Tuesday, March 06, 2007

No-one expects the Spanish Inquisition!

I smile at the memory of Monty Python's piss-take on the Spanish Inquisition.

However a book review in this week’s Sunday Times suggests that the Inquisition may have been relative wimps when compared with the secular courts of the day. The review of “The Roman Catholic Church: An Illustrated History” by Edward Norman, reveals that only 1% of those who appeared before the Inquisition tribunals received the death penalty.

With the Inquisition, if you repented your heresy, you were given a penance. In the secular courts, if you stole a sheep and repented you were still hanged. And that was still the case into the early 19th century!

The book reviewer, Eamon Duffy, tells us that “Norman has always specialised in deconstructing the conventional pieties of liberal opinion, and this talent is entertainingly on display in his treatment of the medieval conflicts of Christianity and Islam, and that bête noire of all left-thinking people, the Inquisition. Moorish Spain has, he thinks, been romanticised: “all those placid courtyards and sparkling fountains, that poetry and art,” depended on “one of the largest slave populations the world has ever seen”: the Emir of Cordova in the 10th century maintained a harem of “6,000 women and 13,000 young boys”, and Moorish society never evolved the representative institutions, the judicial system or the concepts of individual liberty that would be the legacy of medieval Christendom. Hence “it is not surprising that Spanish Christians found Moorish moral standards defective, nor that they should have sought what is now termed regime change”.

Ergo, the Spanish Inquisition was a good thing. Bet you weren’t expecting that!

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