By Jim O’Neal
On Feb. 6, 1481, seven people were marched out of the Cathedral of Seville, led by chanting black-robed Dominican Friars. The seven were dressed in yellow robes, held votive candles and had nooses around their necks.
These seven people (six men and one woman) were “conversos” – Jews who had been converted to Christianity, but were suspected of having relapsed and practicing the Jewish faith (again).
King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella had decided everyone in Spain would worship the same God … period. Thus began the infamous Spanish Inquisition. Just as remarkably, it lasted officially for almost 400 years until abolished in 1834, but most active from 1480 to 1530.
Ferdinand and Isabella married in 1469, both devoutly religious Catholics, and wanted all of Spain to worship Christ. Earlier, Judaism, Islam and Christianity had co-existed in peace, but in the 15th century, Jews and Muslims were increasingly persecuted. Many fled or simply converted to Christianity.
But there were widespread rumors of the conversos, which prompted the Catholic Monarchs to investigate. They turned to Pope Sixtus IV for guidance. On Nov. 1, 1478, he issued a papal bull authorizing the Inquisición.
It took three years to complete, but then the purgative flames blazed high.
The seven were marched to an open field, which became known as the Quemadero (or burning place). They were offered a chance to repent … which only offered an option to be strangled … and then burned at the stake.
The Inquisition quickly spread from one Holy Office in Seville to nearly two dozen across the entire country. However, treatment was so harsh that eventually Ferdinand decided to expel all Jews and issued the Alhambra Decree of March 1492, which ordered the expulsion of all Jews and Muslims from Spain in three months.
Historians debate the number that were killed and the actual role of the Catholic Church. However, the Spanish Inquisition remains a dark stain on the otherwise sterling reputations of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella.
Intelligent Collector blogger JIM O’NEAL is an avid collector and history buff. He is President and CEO of Frito-Lay International [retired] and earlier served as Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo Restaurants International [KFC Pizza Hut and Taco Bell].