Thomas of Torquemada

A brief biography.

Thomas of Torquemada (Turrecremata) was born at Valladolid or Torquemada in 1420, joined the Dominicans and was Magister of Theology. He was for 22 years the prior of the Dominican priory S.Cruz in Segovia and the founder of a new priory in Avila in 1482.

In 1473 Torquemada and Gonzalez de Mendoza, archbishop of Toledo, approached the sovereigns. Isabella and Ferdinand, with their proposal for a new tribunal, independence of the nobility and clergy.
With the royal sanction a petition was addressed to Sixtus IV. for the establishment of this new form of Inquisition; and as the result of a long intrigue, in 1479 a papal bull authorized the appointment by the Spanish sovereigns of two inquisitors at Seville, under whom the Dominican inquisitions already established elsewhere might serve.
In the persecuting activity that ensued the Dominicans took the lead.

In 1481 a tribunal was inaugurated at Seville, where freedom of speech and licence of manner were rife. Torquemada published a declaration offering grace and pardon to all who presented themselves before the tribunal and avowed their fault. Some fled the country, but many offered themselves for reconciliation.
The first seat of the Holy Office was in the Dominican priory of San Pablo in Seville. Other tribunals were speedily established in Cordova, Jaen and Toledo.

The sovereigns obliged Torquemada to take as assessors five persons who would represent them in all matters affecting the royal prerogatives.
The final decision was reserved to Torquemada himself, who in 1483 was appointed the sole inquisitor-general over all the Spanish possessions.
In 1484 he ceded to Dominican Diego of Deza his office of confessor to the sovereigns, and gave himself up to the congenial work of reducing heretics.

A general assembly of his inquisitors was convoked at Seville in November 1484; and there Torquemada  promulgated a code of twenty-eight articles for the guidance of the ministers of the faith.
During the eighteen years that he was inquisitor-general it is said that he burnt 10.220 persons, condemned 6860 others to be burnt in effigy, and reconciled 97.321.

For many years Torquemada had been persuading the sovereigns to make an attempt once for all to rid the country of the hated Moors. Troops were summoned to Seville and the war began by the siege of Alhama, a town eight leagues from Granada, the Moorish capital. Torquemada went with the sovereigns to Cordova, to Madrid or wherever the states-general were held, to urge on the war, but he did not forget his favourite work of ferreting out heretics.

After many affairs Torquemada took up his residence in Avila, where he had built a priory; and here he resumed the common life of a friar, leaving his cell in October 1497 to visit, at Salamanca, the dying infante, Don Juan, and to comfort the sovereigns in their parental distress. They often used . to visit him at Avila, where in 1498, still in office as inquisitor-general, he held his last general assembly to complete his life's work.
Soon afterwards he died, on the 16th of September 1498. He was buried in the chapel of the priory of St Thomas in Avila.

His uncle was the famous cardinal John of Torquemada (1399-26.o9.1468).


Thomas of Torquemada  presents the model of the church of the priory St. Thomas Aquinas in Avila, Spain. He is the founder of the priory.
As painter is named Michel Sittow (Zittoz), 1469-24.12.1525 from
Reval  (Tallin), pupil of Hans Memling and appointed court painter
of the Catholic Kings in 1492.
The painting (123x112 cm) is now
preserved in the Prado Museum, Madrid. 

Grenada 2000, Mi 4455, Sc 3001,a.

The same painting with more details, among others Peter of Verona: 
Guyana 1987, Mi 1630, Sc 1789.


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