The Great Events by Famous Historians, Vol. 8 - The Later Renaissance: From Gutenberg To The Reformation
by Editor-in-Chief: Rossiter Johnson
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Many writers have accused Lorenzo of cowardice, of pusillanimity, of want of political resolution on account of this very course of action, namely, that he assisted the enemies of Florence to extricate themselves from their dilemmas. Such criticism fails entirely to understand both the aim and the scope of his policy. He desired to keep Italy for the Italians. His clear-sighted sagacity saw nothing but danger in the plans of Ludovico of Milan to invite the French King into Italy, or in those of Venice to encourage the Duke of Lorraine to press his claims upon Milan. The intervention of either France or Spain in Italy was, in his idea, fraught only with dire disaster. Fain would he have patched up the quarrel between Naples and the papacy by mutual concessions, because he foresaw what would happen if the colossal northern powers had their cupidity aroused regarding Italy, and learned how defenceless she really was. Because he foresaw so clearly the horrors of the invasion of 1494 and 1527, he acted as he did, even toward those who were enemies of Florence. His alarm appears in the letter, dated July, 1489, which he addressed to his ambassador in Rome: "I dislike these Ultramontanes and barbarians beginning to interfere in Italy. We are so disunited and so deceitful that I believe that nothing but shame and loss would be our lot; recent experience may serve to foretell the future." How true a prophet he was, the subsequent course of Italian history revealed!

Anxious though the situation was, crucial though many of the problems he had to solve undoubtedly were, yet the statement may be accepted as approximately true that the last three or four years of Lorenzo's life were spent amid profound peace—at least as far as Florence was concerned. Roscoe's picture is highly colored, but not overcolored:

"At this period the city of Florence was at its highest degree of prosperity. The vigilance of Lorenzo had secured it from all apprehensions of external attack; and his acknowledged disinterestedness and moderation had almost extinguished that spirit of dissension for which it had been so long remarkable. The Florentines gloried in their illustrious citizen, and were gratified by numbering in their body a man who wielded in his hand the fate of nations and attracted the respect and admiration of all Europe; the administration of justice engaged his constant attention, and he carefully avoided giving rise to an idea that he was himself above the control of the law."

And Guicciardini adds: "This season of tranquillity was prosperous beyond any that Italy had experienced during the long course of a thousand years. Abounding in men eminent in the administration of public affairs, skilled in every honorable science and every useful art, it stood high in the estimation of foreign nations; which extraordinary felicity, acquired at many different opportunities, several circumstances contributed to preserve, but among the rest no small share of it was by general consent ascribed to the industry and the virtue of Lorenzo de' Medici, a citizen who rose so far above the mediocrity of a private station that he regulated by his counsels the affairs of Florence, then more important by its situation, by the genius of its inhabitants, and the promptitude of its resources than by the extent of its dominions, and who, having obtained the implicit confidence of the Roman pontiff Innocent VIII, rendered his name great and his authority important in the affairs of Italy."

Though he had never allowed the demands of civic affairs to interfere with his interest in the progress of the Renaissance, war-time, as we have said, is not favorable to the cultivation of letters. While the connection between the states during the course of hostilities undoubtedly promoted the increase of mutual interest in each other's intellectual development, the fact that the Magnifico had to disburse enormous sums for the prosecution of the campaigns necessarily limited his ability to extend the same princely patronage to the cause of learning. But with the conclusion of peace he resumed the original scale of his benefactions, and the last four years of his life were, perhaps, the most fruitful of all in sterling good achieved in the fostering of the Renaissance.

He encouraged the printers to double their output; he munificently assisted such undertakings as the first edition of Homer, edited by the famous scholars Demetrius Chalcondyles and Demetrius Cretensis, as well as other editions of the classics prepared by Poliziano, Marullus, and others. In the final estimate of his influence upon his age we hope to show that his aim was as pure as the prosecution of its realization was determined. He encouraged foreigners to come to Florence to study Greek, and, when their funds failed them, in many cases he generously entertained them at his own expense. Grocyn and Linacre, as well as Reuchlin, testify to the wise generosity of the great Magnifico, and all three declare that to him, more than to any other man, the Renaissance owed not only its development, but even the character it assumed in Italy in the second last decade of the fifteenth century.

The end came when he was literally in his prime. Only forty-two years of age, he might reasonably have looked forward to many years of active work and the enjoyment of his honors! But Lorenzo, although not a vicious, was a pleasure-loving man, and he had drained the cup of enjoyment to the very lees. His constitution was undermined by worry and late vigils, by the very intensity of interest wherewith he had devoted himself to the pleasures of the moment. Accordingly, late in 1491 he began to feel the gout, from which he had suffered for some years, becoming so troublesome that he was unable for the duties devolving on him. He had lost his wife, Clarice Orsini, in July, 1487, at a time when he was absent at the sulphur baths of Filetta, striving to obtain relief from pain; therefore his last years were lonely indeed.

Life had lost its relish to the dying Magnifico. The only thing over which he showed a flash of the old interest was in March, 1492, when his son Giovanni (afterward Leo X), on being made a cardinal by Innocent VIII, was invested with the insignia in the Abbey Church of Fiesole. Although then within a month of his end, although, moreover, so weak that he was unable to attend the investiture mass or to head his table at the banquet which followed, he caused himself to be carried in a litter into the hall, where he publicly paid reverence to his son as a prince of the Church. He then embraced him as a father and gave him his paternal blessing. That done, and after addressing a few words of welcome to his guests collectively, he was slowly borne back to his chamber to die. Nevermore was he seen in public.

His ruling passion was, however, strong in death. In place of surrounding himself with clergy, his last hours were spent with the humanists and scholars he had loved so well. To his beautiful villa of Careggi, and to that room facing the south which he called his own, he retired, and summoned Ficino, Poliziano, and Pico della Mirandola to bear him company until he dipped his feet in the River of Death. They discussed many things, but principally the consolations afforded by philosophy. Then they reverted to the subject of the classics, and to the valuable codices which Lascaris was bringing back from Greece.

But hope at last burned low, and the physicians had to confess that the case was beyond their skill. How rudimentary as regards medical science that skill was may be judged from the fact that the staple remedy prescribed by the great Milanese doctor, Lazaro da Ficino, who had been called in to consult with Lorenzo's own medical man, Pier Leoni of Spoleto, was a potion compounded of crushed pearls and jewels. As might have been expected, such a treatment accelerated rather than retarded the disease.

The last hours of Lorenzo, and particularly his historic interview with Savonarola, have often been described and are to this day the subject of debate. There are two sides to every story, and this one of the last visit of the haughty prior of San Marco's to the dying Magnifico is no exception. Poliziano relates the incident in one form, the followers of Savonarola in another; but neither report is absolutely authentic. Suffice it for us that Benedetto, writing a week after the Magnifico's death, says of the matter: "Our dear friend and master died so nobly, with all the patience, the reverence, the recognition of God which the best of holy men and a soul divine could show, with words upon his lips so kind, that he seemed a new St. Jerome."

Perhaps the most reasonable attitude to assume toward the problem is that Lorenzo died as he lived, feeling that strange, restless curiosity as to what was summed up in the idea of a "future life" which he had manifested all his days: "If I believe aught implicitly," he is reported to have said in earlier years to Alberti, "I believe in Plato's doctrine of immortality in the Phaedo, for religion is too much a matter of temperament for us to lay down hard-and-fast rules about it." Lorenzo outwardly conformed in his dying hours to the rites of the Catholic Church. He received the viaticum kneeling, he repeated the responses in an earnest and fervent tone, and then, when he felt that the grains in the hour-glass of life were running out, he pressed a crucifix to his lips and so passed within the veil. As a humanist he had been reared, as a humanist he had lived and labored, as a humanist he died, maintaining to the very last his interest in those studies which it had been his life's passion to pursue.

The sun of the Florentine renaissance had set forever!

[Footnote 1: By permission of Selmar Hess.]



A.D. 1477


During the greater part of his rule as duke of Burgundy, Charles the Bold was at war with Louis XI of France, notwithstanding the treaty of Peronne, 1468, which the French monarch accepted under duress. Meanwhile it was the constant aim of Charles to enlarge his dukedom, and when, in 1475, he had made another peace with Louis, the Duke turned anew to his scheme of conquest.

Charles soon made himself master of Lorraine, which he had long coveted, and then, 1476, invaded Switzerland. "It was reserved for a small people, already celebrated for their heroic valor and their love of liberty, to beat this powerful man." Crossing the Jura, Charles besieged the little town of Granson, and after its capitulation he hanged or drowned all the defenders. When the news of this barbarity had spread through Switzerland the eight cantons arose, and almost under the walls of Granson the Swiss inflicted upon Charles a crushing defeat. In June, 1476, the Duke saw his second army destroyed by the Swiss and the Lorrainers, whom Comines calls Germans. In the following winter Charles assembled a third army and marched against Nancy, the capital of Lorraine, which was then held by the same allies. They were commanded by the Duke of Lorraine, who went to the relief of the garrison at Nancy from St. Nicholas, six miles away.

Comines, whose account is given below, was a French statesman and historian, who, after being for a time in the service of Charles the Bold, went over to Louis and became his personal counsellor. He was therefore intimately versed in the history of these times.

The Duke of Lorraine and his army of Germans broke up from St. Nicholas, and advanced toward the Duke of Burgundy, with a resolution to give him battle. The Count of Campobasso joined them that very day, and carried off with him about eightscore men-at-arms; and it grieved him much that he could do his master no greater mischief. The garrison of Nancy had intelligence of his design, which in some measure encouraged them to hold out; besides, another person had got over the works, and assured them of relief, otherwise they were just upon surrendering, and would have capitulated in a little time, had it not been for the treachery of this Count; but God had determined to finish this mystery.

The Duke of Burgundy, having intelligence of the approach of the Duke of Lorraine's army, called a kind of council, contrary to his custom, for generally he followed his own will. It was the opinion of most of his officers that his best way would be to retire to Pont-a-Mousson, which was not far off, and dispose his army in the towns about Nancy; affirming that, as soon as the Germans had thrown a supply of men and provisions into Nancy, they would march off again; and the Duke of Lorraine being in great want of money, it would be a great while before he would be able to assemble such an army again; and that their supplies of provisions could not be so great but, before half the winter was over, they would be in the same straits as they were now; and that in the mean time the Duke might raise more forces and recruit himself; for I have been told by those who ought to know best, that the Duke of Burgundy's army did not then consist of full four thousand men, and of that number not above one thousand two hundred were in a condition to fight. Money he did not want; for in the castle of Luxembourg—which was not far off—there were in ready cash four hundred fifty thousand crowns, which would have raised men enough. But God was not so merciful to him as to permit him to take this wise counsel or discern the vast multitude of enemies who on every side surrounded him. Therefore he chose the worst plan, and, like a rash and inconsiderate madman, resolved to try his fortune, and engage the enemy with his weak and shattered army, notwithstanding the Duke of Lorraine had a numerous force of Germans, and the King's army was not far off.

As soon as the Count of Campobasso arrived in the Duke of Lorraine's army, the Germans sent him word to leave the camp immediately, for they would not entertain such traitors among them. Upon which message he retired with his party to Conde, a castle and pass not far off, where he fortified himself with carts and other things as well as he could, in hopes that, if the Duke of Burgundy were routed, he might have an opportunity of coming in for a share of the plunder, as he did afterward. Nor was this practice with the Duke of Lorraine the most execrable action that Campobasso was guilty of; but, before he left the army, he conspired with several other officers—finding it was impracticable to attempt anything against the Duke of Burgundy's person—to leave him just as they came to the charge; for at that time he supposed it would put the army into the greatest terror and consternation; and if the Duke fled, he was sure he could not escape alive, for he had ordered thirteen or fourteen sure men, some to run as soon as the Germans came up to charge them, and others to watch the Duke of Burgundy and kill him in the rout; which was well enough contrived, for I myself have seen two or three of those who were thus employed to kill the Duke. Having thus settled his conspiracy at home, he went over to the Duke of Lorraine upon the approach of the German army; but, finding they would not entertain him, he retired to Conde, as I said before.

The German army marched forward, and with them a considerable body of French horse, whom the King had given leave to be present in that action. Several parties lay in ambush not far off, that, if the Duke of Burgundy were routed, they might surprise some person of quality or take some considerable booty. By this everyone may see into what a deplorable condition this poor Duke had brought himself by his contempt of good counsel. Both armies being joined, the Duke of Burgundy's forces, which had been twice beaten before, and were weak and ill-provided besides, were quickly broken and entirely defeated. Many saved themselves by flight; the rest were either taken or killed; and among them the Duke of Burgundy himself was killed on the spot. Not having been in the battle myself, I will say nothing of the manner of his death; but I was told by some that they saw him beaten down, but, being prisoners themselves, were not able to assist him; yet, while they were in sight, he was not killed, but a great body of men coming that way afterward, they killed and stripped him in the throng, not knowing who he was. This battle was fought on January 5, 1476, upon the eve of Twelfth-day.

The King having established posts in all parts of his kingdom—which before never had been done—it was not long ere he received the news of the Duke of Burgundy's defeat; and he was in hourly expectation of the report, for letters of advice had reached him before, importing that the German army was advancing toward the Duke of Burgundy's, and that a battle was expected between them. Upon which many persons kept their ears open for the news, in order to carry it to the King. For his custom was to reward liberally any person who brought him the first tidings of any news of importance, and to remember the messenger besides. His majesty also took great delight in talking of it before it arrived, and would say, "I will give so much to any man who first brings me such and such news." The Lord du Bouchage and I, being together, happened to receive the first news of the battle of Morat, and we went with it to the King, who gave each of us two hundred marks of silver. The Lord du Lude, who lay without the Plessis, had the first news of the arrival of the courier, with the letters concerning the battle of Nancy; he commanded the courier to deliver him the packet, and as he was a great favorite of the King's he durst not refuse him. By break of day the next morning, the Lord du Lude knocked at the door next to the King's chamber, and, it being opened, he delivered in the packet from the Lord of Craon and other officers. But none of the first letters gave any certainty of the Duke's death; they only stated that he was seen to run away, and that it was supposed he had made his escape.

The King was at first so transported with joy at the news he scarce knew how to behave himself; however, his majesty was still in some perplexity. On one hand, he was afraid that if the Duke should be taken prisoner by the Germans, by means of his money, of which he had great store, he would make some composition with them. On the other, he was doubtful, if the Duke had made his escape, though defeated for the third time, whether he should seize upon his towns in Burgundy or not; which he judged not very difficult to do, since most of the brave men of that country had been slain in those three battles. As to this last point, he came to this resolution—which I believe few were acquainted with but myself—that if the Duke were alive and well, he would command the army which lay ready in Champagne and Barrois to march immediately into Burgundy, and seize upon the whole country while it was in that state of terror and consternation; and when he was in possession of it he would inform the Duke that the seizure he had made was only to preserve it for him, and secure it against the Germans, because it was held under the sovereignty of the crown of France, and therefore he was unwilling it should fall into their hands, and whatever he had taken should be faithfully restored; and truly I am of opinion his majesty would have done it, though many people who are ignorant of the motives that guided the King will not easily believe it. But this resolution was altered as soon as he was certain of the Duke of Burgundy's death.

Upon the King's receiving the above-mentioned first letter—which gave no account of the Duke's death—he immediately sent to Tours, to summon all his captains and other great personages to attend him. Upon their arrival he communicated his letters to them. They all pretended great joy; but to such as more narrowly observed their behavior, it was easy to be discerned that most of them did but feign it; and, notwithstanding all their outward dissimulation, they had been better pleased if the Duke of Burgundy had been successful. The reason of this might be, because the King was greatly feared, and now, if he should find himself clear and secure from his enemies, they were afraid they would be reduced, or at least their offices and pensions retrenched; for there were several present who had been engaged against him with his brother the Duke of Guienne in the confederacy called the "Public Good." After his majesty had discourse with them for some time, he went to mass, and then ordered dinner to be laid in his chamber, and made them all dine with him; there being with him his chancellor and some other lords of his council. The King's discourse at dinner-time was about this affair, and I well remember that myself and others took particular notice how those who were present dined; but to speak truth—whether for joy or sorrow I cannot tell—there was not one of them that half filled his belly; and certainly it could not have been from modesty or bashfulness before the King, for there was not one among them but had dined with his majesty many times before.

As soon as the King rose from table he retired, and distributed to some persons certain lands belonging to the Duke of Burgundy, as though he had been dead. He despatched the Bastard of Bourbon, Admiral of France, and myself into those parts, with full power to receive the homage of all such as were willing to submit and become his subjects. He ordered us to set out immediately, and gave us commission to open all his letters and packets which we might meet by the way, that thereby we might ascertain whether the Duke was dead or alive. We departed with all speed, though it was the coldest weather I ever felt in my life. We had not ridden above half a day's journey when we met a courier, and commanding him to deliver his letters we learned by them that the Duke of Burgundy was slain, and that his body had been found among the dead, and recognized by an Italian page that attended him and by one Monsieur Louppe, a Portuguese, who was his physician, and who assured the Lord of Craon that it was the Duke his master, and the Lord of Craon notified the same at once to the King.

Upon receiving this news we rode directly to the suburbs of Abbeville, and were the first that announced the intelligence to the Duke's adherents in those parts. We found the inhabitants of the town in treaty with the Lord of Torcy, for whom they had held a great affection for a long time. The soldiers and officers of the Duke of Burgundy negotiated with us, by means of a messenger whom he had sent to them beforehand; and in confidence of success they dismissed four hundred Flemings who were then quartered in the town. The citizens, laying hold of this opportunity, opened the gates immediately to the Lord of Torcy, to the great prejudice and disadvantage of the captains and officers of the garrison—for there were seven or eight of them to whom, by virtue of the King's authority, we had promised money, and pensions for life; but they never enjoyed the benefit of that promise, because the town was not surrendered by them. Abbeville was one of the towns that Charles VII delivered up by the treaty of Arras in the year 1435, which towns were to return to the crown of France upon default of issue male; so that their admitting us so easily is not so much to be wondered at.

From thence we marched to Dourlans, and sent a summons to Arras, the chief town in Artois, and formerly part of the patrimony of the earls of Flanders, which for want of heirs male always descended to the daughters. The Lord of Ravestein and the Lord des Cordes, who were in the town of Arras, offered to enter into a treaty with us at Mount St. Eloy and to bring some of the chief citizens with them. It was concluded that I and some others should meet them in the King's behalf; but the Admiral refused to go himself, because he presumed they would not consent to grant all our demands. I had not been long at the place of appointment when the two above-mentioned lords of Ravestein and Des Cordes arrived, attended by several persons of quality, and by certain commissioners on the part of the city, one of whom was their pensionary, named Monsieur John de la Vaquerie, whom they appointed to be their spokesman, and who since that time has been made first president of the Parliament of Paris.

We demanded in the King's name to have the gates immediately opened and to be received into the town, for both the town and the whole country belonged to the King by right of confiscation; and if they refused to obey this summons, they would be in danger of being besieged, and compelled to submit by force, since their Duke was defeated, and his dominions utterly unprovided with means of defence, upon account of their irrecoverable losses in the three late battles. The lords returned answer by their speaker Monsieur John de la Vaquerie that the county of Artois belonged to the lady of Burgundy, daughter of Duke Charles, and descended to her in a right line from Margaret, Countess of Flanders, Artois, Burgundy, Nevers, and Rethel, who was married to Philip I, Duke of Burgundy, son of King John of France, and younger brother to King Charles V; wherefore they humbly entreated the King that he would observe and continue the truce that had existed between him and the late Duke of Burgundy, her father.

Our conference was but short, for we expected to receive this answer; but the chief design of my going thither was to have a private conference with some persons that were thereto try if I could bring them over to the King's interest. I made overtures to some of them, who soon afterward did his majesty signal service. We found the whole country in a state of very great consternation, and not without cause; for in eight days' time they would scarce have been able to raise eight men-at-arms, and for other soldiers there were not in the whole country above one thousand five hundred—reckoning horse and foot together—that had escaped from the battle in which the Duke of Burgundy was slain, and they were quartered about Namur and Hainault. Their former haughty language was much altered now, and they spoke with more submission and humility; not that I would upbraid them with excessive arrogance in times past, but, to speak impartially, in my time they thought themselves so powerful that they spoke neither of nor to the King with the same respect as they have done since; and if people were wise, they would always use such moderate language in their days of prosperity that in the time of adversity they would not need to change it.

I returned to the Admiral, to give him an account of our conference; and there I was informed that the King was coming toward us, and that upon receiving the news of the Duke's death he immediately set out, having despatched several letters in his own and his officers' names to send after him what forces could presently be assembled, with which he hoped to reduce the provinces I have just mentioned to his obedience.

The King was overjoyed to see himself rid of all those whom he hated and who were his chief enemies; on some of them he had been personally revenged, as on the Constable of France, the Duke of Nemours, and several others. His brother, the Duke of Guienne, was dead, and his majesty came to the succession of the duchy. The whole house of Anjou was extinct—Rene, King of Sicily, John and Nicholas, Dukes of Calabria, and since them their cousin, the Count du Maine, afterward made count of Provence. The Count d'Armagnac had been killed at Lestore, and the King had got the estates and movables of all of them. But the house of Burgundy, being greater and more powerful than the rest, having maintained war with Charles VII, our master's father, for two-and-thirty years together without any cessation, by the assistance of the English, and having their dominions bordering upon the King's and their subjects always inclinable to invade his kingdom, the King had reason to be more than ordinarily pleased at the death of that Duke, and he triumphed more in his ruin than in that of all the rest of his enemies, as he thought that nobody, for the future, either of his own subjects or his neighbors, would be able to oppose him or disturb the tranquillity of his reign. He was at peace with England, and made it his chief business to continue so; yet, though he was freed in this manner from all his apprehensions, God did not permit him to take such courses in the management of his affairs as were most proper to promote his own interests and designs.

And certainly, although God Almighty has shown, and does still show, that his determination is to punish the family of Burgundy severely, not only in the person of the Duke, but in its subjects and estates, yet I think the King our master did not take right measures to gain his end. For, if he had acted prudently, instead of pretending to conquer them, he should rather have endeavored to annex all those large territories, to which he had no just title, to the crown of France by some treaty of marriage; or to have gained the hearts and affections of the people, and so have brought them over to his interest, which he might, without any great difficulty, have effected, considering how their late afflictions had impoverished and dejected them. If he had acted after that manner, he would not only have prevented their ruin and destruction, but extended and strengthened his own kingdom, and established them all in a firm and lasting peace. He might by this means have eased, his own country of its intolerable grievances, and particularly of the marches and counter-marches of his troops, which are commanded continually up and down from one end of the kingdom to the other, sometimes upon very slight occasions.

In the Duke of Burgundy's lifetime the King often talked with me about this affair, and told me what he would do if he should outlive the Duke, and his discourse at that time was very rational and wise; he told me he would propose a match between his son and the Duke of Burgundy's daughter, and if she would not consent to that, on the ground that the Dauphin was too young, he would then endeavor to marry her to some young prince of his kingdom, by which means he might keep her and her subjects in amity, and obtain without war what he intended to lay claim to for himself; and this was his resolution not more than a week before he heard of the Duke of Burgundy's death; but the very day he received that news his mind began to change, and this wise counsel was laid aside when the Admiral and I were despatched into those provinces. However, the King spoke little of what he intended to do—only to some few that were about him he promised sundry of the Duke's lordships and possessions.

As the King was upon the road toward us, he received from all parts the welcome news of the delivering up the castles of Han and Bohain, and that the inhabitants of St. Quentin had secured that town for themselves, and opened their gates to their neighbor, the Lord of Mouy. He was certain of Peronne, which was commanded by Master William Bische, and, by the overtures that we and several other persons had made him, he was in great hopes that the Lord des Cordes would strike in with his interest. To Ghent he sent his barber, Master Oliver, [1] born in a small village not far off; and other agents he sent to other places, with great expectations from all of them; and most of them promised him very fair, but performed nothing. Upon the King's arrival near Peronne, I went to wait on his majesty, and at the same time William Bische and others brought him the surrender of the town of Peronne, with which he was extremely pleased.

The King stayed there that day, and I dined with him, according to my usual custom, for it was his humor to have seven or eight always with him at table, and sometimes many more. After dinner he withdrew, and seemed not to be at all pleased with the Admiral's little exploit and mine; he told us he had sent his barber, Master Oliver, to Ghent, and he doubted not but he would persuade that town to submit to him; and Robinet Dodenfort to St. Omer, as he had great interest there; and these his majesty extolled as fit persons to manage such affairs, to receive the keys of great towns, and to put garrisons of his troops into them. He also mentioned others whom he had employed in the same negotiation in other places.

While the King was busy in subduing towns and places in the marches of Picardy, his army was in Burgundy, under the command, apparently, of the Prince of Orange, a native and subject of the county of Burgundy, but one who had recently, for the second time, become an enemy of Duke Charles, so that the King made use of him, because he was a powerful noble in both the county and duchy of Burgundy, and was likewise well connected and greatly beloved. But the Lord of Craon was the King's lieutenant, and had the real charge of the army, and was the person in whom the King reposed most confidence; for he was a man of great wisdom, and thoroughly devoted to his master, though somewhat too fond of gain. This Lord of Craon, when he drew near Burgundy, sent forward the Prince of Orange and others to Dijon to use persuasion, and require the people to render obedience to the King; and they managed the matter so adroitly, principally by means of the Prince of Orange, that the city of Dijon and all the other towns in the duchy of Burgundy, together with many in the county, gave their allegiance to the King.

[Footnote 1: This personage will be familiar to all who have read Sir Walter Scott's novel of Quentin Durward. Oliver le Mauvais was valet-de-chambre and chief barber to Louis XI; in October, 1474, he received letters of nobility from that Prince, authorizing him to change his name of Mauvais to that of Le Dain. On November 19, 1477, the King conferred the estates of the deceased Count of Meulant on Oliver le Dain and his heirs; and to this gift he added the Forest of Senart in October, 1482. On May 21, 1484, Oliver was hanged "for various great crimes, offences, and malefactions."]


A.D. 1480


Prior to the twelfth century the church authorities had been content with defining heresy, while the treatment of heretics was left to secular magistrates. But the spread of heresy at the end of the twelfth century caused the episcopal authorities to look for some occasion for enlarging their prerogatives. In 1204 Pope Innocent III appointed a papal delegate with authority to judge and punish misbelievers. From this germ sprung the Holy Office, commonly known as the Inquisition.

This papal act met with some opposition from the bishops, upon whose prerogatives it encroached; and it provoked rebellion among those against whom it was directed, the Albigenses of Southern France, whose doctrines were spreading into Italy. In 1208 Innocent began a crusade against them, which was led by Arnold of Citeaux and Simon de Montfort, and proved a bloody war of extermination, lasting several years.

Meanwhile the papacy gradually proceeded in the design of creating a tribunal under its own direct control. Such a tribunal was soon practically instituted. Its leading spirit was St. Dominic, founder of the Dominican order of preaching friars, but the title of Inquisitor was not yet adopted at the time of his death, in 1221. St. Dominic, however, is with good reason regarded as the founder of the Inquisition.

After the death of St. Dominic the Inquisition gradually assumed a more definite and avowed character, and its repressive hand, inflicting terrible punishments upon accused heretics, was soon felt throughout Southern Europe, and later in the Netherlands, the order of St. Dominic at first furnishing its principal agents.

But later the Inquisition entered upon another stage, under Spanish direction, through a specific organization, practically independent of papal or royal control, though acting under the sanction of both church and state. It became "the most formidable of irresponsible engines in the annals of religious institutions." Two points of view—Protestant and Catholic—are here presented of the Spanish history of the Holy Office.


"Better and happier luck for Spain"—I translate the words of Mariana—"was the establishment in Castile, which took place about this time, of a new and holy tribunal of severe and grave judges, for the purpose of making inquest and chastising heretical pravity and apostasy, judges other than the bishops, on whose charge and authority this office was anciently incumbent. For this intent the Roman pontiffs gave them authority, and order was given that the princes should help them with their favor and arm. These judges were called 'inquisitors,' because of the office which they exercised of hunting out and making inquest, a custom now very general in Italy, France, Germany, and also in the kingdom of Aragon. Castile, henceforth, would not suffer any nation to go beyond her in the desire which she always had to punish such enormous and wicked excesses. We find mention, before this, of some inquisitors who discharged this function, but not in the manner and force of those who followed them.

"The chief author and instrument of this salutary grant was the Cardinal of Spain (Mendoza), who had seen that, in consequence of the great liberty of past years, and from the mingling of Moors and Jews with Christians in all sorts of conversation and trade, many things went out of order in the kingdom. With that liberty it was impossible that some of the Christians should not be infected. Many more, leaving the religion which they had voluntarily embraced as converts from Judaism, again apostatized and returned to their old superstition—an evil which prevailed more in Seville than in any other part. In that city, therefore, secret searches were first made, and they severely punished those whom they found guilty. If their delinquency was considerable after having kept them long time imprisoned, and after having tormented them, they burned them. If it was light, they punished the offenders, with the perpetual dishonor of their family. Of not a few they confiscated the goods, and condemned them to imprisonment for life. On most of them they put a sambenito, which is a sort of scapulary of yellow color, with a red St. Andrew's cross, that they might go marked among their neighbors, and bear a signal that should affright and scare by the greatness of the punishment and of the disgrace; a plan which experience has shown to be very salutary, although, at first, it seemed very grievous to the natives."

Cardinal Mendoza might have been an instrument of establishing the new tribunal in Spain, but no author was wanted for that work. Pope Gregory IX, fit successor of Innocent III, had completed in Spain, as in the county of Toulouse and kingdom of France, the scheme which his uncle Innocent began. By a bull, dated May 26, 1232, he appointed Dominican friars inquisitors in Aragon, and forthwith proceeded to confer the same benefit on the kingdoms of Navarre, Castile, and Portugal; Granada being in possession of the Moors. Ten years later, in a council at Tarragona, the chief technicalities of the Spanish Inquisition were settled. At the invitation of Peter, Archbishop of Tarragona, Raymund of Penaforte, the Pope's penitentiary, presided. The definitions of the council are notable for the determination they evidence to conduct the affairs of the tribunal with entire legal precision and formality. The "vocabulary" was now settled, and one has only to turn to the Acts of the Council of Tarragona to find the exact meaning of "heretic, believer, suspected, simple, vehement, most vehement, favorer, concealer, receiver, receptacle, defender, abettor, relapsed."

As everyone may well know, no inconsiderable part of the Spanish population consisted of Jews, many of whose ancestors had taken refuge in that country, or had settled there for purposes of commerce, ages before the birth of our Lord, and their number had been increased from time to time, in consequence of imperial edicts which drove them from Italy, or by the attractions of honor and wealth in Spain. They were the most industrious and therefore the most wealthy people in those kingdoms, and had possessed great influence. Their learned men occupied important stations as physicians, agents of government, and even officers of state; while the "New Christians," or Jews professedly converted to Christianity, were intermarried with the highest families in Spain, and all this had taken place in spite of the enmity of the clergy, popular bigotry, and the adverse legislation of cortes or parliaments. But the wealth which procured Jews and New Christians so much worldly influence became the occasion of great suffering. The "Old Christians," being less industrious, and therefore less affluent, were frequently their debtors. And although usury was checked by legislators, who dreaded its pressure on themselves, and debts were often repudiated, the Jews maintained their position of creditors; and, as the Cartilla says, creditors are often unreasonable persons, or, at least, are considered to be such. Christians of pure blood, therefore, finding themselves involved in long reckonings, became increasingly impatient, and, under a cloak of zeal for the Catholic religion, were incessantly embroiling them with the magistracy or stirring up the populace against them.

Llorente estimates the number of Jews who perished under the fury of mobs, in the year 1391, at upward of one hundred thousand. To evade persecution, multitudes submitted to be baptized. More than a million had changed name at the end of the fourteenth century. After those tumults controversial preachers, such as San Vicente Ferrer, declaimed for popery against Judaism; and in the first ten years of the fifteenth century a second multitude of forced converts threw themselves into the bosom of the Romish Church, to the discouragement of their brethern and to their own confusion at last. They were set under the keenest vigilance of the inquisitors, without being able even to counterfeit any attachment to the Church, whose most grievous yoke they had put on, but which in heart they hated.

Now the Church gloried over the declension of Judaism. In presence of Benedict XIII, antipope, a Spaniard, wandering in Spain, because in Rome they would not own him, a formal disputation was carried on for sixty-nine days between Jerome of Santa Fe and other converts—or, as the Jews not improperly called them, apostates—on the one side, and a company of rabbis on the other. Such a controversy, carried on even in the presence of a half-pope, could only come to the prescribed conclusion; and after seeing all persuasion and corruption exhausted to bring over the Hebrews to his sect, but without much success, Benedict closed the debate, pronounced the Jews vanquished, and gave them notice of severer measures. The richer from interest, the poorer from bigotry, and the priesthood from instinct, poured contempt even on proselytes, whom they classified according to their supposed degrees of heterodoxy. Some were called "converts," to note the newness of their Christianity; others "confessed," to tell that they had confessed the falseness of Judaism. Sometimes they were branded as "maranos," from the words maran atha, which the priests, in their ignorance, took to mean "accursed." The whole were spoken of as a generation of maranos, or, worst of all in the imagination of a papist, "Jews." Goaded by the cowardly persecution, the proselytes groaned after deliverance; a few even dared to renounce the profession of a faith they never held, and many resumed the practice of Jewish rites in private. This opened a new field to the zeal of the inquisitors; but the labor of suppressing a revolt so widely spread, so rapidly extending, and even infecting the Romish families with whom the imperfect converts were united, was more than the inquisitors could undertake without a more powerfully organized system of their own.

I believe that the fear of the Bible and the hatred of the Jews of Spain, first imprinted in the page of history by the Council of Illiberis in the beginning of the fourth century, was in course of time much aggravated by the earnest love of the Spanish Jews for the original scriptures of the Old Testament. It was not until the eleventh century that rabbinical tradition gained much hold in the Jewish mind in Spain, but, from the first, Christians had cursed Jews in sincere but blind zeal against the descendants, as they thought, of those who crucified our Lord in Jerusalem. Yet the Sephardim in Spain could have had no knowledge of the Crucifixion until some weeks, at soonest, after it had taken place, and perhaps never knew of the hostility of the Jews in Jerusalem against the Saviour.

Until the dispersion of the Eastern colleges in the eleventh century, no great rabbis came into Spain with pretension of authority to enforce Talmudical traditions. When zealots of the sort did come, they found a community of Hebrews far superior to the Jews of Palestine. No Assyrian had bribed them to worship the gods of Nineveh. Their neighbors the Carthaginians, so long as Carthage stood, had persisted in worshipping the Baal and the Ashtaroth that recreant Israelites in Samaria and Jews in Jerusalem worshipped for ages; but, while those gods had altars in Sidon and in Carthage, we do not hear of any altars being raised to them in "the captivity of Jerusalem, which was in Sepharad," or Spain (Obadiah, 20); neither do we hear that those Jews betrayed any ambition to make a hedge to protect God's law, instead of taking care to keep it. But the first propagators of traditionism in Spain came from the East, on the breaking up of the great schools of Babylonia by the Persians.

Ancient or Karaite synagogues remained in Spain until the expulsion of Jews at the close of the fifteenth century, and yet much later in the provinces that were not annexed to the United Kingdom of Castilla and Leon under Ferdinand and Isabella. Some of the strongest features of biblical learning imparted to the literature of the Reformation in its earlier stages proceeded from the converted Jews of Spain.

About the year 1470, when the persecution of both Jews and Mahometans was at its height—except in the kingdom of Granada—and when the testimony quoted from the Old Testament against worship of images must have been extremely galling to the worshippers, the priests thought it necessary to enforce the prohibition of vernacular versions of the Bible. Such versions, we know, were then circulated more freely in France, Spain, and Portugal. In Spain, one of the chief translators was Rabbi Moses of Toledo. To put a stop to Bible-reading, an appeal was made to Pope Paul II, who prohibited the translation of the holy Scriptures "into the languages of the nations." This authority was quoted in the Council of Trent by Cardinal Pacheco, in justification of the practice of the Church of Rome in his day; but another cardinal, Madrucci, arguing against him, replied with cutting calmness that "Paul, of popes the second," or any other pope, might be easily deceived in judging of the fitness or unfitness of a law, but not so Paul the Apostle, who taught that God's word should never depart from the mouth of the faithful.

During the persecutions of the fifteenth century, while Ferdinand and Isabella made progress in reconquering the kingdom of Granada from the Moors, and Mahometanism, like Judaism, was declining, the Moriscoes, a middle class, resembling the New Christians, and not less dangerous to Romanism, also challenged the powers of the Inquisition. No other country in popedom was at that time more deeply imbued with disaffection of the doctrines and worship of the Church of Rome. Then in 1477, one Brother Philip de' Barberi, a Sicilian inquisitor, came to the court of Ferdinand and Isabella, who were sovereigns of Sicily, to solicit the confirmation of some privileges recently granted to the Holy Office in that island; and, having observed the peril of the Church within the enlarged and united dominions of "the Catholic kings" under whose rule nearly all Spain was comprehended, advised the creation of one undivided court of inquisition, like that of Sicily, as the only means of defence against the maranos, Moriscoes, Jews, and Mussulmans.

The advice was quickly taken. First of all, the Dominicans, and after them the dignitaries of the secular clergy, crowded round the throne to pray for a reformation of the Inquisition after the Sicilian model. They appealed to the greed of King Ferdinand by offering him the proceeds of a confiscation, which might be rapidly effected, in pursuance of laws of the Church to that intent provided. They appealed to the piety of Queen Isabella, and were careful that tales of Jewish murders and Jewish desecrations should be poured incessantly into the royal ear. Ferdinand had no scruple. He sincerely prayed the Pope to sanction such a measure, and, swiftly as couriers could bring it, came the desired bull. Isabella could not blame the zeal of priests and monks; for she, too, was a zealot. She could not gainsay the urgency of the nuncio. She could not quench in her husband's bosom the thirst of gold. But she had brought half the kingdom as her dower; and therefore some deference was due to her conscience and judgment, and both in conscience and judgment she desired gentler measures. During two or three years her orator and confessor wrote books, and preachers were permitted to publish arguments, and disputants to enter into conferences, for the conviction of the Jews.

At her majesty's request, Cardinal Mendoza issued a constitution in Seville, in 1478, containing "the form that should be observed with a Christian from the day of his birth, as well in the sacrament of baptism as in all other sacraments which he ought to receive, and of what he should be taught, and ought to do and believe as a faithful Christian, every day, and at all times of his life, until the day of his death. And he ordered this to be published in all the churches of the city, and put in tables in each parish, as a settled constitution. He also published a summary of what curates and clerks should teach their parishioners, and what the parishioners should observe and show to their children." Thus does Hernando del Pulgar, in his Chronicle of the Catholic Sovereigns, describe what some too hastily call a catechism. It was merely a standard of things to be believed and done, set forth by authority. The King and Queen also, not the Cardinal, commanded "some friars, clerks, and other religious persons to teach the people." But no true Jew would let himself be taught that idolatry is not damnable; and even the less discouraging issues of controversy with the vacillating or the ignorant were not honestly reported.

The constitution of Cardinal Mendoza and the harangues of the friars were ineffectual, as well they might be, for the Jews knew that the Christians had a sacred book, said to be written by divine inspiration, as well as the Law of Moses; and if that book was not put into their hands, they could scarcely be expected to believe a religion whose chief written authority was kept out of sight. That it was, indeed, kept out of sight was undeniable; and the notorious Alfonso de Castro, chaplain of Philip II, boasted in his book against heresies that there was "an edict of the most illustrious and Catholic sovereigns of Spain, Ferdinand and Isabella, in which, under the severest penalties, they forbade anyone to translate the holy Scriptures into a vulgar language, or to have any such version in his possession. For they were afraid lest any occasion of error should be given to the people over whom God had made them governors." The clergy maintained that conversion to the truth by argument was impossible, and, at their instance, the bull was no longer kept in reserve, but was published in 1480.

The Queen's trial of humanity was ended; but a question of policy remained. The King and Queen remembered that they had an interest in Spain as well as the Pope, but they scarcely knew how that interest could be guarded if the inquisitors were allowed absolute power over the persons and property of their subjects. To have proposed lay assessors and open court would have provoked a quarrel with the Pope, then powerful enough to raise Europe in arms against them; therefore they modestly requested no more than that some priests nominated by the King should be associated with some others nominated by the Pope; or that the King should name all, and the Pope confirm his nominations. The "Catholic sovereigns" calculated that nominees of Rome would, of course, prefer the rights of the Church to those of the crown, but they fancied, or they wished to fancy, that priests of their own choice would prefer their interests to those of a stranger. This was an illusion, and therefore Rome made little difficulty; and after due correspondence, and some changes, the Supreme Council of the Spanish Inquisition was constituted thus:

Inquisitor-general—Friar Thomas de Torquemada, of whom Llorente says that it was hardly possible that there could have been another man so capable of fulfilling the intentions of King Ferdinand, by multiplying confiscations; those of the court of Rome, by propagating their jurisdictional and pecuniary maxims; and those of the projectors of the Inquisition, by infusing terror into the people by public executions.

Two assessors—Juan Gutierrez de Chabes and Tristan de Medina, jurisconsults.

Three King's counsellors—Don Alonso Carillo, a bishop-elect, with Sancho Valasquez de Cuellar and Poncio de Valencia, doctors of civil law. In matters relating to royal power they were to have a definite vote; but in affairs of spiritual jurisdiction they could only be suffered to offer an opinion, inasmuch as a spiritual power resided in the chief inquisitor alone.

Under the jurisdiction of the supreme council were four subordinate tribunals, and eventually several others were added, while some inquisitors, hitherto holding special powers from the Pope, were stripped of their independence, that the court of Rome might have one uniform action throughout Spain. As the Holy Office advanced in labor and experience, the supreme council was enlarged, and at last it consisted of a president—inquisitor-general for the time being; six counsellors with the title of apostolic; a fiscal; a secretary of the chamber; two secretaries of the council; an alguazil-in-chief, or sheriff; one receiver; two reporters; four apparitors; one solicitor; and as many consulters as circumstances might require. Of course these were all maintained in a style worthy of their office. The Inquisitor-general, or president of the council, exerted an absolute power over every Spanish subject, so that he almost ceased to be himself a subject. He alone consulted with the King concerning the appointment of inquisitors to preside over all the provincial tribunals. Each of those inferior inquisitions was managed by three inquisitors, two secretaries, one under-sheriff, one receiver, and a certain number of triers and consulters. Their functions were considerably restricted, leaving all capital cases and ultimate decisions in the hands of the Madrid "Supreme."

But while Ferdinand, Isabella, Torquemada, and the nuncio were concerting their plans and preparing death for heretics, what said Spain to it? Neither was clergy nor laity content. After the bull of Sixtus IV empowering the King to name inquisitors furnished with absolute authority, and to remove them at pleasure, had arrived, but lay unpublished in consequence of the Queen's repugnance, a provincial synod sat at Seville, where the regal court then was, 1478. Had the clergy of Castile desired the Inquisition, the synod would have said so; but so far were they from approving of such a tribunal, to which every bishop would be subject, but where no bishop would any longer have a voice, that they passed over the affair of heresy in silence, not consenting to accept the Inquisition, yet not presuming to remonstrate against it. Then would have been the time for the clergy to add their power to that of the throne for the suppression of false doctrine, believing, as they did believe, that forcible suppression was not only lawful, but meritorious in the sight of God; and so they would probably have done if inquisitor and bishop were to have had cooerdinate jurisdiction, as in the first inquisition of Toulouse, and in the early Italian inquisition; but they saw, with alarm, that the episcopate was to be despoiled of its authority at a stroke.

A few months before the publication of the bull, but long after every person in Spain knew the purport of its contents, and in the certainty that it would be carried into execution, the Cortes of Toledo met; but, instead of avoiding any act that would interfere with the new jurisdiction then to be introduced, they made several provisions for separating Jews and Christians by the enclosure of Jewries in the towns, and for compelling the former to wear a peculiar garb, and abstain from exercising the vocation of surgeon or physician or innkeeper or barber or apothecary among Christians. The parliament plainly ignored the Inquisition in making this enactment on their own authority.

And what said the magistracy and the people? Seville represented the general state of feeling at the time. There, when a company of inquisitors presented themselves, conducted into the city by men and horses which had been impressed for the purpose by royal order, the civil authorities refused to help them, notwithstanding the injunctions of the bull, the obligations of canon law, and a mandate from the Crown. The new inquisitors found themselves unable to act for want of help; meanwhile the objects of their mission forsook the city, and found shelter in the neighboring districts; and Ferdinand had to issue specific orders to overpower the hostility of all the classes of the people and to compel the magistrates to assist the new set of officers ecclesiastic. These orders were most reluctantly obeyed.

Thus fortified, the inquisitors took up their abode in the Dominican convent of St. Paul, and issued their first mandate January 2, 1481. They said that they were aware of the flight of the New Christians, and commanded the Marquis of Cadiz, the Count of Arcos, and all the dukes, marquises, counts, gentlemen, rich men, and others of the kingdom of Castile to arrest the fugitives and send them to Seville within a fortnight, sequestrating their property. All who failed to do this were excommunicated as abettors of heresy, deposed from their dignities, and deprived of their estates; and their subjects were to be absolved from homage and obedience. Crowds of fugitives were driven back into Seville, bound like felons; the dungeons and apartments of the convent overflowed with prisoners; and the King assigned the castle of Triana, on the opposite bank of the Guadalquiver, to the "New and Holy Tribunal," to be a place of safe custody. There the inquisitors, elate with triumph over the reluctant magistrates and panic-stricken people, shortly afterward erected a tablet with an inscription in memory of the first establishment of the modern Inquisition in Western Europe. The concluding sentences of the inscription were: "God grant that, for the protection and augmentation of the faith, it may abide unto the end of time!—Arise, O Lord, judge thy cause!—Catch ye the foxes!"

Their second edict was one of "grace." It summoned all who had apostatized to present themselves before the inquisitors within a term appointed, promising that all who did so, with true contrition and purpose of amendment, should be exempted from confiscation of their property—it was understood that they should be punished in some other way—but threatening that, if they allowed that term to pass over without repentance, they should be dealt with according to the utmost rigor of the law. Many ran to the convent of St. Paul, hoping to merit some small measure of indulgence. But the inquisitors would not absolve them until they had disclosed the names, calling, residence, and given a description of all others whom they had seen, heard, or understood to have apostatized in like manner. After getting this information, they bound the terrified informers to secrecy. This first object being accomplished, they sent out a third monition, requiring all who knew any that had apostatized into the Jewish heresy to inform against them within six days, under the usual penalties. But they had already marked the very men; and those suspected converts suddenly saw the apparitors inside their houses, and were dragged away to the dungeons. New Christians who had preserved any of the familiar usages of their forefathers, such as putting on clean clothes on Saturday, who stripped the fat from beef or mutton, who killed poultry with a sharp knife, covered the blood, and muttered a few Hebrew words, who had eaten flesh in Lent, blessed their children, laying hands on their heads, who observed any peculiarity of diet or distinction of feast or fast, mourned for the dead after their ancient manner, or whose friends had presumed to turn the face toward a wall when in the agony of death, all such being vehemently suspected of apostasy, were to be punished accordingly. Thirty-six elaborate articles were furnished whereby everyone was instructed how to ensnare his neighbor.

But what shall we say of a faith that could only hope to be kept alive in the world by the extinction of charity, honor, pity, and humanity? Llorente describes the immediate issue:

"Such opportune measures for multiplying victims could not but produce the desired effect. Hence, on January 6, 1481, there were burned six unhappy persons; sixteen on March 26th; many on April 21st; and by November 4th, two hundred ninety-eight in all. Besides these, the inquisitors condemned seventy-nine to perpetual imprisonment. And all this in the city of Seville only; since, as regards the territories of this archbishopric and of the bishopric of Cadiz, Juan de Mariana says that, in the single year of 1481, two thousand Judaizers were burned in person, and very many in effigy, of whom the number is not known, besides seventeen thousand subjected to cruel penance. Among those burned were many principal persons and rich inhabitants, whose property went into the treasury.

"As so many persons were to be put to death by fire, the Governor of Seville caused a permanent raised pavement, or platform of masonry, to be constructed outside the city, which has lasted to our time [until the French invasion, if not later], retaining its name of Quemadero ('Burning-place'); and at the four corners four large hollow statues of limestone, within which they used to place the impenitent alive, that they might die by slow heat. I leave my readers to consider whether this punishment of an error of the understanding was consistent or not with the doctrine of the Gospel?

"Fear caused an immense multitude of others of the same class of New Christians to emigrate to France, Portugal, and even Africa. But many others, whose effigies had been burned, appealed to Rome, complaining of the injustice of those proceedings; in consequence of which appeals the Pope wrote, on January 29, 1482, to Ferdinand and Isabella, saying that there were innumerable complaints against the inquisitors, Fray Miguel Morillo and Fray Juan de San Martin especially, because they had not confined themselves to canon law, but declared many to be heretics that were not. His holiness said that, but for the royal nomination, he would have deprived them of their office; but that he revoked the power he had given to the sovereign to nominate others, supposing that fit persons would be found among those nominated by the general or the provincial of the Dominicans, to whom the privilege belonged, and in prejudice of whose privilege the former nomination by Ferdinand and Isabella had been allowed."

So adroitly did the Pope take the absolute control of the Inquisition into his own hands under pretence of impartial justice, and leave the weaker tyrant to eat the fruit of his doings. But since that time pope and king have been again united in the management of the Holy Office, the latter, however, in abject subservience to the former. Neither in the appeals nor in the brief was there anything that could divert Torquemada from the prosecution of his purposes; and therefore he hastened to bring Aragon under his jurisdiction. Ferdinand convened the cortes of that kingdom in the city of Tarragona, April, 1484; in that assembly appointed a junta to prepare measures for the establishment of another tribunal; and then Torquemada, in pursuance of the latest pontifical decision, created Friar Caspar Inglar, a preacher of the Dominican community, and Pedro Arbues de Epila, a canon of the metropolitan church, inquisitors. The King gave a mandate to the civil authorities—a firman, it might be called—compelling them to lend aid to the new officers; and, on September 13th following, the Grand Justice of Aragon, with his five lieutenants of the long robe and various other magistrates, swore upon the holy Gospels that they would give men and arms to defend and to enforce the authority of the Holy Inquisition. And as they swore thus, the King's chief secretary for Aragon, the prothonotary, the vice-chancellor, the royal treasurer—whose own father and grandfather were Jews, and persecuted by the old inquisitors—together with a multitude of persons of high rank and office, in whose veins flowed Jewish blood, and whose descendants are now among the first families in Spain, looked on with dismay, and sent a deputation to Rome, bearing remonstrance against the newly created Inquisition; and deputed others to present their appeal to the same effect at the court of Ferdinand and Isabella. All these deputies were afterward proceeded against as hinderers of the Holy Office; and meanwhile the inquisitors, in contempt of opposition, set themselves to work without delay.

In the months of May and June, 1485, two acts of faith were celebrated in Saragossa, capital of Aragon, and a large number of New Christians burned alive. The public was enraged, certainly, but helpless; yet not so helpless but that many awoke to a conviction that, since the inquisitors had resorted to terror for the conservation of the faith, they ought to be restrained by terror in their turn.

In the night of September 14, 1485, one of the inquisitors, Pedro Arbues, covered as usual with a coat of mail under his robes, and wearing a steel skull-cap under his hat—for he was every moment conscious of guilt and apprehensive of retribution—took a lantern in one hand and a bludgeon in the other; and, like a sturdy soldier of his peculiar Church, walked from his house to the cathedral of that same Saragossa, to join in matins. He knelt down by one of the pillars, setting his lantern on the pavement. His right hand held the weapon of defence, yet stealthily half covered with the cloak. The canons, in their places, were chanting hymns. Two men came and knelt down near him. They understood, as most Spaniards do, how most effectually to attack a man, and how to kill him quickest. Therefore one of them suddenly disabled him on one side by a blow on the left arm. The other swung his cudgel at the back of his head, just below the edge of the steel cap, and laid him prone. He never spoke again, but expired in a few hours. This murder, as might be expected, was well made use of by the priests, serving them to plead the necessity of an inquisition to repress violence; and the inhabitants of the city were instantly overawed by a display of high judicial authority which they had no power to resist.

Queen Isabella, horrified at the murder of her confessor—for "confessor of the kings" was an honorary dignity conferred on each inquisitor in Spain—erected a monument to his memory at her own expense; and when the murders perpetrated by Arbues himself had somewhat faded out of public memory, he was beatified at Rome, and a chapel was constructed for his veneration in the church where he had fallen. Therein his remains were laid; and over the spot where he received the mortal blow a stone was placed, with the inscription: "Siste, viator," etc. "Stay, traveller! Thou adorest the place (locum adoras) where the blessed Pedro de Arbues was laid low by two missiles. Epila gave him birth. This city gave him a canonry. The apostolic see elected him to be the first Father Inquisitor of the Faith. Because of his zeal he became hateful to the Jews; by whom slain, he fell here a martyr in the year 1485. The most serene Ferdinand and Isabella reared a marble mausoleum, where he became famous for miracles. Alexander VII, Pontifex Maximus, wrote him into the number of holy and blessed martyrs on the 17th day of April in the year 1664. The tomb having been opened, the sacred ashes were translated, and placed under the altar of the chapel (built by the chapter, with the material of the tomb, in the space of sixty-five days), with solemn rite and veneration, on the 23d day of September, in the year 1664."

The intelligence of that murder threw all Aragon into commotion. The powers, ecclesiastical and royal, panted for vengeance, and the murderers were put to a most painful death. The Jews and New Christians trembled with terror and rage. The inhabitants of many towns, Teruel, Valencia, Lerida, and Barcelona included, compelled the inquisitors to cease from inquest; and it was only by means of military force, after edicts and bulls had failed, that the King and Pope together could quash two years' public resistance. In Saragossa, where the murder had been contrived by a party of chief inhabitants, a consciousness of guilt weakened their hands and they endeavored to save themselves by flight. Thousands of people deserted the city, although they had no participation in the deed and were everywhere treated as rebels; and in that migration incidents occurred which might throw a tinge of horrible romance on our history. Let me briefly mention two.

An inhabitant of Saragossa found his way to Tudela, and there begged for shelter and concealment in the house of Don Jaime, Infante of Navarre, legitimate son of the Queen of Navarre and nephew of King Ferdinand himself. The Infante could not refuse asylum and hospitality to an innocent fugitive. He allowed the man to hide himself for a few days and then pass on to France. For this act of humanity Don Jaime was arrested by the inquisitors, thrown into prison as an impeder of the Holy Office, brought thence to Saragossa, a place quite beyond the jurisdiction of Navarre, and there made to do open penance in the cathedral, in presence of a great congregation at high mass. And what penance! The Archbishop of Saragossa presided; but this Archbishop was a boy of seventeen, an illegitimate son of the King; and he it was that commanded two priests to flog his father's lawful nephew, the Infante of Navarre, with rods. They whipped Don Jaime around the church accordingly.

The other case was diabolical. Gaspar de Santa Cruz escaped to Toulouse, where he died and was buried after his effigy had been burned in Saragossa. In this city lived a son of his, who, in duty bound, had helped him to make good his retreat. This son was delated as an impeder of the Holy Office, arrested, brought out at an act of faith, made to read a condemnation of his deceased father, and then sent to the inquisitor at Toulouse, who took him to his father's grave, and compelled him to dig up the corpse and burn it with his own hands. Whether the inquisitors were most barbarous or the young man most vile, it may be difficult to say. But it is a most infamous glory of the Inquisition that, for satisfaction of its own requirements, the express laws of God and man and the first instincts of humanity are equally set at naught.

The Arch-inquisitor of Spain, shortly after his accession to the office, summoned the subalterns from their stations to meet him at Seville, and framed, with them, a set of instructions for uniform administration. They were published, twenty-eight in number, on October 29, 1484. On January 9, 1485, eleven more were added. The spirit of these instructions pervades the Directory of Eymeric, into which they were incorporated by his commentator. It is only important to mention here that on the present occasion an agent was appointed to represent this Inquisition at Rome, and there to defend the inquisitors on occasion of appeals from the subjects of inquisitorial violence or from their friends or their survivors. And this was in spite of a bull sent into Spain two years before, appointing the Archbishop of Seville sole judge of such appeals. But that bull was a mere feint for conciliation and never acted on at Rome.

We must not fail to mark this point in the history, forasmuch as here begins the practically juridical relation between the court of Rome as supreme, and the provinces of the Roman Church as subordinate, in matters concerning inquisition.


As to the Spanish Inquisition, which was only an extension of that which was established in other countries, we must divide it, with respect to its duration, into three great periods. We omit the time of its existence in the kingdom of Aragon, before its introduction into Castile. The first of these comprehends the time when the Inquisition was principally directed against the relapsed Jews and Moors, from the day of its installation under the Catholic sovereigns till the middle of the reign of Charles V. The second extends from the time when it began to concentrate its efforts to prevent the introduction of Protestantism into Spain until that danger entirely ceased; that is, from the middle of the reign of Charles V till the coming of the Bourbons. The third and last period is that when the Inquisition was limited to repress infamous crimes and exclude the philosophy of Voltaire; this period was continued until its abolition, in the beginning of the nineteenth century.

It is clear that, the institution being successively modified according to circumstances at these different epochs—although it always remained fundamentally the same—the commencement and termination of each of these three periods which we have pointed out cannot be precisely marked; nevertheless, these three periods really existed in its history, and present us with very different characters.

Everyone knows the peculiar circumstances in which the Inquisition was established in the time of the Catholic sovereigns; yet it is worthy of remark that the bull of establishment was solicited by Queen Isabella; that is, by one of the most distinguished sovereigns in our history—by that Queen who still, after three centuries, preserves the respect and admiration of all Spaniards. Isabella, far from opposing the will of the people in this measure, only realized the national wish. The Inquisition was established chiefly against the Jews. Before the Inquisition published its first edict, dated Seville, in 1481, the Cortes of Toledo, in 1480, had adopted severe measures on the subject. To prevent the injury which the intercourse between Jews and Christians might occasion to the Catholic faith, the cortes had ordered that unbaptized Israelites should be obliged to wear a distinctive mark, dwell in separate quarters, called juiveries, and return there before night. Ancient regulations against them were renewed; the professions of doctor, surgeon, shopkeeper, barber, and tavern-keeper were forbidden them. Intolerance was, therefore, popular at that time. If the Inquisition be justified in the eyes of friends to monarchy, by conformity with the will of kings, it has an equal claim to be so in the eyes of lovers of democracy.

No doubt the heart is grieved at reading the excessive severities exercised at that time against the Jews; but must there not have been very grave causes to provoke such excesses? The danger which the Spanish monarchy, not yet well established, would have incurred if the Jews, then very powerful on account of their riches and their alliances with the most influential families, had been allowed to act without restraint, has been pointed out as one of the most important of these causes. It was greatly to be feared that they would league with the Moors against the Christians. The respective positions of the three nations rendered this league natural; this is the reason why it was looked upon as necessary to break a power which was capable of compromising anew the independence of the Christians. It is necessary also to observe that at the time when the Inquisition was established the war of eight hundred years against the Moors was not yet finished. The Inquisition was projected before 1474; it was established in 1480, and the conquest of Granada did not take place till 1492. Thus it was founded at the time when the obstinate struggle was about to be decided; it was yet to be known whether the Christians would remain masters of the whole peninsula or whether the Moors should retain possession of one of the most fertile and beautiful provinces; whether these enemies, shut up in Granada, should preserve a position excellent for their communication with Africa, and a means for all the attempts which, at a later period, the Crescent might be disposed to make against us. Now, the power of the Crescent was very great, as was clearly shown by its enterprises against the rest of Europe in the next century. In such emergencies, after ages of fighting, and at the moment which was to decide the victory forever, have combatants ever been known to conduct themselves with moderation and mildness?

It cannot be denied that the system of repression pursued in Spain, with respect to the Jews and the Moors, was inspired, in great measure, by the instinct of self-preservation: we can easily believe that the Catholic princes had this motive before them when they decided on asking for the establishment of the Inquisition in their dominions. The danger was not imaginary; it was perfectly real. In order to form an idea of the turn which things might have taken if some precaution had not been adopted, it is enough to recollect the insurrections of the last Moors in later times.

Yet it would be wrong, in this affair, to attribute all to the policy of royalty; and it is necessary here to avoid exalting too much the foresight and designs of men; for my part, I am inclined to think that Ferdinand and Isabella naturally followed the generality of the nation, in whose eyes the Jews were odious when they persevered in their creed, and suspected when they embraced the Christian religion. Two causes contributed to this hatred and animadversion: first, the excited state of religious feeling then general in all Europe, and especially in Spain; second, the conduct by which the Jews had drawn upon themselves the public indignation.

The necessity of restraining the cupidity of the Jews, for the sake of the independence of the Christians, was of ancient date in Spain: the old assemblies of Toledo had attempted it. In the following centuries the evil reached its height; a great part of the riches of the peninsula had passed into the hands of the Jews, and almost all the Christians found themselves their debtors. Thence the hatred of the people against the Jews; thence the frequent troubles which agitated some towns of the peninsula; thence the tumults which more than once were fatal to the Jews, and in which their blood flowed in abundance. It was difficult for a people accustomed for ages to set themselves free by force of arms to resign themselves peacefully and tranquilly to the lot prepared for them by the artifices and exactions of a strange race, whose name, moreover, bore the recollection of a terrible malediction.

In later times an immense number of Jews were converted to the Christian religion; but the hatred of the people was not extinguished thereby, and mistrust followed these converts into their new state. It is very probable that a great number of these conversions were hardly sincere, as they were partly caused by the sad position in which the Jews who continued in Judaism were placed. In default of conjectures founded on reason in this respect, we will regard as a sufficient corroboration of our opinion the multitude of Judaizing Christians who were discovered as soon as care was taken to find out those who had been guilty of apostasy. However this may be, it is certain that the distinction between New and Old Christians was introduced; the latter denomination was a title of honor, and the former a mark of ignominy; the converted Jews were contemptuously called maranos ("impure men," "pigs"). With more or less foundation, they were accused of horrible crimes. In their dark assemblies they committed, it was said, atrocities which could hardly be believed for the honor of humanity. For example, it was said that, to revenge themselves on the Christians and in contempt of religion, they crucified Christian children, taking care to choose for the purpose the greatest day among Christian solemnities. There is the often-repeated history of the knight of the house of Guzman, who, being hidden one night in the house of a Jew whose daughter he loved, saw a child crucified at the time when the Christians celebrated the institution of the sacrifice of the eucharist. Besides infanticide, there were attributed to the Jews sacrileges, poisonings, conspiracies, and other crimes. That these rumors were generally believed by the people is proved by the fact that the Jews were forbidden by law to exercise the professions of doctor, surgeon, barber, and tavern-keeper; this shows what degree of confidence was placed in their morality. It is useless to stay to examine the foundations for these sinister accusations. We are not ignorant how far popular credulity will go, above all when it is under the influence of excited feelings, which makes it view all things in the same light. It is enough for us to know that these rumors circulated everywhere and with credit, to understand what must have been the public indignation against the Jews, and consequently how natural it was that authority, yielding to the impulse of the general mind, should be urged to treat them with excessive rigor.

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