Biography27 Apr 2010 02:31 am
A new edition of The Intellectual Devotional, this time with a focus on Biographies, will be available online and in stores on May 11. As the release date approaches, “The Devoted Intellect” blog will introduce and expand on material from that book. Today’s entry on “Torquemada” draws from the “Villains” section of the Biographies edition.
Tomas de Torquemada (1420-1498) served as the Grand Inquisitor during Spain’s zealous movement to forcefully restore Christianity among its populace in the late fifteenth century. Known for his religious fanaticism and fierce loyalty to King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, Torquemada was granted the power to preside over an organization of ecclesiastical courts which imprisoned, tortured, and burned an estimated 2,000 suspected nonbelievers at the stake during his reign of terror. He was also one of the chief supporters of the Alhambra decree, which resulted in the mass expulsion of Jews from Spain in 1492. Just your everyday, all around great guy, that Torquemada….
Unsurprisingly, it is now widely believed that Torquemada’s own grandmother was actually a converso; a.k.a. a converted Jew and New Christian. Spain had more converted Jews than any other country, which is unsurprising in light of the relentless persecution and forcefully coerced conversions endured by its non-Christian inhabitants. Some, called Marranos, were only nominally converted, and continued their Jewish customs in secret. Unsurprisingly, Christian fanatics like Torquemada became increasingly obsessed with eradicating these “fake” Christians, which they themselves had created via forced conversions.
Torquemada and his followers felt that the marranos were undermining the teachings of Jesus Christ and that they somehow gravely endangered the Roman Catholic Church. Thus, Catholics were urged to view all converses with suspicion, and were encouraged to spy on their neighbors and snitch on suspected marranos. Torquemada’s office even published a pamphlet, chock full of helpful tips in how to identify covertly practicing Jews in their midst, such as:
“If you see that your neighbors are wearing clean and fancy clothes on Saturdays, they are Jews.”
“If they clean their houses on Fridays and light candles earlier than usual on that night, they are Jews.
“If they eat unleavened bread and begin their meals with celery and lettuce during Holy Week, they are Jews.”
“If they say prayers facing a wall, bowing back and forth, they are Jews.”
Sadly, Torquemada never got his comeuppance during his lifetime; he died of natural causes at the age of 78 in some picaresque monastery where he probably spent his golden years brewing fine crafted beer and aging small batches of artisinal cheeses. However, the Spanish Inquisition went on for another 336 years without its patron saint, until it was finally abolished in 1834.
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