Fire and Song: The Story of Luis de Carvajal and the Mexican Inquisition

Fire and Song: The Story of Luis de Carvajal and the Mexican Inquisition

Ann Lanyon, Allen & Unwin

Anna Lanyon has written with determination to uncover the complete story of a dedicated young man and the injustice meted out to the members of this Jewish family during the era of the Spanish Inquisition.

This is a compelling narrative of a time when people of Jewish background were given the option to renounce their adherence to the “Law of Moses” and accept baptism into the Church of Rome.

Escape to Portugal presented no better alternative so, at the instigation of a family member, they migrated to New Spain (Mexico) only to be pursued with the vigour of the Inquisitors.

The prevailing mistaken idea was that Jews were “Christ killers”. Migration was no escape. At a time when the Church and State were identified as one, they were automatically considered subject to Roman Law.

“When Luis embraced the Law of Moses he became a heretic and a traitor in the eyes of society.”

The outcome was inevitable. Pope Leo X in 1520 decreed that secular powers had no choice but to do what was demanded in carrying out punishment by death.

The story details the ordeal of the Inquisition endured by Luis, his mother and sisters.

“Of all the members of the Carvajal family it was one of the womenfolk who proved the most heroic. Isabel maintained an attitude of defiance, even insolence throughout her interrogations even when she was taken to the torture chamber.”

The horror and cruelty of it all is illustrated by the fact that, garrotting before being burned was preferable to being burned alive.

John Atkinson

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