Given the true nature of the Inquisitions, what explains the Montanus myths? Well, note here that when the Spanish Inquisition was first instituted, the rest of Europe congratulated Spain for finally becoming Christian; as the MSI [The Myth of the Spanish Inquisition BBC documentary] put it, “A new age of Christian unity was said to be dawning.” But this lasted for only about 30 years, until that great fissure in Christianity: the Reformation.

Obviously, emotions were running high on both sides after the Reformation in 1517, and the fur was flying. This not only took the form of armed conflict, such as the Battle of Muhlberg in 1547, but also a war of words. And with the Guttenberg printing press having been invented in 1448, it could be waged like never before. Knowing this, Montanus – widely believed to be Spanish Protestant Antonio del Coito – and others used the technology to wage what was perhaps the first truly modern propaganda campaign, spreading a big lie through the first big media.

Yet there were geo-political motivations as well. Not only had the Battle of Mühlberg pitted Spanish Imperial forces against northern European ones, but English-Spanish conflict in the 1580s was running high, causing King Philip II of Spain to plan an invasion of England and leading to the defeat of his armada in 1588. All these conflicts and events – religious and national – occurring at roughly the same time, amounted to a perfect storm of anti-Spanish sentiment in northern European countries. The result was, among other things, the embrace of the Montanus-disgorged “Black Legend,” as the myth of the Spanish Inquisition came to be known. And via guilt by association, it came to tarnish other Inquisitions as well.

Selwyn Duke, “The inquisition and iniquity: Burning heretics or history?” The New American (2013, Dec 23)

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