In Cordoba to cast a glance at the cruel side of history

Entering the Museum of the Inquisition

When I made the unfortunate suggestion to visit the Museum of the Inquisition on our last morning in Cordoba, just before catching the bus to Granada, my cousin didn’t show much enthusiasm. “Are you sure?” she told me in an evident effort to talk me out of it. But since I know about her passion for all things history-related, I retorted “Of course! It’s history!”, and I won.

The chair of the torture

When we showed up at the door it was about 10am and, in a typical Sunday morning Spanish flair, the museum was still closed. We went to the nearby shop to inquire and the assistant let us know that the museum was “big, wonderful and opened at 11am.” At this point, having even already missed the 10,30 bus, we had no choice but to wait. We went to eat something at a close bar, and it revealed to be a wise choice, since we were not to leave that museum very hungry.

When we finally entered the building, which now is called “Museo de la Inquisicion“, having lost its former, apt, title “Galería de la Tortura“, the guardian gave us the ticket with a grin, in both surprise and mischief. “Before entering, would you like to take a photo with your hands and head in here?” Asked us pointing at the first torture instrument. Our reply came out in unison: “Thanks! We’ll pass!”

As soon as we walked through the red door-curtain, we found ourselves immersed in the worst expression of human brutality, the embodiment of injustice and a creepy show of nonsense.

The chair where apparently the prisoner was strangled

The exhibition of torture instruments was obviously well illustrated by posters that explained the death tools, the contexts they were used, to which sentence they were aimed to, and the irrational laws that ruled at the time. So, depending on which crime people were found guilty of, they were victim of a different kind of torture.

Of course I knew about the insane rules of what is known as the “Holy Inquisition”, but every time the topic crosses my path, I fume.

I’ve always failed to understand how can human mind envision, conceive, imagine such tools aimed at causing so much pain to other human beings. Nobody will ever talk me out of believing that who created such evil devices were psychopaths. The further I went with the visit, half in disbelief half in disgust, ambling about the worst examples of (in)human imagination that were increasing in ferocity as if in a macabre climax, the more furious I grew.

At some point, towards half of the tour, I started to struggle, I couldn’t bear those sights anymore, I stopped taking photos, I started reading voraciously all the illogical laws that imposed rules like “If the prisoner died (!) under torture without confessing, the Inquisition was to find him not guilty because God had given him the strength to stand the pain.”

As the posters read, “the arrest was previously organized in a complicit and stealthy way, and such detention was the beginning of a long path for those eligible to stand in front of capriciously formed courts, with an absolute lack of justice.” People could be arrested in the most arbitrary manner, it sufficed that someone seeking vengeance reported the person for some made-up crime, and that person was doomed.

The Wheel, another evil device

Of course, all the people involved in writing and/or passing such asinine laws were criminals themselves, and I believe they were fully aware of this and of the fact they were torturing innocent people.

Modern interpretation of history shows that at that time such nonsense was possible due to the widespread ignorance since not many people could afford an education. Today we have all means to educate ourselves, through schools, books, the Internet, and torture and injustice seem to happen in many parts of the world nevertheless. A great movie that shows how useless the practice of the torture during interrogations is, is Milos Forman’s Goya’s Ghosts, where the father of the girl tortured by the Inquisition tries anything to make them release her daughter, even forcing under torture a Cardinal to sign the confession that he was a monkey.

When we left, the guardian looked at us again and said “estaban todos locos (they were crazy)”. Yeah, to put it mildly.

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Comments

  1. says

    Well written. I too cannot understand what makes humans act this way. It is always difficult to visit these types of museums but I really enjoyed your commentary. Sadly, things like this are still going on. Not as crude of contraptions, but torture and brutality are aspects of human nature that never seem to go away. I can only imagine the horrible things that went on there and it makes me shudder to think.

    • says

      True, I can only imagine that torture now is even worse, with the more advanced technology we have and with the studies on the human mind. Take the water boarding technique, it’s horrible, of course the victims confess anything they are told.

  2. says

    This is the kind of travel I like to do, not because I derive any pleasure from it but because I genuinely believe if we don’t educate ourselves about the worst of human capability … we do stand doomed to repeat it. Glad you went. But I do agree with the closing “‘they were crazy’ … yeah, to put it mildly” Oh the things mankind has done in the name of religion :(

    • says

      I agree, it’s very important to know our past, although sometimes I doubt we understand we should not repeat it. Unfortunately, while now we find ridiculous the excuses they brought up in the past to inflict tortures, I think the ones they bring up today are not less ridiculous, so how can torture still happen? How can world population still allow such abomination and keep on with our lives as if it doesn’t concern us?

  3. says

    Well written.. such things are tough to think and write about. So much wrong has been in the name of God, that religion as a concept sometimes confuses me. Also, they were very very crazy.

  4. says

    It’s so hard to comprehend the Inquisition. I think I would visit the museum, as difficult as it might be, because it is a part of history. You make such a good point about the torture that goes on today — what is the excuse? I’ll make a point to see Milos Forman’s Goya’s Ghosts.

  5. says

    I would want to visit the Museum of the Inquisition as well, but like you would probably get to a point where I wanted to rush through some parts. I’m glad it exists though to show the terrible things that have happened.

  6. says

    I agree that having museums like this are a good reminder to the horrors that we humans are capable of committing. There is a lot to learn from history.

  7. says

    I agree with Kirsten and the the others. I think everybody should see these places to get educated! It’s terrible what happened in the past. And I felt like you when I visited the House of Terror in Budapest! It’s just shocking what they did and still do to people in some parts of the world!

    Well written story angela!

    • says

      I rushed through quite quickly, at the end I just stopped to read the explanations of context and laws at the time, just seeing further human terror would have only disgusted me more, and I was already cursing and insulting enough…

  8. says

    I would totally go to see that museum. I went the the Museum of Torture in Amsterdam in September and it was fascinating. I wonder what future museums from our day and age will be like.

    • says

      It’s scary to think that probably future museums won’t be that different from the ones we visit today, probably different technologies but human nature and behavior just about the same..

  9. says

    A fascinating glimpse into the darker side of our psyche. Unfortunately, I think many of us are capable of cruelty, given the right (or rather, the wrong) circumstances.

  10. says

    For a more modern take on Spanish cruelty, I always recommend Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia. The Inquisition was peanuts compared to the Spanish Civil War and the 40 year rule of Francisco Franco.

    • says

      By all means that must have been horrible, I guess the Inquisition didn’t get there because they didn’t have the technology? Unfortunately human history is crammed with heinous crimes, and sadly the worst ones are being carried out nowadays.

  11. says

    Hola from India? Or should I say “namaste”? 😉

    Thanks for the post, Angela. Your blog helps me learn a lot of new things about a lot of new places. Being a history lover myself, every time I read a post of yours I realize how less we know about the world, except for the environment we, as individuals, grew up in.

    Again, gracias.

    Neeraj

  12. Daniela Manca says

    Always a pleasure reading your articles :); it’s horrendous though, the fact that in some countries few of these tortures are still ongoing…

  13. says

    “If the prisoner died (!) under torture without confessing, the Inquisition was to find him not guilty because God had given him the strength to stand the pain.”

    Wow… I knew the Inquisition was horrible so it shouldn’t surprise me, but… Sometimes I wonder how we survived as a species with so much evil among us.

    Nevertheless, a very interesting post, thanks for sharing your experiences!

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