Pedro de Arbués (c. 1441 – September 17, 1484) was an official of the Spanish Inquisition who was assassinated in Saragossa Cathedral in 1484 in an alleged plot by conversos and Jews. He was very quickly venerated as a saint by popular acclaim, and his death greatly assisted the Inquisition and its Inquisitor General, Tomás de Torquemada, in their campaign against heresy and crypto-Judaism.
Arbués was canonized by Pope Pius IX in 1867.
His father, a nobleman
, was Antonio de Arbués, and his mother's name was Sancia Ruiz. He studied philosophy
, probably at Huesca
, but later went to Bologna
, where in the Spanish college of St. Clement he was regarded as a model of learning and piety
, and was graduated in theology
. Returning to Spain
he became a canon regular
, where he made his religious profession in 1474. About that time Ferdinand and Isabella
had obtained from Pope Sixtus IV
a papal bull
to establish in their kingdom a tribunal for searching out heretics
, and especially Jews who after having received baptism had relapsed openly or secretly into Judaism; these were known as Marranos
. Torquemada, in 1483, was appointed grand inquisitor over Castile and named Arbués inquisitor provincial in the Kingdom of Aragon
On September 14, 1485, he was assassinated in the cathedral as he was praying while wearing a helmet
and chain mail
. This was the consequence of the bad reception that the Inquisition had in Aragón, where it was seen as an attack by the crown on the fueros
, the local laws and privileges. In particular, it appears that some of the most powerful families among the converted Jews - such as the Sánchez, Montesa, Paternoy, and Santángel families - considered themselves favorite victims of the Inquisition, and were implicated in the assassination. As a consequence, there arose a popular movement against the Jews; "nine were finally executed in persona, in addition to two suicides, thirteen burnings at the stake, and four punished for complicity" according to the account of Jerónimo Zurita
Veneration as a Saint
Arbués' canonization remains controversial. In 2001, Garry Wills, questioning Pius IX's motives, wrote: "In 1867, he canonized Peter Arbues, a 15th-century inquisitor famed for forcible conversion of Jews, and said in the canonization document, The divine wisdom has arranged that in these sad days, when Jews help the enemies of the church with their books and money, this decree of sanctity has been brought to fulfillment.
However, of Pedro, the Catholic Encyclopedia states: "Peter performed the duties with zeal and justice. Although the enemies of the Inquisition accuse him of cruelty, it is certain that not a single sentence of death can be traced to him... The Marranos, however, whom he had punished hated and resolved to do away with him. One night while kneeling in prayer before the altar of Our Lady in the metropolitan church, where he used to recite the office with his brother canons, they attacked him, and hired assassins inflicted several wounds from which he died two days after.
Leonardo Sciascia in Morte dell'inquisitore (1967) writes that Arbues, along with Juan Lopez Cisneros (d. 1657), are "the only two cases of inquisitors who died assassinated".
- Simon Whitechapel, Flesh Inferno: Atrocities of Torquemada and the Spanish Inquisition (Creation Books, 2003). ISBN 1840681055