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      SOON after Torquemada established a tribunal of the Holy Office in Toledo, a resident Converso appeared before the newly appointed Inquisitors to make a voluntary confession of his many sins.

I, Juan Alvarez of Seville, (he began) silk worker and resident of this city of Toledo in the parish of San Roman, kiss the sacred hands of Your Reverend Lordships and present myself before you with the greatest contrition and grief of soul, to confess and make manifest my guilt and the sins which I have committed against our Lord and Redeemer Jesus Christ, and against His Holy Faith.


      Twenty five years before, when Juan Alvarez was a mere boy, his father sent him to Seville as an apprentice to a Jewish silversmith named Mayr Abenbilla. The latter not only initiated young Juan into the mysteries of silversmithing but also into all the ceremonies of the Law of Moses. Since he was so young and plastic, Juan Alvarez soon was convinced that he could never be saved outside the Mosaic Law and although still nominally a Christian he began to live like a Jew. After three years of this he became an apprentice to a milliner in Seville. The latter, who posed in public as a Christian, practiced Judaism in secret and encouraged Juan-who, of course, needed no encouraging-to continue in his evil ways. From Seville he moved on to Cordova where he lived for a time with another Converso and his wife, all three of them happily practicing Judaism while passing as Christians.

      Five years ago Juan returned to Toledo where he was happy to discover that the city was full of Conversos living as Jews behind closed doors. These included his father, mother and four brothers, their friends and neighbors, as well as Juan's various employers, fellow-workers and all of their friends and neighbors. He was soon caught up in a round of Passover celebrations, Jewish prayer meetings, wakes for the dead, Hebrew dietary delights of food and wine, and all the other paraphernalia by which wicked Conversos testify to their attachment to the Law of Moses.

      He finally settled down in a house of his own, with a Converso girl who had two young children by a husband who was permanently out of town. Together the new


lovers ate unleavened bread, took ceremonial baths, cut the fat from meat, burned candles on Friday night, put on clean clothes for Saturday, fasted on Jewish Fast Days, eschewed Christian meats and fish without scales, celebrated Lent by elaborately ignoring it, attended Jewish wakes, entertained their backsliding Converso friends, ran an underground railroad for fugitives from the Inquisition, and raised their children to be bad Christians.

      By the time he finished his confession, Juan Alvarez had denounced all his friends, employers, co-workers and neighbors, in addition to his common-law wife, his two stepchildren, his mother, father, and all his brothers. He did this, he said, because he had now seen the Christian light. He grieved for his sins. His heart was filled with repentance. He wanted only to be clasped to the bosom of the True Faith, reposing in bliss in the outstretched arms of the Redeemer.

      Juan Alvarez had come forth voluntarily under the Edict of Grace, which promised Inquisitorial mercy to all Conversos who purged themselves without prompting. This was an operational procedure established by Torquemada early in the Inquisitorial game. By promising mercy to those who told all, it traded on the common human fears which guarantee success to organized persecution everywhere. Soon after his elevation as Inquisitor General, Torquemada outlined elaborate instructions designed to facilitate the apprehension of derelict Christians. Wherever a new tribunal was established, the Inquisitors were to publish. an Edict of Grace, allowing an interval of thirty to forty days,


so that all persons. both men and women, who find themselves guilty of any sin or heresy or apostasy, or of practicing or observing the rites or ceremonies of the Jews, or of any others whatsoever, which are contrary to the Christian religion, may come forward and make manifest and confess their errors in full, and further confess all they know and remember about the said crime regarding both themselves and other persons who may have fallen into the said error.

      Those who cooperated, Torquemada promised, would be exempted from the penalties of death, life imprisonment, and full property confiscation usually reserved for the obstinate. They could expect instead a charitable reception and some kind of fine, as well as a penance for therapeutic purposes, in keeping with the wish of their Catholic Majesties, Ferdinand and Isabella, to extend clemency to all those who sincerely hungered for reconciliation to the True Faith.

      Included in Torquemada's instructions, however, was a warning to anyone who thought he could cheat justice by making any old kind of confession. He had to tell all he knew, not only about himself but about everybody else, including members of his own family down to minor children. If it was later discovered that a penitent sinner had held back any information, his reconciliation to the Faith was automatically invalid and he was to be dealt with as an impenitent heretic, i.e., eminently eligible for roasting. Those heretics, of course, who failed to take advantage of the Edict of Grace, were


ineligible for any of its benefits and were to be regarded as contumacious deceivers to be prosecuted with full Inquisitorial rigor.

      As an economical method of collecting evidence against heretics, the Edict of Grace left little to be desired. Upwards of a thousand people came forward and confessed at Valencia. In Toledo the number approached three thousand, and the tribunals in smaller towns counted them in the hundreds-all within the brief period of thirty to forty days. However, as a method of preserving human dignity, the Edict of Grace left everything to be desired. Self-confessed Judaizers raked over their past lives, baring every shabby detail they could think of, grovelling and degrading themselves in their anxiety to impress the Inquisitors with their sincerity. In addition to self-denunciation, they wallowed in orgies of accusation against others. Servants denounced their masters; the poor denounced the rich; husbands and wives, sweethearts and lovers denounced each other; friends denounced friends; neighbors denounced neighbors; parents denounced their children and children denounced their parents.

      The case of one Brianda de Bardaxi will serve as one of many such examples of these dismal exercises in fear and hatred. Brianda, a Converso of Saragossa, was on bad terms with her mother Salvadora, who thought Brianda had received too large a share of the family property. Mother Salvadora was supported in this opinion by her daughter-in-law, an elderly widow named Aldonza, who felt that she also had been short-changed for the benefit of Brianda. Between the two of them


these disgruntled ladies managed to nag Brianda to desperate measures. When the Inquisition came to Saragossa, Brianda hurried over to announce that when she was five years old, she had seen her mother and sister-in-law fast on a Jewish holiday.

      Mother Salvadora and sister Aldonza were immediately jailed. They had no doubts about who had put them there; they confessed to observing some Jewish Fast days, and swore that Brianda had taken part in them also. Meanwhile, more of Brianda's enemies were adding to her troubles. A former neighbor, with whom Brianda had been feuding for some years, had been seized by the Holy Office as a Judaizer. ill his confession he claimed that Brianda was also secretly a Jew, and was supported in his accusation by his wife and two daughters, who didn't like Brianda either.

      Proceedings were immediately begun against Brianda, who was obviously made of sterner stuff than her accusers. All the Inquisitors could get out of her, under repeated questioning, was the admission that when she was about five years old she had taken an occasional bite of unleavened bread. Except for that one childhood indiscretion, she insisted, she had never been other than a good Christian. She also presented a parade of witnesses who testified to the bad blood between Brianda and her accusers, and swore to her exceptionally fervent Christian character: she lived like a nun; she prayed at least an hour every day; she often wore a hair shirt, and she ate fat and lard with obvious gusto.

      Clearly, somebody was lying. Torquemada's men, like their chief, automatically assumed that it was the accused.


      So the Inquisitors of Saragossa resorted to that sure solvent of all doubts-the machinery of torture. Brianda was spread-eagled on a trestle, her head lower than her feet, her arms and legs tightly bound with cords. The cords were then twisted with a winch, cutting deep corrugations in the flesh and producing the most intense agony. When Brianda still gasped out her innocence, the water torture was added to encourage her to tell the truth. While she was still bound to the trestle, her nostrils were plugged and a stream of water was poured down her throat, stopping just short of complete strangulation. After an hour and a half of this, Brianda cracked and blurted out a tolerably ample confession to the effect that she had been a secret Judaizer for years. Three days later she revoked her confession, asserting that it was all a lie extracted by torture. So back to the torture chamber she went, but just as her treatment was about to start, Brianda fainted dead away. Unable to revive her, the frustrated Inquisitors had her carried back to her cell.

      After four years in an Inquisition dungeon, with torture for diversion, the only firm cooperation the Inquisitors were able to get from Brianda was the admission that she had nibbled unleavened bread at the age of five. She was therefore pronounced to be "vehemently suspect" of Judaizing, was forced to abjure her heresies ill a public Auto de Fe, and to pay a fine consisting of one third of all her property. Since the modern apologists for the Inquisition assure us that it was not really as bad as the "prejudiced" historians say it was, we like to think that some good came out of the trial of Brianda de Bardaxi.


      Perhaps the Inquisition, by appropriating a sizable chunk of Brianda's property, restored harmony in the family hitherto rent by inequalities in the distribution of wealth which had now been leveled out by the Holy Office. In his instructions regarding the Edict of Grace, Torquemada was careful to provide for the reopening of a case against any reconciled person whose confession was later discovered to be unsatisfactory. The circumstances under which such action could be taken were described by Torquemada in these words:

If some person or persons among those who come forward do not confess the ENTIRE truth regarding everything they know about themselves or about others in connection with the crime of heresy, ESPECIALLY IN SERIOUS AND OUTSTANDING MATTERS AND CRIMES. it is presumed that they gained reconciliation through deception.

      The proper application of these instructions might vex the ingenuity of a Solomon. In Torquemada's day they were often nor more than an excuse to stoke the fires. There are numerous instances of self-confessed penitents who, after having been reconciled, were later retried and then burned at the stake on the ground that they had deliberately withheld important information from the Inquisitors. In some cases the charge was very likely justified, but in a great many others the Inquisitors tempered justice with no quarter. Two examples, from among the many cases of this kind, illustrate the pattern.


      When the Edict of Grace was proclaimed in Ciudad Real, a great many of the town's residents came forward to denounce either themselves or their friends, or both. So prolific were these revelations that in the two short years of its existence-before its transfer to the larger metropolitan center of Toledo-the tribunal at Ciudad Real burned almost three hundred Judaizers, in person or in effigy (depending on which was available), and reconciled some two hundred more.

      Among the earliest arrivals at Inquisition headquarter s was one Maria Pampano, with a tale about a husband who was a heretic and a brute. When she married Juan Pampano twenty five years before, he was a perfectly good Christian. But after they had been married for about nine years, her husband suddenly announced that henceforth he intended to live like a Jew and he expected Maria to do likewise. However, Maria refused, for she had been raised as a good Christian and never entertained the terrible thought of being anything else. But husband Juan was determined, and life in the Pampano household turned into a prolonged reign of terror. He forced Maria to live like a Jew and he beat her unmercifully when she protested. After six years of this, to Maria's relief, husband Juan left her and dropped out of sight. About four years later he turned up on her doorstep, begging her to come away with him. She refused even to let him in the house, so he went away and she never saw him again. Now she wished to confess her sins of many years ago and to state that, under violent pressure from her husband, she had (1) refrained from working on Saturdays, (2) prepared Saturday's food on Friday, (3) eaten this


food on Saturday, (4) eaten meat prepared Jewish style, and (5) baked unleavened bread and eaten it. Also, Maria confessed, after her husband had left her, she had through force of habit continued "for a while" to observe the Jewish Sabbath. She soon came to her senses, however, confessed her sin to a priest, and for the last nine or ten years had always lived like a good Christian. This confession seemed honest enough, so Maria Pampano was forgiven by the Inquisitors and formally reconciled to the True Faith. 'Two months later, to her astonishment and horror, she was in jail and on trial for her life as an impenitent heretic. It seems that some of her neighbors had also made confessions under the Edict of Grace. Several of them had, among a great many other things, confirmed the accusations which Maria had already made against herself. However, a former servant in the Pampano household, who had a sharp eye for unorthodox details, enumerated a number of examples of Maria's Judaizing habits which the latter had not specifically itemized in her own confession.

      Maria was now formally charged with making a fraudulent confession and with being a steal thy dissembler and obstinate heretic with a heart hardened against the True Faith. The Inquisition prosecutor therefore asked that she be relaxed for burning on the ground that she had not included in her confession the following admissions:

(1) She refrained from working on Saturdays.
(2) She gave the Jewish ceremonial bath to her newborn children.
(3) She indoctrinated her children in the Law of Moses.


(4) She ate chicken during Lent.
(5) She participated in Jewish prayer sessions at home.
(6) She observed the Jewish Passover.

      Maria pointed out - correctly- that she had already confessed to the first charge. The second, third and fourth charges she flatly denied. As for the last two, she protested that they were implicit in her own confession that she had been forced by her husband to observe many Jewish customs. If she failed to specify every last detail, she begged the Inquisitors to consider that her crimes covered a period of ten to twenty years before, and that she was bound to forget some things.

      To substantiate her claims of innocence, Maria called on some of her neighbors as character witnesses. They proved to be a sorry lot: three of them had known Maria only a few years, and although nice things about her, the Inquisitors were only interested in her activities long before then. The other two witnesses met the time requirement, but they were obviously so frightened in the face of the dreaded Inquisition that their testimony did Maria as much harm as good. The first one, a neighbor lady, when asked by the Inquisitors :if Maria observed the Lenten season, replied with excruciating caution. She remembered, she said, that once or twice in the thirty years she had known Maria, the latter had borrowed a head covering from her because, so she had said, she wanted to take her daughter to confession. However, this witness hastened to add that she never actually saw Maria's daughter at confession. Then, when the Inquisitors wanted to know whether the witness had


ever seen Maria observe the Jewish Sabbath, she said she did not know, although there were times when she felt 'slightly suspicious' about that matter.

      The other witness was Maria's godson. All he would say was that he had seen his godmother go to church to hear mass, and ignore the Jewish Sabbath by working. But when the Inquisitors asked him about the other charges against her, Maria's godson, although he had known her intimately all his life, could only repeat over and over that he knew nothing about anything that ever went on inside his godmother's house.

      The Inquisitors were satisfied that Maria Pampano was guilty as charged. In a public Auto de Fe early in 1484 she was formally declared to be a deceiver, dissembler, false penitent, secret Judaizer, heretic and apostate, and was burned to ashes.

      At almost the same time that Maria Pampano was getting married to the man whose religious idiosyncrasies were to bring her to the stake, a young widow named Beatriz Nunez was leaving Ciudad Real to seek her marital fortunes in nearby Guadalupe. Beatriz had been born and raised in Ciudad Real in a family of secret Judaizers. There she had married a Converso of similar habits and raised a small family of two sons, both of whom Beatriz and her husband indoctrinated in the Mosaic mysteries.

      When her first husband died in 1465, Beatriz moved to Guadalupe where she married again and began raising a second family, There was, at that time, no Spanish Inquisition; Torquemada was still savoring his dreams of purification in the cloister at Segovia. However, in


1465 there was a brief flareup of persecution under Henry IV of Castile, urged on by Alonso de Espina and some of his clerical colleagues. Beatriz Nunez had hardly settled down in Guadalupe with her new husband when he was seized by the local authorities as a secret Judaizer and after some time in prison was given a stiff fine and admonished to mend his ways.

      Some eighteen years later, when the Inquisition set about purging Ciudad Real, a number of Beatriz' hometown friends and relatives, including her first husband and one of her sons, were burned-the quick in person and the dead in effigy.

      If Beatriz had any hopes of escaping the Inquisition by remaining in Guadalupe, such hopes were quickly dashed. A little over a year after the tribunal opened at Ciudad Real, another one was established in Guadalupe. If the one at Ciudad Real was rigorous, the branch at Guadalupe was ferocious. Doctor Francisco Sanchez was sent over from Ciudad Real to lend his experience to efficient operations at Guadalupe. He was placed under the authority of the prior of the local Geronomite monastery, friar Nuno de Arevalo, whose determination to cauterize the sores of Judaism more than compensated for his lack of experience. In the few short months of its operation, before the Guadalupe tribunal was absorbed by its big brother in Toledo, seven Autos de Fe were held in the macabre setting of the cemetery in front of friar Nuno's monastery. In all, fifty three men and women were burned alive, including a monk from friar Nuno's own cloister. Forty six corpses were dug up and burned. The effigies of twenty five fugitives were


consigned to the flames. Sixteen sinners were jailed for life, and "innumerable others," the early accounts tell us, were condemned to perpetual exile and confiscation of all property. Not one single per:son was reconciled to the Faith. So pleased was our Lady with the good work that Her image at Guadalupe began spewing forth miracles in such prodigious quantities that Inquisitor Sanchez, trying to record them for posterity, broke down from writer's cramp.

      Into this den of virtue came a frightened Beatriz Nunez in January, 1485, seeking the mercy promised under the Edict of Grace. She confessed at length about her earlier Judaizing years in Ciudad Real, listing many specific details and adding that she had practiced "all the other ceremonies" of Judaism. In Guadalupe, she went on, her new husband's heretical misfortunes had made her much more cautious. Here she practiced Judaism in secret to avoid her husband's frightened anger, the servants' prying eyes, and embarrassing questions from her children. Even so, she managed a few Judaizing accomplishments: she avoided pork and fish without scales, she removed the fat from meat, she begged off housework on Saturdays, and even observed "several" Jewish Fast days. Furthermore, Beatriz freely admitted, she would have lived like a full-time Jewess if she hadn't been afraid of being found out. Now, however, she saw the error of her heretical ways and repented of her sins, begging forgiveneSs and seeking reconciliation under the terms of the Edict of Grace. Beatriz then concluded with the following pathetic plea to her judges:


And because my memory is poor and it is possible that I have erred in other things which I do not at the moment recall over such a long period of time or because I am so upset, I protest before your Lordships that if I should remember anything else, I will immediately come forward to declare it and to ask penance for it. And to cleanse myself further I hereby state that if any persons have or shall come forth to declare anything against me in addition to what I have already confessed, and if they are persons in whom your Lordships have confidence, then I confess beforehand that whatever they may say is true and I ask penance for it, submitting myself at all times to the correction of the Holy Mother Church.

      Even friar Nuno was satisfied, at least for the moment, with this confession, and Beatriz Nunez was formally reconciled to the True Faith and set free. A few weeks later she was picked up on orders of friar Nuno and imprisoned for trial as a false penitent and deceiver of the Holy Office.

      Beatriz had obviously been deluding herself with the notion that she had concealed her evil secrets from the help. Seven garrulous maids from the Nunez household-champions of the Faith all-came forward to contribute heretical scraps for the new case against their mistress. These were carefully pieced together by the Inquisition prosecutor into a formal accusation demanding that Beatriz Nunez be burned at the stake on the ground that she had omitted the following details from her voluntary confession:


(1) She bathed during her period.
(2) She participated in Jewish funeral rites.
(3) She blessed her children without crossing herself.
(4) She indoctrinated her children in Judaism, and washed off the oil of their Christian baptism.
(5) She ate meat only when prepared in the Jewish fashion.
(6) She confessed that in Ciudad Real she used to light candles on Friday nights, remove the sciatic nerve from the leg of meat, and prepare Saturday's meal on Friday. She did not, however, confess that she had also done these things in Guadalupe.

      The substance of Beatriz' defense appears sound enough. She pointed out that she had already confessed to observing all the Jewish practices she thought she could hide, and to a desire to follow them all. She had also admitted that her faulty memory and personal agitation undoubtedly made> her leave out some details about her errors of the past twenty years, and she had even confessed beforehand to the truth of any future denunciations which might include specific details she had forgotten herself. It was on this basis, Beatriz reminded her captors, that she had been forgiven and reconciled to the Faith by the Inquisitors themselves. Even the zealous friar Nuno was sensitive to the legal niceties of this case. If Beatriz were to be burned-a foregone conclusion-it would have to be done according

1. Although this was not a Jewish religious custom, it apparently was a practice abhorred by orthodox Christians.


to the rules. And the rules required that she make a specific confession that she had deliberately withheld important information in her original confession. Fortunately the machinery of torture was always available to solve such knotty problems as these. Beatriz was therefore stretched out on the rack where, with the help of the Inquisitors, she blurted out a suitably incriminating confession and once more begged mercy for her sins. This time, however, her plea was denied. For, as the prosecutor pointed out, she had confessed her misdeeds only when no other course was open to her. Therefore, it was clear that she was not truly contrite or repentant. Therefore, it was equally clear that she was an impenitent heretic. Therefore, she should be burned at the stake. Therefore, Beatriz Nunez was burned at the stake July 23, 1485.


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