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      ON March 23, 1494, Ferdinand and Isabella transferred the royal title to the Jewish cemetery at Avila to the Dominican fathers, and authorized them to use the tombstones for construction work. On the year of his ascension as General of the Holy Office, Torquemada had begun the building of the monastery of Saint Thomas in Avila. Under his personal supervision it had grown into an imposing compound of buildings designed for pious meditations and Inquisitorial purification. A tribunal of the Holy Office was established at the new monastery in 1490 to avenge the Ritual Murder of the boy saint of La Guardia. Torquemada came to cherish his Avila monastery as home, and he took a special interest in the operations of its small but thorough Inquisition. He dominated it completely until his death in 1498, and a few simple statistics tell of the spirit he breathed into it.

      Everybody has a suggestion but nobody really knows the number of victims purged by the Inquisition in the time of Torquemada. Thousands, tens of thousands, and perhaps more, were given punishments ranging from small fines to life imprisonment. Early in the nineteenth century, the secretary of the Spanish Inquisition, Juan Antonio Llorente, defected to France with a cartload of documents. Soon after, he published at Paris an unsympathetic history of that organization, which the Faithful still denounce today as a pack of lies. Among other unkind cuts was the author's announcement that Torquemada and his men had burned upwards of nine thousand persons at the stake in eight years. The "spiteful exaggerations" of Llorente have been revised downward and some of Torquemada's modern friends assure us that (a) he really burned only two thousand human beings, and (b) the actual execution of the death sentence was performed by the secular arm of the government, for "the Church does not shed blood." Without venturing further into this swamp of statistics and dialectics, we may reasonably guess that (a) burning accounted for some five percent of the total, and (b) that Torquemada took a lively interest in the proceedings.

      At Avila, however, the quality of mercy was carefully strained. Three centuries after Torquemada's passing, the penitential garments of Avila's heretics were still


all to see: the Great Leviathan was dead; the century of wrath was spinning out its destiny. The Messiah would come in 1500.

      Latter-day prophets suddenly appeared from the northern frontier to Cordova in the south and Valencia in the east. The small village of Herrera near the French border became a Mecca for Conversos as far away as Madrid and Toledo. A shoemaker's daughter named Inez was making weekly ascensions into Heaven and returning with olive branches, carnations, letters from Yahweh, and advance reports on the coming of the Messiah. There she saw the souls of all those who had been burned at the stake by Torquemada. They were now living in abundance and glory, sitting in golden chairs and eating from golden plates. Meanwhile, God was building a wonderful city where all the Conversos would live forever in the land of milk and honey. On the appointed day the sky would turn copper, the prophet Elijah would descend on a cloud to preach of redemption, with the Messiah right behind him to lead the way into the Promised Land. For the next seven years no rain would fall on the earth below. Those who wished to make the trip must return immediately to the Law of Moses. They need no longer fear the Inquisition, for they would soon be beyond its reach.

      The revelations of Inez were quickly confirmed by some of her disciples. A butcher reported a conversation with his dead father-in-law who stepped from the beyond to tell of the discomforts he was suffering for having neglected the Mosaic Law. A neighbor lady spoke with her dead father who also urged the future merits of


hanging in the monastery for future sinners to contemplate. These garments were worn at the Auto de Fe, and bore elaborate designs indicating the nature of the sinner's impending punishment. After the Auto they were placed in a local trophy room, with the names of their wearers inscribed on them to preserve their infamy for Posterity. A count taken in the nineteenth century showed that of 158 persons who appeared before the Avila tribunal under Torquemada, eighty nine were burned at the stake, slightly over fifty six percent of the total. Also, for the century after Torquemada's death, burnings took place once every seven years, compared with once every month in the earlier period.

      The Pope, whose orthodoxy is unimpeachable, had firm doubts about Torquemada's wisdom as an administrator. In 1494, citing numerous complaints about the latter's zealous irregularities, he tried to clip the Inquisitor General's wings by packing the Holy Office with four additional appointees of equal rank. But Torquemada's reputation, and the Crown's support, guaranteed him first place among his new peers, and his authority remained undiminished to the end. Torquemada died in the odor of sanctity September 16, 1498, in the monastery of Saint Thomas at Avila. The lamentations of the Faithful mingled with the excited hosannas of the Conversos who saw the hand of Jehovah reaching into Avila to slay the Great Leviathan and lead the children of Israel into the Promised Land. It was foretold in the writings of the rabbis that the Righteous would feed on the flesh of the Monster on the eve of the coming of the True Messiah. The signs were there for


Mosaic custom. A young girl stumbled on Abraham and Moses in the family parlor and they corroborated -the reports about the forthcoming trip to the Promised Land. So the Conversos gave away their worldly goods, scanned the heavens for the promised signs, and began dancing in the streets, singing " Tomorrow we go to the Promised Land." Inez was decked out in jewels and fine clothing in preparation for her marriage with the Prince of Judea who was waiting in Heaven to wed her when she arrived with her friends.

      In the village of Chillon a peasant girl named Maria announced that she too had made a recent trip to Heaven where she was informed that all Conversos who observed the Mosaic Law would be carried off to the Promised Land. The citizens there followed the example of their brethren at Herrera by openly returning to Judaism in celebration of the coming salvation. A wool-carder named Gomez began holding seances at the town of Almodovar on Thursday and Sunday evenings. His spirit would travel across country to visit with Inez and Maria, and then up to Heaven to see God, Elijah, and the Messiah. There he learned that one day soon a great thunderclap would split, the heavens and Elijah would descend to lead the Conversos into the Promised Land, where seven thousand handsome young men were waiting to marry the earthbound local maidens, and six young virgins were on hand to wed Gomez and his five fellow-prophets, who are otherwise not identified. The sinners marked out for salvation had already been chosen and their names revealed to Gomez who would assign them their lodgings with a wave of his golden wand.


      At Valencia, Moses himself was reincarnated in the person of one Miguel Vives, where he was preparing once again to lead the Jews (i.e., Conversos) out of the Spanish Egypt and into the New Canaan. And when the Chosen People were rolled up in the heavenly scroll, the Lord would visit His vengeance upon their persecutors. Spain would be ravaged by famine, war, disease and death. The beasts of the field would roam the streets of her deserted cities. And the dogs would eat of their flesh and lick the blood of their bones.

      The Messiah never came, but the familiars of, the Inquisition did. While the prophets and their followers perished in the flames, the Great Leviathan slumbered on in a crypt in the chapel of Saint Thomas at Avila. His bones were removed to a more elaborate tomb n 1579 amidst hushed talk about their delicately sweet odor of apparent supernatural origin. In the nineteenth century, during one of those rare spasms of Liberal Reform which momentarily upset the medieval pattern of Spanish life, the Inquisition was finally abolished. Two years later (1836), Liberal grave-robbers with an ironic sense of history broke open Torquemada's tomb at Avila. They took out his bones, burned them on the spot where his victims had perished before him, and cast his ashes to the winds.


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