An Account Of The Inquisition

When the reformed religion began to diffuse the gospel light throughout

church. He accordingly instituted a number of inquisitors, or persons

who were to make inquiry after, apprehend, and punish, heretics, as the

reformed were called by the papists.

At the head of these inquisitors was one Dominic, who had been canonized

by the pope, in order to render his authority the more respectable.

Dominic, and the
other inquisitors, spread themselves into various Roman

catholic countries, and treated the protestants with the utmost

severity. In process of time, the pope, not finding these roving

inquisitors so useful as he had imagined, resolved upon the

establishment of fixed and regular courts of inquisition. After the

order for these regular courts, the first office of inquisition was

established in the city of Thoulouse, and Dominic became the first

regular inquisitor, as he had before been the first roving inquisitor.

Courts of inquisition were now erected in several countries; but the

Spanish inquisition became the most powerful, and the most dreaded of

any. Even the kings of Spain themselves, though arbitrary in all other

respects, were taught to dread the power of the lords of the

inquisition; and the horrid cruelties they exercised compelled

multitudes, who differed in opinion from the Roman catholics, carefully

to conceal their sentiments.

The most zealous of all the popish monks, and those who most implicitly

obeyed the church of Rome, were the Dominicans and Franciscans: these,

therefore, the pope thought proper to invest with an exclusive right of

presiding over the different court of inquisition, and gave them the

most unlimited powers, as judges delegated by him, and immediately

representing his person: they were permitted to excommunicate, or

sentence to death whom they thought proper, upon the most slight

information of heresy. They were allowed to publish crusades against all

whom they deemed heretics, and enter into leagues with sovereign

princes, to join their crusades with their forces.

In 1244, their power was farther increased by the emperor Frederic the

Second, who declared himself the protector and friend of all the

inquisitors, and published the cruel edicts, viz. 1. That all heretics

who continued obstinate, should be burnt. 2. That all heretics who

repented, should be imprisoned for life.

This zeal in the emperor, for the inquisitors of the Roman catholic

persuasion, arose from a report which had been propagated throughout

Europe, that he intended to renounce christianity, and turn Mahometan;

the emperor therefore, attempted, by the height of bigotry to contradict

the report, and to show his attachment to popery by cruelty.

The officers of the inquisition are three inquisitors, or judges, a

fiscal proctor, two secretaries, a magistrate, a messenger, a receiver,

a jailer, an agent of confiscated possessions; several assessors,

counsellors, executioners, physicians, surgeons, door-keepers,

familiars, and visiters, who are sworn to secrecy.

The principal accusation against those who are subject to this tribunal

is heresy, which comprises all that is spoken, or written, against any

of the articles of the creed, or the traditions of the Roman church. The

inquisition likewise takes cognizance of such as are accused of being

magicians, and of such who read the bible in the common language, the

Talmud of the Jews, or the Alcoran of the Mahometans.

Upon all occasions the inquisitors carry on their processes with the

utmost severity, and punish those who offend them with the most

unparalleled cruelty. A protestant has seldom any mercy shown him, and a

Jew, who turns christian, is far from being secure.

A defence in the inquisition is of little use to the prisoner, for a

suspicion only is deemed sufficient cause of condemnation, and the

greater his wealth the greater his danger. The principal part of the

inquisitors' cruelties is owing to their rapacity: they destroy the life

to possess the property; and, under the pretence of zeal, plunder each

obnoxious individual.

A prisoner in the inquisition is never allowed to see the face of his

accuser, or of the witnesses against him, but every method is taken by

threats and tortures, to oblige him to accuse himself, and by that means

corroborate their evidence. If the jurisdiction of the inquisition is

not fully allowed, vengeance is denounced against such as call it in

question for if any of its officers are opposed, those who oppose them

are almost certain to be sufferers for their temerity; the maxim of the

inquisition being to strike terror, and awe those who are the objects of

its power into obedience. High birth, distinguished rank, great dignity,

or eminent employments, are no protection from its severities; and the

lowest officers of the inquisition can make the highest characters


When the person impeached is condemned, he is either severely whipped,

violently tortured, sent to the galleys, or sentenced to death; and in

either case the effects are confiscated. After judgment, a procession is

performed to the place of execution, which ceremony is called an AUTO DE

FE, or act of faith.

The following is an account of an auto de fe, performed at Madrid in the

year 1682.

The officers of the inquisition, preceded by trumpets, kettle-drums, and

their banner, marched on the 30th of May, in cavalcade, to the palace of

the great square, where they declared by proclamation, that, on the 30th

of June, the sentence of the prisoners would be put in execution.

Of these prisoners, twenty men and women, with one renegade Mahometan,

were ordered to be burned; fifty Jews and Jewesses, having never before

been imprisoned, and repenting of their crimes were sentenced to a long

confinement, and to wear a yellow cap. The whole court of Spain was

present on this occasion. The grand inquisitor's chair was placed in a

sort of tribunal far above that of the king.

Among those who were to suffer, was a young Jewess of exquisite beauty,

and but seventeen years of age. Being on the same side of the scaffold

where the queen was seated, she addressed her, in hopes of obtaining a

pardon, in the following pathetic speech: "Great queen, will not your

royal presence be of some service to the in my miserable condition! Have

regard to my youth; and, oh! consider, that I am about to die for

professing a religion imbibed from my earliest infancy!" Her majesty

seemed greatly to pity her distress, but turned away her eyes, as she

did not dare to speak a word in behalf of a person who had been declared

a heretic.

Now mass began, in the midst of which the priest came from the altar,

placed himself near the scaffold, and seated himself in a chair prepared

for that purpose.

The chief inquisitor then descended from the amphitheatre, dressed in

his cope, and having a mitre on his head. After having bowed to the

altar, he advanced towards the king's balcony, and went up to it,

attended by some of his officers, carrying a cross and the gospels, with

a book containing the oath by which the kings of Spain oblige themselves

to protect the catholic faith, to extirpate heretics, and to support

with all their power and force the prosecutions and decrees of the

inquisition: a like oath was administered to the counsellors and whole

assembly. The mass was begun about twelve at noon, and did not end till

nine in the evening, being protracted by a proclamation of the sentences

of the several criminals, which were already separately rehearsed aloud

one after the other.

After this, followed the burning of the twenty-one men and women, whose

intrepidity in suffering that horrid death was truly astonishing. The

king's near situation to the criminals rendered their dying groans very

audible to him; he could not, however, be absent from this dreadful

scene, as it is esteemed a religious one; and his coronation oath

obliges him to give a sanction by his presence to all the acts of the


What we have already said may be applied to inquisitions in general, as

well as to that of Spain in particular. The inquisition belonging to

Portugal is exactly upon a similar plan to that of Spain, having been

instituted much about the same time, and put under the same regulations.

The inquisitors allow the torture to be used only three times, but

during those times it is so severely inflicted, that the prisoner either

dies under it, or continues always after a cripple, and suffers the

severest pains upon every change of weather. We shall give an ample

description of the severe torments occasioned by the torture, from the

account of one who suffered it the three respective times, but happily

survived the cruelties he underwent.

At the first time of torturing, six executioners entered, stripped him

naked to his drawers, and laid him upon his back on a kind of stand,

elevated a few feet from the floor. The operation commenced by putting

an iron collar round his neck, and a ring to each foot, which fastened

him to the stand. His limbs being thus stretched out, they wound two

ropes round each thigh; which ropes being passed under the scaffold,

through holes made for that purpose, were all drawn tight at the same

instant of time, by four of the men, on a given signal.

It is easy to conceive that the pains which immediately succeeded were

intolerable; the ropes, which were of a small size, cut through the

prisoner's flesh to the bone, making the blood to gush out at eight

different places thus bound at a time. As the prisoner persisted in not

making any confession of what the inquisitors required, the ropes were

drawn in this manner four times successively.

The manner of inflicting the second torture was as follows: they forced

his arms backwards so that the palms of his hands were turned outward

behind him; when, by means of a rope that fastened them together at the

wrists, and which was turned by an engine, they drew them by degrees

nearer each other, in such a manner that the back of each hand touched,

and stood exactly parallel to each other. In consequence of this violent

contortion, both his shoulders became dislocated, and a considerable

quantity of blood issued from his mouth. This torture was repeated

thrice; after which he was again taken to the dungeon, and the surgeon

set the dislocated bones.

Two months after the second torture, the prisoner being a little

recovered, was again ordered to the torture-room, and there, for the

last time, made to undergo another kind of punishment, which was

inflicted twice without any intermission. The executioners fastened a

thick iron chain round his body, which crossing at the breast,

terminated at the wrists. They then placed him with his back against a

thick board, at each extremity whereof was a pulley, through which there

ran a rope that caught the end of the chain at his wrists. The

executioner then, stretching the end of this rope by means of a roller,

placed at a distance behind him, pressed or bruised his stomach in

proportion as the ends of the chains were drawn tighter. They tortured

him in this manner to such a degree, that his wrists, as well as his

shoulders, were quite dislocated. They were, however, soon set by the

surgeons; but the barbarians, not yet satisfied with this species of

cruelty, made him immediately undergo the like torture a second time,

which he sustained (though, if possible, attended with keener pains,)

with equal constancy and resolution. After this, he was again remanded

to his dungeon, attended by the surgeon to dress his bruises and adjust

the part dislocated, and here he continued till their Auto de Fe, or

jail delivery, when he was discharged, crippled and diseased for life.