Birthday: October 14, 1420
Died At Age: 77
Sun Sign: Libra
Also Known As: Thomas of Torquemada
Born Country: Spain
Born in: Torquemada or Valladolid, Kingdom of Castile
Famous as: Friar
Spiritual & Religious Leaders
father: Pedro Fernández de Torquemada
mother: Mencía Ortega
Died on: September 16, 1498
place of death: Ávila, Spain
Cause of Death: Natural Causes
Tomás de Torquemada was a Dominican friar and the first grand inquisitor in Spain. His homogenizing religious practices led to the expulsion of thousands of Muslims and Jews from Spain in the late 15th century. The nephew of a noted theologian, Juan de Torquemada, he initially joined the San Pablo Dominican monastery. In 1452, Torquemada became the prior of Santa Cruz at Segovia and went on to hold the office for 22 years. During his tenure, he became familiar with Queen Isabella I and soon became her confessor and adviser. He was convinced that the existence of Islamic converts and Jewish converts would hinder the social and religious life of Spain. As a result, he became a supporter of the Alhambra Decree that resulted in banishment of the Jews from Spain in 1492. His final years were marked by widespread complaints which led Pope Alexander VI to employ assistant inquisitors. Torquemada died in 1498, after spending fifteen years as Spain's grand inquisitor.
Tomás de Torquemada started his career with the San Pablo monastery that he joined at a very young age. His austerity and knowledge soon earned him a solid reputation and he eventually became a prior of Segovia’s Santa Cruz monastery. During this time, he got acquainted with Princess Isabella I and they instantly developed a religious rapport. Torquemada also served as the personal advisor to Isabella and remained her closest ally. He even recommended her to marry King Ferdinand of Aragon and was also present at her coronation in 1474.
After Isabella’s marriage, Torquemada became the confessor to King Ferdinand as well and eventually rose to a position of much influence at the court. Isabella, who herself became one of the most influential women in the world, offered the monk magnificent papal titles, which he declined.
Torquemada, who was already notable for his fanaticism, was the first one to introduce a decree of "pure blood" into a Dominican house.
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The Holy Office of the Inquisition
Tomás de Torquemada believed that the Moriscos (Islamic converts) and Marranos (Jewish converts) would hinder Spain's economic and religious welfare. He convinced Queen Isabella, who, in turn, petitioned Pope Sixtus IV and requested him to grant her request for the establishment of the Holy Office to manage an inquisition in Spain. The request was granted, leading to the development of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (Holy Office for the Propagation of the Faith) in 1478.
Upon its establishment, full powers were given to the sovereigns to appoint inquisitors. The Dominican order was granted exceptional powers by Rome and leaders of inquisitions were appointed at a local level, initially in Germany and then in Italy and France. However, the Spanish Inquisition in both Aragon and Castile remained under King Ferdinand’s direction. In 1482, seven inquisition courts were established across Spain.
As a Grand Inquisitor
In 1482, Tomás de Torquemada was one of the inquisitors appointed by the pope. The following year, he became the grand inquisitor of Spain and held the title until his death in 1498. During his tenure, the Spanish Inquisition grew from a single tribunal to an entire network of about two dozen tribunals that expanded to Sevilla, Córdoba, Jaén, Ciudad Real and Zaragoza. In 1484, Torquemada propagated 28 articles for guiding the inquisitors. These guidelines were related to crimes like heresy, sodomy, sorcery, blasphemy, polygamy, and other wrongdoings. His harsh policies were implemented throughout the Iberian Peninsula. According to scholars, 2,000 to 8,800 Spaniards were burned at the stake. Although his authority invoked the wrath of some, he was a close ally of the king and the queen and therefore, extremely powerful. He convinced the royals to fully eradicate non-Christians from the kingdom.
He instructed the judges to question the convicts on theological topics and give a jail term to those who lied about their belief in Christianity. The prisoners who confessed were made to don a penitential garment called sanbenito that indicated the type of penitence. While one type of garment had designs of hell's flames and dragons on it, another had a cross.
Also, the ones who were found guilty were given the right to appeal to the Holy See in Rome. However, their property would get seized in some cases while others were asked to pay bribes for release. Further, the convicts were kept in darkness during their trail so they could not see their criticizers or judges.
In 1488, Torquemada became the head of the Consejo de la Suprema y General Inquisicion. He got the authority to dominate a large part of Spain, including all the bishops and priests. Nothing, such as an excommunication order or a jail term, was allowed to take place without his consent.
In 1491, the Treaty of Granada was signed between the sultan of Granada and Isabella and Ferdinand along with some dominions. However, three months later, the treaty was cancelled by the Alhambra Decree that eventually expelled about 40,000 Jews from Spain. The remaining Jews were ordered to undergo Christian baptism so that they could stay in Spain.
The inquisition continued even after Torquemada’s death. It continued under the supervision of Diego de Deza who succeeded Torquemada. The inquisition was carried on for the next 300 years. It was eventually abolished by the Revolution of 1820. A law was enacted in 1869 that guaranteed religious liberty in Spain.
Family & Personal Life
Tomás de Torquemada was born on October 14, 1420, most probably in Valladolid or the neighboring village of Torquemada, to Don Pedro Ferdinando. His uncle Juan de Torquemada was a renowned theologian whose grandmother was a conversa. Another ancestor was married to a first-generation conversa.
On September 16, 1498, Torquemada died in St. Thomas Aquinas in Ávila, at the age of 77.