Spain - Traces Of The Inquisition
( Originally Published 1905 )
"I live a life more great than I.
— Santa Teresa de Jesus.
ALL Spaniards venerate the name of Isabel la Catolica, nor is the impressionable De Amicis the only foreigner who has trembled and wept at Granada before the enshrined memorials, jewel box, mirror, missal, and crown, of her royal womanhood. She is a precious figure in Spain's sunset revery —a saint beneath a conquering standard, a silken lady in a soldier's tent. Yet this peerless queen, merciful, magnanimous, devout, " the shield of the innocent," caring supremely for the glory of God and the good of her country, gave consent, albeit reluctant, to the establishment of the Inquisition, Christianity's chief scandal and Spain's most fatal blight. So ironic were the stars of Isabel.
The Inquisition, it is true, originated in Italy early in the thirteenth century and followed the flight of some of the Albigenses into Aragon, but its work in Spain had been comparatively slight and merciful until the " Catholic Kings," in the interests of religious reform, for the purification of the national faith, let its horrors loose. Wherever one moves in Spain the sickening breath of the auto de fe lingers in the air. In such a square, we read, was once a mighty bonfire of Jews ; beneath our feet, we are told, is a mass of human bones and cinders. This sunshiny Seville, with her parks and patios, her palms and orange groves, a city seemingly fashioned only for love and song, had her army of nearly two score thousand martyrs, who, dressed in the hateful San Benitos, yellow coats painted with' flames and devils, were burned to death here in our gay Plaza de la Constitucion, then known as the Plaza de San Francisco, and in the Quemadero, beyond the walls. As one mingles with some outdoor throng, all intent on pageant, dance, or other spectacle, one shudders to remember that just such dark, eager faces were ringed about the agonies of those heroic victims. For there are two sides to the Spanish Inquisition. If Spaniards were the inquisitors, Spaniards, too, were the dauntless sufferers. The sombre gaze of the torturer was met, as steel meets iron, by the unflinching eye of the tortured. But " the unimaginable touch of Time " transforms all tragedy to beauty, and red poppies, blowing on the grassy plain of the Quemadero, translate into poetry to-day that tale of blazing fagots.
Sometimes the victims were of foreign blood. Hakluyt has preserved the simple narratives of two English sailors, who were brought by their Spanish captors from the Indies as a sacrifice to the Holy House of Seville. One, a happy-go-lucky fellow, Miles Phillips, who had been too well acquainted in Mexico with the dungeons of the Inquisition, slipped over the ship's side at San Lucar, made his way to shore, and boldly went to Seville, where he lived a hidden life as a silk-weaver, until he found his chance to steal away and board a Devon merchantman. The other, Job Hortop, added to his two years of Mexican imprisonment two more years in Seville. Then "they brought us out in procession, every one of us having a candle in his hand, and the coat with S. Andrew's cross on our backs ; they brought us up on an high scaffold, that was set up in the place of S. Francis, which is in the chief street of Seville ; there they set us down upon benches, every one in his degree, and against us on another scaffold sate all the Judges and the Clergy on their benches. The people wondered, and gazed on us, some pitying our case, others said, burn those heretics. When we had sat there two hours, we had a sermon made to us, after which one called Bresinia, secretary to the Inquisition, went up into the pulpit with the process, and called Robert Barret, ship-master, and John Gilbert, whom two Familiars of the Inquisition brought from the scaffold before the Judges, where the secretary read the sentence, which was that they should be burnt, and so they returned to the scaffold, and were burnt.
"Then I, Job Hortop, and John Bone, were called, and brought to the place, as before, when we heard our sentence, which was, that we should go to the Galleys, and there to row at the oar's end ten years, and then to be brought back to the Inquisition House, to have the coat with S. Andrew's cross put on our backs, and from thence to go to the ever-lasting prison remediless.
" I with the rest were sent to the Galleys, where we were chained four and four together. . . . Hunger, thirst, cold, and stripes we lacked none, till our several times expired, and after the time of twelve years, for I served two years above my sentence, I was sent back to the Inquisition House in Seville, and there having put on the coat with S. Andrew's cross, I was sent to the everlasting prison remediless, where I wore the coat four years, and then upon great suit I had it taken off for fifty duckets, which Hernando de Soria, treasurer of the king's mint, lent me, whom I was to serve for it as a drudge seven years."
But this victim, too, escaped in a fly-boat at last, and on a certain Christmas Eve, about the time when people in London were beginning to like the comedies of a certain poor player, one Will Shakespeare, did Job Hortop, Powder-maker and Gunner, walk quietly, after twenty-three years of martyrdom, into the village of Redcliffe, where he had been a ruddy English boy with no dream of the day when he should be " prest forth" by Sir John Hawkins and compelled, sore against his will, to embark for the West Indian adventure.
Religious liberty now exists under the laws of Spain, although the administration of those laws leaves much to be desired. In three old conventual churches of Seville gather her three Protestant congregations. Beneath the pavements of two of these heretic strongholds old inquisitors sleep what uneasy sleep they may, while one of the Protestant pastors, formerly a Catholic priest, has quietly collected and stored in his church-study numerous mementos of the Holy Office. Here may be seen two of those rare copies of the 1602 revision of the Spanish Bible, by Cipriano de Valera, whom the Inquisition could burn only in effigy, since the translator, who had printed his book in Amsterdam, did not return to accompany the Familiars to the Quemadero. Here are old books with horrible woodcuts of the torments, and time-stained manuscripts, several, bearing the seal and signatures of the "Catholic Kings," these last so ill written that it is hard to tell the name of Ferdinand from that of Isabella. Among these are royal commissions, or licenses, granted to individual inquisitors, records of autos de fe, and wills of rich inquisitors, the sources of whose wealth would hardly court a strict examination. Here, too, is the standard of the Holy Office, the very banner borne through Seville in those grim processions. Its white silk is saffroned now, but the strange seal of the Inquisition, a bleeding Christ upon the cross, is clearly blazoned in the centre, while the four corners show the seal of San Domingo.
The Inquisition prison, the dreaded Holy House of Seville, is used as a factory at present, and heresy no- longer secures admission there ; but I looked up at its grated windows, and then, with a secret shiver, down on the ground, where the Spanish pastor of antiquarian tastes was marking out with his cane the directions of the far-branching subterranean cells. We slipped into an outer court of the fabrica, where the two gentlemen, effectively aided by a couple of sturdy lads, pried up and flung back a sullen door in the pavement and invited me to grope my darkling way down some twenty crumbling steps, overgrown with a treacherous green mould. There was no refusing, in face of the cloud of witnesses whose groans these stones had heard, and I took a heart-breaking plunge into the honeycomb of chill, foul-smelling, horror-haunted dungeons, whose roofs let fall a constant drip of water and from whose black recesses I was the unwilling means of liberating a choice variety of insects.
" But even yet one cannot call one's self a Protestant in Spain, you know," said an English diplomat to us in another city of Andalusia. "It's not socially respectable. Spanish Protestants are the very scum of the earth—illiterate, dirty, boorish. You couldn't associate with them for a minute."
" But that Spanish pastor who called on us yesterday was entirely a gentleman," we remonstrated. " He has studied for seven years in Switzerland and Scotland, seems more open-minded and intelligent than most Spaniards we have met, and was so courteous and graceful in his bearing—not to mention the whiteness of his linen—and so entertaining in his talk, that the Spanish ladies in the room chorussed his praises, after he had bowed himself out, and declared him most delightful company."
The diplomat twirled his mustache and smiled, as only diplomats can. " And you owned up that he was a Protestant ? And their faces darkened as if a storm-cloud had blown over from the Sierras ?
" Precisely so," we admitted, " and after that the best they could say for him was that they never would have thought it."
The diplomat claimed that he had made his point, while we protested that the incident only went to show how unreason-able was the prejudice of whose existence throughout Spain there can be no manner of doubt.
Perez Galdos, for instance, the most popular novelist or the day, stated to an American friend, who repeated it to us, that he frankly could not afford to introduce the figure of a Protestant into one of his stories. "It would not only kill that book," he said, "but it would hurt the sale of everything I have in the market and embarrass all my future undertakings. I should simply be risking the loss of my reading public." And yet Senor Galdos is the author of "Dona Perfecta," that artistic study of the conflict between new ideas and old in Spain. In this significant novel, a civil engineer, a man of thirty, whose scientific education in the large cities of Seville and Madrid has been supplemented by study in Germany and England, comes to one of those mediaeval towns, or corpses of towns, that rise so spectre-like from the ash-colored plains of Old Castile. Crumbling walls and blackened towers jealously guard the life of ages since, that feudal life of high and low, pride of station, pride of animal prowess, pride of holiness, pride of idleness, pride of ignorance; the life of superstition, of family exclusiveness resulting in inter-marriage to the point of insanity; of that fierce local bigotry, peculiarly Spanish, which dreads and hates all foreign intrusion. The streets, devoid of business activity, swarm with vigorous mendicants, who have no better shift, when times grow hard, than to deform the children who are born to them like kittens in their mud-walled hovels. The casino, where half the town smokes half its time away, hums with malicious gossip. The university languidly pursues the studies of Latin, scholastic divinity, Church history, and all that savors of the past. Under the gray vault of the cathedral women kneel before the image of the Christ Child, bringing Him a new pair of embroidered pantalets and entreating of His rosy simplicity what they would not dare ask from the " Ecce Homo "; or they kiss the satin-slippered feet of the miracle-working Virgin and vow her, if their prayer is granted, seven bright new swords of the finest Toledo workmanship to pierce her patient heart. The man of scientific training, fresh from the modern world, is brought into sharp collision with this dim old town. High principles and essential, spiritual Christianity count him for nothing ; he is speedily denounced as no better than " a murderer, an atheist, or a Protestant," and his strong young life is actually beaten out by that blind, terrible force of Spanish fanaticism. So far the novelist can go; such a hero he dares paint; but not a Protestant.
The notions of Protestantism prevalent among the people, not the peasants only, but the gentry, are little short of ludicrous. A black-eyed lady of Cadiz was amazed at our assertion that Protestants prayed. A Madrid senorita asked us, in friendly confidence, if it were true that Protestants " denied Christ and spat on the Virgin." The popular identification of Protestantism with all that is impious and criminal we encountered as early as our second afternoon in Spain. We were visiting, in the picturesque fishing-hamlet of Pasajes, a gaunt Basque church, where the old dame who served as caretaker showed us a waxen image of a sleeping girl, said, not without probability, to have been brought from Rome. Beneath the figure is a burial stone, whose inscription would locate it in the Catacombs. When friends of ours were at Pasajes some three years before, the grandam's story ran that the image was the likeness of a Christian martyr, slain by her pagan father at Rome in the time of the Imperial persecutions ; but the tale glibly recited to us was this : " fly de mi ! The poor young lady ! Her father was a Protestant, and, of course, hated religion, and when his daughter, so beautiful, was on her way to her first communion, he hid behind a corner, with an axe, and of a sudden jumped out on her and struck her dead."
It is such prejudice that goes far toward justifying the maintenance by foreign societies of Protestant churches in Spain.
The most cheerful indiferente I encountered in Spain was a whimsical old philosopher, well on his way to the nineties, yet so brisk and hardy as almost to vie with Borrow's Portuguese dame whose hair " was becoming gray " after a life of one hundred and ten years. His hair, indeed, is white, and extreme age has written its deforming marks on face and figure, yet he runs up the steepest stairs, reads the finest print, fills his days with a close succession of labors and amusements, and scoffs at religion as airily as if Death had passed him on the crowded way and would never turn back to look for him again.
At our first meeting he offered, with characteristic kindness, to come and read Spanish with me. As I had invaded Spain for the express purpose of studying the Spanish drama,
I took a volume of Calderon from my trunk and hopefully awaited his visit. But it was a matter of several visits before I could open my Calderon. The jaunty old cavalier arrived, brimming over with chat and anecdote, and when at last I hinted at the reading, produced with pride from his inner coat pocket a little, paper-bound geografia that he had written himself for use in the Spanish schools, and proceeded to regale me with extracts from its pages. I looked severely at the little artist, whose eyes were dancing in a demure face, and endeavored to profit by this unexpected course of instruction. The author chuckled much over his sagacity in having arranged the subject-matter of his book in paragraphs and not by question and answer. In the latter case, he explained, the children would learn the answers without reading the questions, a process bound to result in geographical confusion. The little volume, as is the wont of school books in other lands, tended to give to its students a disproportionate idea of the importance of their own country. Spain and her colonies were treated in seventy pages, Great Britain and her colonies in three, France in four, while America, from Greenland to Patagonia, was handled as a single entity, one figure each, and those absurdly small, being set for " her population, army, and navy." The Confederacion de los Estados Unidos was barely mentioned as one of the five " States " of North America.
But the only feature of his book for which the author felt called upon to apologize, was the catering to popular superstition, as in stating, for instance, that in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela is adored the veritable body of St. James. He cast a quizzical glance at me in reading this, and then laughed himself purple in the face. " One has to say these things in this country," he gasped, still breathless from his mirth. " Drops of water must run with the stream. If only there were a shrine where people might be cured of being fools ! "
Quick-witted as the old gentleman was, he presently detected a lack of geographical enthusiasm in his audience. His literary vanity smarted for a moment and then he fell to laughing, declaring that ladies always had a distaste for useful information. " That old wife of mine " could not abide arithmetic. He digressed into an explanation of the Roman notation, making it quite clear to us wherein IX differs from XI, and with antiquated courtliness of phrase, even for Spain, asked our gracious permission to cause himself the pain of departure.
He often reappeared. His wiry arm, reached through the Moorish bars of the outer door, would give its own peculiarly energetic twitch to the bell chain looped within. A maid, leaning over the railing of an upper story, would call down the challenge inherited from good old fighting times, " Who comes here ? " And his thin voice would chirp the Andalusian answer, " Peace."
On his second visit he fairly gurgled with pleasure as he placed another volume with his name on the title-page before me. Since I did not incline to solid reading, behold him equally ready to supply me with the sweets of literature ! This, too, was a school book, a somewhat haphazard collection of Castilian poems, with brief biographies of the authors represented. Its novel educational feature was the printing of each poem in a different type. The result was a little startling to the eye, but the editor was doubtless right in claiming that it made the reading harder for the children, and so developed their powers through exercise. Here, again, he was ashamed of the fact that fully two-thirds of the poems were religious.
" But what can one do in this country ? " he asked testily. " All the reading books have to be like that. Bah ! But we will not read these pious verses. The others are much more entertaining."
Determined not to wound him again by any lack of interest in books of his own shaping, we sat patiently through page after page of that juvenile school reader; but when, with a pamphlet on spelling and punctuation, we had completed the list of his works, I once more called his attention to Calderon.
This struck him as a capital joke. He had never read Calderon himself, he had hardly heard of Calderon, and that a foreigner, a woman at that, should insist on reading Calderon, was funny enough to make his old sides ache. There were modern authors in plenty who must certainly write much better than an out-of-date fellow like that. He had books that he could lend me. He had friends from whom he could borrow. But nothing would please me but Calderon ! Why under the fanciful moon should I set my heart on Calderon ?
" Bueno ! " he cried at last, whisking the mirthful tears from his eyes. " Vamos a ver ! Let us go on and see ! "
We opened the classic volume at the Catholic Faust-drama, El Magico Prodigioso, and began to read, soon passing into the great argument between Cipriano and Lucifer as to the nature of God. Our guest, sensitive to all impressions as he was, became immediately amazed and delighted.
"But this is lofty !" he exclaimed. "This is sublime ! Good, Cipriano, good ! Now you have him ! What will the devil say to that ? Vamos a ver ! "
At the close of that tremendous scene he shut the book, fairly panting with excitement. But nevertheless there was a twinkle in his eye. He knew now why I craved this Calderon. He was evidently a religious writer, and women were all religious. It was an amiable feminine weakness, like the aversion to geography and arithmetic. But his indulgent chivalry rose to the occasion. Having learned my taste, such as it was, he would gratify it to the utmost.
"If you would only come and see my library ! " he pro-posed. " I have exactly the book there that will please you. I have not read it myself, but it is very large, with most beautiful pictures, and it tells these old stories about Lucifer and all that. I am sure it is just what you would like. Will you not do your humble servant the honor of coming to-morrow afternoon ? "
I ran over in my mind our engagements for the morrow. He mistook the cause of my hesitation.
"Indeed you need not be afraid to come," he urged. " My house is as safe as a convent. That old wife of mine, too, will be sure to be somewhere about. And you can bring the silent senorita with you."
I was aware of a slight convulsion in " the silent senorita." She could speak all the Spanish she chose, but she found the eccentricities of this visitor so disconcerting that she affected ignorance, and he supposed her mute presence at our inter-views to be purely in deference to the Spanish proprieties.
My youthful chaperon, much elated by this reversal of our natural positions, duly attended me the next day to our friend's surprisingly elegant home. He was forever crying poverty and telling us, with the tears that came to his old age as easily as the laughter, how the hardships of life had beaten out of him every ambition save hope to "gain the bread " until his death, but we found him luxuriously housed, and I was afterward informed that he was one of the richest men in the city.
He ran with that wonderful sprightliness of his across the marbled court to meet us, and ceremoniously conducted us up the handsome staircase. He led us through all "our house," typically Andalusian, with statues and urns of blossoming trees set in the open patios, with Moorish arches and bright-hued tiles, shaded balconies, tapestried and curtained beds, braseros, and rocking-chairs, and in every room images and paintings of the saints, at which he made irreverent grimaces.
There were family portraits, too, before three of which he broke down into weeping—the son who had died in the prime of manhood, the daughter lost in her fair maidenhood, and, where the stormy sobs shook him from head to foot, the Benjamin of his heart, a clear-eyed young officer who had fallen in the Cuban war. The tears were still streaming down the quivering old face when we turned silently away — for what word of comfort would Americans dare to speak ? —and followed him to his study.
He was of extravagant repute in his locality as a scholar and a man of letters, and his study was what a study ought to be, — well furnished with desk, pigeon-holes, all the tools of literary labor, and walled with books. Among these was an encyclopaedia in which, to his frank astonishment, he found an article of fifteen pages on Calderon. The great volume we had come to see lay open on a reading stand. It was a Spanish Bible, with the Dore illustrations. I wanted to look at the title-page, but our eager host, proud to exhibit and explain, tossed over the leaves so fast that I had no opportunity.
As he was racing through the Psalms, impatient because of their dearth of pictures, my eye was caught by the familiar passage, "As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after Thee, 0 God."
With prompt curiosity, he popped down his white head, in its close-fitting skullcap, to see what I was noting, and instantly went off into an immoderate gust of laughter.
" Muy bien !" he wheezed, as soon as he could recover anything like a voice. " But that is very cleverly put. He was a witty fellow who wrote that. Just so ! Just so! The deer goes to the water because he means to get some-thing for himself, and that is why the young men go into the priesthood, and why the women go to mass. It's all selfishness, is religion. But how well he says it ! "
"No, no ! " I exclaimed, for once startled into protest. "He is saying that religion is the impulse of thirst."
The incorrigible old worldling took this for another jest, and, as in gallantry bound, laughed harder at my sally than at poor King David's.
"Excellent ! Perfect ! So it is ! So it is ! Religion is the impulse to fill one's own stomach. Just what I have always said ! ' As the hart panteth after the water brooks'—ho, ho! I must try to remember that."
His enthusiasm for Calderon soon kindled to a flame. As the plot thickened he ceased to be of the slightest help in any difficulties that the text might offer. In vain I would beseech him to clear up some troublesome passage.
" Oh, never mind ! " he would say, vexed at the interruption. " They didn't write very well in those old days. And I want to know which of her three suitors Justina took. Three at once! What a situation ! Vamos a ver! I hope it will be Cipriano."
As the spell of Calderon's imagination passed more and more strongly upon him, this most sympathetic of readers quite accepted, for the time being, the poet's Catholic point of view, trembling for Cipriano and almost choking with agitated joy when Justina, calling in her extremity upon the name of God, put Lucifer to flight. But after we had read the drama to the end, through its final scene of triumphant martyrdom, he sat silent for several minutes, and then shook his head.
" Not true; it is not true. There is no devil but the evil passions of humanity. And as for Cipriano's definition of God—it is good, yes; it is great, yes; but who can shut God into a definition? One might as well try to scoop up the ocean in a cocoanut shell. No ! All religions are human fictions. We have come, nobody knows whence or why, into this paltry, foolish, sordid life, for most of us only a fight to gain the bread, and afterward — Bueno ! I am on the brink of the jump, and the priests have not frightened me yet. Afterward ? Yams a ver!"
This man had heard of Protestantism simply as an ignorant notion of the lower classes. For the typical Spanish Protestant of to-day presents a striking contrast to the typical Spanish Protestant of the Reformation. When heresy first entered the Peninsula, it gained almost no footing among the common people, who supposed Luther to be another sort of devil and the Protestants a new variety of Jews or Moors; but the rank and learning of Spain, the youthful nobility, illustrious preachers and writers, officers and favorites of the Court, even men and women in whose veins flowed the blood royal, welcomed with ardor the wave that was surging over Europe. The very eminence of these heretics sealed their doom. The Inquisition could not miss such shining marks. The Holy Office did its work with abominable thoroughness. Apart from the countless multitudes whom it did to death in dungeon and torture-chamber, it burned more than thirty thousand of the most valuable citizens of Spain and drove forth from the Peninsula some three millions of Jews and Moors. The autos de ft were festivals. Among the wedding pomps for the French bride of Philip II, a girl thirteen years old, was one of these horrible spectacles at Toledo. The holiday fires of Seville and Valladolid drank the most precious blood of Andalusia and Castile. Though Saragossa had a mind to Huguenot fuel; though Pamplona, on one festal day, heaped up a holocaust of ten thousand Jews ; though Granada, Murcia, and Valencia whetted their cruel piety on the Moors who had made the southern provinces a garden of delight ; yet in all these cities, as in Toledo, Logrono, and the rest, the Spanish stock itself was drained of its finest and most highly cultivated intelligence, its sincerest conscience, purest valor, its most original and independent thought. Spain has been paying the penalty ever since. Her history from Philip II has been a judgment day.
No root of the Lutheran heresy survived in the Peninsula.
The new Protestantism does not spring from the old. The blood of the Spanish martyrs was not the seed of the Spanish church. The Protestant of today is far removed, socially and politically, from the courtiers, marquises, knights of Santiago—those gallant cavaliers who were stripped upon the scaffold of their honorable decorations and clad in the yellow robe of infamy. This nineteenth-century Protestant may be a lawyer or a journalist, but by exception. Ordinarily he is a petty farmer, a small shop-keeper, mechanic, miner, day-laborer, of humble calling and of lowly life. In politics he is almost surely a republican. When the monarchy was overthrown, in '68, Protestantism was, for the moment, in favor, and hundreds of the triumphant party hastened to profess the reformed faith. With the return of a Roman Catholic court and perhaps upon the discovery that the new Christianity, too, has its burden and its yoke, many fell away.
Yet Protestantism has now an assured footing in Spain. Protestant churches may be found in most of the important cities. There are some fifty foreign preachers and teachers in the field, aided by nearly eighty Spanish pastors and colporteurs. The number of Spanish communicants is between three and four thousand, the church attendance is reckoned at nine thousand, and there are five thousand Spanish children in the Protestant schools. Several centres have been established for the sale of Bibles and Protestant books, and six or seven Protestant periodicals are published and circulated. In answer to the continual Romish taunt that Protestantism is a war of sects, a house divided against itself, a Protestant Union was organized at Madrid in the spring of 1899. All, save two, of the fifteen missions, supported by various societies of Great Britain, Germany, Switzerland, and America, joined hands in this. Only the Plymouth Brethren and the Church of England held aloof.
The Inquisition exists no longer. Religious liberty, even in Spain, has the support of law. Yet still the Spanish Protestant, this poor, plain Protestant of to-day, as obscure as those Galilean fishermen whom the Master called, is harassed by petty persecutions. Children sing insulting verses after him in the street, especially that pious ditty : —
" Get away with you, Protestants,
He is jealously watched on the passing of " His Majesty the Wafer " and pursued with mud and spittings if he fails to do it homage. College boys rub charcoal over the front of his chapel and stone his schoolroom windows; work is re-fused him ; promotion denied him ; his rent is higher than his neighbor's, yet not his neighbor's family nor his landlord's cross his threshold. If scorn can burn, he feels the auto de fe.