Torquemada briefs the faithful, and Louisa, Agent of the Holy Cross
|Chapter 5 Strategy of the Unthinkable
After their meeting Frey Tomas Torquemada and his Deputy, Frey Martinez, returned to Segovia and the Convent of Saint Tomas. There they began laying plans on their strategy aimed at ridding Spain of the Heretics. This included false Conversos, Jews, and of course the Moorish Infidels. A secret meeting was convened that brought together two dozen of the “Causeos” top leaders. Among those invited to attend were Reverend Mother (RM) Consuelo Sanchez, and Brother Antonio Bernardo.
RM Sanchez had been instrumental in gaining the patronage of many top political and religious allies who went on to become strong supporters. This patronage had been built quietly over the span of a twenty year career. Working behind the scenes Consuelo had risen in prominence and become a force to be reckoned with. In the course of her service she organized and trained an auxiliary of young woman who worked inside the convent and served the administrative needs as well as pandering to the physical welfare of selected officials. Outside the convent the enlistment of support was done by a secret female suborder known as the Fallen Angels. They worked tirelessly as a militant branch of the Sisterhood in the gathering intelligence and targeting for compromise, those who held positions of power and influence throughout Spain.
Brother Antonio Bernardo was the secretary of Cardinal Mendoza. He pretended to be a faithful servant but was in secret a disciple of Torquemada. Mendoza was a strong supporter of the Queen and a moderate church leader who continuously sought to reconcile the demands of the Radical Dominicans with the more pragmatic views of the Vatican. Antonio kept the cause informed of what the Monarchy was doing in matters of church and state. He had been recruited years earlier by RM Sanchez and was rumored to have fathered her child.
Minutes of this meeting show an overview, beginning with a welcome by Frey Torquemada.
"Welcome my friends," he began as the meeting came to order…."Many have traveled far and I invite you to relax and enjoy the times we spend together in the next week. If there is anything you might require that has not been provided please make your needs known to Sister Consuelo. She has handled all the social arrangements and will serve as our hostess while we are gathered. Let us begin by reviewing the scope of where we've been, where we are and where we're going. Let me start by presenting Frey Martinez."
"I think I know everyone here. I'll not go into great detail on where we’ve been. There are but a few minutes allotted me. We’ve done much to raise the awareness of the people to the dangers that lurk constantly, seeking to erode the foundations of the faith. As those who came before us we’ve sought to create awareness in the minds of the faithful, encouraging them to speak out and act to put an end to the outrages of the Jewish Heretics and Infidels of Islam. Our efforts in recent years have built on the great revival of 1430 that led to the deaths of over 50,000 Jews in rioting that spread to a dozen cities across Spain. The conversions that followed in the wake of these protests were most gratifying. "
"We've succeeded in driving the Judaizes and followers of Islam into enclaves where they are no longer free to contaminate the hearts and minds of long time and newly converted Christians. There remains however, much work to be done in these areas. We’ve completed a draft of a Bull that will authorize the Holy Office… It's currently at the Vatican that we hope to soon have in the hands of the King and Queen… I’ll leave Frey Torquemada to elaborate on the Inquisition when he returns to the lectern."
"We continue to organize and prepare for how we will put this authority into effect drafting the articles under which the Inquisition will be operated in Spain. We have worked tirelessly to insure that we will have the cooperation and support of those in power when this great day of opportunity comes. Currently the Monarchy is trying deal with the problem as Brother Bernardo will now explain.”
"I'm Antonio Bernardo, secretary of Cardinal Mendoza… I’d appreciate it if no one tells him I’m here… (Laughter) At the present time the solution that the Cardinal and the Queen are working on is almost laughable. To solve the vexing problem of the hypocritical New Christians they are preparing a catechism that is to be recited as part of the Sunday service. This they believe will solve the problem. (More Laughter) As Frey Martinez and most of us realize, the solution will require much firmer measures. It’s imperative that all of us prepare for what must be done when the power to act is placed in our hands. I'm sure everyone will do their part."
"So what remains," said Torquemada "is to prepare for that great day. I anticipate that the Bull will be sent to the King and Queen sometime in the next year. They will naturally seek to defer from taking the strong action required and we must all act to keep the pressure on. Once it goes into effect in Castile, we must act decisively to bring before the Holy Office as many cases as possible. The more False Christians we prosecute the more the threads will lead back to the very heart of the great conspiracy and prove decisively what we already know…That the Jews are behind everything, are a great enemy and an evil that must be purged from our society….Only then can we take the final steps to expel all the Heretics and Infidels from our land and establish the One True Faith as the unifying religion of all Spain."
After the meeting ended Frey Torquemada invited Frey Martinez, RM Sanchez and Brother Bernardo to remain behind.
"My friends," he told them, when he was sure they were alone. "When the time comes to expel the Jews, Isabella will resist. She has no stomach for the strong measures that must be taken. We must isolate her from every possible avenue of support and drive her relentlessly into establishing the Inquisition. Then she must be moved further into signing off on the order of expulsion. In the end her anchor is her husband Ferdinand. In the final push it will take all our strength to move this action to completion and we will need the King's help in getting her to do the right thing and moving her to a final solution. We must make sure he will stand behind us and at this time we cannot take his support for granted. He must be compromised. I leave in your hands, how this will be accomplished."
Louisa Mendoza was a well-trained soldier in the Order of the Holy Cross. Brother Juan had seen to that. Before his redemption and ordination as a Dominican Friar, he had been a pick-pocket and thief. He had taught the young woman how to move with an almost invisible stealth, pick locks, listen behind closed doors, memory aids and how to use her body. This was her first assignment and she was determined to prove herself worthy.
The Order had two branches. One was Monastic and the other Mendicant. It was to the second of these that Louisa belonged. Instead of a life of meditation with an injunction to poverty and self-abnegation the Mendicants existed to do God’s work. The term mendicant was interpreted to mean, begging God’s service and their mission was to institute religious reform for the greater glory of the One True Faith. In plain terms the branch worked zealously to achieve a goal of making Catholicism the unifying religion of Spain.
It was just before Christmas in the year of our Lord, 1478. Louisa had applied for a job as a domestic servant in the house of Alonso Caliente, a New Christian textile merchant in Toledo. She began working in the kitchen but soon was transferred into housekeeping.
Alonso was a widower beginning to settle into middle age. He had a paunch and was a little overweight. Louisa was in her early twenties, an attractive young woman if perhaps a bit on the thin side. She had noticed Alfonso taking notice on the first day of her employment. He seemed to be undressing her with his eyes.
It is always a good sign when the man you are investigating shows an interest in you, Juan had once told her. Be alert for this and when it happens you must send an unmistakable signal that you share his sentiments. Once a man believes that you are open to his desires he will tend to overlook the things he would otherwise notice… signs that would normally put him on the alert and cause him to be wary…However, if he feels there's a love connection it will blind him to all suspicion. This then is your greatest defense; do not hesitate to use it to every advantage for it is a weapon of great purpose. Sex is your shield and the way out of many a difficult situation.
Once on the job she began discreetly eavesdropping and making mental notes of all that she heard. She looked about in closets and chests for items of clothing and hardware used in the practice of Judaism. Her efforts were not immediately rewarded and she was beginning to worry that her first mission was going to prove a waste of time. All that work and nothing to show for it, she thought to herself.
She had worked hard inside the convent as a Soldier and then a Page, assisting the Friars. She copied pamphlets, helped with meetings, gave succor to priests as well as those special visitors she was told to serve. It was an exciting time and she reveled in the center of all that was taking place. She was an officer now, in the forefront of a Holy War to rid Spain of the Jews, Moors, and especially the hypocrites….those Old and New Christians who pretended conversion for the sake of expediency.
Earlier in the day she received her first hint of encouragement. A dinner was being prepared and the food was not a traditional Christian fare. A small room off the Kitchen was set with fine linen and expensive silverware. Then the servants were all told to go home early…the meal was to be served by the Master’s, daughter. This was the opportunity Louisa had been waiting for. She hid in a closet listening as everyone departed.
In her hiding place she reflected back upon the last year of service. She remembered her disbelief and happiness at being promoted to Squire. It was a special program for novitiates picked to work outside the Convent. She was to be trained as an agent for missions directed against suspected New Christians, who had become wealthy claiming to be converted while still clinging to their past beliefs. In addition she learned how to use sex to seduce men of power in order to gain political support for the cause. This was the fast track to rank and influence within the order and RM Sanchez was a prime example of where this could lead. While Louisa struggled to remain humble, her promotion came with a well-appointed room in the best wing of the Convent as well as the privilege of eating in the Salon. Poverty, she soon realized, ended at the walls of the Convent.
From her refuge in the closet she heard the arrival of the visitors. There were three. Alonso appeared to be well acquainted with one of them.
“Zachariah old friend,” he said greeting him at the door…”I’m honored that the finest tailor in all Toledo, chooses to visit my humble home. And who are these other two distinguished gentlemen? “
"Allow me to introduce them", said the tailor, "This is Benjamin, a clerk at the Customs Office, and this is Solomon the bookbinder. He has the new shop on Front Street.”
“A pleasure to meet you,” said Alonso motioning, “Come let us go now and sit in the alcove and become better acquainted.” He called up to his daughter on the second floor.
“Our guests are here, Margareta, you may begin serving.”
Louisa heard footsteps coming down the stairs. They passed by and went into the kitchen. She had scouted the surroundings and knew exactly where she intended to eavesdrop. It was behind a ceiling drape that hung to the floor. She had barely concealed herself when Margareta walked past bringing the refreshments. Her heart was pounding as she reflected on another of the admonitions that Brother Juan had firmly told her to remember.
You must always keep in mind where you operate in the context of your surroundings. Expect the unexpected. If something can go wrong it will. Avoiding compromise is better than having to deal with it… If you get caught red handed, you can expect to be murdered. The suspects will know they are undone and will have nothing to lose by killing you on the spot.
She listened to idle conversation for about half an hour until the dinner was served. They discussed business, told jokes and made small talk. When the dishes were cleared they lit their pipes and Alonso told his daughter.
“Go now to the house of your friend Rachel and have a good visit. I won‘t expect you until Sabbath morning and there is no need to hurry.”
Louisa heard the door close and the sound of the tumblers locking.
Alonso stood in the doorway less than a foot away; she could smell the tobacco and almost feel his presence before he returned to his seat…
"Well... we're alone now… Let’s discuss the real purpose of your visit."
“I tell you my friend,” said Zachariah, “There are many such as yourself who through circumstances most egregious, were forced to abandon the teachings of our forefathers…”
“Yes,” said Benjamin, “But that does not mean that you can’t quietly practice the tenants of Judaism, until conditions allow you to once more proclaim your faith.”
“There are many,” said Solomon, “that meet behind closed doors in the devout practice of our beliefs.”
“These are dangerous times my friends,” Answered Alonso, “I've found that it's not so difficult to reconcile our two faiths. Whether Jesus was the son of God or a Prophet is not something worth dying over…”
“Jesus was a False Prophet, as you well know!" said Zachariah, visibly irritated, "and I pray you’ll soon come to your senses. The day of deliverance is at hand…please, Alonso; join us in celebrating the forthcoming return of the Messiah.”
“A Jew is always and forever a Jew," continued Benjamin, “and we’ve not forsaken you, Brother. Do you really think your Infidel friends will stand by you in time of need?”
“Behold how these Christians love their fellow men,”…Interjected Solomon, shaking his head. “The riots in Seville, Valencia, Cordova and even here in Toledo…That drove our forefathers to the most unthinkable of heresies, came only after the massacre of fifty-thousands of our people. These accursed Christians and their unholy doctrines…...”
Zachariah spoke up…“Zealots is what they are….intolerant of any view but their own. It's this that condemns them, not to mention their false prophet Jesus…Imagine his nerve claiming to be the Messiah. The Romans had every right to crucify him…”
“Too late they saw the face of Satan, revealed beneath that crown of thorns,” Benjamin answered, “Give the Romans credit. They tried to squelch the Christian zealots but the harder they tried the more their perverse and false doctrine spread, took root and flourished.“
"'Be my brother or I'll kill you,’ that's their message,” said Solomon, “In the name of love they leave a bloody trail of death behind them.”
Alonso looked about nervously….voices were being raised and words spoken that could have serious consequences, if heard by the wrong ears.
“Thank you for coming my friends,” he told his three visitors….“I’ll give the matter some thought….I know you speak your hearts with the conviction of faith…I’m touched but I beseech you, that these are dangerous times, as you so aptly point out, and I beg of you….use discretion in the voicing of your sentiments.”
Hearing them rise Louisa went quietly to the kitchen. She paused wondering if there would be any more damning comments made on the threshold.
She heard nothing of note as Alonso bid them good night and closed the door. He drew a deep sigh of relief. Once a year they came around and since the Hebrew community accounted for a good portion of his prosperity it was in his interest to be polite and listen.
Whew, Louisa thought and was about to let herself out the servant's door when she saw a mouse….Still tense, she stepped back into a work table sending a pot clanging to the floor…
Alonso was startled by a noise. Had he not given specific instructions that all the servants were to be dismissed early? Striding into the Kitchen he saw the new girl, Louisa holding a pot. “Why are you still here?” he asked irritability…
“Just finishing up,” she answered, wiping the copper with her dress.
He eyed her thoughtfully…This is the one who looks back at me…I guess I don’t look that old after all… “Were you not told to leave early with the rest of the servants?”
“Yes Sir but I still had work to do and wanted to….”
Wanted what? He wondered... “Wanted to do what…?” he asked out loud.
“To ask if I might have tomorrow off…?”
Is this a little cat and mouse game, he wondered, thinking he already knew the answer? “Did you ask the Majordomo?”
“Yes, and he told me he’d speak with you regarding the holidays. “
“So you decided to hang around and ask me in person….when we were all alone?”
“I hope you’re not angry" she replied coyly
Such a pretty girl, though Alonso….Dismissing any misgivings, he asked, “And if I say yes, how do you intend to show your gratitude? “
She blushed looking down holding her hands together…. He walked over and took her by the shoulders. She looked up with lips pursed and eyes closed… They kissed and he felt the press of her body into his…He began to untie her bodice.
”Let me give this matter some thought,” he continued, reaching in and feeling her breast.
It was late when Louisa arrived back at the Convent. She went and gave report to her mentor. Juan summoned the recorder who took her deposition. It was almost midnight before they finished and she retired to her apartment.
Deposition Given by Louisa Mendoza, December 18, 1678.
This evening at 6 O’clock in Toledo, in the home of the merchant, Alonso Caliente, there came three Judaizing proselytizers who revealed themselves as Zechariah the tailor, Benjamin the bookbinder on Front Street and Solomon the customs clerk. I overheard them speaking in the alcove. The four were having a conversation where the divinity of Christ was being denied, and the Holy Faith blasphemed. Specifically the proselytizers made the following assertions.
Zechariah: Jesus was a false prophet. Christians were condemned by their intolerance. Jesus was not the Messiah. Romans were justified in crucifying Christ.
Benjamin: Many New and Old Christians (Conversos) secretly practice Judaism. Christians were infidels. Christians were the instruments of Satan. Christians hold false doctrines.
Solomon: Many Conversos wait the day when they can return to old beliefs. Christians practice unholy doctrines. Christianity is not a religion of love.
Alonso: Gave sympathy to their arguments...By his words and manner he appeared to see his Christianity as a matter of convenience. He stated specifically that the difference between the Hebrew and Christian faith was not worth dying over. His only caution to his visitors was to tell the three to be discreet in their views. If he was ever sincere in his faith he has since relapsed.
Louisa Mendoza, Squire