Inquisition, Portuguese

   Known also as the Holy Office of the Inquisition, Portugal's Inquisition was established in 1536 under King João III and was finally abolished only in 1821. The initial motives for establishing this institution were more political than religious; King João III saw it as an instrument to increase central power and royal control in Portugal. Permission for its foundation was granted by the papacy in Rome, but the Inquisition's judges and officers were appointed by the Portuguese king, not by the papacy. Seven years after its establishment, the Inquisition's first victims were burned at the stake in Évora. Eventually, the Holy Office of the Inquisition became a kind of state within a state, with its own bureaucracy, censors who acted as a "thought police" over the faithful as well as over heretics or dissidents, and police who maintained their own prisons. The period of this infamous institution's greatest power to persecute, prosecute, and execute heretics was during the 16th and 17th centuries. During the administration of the Marquis of Pombal (1750-77), the Inquisition's power was curtailed. By 1821, when it was abolished by reformist governments, the Inquisition no longer had much significance.
   For centuries, however, the Inquisition generated fear and was able to amass wealth, goods, and property confiscated from victims. In the history of Portuguese politics and culture, the Inquisition has symbolized cruel oppression, the spirit of discrimination, and religious persecution of heretics and minorities, including Jews who were often forcibly converted. It created an era of censorship of intellectual activity, injustice, bigotry, racism, and anti-Semitism, and raised questions about the role and power of the Catholic Church in society and the relationship between the Church and state. Some opponents of the Estado Novo quite justifiably compared the Inquisition's control of free thought and action with that of the Estado Novo in its day.
   See also New Christians.

Historical dictionary of Portugal 3rd ed.. . 2014.

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