Monday, February 25, 2008

Most Evil Men In History - Tomás de Torquemada

He was an excellent precursor to Adolf Hitler. The Pope agreed to allow the Inquisition in 1481, and those arrested and given four choices. They could confess, pay a penalty, endure public torture, or be burned at the stake. Quite often, those arrested were subjected to all of the above. Torquemada's own grandmother was a converso, but he continued to elevate the level of his Inquisition to that of an ethnic cleansing or a full-blown massacre.

mportant to the religiously-motivated Inquisitors was that "no blood be spilt," which meant the act torturing confessions out of people required a special science. The favored techniques were flogging, the rack, and red coals applied to the feet. Also popular at the time was the strappado, in which you're suspended by the wrists and incrementally heavier weights are wrapped around your ankles or looped among your toes.

Laying a framework of paranoia were Secret Accusers, people who'd tell on their neighbors or exact revenge against those they carried a grudge. Denying heresy meant torture, and confession led to death. Honesty did not pay during Torquemada's Inquisition, and no lawyer could assist you.

Papal degrees provided a loophole: torture could not be repeated, but it could be continued. Burning at the stake was performed publicly as an auto-da-fé, or act of faith. If the condemned kissed the Holy Cross, they were garroted before the fire was set. If they merely apologized, they were burnt at the stake death with quick-burning Dura-logs. If the accused continued to be stubborn, they were incinerated with slow-burning fresh green wood. Anywhere from 13,000 to 50,000 people were killed, and the Sierra Club has yet to approach the Spanish government for reparations.

To Torquemada's credit, a large percentage of his victims were very wealthy. They were saddled with exhaustive fines, court costs, and jail time. Confinement decimated a significant portion of the upper class. Moneys traveled up the hierarchy of church officials.

Torquemada lived a long life surrounded by comfort before dying of natural causes at the age of 78.


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