Introduction to inquisition polemics and histories

A “Black Legend”

Though inquisitio was originally a neutral term for normative practices in Roman law, the significance of “inquisition” as a historical phenomenon would come to be very hotly contested over the centuries.1 For victims of inquisitorial justice and their sympathizers, it was inevitably seen as a cruel and unjust system. Yet inquisition tribunals could not have functioned for so long and in so many regions without powerful support from multiple levels of society, and arguments for their usefulness and even necessity were also generally forthcoming. In spite of—or perhaps rather because of—inquisitors’ notorious penchant for secrecy, their activities also elicited much interest from both contemporary observers and subsequent scholarly researchers with no direct personal connection to the issues at stake. A great deal has therefore been written about the various historical inquisitions; and much has also been written about “The Inquisition” as an abstract concept, from a wide variety of persuasions and perspectives.2

Such literature, while often biased in its partisan advocacy of pro- or anti-inquisition arguments, remains nevertheless an invaluable resource. Debates over the true nature of the inquisition reveal much about a society’s struggles over religious and intellectual freedoms, for example. Growth of “The Inquisition” as a negative set of images and stereotypes in popular and learned imaginations would come have a major historical impact, not only on the tribunals’ own home regions but throughout the world; the process is thus well worth examining in some depth. Furthermore even polemical literature can be helpful as a source for the study of actual inquisition procedure, in spite of its potential for distortions. This is especially the case where an author appears to have had access to primary sources which may no longer survive, or whose earlier significance may otherwise have been lost. An examination of inquisition polemics and histories as a genre is thus highly desirable, and the following essay is intended to provide a preliminary guide to its main contours.

Heresy inquisitions (inquisitiones haereticae pravitatis) inspired opposition in medieval times, but not a coherent body of critical literature. Accused heretics and their supporters took direct action instead, at times resorting to riot and even murder in their efforts to stop inquisitorial procedures from taking place in a given locality.3 For the most part these efforts failed in the long run, however, and the Cathars, Waldensians and other medieval heretical groups were either exterminated or faded into rural obscurity by the early decades of the fourteenth century—leaving few sympathizers to voice their side of the story. In some later cases literate voices did denounce specific inquisitors and their actions in writing; Joan of Arc for example had her share of admirers, as did Jan Hus, and the Lollards of the fifteenth century.4 Yet none of these inspired a sustained polemic against ecclesiastical inquisitio per se. Joan’s supporters simply felt she had not received a fair trial, while the Hussites’ argument went further in arguing that they were in fact righteous Christians while their inquisitorial persecutors were members of a false Church. It was not the mechanism of persecution that was at fault, then, but rather its incorrect deployment against an undeserving target. Hus loudly insisted on his “willingness to submit to instruction and direction, revocation and punishment” at the hands of a godly tribunal; and had the tables of power been turned he would no doubt have expected persecution of the papal camp’s “false Christians.”

Things began to change with the emergence of more centralized and permanent Spanish, Portuguese and Italian inquisitions in the sixteenth century—as well as with the development of more permanent and clearly-defined dissenting communities rooted in the Protestant Reformation. The Spanish and Portuguese inquisitors’ initial target group, converted Jews (known as conversos or marranos), at first tended to limit their responses to legal maneuvering and political advocacy. While in some celebrated cases (such as the 1485 assassination of inquisitor Pedro de Arbués at Zaragoza) they reacted with violence to the imposition of a local tribunal, for the most part converso polemic focused more on denunciations of limpieza de sangre (blood purity) laws and discriminatory policies rather than a critique of inquisition as a legal practice.5 Converted Muslims (moriscos) were even less vocal as a consequence of their tendency to reside in lower-class, rural communities where literacy was rare.6 Spanish Christians who sympathized with the nascent Protestant movements of the mid-sixteenth century were altogether different; though few in numbers they tended to be educated and literate. More importantly too, they benefited from the moral and material support of fellow-Protestants abroad. Convinced (like Hus a century before) of their righteousness and therefore of their persecutors’ spiritual error, refugees from Catholic lands thus occasionally came to enjoy both the means and the motivation to lay out their case against the legitimacy of the inquisitorial tribunals.

It was in this context that the Spanish émigré and ex-monk Antonio del Corro, AKA Reginaldus Gondisalvus Montanus, published his influential Sanctae Inquisitionis Hispanicae Artes at Heidelberg in 1567 [INQ 128].7 Benefitting from a certain amount of insider knowledge, this sophisticated text would become a touchstone for future Protestant criticism of the inquisitors and their work. Though clearly polemical in its intent and evaluations, its descriptions of inquisitorial procedure were substantially accurate. Montanus’ work also appeared at a most opportune moment. Authors such as John Foxe were actively promoting claims to a “martyrological” tradition in the second half of the sixteenth century, at a time when Spanish authorities were embarking on controversial and highly visible prosecutions of Protestant sympathizers in Valladolid and Seville.8 Furthermore English and Dutch Protestants, mired in an increasingly deadly series of conflicts with the Spanish crown, were eager to promote anti-Hispanic propaganda of all sorts—from Bartolomé de las Casas’ critique of atrocities in the Americas to the more specifically anti-inquisitorial work of Montanus.9 The resulting so-called “Black Legend” would prove extremely powerful and long-lived.10 The Spanish inquisition henceforth enjoyed an unquestioned reputation in many quarters for extreme brutality and deliberate injustice. Still, neither Montanus nor his audience was critical of religious persecution in and of itself; after all, Protestants did not shy away from using force to exterminate those they judged to be dangerous religious deviants.11

There was something of a lull in the production of anti-inquisition polemics throughout much of the seventeenth century, as has been noted by Francisco Bethencourt.12 A renewed interest in the subject seems to have emerged only in 1680 with the publication of Richard Dugdale’s unabashedly anti-Catholic and colorfully-titled Narrative of Unheard of Popish Cruelties Towards Protestants Beyond Sea: or a New Account of the Spanish Inquisition; this was followed in 1681 by Luke Beaulieu’s The Holy Inquisition, Wherein is Represented what is the Religion of the Church of Rome: and how they are dealt with that Dissent from it [INQ 138] and then by James Salgado’s equally evocative The Slaughter House, or a Brief Description of the Spanish Inquisition (1683). All were straightforward polemics, though generally well-informed (Salgado himself was a Spanish priest who had converted to Anglicanism), and it is not hard to see a link between their sudden appearance and growing English anxieties over James II’s rapprochement with the Catholic Church.

The final decades of the seventeenth century also saw some innovative developments in the presentation of an anti-inquisitorial “Black Legend.” Such polemics began to be communicated in more dramatic and hence accessible form, via the increasingly popular medium of the personal testimonial-cum-adventure novel. An early pioneer in the field was William Lithgow, whose account of imprisonment and torture in Málaga was first published in 1632. But it was the French doctor Gabriel Dellon’s harrowing experience at the hands of Portuguese inquisitors which truly caused a sensation among dismayed Catholics and outraged Protestants alike, in part because of his skill as a writer and his effective self-portrayal as an entirely innocent victim of both malice and ignorance. His 1687 Relation de l’inquisition de Goa went into a great variety of editions as a result [INQ 140, INQ 145].13 The exotic setting of the tale—ranging as it does from Goa to Portugal and Brazil—likely struck a chord with contemporary readers.14

A new genre was thus created, and personal tales of suffering in inquisition jails would continue to emerge and impress audiences for decades to come. The tribulations of Louis Ramé in Mexico (which appeared in several collections of such tales) [INQ 146] and “a Man called Isaac… burnt alive in the year 1699” at Granada [INQ 559] are but two cases in point.15 Victim testimonials, interwoven with other historical sources including Montanus, indeed formed the backbone of polemical works published throughout the eighteenth century such as James Baker’s 1734 History of the Inquisition [INQ 148], John Marchant’s 1756 A Review of the Bloody Tribunal [INQ 154] and Matthew Taylor’s 1769 England’s Bloody tribunal; or, Popish Cruelty Displayed [INQ 155].

Dellon’s work also happened to coincide with a growing interest in the concept of religious toleration. John Locke’s influential A Letter Concerning Toleration was first published in 1689; three years later his friend Philip van Limborch published his own Historia Inquisitionis [INQ 141], and the two projects were not unconnected.16 Like Locke, Limborch opposed religious persecution in general and found inquisitorial persecution of Protestants particularly offensive. Though to some extent writing in the polemical tradition of Montanus, Limborch’s work was also significant in that he had access to original documents of the medieval inquisitor Bernard Gui (d. 1331). His publication of Gui’s otherwise inaccessible book of sentences was a major contribution to inquisition scholarship, while also cementing perceptions of a more or less seamless linkage between medieval and modern inquisitorial traditions. Abridged and translated into English by 1731 [INQ 147], the Historia Inquisitionis remains one of the most important early works of inquisition historiography.

The eighteenth century would see further critiques of the inquisitions by leading figures of the so-called Enlightenment; works in this vein by Voltaire, Diderot and others are well known.17 There was no French monopoly however. German scholars and travelers left their ideas on the subject to posterity [INQ 161, INQ 169] as did Englishmen such as John Stockdale, whose 1810 History of the Inquisitions provided an effective (and richly-illustrated, if unimaginative) recapitulation of previous materials [INQ 170]. Still, though the last decades of the Spanish inquisition would inspire a great deal of internal debate among Spaniards (as will be seen below), outside of the country the turn of the nineteenth century did not generate much that was new in terms of anti-inquisition polemical writing.

It was the rise of Romanticism in the nineteenth century—and in particular the gothic novel with its atmosphere of secrecy, horror, and often sex—that breathed new life into the Black Legend.18 Torture, illicit underworlds, scheming Jesuits—all became ideal fodder for the gothic imagination [INQ 179, INQ 182, INQ 196]. Edgar Allen Poe’s 1843 masterpiece The Pit and the Pendulum is perhaps the best known example in Anglophone literature, but inquisition-themed adventure stories thrilled Dutch [INQ 180] and French audiences as well—the most successful of the latter being M. V. de Féréal’s lavishly (and voyeuristically) illustrated 1844 Mystères de l’inquisition et autres sociétés secrètes d’Espagne [INQ 166]. Though academic interest in the history of the inquisition (which will be discussed further below) was also beginning to bear new fruit in this period, even relatively scholarly works such as Genaro del Valle’s 1841 Anales de la Inquisición were sometimes distinguished by a marked emphasis on torture accounts and lurid illustrations [INQ 201].

Internal debates

Direct responses to the inquisitions’ detractors were not immediately forthcoming. Deeply grounded in the canonical legal inheritance of the Roman Catholic Church, there was little perceived need among supporters for inquisitorial practices to be defended in medieval times or even in the early decades of the modern institutionalized tribunals; apologetic writings on the subject were at first generally limited either to theological denunciation of specific accused heretics or to modifications and clarifications of procedure in legal treatises and inquisitors’ manuals (see Inquisitorial manuals).19

Historiography would only become a major vehicle for Catholic defenders of the inquisition in the later sixteenth century. Praise for inquisitors and their holy endeavors regularly emerges in the writings of Spanish Dominican historians such as Juan de la Cruz, Fernando del Castillo and Francisco Diago, for example;20 Diago’s colleague Vicente Justiniano Antist even compiled a three-volume Historia de la Santa Inquisición, ca. 1589-1592, which remains unpublished.21 Ludovicus Paramo’s De Origine et Progressu Officii Sanctae Inquisitionis would finally gain notoriety in 1598 as the first printed Catholic treatise specifically dedicated to explicating and defending the integrity of inquisition as a centuries old, worldwide and divinely sanctioned judicial undertaking [INQ 129]. Antonio de Sousa, writing a generation later, would contribute a similarly apologetic Latin historical account of the Portuguese inquisition (first published in 1630 as Aphorismi Inquisitorum) [INQ 160].22 At the same time, Paramo’s claims were not endorsed uncritically throughout the Catholic world. Internal criticism of specific structural and procedural points would emerge from time to time, as in Paolo Sarpi’s arguments for the superiority of Venetian inquisitorial models over those of the Roman tribunal [INQ 134].23 Internal debates among Catholic authorities regarding jurisdictional issues would continue throughout the early modern period, for example in Spain where the lines between royal, papal and inquisitorial jurisdiction were regularly contested [INQ 557, INQ 139, INQ 130, INQ 168].

Unabashed celebrations of the tribunals, their works, and their personnel appear frequently throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries [INQ 150, INQ 151, INQ 385, INQ 159]. The 1664 beatification of murdered inquisitor Pedro Arbués provided one particularly noteworthy occasion for fiestas and sermons [INQ 136, INQ 244], as did publication of a new Index of Banned Books [INQ 564, see Censorship], but every single public auto de fe was in and of itself a rich opportunity for inquisitors to promote their cause. The regular staging of these spectacular (and very expensive) events, with efforts made in many cases to preserve their edifying memory in written form, likely constituted the most important contemporary public-relations exercises undertaken in defense of the Spanish and Portuguese inquisitions (see Autos de fe).

On the other hand, several Catholic authors of this same period also took up the challenge of meeting hostile polemical historians on their own terms—and in some cases they were not altogether sparing in leveling criticisms of their own against an increasingly controversial institution. Jacques Marsollier’s Histoire de l’Inquisition et son Origine (1693) reflects Gallican concerns, arguing that inquisitorial jurisdiction should in general be limited and subject to state (rather than papal) oversight [INQ 143]. 24 His text would later re-appear in expanded form, accompanied by engravings and materials drawn from the more hostile writings of Dellon and Limborch, and so serve the purposes of Enlightenment polemic despite its initial moderate tone [INQ 152]. Newly-emerging Enlightenment scruples as well as long-standing Protestant denunciations were rather the target of Melchor Rafael de Macanaz’ posthumously-published 1788 Defensa Critica de la Inquisicion contra los principales enemigos que la han perseguido, y persiguen injustamente, the first Spanish example of a direct response to anti-inquisitorial polemic—somewhat ironically, for Macanaz himself was repeatedly dogged by the Spanish inquisition and spent much of his career in de facto exile [INQ 158].25 The dawn of the French revolution and anxieties over its anti-clerical excesses inspired many other defensive treatises at the end of the century, including essays by sympathetic churchmen [INQ 159, INQ 162] and renewed publications of older apologetic treatises such as de Sousa’s Aphorismi [INQ 160].

In the wake of the French Revolution came Napoleon’s takeover of Spain and a first suspension of the inquisition there in 1808. A major debate among Spaniards ensued, with some hailing abolition as a liberalizing move even if it came at the hands of an occupying force; others equated loyalty to the Spanish nation and/or monarchy with loyalty to the inquisition, and called for a complete restoration of the status quo ante. A cortes held in Cádiz by nationalists and anti-French resistors from 1810-1813 heard many of these debates, and dozens of tracts were circulated by advocates of all positions [INQ 165, INQ 171, INQ 172, INQ 173, INQ 174, INQ 175, INQ 176, INQ 177, INQ 178, INQ 188, INQ 406, INQ 560]. Some revived older works in support of their arguments. Extracts deemed relevant to inquisition history were reprinted from Zurita’s sixteenth-century Anales, for example [INQ 175], as were mid-seventeenth century works of the controversial bishop and one-time Mexican viceroy Juan de Palafox y Mendoza [INQ 412]. Memorials to the now centuries old, yet still sensational, trials of alleged sixteenth-century Protestants and alumbrados were also widely circulated [INQ 165, INQ 176].26

The Spanish inquisition was in fact suspended by the cortes in 1813, only to be restored by King Ferdinand VII when he was returned to the throne a year later. It was then suspended once more from 1820 to 1823 amid much renewed debate (including reprints of earlier polemic) and sometimes violent disturbances [INQ 184, INQ 185, INQ 188, INQ 414, INQ 415, INQ 416]. The Spanish inquisition was finally abolished in 1834, yet throughout the nineteenth century (and beyond) its memory was cherished by some conservative Catholics—and their arguments in support of inquisitorial ideals continued to appear in print. The most important of these were undoubtedly contained in the Letters on the Spanish Inquisition written by a Savoyard diplomat named Joseph de Maistre, which went through more than twenty editions in several languages in the first century following the initial (posthumous) publication in 1822 [INQ 187, INQ 191, INQ 192, INQ 197].27

Historical studies

Napoleon’s closure of inquisition tribunals in Spain, however temporary it may have been in the short run, had major implications for scholarship by resulting in the forcible opening of previously secret inquisitorial archives. Whereas some inquisition closures resulted in the near total destruction of archival materials (as occurred at Sicily in 1782, and Goa after 1812), Spanish inquisition records were in many cases preserved, seized, and immediately put to good use by researchers eager to develop a more accurate “source-based” historical perspective.28 Joseph Lavallée thus managed to use the contents of the Valladolid inquisition archive to minor effect in his 1809 Histoire des Inquisitions Religieuses d’Italie, d’Espagne et du Portugal [INQ 184, INQ 185].29 Much more important however was the work of Juan Antonio Llorente. A critical former inquisition secretary who had begun compiling materials for a planned historical project even before the 1808 suspension, Llorente sympathized with the French invaders and was given full authority over confiscated inquisition archives by Joseph Bonaparte himself. After some initial interventions in the cortes debates of 1810-1813 [INQ 172], his labors eventually led to the publication in 1817-1818 of an Histoire Critique de l’Inquisition en Espagne. As Francisco Bethencourt rightly points out, Llorente “changed the face of research into the Inquisition by introducing new methods based on the consultation of thousands of archival documents from the institution itself.”30 His work would be translated and republished many times over the course of the nineteenth century and remains a valuable resource for inquisition historians [INQ 180, INQ 183, INQ 186, INQ 189, INQ 190].31

Use of archival sources would nevertheless remain spotty in many Spanish studies of the nineteenth century [INQ 195, INQ 200], and recourse was still had to outdated works such as Montanus’ now three hundred year old yet newly translated Artes de la Inquisizion Española [INQ 196], but the potential for new directions in inquisition historiography had finally been demonstrated. History itself was evolving rapidly as a discipline in this period thanks to the likes of Leopold von Ranke, and studies of inquisition history were inevitably impacted as well. Pioneering efforts were made to use archival documentation in studies of the Canarias and Portuguese tribunals [INQ 202 and INQ 198, respectively]; new ground was also broken by the Latin American historian José Toribio de Medina in his studies of New World tribunals.32 Nineteenth century emancipations of European Jews, which both raised broader awareness of their often tragic history on the continent and permitted scholars like Heinrich Graetz to enter the world of mainstream university discourse, would also have an impact.33 Finally, a “golden age” of relatively impartial, scientific, archive-based inquisition history can be said to have begun with the numerous publications of Henry Charles Lea at the turn of the twentieth century.34

Yet much work remains to be done, and many sources have still not received the serious academic attention they deserve. Basic exploratory work is required in the vast Portuguese inquisition archives above all.35 Since 1998 the files of the Roman inquisition have finally been made available for research at the Vatican; first fruits from this development have begun to appear but much more undoubtedly await the arrival of new generations of researchers.36 Various chapters in the history of “The Inquisition” and its genesis as a legendary force also remain to be written, with studies of Catholic apologetics and Jewish historiography on the inquisition in particular as yet in their infancy. Future work in these and other directions will undoubtedly allow scholars to get a better sense of the inquisitions’ often variable and changing roles in the hearts and minds of historical populations, their leaders, and their intellectuals.

Robin Vose

Appendix: Inventory of polemics and history sources at Notre Dame

The Inquisition Collection at the University of Notre Dame contains scores of items falling under the category of polemical and historical discussions of the inquisitions. Many other editions of these and related works are listed in E. van der Vekene, Bibliotheca Bibliographica Historiae Sanctae Inquisitionis (1966; repr. 3 vols. Vaduz 1982-92); cf. the useful bibliographical essays in Peters, Inquisition pp. 329-346.

Protestant and “Black Legend” polemics

INQ 128. 1567 edition of Montanus, Sanctae Inquisitionis Hispanicae Artes...

INQ 138. 1681 edition of Beaulieu, The Holy Inquisition.

INQ 140. 1688 edition of Dellon, Relacion de l’Inquisition de Goa.

INQ 141. 1692 edition of Limborch, Historia Inquisitionis.

INQ 559. Undated edition of Catel, Conscientiae Equuleus [18th century?].

INQ 145. 1711 edition of Dellon, Voyages de Mr. Dellon [first published 1687].

INQ 146. 1713 edition of Ramé, The History of the Inquisition.

INQ 147. 1731 edition of Limborch, The History of the Inquisition [first published 1692].

INQ 148. 1734 edition of Baker, The History of the Inquisition.

INQ 154. 1770 edition of Marchant, A Review of the Bloody Tribunal.

INQ 155. 1773 edition of Taylor, England’s Bloody Tribunal.

INQ 161. 1796 edition of Le Bret, Erzahlung seiner ausgestandenen Leiden und Drangsale in den Inquisitionsgericht zu Portugal.

INQ 18. Undated MS copy of Belando, Declaracion [late 18th or early 19th century; first published 1745].

INQ 169. 1808 translation of Fischer, A Picture of Madrid.

INQ 170. 1810 edition of Stockdale, The History of the Inquisitions.

INQ 179. 1817 edition of Azavedo, Ensayo acerca de la Tortura

INQ 182. 1820 edition of Clararrosa, Viage al Mundo Subterraneo y Secretos

INQ 194. 1851 edition of Achilli, Dealings with the Inquisition

INQ 196. 1851 edition of Montanus, Artes de la Inquisizion Española [first published 1567].

INQ 201. 1868 edition of Valle, Anales de la Inquisicion… [first published 1841].

INQ 164. 1880 translation of Alcock, De Spaansche Broeders [first published in English, 1870].

INQ 166. Undated edition of Féréal, Mystères de l’Inquisition… [19th century; first published 1844].

Catholic apologetics and internal debates

INQ 129. 1598 edition of Paramo, De Origine et Progressu Officii Sanctae Inquisitionis.

INQ 134. 1638 edition of Sarpi, Discorso dell’Origine, forma, leggi, ed uso dell’Ufficio dell’ Inquisitione nella Citta, e Dominio di Venetia.

INQ 136. 1664 description of festivities celebrating beatification of Pedro Arbues.

INQ 244. 1665 sermon celebrating beatification of Pedro Arbues.

INQ 557. 1680 edition of Company, Manifiesto Theologo-Iuridico

INQ 139. 1685 edition of Lopez, Discurso Iuridico, Historico-Politico

INQ 143. 1693 edition of Marsollier, Histoire de l’Inquisition et son Origine.

INQ 130. Undated, anonymous Discurso Historico-Juridico

INQ 150. 1736 edition of Rodriguez Galan, La Primavera en febrero

INQ 151. 1742 edition of Anunciacon, Vindicias de la Virtud.

INQ 152. 1759 edition of Marsollier, Histoire des Inquisitions [first published 1693].

INQ 385. 1771 edition of Oloriz, Oracion al Santo Tribunal de la Inquisicion de Valencia.

INQ 158. 1788 edition of Macanaz, Defensa Critica de la Inquisicion… [completed 1736].

INQ 159. 1789 anonymous edition of Della Punizione degli Eretici

INQ 160. 1789 translation of Sousa, Verdadero Origen del Tribunal del Santo Oficio de la Inquisicion… [first published 1630].

INQ 162. 1798 anonymous Cartas de un Presbítero Español

INQ 168. 1802 anonymous edition of a Discurso Histórico-Legal

INQ 171. 1811 anonymous contribution to suppression debate.

INQ 172. 1812 edition of Llorente, Memoria Histórica

INQ 406. 1812 anonymous contribution to suppression debate.

INQ 560. 1813 Lopez contribution to suppression debate.

INQ 173. 1813 anonymous contribution to suppression debate.

INQ 174. 1813 Ruiz de Padron contribution to suppression debate.

INQ 175. 1813 edition of extracts from Zurita as contribution to suppression debate.

INQ 412. 1813 edition of Palafox, Carta… al Inquisidor General [first published ca. 1650?].

INQ 176. 1814 San Bartolomé contribution to suppression debate; bound with Apologia del Santo Tribunal en la memorable historia del Ilustrisimo… Carranza.

INQ 165. 1814 Apologia del Santo Tribunal en la memorable historia del Ilustrisimo… Carranza.

INQ 177. 1814 Ruiz de Padron contribution to suppression debate.

INQ 178. 1814 anonymous contribution to suppression debate.

INQ 414. 1821 anonymous Noticia del horrendo y sacrilegio atentado

INQ 415. 1823 Garcia contribution to suppression debate.

INQ 416. 1824 Alfaro contribution to suppression debate.

INQ 188. 1824 edition of Puigblanch, La Inquisicion sin Máscara…[first published 1811].

INQ 187. 1824 edition of de Maistre, Brieven over de Spaansche Inquisitie.

INQ 191. 1828 edition of de Maistre, Lettres a un Gentilhomme Russe, sur l’Inquisition Espagnole.

INQ 192. 1838 edition of de Maistre, Letters on the Spanish Inquisition.

INQ 197. 1853 edition of de Civarron [also know as de Maistre], De Spaansche Inquisitie

Nineteenth-century histories of inquisition

INQ 185. 1821 translation of Lavallée, Historia Completa das Inquisições… [first published 1809].

INQ 184. 1822 translation of Lavallée, Historia Completa das Inquisições… [first published 1809].

INQ 181. 1818 edition of Llorente, Consultas del Real y Suprema Consejo de Castilla.

INQ 180. 1818 edition of Llorente, Histoire Critique de l’Inquisition d’Espagne.

INQ 183. 1820-1823 edition of Llorente, Oordeelkundige Geschiedenis der Spaansche Inquisitie.

INQ 186. 1822 edition of Llorente, Historia Critica de la Inquisicion de España.

INQ 189. 1826 edition of Llorente, The History of the Inquisition of Spain.

INQ 190. 1827 edition of Llorente, The History of the Inquisition of Spain.

INQ 195. 1851 edition of Castro, Historia de los Protestantes Españoles

INQ 200. 1868 edition of Manrique, Apuntes para la Vida de Felipe II y para la historia del Santo Oficio en España.

INQ 202. 1874 edition of Millares, Historia de la Inquisicion en las Islas Canarias.

INQ 198. 1897 edition of Herculano, Historia da Origem e Establecimiento da Inquisição em Portugal.


1 An overview of the word’s history can be found in Francisco Bethencourt, The Inquisition: a global history, 1478-1834 (1995; tr. Jean Birrell, Cambridge 2009), pp. 364-368.

2 Edward Peters makes the useful distinction between specific historical inquisitions and a more or less universalized “myth of The Inquisition;” see his Inquisition (New York 1988), pp. 1-4 and passim.

3 The famous case of Peter of Verona, an inquisitor murdered in 1252, is only one instance of such opposition. See Christine Caldwell Ames, Righteous Persecution (Philadelphia 2009), pp. 46-50 and 60-67.

4 A selection of contemporary materials arguing for and against the justice of Joan’s conviction can be found in Craig Taylor (ed. & tr.), Joan of Arc la Pucelle (Manchester 2006), pp. 225-261. The widely-circulated short treatises De mirabili victoria and De quadam puella, attributed to Jean Gerson, may also fall into this category though they predate her actual trial (ibid., pp. 78-83 and 112-118); see further Deborah Fraioli, Joan of Arc: the early debate (Rochester 2000). While Joan was illiterate, Hus and some of his followers were able to write their own indictments of the persecution they faced, chiefly in the form of letters and martyrological accounts. See for example Matthew Spinka (tr.), The Letters of John Hus (Manchester 1972), and Peter of Mladoňovice’s inherently polemical account of his master’s execution as translated by Spinka in John Hus at the Council of Constance (New York 1966), pp. 89-234.

5 Bethencourt, The Inquisition pp. 368-374. Isolated instances of converso polemic against the inquisition have been found as early as 1528, however; Henry Kamen, The Spanish Inquisition (New Haven 1997), p. 284. Scholars are divided over whether “converso” literature can be said to have existed at all as a distinctive genre, and if so what its parameters would have been. See Gregory Kaplan, The Evolution of Converso Literature (Gainesville 2002).

6 Though this did not prevent a war of words from developing around them; Louis Cardaillac, Morisques et Chrétiens: un affrontement polémique, 1492-1640 (Paris 1977).

7 The identification of Montanus with del Corro is well established, though the project may also have been a collaboration between him and Casiodoro de Reina. See Nicolas Castrillo, El “Reginaldo Montano”: primer libro polémico contra la Inquisición Española (Madrid 1991).

8 Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, first published in 1559 at Basel as Rerum in ecclesia gestarum quae postremis et periculosis his temporibus evenerunt maximarumque per Europam persecutionum, etc., would become extremely influential in Elizabethan England after its translation in 1563. On the shocking wave of prosecutions against alleged Spanish Protestants ca. 1558-1562 (which caught up even archbishop Carranza of Toledo) see the rich discussion in Henry Charles Lea, A History of the Inquisition of Spain (1907; repr. 1922), vol 3, pp. 411-455; also Jesús Alonso Burgos, El Luteranismo en Castilla durante el siglo XVI (Madrid 1983) and Kamen, Spanish Inquisition pp. 93-99.

9 On Montanus and his reception by contemporaries: Peters, Inquisition pp. 133-154.

10 Ricard Garcia Càrcel, La Leyenda Negra (Madrid 1992).

11 The case of Michael Servetus, burned in 1553 by Genevan Calvinists, is but one important example; see Roland Bainton, Hunted Heretic (Boston 1953), and more recently C. Allen & M. Hillar, Michael Servetus: intellectual giant, humanist and martyr (Lanham 2002). In many cases English and Dutch authorities proceeded against Catholics as rebels rather than heretics, but the religious aspect of their crimes was clear to all.

12 The Inquisition pp. 378-380.

13 It was translated into English, German and Dutch and ran into more than 28 editions by the mid-nineteenth century; more recently the Relation has been republished with valuable notes by Charles Amiel and Anne Lima as L’Inquisition de Goa (Paris 1997).

14 Dellon’s oeuvre bears comparison in this regard with such works as Aphra Behn’s Oroonoko, for example, published just one year later, and Daniel DeFoe’s slightly later Robinson Crusoe (1719).

15 For more details on the genre see Peters Inquisition pp. 190-199, 335-336 and Bethencourt, The Inquisition pp. 383-384.

16 Indeed, Locke’s work was addressed to Limborch, who initially published it in an anonymous and unauthorized Latin edition: Epistola de Tolerantia. A Letter on Toleration (ed. & tr. R. Klibansky & J.W. Gough, Oxford 1968).

17 Voltaire’s Candide (1759) was especially effective in its satirical depiction of a Portuguese auto da fe; the text and its later impact is discussed in Peters, Inquisition pp. 177-188. Cf. Louis de Jaucourt’s lengthy polemical definition of “Inquisition” in the 1765 Encyclopédie of Diderot and d’Alembert:;cc=did;rgn=main;view=text;idno=did2222.0000.299.

18 Peters, Inquisition pp. 204-221 provides an excellent overview of this complex subject.

19 Bethencourt, The Inquisition pp. 386-388.

20 Establishment of the various inquisitions covers several chapters and figures as the climax of De la Cruz’ seminal Coronica de la orden de predicadores (1567). While less prominent in the original version of del Castillo’s 1584 Historia General de Sancto Domingo, y de su orden de Predicadores, praise for the order’s role in inquisition history is nevertheless unmistakable; it would also form something of a key theme in Diago’s Historia de la Provincia de Aragón de la Orden de Predicadores (Barcelona 1599).

21 Alfonso Esponera Cerdán, “El Valenciano Vicente Justiniano Antist, O.P. y su inédita Historia de la Santa Inquisición (1589-92)” in Vivir en la Iglesia. Homenaje al Prof. Juan Agulles (Valencia 1999), pp. 493-519; ibid., “Los Dominicos y la Inquisición Medieval Según la Historia de la Santa Inquisición (1589-92) de V.J. Antist OP” in Praedicatores Inquisitores (Rome 2004), pp. 731-752.

22 The Aphorismi went through at least four seventeenth-century editions before appearing in a Spanish translation of 1789. De Sousa’s views are also preserved in a 1624 printed auto da fe sermon (see Autos de fe for more on this genre); a copy can be found at the Hebrew Union College, Cincinnati, along with a 1669 edition of the original Portuguese Aphorismi [HUC Inquisition Collection #0168 and #0188, respectively].

23 Peters, Inquisition pp. 269-271.

24 Bethencourt, The Inquisition pp. 397-398.

25 See Carmen Martín Gaite, El Proceso de Macanaz (1969; repr. Barcelona 1988) and Henry Kamen, “Melchor de Macanaz and the foundations of Bourbon power in Spain” in English Historical Review 80:317 (1965), pp. 699-716. Like Marsollier, Macanaz had advocated for increased state control over the tribunals.

26 On changing inquisitorial attitudes toward Palafox’s work, see Censorship. The apparent eighteenth-century fashion for collecting relaciones on the earlier trials of archbishop Carranza and others are further discussed in Autos de fe.

27 Peters, Inquisition pp. 283-284. For the most recent scholarship on this important author see now Carolina Armenteros and Richard A. Lebrun (eds.), The New enfant du siècle: Joseph de Maistre as a Writer (St. Andrews 2010). Other resources are also available at href="

28 Bethencourt, The Inquisition pp. 417-419 describes the Sicilian episode. Goa excepted, survival of documents in Portuguese inquisition archives was even better than that in Spain. Thorough accounts of archival preservation and losses, including the very complicated stories of Roman and other Italian inquisition archives, are provided in Gustav Henningsen et al. (eds.), The Inquisition in Early Modern Europe (DeKalb 1986); cf. John Tedeschi, The Prosecution of Heresy (Binghamton 1991), pp. 23-45.

29 Bethencourt, The Inquisition pp. 401, 420; Peters, Inquisition p. 283. As editions in the McDevitt Collection attest, Lavallée’s work was later translated into Portuguese and republished in the wake of the Portuguese inquisition’s 1820 abolition.

30 Bethencourt, The Inquisition pp. 420-421.

31 On Llorente, see Peters, Inquisition pp. 278-283 and 344. 1818 also saw the publication of his Consultas del Real y Suprema Consejo de Castilla under the pseudonym of Astreófilo Hispáno [INQ 181].

32 Maury Bromsen (ed.), José Toribio Medina: Humanist of the Americas (Washington 1960).

33 Walter Scott’s depiction of a Jewish heroine in Ivanhoe is one important example of this developing sensibility as noted in Kamen, Spanish Inquisition p. 311. On the pioneering historical achievements of Graetz, his monumental Geschichte der Juden (first published in 11 vols. from 1853-1870) and related developments see Salo Baron, History and Jewish Historians (ed. Arthur Hertzburg & Leon Feldman, Philadelphia 1964). Early modern Jewish (and converso) criticism of the inquisition had, as noted above, generally been overshadowed by the to-and-fro of ideological debate among Christians. Internal discussions of threats posed by Christian society (including inquisition) nevertheless long circulated internally, whether in Hebrew or vernacular translations (such as Isaac of Troki’s 1594 Hizzuq emunah, which reemerged as the Fortificacion de la Ley de Mosses at Hamburg in 1621—a fine MS copy of the latter is now at the Hebrew Union College, Cincinnati). David Nieto’s polemical response to a Portuguese auto da fé sermon of 1705 is another example of this genre [INQ 64]; see Autos de fe. It would only be in the twentieth century that Jewish historians such as Yitzhak Baer and Haim Beinart managed to make truly effective use of Spanish archival sources, however.

34 Peters, Inquisition pp. 287-292; ibid., “Henry Charles Lea (1825-1909)” in Helen Damico & Joseph Zavadil (eds.), Medieval Scholarship (New York 1995), pp. 89-99, and ibid., “Henry Charles Lea and the ‘Abode of Monsters’” in Angel Alcalá (ed.), The Spanish Inquisition and the inquisitorial mind (Highland Lakes 1987), pp. 577-608.

35 Charles Amiel, “The Archives of the Portuguese Inquisition: a brief survey” in Gustav Henningsen et al. (eds.), The Inquisition in Early Modern Europe (DeKalb 1986), pp. 79-99.

36 See now Rainer Decker, Witchcraft & the Papacy (tr. H.C. Erik Midelfort, Charlottesville 2008) and Christopher Black, The Italian Inquisition (New Haven 2009).

To cite this essay:

Vose, Robin. “Introduction to inquisition polemics and histories.” Hesburgh Libraries of Notre Dame, Department of Rare Books and Special Collections. University of Notre Dame, 2010. <>