The Inquisition was an institution created to investigate and punish heresy.
The Inquisitor General presided over the Supreme Council, made up of six members appointed directly by the king.
No one could debate the Catholic faith, privately or publicly, and heresy was pursued, in addition to blasphemy, bigamy, sodomy and witchcraft.
The procedures began with an “edict of faith” in which the public was informed of all those behaviors considered reproachable, and the townspeople were encouraged to denounce any heretics they knew about.
The proceedings were regulated, and actually protected rights better than did the civil proceedings of the time; the Tribunals included expert jurists, theologians and scribes.
At times torture methods such as the rack, water cure and strappado were used in order to extract his confessions from the accused.
Finally, the auto de fe was held, a public religious ceremony organized by the Inquisition in order to make examples of the accused and atone for their sins.
The civil and ecclesiastical authorities attended, in addition to the residents of the cities.
The sentences were read, a hood was placed on the culprit, along with a humiliating garment called a sanbenito, and a placard on which his crime was written.
Executions were carried out in the afternoon (on the outskirts of the city), and without an audience.
Many proceedings initiated did not end in convictions, and most of the accused were spared from execution.
The first auto de fe was held in Seville in 1481, where six people were sentenced to the stake.
Thanks to inquisitors like Alonso de Salazar, after the Zugarramurdi trials the Inquisition was skeptical of witchcraft accusations.
Some of the historical figures tried by this institution were, for example, Luis de León, for translating the Song of Songs; and Saint Teresa of Jesus, who were prosecuted but not convicted.
In 1813 at the Cortes of Cádiz the first decree abolishing the Inquisition was issued.
When Fernando VII returned to the throne he called for its reestablishment, until the Queen Regent María Cristina abolished it definitively in 1834.