Tomas de Torquemada was born in 1420. He was son to Pedro Fernanda, a minor noble who spent his Saturdays afternoons in misty fields sticking his rapier into some poor sole who had carelessly insulted him. As a young man, Tomas was more interested in his Uncle Juan and the life style that he followed. He favoured the style of limpieza, which broadly meant that a pure bloodline was untainted by a less noble race. Tomas firmly believed that he was one of the most privileged and pure men and lived his life this way. Just to show how devoted he was, he sent his sister away to a convent, gave all his family fortune away and in acts of self denial would not eat meat and always wore a sackcloth vest next to his skin. Nice!
Everything went swimmingly for a while and he was nothing more than a pain in the arse to his fellow noble men but then he discovered a terrible secret that unhinged him! Something that for him was so heinous that it flipped his lid. While researching his family history (like ya do!), he discovered that his bloodline was not as pure as he thought. It would appear that his Grandfather had married a Jew. OMG!!!
Instead of being a limpieza, he considered himself a mongrel. (Quite an extreme reaction I'm sure your will agree). From that moment on, he devoted his life to cleaning that stain from his escutcheon along with everybody and anybody whom he deemed unpure. He was now around 58 years old. After a bit of string pulling with Pope Sixtus IX, he set up what was to be known as "The Spanish Inquisition". Tomas set about working his way through the local residents of Castile for a little under two years. Nothing to heavy at first, just the rack and flame, you know the usual raving loony stuff. He published 28 Articles as a guide to his fellow Inquisitors on how to and what made you a heresy. Not surprisingly, it was not hard to find yourself under suspicion of sin. Just being sympathetic to a person later proved to be a heretic would do the trick!
This is where it got silly.
The question that was always put to the accused was always the same, "Are you guilty" The answer was always the same "Yes". This was because in the eyes of Tomas, to be accused was reason enough of guilt and would seal your fate as well as the fate of the accuser as well!
The accuseds were usually frog-marched back to the examination cells and brought before the examiners. It was a typical torture seen.
The examiners wore white gowns with black hoods. Black swathed tables set out with candles provided dimly lit light for the interrogation. The sign of the Inquisition was everywhere. The charges would be read out and the prisoner would be asked if he confessed to his crimes against God. No mention of the prisoners crimes were uttered and mistake number one for the accused was to confess to something he or she had not done. This was seen as a despicable lie, damning the accused perverted soul further.
There was no way out. The prisoner had absolutely no idea what he had done, and the inquisitor delighted in making the accused confess to crimes that he had not been charges with.
Tools Of The Trade
The Silence of God was used on the accused. This instrument was inserted into the mouth of the accused to force it open. It consisted of a wedge shaped piece of wood that could be screwed wider and wider slowly opening the jaws of the sufferer just short of being unhinged. This had the desired affect of keeping quiet the accused!
After hours and hours of jaw torture, the accused was asked the question again, "Are you guilty?" Branding irons where heated up in front of the prisoner. This was usually enough to get the accused mouth moving again and to save the inquisition the bother of heating the irons white hot. Unfortunately, it was far too late. The Inquisitors took the ramblings of the accused as proof enough that the devil was diverting the course of justice, further confirming the guilt of the accused.
That was day one over with. The accused would be thrown into a cell to contemplate his fate, joining other poor soles whom were further down the road to redemption. All nursed their broken and mutilated limbs, wailing, moaning.
Day two would start with the question. By this time, the accused was willing to confess to anything that would stop the forthcoming torture. Torquemada had foreseen this and warned his inquisitors to ignore the pitiful attempts of the accused sole. The prisoner was taken to the torture cells again and shown the tools of the trade in action. I bit like a cruel memory jogger! A prayer was said for the accused and the torture would begin again. As it was now day two, the prisoners finger would be chopped off. The amount of fingers (or lack of them) was used as a tally for how many days the prisoner had been tortured. It allowed the Inquisitor to keep track of his various prisoners fate. Clever aye!
The accused would be strapped to a bench and his mouth forced open. A thick cloth would be placed over his face and water poured on it. The weight of the wet cloth would assure that as the prisoner tried to draw breath against the water pouring through it, then he would start to slowly asphyxiate on the cloth as it slide down his gullet. Just before suffocation, the cloth would be removed and the question asked again "Are you guilty"
The gasping confessions were never believed and when the inquisition were bored with this torment, they would move onto the next phase. The accused thumbs would be tightly tied together behind his back. A rope was attached and strung up over a pulley. The Inquisition would ask the prisoner to confess and the rope was ever tightened. Eventually the accused became suspended by his thumbs in the air. It was a forlorn hope.
The tortured sole was put back in his cell with the rest of the sufferers to grown away the night panic stricken by what the new day would bring.
Day three would start by as was the custom, lobbing off another finger. The accused was asked the question, a small prayer was said and the torture would begin again.
Red hot pincers would be placed through the chest skin and the prisoner hoisted up by the newly made holes. Luckily for the accused, the hot pincers would harden the skin around the holes ensuring that the skin would not rip as the body weight hung from it. Nice!
Piercing also left handy holes in the body for inserting other useful instrument of torture. Teeth tearing was another favourite and the Inquisitors would delight in dripping hot wax into the fresh holes left by the missing teeth.
By far the most labour saving device was the ordeal by rodent. In this torture, rats or mice (whatever was handy) would be placed on the outstretched stomach of the accused. A metal basin would be placed over the rodents encapsulating them. Then the basin would be heated up with hot coals.
Frantically the rodents would try and get away from the radiating heat and the only way out was down! Before long the rodents were burrowing, gnawing and eating their way into the victim' stomach. Just before to accused could take no more, that basin was removed and the prisoner taken back to his cell to reflect on his eventful day.
Day four started with the familiar routine, and another finger was removed.
Maybe he would get a rest day with a few hours on the rack to loosen things up, and then perhaps a few pins pushed into the prisoners eyes to make him see his sins.
The Head Screw was another favourite. This was just a metal band placed around the temples. Millimetre by millimetre it was tightened around the head using crude screw mechanism. In the hands of an experience operator, this could last for ages and would create untold confessions from the evildoer and the sins of Satan.
As you can imagine, finding sensitive and undamaged parts of the body was getting extremely difficult by now. The nervous system had shut down to such an extent that a new broken bone or a white hot poker did not have the desired affects any more. Cruelly, Tomas would allow the body time to recover, time for the nervous system to re-connect.
Day five would lose another finger and then perhaps The Boot would be used. The boot was only used when all hope was lost as usage of this implement rendered the prisoners foot a crushed suppurating mass. It was nothing more than a vice that squashed the foot. It meant that the accused had to be carried everywhere from then on so it's use was only used on no hope prisoners.
With many prisoners, the Inquisitors liked to keep there prisoners as mobile as possible!
Evisceration was a very last resort. It was a skilled job to be performed only by the most expert torture. The object of this charming practise was to show just how far the inquisition was willing to go in the performance of their duty to save the dammed souls. The abdomen was carefully slit open and the entrails raked out. They would be placed between the disembowelled's legs still attached. As if that wasn't enough, hot brands were then pushed into the body cavity. When this proved ineffective (nobody was that much interested by this stage), the innards were stuffed back into place and the belly roughly stitched up. This operation required the greatest skill because it was considered a terrible sin if the accused died while in the clutches of the Inquisition.
The Final Act
Death was in the domain of the civic authorities. Even the most robust constitution could only survive a certain amount of torture and here again the skill of the Inquisitor came into play. He had to be sure that when his prisoner was delivered up to the justice department, the sinner was still fit for the final act. This usually meant a few days rest before the main event with of course the now tame finger losing game.
Unfortunately, when the accused was handed over to the secular arm of the church, they always insisted on burning the poor unredeemed body as a final act reminiscent of Sanhedrin and Jesus Christ. The execution always took place on a Holy day, unless the miscreant elect had died before hand. Then a quick ecclesiastical scrum was held and the sentenced sole was billed as dying on an "extraordinary" day.
The sentenced were forced to wear a long tunic made out of sacking (it burnt well) Women were especially praised by the church as it was thought there high pitched screams were designed to strike even more terror into the heart of the condemned. The Priests clients still had no idea to what they were supposed to confess and by this time had run out of inspiration. To most of them Death was a welcome visitor. Torquemada always insisted on being present where ever possible and always took a keen interest in the preparations. Tomas would go into a long and involved speech explaining why he had to take such repressive measures to defend God and how those awaiting execution were making his job very difficult. When his speech ended, it was the sign to the executioner to drag the condemned on to the scaffold and bind them to posts set up high. While this was going on, Priests would hurry about from one soon to be charcoal victim to the next, begging them to come into the arms of their creator with a final confession. The executioners lit their touches and lit the blue touch paper. The executioners gave absolution and sat back and watched the show.
Although Torquemada was considered at the time to be a dedicated man with a Godly mission, he was less well respected by those who were liable to get the special night call, namely Joe Public. Several attempts at assassination failed and Tomas rebelled by sending out his Inquisitors on to the streets to round up everyone committing the sin of ungodly act of walking around in broad daylight. They were all rounded up and asked the question. The Inquisition only got away with this because in the eyes of the church, what they were doing was for the good of mankind. They were not in the business of killing heretics but of saving souls.
It has been estimated that during Tomas de Torquemada's tenure of office over 200,000 souls were tortured and killed. Of those at least half were under the direct control on the Inquisitor General himself, Tomas Torquemada. This makes him the most successful murder in history to date.