Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Planning Ahead - No One Expects the Spanish Inquisition!

Most of us remember the series of comedic sketches in Monty Python's Flying Circus satirizing the real-life Spanish Inquisition., "No one expects the Spanish Inquisition!"   

Monty Python's inquisitors applying the
comfy chair torture

But the Inquisition has been serious business in one form or another for nearly 800 years targeting Jews, Moors, witches, the Knights Templar, scientists (like Galileo), theologians and philosopher. 

This attempt by the Catholic Church to deal with its enemies, inside and outside, pioneered tools that had not existed before:  surveillance, censorship, and “scientific” interrogation.  These tools spread far beyond the Church to become the tools of secular persecution, tools that have only improved and are part of our lives today.

We like to think that the Inquisition is something safely confined to the distant past, something "medieval" that in an enlightened age we’ve moved far beyond.  But the Inquisition is really one of the first modern institutions, and its mindset and methods are with us today. 

Topics Covered 
  • The Inquisition Mindset and “Inquisitions” in the Modern Age
  • The Birth of the Inquisition in the Middle Ages and the Dominicans (Order of Preachers)
  • The Spanish Inquisition
  • The Roman Inquisition:  Congregation of the Holy Office of the Inquisition
  • Banning Books:  Index Librorum Prohiborum

Food for Thought

The Pit and the Pendulum by Edgar Allan Poe
  • An 1842 short story about terror induced by the Inquisition (and a 1961 film starring Vincent Price, my 9th cousin 1x removed)
A prisoner undergoing torture at the hands of the Spanish Inquisition
with monks in the background waiting to write down his confession.  

The Name of the Rose
 by Umberto Eco
  • Set in 1327 against the Medieval Inquisition’s prosecution of the Fraticelli.  The Fraticelli ("Little Brethren") were extreme proponents of the rule of Saint Francis of Assisi, especially with regard to poverty, and regarded the wealth of the Church as scandalous, and that of individual churchmen as invalidating their status. They thus claimed that everyone else in the Church was damned and deprived of powers.  The Fraticelli were declared heretical in 1296 by Boniface VIII.
Against the Inquisition (La Gesta del Marrano) by Marcos Aguinis
  • An historical novel set in Latin America during the Spanish Inquisition and based on the true
    story of Francisco Maldonado da Silva, an Argentine marrano physicial who was held in the secret prisons of the Inquisition for six years before being burned at the stake in Lima, Peru.

Captain from Castille by Samuel Shellabarger
  • A best seller published in 1945, tells the story (with lots of swashbuckling) of a 19-year-old Pedro de Vargas, whose family is denounced to the Inquisition on trumped-up charges.  Pedro flees to Cuba where he enlists in Cortes' campaign to conquer Mexico.  Basis of the 1947 film of the same name starring Tyrone Powers and Jean Peters in her feature film debut - along with Jay Silverheels who later portrayed Tonto on the television series The Lone Ranger.

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