Jiménez de Cisneros: On the Threshold of Spain's Golden Age

By Erika Rummel | Go to book overview

3 Crusader, Missionary, and
Guardian of the Faith

In 1507 Cisneros was made Inquisitor General of Castile and acted as Inquisitor General of Aragon until 1513, when the Bishop of Tortosa, Luis Mercader, assumed the office (Pérez, Cisneros, 84). Cisneros’ predecessor, Diego de Deza, had opposed the appointment. His letter on the subject addressed to Ferdinand was full of dire warnings: “Your Highness knows full well that this appointment would be an offense against God and mean the destruction of the Inquisition” (García Oro, Cisneros, 1:180). Others, by contrast, saw Cisneros as the only man capable of restoring order to a corrupt institution. Deza had resigned under a cloud. He cited old age and poor health, but other reasons had entered on his decision. He had made the political error of supporting Philip the Handsome against Ferdinand (see below, chapter 5) and his office had been compromised by the discreditable conduct of his lieutenants. The most infamous of his officials was Diego Rodríguez Lucero, who had been appointed Inquisitor of Cordoba in 1499. He instituted a reign of terror, practising fraud and extortion. Pietro Martire reported that he fabricated evidence and treated the accused with unwarranted cruelty. Lucero (nicknamed “Tenebrero”) had brought trumped-up charges against young converso women. Although they had led, according to the testimony of their neighbours, a closely guarded life in their parents’ home, they were accused of such unlikely activities as preaching Judaism and engaging in bacchanalia. Martire expressed surprise that anyone could have believed such “fairy tales or rather such infernal tales” (Ep. 385). According to another contemporary chronicler, Lucero’s motive was greed and ambition. “To gain credit as a zealous minister of faith and to gain higher dignities, he began to treat the accused prisoners with extreme severity, forcing them to reveal the names of their accomplices, which resulted in denunciations against so great a number of people, both converses and Old Christians, that

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