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Harley L. McDevitt Inquisition Collection

Identifier: MSH/LAT 0090

Scope and Contents

This collection contains documents relating to the Inquisitions of Spain, Italy, Portugal, Peru, and Mexico. Included are manuals and guidelines on proper conduct within the inquisition; accounts of trial procedures, prisoner sentences, and autos de fe; and certificates and books of privileges of the staff of the inquisitions. Also included are public edicts, papal bulls, and royal decrees published by various inquisitions relating to banned works, jurisdiction of the different inquisitions, and various heresies, as well as contemporary histories and pro-inquisition arguments. Materials include broadsides, letters, certificates, and bound volumes.


  • Creation: circa 1500-1859

Language of Materials

Collection material in Spanish, Portuguese, Latin, and Italian.

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright status for collection materials is unknown. Transmission or reproduction of materials protected by U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.) beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owners. Works not in the public domain cannot be commercially exploited without permission of the copyright owners. Responsibility for any use rests exclusively with the user.

Biographical / Historical

The Spanish Inquisition, a series of institutionalized tribunals established in the 15th and 16th centuries, has its roots in inquisitorial procedure developed under Roman law: Magistrates could investigate crimes as the evidence collector, prosecutor, and judge, and the use of torture was also permitted to elicit confessions. The Spanish Inquisition was used to combat heresy (any perceived threats to the social order of Latin Christendom). In the 15th century, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella requested power from the Catholic Church to appoint inquisitors to investigate the descendants of Jewish converts. These inquisitors prosecuted cases of heresy, often employing torture in their interrogations, and carried out sentences at public ceremonies known as autos-da-fé. Sentences ranged from public humiliation to execution. During the 16th century, local tribunals of the Inquisition were created in Peru, Mexico, Rome, and Sicily, and Portugal created its own independent inquisition. The Spanish Inquisition existed into the early 19th century. Joseph Bonaparte abolished the inquisition in 1808, but it was revived by Ferdinand VII in 1814 before finally being suppressed in 1834.


11.75 cubic feet


This collection is arranged into seven series: I. Inquisitorial Manuals; II. Trials and Sentencing; III. Autos de Fe; IV. Censorship; V. Familiars and Officials; VI. Policies and Proceedings; and VII. Polemics and Histories. Each series is arranged chronologically.

Related Materials

Further information, including cataloged materials and essays on the Inquisition, can be found at .

Harley L. McDevitt Inquisition Collection
Under Revision
Hannah Sabal
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the University of Notre Dame Rare Books & Special Collections Repository

102 Hesburgh Library
Notre Dame IN 46556