Spain did not start the practice of torture to heretics and blasphemers of the Catholic faith, otherwise known as the Spanish Inquisition. However, the country did engage in torture including the cutting out of tongues by using the Tongue Tearer.
The Inquisition started in southern France at the end of the 12th century. It was not until 1480 that the Spanish Inquisition began in earnest in Spain under Isabella I of Castile and Fernando II of Aragon, known after their marriage and during their reign as the Catholic Monarchs.
The Spanish Jews were the first to come under attack, in Isabella’s own kingdom of Castile. The King and Queen, pursuing a policy of the physical unification of Spain but also a policy of spiritual unity to bring the country under one faith, forced the Jews to convert to Catholicism (when they became known as Conversos), executed them, or expelled them from the country. By 1492 there were Inquisitions in 8 different Castillian cities. In the 16th century Protestants were also targeted and by the 17th century it became the turn of the Muslims.
The friar, Tomas de Torquemada, was the first Inquisitor General. Apart from relatively tame endeavours, such as the censorship of heretic books, Spain also engaged in the many known practices of torture in an attempt to force heretics or blasphemers to convert to the Catholic faith in a country where previously Jews, Moors and Christians had lived together in relative peace.
The Tongue Tearer was a simple torture device. The mouth was forced open and the Tongue Tearer inserted to grab the tongue with grippers. A screw was tightened and the tongue ripped out. Some of these implements had staggered teeth which would also shred the tongue.
The cutting out of tongues was only one form of torture applied during the Inquisition and many worse devices were used. The Age of Enlightenment put a stop to the Inquisition but, sadly, not to religious fervour in general.
Spain is still today a Catholic country but other religions are now also recognised.