Torquemada, Tomás de (1420-1498), monje español y gran inquisidor, famoso por

su implacable administración de la Inquisición. Nació en

Valladolid e ingresó muy joven en la orden de

los dominicos. En 1452 fue prior del monasterio de Santa Cruz en Segovia

y, desde 1474, confesor de los Reyes Católicos, Isabel y Fernando.

Por recomendación de Isabel, el papa Sixto IV lo designó primer inquisidor

general de Castilla en 1483. Animado por sus soberanos, reorganizó la

Inquisición fundada en 1478. En 1487 fue nombrado gran inquisidor para

toda España por el papa Inocencio VIII. Religioso profundo y celoso

católico, estaba convencido de que los no católicos y los falsos conversos

eran capaces de destruir a la Iglesia y al país, por lo que utilizó la

Inquisición durante los 11 años siguientes para investigar y castigar a

marranos (falsos conversos procedentes del judaísmo), moros, apóstatas y

otros a una escala sin precedentes. Cerca de 2.000 personas fueron

quemadas en la hoguera durante el mandato de Torquemada. También apoyó,

en 1492, la expulsión de los judíos y los moriscos de España.


Tomás de Torquemada

First Grand Inquisitor of Spain, born at Valladolid in 1420; died at

Avila, 16 September, 1498. He was a nephew of the

celebrated theologian and cardinal, Juan de Torquemada. In his early

youth he entered the Dominican monastery at Valladolid,

and later was appointed prior of the Monastery of Santa Cruz at Segovia,

an office which he held for twenty-two years. The

Infanta Isabella chose him as her confessor while at Segovia, and when

she succeeded to the throne of Castile in 1474 he

became one of her most trusted and influential councillors, but refused

all high ecclesiastical preferments, choosing to remain a

simple friar. At that time the purity of the Catholic Faith in Spain was

in great danger from the numerous Marranos and

Moriscos, who, for material considerations, became sham converts from

Judaism and Mohammedanism to Christianity. The

Marranos committed serious outrages against Christianity and endeavoured

to judaize the whole of Spain. The Inquisition,

which the Catholic sovereigns had been empowered to establish by Sixtus

IV in 1478, had, despite unjustifiable cruelties, failed

of its purpose, chiefly for want of centralisation. In 1483 the pope

appointed Torquemada, who had been an assistant inquisitor

since 11 February 1482, Grand Inquisitor of Castile, and on 17 October

extended his jurisdiction over Aragon.

As papal representative and the highest official of the inquisitorial

court, Torquemada directed the entire business of the

Inquisition in Spain, was empowered to delegate his inquisitorial

faculties to other Inquisitors of his own choosing, who

remained accountable to him, and settled the appeals made to the Holy

See. He immediately established tribunals at Valladolid,

Seville, Jaen, Avila, Cordova, and Villa-real, and, in 1484, at

Saragossa for the Kingdom of Aragon. He also instituted a High

Council, consisting of five members, whose chief duty was to assist him

in the hearing of appeals (see INQUISITION -- The

Inquisition in Spain). He convened a general assembly of Spanish

inquisitors at Seville, 29 November, 1484, and presented

an outline of twenty-eight articles for their guidance. To these he

added several new statutes in 1485, 1488, and 1498 (Reuss,

"Sammlungen der Instructionen des spanischen Inquisitionsgerichts",

Hanover, 1788). The Marranos found a powerful means

of evading the tribunals in the Jews of Spain, whose riches had made

them very influential and over whom the Inquisition had no

jurisdiction. On this account Torquemada urged the sovereigns to compel

all the Jews either to become Christians or to leave

Spain. To frustrate his designs the Jews agreed to pay the Spanish

government 30,000 ducats if left unmolested. There is a

tradition that when Ferdinand was about to yield to the enticing offer,

Torquemada appeared before him, bearing a crucifix

aloft, and exclaiming: "Judas Iscariot sold Christ for 30 pieces of

silver; Your Highness is about to sell him for 30,000 ducats.

Here He is; take Him and sell Him." Leaving the crucifix on the table he

left the room. Chiefly through his instrumentality the

Jews were expelled from Spain in 1492.

Much has been written of the inhuman cruelty of Torquemada. Llorente

computes that during Torquemada's office (1483-98)

8800 suffered death by fire and 96,54 wee punished in other ways

(Histoire de l'Inquisition, IV, 252). These figures are highly

exaggerated, as has been conclusively proved by Hefele (Cardinal

Ximenes, ch. xviii), Gams (Kirchengeschichte von Spanien,

III, II, 68-76), and many others. Even the Jewish historian Graetz

contents himself with stating that "under the first Inquisitor

Torquemada, in the course of fourteen years (1485-1498) at least 2000

Jews were burnt as impenitent sinners" ("History of the

Jews", Philadelphia, 1897, IV, 356). Most historians hold with the

Protestant Peschel (Das Zeitalter der Entdeckungen,

Stuttgart, 1877, pp. 119 sq.) that the number of persons burnt from 1481

to 1504, when Isabella died, was about 2000.

Whether Torquemada's ways of ferreting out and punishing heretics were

justifiable is a matter that has to be decided not only

by comparison with the penal standard of the fifteenth century, but

also, and chiefly, by an inquiry into their necessity for the

preservation of Christian Spain. The contemporary Spanish chronicler,

Sebastian de Olmedo (Chronicon magistrorum

generalium Ordinis Prædicatorum, fol. 80-81) calls Torquemada "the

hammer of heretics, the light of Spain, the saviour of his

country, the honour of his order".

MOLÈNES, Torquemada et l'Inquisition (Paris, 1877); BARTHÉLEMY, Erreurs

historiques (Paris, 1875), 170-204 FITA, La Inquisición de

Torquemada in Boletin Acad. Hist., XXIII (Madrid, 1893), 369-434;

TOURON. Histoire des hommes illustres de l'ordre de Saint Dominique, III

(Paris, 1746). 543-68; TARRIDA DEL MARMOL, Les Inquisiteurs d'Espagne

(Paris, 1807); RODRIGO, Historia verdadera de la Inquisición, II,

III (Madrid, 1877); LEA, History of the Inquisition in Spain

(London and New York, 1906-08).