Ideas

Bureaucrats with torches

What the Inquisition really announced about the world

Say what you will about the Inquisition, but it was an unequivocal success in one respect: Everyone knows its name. The Inquisition has long since been transmuted, by a kind of mental alchemy, from historical episode into universal metaphor. It has become a byword for intrusive and brutal intolerance — for moral certainty wielded with pitiless zeal.

At the same time, without really thinking about it, we’ve come to regard the Inquisition as safely in the past, a high-water mark of benighted medieval prejudice: the glowering interrogators in their hoods, the creaking winches and tightening ropes of the rack, the flickering torches applied to pyres outside the walls of Seville or in the cobbled marketplace of Rome.

Your comment is subject to the rules of our Posting Policy

This comment may appear on your public profile. Public Profile FAQ

Real journalists. Real journalism. Subscribe to The Boston Globe today.
You're reading  1 of 5 free articles.
Get UNLIMITED access for only 99¢ per week Subscribe Now >
You're reading1 of 5 free articles.Keep scrolling to see more articles recomended for you Subscribe now
We hope you've enjoyed your 5 free articles.
Continue reading by subscribing to Globe.com for just 99¢.
 Already a member? Log in Home
Subscriber Log In

We hope you've enjoyed your 5 free articles'

Stay informed with unlimited access to Boston’s trusted news source.

  • High-quality journalism from the region’s largest newsroom
  • Convenient access across all of your devices
  • Today’s Headlines daily newsletter
  • Subscriber-only access to exclusive offers, events, contests, eBooks, and more
  • Less than 25¢ a week
Marketing image of BostonGlobe.com
Marketing image of BostonGlobe.com