Be aware: This article is a continuation of Part I, which can be found here.
Note: The final paragraph contains some speculation and possible spoilers for season two of Star Wars Rebels.
The inflammatory reputation often associated with the inquisition largely stems from its Spanish iteration, beginning November 1, 1478, under the authority of Pope Sixtus IV, at the behest of Columbus-era’s King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella. Having been previously dominated by North African Muslims, at a time in which 200,000 Jews also inhabited the country, the Spanish crown believed their rule, and the unity of their country, required all to be baptized in the name of the Church. There were to be no pretenders nor agnostics, and certainly practitioners of either Judaism or Islam within the purview of the Spanish monarchy. The Pope, Ferdinand, and Isabella agreed that the inquisition could be a valuable tool to uncover those who proclaimed their loyalty to the Church in public, but continued to believe in their hearts, reinforced by observance in secret, Gods and traditions antithetical to Jesus, the Pope, and the divine right of the throne of Spain (Inquisition, 2014).
During its early period, up to 1530, inquisitors sought to snuff out converted Jews who feigned fealty to the church. Deputized in defense of ecclesiastical rules and procedures, inquisitors were to be at least 40 years old, of maintaining an incontrovertible reputation, documentable sagacity, and conversant in Catholic theology and canon law. In less than a year, they were already known for their cruelty — the office of the Pope logged cases of unjust imprisonment, torture, and seizing the property of the executed. No one was more vile, however, than Grand Inquisitor Tomás de Torquemada, the very official who pushed the monarchy to expel all Jews from the beginning (Telushka, 2015). Not until the defeat of Muslim armies at Grenada in January of 1492 did Ferdinand and Isabella agree to pass the Edict of Expulsion. Even Columbus, in his personal diary (1996), makes note of the mutable situation for Spanish Jews in the wake of his fateful voyage, as extreme evangelism was noted as one of his many objectives for that year:
Your Highnesses, as Catholic Christians, and princes who love and promote the holy Christian faith, and are enemies of the doctrine of Mahomet [sic], of all idolatry and heresy, determined to send me, Christopher Columbus, to the above-mentioned countries of India, to see the said princes, people, and territories, and to learn their disposition and the proper method of converting them to our holy faith… So after having expelled the Jews from your dominions, your Highnesses, in the same month of January, ordered me to proceed with a sufficient armament to the said regions of India… and ennobled me that thenceforth I might call myself Don, and be High Admiral of the Sea…(Columbus, 1996)
Torquemada believed the Jews of Spain to be the greatest threat to Catholic unity. Uprooting a population that previously retained residency for hundreds of years wasn’t enough for the Inquisitor General, who then targeted Marranos (Jewish converts) and Moriscos (Muslim counterparts) under the guise of religious subversion. By the end of his life, Torquemada had presided over 100,000 convictions based on heresy, sorcery, or even sexual perversion (who were frequently tortured while in custody), and over 2,000 executions — where the preferred method was burning at the stake. Similar to the Nazis of World War II, he had also organized book burnings of sacred Jewish and Islamic literature. His legacy set a precedent that continued well into the 16th and 17th centuries. Between 1540 and 1700, it is believed that nearly 50,000 cases were brought before the Inquisition. During much of that time, torture was applied liberally — reaching its apogee under the reign of Emperor Charles V (Inquisition, 2014).
Within Star Wars Rebels, the Inquisitor character appears to draw from elements of both the Medieval and Spanish traditions. Elegantly voiced by Jason Isaacs, and accompanied by the quasi-religious dulcet baritones from Kiner’s choir, the Inquisitor is granted the authority by Darth Sidious, communicated via Darth Vader, to “hunt down” a new threat from “children of the Force,” potentially guided by surviving Jedi, “…who would train them…” — as recently witnessed within the special edition of the pilot episode “Spark of Rebellion.” As the Sith have all but completely driven the Jedi from the galaxy, deeming discussion of their lot an act of treason against the Empire, the Dark Side has become the official “state religion” for the galaxy of Force users. With this new mandate, Force-sensitive children should be sought, approached, converted, or destroyed if they don’t swear fealty to the Emperor. And all discussion of the Jedi, within the Empire, has been effaced, similarly to Copernican discoveries within 17th century Christendom. John Jackson Miller’s novel A New Dawn highlights this fact during an early Kanan/Hera mission, as they team up with a Sullustan planetary station security agent named Zaluna Myder. He writes,
Kanan looked at Zaluna, who was clutching her bag tightly to her and shaking her head over the thought of losing her homeworld. “The Jedi used to take care of these things.”
The remark startled Kanan. Jedi were a topic people weren’t supposed to speak of. “What do you know about the Jedi, Zaluna?”
“More than that silly story the Empire put out about them.” (Miller, 2014, p. 268)
Of course, to be an inquisitor, Vader would not recruit someone ill-equipped in the “old religion.” Akin to the Spanish version, inquisitors should demonstrate sagacity and proficiency in the Force, they should be erudite in the history and lore of the Jedi, and they should be accomplished saber practitioners. “Rise of the Old Masters” affords the Inquisitor’s character each of these attributes, as he lures our “heretical” heroes into the prison trap. Capable of dissecting Kanan’s technique to the point of determining his master’s identity, upon studying the completely preserved Jedi Temple records, he sentences Kanan and young Ezra, via his Stygeon auto-da-fé, to death — presumably in the manner in which Luminara was eviscerated bloodlessly. This, of course, comes upon his obligate invitation to join the Dark Side. Fortunately, for our heroes, and for the longevity of the story, the Hebrew appellative Kanan and Ezra escape their captor’s secret court and flee, just as the Sephardim became the fate of Spanish Jewish survivors of the Inquisition. Last year we all wondered whether or not there would be more than one inquisitor prowling the galaxy for additional Kanan’s and Ezra’s. My vote was “hopefully yes,” but the recent revelations from Season 2 have confirmed this as reality. And as the Season 2 trailer has already exposed the visage of one male brutish inquisitor, another female companion remains masked — leaving countless podcasts, and Twitter feeds to puzzle out her identity. One possible theory (one I’ve held since Isaac’s Inquisitor was first revealed): the remnants of Barriss Offee, the former apprentice of Unduli, who used the Dark Side to strike against the hypocrisy of the Jedi during the Clone Wars, and who perhaps might inquire as to the whereabouts of one Ahsoka Tano. But another strong possibility could be Dhara Leonis, sibling of potential rebel spy Zare Leonis — introduced in Season 1’s episode, “Breaking Ranks,” and elucidated within Jason Fry’s engaging Servants of the Empire novel series.
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Columbus, C. (1996, March). Christopher Columbus: Extracts from Journal (P. Halsall,
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Miller, J.J. (2014). A New Dawn [Kindle iPad version].
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