The Spanish Inquisition: the Truth behind the Black Legend (Part II)
The Spanish Inquisition was not only a controversial organization, but also little understood by the general public. It was an institution that is haunted by a dark legend and, as you know, legends often times have some truth and some falsehood to them. In this case the falsity begins with its origin, which is neither medieval nor Spanish, as is commonly believed.
The Inquisition and the Moors
The Inquisition not only persecuted the Jewish converts, but was also responsible for prosecuting Moriscos (baptized Moors), the converts from Islam who were suspected of not fully embracing their new faith, despite having accepted baptism. The Moors were concentrated mainly in the kingdoms of Granada, Valencia, and Aragon and many of them kept their Islamic religion secret. However, the policy against the Moors was different than that for the Jewish community.
In the beginning, the Moors were Christianized in a much more peaceful way for two main reasons: first, in Valencia and Aragon the vast majority of Moors were also parts of the nobility and to chase them would have meant going against the economic interests of this powerful establishment; secondly, in Granada there was fear in causing a rebellion in a vulnerable area, at a time when the Turks were lords and masters of the Mediterranean.
The expulsion of the Moors (1894), by Gabriel Puig Roda. Museum of Fine Arts in Castellón. ( Wikimedia Commons )
Despite this, towards the middle of the sixteenth century during the reign of Felipe II, the rebellion of the Alpujarras took place: an uprising that was repressed with severity, increasing the executions and deportations of the Moors to other areas of Spain. In fact, according to Henry Kamen , “From the 1570s, in Aragon and Valencia the Moors formed the bulk of the persecutions of the Inquisition. In the court of Granada itself, the Moors represented 82% of the accused between 1560 and 1571.”
On April 9, 1609, Felipe III ordered the expulsion of all Moors. This decision was implemented in a phased manner between 1609 and 1613. The first Moors were expelled from the Kingdom of Valencia. Next were those of Andalusia, Extremadura, the kingdoms of Castile and Aragon, and the kingdom of Murcia. In total about 300,000 people were expelled, most of them from Valencia and Aragon, kingdoms that lost a third and a sixth of the population, respectively.
The decision to expel them was eventually taken for various reasons. These include the fact that, despite over half a century of forced conversion to Christianity, the Moors continued to avoid the rest of society; also it was taken into account that after the rebellion of Las Alpujarras , the Moors were believed to have posed a real problem for national security; also, there was a period of recession, due to a decrease in the arrival of resources from the Americas, leading the Christian population to watch the wealthier Moors with resentment.
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The Spread of the Black Legend of the Spanish Inquisition
Fictitious image of a supposed inquisitorial torture chamber. XVIII century engraving by Bernard Picart. Bernard Picart's engravings were part of the black legend built around the Spanish Inquisition. ( Wikimedia Commons )
In the late sixteenth century Spanish political exiles, such as Gonzalez Montano in Germany and Antonio Perez, former secretary of Felipe II, in France and England, spread the germ of the Black Legend. Media in Europe willingly embraced the anti-Spanish slander, according to the Spanish scholar H. Kamen, due to their rivalry in the maritime domain (Britain, France) and their desire to get rid of the Spanish political dominance (Netherlands and northern Italy).
Portrait of Antonio Perez, former secretary of Felipe II, diffuser of the black legend about the Spanish Inquisition in England and France. Antonio Ponz work. Monasterio de San Lorenzo de El Escorial. (Wikimedia Commons )
During the eighteenth century, engravings by the French artist Bernard Picart showing inquisitorial torture spread, despite the fact that they did not show the whole picture. Nonetheless, it is true that the torture used was truly terrible, with the purpose to produce great physical pain to the accused, short of mutilation or death in order to get his confession (in the case of heresy, the confessed defendant was free of capital punishment.)
The methods of torture used by the Inquisition were primarily three: the pulley, the cloth, and the rack. The torment of the pulley was to hang the accused from the ceiling with a pulley by a rope tied to the wrists and weights tied to the ankles, raising the victim slowly up and dropping them suddenly, in which the person’s arms and legs suffered violent pulls and sometimes they were even dislocated.