An Account of the Inquisition (8/18)

In the mean time, M. de Legal’s secretary set open all the doors of the Inquisition, and released the prisoners, who amounted in the whole to four hundred; and among these were sixty beautiful young women, who appeared to form a seraglio for the three principal inquisitors.

This discovery, which laid the enormity of the inquisitors so open, greatly alarmed the archbishop, who desired M. de Legal to send the women to his palace, and he would take proper care of them; and at the same time he published an ecclesiastical censure against all such as should ridicule, or blame, the holy office of the Inquisition.

The French commander sent word to the archbishop, that the prisoners had either run away, or were so securely concealed by their friends, or even by his own officers, that it was impossible for him to send them back again; and, therefore, the Inquisition having committed such atrocious actions, must now put up with their exposure.

Some may suggest, that it is strange crowned heads and eminent nobles did not attempt to crush the power of the Inquisition, and reduce the authority of those ecclesiastical tyrants, from whose merciless fangs neither their families nor themselves were secure.

But astonishing as it is, superstition hath, in this case, always overcome common sense, and custom operated against reason. One prince, indeed, intended to abolish the Inquisition, but he lost his life before he became king, and consequently before he had the power so to do; for the very intimation of his design procured his destruction.

This was that amiable prince Don Carlos, son of Philip the Second, king of Spain, and grandson of the celebrated emperor Charles V. Don Carlos possessed all the good qualities of his grandfather, without any of the bad ones of his father; and was a prince of great vivacity, admirable learning, and the most amiable disposition. He had sense enough to see into the errors of popery, and abhorred the very name of the Inquisition. He inveighed publicly against the institution, ridiculed the affected piety of the inquisitors, did all he could to expose their atrocious deeds, and even declared, that if he ever came to the crown, he would abolish the Inquisition, and exterminate its agents.

These things were sufficient to irritate the inquisitors against the prince: they, accordingly, bent their minds to vengeance, and determined on his destruction.

The inquisitors now employed all their agents and emissaries to spread abroad the most artful insinuations against the prince; and, at length raised such a spirit of discontent among the people that the king was under the necessity of removing Don Carlos from court. Not content with this, they pursued even his friends, and obliged the king likewise to banish Don John, duke of Austria, his own brother, and consequently uncle to the prince; together with the prince of Parma, nephew to the king, and cousin to the prince, because they well knew that both the duke of Austria, and the prince of Parma, had a most sincere and inviolable attachment to Don Carlos.

Some few years after, the prince having shown great lenity and favor to the Protestants in the Netherlands, the Inquisition loudly exclaimed against him, declaring, that as the persons in question were heretics, the prince himself must necessarily be one, since he gave them countenance. In short, they gained so great an ascendency over the mind of the king, who was absolutely a slave to superstition, that, shocking to relate, he sacrificed the feelings of nature to the force of bigotry, and, for fear of incurring the anger of the Inquisition, gave up his only son, passing the sentence of death on him himself.

The prince, indeed, had what was termed an indulgence; that is, he was permitted to choose the manner of his death. Roman-like, the unfortunate young hero chose bleeding and the hot bath; when the veins of his arms and legs were opened, he expired gradually, falling a martyr to the malice of the inquisitors, and the stupid bigotry of his father.

The Persecution of Dr. Aegidio

Dr. Aegidio was educated at the university of Alcala, where he took his several degrees, and particularly applied himself to the study of the sacred Scriptures and school divinity. When the professor of theology died, he was elected into his place, and acted so much to the satisfaction of every one that his reputation for learning and piety was circulated throughout Europe.

Foxe’s Book of the Martyrs, Chapter 5

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