The Spanish Inquisition

The Spanish Inquisition was established in 1478 as a court for the detection of heretics, although its true purpose remains somewhat obscure. Learn more!

The Spanish Inquisition

In 1478, the Catholic Monarchs began the famous Inquisition to purify Catholicism in all their territories.

The Inquisition was established to act as a tribunal to identify heretics and bring them to justice. This added fuel to the fire of hatred between Jews and Christians; if you had an argument with a neighbor or acquaintance, you could accuse them of being Jewish and they would be taken to the tribunal and face real danger. This easy avenue for revenge led the number of false accusations to increase significantly.

Both the government and other officials proclaimed the importance of spreading real Catholicism. They made laws forbidding intermarriage between Christians and Jews or converts, which would destroy their ideal of purity of blood (pureza de la sangre). Due to the increasing animosity, many Jews who did not renounce their faith were killed or expelled from Spain. They took with them a great deal of the culture and traditions that until this point had enriched the country.

In reality, the purpose of the Spanish Inquisition stemmed from the Christians’ fear that the growing Jewish population would become more powerful than them. The Jews were a threat to the monarchy, and the Catholic Monarchs saw the Inquisition as a way to root out the source of one of their biggest problems.

Furthermore, in the 15th century the territory of present-day Spain was at war with Italy and the Catholic Monarchs had recently reconquered Granada, making poor economic conditions widespread among the majority of the population. Since the Jewish community enjoyed a higher socioeconomic status, the Catholic Monarchs feared a popular uprising and the expulsion of the Jews meant the end of this problem as well as the acquisition of their property after they were killed or fled the country.