Victims of the Spanish Inquisition

Jews and Muslems

There was a long history in Spain of persecution of Jews before the Inquisition. During 1391 for example, over 50,000 Jews were murdered by mobs. In 1492, the Jews in Spain were given the option of becoming baptized Christians, or leaving Spain. It is estimated that about 50,000 “accepted” conversion, and 100,000-200,000 left Spain. Forced Jewish converts were known as Marranos (meaning “swine”), conversos, or “New Christians”. While the Inquisition had no authority over practicing Jews (who could not be branded as Christian heretics), the Inquisition had great authority over the conversos, many of whom continued to worship as Jews in secret.

The Inquisition drew up an elaborate list of “signs” by which a “Judaizer” (a relapsed Jew) could be discovered, some of which are included in the following “Edict of Faith” issued in Valencia in 1519:

“...changing into clean personal linen on Saturdays and wearing better clothes than on other days; preparing on Fridays the food for Saturdays, in stewing pans on a small fire; who do not work on Friday evenings and Saturdays as on other days; who kindle lights in clean lamps with new wicks, on Friday evenings; place clean linene on the beds and clean napkins on the table; celebrate the festival of the unleavened bread, eat unleavened bread and celery and bitter herbs...who do not wish to eat salt pork, hares, rabbits, snails, or fish that have not scales; who bathe the bodies of their dead...if any know that in any house, people congregate for the purpose of carrying on religious services, or read out of bibles in the vernacular or perform other Judaic ceremonies...” - Edict of Faith issued in Valencia in 1519 by Inquisitor Andres de Palacio (Roth, p. 77/79)

Moslems in Spain suffered a similar fate to the Jews – convert, or be exiled. Converted Moslems were known as Moriscos, and were viewed with great suspicion by the Inquisition. Moslems that did not convert were exiled from Spain – by some estimates, up to 3,000,000 Moslems left Spain between 1502 and 1615!


Protestants were also frequent targets of the Spanish Inquisition. Among the victims were native Protestants (Lutherans and Calvinists), such as Francisco de San Roman, who was the first Protestant burned at the stake in Spain, in 1540. More controversial were Protestants that served on merchant vessels visiting Spanish ports. In 1565, for example, 26 English subjects were burned at the stake, and 10 times that number were sentenced to Inquisitorial prisons.

Needless to say, this situation became a major bone of contention between Spain and its trading partners! In 1604, the Treaty of London was signed, which forbade subjects of the King of England from being persecuted for matters of conscience within the realm of the King of Spain. However, a caveat existed in the treaty – English subjects in Spain were only safe provided they did not cause public scandal – a matter open to subjective judgement!

Like the Papal Inquisition in Italy in the 16th century, the Spanish Inquisition was very successful at preventing Protestantism from gaining a foothold in Spain.