Spanish Inquisition

By: Sydney Rebeslsky

What was the Spanish Inquisition?

The Spanish Inquisition was established by Ferdinand II and Isabella I in 1478 and lasted until 1834. The main reasons for the Spanish Inquisition were to have religious unification, to strengthen Catholicism, weaken opposing religions, and. Money wasn't a cause but it was a bonus because "the government made a profit by confiscating the property of those found guilty of heresy" ( The Catholic church wanted to do away with Jews and any other religion besides Catholics. This included those who falsely converted. These are the people who publicly converted to Catholicism but still continue to secretly practice Judaism.

During this time, "freedom of religion did not exist in Spain or its territories, so in practice the Inquisition had jurisdiction over all royal subjects" ( There were a lot of Jewish people in and around Spain. In fact, "There was a long tradition of Jewish service to the Aragon crown" (

Due to Ferrant Martinez, archdeacon of Ecija speeches, there was a sudden prejudice against Jews. Hundreds were slaughtered in the Pogrom of June 1391. "Jewish subjects were given until July 31, 1492 to choose between accepting baptism and leaving the country." ( This lead to the conversion of many Jews because they didn't want to leave the country. Conversions were very seldom but since the Jew's lives were being threatened, many became Catholic. The Inquisition targeted people who falsely converted to Catholicism. This means they claim to be Catholic but were secretly practicing their original religion. They are called conversos. They were to be killed.

There were trials in the Spanish Inquisition that determined whether a person was guilty or not of false conversion or heresy. Heresy is a person who "publicly declared his beliefs (based upon what the church considered inaccurate interpretations of the Bible) and refused to denounce them, even after being corrected by the authority. He also tried to teach his beliefs to other people" ( The court traveled around Spain putting on trial anybody they thought went against Catholicism. The main goal of these trails was to get the people on trial to confess to being a heretic.

At first these trials did not have any physical harm to anyone. But the inquisitors eventually turned to torture to get a confession out of them, and "it (torture) was applied without distinction of sex or age, including children and the aged" ( Some of the tortures were very harsh and often times resulted in death.

One type of torture was the Strappado. The Strappado is where "the hands of the accused were tied behind his back and the rope looped over a brace in the ceiling of the chamber or attached to a pulley. Then the subject was raised until he was hanging from his arms. This might cause the shoulders to pull out of their sockets. Sometimes, the torturers added a series of drops, jerking the subject up and down. Weights could be added to the ankles and feet to make the hanging even more painful" (

Another torture was the Rack. This included the subjects' "hands and feet tied or chained to rollers at one or both ends of a wooden or metal frame. The torturer turned the rollers with a handle, which pulled the chains or ropes in increments and stretched the subject's joints, often until they dislocated. If the torturer continued turning the rollers, the accused's arms and legs could be torn off" (

There were many more tortures that included bone breaking, choking, strangling, drowning, sexual assault, and many other excruciating tortures. All of these tortures were used to get a confession out of the accused. The inquisitors usually wouldn't stop torturing until they got the confession they wanted. If they didn't confess, the tortures would most likely kill them. "Between 3000 to 5000 people died during the Inquisition's 350 years, but debate continues about the extent of and nature of atrocities committed and about the number of victims" (

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Stanford Prison Experiment

The Stanford Prison Experiment was an experiment that was aimed to explain why violence in prisons was becoming more common. The experiment took place at Stanford college in 1971. The basement of an old warehouse was completely changed to resemble a prison with cells, (cots in them), and metal bars around them for the prisoners to stay.

Originally there was 24 college boys that volunteered to be apart of this physiological experiment for $15 a day. The size and weight of the boys were balanced out between guards and prisoners. The prisoners were given a dress to wear, a cap for their heads, a number to replace their names, and a cell to stay in. The goal was to make the prison seem as real as possible. The prisoners were held there 24 hours a day. The guards were given a uniform and sunglasses to wear and worked in 8 hour shifts with 3 of them working at a time. The guards weren't given any direction on how to run things. They all got together and created their own rules.

At first all was going well but soon the guards realized how much power they had over the prisoners and began to abuse it. They started to abuse the prisoners physically if they did not do what they were told or do it right. This caused the prisoners to develop a strong dislike towards the guards because they were being treated unfairly. And in turn, this created more tension as well. The guards were also emotionally abusive, calling the prisoners names and taunting them. The experiment was supposed to last 2 weeks but had to be cut short just 6 days into the experiment. Some of the prisoners were experiencing trauma due to the strong mistreatment of the guards and the amount of violence that had already broken out.

This experiment is very important because it showed how being put in a place of power can lead anyone, even an ordinary man, to want to abuse that power. Sometimes that might be at the expense of others discomfort. In only a matter of 6 days, the men that volunteered as guards had already started to use their power more than what was needed. A lot of people cannot handle power because the temptation of abusing that power is too strong.

The Spanish Inquisition and the Stanford Prison Experiment Connection

The Stanford Prison Experiment showed how people can abuse the power that they hold. In the Spanish inquisition, the Inquisitors were being outrageously unfair to the jews and people on trial. If you were taken to trial, you would be imprisoned for a very long time if you did confess to being a converso or a heresy But if you didn't confess, the tortures would usually kill you before it was decided that you were not guilty.

The guards in the Stanford Prison Experiment were given unlimited power. They could do and treat the prisoners how they pleased. Because the guards were given no guidelines, the experiment had to be ended early due to they way the prisoners were being treated and the long term emotional affects that could have happened. The whole Spanish Inquisition was originally started by Ferdinand II and Queen Isabella. Under their reign, "Pope Sixtus IV published the Papal bull, Exigit Sinceras Devotionis Affectus, through which he gave the monarchs exclusive authority to name the inquisitors in their kingdoms" ( More people were named inquisitors as time went on. "By 1492, tribunals existed in eight Castilian cities" ( Soon horrible tortures were allowed to be used on "Many of those who converted (that) did so only outwardly, continuing to practice Judaism in secret" ( The inquisitors were abusing the power they had over the jews, heresies, and conversos.

Both the Spanish Inquisitors and the guards in the Stanford Prison Experiment show abuse of power. They used the power to control other people. They used it to even cause harm to the group they had power over. It is in human nature that when given a powerful role with little rules, you want to use that power to the full extent, even at the expense of others. Although, "torture was only ever used to elicit information or a confession, not for punitive reasons" (, any harm towards someone to get a response is wrong. The Stanford Prison Experiment is almost an explanation of why the Spanish Inquisition happened. Those that were given the inquisitor position were instantly turned into someone who was out to get people. Why? Because they now simply had the power to do so.


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