An Account of the Inquisition (13/18)

About midnight, the sergeant and two Turkish slaves released Mr. Lithgow from his then confinement, but it was to introduce him to one much more horrible. They conducted him through several passages, to a chamber in a remote part of the palace, towards the garden, where they loaded him with irons, and extended his legs by means of an iron bar above a yard long, the weight of which was so great that he could neither stand nor sit, but was obliged to lie continually on his back. They left him in this condition for some time, when they returned with a refreshment of food, consisting of a pound of boiled mutton and a loaf, together with a small quantity of wine; which was not only the first, but the best and last of the kind, during his confinement in this place. After delivering these articles, the sergeant locked the door, and left Mr. Lithgow to his own private contemplations.

The next day he received a visit from the governor, who promised him his liberty, with many other advantages, if he would confess being a spy; but on his protesting that he was entirely innocent, the governor left him in a rage, saying, ‘He should see him no more until further torments constrained him to confess’; commanding the keeper, to whose care he was committed, that he should permit no person whatever to have access to, or commune with him; that his sustenance should not exceed three ounces of musty bread, and a pint of water every second day; that he shall be allowed neither bed, pillow, nor coverlid. “Close up (said he) this window in his room with lime and stone, stop up the holes of the door with double mats: let him have nothing that bears any likeness to comfort.” These, and several orders of the like severity, were given to render it impossible for his condition to be known to those of the English nation.

In this wretched and melancholy state did poor Lithgow continue without seeing any person for several days, in which time the governor received an answer to a letter he had written, relative to the prisoner, from Madrid; and, pursuant to the instructions given him, began to put in practice the cruelties devised, which were hastened, because Christmas holy-days approached, it being then the forty-seventh day since his imprisonment.

About two o’clock in the morning, he heard the noise of a coach in the street, and sometime after heard the opening of the prison doors, not having had any sleep for two nights; hunger, pain, and melancholy reflections having prevented him from taking any repose.

Soon after the prison doors were opened, the nine sergeants, who had first seized him, entered the place where he lay, and without uttering a word, conducted him in his irons through the house into the street, where a coach waited, and into which they laid him at the bottom on his back, not being able to sit. Two of the sergeants rode with him, and the rest walked by the coach side, but all observed the most profound silence. They drove him to a vinepress house, about a league from the town, to which place a rack had been privately conveyed before; and here they shut him up for that night.

At daybreak the next morning, arrived the governor and the alcade, into whose presence Mr. Lithgow was immediately brought to undergo another examination. The prisoner desired he might have an interpreter, which was allowed to strangers by the laws of that country, but this was refused, nor would they permit him to appeal to Madrid, the superior court of judicature. After a long examination, which lasted from morning until night, there appeared in all his answers so exact a conformity with what he had before said, that they declared he had learned them by heart, there not being the least prevarication. They, however, pressed him again to make a full discovery; that is, to accuse himself of crimes never committed, the governor adding, “You are still in my power; I can set you free if you comply, if not, I must deliver you to the alcade.” Mr. Lithgow still persisting in his innocence, the governor ordered the notary to draw up a warrant for delivering him to the alcade to be tortured.

In consequence of this he was conducted by the sergeants to the end of a stone gallery, where the rack was placed. The encarouador, or executioner, immediately struck off his irons, which put him to very great pains, the bolts being so closely riveted that the sledge hammer tore away half an inch of his heel, in forcing off the bolt; the anguish of which, together with his weak condition, (not having the least sustenance for three days) occasioned him to groan bitterly; upon which the merciless alcade said, “Villain, traitor, this is but the earnest of what you shall endure.”

Foxe’s Book of the Martyrs, Chapter 5

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