Tomas De Torquemada: Grand Inquisitor of the Spanish Inquisition

Published on 11/1/2010 in Facts About Spain

A man managed to write his name in the black letters of infamy for generations to come. Meet Tomas de Torquemada (1420-1498) first Inquisitor General of Spain and confessor of crypto-Jews and crypto-Muslims.

Who was this man whose name and visage conjures up visions of a monster in the service of God?

Tomas TorquemadaTorquemada was a native Spanish Dominican friar of Jewish descent, his grandmother having been a Jewish convert to Christianity who had married his grandfather Alva Fernandez de Torquemada. The irony of his Jewish ancestry is that during his tenure as Inquisitor General, many Jews would meet untimely deaths in the hands of his Inquisition.

Tomas was born in Valladolid, Spain in 1420. His uncle Cardinal Juan de Torquemada was a respected theologian, a fact which helped Tomas' career. Tomas was an ascetic priest who, during his early years, had been a Dominican monk and cook. He later rose to the position of Prior at the Monastery of Santa Cruz in Segovia; a position he held till at the age of 63 he was appointed Grand Inquisitor of the Spanish Inquisition.

He had close relation with the queen Isabella whose confessor he had been since her childhood. At Isabella's recommendation he was appointed advisor to Ferdinand and Isabella, monarchs of Spain, and later Inquisitor General in 1483.

The Inquisition was established by the Monarchs of Spain in the atmosphere of a period of war with the Moors who were finally defeated at Granada in 1492. The Inquisition had been motivated by fear and distrust of both Jewish and Moorish converts whose loyalty to the state was suspect.

The Inquisition was officially not concerned with non-Christian Jews and Moors but with those who claimed to have converted to Catholicism. The sincerity of these people in their claim of conversion was held in suspicion and there was the general feeling that the larger body of Jewish population harbored potentially subversive elements.

The distrust of the Jews finally led to the Alhambra Decree sponsored by Tomas de Torquemada which resulted in the general expulsion of Jews from Spain in 1492. Tomas had apparently chaffed at the limitation of the power of his office as Grand Inquisitor only to the Jewish converso (that is, Jews who claimed to have converted to Christianity). Tomas detested the Spanish Jews who had not converted. He therefore, vigorously, urged Ferdinand and Isabella to issue an edict commanding all Jews to either leave Spain or convert to Catholicism.

The Jews offered Ferdinand a large sum of money. Ferdinand might have accepted the offer but for a dramatic reaction from Tomas in which he stormed the Palace and accused the king of wanting to sell Christ for money like Judas did.

The jurisdiction of the Inquisition, as already mentioned, was limited to Christians over the age of fourteen, especially Jews and Moors who claimed to have converted to Christianity but were believed to be secretly practicing their old religions. Historians believe that about 2000 people were burned by the Inquisition between 1480and 1530.

The abuses of the Inquisition made Tomas so unpopular than an armed guard of 250 footmen and 50 mounted men had to be provided for his security. The abuses included arbitrary detentions, torture, and reliance on anonymous denunciation. Wealthy Moors and Jews were often targeted for judicial murder and their wealth appropriated. Anyone who spoke against the Inquisition could be arrested on contrived charges of heresy.

A Jew merely suspected of being a "marrano," not only had his property taken over by the Inquisition but he would be publicly humiliated by being forced to march through the streets naked from the waist down and flogged. "Marranos" were forced to live in isolated ghettos in which the conditions were very poor.

Tomas made an elaborate show of organizing a fair trial, most likely to soothe his conscience over the killings. In theory, an accused who confessed his sin of apostasy or heresy would be allowed to go free without any further consequences if he recanted, kissed the cross and confessed Christ. But in reality the chances of going free on confession narrowed as the trial went through its stages. At a point in the trial the accused would be gagged to prevent him from confessing.

The accused was assumed to be guilty from the evidence of unnamed accusers who were adjudged responsible citizens. Torture would be administered to force confession. An accused person who refused to confess would finally be handed over to the civil authorities for execution. Execution was done by burning. The accused person who refused to confess throughout the trial would be executed by slow burning using green wood while those who confessed before execution could be allowed mercy by quick burning using dry seasoned wood. The luckiest were garroted.

Tomas had always been an intensely religious man devoted to his faith throughout his life. He had been an ascetic friar who wore clothing of coarse materials beneath his robe to mortify his flesh. The apparent contradiction between his religious piety and involvement in the cruel murder of an estimated 2000 people can only be explained by the pattern of morality typical of the "Abrahamic" religions in which the highest expression of morality is service to God and religion. That was the context of understanding of the duty of man in which a blood drenched career is interpreted as holy service to the Christian deity.

Torquemada's exemplary service to God earned him several admirable titles: "Hammer of Heretics," "Light of Spain," and "Savior of His Country."

Written by: John Thomas Didymus

About the author:

The writer John Thomas Didymus is the author of "Confessions of God: The Gospel According to St. John ( If you have found this article interesting please read the article TURIN SHROUD: FORGERY OR GENUINE? on his blog.

Right arrow icon Send to friends   Right arrow icon Printer friendly version    Right arrow icon Submit your own article


R. L. Hails Sr. P. E. said:
Friday, August 2, 2013 @ 2:30 AM

"Over the centuries the Church burned hundreds of thousands of heretics and witches- mostly their political enemies and the mentally ill. They've certainly killed more people than any other non-government-organization." - Andrew Kalr.

Prior to the concept of separation of church and state, circa 1800 in Christendom and non existent elsewhere, even today, the difference between murder-by-church vs murder-by-state had no distinct meaning. This was the central horror of the inquisition in which the accused (not convicted) instantly forfeited all property to the church-state. Take and kill was policy for "foreigners". Take and kill for heresy was utilized against wealthy Christians.

Islam suffers from this murderous policy today. The Catholic church stopped two centuries ago.

It is difficult to scale evil, even without hate. But we must try.

Andrew Kalr said:
Wednesday, July 31, 2013 @ 9:07 PM

The Church held a number Inquisitions throughout Europe. Spain was probably the most repressive; a smaller one in Italy jailed Galileo. Over the centuries the Church burned hundreds of thousands of heretics and witches- mostly their political enemies and the mentally ill. They've certainly killed more people than any other non-government-organization.

R. L. Hails Sr. P. E. said:
Wednesday, July 31, 2013 @ 6:06 PM

According to Stalin, the death of one man is a tragedy, the death of a thousand men is a statistic. The inquisition murdered 5,000 to 7,000 people over several centuries, mostly in Spain, with a high point (low point) with Torquemada. In one life time, Stalin murdered 35 million, Mao Ze Tung about the same; all blamed it on war.

From a religious viewpoint (Catholic) all faced a final judgment based on one criteria: Love God and love your neighbor. Those who do not roast forever, perhaps with green wood as a fuel.

john said:
Sunday, October 21, 2012 @ 10:11 PM

anyone know where i can find a list of facts about him

miguel said:
Wednesday, August 1, 2012 @ 5:23 AM

Torquemada's name is not written in the black letters of infamy any more than is the name of Queen Isabella for whom he acted and whose power he wielded. This article is a caricature of real history and cannot be trusted to be objective or accurate. In a few years breathless leftists will be writing about the infamous Benedict XVI who condemned homosexual acts. It means nothing.

AlHubb said:
Tuesday, July 31, 2012 @ 4:27 PM

As a Catholic in a very Fundamentalist area of southwest Oklahoma I was, more than once, called to task over the Inquisition. One person went so far as to say it was a world-wide event, and wouldn't believe it was limited to Spain. Though it is a blot on Catholicism it most certainly was not a Vatican policy but the work of what can only be described as one very disturbed man.

michael said:
Monday, March 12, 2012 @ 10:22 PM

that is good facts but to harsh

michael said:
Monday, March 12, 2012 @ 10:22 PM

that is good facts but to harsh

Only registered users can comment on this article. Please Sign In or Register now.

Comment Using Facebook:

Related articles in this category

10 Facts About La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona

10 Interesting Facts About Madrid

9 Reasons Why Spain Is A Dead Economy Walking

Cante De Las Minas International Festival, La Union, Murcia

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Chorizo

FIFA World Cup 2010 - Team Profile Spain

From Bananas To Flamenco - The Moorish Legacy

Gibraltar - Economic Paradise Thanks To Spain!

How Benidorm Became a Tourist Destination

How is Spanish Wine Classified?

Is Spain Going Backwards Under Zapatero?

Is Spain's Economy "fit for purpose"?

Life In Spain Can Be An Eternal Holiday

Los Barruecos - The Birth of Spain

Madrid Gay Pride

Saffron - Sunny Gold From Spain

Some Fun Facts About Spain

Spain Corruption and Marbella - You Couldn't Make It Up

Spain, Sandals and Socks

Spain's Much Lauded Banking System Begins To Crack. Why?

The Highs and Lows of Spain in 2010

The Spanish Economy Facing Strong Headwinds

Tomas De Torquemada: Grand Inquisitor of the Spanish Inquisition

What is Happening About Graffiti in Granada?

Click here for a list of all the articles from our magazine 

Spain insurance services

This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse you are agreeing to our use of cookies. More information here. x