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The Spanish Inquisition

Since the 1200s, any Church inquisition was the duty of the Church's Order to Preachers, eventually to become known as the Dominican Order. It was an order interested in teaching and combating heresy, schism and paganism. Dominican inquisitors acted in the name of the Pope and with his full authority. The inquisition directed its concern against heresy alone, using the local state authorities to establish a tribunal and the state as an instrument of prosecution. The Inquisition had jurisdiction only over baptized members of the Church. Non-Christians were prosecuted by a king's court not for heresy but for blasphemy.

In Spain, the married monarchs Isabella and Ferdinand, pursuing what they believed was God's will, moved against Judaism and Islam within their realms – an effort toward creating Christianity as the universal faith. It was a time of increased power for Europe's monarchsm, and, in contrast to previous inquisitions, Spain's inquisition was completely under royal authority.

It was the time of Tomas de Torquemada, Inquisitor General under Isabella and Ferdinand. He was called "The hammer of heretics, the light of Spain, the savior of his country, the honor of his order." Under Isabella and Ferdinand one had to be a Christian to hold a position in government, and some Muslims and Jews converted for the sake of employment, while secretly practicing their real faith. Torquemada is known for his zealous campaign against them. He was one of the chief supporters of the decree that expelled Jews from Spain in 1492. Of the 200,000 or so Jews who had lived in Spain, perhaps as many as 150,000 were driven out with little more than the clothing they wore.

Torquemada promoted the burning of Jewish and Muslim literature. His inquisitions between 1480 and 1530 are believed to have resulted in about 2,000 people burned at the stake, some of whom were neither Jewish or Muslim. People acting on religious views contrary to Catholicism were targeted, and anyone who spoke against the Inquisition might become suspect.

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