House of the Spanish Inquisition

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16th century

Casa de la InquisiciónThis house belonged to Don Alonso García del Campo, born in 1555 and appointed familiar to The Tribunal of the Holy Office of the Inquisition, commonly known as the Spanish Inquisition. Consequently this house, which occupied the entire block, must be previous to that date. The two robust columns that flank the door bear witness to the richess of the family, and as soon as Don Alonso obtained the appointment, he had the Inquisition coat of arms carved over the front balcony, as you can still see today. The arms have a rough finish and the usual motto is missing, but it was good enough to show proof of his new position.

The Inquisition coat of arms shows a cross made of two logs; on the one side we see a sword -representing the treatment of heretics- and on the other side an olive branch -representing the reconciliation with the repentant. The original coat of arms, but not this one, also sports an inscription reading “EXURGE DOMINE ET JUDICA CAUSAM TUAM. PSALM 73”, a Latin sentence meaning: “Arise, O God, plead thine own cause”, from psalm 73 (74).

Escudo de la InquisiciónThe Spanish Inquisition was a creation of the Catholic Monarchs Isabella and Ferdinand in the 15th century and it functioned as an ecclesiastic court of justice in order to judge crimes against the faith committed by Christians. Peraleda was in the jurisdiction of the Court of Llerena (270 kms south of here). In addition to the members of the court, two auxiliary figures existed that collaborated with the Holy Office: the familiars and the comissarios (commissioners). Familiars were lay collaborators of the Inquisition, who had to be permanently at the service of the Holy Office. To become a familiar was considered an honour, since it was a public recognition of Old Christian status and brought with it certain additional privileges, though no wages. The commissioners, on the other hand, were members of the religious orders who collaborated occasionally with the Holy Office.

The familiars functioned as a secret police at the service of the Court and their house was like a local office of the Inquisition. Their mission was to watch and report any crimes they heard of. They also worked as bodyguards of the inquisitors, arrested suspects, transferred prisoners, inspected buildings, received testimony from the accused and participated in some of the court proceedings. To be appointed familiar you had to meet some basic requirements, and Don Alonso met them:

1- You cannot be a foreigner.
2- You need an Old Christian status (limpieza de sangre or blood purity)
3- You must lead an upright and exemplary life.
4- You must be a legitimate child.
5- You must not perform manual labours considered low (butcher, blacksmith, confectioner, etc.)
6- You must be wealthy and come from a prestigious family.

They needed to be trustworthy and have a substancial wealth so as to pay for their own expenses. As we can see from the house, this family must have been one of the most prominent families in the area and, considering the size of Peraleda and the surrounding villages at the time, it is quite probable that this familiar had jurisdiction over some of those villages too.

Casa de SalvadorThere is another house similar to this one in Peraleda. Although we cannot guarantee they are somehow connected, there are some striking similarities. It is a house known as “House of Salvador”, due to the name of its last occupant, and it is marked with “4b” on the map attached here, very near the church. It is also a very large house occupying the whole block and, same as this, sporting two robust stone columns flanking the door, topped by a balcony.

That other house has long fuelled the local fantasy. It is said that in times of old it was a nunnery and that there was a long tunnel going from this house to the church, with a secret entrance in the apse, hidden behind the altarpiece. These data, though, have some true basis. There was in Peraleda some kind of monastery, but not of nuns and not in the village. It was the old Farm of Alarza, by the river Tagus, belonging to the Cistercian Monastery of San Martin de Valdeiglesias, near Madrid. It is also true that there is a tunnel under the house, but it is the kind of tunnel-shaped cellars you can also find under other houses in the village, though longer than usual. A collapse blocking the tunnel leaves room for imagining it much longer, although it could hardly reach the church, since inside and all around it there are lots of graves stacked deep down the ground. But even in the face of reality, legends are hard to die.






Escrito por Angel Castaño

Apóyanos con tu firma para salvar el Dolmen de Guadalperal y también para salvar el retablo esgrafiado de Peraleda.

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