Tomás de Torquemada

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Tomás de Torquemada
Tomás de Torquemada
BornOctober 14, 1420
DiedSeptember 16, 1498 (aged 77)
Ávila, Kingdom of Castile
OccupationGrand Inquisitor
  • Don Pedro Ferdinando, lord of Torquemada (father)
RelativesJuan de Torquemada (cardinal) (uncle)

Tomás de Torquemada[a] OP (October 14, 1420 – September 16, 1498), also anglicized as Thomas of Torquemada, was a Castilian Dominican friar and first Grand Inquisitor in Spain's movement to homogenize religious practices with those of the Catholic Church in the late 15th century, otherwise known as the Spanish Inquisition, which resulted in the expulsion from Spain of thousands of people of Jewish and Muslim faith and heritage.

Mainly because of persecution, Muslims and Jews in Spain at that time found it socially, politically, and economically expedient to convert to Catholicism (see Converso, Morisco, and Marrano).[1] The existence of superficial converts (i.e., Crypto-Jews)[2] was perceived by the Spanish monarchs of that time (King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella) as a threat to the religious and social life of Spain.[3] This led Torquemada, who himself had converso ancestors,[4][5][6] to be one of the chief supporters of the Alhambra Decree that expelled the Jews from Spain in 1492.


Early life[edit]

Torquemada was born on October 14, 1420, either in Valladolid, in the Kingdom of Castile,[7] or in the nearby village of Torquemada[8][9] He came from a family of conversos (converts from Judaism); his uncle, Juan de Torquemada, was a celebrated theologian and cardinal,[4] whose grandmother was a conversa. The 15th Century chronicler Hernando del Pulgar, a contemporary to de Torquemada and himself a converso, recorded that Tomás de Torquemada's uncle, Juan de Torquemada, had an ancestor, Álvar Fernández de Torquemada, who was married to a first-generation conversa.[5][6]

Torquemada entered the local San Pablo Dominican monastery at a very young age. As a zealous advocate of church orthodoxy, he earned a solid reputation for learning, piety, and austerity. As a result, he was promoted to prior of the monastery of Santa Cruz at Segovia. Around this time, he met the young Princess Isabella I, and the two immediately established religious and ideological rapport. For a number of years, Torquemada served as her regular confessor and personal advisor. He was present at Isabella's coronation in 1474, remained her closest ally and supporter and even advised her to marry King Ferdinand of Aragon in 1469 to consolidate their kingdoms and form a power base he could draw on for his own purposes.[10]

Establishment of the Holy Office of the Inquisition[edit]

Torquemada deeply feared the Marranos and Moriscos as a menace to Spain's welfare by both their increasing religious influence and their economic domination of Spain.[5] The Crown of Aragon had Dominican inquisitors almost continuously throughout much of the 14th and the 15th centuries. King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella petitioned Pope Sixtus IV to grant their request for a Holy Office to administer an inquisition in Spain. The Pope granted their request and established the Holy Office for the Propagation of the Faith in late 1478.

The papal bull gave the sovereigns full powers to name inquisitors. Rome retained the right to formally appoint the royal nominees. Henry Charles Lea observed that the Spanish Inquisition in both Castile and Aragon remained firmly under Ferdinand's direction throughout the joint reign.[11]

Grand Inquisitor[edit]

The Pope went on to appoint a number of inquisitors for the Spanish Kingdoms in early 1482, including Torquemada. A year later he was named Grand Inquisitor of Spain, which he remained until his death in 1498. In the fifteen years under his direction, the Spanish Inquisition grew from the single tribunal at Seville to a network of two dozen Holy Offices.[12] As Grand Inquisitor, Torquemada reorganized the Spanish Inquisition (originally based in Castile in 1478), establishing tribunals in Sevilla, Jaén, Córdoba, Ciudad Real and (later) Saragossa. His quest was to rid Spain of all heresy. The Spanish chronicler Sebastián de Olmedo called him "the hammer of heretics, the light of Spain, the savior of his country, the honor of his order."

Torquemada saw that the condemned were made to wear a sanbenito, a penitential garment worn over clothing, bearing a design that specified the type of penitence, if any. One type, worn by those sentenced to death, had designs of hell's flames or sometimes demons, dragons and/or snakes on it. Another type had a cross and was worn instead of imprisonment and then hung in the parish church.[clarification needed]

The Treaty of Granada (1491), as negotiated at the final surrender of the Muslim state of Al-Andalus, clearly mandated protection of religious rights,[13] but this was reversed just over 3 months later by the Alhambra Decree of March 31, 1492. Under the new Decree, approximately 40,000 Jews were expelled from Spain with only their personal possessions. Approximately 50,000 other Jews received a Christian baptism to remain in Spain. Many of them, derogatorily dubbed "Marranos" by the Old Christian majority, secretly kept some of their Jewish traditions.[14] They were one of the chief targets of the Inquisition, but it also pursued anyone who would criticize it.

There are various estimates of the number of victims of the Spanish Inquisition during Torquemada's reign as Grand Inquisitor. Hernando del Pulgar, Queen Isabella's secretary, wrote that 2,000 executions took place throughout the entirety of her reign, which extended well beyond Torquemada's death.[15]


During his final years, Torquemada's failing health, coupled with widespread complaints, caused Pope Alexander VI to appoint four assistant inquisitors in June 1494 to restrain the Spanish Inquisition. After fifteen years as Spain's Grand Inquisitor, Torquemada died in the monastery of St. Thomas Aquinas in Ávila on September 16, 1498, and was interred there. His tomb was ransacked in 1832, only two years before the Inquisition was finally disbanded. His bones were allegedly stolen and ritually incinerated in the same manner as an auto-da-fé.[16]

In fiction[edit]

  • 50 Fathoms, a tabletop RPG setting, featured Torquemada as its antagonist. After being sucked into an alternate dimension while on a boat, like many other humans of earth from the golden age of sail, Torquemada re-establishes the inquisition and ruthlessly hunts down mages across the drowning fantasy land of the Caribdus.
  • Torquemada, a historical novel by Howard Fast.
  • Fyodor Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov features a parable involving Christ coming back to Seville in the days of the Spanish Inquisition, and being confronted by Torquemada as the Grand Inquisitor.[17]
  • Torquemada, a play by Victor Hugo.[18]
  • Tomás de Torquemada is one of the main protagonists of Jerzy Andrzejewski's novel And Darkness Covered the Earth (also translated as The Inquisitors).
  • Tomás de Torquemada is one of the main characters of Gilbert Sinoué's novel Le livre de saphir.
  • Mel Brooks portrayed Torquemada in the musical number "The Inquisition" in the 1981 comedy film History of the World, Part I.[19]
  • Torquemada is the name of the primary antagonist in the comic series Nemesis the Warlock by Pat Mills. This future Torquemada is later revealed to be an incarnation of the original Torquemada. Mills also featured Torquemada in the graphic novel series Requiem Chevalier Vampire.
  • Lance Henriksen portrays a fictionalized Torquemada in the 1991 horror film The Pit and the Pendulum.[20]
  • Marlon Brando portrayed Torquemada in the 1992 film Christopher Columbus: The Discovery.[21]
  • Juan Gea played Torquemada in episode 4 of the Spanish historical fiction television series El Ministerio del Tiempo.[22]
  • Tomás de Torquemada is one of the main antagonists of a movie based on the video game franchise Assassin's Creed, portrayed by the Spanish actor Javier Gutierrez.[23] He is also the main antagonist of the 2009 Nintendo DS and iOS spin-off game Assassin's Creed II: Discovery.[24]
  • In Requiem Chevalier Vampire (Requiem the Vampire Knight in the English version), Grand Inquisitor Torquemada is featured as the leader of the Werewolves—religious fanatics in life, their hatred incarnates them as wild beasts upon Resurrection.
  • Torquemada makes a short but important appearance in Chapter Seventeen of The Black Castle, Book One of the "Don Sebastian Vampire Chronicles" by Les Daniels.
  • God Emperor of Dune, Leto II Atreides, God Emperor speaks of Torquemada to his Major Domo Moneo Atreides: "In the shadow of every religion lurks a Torquemada," Leto said. "You have never encountered that name because I caused it to be expunged from all records." "Why was that, Lord?" "He was an obscenity. He made living torches out of people who disagreed with him." ..."Torquemada, however, delighted in commending to his god the agonized screams of his burning victims."
  • Tom Torquemada is the name taken by the devil, in the form of a game show host, in Brooke McEldowney's comic series Pibgorn.
  • Referenced in 'The Addams Family Musical in Act 1, Scene 7 by Gomez: When discussing an antique chair with Mal Beineke, Gomez states: "Fifteenth Century. 'The Heretic's Chair,' once owned by Tomas de Torquemada, Grand Inquisitor of Madrid."
  • Torquemada was also regularly referenced in comedy sketches by Monty Python with the line “nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition” said by a red befrocked cardinal leaping into an unrelated comedy sketch once the line “I wasn’t expecting that” was innocently delivered. He first appeared in the episode “The Spanish Inquisition” in season 2 aired in 1970 by BBC. [1]




  1. ^ "Definition of MARRANO". Retrieved 2019-12-01.
  2. ^ "Crypto-Jews", My Jewish Learning Archived 2014-10-29 at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ Wikisource-logo.svg Ott, Michael (1912). "Tomás de Torquemada" . In Herbermann, Charles (ed.). Catholic Encyclopedia. 13. New York: Robert Appleton Company.
  4. ^ a b "Meditations, or the Contemplations of the Most Devout". World Digital Library. 1479. Retrieved 2013-09-02.
  5. ^ a b c Falk, Avner. A Psychoanalytic History of the Jews, Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1996, p.508 ISBN 0838636608
  6. ^ a b "Tomas De Torquemada |". Retrieved 2019-12-01.
  7. ^ von Dehsen, Christian (2013). Philosophers and Religious Leaders. Routledge. p. 188. ISBN 9781135951023.
  8. ^ Gerli, E. Michael (2013). Medieval Iberia: An Encyclopedia. Routledge. p. 794. ISBN 9781136771620.
  9. ^ Whitechapel, Simon (2003). Flesh Inferno: Atrocities of Torquemada and the Spanish Inquisition. Creation Books. p. 52. ISBN 9781840681055.
  10. ^ Fernando del Pulgar (1789). Claros varones de Castilla. G. Ortega.
  11. ^ Lea, Henry Charles. A History of the Inquisition of Spain, 4 vols. (New York: Macmillan, 1906-07), 1:27-28
  12. ^ The Age of Torquemada, by John Edward Longhurst (1962), from (European University Institute)
  13. ^ Carr, Matthew (2009). Blood and Faith: The Purging of Muslim Spain. New Press. pp. 51–57. ISBN 978-1-59558-361-1.
  14. ^ Wolf, A (1909). Life of Spinoza (Spinoza's Short Treatise on God, Man and his Well Being. London: Adam and Charles Black. pp. 4–5.
  15. ^ Henry Kamen, The Spanish Inquisition: A Historical Revision (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1997), 60
  16. ^ Murphy, Cullen (17 January 2012). God's Jury: The Inquisition and the Making of the Modern World. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. p. 352. ISBN 9780547607825.
  17. ^ Thayer, Vivian Trow (1924). "The Brothers Karamazov". North American Review. 2: 365.
  18. ^ "VICTOR HUGO'S "TORQUEMADA."". NY Times. The New York Times Company. 2 July 1882. p. 4. Retrieved 12 April 2019.
  19. ^ Debaser (11 November 2017). "Mel Brooks: The Satire of Everything". Retrieved 12 April 2019.
  20. ^ Philip Lief Group (1998). The Blockbuster Entertainment Guide to Movies and Videos: 1999 Edition. Island Books. p. 962. ISBN 9780440225980.
  21. ^ "Marlon Brando será Torquemada". El País (in Spanish). Madrid: Prisa. 19 November 1991. Retrieved 12 April 2019.
  22. ^ G. Quirós, Paloma (16 March 2015). "Curiosidades históricas del capítulo 4 de El Ministerio del Tiempo". Corporación de Radio y Televisión Española (in Spanish). Retrieved 12 April 2019.
  23. ^ Castellanos Onsurbe, Jesús (22 December 2016). "Assassin's Creed, una película con sabor español". AS (in Spanish). Retrieved 12 April 2019.
  24. ^ Shaw-Williams, Hannah (11 August 2014). "'Assassin's Creed' Set During the Spanish Inquisition?". Screen Rant. Retrieved 12 April 2019.


Catholic Church titles
New title
Office established
Grand Inquisitor
of Spain

Succeeded by
Diego Deza