You can now read 5 articles in a month for free on BostonGlobe.com. Read as much as you want anywhere and anytime for just 99¢.

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

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
Already a subscriber?
Your city. Your stories. Your Globe.
Yours FREE for two weeks.
Enjoy free unlimited access to Globe.com for the next two weeks.
Limited time only - No credit card required!
BostonGlobe.com complimentary digital access has been provided to you, without a subscription, for free starting today and ending in 14 days. After the free trial period, your free BostonGlobe.com digital access will stop immediately unless you sign up for BostonGlobe.com digital subscription. Current print and digital subscribers are not eligible for the free trial.
Thanks & Welcome to Globe.com
You now have unlimited access for the next two weeks.
BostonGlobe.com complimentary digital access has been provided to you, without a subscription, for free starting today and ending in 14 days. After the free trial period, your free BostonGlobe.com digital access will stop immediately unless you sign up for BostonGlobe.com digital subscription. Current print and digital subscribers are not eligible for the free trial.