Thursday, September 16, 2010

Deathday: Torquemada - Religious Mass Murderer

Tomás de Torquemada, O.P. (1420 – September 16, 1498) was a fifteenth century Spanish Dominican friar, first Inquisitor General of Spain, and confessor to crypto-Jews and crypto-Muslims of Spain. He was one of the chief supporters of the Alhambra Decree, which expelled the Jews from Spain in 1492. The number of autos-de-fé during Torquemada's tenure as Inquisitor General have been hotly debated over the years. Today, there is a general consensus that about 2000 people were burned by the Inquisition in the whole of Spain between 1480 and 1530[1], while Torquemada was Grand Inquisitor from 1483 until his death in 1498.


Tomás de Torquemada was born in Valladolid, Castile-Leon, Spain. He was the Grand Inquisitor of Spain for many years, leaving to posterity an extraordinary picture of fanaticism and implacability. In the fifteen years of his direction the Spanish Inquisition grew from the single tribunal at Seville to a network of two dozen 'Holy Office'."[2]

After early service as a monk and cook at the Dominican monastery in Valladolid, Torquemada eventually became advisor to the monarchs — Ferdinand and Isabella. He was especially well regarded by Queen Isabella, whose confessor he had been, and who had him appointed Inquisitor General in 1483. In 1492 he was one of the chief supporters of the Alhambra decree, which resulted in the mass expulsion of Jews from Spain.

Every Spanish Christian over the age of twelve (for girls) and fourteen (for boys) was accountable to the Inquisition. Those who had converted from Judaism or Islam but who were suspected of secretly practising their old rites, as well as others holding or acting on religious views contrary to Catholicism, were targeted. Anyone who spoke against the Inquisition could fall under suspicion - as did saints Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross. To stem the spread of heresy and anti-Catholicism, Torquemada promoted the burning of non-Catholic literature, especially the Talmud and, after the final defeat of the Moors at Granada in 1492, Arabic books as well.

Although the Inquisition is often viewed as being directed against Jews, in fact it had no jurisdiction or authority over unconverted Jews, or Muslims. Only baptised Christians faced investigation; and of those called to appear before the Holy Office, most were released after their first hearing without further incident.

While the Spanish Inquisition is generally denounced by historians for its use of torture, anonymous denunciation, and handing over convicted heretics to the government (auto-da-fe) for punishment, little of this can be described as unusual for the times. But, accusations of excess can be supported by reference to Pope Sixtus IV's observation, early in 1482 (before Torquemada's appointment as Grand Inquisitor) that the Inquisitional Office at Seville, "without observing juridical prescriptions, have detained many persons in violation of justice, punishing them by severe tortures and imputing to them, without foundation, the crime of heresy, and despoiling of their wealth those sentenced to death, in such form that a great number of them have come to the Apostolic See, fleeing from such excessive rigor and protesting their orthodoxy."

So hated did he become that at one point Torquemada traveled with a bodyguard of 50 mounted guards and 250 armed men. After 15 years as Spain's Grand Inquisitor, he died in 1498 in Ávila. For his role in the Spanish Inquisition, Torquemada's name has become a byword for fanaticism in the service of the Catholic religion.

Secrecy being one of the keys to the workings of the Inquisition, Torquemada's manual of instructions (Copilacion de las Instruciones del Offico de la Sancta Inquisicion) did not appear publicly in print until 1576, when it was published in Madrid.

In 1832, Torquemada's tomb was ransacked, his bones stolen and burnt to ashes.

Torquemada appears to have had Jewish ancestry: the contemporary historian Hernando del Pulgar, writing of Torquemada's uncle Juan de Torquemada, said that his ancestor Alvar Fernández de Torquemada had married a first-generation Jewish conversa (convert). Del Pulgar was a converso himself. Also, according to biographer Thomas Hope's book, Torquemada, Torquemada's grandmother was a conversa.

Torquemada in fiction

The main villain, Torquemada (comics), in the 2000 AD Strip Nemesis the Warlock was inspired by, and named after Torquemada
Brooke McEldowney's Pibgorn webcomic has a minor character, "Tom Torquemada," who is quite literally a game show host from Hell.
Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov, features a famous parable involving Christ coming back to Seville in the days of the Spanish Inquisition, and being confronted by the Grand Inquisitor.
Torquemada, a play by Victor Hugo.
Torquemada, an opera by Zoltan Demme based on the above play by Victor Hugo.
Torquemada, an opera by Nino Rota based on a libretto by Ernesto Trucchi.
Torquemada, The Theologian's Tale from Part One of Tales of a Wayside Inn, by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.
In Stuart Gordon's 1990 film of The Pit and the Pendulum, Lance Henriksen portrays the Grand Inquisitor Torquemada.
Marlon Brando portrayed Torquemada in the film Christopher Columbus: The Discovery (1992).
In the Frank Herbert novel God Emperor of Dune, Leto II lectures his majordomo Moneo on religious despotism. He names Torquemada as the epitome of the violent fanaticism which shadows the phenomenon, stating that the Jesuits (who in fact did not yet exist in the time of Torquemada) were the best at maintaining a religious power base. He refers to Torquemada as one who "made living torches out of those who disagreed with him". Leto II had him expunged from written history because he was "an obscenity". In Leto II's reign as God Emperor, memory of Torquemada lies only in Leto's inner lives.
Tomás de Torquemada is one of the main protagonists of Jerzy Andrzejewski's novel And Darkness Covered the Earth (also translated as The Inquisitors).
In the miniature wargame, Warhammer 40,000 there is an Inquisitor of the Ordo Malleus named Torquemada Coteaz.
Tomás de Torquemada is one of the main characters of Gilbert Sinoué's novel Le livre de saphir.
Mel Brooks portrayed Torquemada in the musical number "The Inquisition" in the 1981 comedy movie History of the World, Part I. During the scene about the Spanish Inquisition, an inquisitor introduces Torquemada by saying, "Torquemada - do not implore him for compassion. Torquemada - do not beg him for forgiveness. Torquemada - do not ask him for mercy. Let's face it, you can't Torquemada (talk him out of) anything!"
English stoner/doom metal band Electric Wizard released the song "Torquemada '71" on their 2007 album, Witchcult Today.
The villainous Grand Inquisitor in the children's novel Castle Storm is named "Torca Marda".
In the film, Meet the Parents, Ben Stiller's character compares Torquemada and the Grand Inquisition to being questioned by his future in-laws.
Requiem Chevalier Vampire, a graphic novel set in Hell by Pat Mills and Olivier Ledroit, features Torquemada as a large, bloodthirsty werewolf.
In Histeria!, he appears as the host of an inquisition gameshow called "Convert Or Die".
Angeli Di Pietra, a Belgian Powerfolk band have a song entitled "Torquemada" on their album "Storm Over Scaldis" (2009).
The Spanish heavy metal band Avalanch released the song "Torquemada" on their "Llanto De Un Héroe" album.
In the video game Assassin's Creed 2: Discovery, it is discovered that he is a Templar.
In the 2010 video game Red Dead Redemption there is a Mexican army base named Torquemada, it is very likely that it is named after Tomás de Torquemada. In the game the Mexican army are a dishonorable and cruel leadership. The army faces a revolution because of this.
In Ray Bradbury's short story The Playground (2001), Charles Underhill, the protagonist, believes that there should be a sign nailed outside the Playground proclaiming it "TORQUEMADA'S GREEN."


1.^ Henry Kamen,Inkwizycja Hiszpańska, Państwowy Instytut Wydawniczy, 2005, p. 62; Helen Rawlings, The Spanish Inquisition, 2004, p. 15; William Monter, Anticlericalism and the early Spanish Inquisition, [in:] Anticlericalism in Late Medieval and Early Modern Europe, BRILL, 1993, p. 238
2.^ see Longhurst


Rafael Sabatini, Torquemada and the Spanish Inquisition, (Bretano's 1913; reprinted BiblioLife, 2009). Contains English translation of parts of the "Instruciones".
William Thomas Walsh, Characters of the Inquisition, (Tan Books and Publishers, 1987). ISBN 0895553260
Henry Kamen, The Spanish Inquisition: A Historical Revision, (Yale University Press, 1999). ISBN 0300078803
Alphonsus Maria Duran, Why Apologize for the Spanish Inquisition?, (Eric Gladkowski, 2000). ISBN 0970223501
Enid A. Goldberg & Norman Itzkowitz, "Tomas de Torquemada" (A Wicked History), (Scholastic Books, 2008) ISBN 143510322X
Thomas Torquemada, article in 1911 Britannica
The Age of Torquemada, by John Edward Longhurst (1962)
Letters on the Spanish Inquisition by Joseph de Maistre
The Scales of Good and Evil by Cliff Pickover

Torquemada And The Spanish InquisitionFlesh Inferno: Atrocities of Torquemada and the Spanish Inquisition. (The Blood History Series)Torquemada & the Inquisitors (Revealing History)Tomas De Torquemada: Architect of Torture During the Spanish Inquisition (Wicked History)Pit and the Pendulum (1991)The Spanish Inquisition: A HistoryHistory's Mysteries - The Inquisition (History Channel)The Spanish Inquisition: A Historical RevisionSecret Files of the InquisitionInquisition: The Reign of FearThe Origins of the Inquisition in Fifteenth-Century SpainThe Inquisition : A Critical and Historical Study of the Coercive Power of the Church

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