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A History of Spain by Charles E. Chapman

Sidenote The Inquisition in Aragon


The Inquisition in Aragon.]

The Inquisition had existed in the kingdom of Aragon since the thirteenth century, but Ferdinand now introduced the Castilian body. In 1485 the Inquisition became a single institution for all Spain, although it was not until 1518 that this became definitive. The new organization had not been welcomed in Castile, but it found even less favor in Aragon, not only because of its excessive pretensions and rigors, but also because it superseded the traditional Aragonese Inquisition, was in the hands of Castilian "foreigners," and interfered with business. The city of Barcelona was especially resentful on this last account, because its prosperity depended not a little on the trade in the hands of Jewish converts, whom fear was driving away. On the first occasion of their appearance, in 1486, the inquisitors were obliged to leave Barcelona, and no less a personage than the bishop joined in the act of ejecting them, but in 1487 they returned to stay. The fear of the Inquisition and certain social and political disadvantages of being regarded as of Jewish or Moslem descent occasioned the introduction of documents of _limpieza de sangre_ (purity of blood), attesting the Catholic ancestry of the possessors, although the development of this custom was more marked in the reign of Charles I.

[Sidenote: Reform of the Castilian church.]

One of the most signal reforms

of the period, to which the pious Isabella, aided by Xim?nez, gave her attention, was the purification of the Castilian clergy. The church, like the great nobles, had suffered from the revocation of land grants it had gained in times of stress, and was obliged, furthermore, to restore the financial rights, such as the _alcabala_ and certain rents, it had usurped from the crown. Nevertheless, its wealth was enormous. The rents of the secular church in all Spain are said to have amounted to some 4,000,000 ducats ($60,000,000), of which the archbishop of Toledo alone received 80,000 ($1,200,000). The regular clergy were equally wealthy. Vast as these sums appear, even today, their real value should be considered from the standpoint of the far greater purchasing power of money in that age than now. Whether or not the members of the clergy were softened by this wealth and by the favors they received as representatives of the church at a time of great religious zeal on the part of the Spanish people, it is certain that ignorance and immorality were prevalent among them. Despite the centuries of conflict against it, the institution of _barragan?a_ still had its followers, among others, Alfonso de Arag?n, archbishop of Saragossa, and Cardinal Pedro de Mendoza. Laws were passed imposing fines, banishment, and the lash,--without avail. Church councils met to discuss the various evils within the church. Xim?nez at length applied to the church of Castile the methods Isabella had used in suppressing seigniorial anarchy. A Franciscan himself, he proceeded to visit the convents of the order and to administer correction with a heavy hand, expelling the more recalcitrant. It is said that some four hundred friars emigrated to Africa, and became Mohammedans, rather than submit to his rulings. From the Franciscan order the reforms passed on to others. Isabella intervened more particularly in the case of the secular clergy, exercising great care in the choice of candidates for the higher dignities, selecting them from the lower nobility or the middle class instead of from the families of great nobles as had formerly been the practice. At the same time, she took steps with considerable success to prevent the appointment of foreigners by the popes to Castilian benefices. In Aragon the same evils existed as in Castile, but the reforms did not come at this time to modify them.

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