Marcocci, Giuseppe & Paiva, José Pedro: História da Inquisição Portuguesa. (1536-1821), Lisbon: A Esfera dos Livros, 2013. ISBN: 978-989-626-452-9.
Ana Isabel López-Salazar1
The historiography of the Portuguese Inquisition is experiencing a moment of great expansion, both in terms of the quantity and the quality of most of the works written about the subject. The body of scientific studies has been steadily increasing since the 1980s and the different research lines have been gradually filling in a significant part of the gaps relating to what was still unknown about the Inquisition early on in that decade. There are several reasons for this and it is not my intention to list them all here. First of all, the peak of quantitative history resulted in attempts to measure the rhythms of inquisitorial repression in an accurate way. Later, the interest shown in the problems caused by intolerance gave a fresh impetus to the study of certain defendants, especially those who were New Christians. The most recent debates about the Catholic Reformation and the process of social disciplining have given rise to new analytic perspectives on the activity of the Holy Office and on the relationships it established with other ecclesiastical institutions. Finally, reflections on the State during the Early Modern Age have also resulted in attempts to assess the relationships between the Tribunal of the Holy Office, the Crown and other secular and ecclesiastical institutions. Furthermore, from a material point of view, we should not forget the policy of research promotion that has been implemented over the last few years by several public institutions, both in Portugal (FCT-Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia) and in Brazil (CNPq-Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico; Capes-Coordenação de aperfeiçoamento de pessoal de nivel superior, etc.), which has made numerous PhD theses and research works possible. More recently, the complete digitalization of the archive of the Tribunal of Lisbon has even allowed historians who live outside Portugal to rely on cheaper – but not always easier – access to sources.
It is in this context that, in Portugal, several master’s degree theses and doctoral dissertations about the Inquisition have been presented over the last few years at the universities of Porto, under the guidance of Elvira Mea, and Coimbra, under the guidance of José Pedro Paiva. In Brazil, a group of highly qualified professors, such as, initially, Anita Novinsky, or, more recently, Laura de Mello e Souza and Ronaldo Vainfas, have also helped to encourage the emergence of several generations of researchers – educated mainly at the Universidade de São Paulo and the Universidade Federal Fluminense – who have focused on analyzing the impact of the Portuguese Inquisition in Brazilian territory. To these, we should add the increasing number of foreign researchers (especially Italian and Spanish, but also French or North American) or Brazilian researchers educated in France (such as E. Sales e Souza or B. Feitler), who have also dedicated their doctoral dissertations to the study of the Portuguese Inquisition. Not to mention the magnificent and almost unmanageable historiographical production – mostly produced by historians of Jewish origin – about the New Christians and the Sephardic Jews of the diaspora, in which there is an inevitable analysis of issues associated with the inquisitorial repression. In fact, it is quite clear that, as far as the Portuguese Inquisition is concerned, we are witnessing a trend which is the opposite of what is happening in the case of the Spanish Inquisition. In Spain, after the glorious period enjoyed by inquisitorial studies in the 1980s, we are currently witnessing a lack of interest in this subject and, in fact, it is foreign – much more than Spanish – historians who continue to study this institution and its consequences.
Amid such an abundant historiographical production, we must make an obligatory reference to the great work História das Inquisições: Portugal, Espanha e Itália, by Francisco Bethencourt, which was published for the first time in Portugal, in 1994, and has had numerous editions in French (1995), in Spanish (1997) and – reviewed – in English (2009). In my opinion, this is a work that, as the author himself stated, gave rise to a paradigm shift in studies about the Inquisition. In fact, the importance and influence of Bethencourt’s work have been growing over the years and it is currently an inexhaustible source of information about the most diverse aspects of the three modern Inquisitions.
However, despite the vast historiographical production about the Tribunal, we were lacking a general history of the Portuguese Inquisition, until now. This lacuna contrasts sharply with the number of synthetic studies of the Spanish Inquisition that have appeared over the last few years. That is why, in my opinion, this História da Inquisição Portuguesa (1536-1821) is of paramount importance. Besides, it is not a coincidence that the first major synthetic study of the Portuguese Inquisition was written by Giuseppe Marcocci and José Pedro Paiva. Marcocci, who is currently a professor at the Università degli Studi della Tuscia (Viterbo), completed his doctorate at the Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa, under the guidance of Professor Adriano Prosperi, one of the greatest specialists in the subject of the Modern Inquisition. On the other hand, Paiva is a professor at the Universidade de Coimbra (Portugal) and one of the leading figures in the field of religious history studies in Portugal, an area he helped to renovate thanks to his works about the bishops and the Inquisition. The dialogue between the two takes us back a few years to the time when they had an interesting debate about the relationships between the episcopate and the Portuguese Inquisition. Their collaboration yielded its first fruits in the Dizionario storico dell´Inquisizione, directed by Adriano Prosperi in collaboration with John Tedeschi and Vincenzo Lavenia, and published in Pisa in 2010. This great work had more than 150 entries related to the Portuguese Inquisition or to New Christians of Portuguese origin, in addition to countless references to Portugal in other entries of a general nature. José Pedro Paiva and Giuseppe Marcocci coordinated the entries associated with Portugal, the former as a member of the Scientific Committee and the latter as a member of the Editorial Committee. After that moment, the two of them decided to undertake the massive task of writing the first general history of the Portuguese Inquisition.
The História da Inquisição Portuguesa (1536-1821), which I am commenting on here, has a great internal logic and an extremely meticulous structure, which is praiseworthy from all points of view. The authors chose to present a chronological but simultaneously thematic history of the Portuguese Inquisition. And, indeed, they managed to do so with great expertise, because the book successfully combines a sequential analysis with the study of certain key issues. So, a significant part of the work is dedicated to an analysis of the history of the Holy Office based on the policy of the successive general inquisitors, the relationships between the Tribunal of the Holy Office, the Crown and the Holy See, the transformation of the institutional, bureaucratic and financial structures of the Inquisition and the rhythms of inquisitorial repression. But, at the same time, the authors decided to pay special attention to the major subjects or problems that marked the life of the Tribunal of the Holy Office: the repression of the New Christians and the issue of the purity of blood (Chapters 2 and 6), the development of the inquisitorial process (Chapter 7), the acts of faiths (autos de fé) and other public ceremonies associated with the representation of the inquisitorial power (Chapter 10), etc.
The work is divided into five parts with 4 chapters each (except for the last one). These five parts correspond to the five stages into which the authors divide the history of the Holy Office. Any historical division is, obviously, artificial. Besides, each historian would probably suggest a different periodization for the history of the Portuguese Inquisition. We have already learned with Joaquim Romero Magalhães that the different times (tempos) of the Inquisition cannot be rigidly demarcated and depend on the specific aspects on which we focus (Magalhães, 1987; Magalhães, 1992). Nevertheless, I find the five stages defined by Marcocci and Paiva particularly appropriate for two reasons: they are based on the internal evolution of the Tribunal and go beyond the traditional history divided by reigns, or the no less artificial history divided by political events, such as the ones that occurred in 1580 or 1640.
The first part is dedicated to the period when the Holy Office was established and consolidated in Portugal, that is, from its foundation to the crisis that led to the general pardon granted by Clement VIII to the New Christians in 1604, and implemented in 1605. The authors call this section Inquisição e Renascimento (Inquisition and Renaissance) and, in my opinion, these two nouns could perfectly well be joined by a third one: Reformation. There is obviously a central figure whose omnipresence marks this entire period: the Cardinal Prince Dom Henrique, who was responsible for the way in which the Holy Office was organized, and which ended up lasting over some time (Chapter 1). We might ask why the authors decided to extend this stage until 1604 instead of interrupting it in 1578 (when the Cardinal Prince ascended the throne), or in 1580 (when Portugal was integrated into the Spanish Monarchy). The answer probably lies in the fact that there wasn’t any rupture in the Holy Office in 1578 or in 1580. Even the issue of Dom Henrique abandoning the management of the Tribunal had already been raised before the death of King Sebastião. On the contrary, 1604-1605 did actually give rise to a true break in the history of the Inquisition, because the general pardon had been preceded by an intense battle in Madrid, Valladolid, and Rome, which was the first one that the Holy Office had lost since 1547. Inevitably, one of the chapters of the first part is dedicated to the repression of the Crypto-Jews, triggered after the Inquisition was established in Portugal (Chapter 2). But, at the same time, the authors decided to dedicate another chapter to the impact of the Holy Office on 16th-century Portuguese society, the control of the Old Christian majority and the influence of the Tribunal in the process of Catholic Reformation that occurred during and after the Council of Trent (Chapter 3).
The second part – O Santo Ofício entre duas dinastias2 – focuses on the stage when the Tribunal of the Holy Office reached its greatest apogee and power, between the years that followed the general pardon of 1605 and the suspension of the Holy Office by Rome (1674-1681). Obviously, the authors decided to dedicate different chapters to the periods of the Iberian Union (Chapter 5) and the Restoration War (Chapter 7). Furthermore, there is another chapter dedicated to the study of the repression of the New Christians and the social and cultural consequences of the obsession with blood purity that characterized Portuguese society for over two centuries (Chapter 6). On the other hand, in the chapter dedicated to the Empire, the authors focus on the strong controversies created by the Chinese and the Malabar rites, and also on the proposals to create an inquisitorial tribunal in Brazil (Chapter 7).
The third part – A Inquisição Barroca3– covers the period between the reinstatement of the Holy Office (when its second major crisis after the general pardon was solved) and the beginning of the reforms introduced by Pombal. This period is marked by two major figures: King João V and Dom Nuno da Cunha, who held the position of general inquisitor between 1707 and 1750. This stage is characterized by a decline in inquisitorial repression, partly due to the bull Romanus Pontifex (August 22, 1681), which restored the Holy Office in Portugal. After this moment, it was mandatory to question witnesses once again after the defense. This meant that proceedings became a lot slower and, as a consequence, there was a decrease in the total number of trials. But, although this number was decreasing, the numbers of ministers and, especially, of commissaries and familiars of the Holy Office grew because, as José Veiga Torres demonstrated in a masterful work (Torres, 1994), the rising social groups increasingly resorted to the Tribunal – especially through the figure of the familiars – in order to consolidate their social prestige. The power and support on which the Holy Office relied was expressed in particular during the acts of faith, to which the authors dedicate Chapter 10. By this time, the Inquisition was having to cope with new heresies like Molinosism (from the 1690s onwards, but especially in the 1720s and 1730s), Freemasonry and Sigilism (in the 1740s), to which the authors dedicate Chapter 11.
The fourth part – Um tribunal dominado4 – focuses on the decadence and protracted agony of the Tribunal of the Holy Office, which was completely tamed and controlled by the royal power thanks to the reforms introduced by the Marquis of Pombal. At this point, the Inquisition lost both its traditional enemy and the main reason for its existence in Portugal, because the New Christians were no longer being prosecuted in the 1760s. In Chapter 13, the authors reconstruct the process through which the Marquis of Pombal managed to control the Holy Office and completely subdue it to the Crown, in keeping with his strategy of combating the Society of Jesus. Thus, Pombal managed to have the Jesuits who were accused of instigating the attack against King José I prosecuted by the Holy Office, which was governed by his own brother. Gabriele Malagria, S.J., was the last man to be sentenced to death by the Portuguese Inquisition (1761), having been found guilty of feigned holiness. Pombal also managed to put an end to the motu proprio formula contained in the briefs relating to the appointment of the general inquisitors and got Rome to specify, in the corresponding documents, that the appointment had to be made through a presentation made by the king of Portugal. Furthermore, in 1773, the Crown eliminated the distinction between Old and New Christians, and, in the following year, approved the new regulations of the Inquisition. Since the Inquisition had lost its traditional enemy, it had to look for others, such as the Freemasons, the Libertines and the Deists. In this context, there was a strong emphasis on the collaboration between the Holy Office and the General Intendancy of Police, which is highlighted by the authors.
Finally, the fifth part – O ocaso da Inquisição5 – focuses on the study of the extinction of the Tribunal of the Holy Office, which had already been completely garbled and moribund for a long time. The Liberal Revolution that put an end to the Inquisition broke out on August 24, 1820. Marcocci and Paiva reconstruct the debates about the Holy Office that took place in the Constitutional Assembly until the approval of the decree that extinguished the Tribunal, on March 31, 1821. At that point, nobody defended the Holy Office, neither the general inquisitor nor the ministers of the Holy Office nor even the bishops.
We are undoubtedly facing a monumental and outstanding work, which was absolutely necessary, considering the current state of affairs in the area of inquisitorial studies. The thesis that supports the entire book is already stated in the introduction. For the authors, the Inquisition was not a monolithic and immutable block throughout its nearly three centuries of existence. On the contrary, it was a multifaceted institution. It was an ecclesiastical court of law and a power that – supported by the Crown – evolved and changed and had an enormous impact on Portuguese society. Indeed, from that point of view and throughout their work, the authors show us the evolution of the Tribunal and the different functions it performed during the whole of its history: a tribunal for the repression of heresy, an institution for the control of morality and customs, a power at the service of the Crown, an instrument used by the bourgeoisie for its social promotion, etc.
Writing the history of the nearly three centuries of the Tribunal was a true challenge and the authors are aware of the difficulty and the risks associated with the task they undertook. For this very reason, in the introduction they already call upon scholars to “correct its inaccuracies”6. Based on this incentive given by the authors themselves, I am going to allow myself to make a few comments that will be limited to the Iberian Union, which is the period I know best.
First of all, I believe that the use of the expression “Castilian domination” to describe the period of the Iberian Union should be avoided7. The classic works by H. G. Koenigsberger and J. Elliott had already demonstrated that the Spanish Monarchy was a structure made up of aggregated territories. In accordance with the research works by A. Manuel Hespanha, F. Bouza, R. Valladares, P. Cardim and many others, I don’t believe that there was ever actually a Castilian domination in Portugal, but rather a single dynasty – the Habsburgs – that governed both territories based on dynastic rights. Portugal wasn’t dominated by Castilian interests. The interests of a family, the Habsburgs, were what determined the future of the entire Spanish Monarchy. As Rafael Valladares pointed out some years ago while mentioning the consequences of the Cortes of Tomar: “hence, there was no absorption or domination of Castile over Portugal, but a complete autonomy of the former with regard to the latter” (Valladares, 2000: 15)8. In my opinion, the adjective “Castilian” is a generic reference that, furthermore, may prove incomplete. I will give just one example: Paiva and Marcocci mention a junta that held a meeting in Madrid in 1602 and whose “members were mostly from Castile”9. However, it is known that in this junta there was a Catalonian minister (P. Franqueza), a Valencian one (Juan de Borja), a Portuguese one (the Duke of Vilanova) and only one Castilian minister (Friar Gaspar de Córdoba). For the same reason, I believe that a mere correspondence between the Spanish Monarchy and Castile should be avoided. In that regard, stating that the Moriscos were “expelled from Castile in 1609” is incorrect10. The Moriscos were expelled from the entire Spanish territory (1609-1614), and actually the first decrees from 1609 mentioned only Valencia. The Moriscos from Castile, as well as those from Aragon, were only expelled nearly a year later11. Besides, most of the Moriscos who were expelled came from the territories of the Crown of Aragon, and especially from the kingdom of Valencia (Domínguez Ortiz and Vincent, 1978: 200).
Still in the context of the Iberian Union, I believe that it would perhaps be advisable to correct a few statements about the issues of censorship and purity of blood. So, for example, the authors argue that the Index of Prohibited Books of 1624 banned Don Quixote by Cervantes12. However, the Index never banned the book. Instead, like the Spanish Inquisition, it simply purged a few excerpts (López-Salazar, 2010: 159, note 44). In fact, Don Quixote was widely read in Portugal and had a great impact on Portuguese culture (Glaser 1955).
I also disagree with the authors when they state that “in Portugal, contrary to what happened in Spain […] there was never a general and single law about purity”13. In Spain there wasn’t a general blood purity law either. Some institutions and corporations (university colleges, certain religious orders, cathedral chapters, the Military Orders, a few town councils, etc.) created purity statutes, but there was never a general law. Therefore, the system was the same in Spain and Portugal. In this regard, Juan Ignacio Gutiérrez Nieto, one of the greatest specialists on the question of purity of blood, said: “Filipe II did not implement a complete and systematic policy for the creation of castes and, while he authorized statutes in a few Castilian town councils, he refused to generalize them, mainly for fiscal reasons” (Gutiérrez Nieto, 1995: 447).
At this point, having made these remarks, I would also like to stress what are, in my opinion, the most significant merits of this work. First of all, the authors have provided us with a comprehensive and chronological picture of the history of the Portuguese Holy Office from the origins of the Inquisition to its extinction. That was not an easy task. Up until now, a few periods were relatively well known, especially the period when the Tribunal was established, or the period of the Habsburg government. However, we knew far less about other stages, especially about the 18th century. The aspects of the inquisitorial repression (against New Christians, Molinosists, Sigilists or Freemasons) were indeed known and we had a magnificent and key article by Pedro Vilas Boas Tavares about the 70 final years of the Tribunal’s existence (Tavares, 2002: 203-240). Marcocci and Paiva have managed to synthesize the contributions made by the historiography of the Inquisition, fill in the gaps and provide us with a complete, coherent, and comprehensive image of the Tribunal’s life.
Secondly, I find it highly relevant that there are constant references to individuals. The Inquisition is not an institution – a factory – without a face. In all cases, the authors chose to present us with the general inquisitors and, in order of appearance, also other ministers of the Tribunal. Thanks to them, we learn about the importance of given individuals within the Holy Office in terms of the adoption of specific policies. A good example of this is the key role played by Paulo de Carvalho e Mendonça, the brother of the Marquis of Pombal and a deputy of the General Council, in the submission of the Holy Office to the Crown, which is illustrated by the famous trial of the Jesuit Gabriele Malagrida. But, while the ministers of the Holy Office are given a name, the defendants aren’t reduced to mere numbers. The book is rich when it comes to presenting the individual stories of the suspects, whether these were Converts, Protestants, Molinosists, Freemasons or Freethinkers. Some individuals, such as Padre António Vieira or António Homem, are truly exceptional, and the specialists knew their stories rather well. But others are completely normal and ordinary – almost anonymous – people, whose anguish and suffering are placed by the authors at the same level as those of the defendants from the most important trials. In fact, the reason why there isn’t any one specific chapter dedicated to the defendants is because they are ubiquitous throughout the entire work, and are not confined to a single section or to mere quantitative analyses.
Thirdly, the authors constantly frame the Inquisition within the history of Portugal and its Empire during the early modern centuries. We all know the extent to which, on numerous occasions, inquisitorial studies were closed in on themselves. On the contrary, in this work, the Inquisition is in permanent dialogue with the Monarchy and with the other ecclesiastical and secular institutions of modern Portugal. We should not forget that the authors dedicated a significant part of their research to the study of the complex relationships between the Tribunal of the Holy Office and other ecclesiastical institutions, such as the bishops and the religious orders (especially the Dominicans and the Jesuits).
Fourthly, I find it extremely appropriate that the last chapter of each part is dedicated to the specific reality of the Holy Office in the immense Portuguese overseas territories, from India to Brazil. The study of the Inquisition within the kingdom has too often been disengaged from the inquisitorial actions that were implemented overseas and vice versa. Simultaneously, the authors’ intensive efforts at synthesis and reflection on the inquisitorial actions that were implemented in territories as vast and as different as the Far East, Africa and Brazil allows the reader to understand the challenges that this European institution had to face when it came into contact with extremely different sociocultural and religious realities.
Fifthly, this book, like all major research works, serves to highlight the gaps that still exist in our knowledge of the Holy Office. The authors tried to fill them in as best they could. The extremely interesting and new data about the inquisitorial economy – especially the information relating to the 18th century – should be understood as a warning about the need for a comprehensive study focused on the finances of the Holy Office.
Finally, I echo the words of Professor Gérard Dufour who, while praising Maximiliano Barrios’ work, regretted the fact that certain historians had a tendency not to make use of the archival resources14. Marcocci and Paiva are historians who rely on the archives; who, in order to substantiate any given thesis, present the necessary empirical support; who bring new data to light because they have referred to the sources; who want to retrieve the value of the documents. And, of course, this provides their work with an unquestionable solidity. Besides, I cannot help but highlight the precision and clarity of the written content. At times like these, when the obligation to produce frequently results in a predominance of quantity over quality and in a constant disregard for style, the readers can thank Marcocci and Paiva for offering them a well-written, elegant and clear text.
Last, but not least, I would like to briefly refer to the way in which the work was received. It was published in February 2013, and A Esfera dos Livros immediately launched a widespread campaign that allowed the work to be promoted outside the academic field15. This History of the Portuguese Inquisition has demonstrated that top-quality scientific history can also meet the interests of the general public. In other words, the non-academic population wants to be able to read history books whose contents are simultaneously accessible (through the way in which they are presented) and accurate. So, Paiva and Marcocci have accomplished one of the hardest goals that a historian can achieve.
Bethencourt, Francisco (2009). The Inquisition. A Global History, 1478-1834. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Cardim, Pedro (preprint). Portugal unido y separado. Felipe II, la unión de territorios y el debate sobre la condición política del reino de Portugal. Valladolid: Instituto Universitario de Historia Simancas.
Domínguez Ortiz, Antonio and Vincent, Bernard (1978). Historia de los moriscos: vida y tragedia de una minoría. Madrid: Revista de Occidente.
Glaser, Edward (1955). “The literary fame of Cervantes in Seventeenth-Century Portugal”. Hispanic Review, 23 (3): 200-211.
Gutiérrez Nieto, Juan Ignacio (1995). “Los conversos en España y Portugal (siglos XV y XVI)”. In El tratado de Tordesillas y su época. Congreso Internacional de Historia. Valladolid: Sociedad V Centenario del Tratado de Tordesillas, vol. 1, 441-454.
López-Salazar Codes, Ana Isabel (2010). Inquisición portuguesa y Monarquía Hispánica en tiempos del perdón general de 1605. Lisboa: Edições Colibri – CIDEHUS/UE.
Magalhães, Joaquim Romero (1987). “Em busca dos tempos da Inquisição (1573-1615)”. Revista de História das Ideias, 9: 191-223.
Magalhães, Joaquim Romero (1992). “La Inquisición portuguesa: intento de periodización”. Revista de la Inquisición, 2: 71-93.
Tavares, Pedro Vilas Boas (2002). “Da reforma à extinção: a Inquisição perante às “luzes” (dados e reflexões)”. Revista da Faculdade de Letras. Línguas e Literaturas, 19: 171-208.
Torres, José Veiga (1994). “Da Repressão Religiosa para a Promoção Social. A Inquisição como instância legitimadora da promoção social da burguesia mercantil”. Revista Crítica de Ciências Sociais, 40: 109-135.
Valladares, Rafael (2000). Portugal y la Monarquía Hispánica, 1580-1668. Madrid: Arco Libros.
1 CIDEHUS. University of Évora, 7002-554 Évora, Portugal. E-mail: email@example.com.
2013, ISSN 1645-6432
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