of the accountant of the Inquisition there, the priest Juan de Castrejana, who was born in poverty but who managed before his death in 1681 to buy up lands in his hometown, endow a chapel and a hospital, lend money to his town council, buy investments in Madrid, set up a silk-manufacturing company and lend money to the silk merchants of Madrid?98

In the late seventeenth century there were other positive signs for the inquisitors. It was without any doubt a period of decline in both income and personnel. The oft-criticized familiars had all but disappeared. In 1748 their numbers had been reduced to less than a fifth of those permitted. In Galicia and in Aragon, 98 percent of towns had no familiar.99 Punishment of heresy also disappeared. The only aspect that improved, from the Inquisition’s point of view, was finance. At the end of the seventeenth century and in the early eighteenth, numerous tribunals were faced once again by a lucrative spate of confiscations. This happened most notably in Granada, in Murcia and—most impressively of all—in Mallorca. In the course of the eighteenth century, with the almost total disappearance of prosecutions, revenue from fines and confiscations obviously slumped. By contrast, the censos, in an expanding agrarian economy, now yielded splendid returns. The tribunal of Murcia may serve as example. In 1792 its income was 103,000 ducats. Because it had few or no cases to deal with, costs absorbed only 40 percent of this, leaving a nice favorable balance of 60 percent.100

Our glance at the Inquisition’s structure underlines the very exceptional nature of the institution. There were “Inquisitions” before and later, in Germany, France and Italy, and all were small papal commissions with a purely temporary role. There were also from time to time courts in other countries—like the Star Chamber in England and the Chambre Ardente in France—that looked into cases of heresy. But in Spain, for the very first time in European history, a disciplinary tribunal was created that had both the sanction of the pope and the full political support of the state, exercising an open-ended program of investigating first heresy and then other related offenses. The tribunal, moreover, was given jurisdiction that usually overrode that of the bishops, was exercised over the greater part of national territory, and had exceptional backup in the form of a governing body with the status of a royal council of state. It began developing, moreover, an unprecedented system of archiving information for which later-day historians would be supremely grateful.

Presented in this way, the Inquisition was a thing of awe. The inquisitors themselves did not hesitate to affirm their position and their power, and through the generations those who had been their prisoners—notably Jews and Protestants—helped to build up the same terrifying image. Behind this face, however, there were perhaps more solid realities. It was still the post-medieval era, not one for imposing the lineaments of a police state. The means did not exist for a handful of men, with run-of-the-mill training and no technology or adequate communications on hand, to set up a machinery of repression. As time would show, there were almost insurmountable barriers that quickly limited the capacity for tyranny.

The barriers to efficiency were, in broad terms, three. First, there was systematic and unending resistance from other courts, both royal and autonomous, and from regional authorities. Second, there were the innate drawbacks of a primitive organization run by persons who were often ignorant, incompetent and corrupt. Civil and Church authorities in previous times in Europe had tried methods for collecting information and identifying dissenters,101 but the Inquisition still had a long way to go before it could achieve a satisfactory level of data efficiency. Third, all systems of control need to draw support as well as information from the grass roots, but the inquisitors never managed to achieve this to any adequate extent. These three issues are fundamental to an understanding of the tribunal, and help us avoid the mistaken view of the Inquisition as an all-powerful organ of state power.

Perhaps the most significant aspect is that there was, as we have seen in chapter 4, constant resistance. Though the Inquisition is often supposed to have led a relatively tranquil existence among the people of Spain, and even to have dominated the people by its presence, it was never sure of its position and was always anxious to emphasize its rights and privileges. Foreign travelers who referred glibly to its immense power were deceiving themselves and us. Its political life was always stormy, and quarrels of jurisdiction plagued its entire career, which was marked by serious disputes with the papacy, the bishops and virtually every other authority in the state.

Its conflicts with Rome usually concerned jurisdiction, but occasionally issues of principle might transform a question of jurisdiction into something much greater. The Inquisition derived its authority from the pope and was consequently governed by papal regulations. Complaints against the tribunal could be best dealt with if taken directly to the fount of authority, the pope. The conversos in the fifteenth century did their best both in Castile and in Aragon to obtain papal decrees to modify the rigor of the Holy Office. This was a legitimate procedure, since the constitution of the tribunal allowed appeals to Rome, which was eager to maintain its rights, not only to preserve control but also to protect possible sources of revenue, for the conversos paid liberally for any bulls granted by the pope. But the Spanish monarchs, supported by the inquisitors, refused to take cognizance of papal letters that contradicted the verdict of their courts. Ferdinand’s famous letter to Sixtus IV in May 1482 illustrates the firmness of the crown’s attitude. The vacillation of Rome before Spanish claims, and the contradictory policies followed by successive popes, made it possible in the end for inquisitors usually to have things their own way. As early as 2 August 1483 Sixtus IV granted to the conversos a bull which revoked to Rome all cases of appeal, but only eleven days later he suspended this, claiming he had been misled. When his successor Innocent VIII tried to pursue a similar policy of issuing papal letters to appellants from Spain, Ferdinand stepped in and on 15 December 1484 issued a pragmatic decreeing death and confiscation for anyone making use of papal letters without royal permission.102

Ferdinand’s next decree, of 31 August 1509, renewed the penalties of the 1484 decree. Under Charles V the papacy became more cautious. Clement VII in 1524 and 1525 renewed the permission it had regularly (in 1483, 1486, 1502, 1507, 1518 and 1523) granted to the inquisitor general to exercise appellate jurisdiction in place of the pope and to hear appeals that would normally have been directed to the Holy See. This did not mean that Rome had given up the right to hear appeals, and when papal letters again began to be issued, Charles V in 1537 reinforced the decree of 1509.

Although Rome did occasionally refer appeals back to Spain,103 the Inquisition was more usually employed rejecting the claims made by holders of papal letters. This situation continued throughout the seventeenth century. But the Inquisition was not unduly concerned by difficulties with Rome, and even before the end of the sixteenth century we find the secretary of the Suprema asserting complacently that the Holy See had abandoned its claim to ultimate jurisdiction over cases tried by the tribunal.

Under Philip V the new Bourbon dynasty tolerated no interference by Rome, and thereby continued the tradition of Philip II. Hostility under Philip V was aggravated by the international situation and by the pope’s support for the archduke Charles, Habsburg pretender to the throne of Spain. In 1705 papal decrees were forbidden in Spain and all appeals to Rome prohibited. This assertion of “regalism” was supported by most of the bishops and also by the advocate-general Melchor de Macanaz in a famous memorandum of 1713. With the advent of the Bourbons and their new extension of power over the western Mediterranean, in both Spain and Italy a declining papacy had little opportunity to assert its old jurisdictional claims.

Before the birth of the papal Inquisition in the thirteenth century, bishops had the principal jurisdiction over heretics. This episcopal power was for all purposes suspended with the creation of the Spanish Inquisition, which claimed and maintained exclusive authority over all cases of heresy. Bishops still in theory retained their rights of jurisdiction, but in practice they seldom or ever put the claim into effect. In January 1584 the Suprema informed the bishop of Tortosa that the popes had given the Inquisition exclusive jurisdiction over heresy and had prohibited cognizance by others. This claim was obviously false, since in 1595 the pope, Clement VIII, informed the archbishop of Granada that the authority of inquisitors in cases of heresy did not exclude episcopal jurisdiction.104These opposing pretensions led to frequent and serious quarrels between bishops and tribunals that were never satisfactorily settled.

Most of the religious orders were subject immediately to the papacy by their constitution, and were therefore generally free from episcopal jurisdiction. Since, however, the powers of the Inquisition derived from the papacy, the tribunals made every effort to bring the friars under their control in matters of faith. Political rivalry entered into this question, because the Dominican order had won for itself a special position not only in the medieval Inquisition but also in the Spanish. Hostility between Dominicans and Franciscans led to the latter obtaining bulls from Rome to protect their privileges. Under Charles V the opposition crumbled. In 1525 the emperor obtained two briefs from the pope subjecting all friars in Spain to the Inquisition and its officers. This did not last long, for in 1534 the pope restored to the Franciscans and other orders all the privileges they had previously enjoyed. The struggle went on intermittently until the beginning of seventeenth century, when papal briefs of 1592 and 1606 decided entirely in favor of the Inquisition.

We have seen that the Society of Jesus, although founded and controlled by Spaniards, encountered suspicion in sixteenth-century Spain. Siliceo, the archbishop of Toledo, was hostile; and the famous Dominican Melchor Cano led a vigorous campaign in which he denounced the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius as heretical. Cano and Siliceo were only part of a wider campaign to discredit the Jesuit order.105 One of the liberties questioned by the Inquisition was the Jesuit privilege of not having to denounce heretics to anyone but their own superior in the order. When in 1585 it was learned that the fathers of the Jesuit college at Monterrey in Galicia had been concealing the heresies of some of their number instead of denouncing them to the Holy Office, the latter acted immediately by arresting the provincial of Castile and two fathers from Monterrey. The Inquisition did not succeed in punishing its prisoners because the case was revoked to Rome in 1587, but the affair clinched its victory over the religious orders.

Only one class of people, the bishops, remained beyond inquisitorial jurisdiction. Bishops could be tried only by Rome, a rule that had been upheld in the medieval Inquisition. In Spain the issue was of some importance because of the high proportion of bishops who had converso blood. Among the earliest of those singled out for attack by the Inquisition was Bishop Juan Arias Dávila of Segovia, who took over the see in 1461. He had refused to allow the Holy Office into his diocese, and on being accused by the tribunal was summoned to Rome in 1490, in his eightieth year.106 Even more distinguished was Pedro de Aranda, bishop of Calahorra and in 1482 president of the council of Castile. He was summoned to Rome in 1493 and died there in disgrace in 1500. One of the most eminent bishops to suffer patent injustice was Hernando de Talavera, whose case we have already noted. But the most famous example of a clash between inquisitorial and episcopal authority, in a case that also involved royal and papal privileges, was that of Bartolomé de Carranza, archbishop of Toledo.

Bartolomé de Carranza y Miranda was born in 1503 in Navarre, of poor but hidalgo parents.107 At the age of twelve he entered the University of Alcalá, and at seventeen joined the Dominican order. He was sent to study at Valladolid where his intellectual gifts soon won him a chair in theology. In his early thirties he went to Rome to win his doctorate in the same subject, and returned to Spain famous. For a while he acted as a censor to the Inquisition, but refused all offers of promotion. In 1542 he refused the wealthy see of Cuzco in America, and likewise rejected the post of royal confessor in 1548, and that of bishop of the Canaries in 1550. He was twice sent to the sessions of the Council of Trent as a Spanish representative, in 1545 and 1551. He returned to Spain in 1553 and in the following year accompanied Prince Philip on his journey to England to marry Mary Tudor. There he apparently distinguished himself by the zeal with which he crushed heretics and purified the universities of Oxford and Cambridge. The testimony for his activity in those months comes principally from his own defense before the Inquisition a few years later; it is possible that he exaggerated his role, though a scholar states: “it is hard to deny that Carranza was central to the violence against reformed believers in England.”108

In May 1557 Archbishop Siliceo of Toledo died. Philip, then in Brussels, immediately decided to give the post to Carranza, who refused the honor as he had refused all others. The king was adamant. Eventually Carranza said that he would accept only if ordered to do so. In this way he became the holder of the most important see in the Catholic world after Rome. Carranza was a parvenu in the ecclesiastical circles of Spain. His claims to Toledo were less than those of other distinguished prelates in Spain, notably his personal enemy the inquisitor general Fernando de Valdés.109 Like Siliceo, Carranza was a man of humble origins thrown into a rigidly aristocratic milieu. He had been nominated to the see while abroad without any effort by Philip to consult his Spanish advisers. Intellectually he was far inferior to his brother Dominican, Melchor Cano, a brilliant theologian who had always been Carranza’s bitterest rival in the order. The new archbishop obviously had enemies. Only the weapon of attack was lacking. This was supplied by Carranza himself in his Commentaries on the Christian Catechism, which he published in Castilian in 1558 at Antwerp.

The Commentaries were considered thoroughly orthodox in doctrine. The Council of Trent examined and approved the work, and numerous other distinguished theologians in Spain agreed with this. But, as we have had occasion to see (in chapter 6 above), there were new considerations that affected the fate of spiritual writings in Spain. Phrases in his work were seized upon by hostile critics, notably Cano, and were denounced as heresy. The archbishop of Granada called the work “reliable, trustworthy, pious and Catholic”: the bishop of Almería said the book “contained no heresy and much excellent doctrine.” Yet Melchor Cano asserted that the work “contains many propositions which are scandalous, rash and ill-sounding, others which savor of heresy, others which are erroneous, and even some which are heretical.” Led by Valdés, whose hostility to spiritual writings in unlettered hands was decisive, the Inquisition accepted Cano’s opinion. Small wonder that pope Pius V claimed that “the theologians of Spain want to make him a heretic although he is not one!” Nor can we entirely discount the issue of a clash of personalities. Both Valdés and Cano detested Carranza; and in the world of ecclesiastical politics the archbishop had enemies such as Pedro de Castro, bishop of Cuenca, and his brother Rodrigo, a member of the Suprema.

What ruined Carranza was the Protestant crisis in Spain, which occurred at precisely the time of his elevation to the see of Toledo. Interrogation of Carlos de Seso and Pedro Cazalla resulted in detailed denunciations of the archbishop. On one occasion he was said to have told them he believed as they did; on another he was reported as saying, “As for me, I don’t believe in purgatory.” He was said to have used Lutheran terminology when preaching in London. The inquisitor general carefully took note of all these testimonies. Still the Holy Office did not act against Carranza, for as a bishop he was answerable only to Rome. Valdés made urgent representations to Rome, and in January 1559 Pope Paul IV sent letters empowering the Inquisition to act against bishops for a limited period of two years, but both the prisoner and the case were to be referred to Rome. Valdés received the brief on 8 April 1559. On 6 May the fiscal of the Inquisition drew up an indictment calling for the arrest of Carranza “for having preached, written and dogmatized many heresies of Luther.” After much pressure Philip II gave his sanction on 26 June. On 6 August Carranza, expecting the blow to fall any day, was summoned to Valladolid by the government.

Fearing the import of the summons, Carranza set out but delayed the progress of his journey. On 16 August he was met by a Dominican colleague and friend from Alcalá who warned him that the Inquisition was searching to arrest him. Shaken by this, the archbishop continued his journey until four days later he reached the safety of Torrelaguna, just north of Madrid, where he met his friend Fray Pedro de Soto, who had come from Valladolid to warn him. But already it was too late. Carranza did not know that four days before his arrival the officials of the Inquisition had taken up their residence in Torrelaguna and were awaiting his coming. He reached the little town on Sunday, 20 August. Very early in the morning of Tuesday, 22 August, the inquisitors Diego Ramírez and Rodrigo Castro, together with about ten armed familiars, made their way up to Carranza’s bedroom and demanded, “Open to the Holy Office!” The intruders were let in, and an official addressed the archbishop, “Your Honor, I have been ordered to arrest Your Reverence in the name of the Holy Office.” Carranza said quietly, “Do you have sufficient warrant for this?” The official then read the order signed by the Suprema.

Carranza protested, “Do the inquisitors not know that they cannot be my judges, since by my dignity and consecration I am subject immediately to the pope and to no other?” This was the moment for the trump card to be played. Ramírez said, “Your Reverence will be fully satisfied on that account,” and showed him the papal brief. All that day the archbishop was kept under house arrest and in the evening a curfew was imposed on the town. No one was to venture into the streets after nine p.m. and nobody was to look out of the windows. In the silence and darkness that midnight the inquisitors and their prey were spirited out of Torrelaguna. In the early hours of 28 August Carranza was escorted into Valladolid, and allotted as prison a couple of rooms in a private residence in the city.110

During the whole of his confinement he was not allowed any recourse to the sacraments. In human terms, the tragic story of the archbishop was just beginning; but politically the story was at an end. From now on Carranza ceased to matter as a human being and became a mere pawn in the struggle for jurisdiction between Rome and the Inquisition. He no longer counted in a controversy where the real issues had become the ambitions of individuals and the pretensions of ecclesiastical tribunals. Marañón observes that in this atmosphere of villainy there was at least one just man—Dr. Martín de Azpilcueta, known as Dr. Navarro—who accepted a commission from Philip II to go and protect the interests of the archbishop at his eventual trial in Rome.

In the prolonged negotiations between Rome and the Spanish authorities, the papacy was concerned to claim its rights over Carranza and thereby to vindicate its unique control over bishops. Philip II saw the papal claim as interference in Spanish affairs and refused to allow the Inquisition to surrender its prisoner. Pope Pius IV in 1565 sent a special legation to negotiate in Madrid. Among its members were three prelates who later became popes as Gregory XIII, Urban VII and Sixtus V. They failed to make the mission a success. As one of them (reflecting a perception that many Italians had about Spain) wrote back to Rome:

Nobody dares to speak in favor of Carranza for fear of the Inquisition. No Spaniard would dare to absolve the archbishop, even if he were believed innocent, because this would mean opposing the Inquisition. The authority of the latter would not allow it to admit that it had imprisoned Carranza unjustly. The most ardent defenders of justice here consider that it is better for an innocent man to be condemned than for the Inquisition to suffer disgrace.111

With the accession of Pius V to the papal throne in 1566, a solution came into sight. From his prison cell Carranza managed to smuggle a message out to Rome in the form of a paper bearing in his handwriting the words, “Lord, if it be thou, bid me come to thee upon the waters” (Matthew XIV, 28). This was exactly what Pius intended to do. In July 1566 he managed to reach an agreement with the Spanish authorities. After seven years of house arrest in his lodgings in Valladolid, Carranza was at last allowed to go to Rome to see the pope. The archbishop went with a special traveling companion, the duke of Alba, who was setting out on his historic visit to the Netherlands. Carranza arrived at the port of Cartagena on the last day of 1566, and was put up at the fortress until the fleet could sail. “The archbishop of Toledo,” Alba wrote to Philip’s chief minister, Cardinal Espinosa, with wry humor, “has been going out of his mind since yesterday thinking that because we spent last night embarking we did not intend to take him with us. They tell me that every hour we delay seems like a year to the archbishop.” After nearly four months of waiting in port, Carranza’s patience was rewarded. “In order to lose no more time,” the duke informed the king on 26 April, “I have decided to leave tonight.” In the darkness before dawn, a great fleet of forty ships sailed out to sea and made their way northwards up the coastline.

The aging archbishop reached Rome and was placed in honorable confinement in the castle of Sant’ Angelo. This second detention lasted nine years. Pius V died in 1572 without having decided the case. His successor, Gregory XIII, finally issued sentence in April 1576. The verdict was a compromise, made no doubt in order to placate Spain. The Commentaries were condemned and prohibited and Carranza was obliged to abjure a list of “errors,” after which he was told to retire to a monastery in Orvieto. Meanwhile the papacy was to administer the vacant and wealthy see of Toledo. The sentence was only in part satisfactory to Philip and to the Inquisition, whose authority would have suffered by an acquittal. It satisfied Rome, which had vindicated its sole authority over bishops; and, in a sense, it may have satisfied Carranza, who was not accused of any heresy despite the prohibition of his book, which was to remain in all the editions of the Spanish Index except the last one in 1790. Justice had been replaced by political compromise. Everything had been taken into consideration except the frail old man who, eighteen days after the papal verdict had been read over him, contracted a urinary infection from which he died at three a.m. on 2 May 1576.

From the beginning, the tribunal was closely allied with and dependent on the crown, with the result that later historians came to regard it as a secular tribunal more than an ecclesiastical one. This argument was adopted especially by Catholic apologists who hoped to disembarrass the Church of an unattractive chapter in ecclesiastical history. There is a prima facie case for the argument. The Suprema was a government council, not a Church one. The crown had absolute powers of appointment and dismissal of inquisitors, power which Ferdinand employed whenever he felt it necessary. In questions of administration, although decisions were in practice left to inquisitors, the king was kept carefully informed. A letter from Ferdinand to Torquemada, dated 22 July 1486, even shows the king laying down regulations for detailed and minor points such as the salaries of doorkeepers in the Inquisition. For any other question, he tells Torquemada, “see to it yourself and do as you think fit.”112 Royal control over the Inquisition is demonstrated by the fact that pleas for redress and reform by the Cortes in the early sixteenth century were all addressed to the crown. Most important of all, the tribunal was financially dependent on the crown.

However, as we have seen, the Inquisition was also an ecclesiastical tribunal. The papacy recognized the juridical existence of the Inquisition, but not apparently its status as a council, which made it a state body.113 Much ink has been spent on trying to define the nature of inquisitorial authority. The truth is that the Inquisition itself always claimed dual jurisdiction. Problems inevitably arose when it came to defining the frontier between the two types of authority. Though the question of jurisdiction over familiars, for example, had repeatedly been agreed upon through accords, there continued to be constant quarrels between civil courts and the Inquisition. As late as the seventeenth century an official of the Inquisition, discussing “whether the jurisdiction that the Holy Office exercises over its lay officers and familiars is ecclesiastical or secular,” came arbitrarily to the conclusion that “this jurisdiction is ecclesiastical.”114 In other words, secular courts could not try familiars. On the other hand, the Inquisition itself demanded the right to try laymen for nonecclesiastical offenses and for injuries done to its officers. At one and the same time, then, the Inquisition claimed to be exempt from secular authority but also claimed to be able to exercise secular authority.

It also claimed precedence over both Church and state in public events. This was one of the most common causes of conflict. The inquisitors argued that because they represented both pope and king they were entitled to precedence over all other authorities, including bishops and viceroys. As a result, Church and city authorities would often refuse to attend autos de fe (the judges of the Chancillería of Valladolid refused to attend the great auto of May 1559 for this reason), and in Barcelona the city consellers as a rule never went to autos.

The problem of jurisdiction arose out of the peculiar dual nature of inquisitorial power. To confirm its claim of exclusive authority over its own officials, the tribunal always took refuge in the papal bulls it had been granted. Neither the crown nor the Church courts, it argued, could go against these privileges. When critics pointed out that this limited the Inquisition to being a papal and ecclesiastical tribunal, inquisitors were quick to retort that, on the contrary, the Holy Office was also a secular tribunal, exercising power delegated by the crown. Indeed, the crown always supported this pretension. On 18 August 1501 King Ferdinand issued a decree prohibiting one of his own corregidors from “issuing a declaration saying that the Inquisition is of a different jurisdiction, because in fact it is all ours.” And on 9 December 1503 at Ocaña, Queen Isabella confirmed the dual jurisdiction of the Holy Office, saying that “the one jurisdiction aids and complements the other, so that justice may be done in the service of God.”115 Armed with these powers, the inquisitors were, of course, free to arrest royal officials in the name of royal authority, even when royal courts ruled against. The crown, we should note, usually abstained from interfering in such cases, in order not to take sides. In the sixteenth century officials of the Holy Office arrested the corregidor of Murcia for disrespect, the diputats of Perpignan for insults and the vicar general of Saragossa for arresting a comisario. They made the entire city council of Tarragona together with the dean and chapter of the cathedral attend mass as penitents with candles in their hands, to atone for not letting the inquisitors into their city when they were fleeing from a plague in Barcelona.116

Conflicts between the Inquisition and secular authorities were at their most acute in the realms of the crown of Aragon. The undoubted hostility of the Inquisition to the fueros (regional laws) was put plainly in a statement it issued in 1565: “there is no point in saying that [the actions of the Inquisition] are against the fueros and laws of the realm, since the Holy Office is not subject to the fueros when these are out of step with the law.”117 It was an arrogant claim, though in practice the inquisitors were careful not to overstep the limits of prudence. Nothing, however, could efface from the minds of officials in the crown of Aragon the feeling that the Inquisition was an alien institution.

In certain regions, the question of language was crucial. Roughly one in four Spaniards during the sixteenth century did not habitually speak Spanish. If Moriscos were interrogated, a translator often had to be on hand. In Catalonia testimony might be taken in the regional language but then transcribed in the only language understood by inquisitors, Spanish. The translated or transcribed text, not the original deposition, would then be used as the basis for prosecution. Though Catalan was commonly used for interrogations and trials in the first few decades, after the 1560s it was decided that “since Catalans normally understand our language, depositions should be made in the Castilian language and all trials held in private should be written in it.”118 As may be imagined, the change opened the way to serious deformations of meaning. The diputats of Catalonia in 1600 pointed out that when evidence was given in Catalan or French, the Inquisition secretaries, who knew neither language, would make their interview notes in Castilian, leading to grave distortions and injustice. The Inquisition blithely ignored such protests. The rule was also applied in Valencia, and confirmed the alien character of the institution in Catalan-speaking areas. The diputats protested bitterly that “ever since foreigners [they meant Castilians] took over the Inquisition, there have been many cases of injustice.”119

In Valencia and Aragon, conflicts with the Inquisition centered on familiars and Moriscos. In both matters the nobility contested inquisitorial jurisdiction. In Aragon the Cortes of Monzón in 1564 claimed that

the inquisitors publish edicts on whatever they please and against everybody, on matters outside their jurisdiction, and against all the rules and laws of this kingdom. For many years now they have begun arresting many people who have not been nor are heretics, some for having quarreled with servants of their familiars, others for debts and petty causes.120

In 1566 the diputados of Aragon were demanding that “the inquisitors should not be able to issue edicts without the approval of the bishop.” By 1591, during the Antonio Pérez troubles, the rebels were demanding “that there should be no Inquisition in Aragon, or if there is one the inquisitors and their ministers should not be Castilians.”

Catalonia, of all the realms, was notoriously the most hostile to the Inquisition. In 1566 the diputats of Perpignan arrested and imprisoned the officials of the Inquisition after a dispute. The diputat Caldes de Santa Fe (a priest, as it happened) led the prisoners through the city, the Inquisition later complained, “to the sound of trumpets, and held celebrations and banquets as though he had gained a triumph and done something heroic.” The quarrel extended to Barcelona in 1568 when the Catalans refused to accept the accord of that year about familiars. The viceroy reported in 1569 that “they are all determined to lose their lives, family and income” rather than give in to the Inquisition.121 Continual conflicts were blamed directly on the Inquisition even by the council of Aragon in Madrid. “The said inquisitors,” the members of the council stated in 1587, “are those who normally give rise to the quarrels that occur.”122 The persistent opposition of the Catalans to the pretensions of the Inquisition was never in theory successful. On the other hand, though the inquisitors scored in nearly every skirmish, they never won the war.123

In Catalonia the Inquisition was always a despised institution, enjoying only minority support among the elite and people. “In this province,” the inquisitors reported in 1618, “they bear ill will to the tribunal of the Holy Office and would destroy it if they could.”124 “Among the trials suffered by this Inquisition and its officials,” inquisitor Andrés Bravo reported grimly from Barcelona in 1632, “are the contempt and scorn they face both in public and in private.”125 Not surprisingly, during the revolt against Castile in 1640 the Catalans drove out the Castilian Inquisition and in September 1643 reestablished the medieval papal one. This was suppressed when Barcelona fell in 1652, and the Castilian tribunal was reintroduced in August 1653. The unmistakable hostility in Catalonia, however, had its other side. Because the Holy Office was an independent jurisdiction, with its own bureaucracy and legal rights, many Catalans of humble origin were—the inquisitors explained in 1613—eager to become part of its apparatus “in order to free themselves from the heavy taxes and contributions that the nobles and even the bishops impose on their subjects.”126 It was the positive side of the more normal unwillingness—as we have seen above—of Catalans to become officials of the Holy Office.

Thanks to the great number of competing jurisdictions, both of Church and of state, in Castile conflicts were no less serious than in the fuero regions. Several times in the course of the seventeenth century the council of Castile urged the king to take action, notably in proceedings in 1620, 1622 and 1631. In 1639 the inquisitors were accused of “enjoying the privilege of afflicting the soul with censures, life with adversity, and honor with exposure.”127 It is significant that most of these protests occurred in the crisis years of the century, when the statutes of limpieza and other aspects of public policy were called in question. Opposition to the Inquisition in Castile was normally led by representatives of royal authority, that is, by competing jurisdictions such as high courts, civil governors and government councils in Madrid. The tribunal was seen as the opponent, not the promoter, of crown authority. The fact undermines a common but misplaced view that the Inquisition was a bulwark of royal power.

Government ministers repeatedly criticized its role. During the 1591 troubles in Saragossa (touched on below), his own advisers in Madrid protested to Philip II that “it is very important that the tribunal not meddle in matters that do not concern it directly.”128Philip’s commander in Saragossa, Vargas, likewise insisted that “to conserve its authority the Inquisition should not interfere in things that do not concern it.”129 The virtually unanimous opposition of Madrid ministers to the Inquisition during those events is confirmed by a memorandum written by the next king’s chief minister, the duke of Lerma, in 1599. “It is important to see,” he wrote, “that the Inquisition does not meddle in things that are not its concern, since one can see the harm it did in Saragossa over Antonio Pérez.”130

This clearly confirms that the tribunal was not significantly employed with the intention of extending royal power. The few occasions when the crown made use of inquisitorial officials, in order to check smuggling at the frontiers or the distribution of false coin, were marginal and temporary. Occasionally the king might interfere in trials, but discreetly. A case in point is that of Felipe de Bardaxi, an Aragonese noble condemned in absentia for blasphemous swearing by the tribunal of Saragossa in 1563. He stayed in France, where he remained safely out of the hands of the inquisitors. In France he also helped the king by acting as an agent in negotiations with the Catholic nobles there. Philip therefore prevailed on the Aragonese Inquisition to suspend its verdict against him confiscating his property.131

Endless clashes between the Inquisition and other Castilian courts reached a climax at the end of the seventeenth century.132 The Chancillería of Granada, a supreme court of the realm, had been humiliated by the Inquisition in a dispute in 1623, but in 1682 was caught up in yet another typically petty case over a secretary of the Inquisition who had ordered the arrest of a noisy neighbor. This time the city council, the archbishop and the Chancillería combined against the Holy Office with such effectiveness that the crown ordered the banishment until further notice of the inquisitors. At the same time the council of Castile protested energetically against the abuses committed by the Inquisition. The final straw came in 1696, when the Diputación of Catalonia entered into conflict with the inquisitor of Barcelona, Bartolomé Sanz y Muñoz, and complained that “the disorders in this tribunal arise in part because inquisitors are normally foreigners, from another province, who have no understanding of the temperament of our people.”133 Sanz was deported from Catalonia by royal order. As an immediate result, the government in Madrid set up a special committee consisting of two members from each of the six leading councils. On 12 May 1696 this body issued a damning report on the abuses of jurisdiction committed by the tribunal:

There is no vassal free of its power whom it does not treat as an immediate subordinate, subjecting him to its mandates, censures, fines and prisons; no casual offense or light incivility to its servants which it does not avenge and punish as a crime against religion; not satisfied with exempting the persons and property of its officials from all public taxes and contributions, it even wishes to claim the immunity of not having criminals arrested in its houses; in the style of its letters it uses and affects ways to decrease respect for the royal judges and even respect for the authority of superior magistrates.134

The report then went on to argue that precedent fully favored complete royal authority over the Inquisition in all matters not pertaining to faith. Although the report was not acted upon, the attitude of Philip V in the subsequent reign made it clear that he wished to subject the tribunal more closely to royal control, and “regalism” came to be the official policy of the state with regard to the Inquisition. From what we have seen, particularly in respect of the conflicts between state tribunals and the Holy Office, it becomes difficult to sustain the old argument that the Inquisition served the interests of royal absolutism.

The tribunal of course had a political role. Its authority very conveniently did not recognize frontiers within Spain,135 and the crown consequently made use of it when no other recourse was available. But it would be impossible to demonstrate that royal power was strengthened in any way. Ferdinand the Catholic, for example, used the Inquisition as a political lever. Behind virtually every move of his concerning the Inquisition, political motives can be discerned. In 1507 he was pursuing the famous son of Pope Alexander VI, Cesare Borgia, into Navarre. Failing to secure his victim by any other means, Ferdinand persuaded the Inquisition to initiate proceedings against him for blasphemy, atheism and materialism. But Borgia’s death in battle cheated both the Holy Office and the king of Aragon of their prey. Later, in the case of Antonio Pérez, touched on below, the crown made a similar use of the tribunal. Never, in any of these cases, did it attempt to increase its own authority. The Holy Office was useful in some specific cases but normally restricted its activity to its own sphere, and did not give up its ecclesiastical role for a purely political one.136 Though it was periodically involved in political intrigues, there is little evidence that its religious character was used for political purposes. Its involvement in the prominent case of Jerónimo de Villanueva, who enjoyed power and influence under Philip IV’s chief minister Olivares and fell soon after his master, was based on legitimate charges arising out of the spiritual practices of the nuns of the convent of San Placido.137

The alleged alliance between Inquisition and crown is usually identified with the reign of Philip II. In the sixteenth century the Venetian ambassadors, who were consistently critical of Spain’s role in Italy, claimed that Philip II was using the tribunal to extend his power. The papal nuncios told the same story. “The king and his ministers,” nuncio Castagna reported in 1567 apropos of some problems with the Catalans, “cannot exercise any control over them save through the Inquisition, so they refuse to listen to them at all and instead try to give the greatest possible authority to the Inquisition.”138 The claim, though sometimes accepted by scholars,139 was wholly untrue. In those same years the Venetian ambassadors in Madrid were also making the grotesque claim that the Inquisition, not Philip II, ruled Spain.140 Any modern study of the reign of this king demonstrates that such statements have no basis in fact.141

In a few moments of national crisis the Holy Office played a role, but always a marginal one. When the revolution of 1640 broke out in Catalonia, for example, it was the inquisitor general himself who suggested that his tribunal should begin proceedings against the rebels. During the War of the Spanish Succession from 1702 to 1714, when the provinces of the crown of Aragon broke away from Castilian tutelage, it was the Inquisition that threatened censures against those guilty of treasonable opinions. An inquisitorial edict of 1706 ordered penitents to denounce confessors who told them in the confessional that Philip V was not the rightful king of Spain.142 However, at no time was the offense of disloyalty to be treated as one over which the Inquisition had jurisdiction.143

The tribunal rarely took any action that was nakedly political, and its political views were usually subordinated to those of the other councils and of the king himself. The reverse was also true: if the other councils recommended a course of action not to its liking in matters of religion, the Inquisition could attempt to block the consensus.144 Philip II is said to have claimed on one occasion that “twenty clerics of the Inquisition keep my realms in peace.”145 The king never said it. The claim, moreover, has no meaning. There was no possible ground on which the tribunal could maintain that it had helped to keep the people of Spain subservient to the crown.

Although inquisitors habitually clashed with every other jurisdiction, both Church and secular, political conflict arose out of the way in which power was exercised in old-regime Europe, rather than out of any tendency on their part to quarrel. At town level the inquisitors found that local elites were their main protagonists. In the countryside, their biggest problem was always the authority of the local nobility. In the realm of Aragon they clashed repeatedly with the lords over familiars and over the question of Morisco vassals. In the mid-1550s the Inquisition in Aragon tried to press for the disarming of Moriscos, who had frequently used violence against its officers. The Aragonese lords tenaciously defended the Moriscos, provoking major incidents with the inquisitors. On both sides, the famous fueros were cited. The lords claimed that the fueros were threatened; the Inquisition claimed the fueros were an obstacle to good government. “If your Majesty does not bare your teeth,” the inquisitors of Saragossa wrote to the government in 1560, “you will have great trouble with them.”146 Troublemakers tried to make use of this conflict of authority by passing from one jurisdiction to the other. In Aragon a noble in 1581 claimed that some of his vassals “try to become familiars in order to avoid punishment by my officials.” In the same years other Aragonese vassals, reported the inquisitors, “want to become familiars to be free of the jurisdiction of the count of Ribagorza and his officials.”147

Perhaps the first great case in which the crown used the Inquisition as a political instrument was that of Antonio Pérez. In 1571 Pérez became secretary of state to Philip II. Two years later his patron and chief minister of Philip, Ruy Gómez, prince of Eboli, died. Pérez thereby obtained one of the most powerful posts in the monarchy and also inherited leadership of the court faction formerly led by Ruy Gómez. A contemporary observed that Pérez “climbed so high that His Majesty would not do anything save what the said Antonio Pérez marked out for him. Whenever His Majesty even went out in his coach, Antonio Pérez went with him. When the pope, my lord Don Juan of Austria, or other lords required anything of the king, they had recourse to Antonio Pérez and by his means obtained what they solicited of His Majesty.” Another said, “Great men worshipped him, ministers admitted his superiority, the king loved him.”148 Philip confided matters of state to this brilliant young man of reputed converso origin whose success enabled him to live as a great lord and whose charm led him into a close and still mysterious liaison with the princess of Eboli, the beautiful one-eyed widow of Ruy Gómez.

Ambition eventually led to Pérez’s ruin. At the center of the monarchy, he held the king’s secrets and controlled the money offered by pretendants to favors. His long arm stretched as far as Flanders, where at that moment the king’s half brother, Don Juan of Austria, was acting both as governor and as pacifier of rebellion. Pérez distrusted the implications of Don Juan’s policies and disagreed with the attitude of Don Juan’s secretary Juan de Escobedo. He began to influence Philip surreptitiously against them.

Suspicious of the way his plans for Flanders were being blocked by Madrid, Don Juan sent Escobedo to Spain in 1577 to make enquiries. On arriving at the court it became clear to Escobedo that Pérez had been playing a double game with his master and with the king. He began to look around for evidence to condemn the royal secretary. But Pérez had already managed to convince Philip that Escobedo was the malign influence in the affairs of Flanders. This would, in his mind, make it easier to get rid of Escobedo. He tried using poison, but this failed. Then on the night of Easter Monday, 31 March 1578, hired assassins came up to Escobedo as he rode with a few friends through the narrow, dark streets of Madrid, and ran their swords through his body.

Popular rumor quickly pointed to Pérez as the assassin. Escobedo’s family, aided by Pérez’s rival in the secretariat of state, Mateo Vázquez, demanded justice for the murdered man. Philip refused to believe in Pérez’s guilt, but at the same time he initiated an investigation. It was over a year before any measures were taken. Then, in July 1579, the king ordered the arrest of La Eboli and Pérez. Pérez’s friend Gaspar de Quiroga, archbishop of Toledo and inquisitor general, “did not hesitate to face public opinion by showing an ostentatious liking for Pérez and his group. On the day after the imprisonment of Pérez and La Eboli, when all Madrid singled them out as responsible for the crime, Don Gaspar visited Antonio’s wife and children, and offered money to them, as also to the princess’s children.”149

Not until June 1584 were the charges against Pérez drawn up by the prosecutor. He was accused of selling posts, receiving bribes and betraying state secrets. The Escobedo affair was left aside as though it were irrelevant. The investigation that followed led to Pérez being sentenced to two years’ imprisonment and an enormous fine. He was still subjected to mild treatment, principally because he had in his possession state papers that (he said) incriminated the king. His refusal to surrender them led to firmer treatment by the government, and in 1588 an accusation of murder was presented against him. After two years of rigorous imprisonment, in February 1590 he was put to the torture and ordered to state his reason for murdering Escobedo. His statement under torture produced a confession of responsibility for Escobedo’s death, but did not directly implicate the king. All this time the inquisitor general had continued to protect the secretary. He sent Pérez advice, guided the tactics of his defense, kept him informed of proceedings in the royal council and knew of (and perhaps assisted in) plans to escape. Escape had now become necessary, since all hope was lost after Pérez’s confession. In April 1590, with the help of several highly placed friends, Pérez escaped from prison in Madrid and rode across country to the borders of Aragon.

There he was protected from the king’s hand by the fueros. Once he had set foot in Aragon the crown of Castile was powerless to touch him. The government in Castile did not hesitate to take appropriate measures against the fugitive, and in July 1590 the royal secretary, Rodrigo Vázquez, put his signature to the death sentence issued against him. That sentence, however, was valid only in Castile. In Aragon, Pérez appealed to be tried by the court of the justiciar of Aragon, which was independent of crown control. They lodged him for his own security in the justiciar’s prison in Saragossa. From here, he began a campaign to win over Aragon to his cause. Several members of the lesser nobility, fired by enthusiasm for the liberties of their country, rallied to him.

There was only one course open to Philip—to use the Inquisition to get at Pérez. And it was Quiroga, as inquisitor general, who was forced to set in motion what Marañón calls the “last and cruelest prosecution against his former friend.” Philip’s recourse to the Inquisition encountered some difficulty at first, because it was necessary to find guilt of heresy before charges could be preferred. But the royal confessor, Father Chaves—who seventeen years before had taken part in the prosecution of Carranza—now managed to find the necessary evidence in some of the more innocuous expletives used by Pérez. Of one sentence where Pérez wagered his word against God’s nose, Chaves noted: “this proposition is suspect of the Badian heresy which says that God is corporal and has human members.” Pérez’s assumed intention to escape abroad from prison, insofar as it included a plan to escape across the Protestant state of Béarn, was presented as heresy because it implied consorting with heretics. Armed with these fabricated accusations, the Inquisition proceeded to move.

On 24 May 1591 the inquisitors in Saragossa had Pérez transferred from the justiciar’s prison to their own in the Aljafería, after the justiciar had been induced to sign a warrant for the removal. By now, Pérez’s propaganda against the king had made him a popular hero in Saragossa. No sooner had the news of Pérez’s move been made known than a mob thronged the streets calling for his release and threatening the authorities. In the ensuing tumult the viceroy of Aragon, the marquis of Almenara, received wounds from which he died a fortnight later. But Pérez was victoriously returned to the justiciar’s prison by the mob, whose members “went all the way calling out, ‘Liberty!’ And he cried out with them.”150 The May riots were repeated on 24 September, when once again the Inquisition claimed jurisdiction over the prisoner and tried to remove him to the Aljafería. The events of 24 September removed any doubts in Madrid about the need for action. It was less a riot than a massacre. The casualties were twenty-three dead and many seriously wounded.151

After this occasion, when the prisoner was set free by the rioters, the whole political situation changed. The Inquisition had failed in its immediate purpose and a viceroy had been murdered by rebels harboring a fugitive. Fearing intervention from France, Philip’s ministers advised that an army be sent in. In October 1591 Castilian troops entered Aragon, met no resistance whatever and entered peacefully into Saragossa. On December 19 some dissident nobles were arrested and dispatched immediately under escort to Castile. The next day the justiciar was arrested. On December 20, just after his arrest, he had his supper tranquilly. Later he was taken to meet a group of officials, including the governor of Aragon, Ramón Cerdán, a Flanders veteran. The king’s sentence was read to him. He became distraught, but was told to compose himself since he had only twelve hours to live. At ten the next morning, he was beheaded in the market square of the city, under the windows of his residence.152

Philip was concerned to reach a general pacification without delay. A general pardon was published in January 1592. It was accompanied by a list of over 150 persons who were excepted. The Inquisition was also encouraged to play its part. The result was an enormous auto de fe held in Saragossa on October 20 that year, when eighty-eight accused participated in the ceremony. The name of Pérez featured among them, on a charge of homosexuality. Many of the others were accused of taking part in the riots against the Inquisition. A further ceremony, including more rioters, was held just over a year later.

Pérez, meanwhile, was far away. He fled across the mountains to the neighboring Protestant state of Béarn (French Navarre), where he made his base in Pau, which he used as a center for attacking the king in any way possible. He also published there in 1591 a little volume which claimed to explain his situation. Titled Relaciones, it was printed twice in the city and then republished in different editions and languages during his subsequent exile in London and France. The king made some efforts to have Pérez kidnapped, but they came to nothing, and very soon he tired of spending so much money on a person who seemed not worth it. The Inquisition, however, went ahead with its plans. In Pérez’s absence, in the spring of 1592 the tribunal of Saragossa drew up a list of charges accusing him of rebellion, heresy, blasphemy and homosexuality. Though a desperate attempt to invent a case against him, the charges may have had some truth in them, as we shall see. It was the beginning of a complex sparring match between the ex-secretary and his king that gave rise to accusations, counter-accusations and long-enduring historical legends. Perez, for instance, almost immediately began to spread the story that he had fallen into disgrace because of rivalry with the king for the love of the princess of Eboli. It was a piece of gossip that, like all gossip, caught the immediate attention of the public and still remains perhaps the best-known untruth about the entire history of Antonio Pérez.

The failure of all his efforts in Pau convinced Pérez that he must go to England if he wanted firm action. His first direct letter to Queen Elizabeth I was dated April 1592 from Pau. His arrival in England in April 1593, with a letter of support from the king of France, who was interested in an alliance with the English against Spain, began a new and strikingly different phase in his career. He was now, as he wrote, “senex, et prae timore persecutionis exanimis et excanguis.”153 In England he became a member of the coterie around the earl of Essex and a friend of the philosopher Francis Bacon. During the early weeks of his stay he continued to be pursued by Philip II, who was said to be implicated in the plot of a certain Dr. Lopez to assassinate Pérez. Lopez was arrested and executed, not, however, because of anything to do with Pérez, but because the plot was also said to be directed against Elizabeth.

During his stay in England, Pérez drew up several long and complex memoirs proposing policies against Spain, which he sent to the queen and to her chancellor Lord Burghley. He became active in the group of nobles attached to the earl of Essex at Essex House in Westminster, and worked in his secretariat, which consisted of some nobles as well as humanists from Oxford. He stayed in France for a while, then again in England from April to May 1596. By this time he was unable to count on the queen’s firm support. “Her political disillusionment with Pérez coincided with the awareness that he had been entangled with some English adolescents.”154 The most powerful reason for hostility to Pérez at court was, it seems, on these grounds of sexual morality. The accusations leveled against him by the Inquisition in Saragossa may, in all probability, have had some basis in popular rumor, and we cannot entirely discount the matter.

In the end, his many months in England and his access to important figures in government, including the queen, did not achieve any success for Pérez’s many proposals. His position with Elizabeth became extremely shaky when the overconfident Essex, who was now principal commander in Ireland, attempted a rebellion against the queen but was arrested in 1599 and executed as a traitor in 1601. Events conspired to make it impossible for Pérez to achieve his expressed wish to “live and die in England,” a country he claimed to admire even though he did not speak its language.155

In 1604 he went reluctantly to France, where he had enjoyed since the 1590s official status as a personally appointed member of the king’s council, and unsuccessfully tried to gain the support of the court. Pérez never returned to the Spain of his birth and died in comparative obscurity in Paris in 1611, in the house of an Italian banker friend, where he complained of the cold (“this snow in France”) and of his “depression, because I am alone.” His friend arranged for him to be buried in the nearby monastery church of the Célestins.

During its last century—to which we shall give little attention in this study—the Inquisition emerged out of virtual inactivity in only one famous political case, when it arrested a leading government minister, Pablo de Olavide. Olavide (1725–1803) was born into a rich family in Lima, Peru, and moved in 1750 to Spain, where after some initial problems he married a wealthy widow and entered high society. From 1757 to 1765 he traveled extensively through Western Europe, particularly in France, where he imbibed the culture of the great period of the French Enlightenment. During his travels he began buying books, with the intention of building up the finest and most modern collection in Spain. Nearly all the volumes he accumulated and sent to Madrid were in French, and many were on the Inquisition’s list of forbidden books. He had the works of Bacon, Locke, Bayle, Voltaire, Rousseau, and all the latest English novels in French translation.156 When he settled down in Spain his contacts, education, and wealth turned his house into one of the cultural centers of Madrid. He was offered a post in the reformed administration that assumed power after the serious urban riots of 1766, which became for him a stepping-stone to success. The year after, 1767, he was appointed to the powerful position of intendant in Seville and Andalucia, but also continued to play a crucial part in the central government. His activities provoked the profound opposition of sectors in the Church, and in 1775 a priest denounced him as “the most dangerous intellectual in Spain.”157 It is true that Olavide’s conduct as a public official had often been provocative. As a partisan of the Enlightenment, he criticized what he felt was superstition, decried the worship of images and the public recital of the rosary. On one occasion he stated jokingly: “What we need is a bit of Mohammedanism in Spain!” His joviality and openness offended many. When he returned to Madrid from Seville in 1776 he was arrested by the Inquisition on charges of heresy and atheism.

It says much for the power of the supposedly moribund Inquisition that it was able to keep the once-powerful minister under house arrest for two years. Eventually, in November 1778, he was brought out, put on trial before a select assembly of clergy and officials and condemned to banishment from the capital, loss of all his goods and six years confinement in a monastery. It was a startling affair, in which the Inquisition and conservative sectors of the Church were evidently giving a warning to the government. Olavide was sent to a monastery in the south of Spain, in Murcia. The specific instructions of the inquisitor general in June 1779 were that he should have “a clean and comfortable room, and be allowed at the same time to go out, walking or riding or in a carriage, and permitted to take the waters when the doctors so direct.”158 His confinement, it turned out, was more like a paid holiday. He carried out religious devotions, went to mass daily and kept a frugal diet (for his health), but was accompanied by his family, traveled around taking the waters, and in August 1780 was given permission (for his health) to take the waters at Caldes de Montbuy in Catalonia. Once in Catalonia, he decided it was better to take the waters in Arles, a town just over the French border which he knew personally. In the first week of November, he was free, in France.

He spent the next twenty years in exile, residing mainly in Switzerland and Paris. In the aftermath of the French Revolution and the war waged against France in 1793 by Spain and other European powers, he was rounded up in Paris in 1794 as a suspicious foreigner, and kept in prison for two years. He emerged a disappointed and changed man, angry at all the “progressive” ideas that had led to the “horrible Revolution in this country.” In 1797 he published at Valencia a book titled Triumph of the Gospel, in which he renounced all his former progressive ideas and praised the Inquisition. At least, that is what the book appeared to be saying. Some scholars suggest that the author had not really changed his attitude, and was framing his message in such a way as to make possible his return.159 Thanks to the publication he was certainly allowed back in 1798 to Spain, where he died quietly, far from public life, in a small Andalucian town.

As these cases show, the Inquisition often had a political role, but a far from decisive one. From what we have seen of the often flimsy network of its officials, the financial difficulties of the inquisitors and the perennial conflicts with all other jurisdictions, it is fair to conclude that its real impact was, after the first crisis decades, so marginal to the daily lives of Spaniards that over broad areas of Spain—above all in the rural districts—it was little more than an irrelevance. In Catalonia, beyond the major cities, a town might see an inquisitor maybe once every ten years, or even once in a century; many never saw one in their entire history.160 Central Castile excepted, this picture is valid for most of Spain. The people accepted the tribunal, on this showing, not because it weighed on them heavily and oppressed them, but for precisely the opposite reason: it was seldom seen, and even less often heard. It has sometimes been suggested that the survival of the proverb “Con el Rey y con la Santa Inquisición, chitón!” (“On the king and the Holy Office, not a word!”)161 is testimony to the power of the tribunal to silence criticism. The suggestion not only betrays an unjustified belief that Spaniards are unable or unwilling to criticize those who rule over them: it is also unhistorical. The archives of the Inquisition contain thousands of cases of forthright criticism by ordinary Spaniards, not subversive radicals wishing to abolish the institution (though many did so wish) but ordinary citizens objecting to bullying familiars, greedy inquisitors and corrupt personnel. Very many Spaniards, neither of Jewish nor of Muslim origin, hated the Holy Office. Like any police system, it was not loved; and its political role was brittle; but many Spaniards seem to have felt that its continuation was a guarantee of the everyday framework in which they lived.

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