The Spanish Inquisition is commonly associated with horrendous atrocities committed by the Roman Catholic Church, conjuring up thoughts of persecution and torture to extract confesions from unjustly charged prisoners. My sources are Wikipedia, http://www.catholic.com/magazine/articles/secrets-of-the-spanish-inquisition-revealed and http://www.catholic.com/tracts/the-inquisition.
There were actually several different inquisitions, but the most infamous one was the Spanish Inquisition, which began in 1478. Its purpose was to identify Jews and Muslims who pretended to convert to Christianity.
Spain in the late 1300s was unique in Western Europe for the racial diversity of its population, having large Jewish and Muslim communities. In 1391, angry anti-Jewish riots erupted, which resulted in mass conversions of Jews to Christianity, many by force.
The Jewish converts eventually became prosperous, (one convert was Gabriel Sanchez, who financed the voyage of Christopher Columbus), and the Christians became jealous of their success. Because of this jealousy, a belief developed that the converts were actually secretly practicing their Jewish faith. This perceived ‘heresy’ is what eventually led to the Spanish Inquisition.
The Spanish Inquisition was authorized by the Roman Catholic Church, but it was under the control and authority of the Spanish monarchy. It seemed to be for ‘holy’ purposes, but the truth was that the driving forces were jealousy, greed and prejudice of Spanish Christians, not direct action or authority of the Catholic Church.
The Catholic Church itself did not directly commit the atrocities, but they were committed by those acting in the church’s name. Christians are not immune to acting with personal selfish reasons, and sometimes they use the Bible as justification for their actions, however, this does not negate the truth of the Bible.
Next: The Crusades