A very dark chapter in the history of the Catholic Church and, indeed, Spain is the Inquisition of the 13th and 14th century. I’m sure everybody knows what man did to man to elicit confessions of being a witch, a sorcerer, a heretic. A simple denunciation was enough to lead to an arrest and unspeakable tortures inflicted on mostly innocent people to get them to confess to being possessed by the devil, poisoning their neighbors by witchcraft of otherwise infringing he doctrines of the Catholic Church. It goes far beyond the scope of this blog post to really delve into the depth of this part of history in the 13th and 14th century when a ruthless witch hunt was on. But, the medieval methods of torture were also applied to press confessions out of common criminals, unrelated to any ‘crimes’ against the Church and the Catholic faith.
Meandering through the colorful streets of the Juderia, the old Jewish quarters of Cordoba, I happened upon a museum which immediately caught my attention. Gallery and Museum of the Inquisition, read the sign over the entrance to a small passage where, at first sight, coats of arms and medieval armors of knights were displayed. Closer inspection revealed, that this museum housed a collection of authentic torture instruments of the Middle Ages as well as a documentation of what happened at the time.
In I went and, I must say, a chill went down my spine when I entered the first room. It’s one thing to read about these atrocities in history books, but quite another to come face to face with an Iron Maiden, the wheel and other horrible instruments, knowing that they were not reproductions but had actually been used on living and breathing people.
It was yet another fascinating find on my trip to Cordoba and a hands on education in history. What really threw me though was that, when I left, I discovered that miniature reproductions of torture instruments were on sale at the museum shop by way of souvenirs. I was really take aback and asked the assistant if people actually had so little taste as to buy these things. ‘Oh yes,’ she said. ‘They are quite popular… as a gift for the mother in law!!’ Go figure!