THE RECORDS of hundreds of Irish people who were brought before the Spanish Inquisition – including the man reputed to be the inspiration behind Zorro – have been discovered in Madrid.
The most famous Irishman brought before the inquisition was Wexford man William Lamport who was arrested in Mexico in 1659 for plotting against the Spanish colonisers and was burned at the stake.
He became a folk hero for the Mexican independence movement and was said to be the inspiration for Zorro.
Despite the inquisition’s fearsome reputation, undeserved according to Dr O’Connor, they were the unlucky ones. The majority of Irish people brought before it were Protestants and the overwhelming majority were given a “conditional absolution”.
“In the English-speaking world the black legend of the Spanish Inquisition is extraordinarily persistent,” he said. “It is part of an anti-Spanish prejudice in English-speaking countries.”
That interested me-- I didn't know there was an anti-Protestant element to the Inquisition, so I checked Wikipedia. For that matter, I didn't know there were any Protestants in Spain at the time.
So, yes, there was a fairly small anti-Protestant aspect to the Inquisition.
Another thing I didn't know was that the Pope was opposed to the Inquisition, but was pressured into allowing it.
I did know that the Inquisition was usually skeptical about the witchcraft (most witch-killing happened in other parts of Europe). I didn't know that sodomy was one of the things that the Inquisition had on its list of things to attack. So was Freemasonry.
Wikipedia agrees with O'Conner that the Inquisition wasn't especially awful by the standards of the era. Considering that Pope Sixtus IV and Pope Innocent VII opposed the Inquisition, I'm wondering if there was other Papal opposition to bad judicial practice.
More stuff I didn't know: Cities in Aragon revolted against the Inquisition. Napoleon conquered Spain (most of Spain?) and was instrumental in ending the Inquisition there. Emphasis on the Inquisition is mostly attributed to anti-Spanish sentiment, but there was Spanish rulers who worked very hard to keep it in place, including putting it back after Napoleon lost Spain.
I don't know how much is anti-Spanish sentiment and how much is that the Inquisition was flashier than other justice systems (was it?). I also don't know how the Inquisition is represented in history from Spanish points of view.
I also didn't know that there was a time when the primary emphasis on the Inquisition was its attacks on Protestants-- actually most who were killed were Jewish.
I've been thinking I need to find some other interests to displace some fraction of an unhealthy fascination with contemporary politics. There does seem to be a tremendous amount of history I don't know, though it can bleed into current politics. Number theory is also a possibility-- I think it's pretty unpolitical.
Link thanks to Diane Duane at Facebook.
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