Although the Spanish Inquisition is most often associated with Jewish history, it is interesting to note that the Inquisition began in 1478, with the goal of cleansing insincere Catholics from church-controlled territory. Only 14 years after the Inquisition began, all those identifying as Jews (or any other non-Catholic religion) were expelled from Spanish-controlled lands. Nevertheless, the Spanish Inquisition had a tremendous impact on both Jewish and World history. In the colonial era, the Spanish conquered and controlled territory on nearly every continent. With the Spanish conquistadores came the inquisitors, and when the inquisitors came, Jews (and conversos) fled to the next land. This was exactly how the first group of Jews came to New York City (then Dutch-controlled New Amsterdam).
By the 1700s, the Inquisition was fairly impotent. In the turmoil of world politics, monarchies slowly transformed into governments, while the Protestant Revolution and the French Revolution decreased the overall power of the Catholic Church. During this century, there were a few intermittent periods during which the Inquisition was cancelled, but it kept being reinstituted. Finally, in 1834, it was permanently abolished by a Royal Decree signed by regent Maria Christina of the Two Sicilies, during the minority of Isabella II. The decree to abolish the Inquisition was also approved by the President of the Cabinet. Oddly enough, the Spanish government did not rescind the expulsion of the Jews until December 16, 1968.
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