"Heretics in a market place", engraving by H.D. Linton
The very name conjures images of torture chambers, public burnings, and courageous people forced to worship in secret for fear of arrest and execution. How did such an institution arise—and what became of its victims?
Historian Janna Bianchini explores the Spanish Inquisition’s roots in fears of heresy, the drive to crusade, and the political strategems of Spain’s rulers, Ferdinand and Isabella. Although the Inquisition’s primary targets were Jews resisting conversion to Christianity, its mandate soon expanded to Muslims, Protestants, and others whose lifestyles were deemed sacrilegious by the Church.
Faith was the Inquisition’s dominant concern, but its justifications were also rooted in what many historians consider the earliest forms of modern racism.
Surprisingly detailed records have survived that allow us to hear victims’ voices. They remind us that this story of persecution is also a story of survival, of people forced to live in secret to ensure that their faith and their families would endure.
Bianchini is an associate professor of history at the University of Maryland, College Park.
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