A 'Price One Penny' Edition

August 30, 1845

Up: The Mysteries of the Inquisition. Previous: August 23, 1845 Next: September 6, 1845

The Attempt at Assassination

The morning of the first day on which the auto-da-fe was to be celebrated, dawned gloomily, as if congenial with the dread scene that was so shortly to be enacted.117

The procession issued from the Inquisition at nine o’clock on that morning. The torturers, to the number of one hundred, came first, each armed with a lance and musket.118 Then advanced the standard-bearer of the order of Saint Dominicus, followed by a number of priests belonging to the fraternity, all clad in their white gowns and black scapulars. Next came the Duke of Medina-Cœli, bearing the “banner of faith,” according to the privilege of his family.119 He was followed by several grandees who were supporters of the Inquisition in the city of Seville.

Then came a portion of the condemned persons—the victims of that awful tribunal. They were clad in light garments, with crosses of drab cloth upon their breasts. Their heads and feet were bare; and the latter were torn with the shingles. The attitude of some of those unfortunate creatures was sorrowful and expressive of humiliation:—they were those who were condemned to slight penalties: but they knew that although they had escaped death, they were condemned to infamy for the remainder of their lives.

Next came those who had been doomed to be burnt alive, but who, as an especial kindness, had obtained the favour of strangulation. They wore garments upon the breasts of which were painted devils surrounded by flames. On their heads they wore high caps of a conical form, and covered with strange devices.

Lastly came those who were to be burnt alive. Their garments were covered with devils represented in agony amidst flames of fire; and they also wore the high conical caps which are termed corozas.

Every victim who was condemned to death was escorted by two familiars of the Inquisition and two priests. They were for the most part pale, meagre, thin: many of them could scarcely walk, so lacerated were their feet with the sores, or so dislocated their limbs with previous torture.

Amongst the last section of this miserable procession was the late governor of Seville, Don Manuel Argoso. Weakened by moral affliction and physical torture, the unhappy man could not walk: he was carried by two familiars of the Holy Office; and two Dominican priests exhorted him to confess his sins. But the count of Cevallos had sunk into a kind of apathy which was akin to death. His haggard countenance already bore the hue of the tomb: and his eyes were hollow, glassy, and motionless.

Who can fathom the mysteries and the agony of death—that last struggle beneath120 the terrestrial form and the immortal?

At the sight of their former governor,—that man so just, so generous, and so charitable,—the people were softened to tears; but they dared not manifest their compassion.

Apart from the crowd stood Mandamiento (the master of the Gardunos) and Manofina.

“You have your gold, worthy brother,” said the master, “do your duty well and faithfully. I am delighted to think that you and Culevrina should have come back to us; for I would have entrusted this business to none save you.”

“And do you know, good master,” demanded Manofina, “why I last night returned to you, and offered my services to secure Don Manuel Argoso this day?”

“Because you could not live honestly, and were compelled to fall back upon your old occupations,” answered Mandamiento.

“No such thing,” ejaculated Manofina. “I overheard the alguazil Joachim and Don Joseph, the Inquisidor’s favourite, speak of the conspiracy which Don Stephen de Vargas, Don Rodriguez de Valero and Don Ximenes de Herrera had formed to rescue the ancient governor;—I heard Joseph give Joachim orders to aid the good intent of those nobles; and then I heard Joachim suggest that they should employ the Gardunos for the purpose.”

“Ah! you heard that too?” said the master. “Well—and it is correct too. The three nobles whom you have named have paid me well; and behold, even now, where our Gardunos are gliding amongst the crowd, ready to accomplish the orders which I have given them.”

“‘Tis well,” said Manofina: “and they will succeed. But, as I was telling thee, I overheard all that Joseph communicated to the alguazil; and at that instant the news reached the tavern in Gipsies’ Alley, where the conversation took place between the favourite and Joachim, that John of Avila, the holy Apostle, had been arrested by the Inquisition. Then—then,” continued Manofina, gnashing his teeth, “I resolved to avenge that good man who once spoke words of comfort to Culevrina and myself.”

“And therefore you came to me and proposed—”

“I proposed what I will now execute,” added Manofina, clutching his dagger beneath his garment. “But, tell me, master—why didst thou accept my offer?”

“Because Peter Arbuez is a monster,” replied Mandamiento. “Whatever we of the order of Garduno may be, we wage not war against all ages and both sexes indiscriminately. Arbuez desolates Seville; and he has lately been less scrupulous in his conduct towards the Gardunos. The familiars have menaced them—and one has been arrested. Therefore must we rid the earth of our enemy!”

“Well spoken, good master,” exclaimed Manofina. “Interest lurks at the bottom. However, be your motive what it may, my steel shall execute your will—because that will is congenial with mine own. There is Culevrina, I go now to perform my part:—see thou that my escape is ensured.”

“Fear nothing,” answered Mandamiento: “six hundred Gardunos are amongst yonder crowd.”

Manofina nodded an approval of this arrangement; and in a few minutes he was seen gliding, like a serpent, through the dense multitudes towards the spot where the cavalcade of Inquisitorial officers and their retinue were every moment expected to emerge from the adjacent street.

While the mournful procession of victims defiled through the narrow thoroughfares leading from the Inquisition to the vast arena where the Auto-da-fe was to be celebrated, a profound and religious silence reigned amongst the multitudes. At length the tramping of horses announced the presence of the Inquisidors, the councillors of the Supreme Tribunal (a body more powerful than even the Grand Inquisidor himself),121 the ordinary Inquisidors, and the members of the clergy, formed an immense cavalcade, followed by the martyrs. The grand Inquisidor closed the procession, escorted by his body-guards.

Joseph rode near him.

As the cavalcade advanced, the Gardunos worked their way as near as possible towards those who formed it, telling their beads with great apparent devotion.

At the moment when the Grand Inquisidor passed, Manofina, followed by his faithful serena, took up his post in a humble manner near him, and began to pray more fervently than all the rest.

In a few minutes a shrill whistle was heard,—no one scarcely knew from which quarter; but Mandamiento well understood the signal, which informed him that the entire procession had issued forth from the inquisitorial buildings.

Then the Master made a sign of the cross.

Obedient to the silent order thus conveyed to them, and which had previously been agreed upon, the Gardunos rushed through the crowd of familiar, rescued Don Manuel Argoso in their vigorous arms, and bore him triumphantly away with the rapidity of lightning. The crowd made way to favour the flight; and the familiars, under the command of Joachim, allowed themselves to be easily defeated by the Gardunos who defended the rescue.

The Grand Inquisidor was too far removed from the scene of this exploit, to be aware of the cause of the confusion which stopped the cavalcade for a few minutes.

Presently another whistle was heard among the crowd.

Light as a fawn, the bravo Manofina leapt up behind the Grand Inquisidor, and aimed a terrific blow, with his short Andalusian dagger, at his back. But the blow was harmless: the dagger glanced aside, and the Grand Inquisidor did not even reel upon his horse.

Manofina glided from the back of the animal, and darted amongst the crowd, which, interspersed with Gardunos, readily opened to shield him.

The serena caught hold of the familiar who was nearest to her, and exclaimed, “This is the assassin!” Then, while Manofina effected his escape, she held the officer with all her strength, until those around arrested him.

Joseph’s brow lowered with discontent—discontent only, not alarm—when he saw Manofina deal the blow: and he murmured to himself, the instant he perceived that it was harmless, “No—no, Peter Arbuez must not die by that hand!”

The clergy and the ordinary inquisidors pressed round the chief, exclaiming. “A miracle! a miracle!”

“Yes,” answered Peter Arbuez coolly: “God protects me.”

And the people echoed the words. “A miracle! a miracle!”

They knew not that Peter Arbuez wore a cuirass beneath his garments!122

And now a familiar advanced, and acquainted the Grand Inquisidor with the rescue of Don Manuel Argoso.

“Nothing must trouble this august ceremony, at which his Majesty will, anon, condescend to be present,” said the Grand Inquisidor, with a frown. “Proceed! after the day’s duties, we will adopt measures to discover and punish those who have been guilty of this daring deed!”

The cavalcade then resumed its march.

The Commencement of the Auto-Da-Fe

Only at a little distance from the spot where the attempt at assassination took place, an incident occurred, which may as well be mentioned here:

A person clad in the garb of a Dominican friar, and with the cowl drawn completely over the countenance, had issued from the Inquisition along with others dressed in the same manner; but, instead of joining in the procession, as those others did, this person glided rapidly away towards the house belonging to Juanna. Arrived at the side door of that tenement, the person was immediately admitted, and the door closed again.

That person was Dolorez—Joseph had arranged the means by which she thus successfully effected her escape.

The procession continued its way to the great square, where the auto-da-fe was to take place.

All along the palace of the Duke of Medina-Cœli,123 where the King and his suite had taken up their abode, a balcony was erected for the royal use. On the right thereof was an immense amphitheatre destined for the councillors of the Supreme and the Ordinary Inquisidors.124 At the highest part of the amphitheatre, was the chair set apart for the Grand Inquisidor, and which was more elevated than the throne of the King.

Another amphitheatre, destined for those victims who were not to suffer until the following day, but who were to witness the execution of the few who were to die on this occasion, rose on the other side of the arena. In the middle of the square was a stone scaffold, with three or four conically-shaped brick ovens upon it. Balconies and stands for the accommodation of the people surrounded the remainder of the open space.

The Emperor-King, Charles the Fifth, was already seated upon his throne in the balcony, when the procession advanced through the square, he was attended by a numerous suite, and around him were crowds of elegantly dressed ladies.

And now the amphitheatre, the balconies, the windows, and the stands around the square were surrounded with multitudes of all classes. The officers, councillors, and clergy also took their seats; and the prisoners were all led to the amphitheatre allotted to them, the familiars who guarded them, and the monks who prayed with them, still attended upon them.

The Duke of Medina Cœli sate next to the King. His son-in-law, the Count of Mondejar, placed himself amongst the Councillors of the Supreme Tribunal. Isabella, the Count’s daughter, occupied a chair amongst the ladies in the Royal balcony. The appearance of that beautiful creature was melancholy in the extreme: she was a prey to a deep sorrow.

And now a profound and awful silence reigned throughout the square. A Dominican priest, dressed in his sacerdotal ornaments, commenced the sacrifice of the mass. The whole scene was a most strange—a most striking one. Monks of all orders, an innumerable militia, forming a fourth of the entire population, and the horrible torturers, prayed humbly upon their knees: the crowds, at that moment under the influence of a sentiment which they could not divine, mingled, however, with superstitions terror and fanatic devotion, bent their heads and beat their breasts. Each individual endeavoured, at all events, to manifest as much zeal as possible: there was so much danger in appearing indifferent!

When the mass was over, Peter Arbiter descended from his arm-chair: when he reached the foot of the amphitheatre, Joseph, his almoner, placed a gold mitre125 upon the head of the Grand Inquisidor, who then advanced towards the balcony of the King. Peter Arbuez then ascended a few steps, so as still to be higher than the monarch: and, in a deep and sonorous voice, he exclaimed, “Sire, does your Majesty swear to protect the Roman Catholic faith, to extirpate heresy, and to support with all your royal power the proceedings of the Inquisition?”

The proud Emperor-King stood up, and uncovering his royal brow, in the presence of which all other heads were alike uncovered, said in a firm voice, “I swear!”

Then the Grand Inquisidor, turning towards the assembly, and addressing it collectively, exclaimed in a manner to be overheard throughout the square, “And ye children of Rome who are here present, do you swear, each in your capacity and power, to defend and protect the Catholic, Apostolic, and Roman faith,126—to prosecute and renounce heretics, and to lend your aid to all the acts of the Inquisition?”

“We swear! we swear!” replied a chorus of a hundred thousand voices.

Almost the entire population of Seville was collected in that immense arena.

“‘Tis well! ‘tis well!“ said the Grand Inquisidor, with a gesture of his hand: “now, be silent, and listen!”

Peter Arbuez returned to his seat: and a Dominican friar then ascended a pulpit built near the scaffold, and commenced a sermon.

“Brethren,” he said, “the Inquisition is superior to kings; for the power of heaven is above the power of the earth; and the Inquisition is the gate of paradise. The living water thence flows; and we should all moisten our hearts therewith, as we would the parched earth. In a word, brethren, the Inquisition is holy and above kings, superior reginos, because it takes its rise from the creation of the world and the origin of the Tower of Babel.”

At these words the monarch knit his brows, for he had great trouble to contain the indignation which this burlesque sermon caused him. At the same time he said nothing, being unwilling to alienate himself from the Holy Office. He knew that he had plenty of enemies amongst the Reformers, without exciting the Catholics against him. He accordingly allowed the preacher to continue that singular apology for the Inquisition, which lasted twenty minutes. Mass was then finished, and the reading of the various sentences began.

On a signal from the grand Inquisidor, the principal notary of the Holy Office rose from his seat in the amphitheatre, and read in loud voice the various judgments that had been pronounced upon the prisoners.

At length the notary exclaimed, “Rise Francesca de Lerme!”

The unfortunate abbess of the Carmelites felt her limbs quiver and her courage fail at that awful moment: and as she was very ignorant and incapable of discriminating between the true and the false religion, the first impressions of her youth grew predominant,—or rather, her nature, soft and sensual as it was, experienced a dread which she could not subdue. When the words “to be burnt alive” met her ears, she exclaimed wildly. “No—not alive; I repent—I repent: I will die a good christian!”

“God be praised,” cried the Grand Inquisidor, joining his hands: “behold a soul that is saved!”

But his heart was not in reality touched at the agony of the unhappy woman whom he himself had first betrayed to crime, and had now betrayed to death.

Four Jews were the last who received sentence, which was to be executed that day. Accordingly, when the judgment pronounced against them was read, they were conducted into the ovens before alluded to. The doors were shut and bolted upon them: and the demoniac work of death then commenced. The executioner lighted huge fires beneath the ovens, the floors of which were of iron bars: and as the flames reached the wretched victims, they shrieked in fearful agony. The crowds listened in terror and dismay: the king could scarcely suppress his discontent and disgust: but the officers, familiars and militia of the Inquisition, together with the clergy, enjoyed the scene.

At length the unfortunate Jews were suffocated by the fire and smoke: and the raging element consumed their bodies with as much avidity as the Inquisidor had gloated over their sufferings.

The prisoners who were condemned to public-scourging and penitence then underwent their banishment; and thus concluded the first day’s proceedings of the Auto-da-fe. The grand display was reserved for the morrow.

The crowds dispersed—the prisoners who were yet to suffer were conducted back to the Inquisition—the king and his suite re-entered the Medina-Cœli palace—and Seville soon became tranquil once more.

first day ... auto-da-fe Four chapters from the French text have been completely taken out, which accounts for the large leap in time.
torturers The French text reads instead charbonniers and includes the following note: ‘The coal-[men] of the cities in which there was an inquisitorial tribunal had the privilege of forming part of the retinue which constituted the procession in the auto da fé; but this privilege imposed a duty upon them, or rather it was merely a genuine inquisitorial mode of paying the dealers in wood which the holy office required to burn heretics; the coal-[men] of all the cities in which the inquisition had piled up their fagots, were expected to furnish gratis, all the wood necessary for the auto da fé. It will be seen that the holy inquisition understood its interests.’ (p. 264*)

Coal-men produced charcoal by burning wood.

“banner of faith” Reynolds deleted the following description: ‘It was a banner of purple damask, upon one side of which the arms of Spain had been embroided, on the other, a naked sword surrounded by a crown of laurel, with the inscription: Justicia et misericordia.’ (p. 264)
beneath The text probably should read ‘between’.
councillors of the Supreme Tribunal The Great Inquisidor was president of the Consejo de la Suprema. Over the course of time, the Suprema took over part of the Great Inquisidor’s authority.
Peter Arbuez wore a cuirass beneath his garments ‘Afraid of being assassinated, he actually wore “a coat of mail under his tunic, and a kind of iron helmet under his cap.”—(History of the Inquisition; iii. part. ch. xii.)’ (p. 269*)
palace of the Duke of Medina-Cœli The Casa de Pilatos (Pilate’s House), in front of the Plaza de Pilatos, just west of the Puerta de Carmona, was originally built for the duke of Alcalá. It only passed into the hands of the Medinaceli in the eighteenth century.
the Ordinary Inquisidors Inquisidors of cities such as Cordoba, Toledo, Granada, etc.
mitre ‘a tall deeply-cleft headdress worn by a bishop [...] as a symbol of episcopal office, forming in outline (as viewed from the front or rear) the shape of a pointed arch, and now usually made of embroidered linen or satin’ (OED).
Catholic, Apostolic, and Roman faith Christian denomination centred around the authority of the Pope in Rome and bishops held to be derived from the apostles by a continuous succession.
Up: The Mysteries of the Inquisition. Previous: August 23, 1845 Next: September 6, 1845
Victorine Subervic and Manuel de Cuendías. Date: 1 July 2013