From the late 1200s to mid-1550s
From the late 1200s to mid-1550s, many European states began to purge themselves of their Jewish populations. These were followed by periods where the expelled Jews would be readmitted back by the countries that removed them only to be followed by the Jews would be removed again. In Spain, the Jews were blamed for the outbreak of the 1391 “Great Conversion” disturbances that resulted in the death of one third of the Spanish Jews. In 1492, the most significant expulsion of Jews in Spanish history occurred. Increasing taxes, a closer relationship between the monarchy and the Catholic leaders, and widening hostility towards the Jews contributed to the declining position of the Jews in Spain. Withal, the critical juncture came in the early 1390s, when strife broke out in Seville and quickly spread to Castile and Aragon. Many of the Jews were converted by force; the Jews believed that converting was the sole means to avoid being murdered or removed. The “conversos” were scorned by the Jews and were not completely accepted by the Christian majority (Levy).
Nonetheless, the purging of the Jews in 1492 did not end their impact on Spanish history. However, there is little by way of literature that can definitively gage that impact. By the end of the 15th century, there was still a sizeable “conversos” community within Spain. Many of these assumed political power and were even marrying into the Spanish riyal family. However, the power of these “conversos” was soon challenged by the members of the Dominican order when these administered the Inquisition. The brutal religious campaign resulted in a massive bloodbath and was also responsible for many Jews fleeing Spain. Withal, many of the Jews that remained eventually embraced Catholicism and soon played significant roles in Spanish society. Among these individuals included Jesuit second general Diego Lainez and Teresa of Avila, poet Luis de Leon, and jurist Francisco de Vitoria (Britannica).
Issues resulting in the establishment of the Spanish Inquisition
In the aftermath of the Andalusian bloodbaths, several high ranking church leaders, including two influential members of the Dominican sect-the royal chaplain, Alonso de Hojeda, and the King’s confessor, Tomas de Torquemada, set the groundwork for the establishment what came to be known as the Spanish Inquisition. The moment came when the monarch went to Seville, a community that housed a consequential “converses” sector. The two leaders, along with the Archbishop of Seville, Pedro Gonzales de Mendoza, influenced Ferdinand and Isabelle to take cognizance of the dangers posed by the “conversos” though these were a small minority in the country (Rawlings 56).
The “conversos” and the “Marranos” or the new Christian believers soon became a controversial group in Spain. Many of the converts assumed critical positions in the Spanish bureaucracy and in society and soon were connected with the powerful elites in the country. Along with their seeming political power, the “conversos” and the “Marranos” were also able to gain vest wealth and economic affluence, which further fueled the hostility from the “older” believers who were already highly speculative of their conversions (Encyclopedia Britannica).
In the late 1470s, the Spanish monarchs sent an official communications to Rome for the creation of the Inquisition in Spain. The leadership of the Catholic Church, headed by Pope Sixtus IV, allowed the request and allowed the monarchs to appoint and reject the inquisitors. However, the move was a political rather than a religious accommodation. The Pope needed the aid of the Spanish against the Turks and was left with little room to attend to secular affairs. Within two years, the monarchs appointed the first two interrogators, and coupled with Hojeda’s zealous anti-“conversos” tirades, the first inquisition, or “auto-da-fe,” was conducted in Seville (Murphy 80).
The “auto-da-fe,” or “act of faith,” was geared to be an uplifting public act that conveyed Catholicism’s rage against fallacy and invoking the mercy of the religious authorities at the time. If the “heretic” repented of their errors, these would be allowed to reconcile with the Catholic religion. In the case of unrepentant schismatics, these were promptly executed. Withal, since the Catholic authorities could not execute a person owing to their religious philosophies, many of these heretics were turned over to the authorities to carry out the death sentences (Constable 331).
The expulsion of the Jews and the aftermath
There is no verifiable reason to accurately assay the wide spread conversion and the eventual creation of the Inquisition and the purging of the Jews from Spain. By the 15th century, a large number of “conversos” had accepted their Spanish identity and were as dedicated and loyal to the policies, programs, and agendas as were the “old” Christians were. However, it must be noted that though many of the “conversos” were killed in the course of the Inquisition, and many of the Jews were expelled from Spain, significant number of “conversos” soon assimilated into the Catholic religion and by the mid-1500s, these were completely adapted to the dynamics of the Spanish society. Much of the racial animosity and stereotyping associated with the practice of specific religious beliefs and rituals; these were slowly disappearing by this time, and the negative profiles of the Jews remained in the dynamics of Spanish society approximately at the same pace the Jews and “conversos” were assimilating into their respective communities (Ruiz 163).