The Inquisition Palace is one of the more bizarre museums in Cartagena. It documents a dark pocket in Colombia’s history similar to the Salem witch-burning era in this country.
According to an historical plaque on the first floor of the building – the one in the image above – the inquisition began in Europe in the early part of the 12th century, which the Catholic church imposed and used as a tool to confront heresy. It was called The Holy Office: Identification of the other.
Between 1231-1233, Pope Gregory IX conferred legal status on this institution. In 1478, under the reign of Castilla and Aragon, with authorization from Pope Pius IV, the inquisition was formally established in Spain. And from there, it made its way to Colombia. Here’s an artist’s rendition of what the cells were like.
The usual suspects were persecuted – anyone who practiced divination, astrologers, people suspected of practicing black magic, anyone who was different than the norm. The accused sat on this block of rock in an open courtyard for judgement.
What I found particularly disturbing about this museum was the instruments of torture that were used. Take a look at this collar. Imagine how this would feel around your neck.
Or this sucker. Move your head and the device penetrated your throat.
In one of the courtyards, a guillotine and a noose were displayed.
One of the tourists, a woman, actually went over to the guillotine and stuck her head in that opening between the base and the blade, then also went over to the noose and fitted the rope around her neck. Death wish, lady?
To wander through a place like this, you have to detach emotionally and regard it as some awful period of history. I want to believe humanity has evolved beyond horror like this, but we haven’t. Our forms of torture today are just different – waterboarding at Gitmo, chemical weapons in Syria, economic deprivation, nukes. And I suppose that’s the importance of museums like this, reminders of our capacity for needless cruelty.
And look at the woman the trump admin has nominated for head of the CIA – Gina Haspel, who oversaw the black sites during the Bush years that ran the waterboarding torture program. Sorry, but this country’s ideals don’t include torture or those who perpetrate it. Bye, Gina.