Iberia of the 15th century was a tumultuous region. The Reconquista under King Ferdinand II and Queen Isabella of the Kingdoms of Castille and Aragon were on the road to victory. Along with the Roman Catholic majority, many Jewish communities, who arrived during the early reign of the caliphate, lived on the peninsula, while the remaining Muslim polities included various Arab and Amazigh populations, usually belonging to Sunni Islam. The religious diversity of Iberia cut across denominational lines, and terms such as ‘Christian’, ‘Jewish’, or ‘Muslim’ were much more fluid than today. Cultural intermingling under Islamic rule, though far from today’s egalitarian standards, produced connections between communities of various creeds and ethnicities. With the progression of the Reconquista, various Muslim emirates were conquered by the Catholic kingdoms and initially many Muslims were granted the title of Mudejar, which means “subjugated” in the Arab, allowing them to practice their faith. However, outbursts of violence can be seen in Castille as early as 1391, and it is also where conversions of Jews to Christianity began, usually under compulsion. The Spanish and Portuguese crypto-Jewish populations were called Marranos, though that is considered an offensive term today. The Christian populations who came from the old Christian kingdoms were called Cristianos Viejos, or Old Christians, while the Jewish and Muslim converts to Christianity were called Conversos or Moriscos respectively. It is within this context of Reconquista, diversity, and brutal expulsions that the Inquisition came to be. The Spanish Inquisition started in 1478, after Queen Isabella II and King Ferdinand I of Spain, requested Pope Sixtus IV to be granted the ability to form their own state-controlled Tribunal. This is in contrast with the rest of Europe where the institution was set up rather differently, with more direct Vatican control. Inquisitions originated in the 12th century in Southern France, as a response to the Cathar movement. Church authorities were the ones that Inquired (thus the name) witnesses for heresy. Punishments were to be done by secular authorities since heresy was considered an affront and a divisive practice against the Divine right of Kings - a popular idea of legitimacy in Medieval Europe. The first Grand Inquisitor, Tomas de Torquemada, was born in 1420, to Converso parents. In 1455, while a Prior of the Monastery of Santa Cruz at Segovia, Torquemada met Isabella I. Thereafter, he became her confessor and stayed by her side throughout the Reconquista. Torquemada was notorious for his desire to unify Spanish cultural and religious practices, as the ethnic and regional divisions of Spain might have also been a motivator, urging the elites to move towards homogenization to assert their control. In fact, his attempts to create a uniform Iberia can be seen as the beginning of the Spanish identity. British historian Henry Kamen has divided the Inquisition into four periods, broadly based on persecution waves. The first wave was seen as 1480 to 1520, with the beginnings of the institution and attacks on Conversos. The second wave came from 1521 to 1630, when the Inquisitors gained execution powers in 1558, focused mostly on Moriscos. The third wave lasted from 1630 to 1720 and mostly focused on the witches and Protestants, and the last one from 1721 until 1834, where it mostly conducted censorship. Scholarship has taken opposing views on the reasoning behind the founding of the Holy Tribunal. Some consider the motives to have been primarily economic, allowing for the disruption of the wealth of the Conversos and Moriscos. Others have assumed that it was based on fears of Islamic reconquests, particularly from the Ottoman Empire, and others still believe that it was to have a unified religion in Spain. According to historian Toby Green, Spain was seen as an exotic and orientalised country by its European contemporaries, with its religious diversity and lax Christian customs, and the Inquisition was seen as a means to rectify this image. The Spanish Inquisition had authority in all the lands controlled by the Spanish crown, from Sicily to Catalonia to Mexico, and even for a time, Portugal. The Grand Inquisitor and the Council of the Supreme made up of 10 clergymen decided the course of the Holy Tribunal’s operations. Below them lay an administration made of specialized theologians, lawyers and notaries who oversaw interrogations. These officials researched heresies and legal matters, and most had a university education. This was because the Inquisition’s main goal was to root out heresy first and foremost, firstly targeting the Conversos, and then against other groups including Protestants. There were many regional tribunals of the Inquisition, with various historical and political trajectories. Tribunals were established in Zaragoza, Barcelona, Palermo, and Las Palmas, and even in the Spanish colonial hubs like Lima, Mexico City, and Cartagena des Indias. When Inquisitors arrived in a new place, they outlined what constituted heresy and issued an Edict of Grace lasting typically 40 days during which admitted heretics would be spared and have to denounce other heretics. There were standards of practice for arrests, such as the use of two witnesses before anyone could be considered a suspect, a divergence from less rigorous standards in the rest of Europe. The various tribunals worked much like an investigative body where the Inquisitors would enter a community based on often slim information, rumours and local politics, and seek out possible heretics and apostates. This produced an atmosphere of fear amongst the people living under Inquisitorial rule. In fact, a 2021 study has shown that Spanish counties with higher rates of Inquisitorial activity show less trust and economic performance, although it is difficult to ascertain if correlation with other factors should be considered, too. In addition, there were also specialist university or astrology ‘experts’ who could clarify what the signs of irrationality or witchcraft were. The Inquisition was notoriously corrupt, as according to contemporary historian Manuel Barrios, Inquisitor Diego Rodriquez Lucero of Cordoba in 1506, burnt the husbands of two women he ended up keeping as mistresses. These operations reveal an institution that was bent on maintaining the authority of the Spanish crown, but also one demonstrating ecclesiastical corruption. The Inquisition developed a number of procedures to identify and prosecute heretics, though due to being a religious organization, it could not shed blood. It must also be clarified that the combination of the Inquisitors’ certainty with regards to the guilt often forced victims to confess to secretly believing Islam or Protestantism. Guidelines for so-called ‘torment sessions’ a euphemism for torture, varied based on the alleged ‘severity to society’ that the accused was deemed to pose, with punishments varying in harshness. We decided not to describe the torture methods here, but these methods were numerous. Confessions made under torture had to be verified by the prisoner 24 hours later and physicians were usually present to check on the prisoners. It is important to note that interrogations worked under the assumption that the Inquisitor was correct, so the process involved revealing the truth as it was understood by the Inquisitors. When all evidence was amassed, a ‘jury’ or consulta de fe, made up of inquisitors, local bishops (el ordinario), and advisers (consultores), could proceed to vote on verdict and punishment. There were four possible outcomes: the accused was either acquitted, penanced, reconciled, or sentenced to death either in person or in effigy, which meant that they were passed to the secular arm of the state. Public punishments were the so-called auto-da-fes, or public rituals of sentencing and penance. The accused had to wear penitential garments called sanbenitos during these public trials, which include a long pointy hat and a large embroidery of the cross of St. Andrew. After this, people were pronounced innocent or guilty. The innocent would thank the Inquisition for its mercy, while the guilty faced a variety of punishments, from whipping to burning at the stake. The auto-da-fes drew in public spectators who often chastised the accused. Some places, like Barcelona, showed apathy to these events, while Aragon drew crowds of ecstatic viewers. However, other measures such as censure and confiscations of property of expelled peoples, were also a major part of the Spanish Inquisition’s modus operandi. The victims of the Inquisition changed throughout the history of the institution. The Moriscos and Conversos were often targeted, usually on charges of lax belief or of practices of bigamy, as Islamic Figh - jurisprudence - allowed a man to marry two women. Many texts, like the Centinela contra judíos (or Treatise against the Jews), served as polemics that set the ideological stage for the Inquisition. Similar measures were used against Moriscos, such as bans on the Arabic language. Even nobles and Viejos, accused of having blood ties to Morisco and Converso lineages were accused of witchcraft. Wars with the Ottomans made the crown baselessly view Moriscos as a fifth column and there was considerable debate as to whether Moriscos should be treated as sincere converts or as secret Muslims. Eventually, they too would be attacked much like the Jews of Iberia had a few decades prior. These accusations served at the beginning of the Inquisition in the 15th Century, but in later times, it followed the patterns of witch trials and anti-Protestant persecution seen throughout Early Modern Europe. For example, in the 16th Century, accusations were rallied against French Huguenot refugees who were accused of Protestantism, while in Sicily, accusations of blasphemy were used liberally against the local population. Colonized peoples and local folk religious figures in Iberia were also targeted, as were occasionally orders like the Dominicans. The prison cells of the Inquisition at Palermo, Italy reveal the harrowing experience of being a prisoner. Many drawings speak of the desperation the prisoners felt, with quotes from the Book of Psalms. Drawings often showed random events like the Holy League during the battle of Lepanto, as well as mocking imagery. For example, one drawing shows Christ being driven to the Golgotha by the Inquisitors themselves, in a deliberate accusation of the brutality they saw in the Inquisitorial process. Many Inquisitors were particularly concerned with what they saw as lax religiosity throughout Spain, particularly for women. They thus used the Inquisition to clamp down on folk religious leaders throughout the Spanish Empire. Many of the victims later recanted their confessions and accused the Inquisition of barbarism. Jewish resistance culminated on September 14th, 1485, CE, when Father Pedro de Arbues, a high ranking Inquisitorial official, was assassinated in Zaragoza. There were also revolts against the Inquisition such as that of Sicily in 1511 and 1526, as well as Morisco revolts in the War of Alpujarras in 1561. Eventually, in 1609, King Philip III of Spain issued an edict expelling the Moriscos from Spain, causing the deportation of about 300,000 people to the Maghreb. It is difficult to ascertain the deaths, but up to 50,000 people died resisting expulsion and 60,000 before reaching their destination. The extent of the Inquisition is hotly debated by historians. In the 18th and 19th Centuries, scholarship often followed the paradigms of the Enlightenment, and critiqued the Inquisition as an exemplar of brutality. This changed in the middle of the 20th century, with the rise of the so-called revisionist school, which included Henry Kamen, who argues that the Spanish Inquisition’s brutality has been exaggerated. They point to the so-called discourse of the Black Legend, narratives used by Protestants to single out the Inquisition as uniquely brutal and intolerant. They often mention that executions were rarer than initially believed, and that there has been an overemphasis on the personalities of monarchs like Ferdinand and Isabella. These critiques often discuss the bursts of persecution against Judaizers or Protestants in the 15th and 16th centuries, whereas, from the 17th century onwards, it mainly conducted censorship. The Spanish inquisition has targeted between 150,000 – 300,000 and executed around 3,000-12,000 or 2-4% of the accused. Other historians such as Toby Green, have countered this view of the Inquisition. Green points out that a large element of the Spanish Inquisition was fear and paranoia. He also points out that the Inquisition popularized ideas of discrimination after the decline of executions in the 17th century. In many Spanish colonies, proof alleged ‘purity’ from Jewish or Muslim lineages, were the precursors of Spanish casta systems and racism seen in Spanish colonial mindsets. Others have pointed out that the existence of the Spanish inquisition as an institution under the control of the monarchy is proof that the tribunal was an effort to curb the papacy’s power in Spain. Green also makes the case that the Inquisition’s long duration permanently damaged the Spanish economy and society by systematically terrorizing the population. With regards to the Inquisition’s brutality, he also notes that the Inquisition was particularly brutal with regards to torture as well as the major pogroms alongside executions. In addition, the Inquisition was seen as above the law and was extremely abusive and produced major institutional violence towards women and minorities, a direct critique of revisionist claims that Canon law gave some sort of protection to the victims. The debate persists to this day, and has produced new evidence on the victims of the Inquisition as well as the methods of the Inquisition itself. By the end of the 18th century, the Inquisition’s influence had declined extensively, mostly limited to the censorship efforts. Despite centuries of confiscation of property, the coming of the Enlightenment slowed the progress of the Inquisition. Major critiques came from big thinkers of the Spanish Enlightenment such as Manuel Godoy, who critiqued both the bloodthirst and the censorship of the Inquisition. During the reign of Joseph Bonaparte, the Inquisition was abolished, but was re-instated by Ferdinand VII after the defeat of Napoleon. It was only on July 15, 1834, that Queen Regent Maria Christina of Two Sicilies formally abolished the Holy Tribunal. The Inquisition persevered in popular memory as an object of fear, political commentary, or ridicule. From Fyodor Dostoyevsky to Monty Python, its legacy persists today as an object of political and social analysis. The Inquisition, its infamous figures, and its many victims, continue to provoke discussion on the nature of intolerance, persecution, and resistance.