Our endeavor to compile a complete index of heresy trials has already begun to produce interesting results, even though the project is still incomplete. If we look at the distribution of offenders within the various categories, it becomes apparent that in the period from 1540-1700 the Spanish Inquisition ceased to act exclusively against the forbidden religious minorities (Table 1). The four groups of “major heretics” – Judaizers, Moriscos, “Lutherans”, and the somewhat vaguely defined mystical sect of alumbrados – together make up only 42.2. percent of the cases. From the middle of the sixteenth century the tribunals exerted quite as much of their energy on persecuting so-called “Old Christians,” native Spaniards of Catholic heritage charged with such crimes as heretical propositions and blasphemy (the largest category of all, with 27.1 percent), bigamy, superstition, and so on. Together these categories, which could be grouped under the heading of “minor heresies,” make up 57.8 percent of the cases. (In the Sicilian auto-da-fe of 1586, none of the 27 defendants as charged with any of the four “major heresies”.) However, it is not exaggeration to say that the study of the Spanish Inquisition until recently has focused almost entirely on cases involving the major heresies.

Another surprising statistic emerging from our investigation is the relatively small number of executions” 826, or 1.8 percent of the total, demonstrating the absurdity of Llorente’s calculation of victims.

Jaime Contreras and Gustav Henningsen (transl. by Anne Born), “Forty-four Thousand Cases of the Spanish Inquisition (1540-1700): Analysis of a Historical Data Bank”. The Inquisition in Early Modern Europe: Studies on Sources and Methods (1986)


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