The series of massacres began at Toledo in the summer of 1467. The canons of the Cathedral had sold to certain Jews the privilege of taxing the bread of the nearby town of Maqueda. An influential Christian ordered the Jews beaten out of town – a move highly popular with the already overtaxed and harassed people. In retaliation the Conversos organized, and one of their leaders, Fernando de la Torre, a hot-headed man of wealth, was foolish enough to boast that he had 4,000 fighting men well armed, six times as many as the Old Christians had; and on July 21 he led his army against the Cathedral, while the Christians were assembled at Mass. The armed Conversos burst in, crying “Kill them! This is no church, but only a congregation of vile men.” The Christian men drew swords, and defended themselves in a gory fray before the high altar. Reinforcements appeared from the nearby towns, mode a counter-offensive in the luxurious section where the Conversos lived, hanged Fernando de la Torre, and then butchered New Christians indiscriminately…

The fact was, that during these bloody years, [Queen Isabel] came to the conclusion that no ordinary expedient could restore civil peace and tranquility in Spain. For the sake of the Conversos themselves, if for no other reason, it was necessary to substitute some form of workable judicial procedure for the crude administrations of mob “justice”. The existing civil courts could not accomplish this, precisely because so many of the judges and lawyers were Conversos. As for the Church courts, the same was true; many priests, and even bishops, were of Jewish descent, and the orthodoxy of some was so suspect that nothing was to be looked for in that direction. Isabel was led inevitably, not only by pressure of public opinion, but by logic itself, to reach for the only weapon within her grasp – an Inquisition like that of the Middle Ages, in which the judges would be Dominican monks, carefully chosen and beyond the reach of intimidation or bribery.

William Thomas Walsh, Characters of the Inquisition (1940)


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