Auto de Fe in the Plaza Mayor de Madrid, 1683

Reporting yourself to the Inquisition

Posted in Features


The story of a 16th century soldier who defaced a roadside cross with his sword and then, unbelievably, turned himself in to the Inqusition, has been discovered and tweeted by a medieval historian. Francois Soyer found the story in the trial records of the Inquisition in Lisbon, which have recently been digitized and put online by the Portuguese National Archives.

Bartholomeu Domingues, a 19 or 20 year-old Spanish soldier, was garrisoned in Portugal in the time of Philip II, the ‘Spanish Armada’ King of Spain. He was ‘an angry soldier and unlucky gambler’, says Soyer, and his trial by the religious police reveals ‘the very serious consequences of a moment of anger’. The tweets unfold the tale:

‘The trial is interesting,’ says Soyer, ‘as it demonstrates the role that the Inquisition played in policing religious beliefs by its mere existence. Fearful of arrest, Bartholomeu had gone straight to the Inquisition.’

He also points out that if Bartholomeu had been a foreigner from France, or the regions of Europe where the Reformation was established, ‘things might not have been so easy for him’. The crime of sacrilege in Portugal at the time was frequently investigated using torture, and punished on a human bonfire.

Praying the rosary and doing some extra fasting and confession was an unusually happy ending for an encounter with the Inquisition.

Read the complete thread, by Francois Soyer, telling the whole story.

Photo of the Auto-da-fé in Madrid in 1683 by Wikimedia Commons

Simon Jenkins

Simon Jenkins

Simon Jenkins is the editor of Ship of Fools, and the author of comedy-meets-religion book, Jumble Sales of the Apocalypse.

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