The Inquisition was a tribunal established in the Middle Ages (13th Cent.) by the Catholic Church in Rome designed to suppress heresy. In 1233, Pope Gregory IX formally established the papal Inquisition and sent Dominican friars to South France and Northern Italy to conduct inquests. The Dominican order had set as one of their goals the conversion of Jews to Christianity. This aim, backed by the power of the Inquisition, brought on a wave of persecution.
Torture was not an approved method of extracting confessions of guilt from heretics, yet it was practiced and finally approved by Pope Innocent IV. The goal of the Inquisition was not the destruction of the heretics but rather their repentance. Burning at the stake was not common. The ordinary penalties were penance, fines and imprisonment. Penalties were often carried out by the local government, especially the death penalty. Because the fines extracted and the property of the accused were turned over to the local government which often returned a portion to the Church, graft, bribery and blackmail were common.
The church rulers were often satisfied with assurances of goodwill. The secular rulers, however, used the persecution of heresy as a weapon to further their own designs.
Unlike the Medieval Inquisition, the Spanish Inquisition was established in 1478 by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella with only the reluctant approval of Pope Sixtus IV. The Roman Church's only hold over the Spanish Inquisition was the appointment of the inquisitor general, the first of which was Tom_s de Torquemada. The popes never reconciled themselves to the practices of that inquisition. Attempts by Sixtus IV to interfere with an inquisition that had become too severe were thwarted by Ferdinand and Isabella who now had a potent tool to subvert the population of Spain.
"The purpose of the Spanish Inquisition was to discover and punish converted Jews (and later Muslims) who were insincere. However, all Spaniards began to fear its prying eyes. The death penalty was used more often than in the Roman Inquisition, and rules that condemned one for heresy were far stricter, often outlawing things the Roman Church approved.
"For centuries, the Jewish community in Spain had flourished and grown in numbers and influence, though anti-Semitism had from time to time made itself felt and pressure to convert was brought to bear on the Jews. Nominal converts from Judaism were called Marranos (Jews who had been baptized under duress, but were believed to be still surreptitiously practicing Judaism). After... the marriage of Ferdinand and Isabella (1469), the Marranos were denounced as a danger to the existence of Christian Spain." Suspected Marranos were tortured until they confessed to practicing Judaism, and then were burned to death en masse at an auto-da-fe.
After some fourteen years of torture and death by burning, in 1492, by edict, the Spanish Jews were given the choice of exile or baptism. Almost all Jews chose to leave at this time.