Thursday, March 17, 2011

Nobody Expects... the Spanish Inquisition!

My Egyptian Cat’s post was a hit! I heard from several people (many who I did not realize read my blog) that they liked my latest post. This places a significant burden on me for this post, a burden I have been contemplating for several weeks now about how to fill. And I feel the only way to live up to this is to blog about something I find funny.

My last “Ides of March” post was not expected or planned in advance, so I hope that was good too. I thought it was a timely post for this week while I’m on spring break.

Monty Python is a show that ran in Great Britain. Monty Python gave us “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” and many endless quotable jokes from that movie. But Monty Python was more than that movie; it was also a comedy show. In this show there is one particular episode that I have liked the best, and that was one titled: “The Spanish Inquisition.”

I cannot do the comedic genius justice in one simple paragraph, neither can it be done in 50 pages (nor do I think you would really want to read that much of me rambling). I leave you this link to give you the gist of their genius, and rather turn to their inaccuracies (which I hope are blatantly obvious from my Youtube link) and seek to bring the Spanish Inquisition to life for you in historical terms here. Oh, please view this link at some point if you don’t know what I’m talking about. You won’t be disappointed… I hope.

T o maintain Catholic orthodoxy in their kingdom Ferdinand and Isabella established the Spanish Inquisition in 1478. Until it was abolished in 1834 the Spanish Inquisition was under the direct control of the Spanish Monarchy. However, the Inquisition was not a new idea; it was originally created through a papal bull issued by Pope Lucious III in 1184 as a way to combat Albigensian heresy in southern France.

So how did the Spanish Inquisition become imported into Spain? The name does suggest this Inquisition took place in Spain after all.

Since its invasion in 711 C.E. most of Spain was under the control of the Moors, or Muslims. It wasn’t until the Moors were defeated in 1492 that Spain returned to Christian control.

Before this point the country yielded a multi-religious society made up of Catholics, Jews and Muslims. For a while the religions were able to coexist peacefully. However (as with most of Europe) eventually there was a massive spread of anti-Semitism resulting in the massive conversion of Jews.

Conversion for Jews allowed them to escape persecution and obtain entry into many offices and posts prohibited to Jews through regulations.

After the fall of Granada Ferdinand and Isabella produced a decree ordering the expulsion of Jews from all their kingdoms. Jews were given the choice to be baptized or leaving the country. The number of Jews who left the country is not known. Many communities of Spanish Jews were established across Europe, North Africa and in the Ottoman Empire.

Those who did remain joined a group of converses, those who said they had converted, but continued to practice Judaism in private. Continuing to practice put these people at risk of being denounced. Since the number of baptisms during this time was so high (some estimates are as high as 40,000) it is not difficult to believe some were insincere.

Jews were not the only ones targeted; Muslims living is Spain were also forced to convert. In the same way as the Jews many of these converted Muslims kept their religion and were known as moriscos. At first they were ignored by the inquisition however in the second half of the century moriscos became targeted (although not as harshly as Jews were).

The Spanish Inquisition also worked actively to prevent heretical ideas spreading in Spain by producing “Indexes” of prohibited books. These lists included many great works of Spanish literature and religious writers.

Heresy was not the only offense targeted. There were people of old and new Christian religions targeted, people suspected of witchcraft, verbal offenses including sexual morality to behavior of the clergy and homosexuality.

There were several steps to the Inquisition. First was the Edict of Grace, which followed the Sunday mass. The inquisitor would read the edict, which explained possible heresies. The congregation was asked to come to tribunals of the Inquisition. This step was called such because all the self-incriminated who presented themselves within a period of grace (about a month) was offered the possibility of reconciliation with the Church without sever punishment. Over time the Edicts of Grace was substituted by the Edicts of Faith; it made not offer of painless reconciliation.

Defendants had no way of knowing the identity of the accuser. After a denunciation the case was examined by conflicadores. Their job was to determine if heresy was involved, followed by a detention of the accused. Many were actually detained in preventative custody, which could last up to two years. Property was confiscated and many were not even informed about the accusations levied against them. Some prisoners died in these prisons.

The trial consisted of a series of hearings where both the denouncers and defendant gave testimony. Interrogation was done in the presence of the Notary of the Sacreto, who meticulously wrote down the words of the accused. To defend himself the accused had two possibilities to find favorable witness or to demonstrate the witness was not trustworthy.

There were five possible results of the trial. The defendant could be acquitted. The process could be suspended, the defendant could be penanced, the defendant could be reconciled (jailed and property confiscated) or more seriously relaxation could occur.

It is estimated (take with a grain of salt) within the first ten years 2,000 people were burned at the stake and 15,000 were reconciled.

Needless to say there were no “Comfy Chairs” for those who experienced the real Spanish Inquisition (seriously, click the link if you haven’t!)

As always, I have to ask you to subscribe to my blog if you read my normally. Or like me on Facebook if you’re liking through there. I always like hearing feedback from people, so let me know if you want me to tackle some other topic, or even if you want to stump me with a historical question.

Have a great weekend everyone, and as always… happy history!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Ides of March

This is not going to be my only post this week. In fact, this is not my planned post. But when I saw this today I thought I’d blog about it as well.

“Caesar: Who is it in the press that calls me?
I hear a tongue shriller than all the music
Cry “Caesar!” Speak. Caesar is turn’d to hear.

Soothsayer: Beware the ides of March

Caesar: What man is that?

Brutus: A soothsayer bids you beware the ides of March.”

Thanks to Shakespeare we all are aware of the quote “Beware the Ides of March” yet I was still interested to find the history e-mail about the Ides in my inbox this morning.

The Ides specifically signify the lunar pattern, a system installed by Caesar himself after his visit to Alexandria. The Ides of March fell on the same holiday as Lupercalia, an Ancient Roman religious holiday. There had been parties in the city for days before the Ides.

Perhaps Caesar should have bid the warning; a plot was underway for his murder. The Romans hated the idea of a King, or anyone who was acting as a King since the last king was expelled in 509 B.C.E. Rome had functioned as a republic with senators ruling as a group over the people.

While Caesar never became a “king” he seemed to be a dictator and pushed his power as far as it would go. He had his image placed on coins, a practice not previously done. He also planned to go to war in the west.

The morning of March 15 Caesar was killed senators and people he thought were close friends. The Ides live in history through Shakespeare and imagination.