About Palacio de la Inquisición
Palacio de la Inquisición is a grand 18th century colonial creation in Cartagena which played a sinister role during the Spanish Inquisition.
History of Palacio de la Inquisición
It was in Cartagena in 1610 that the Spanish Church established its Holy Office, the name given to the department of torture. As the gateway to western South America and an economic centre, Cartagena saw many passing merchants of all nationalities and faiths and Philip III decreed that an establishment should be set up in order to try Jews and non-Catholics (although this did not extend to indigenous people).
The Palacio de la Inquisición was not completed until 1770, but during the 17th and 18th centuries over 800 people were tried as heretics and sentenced to death in a public auto-da-fé (burning at the stake). The small window with a cross atop it was the traditional site for the denunciation of heretics. Following Colombia’s independence in 1821, the inquisitions stopped.
The building itself is a great example of Baroque influenced Spanish colonial architecture, and is widely deemed one of Cartagena’s most beautiful and important buildings.
Palacio de la Inquisición today
The palace is now a museum – the Museo Histórico de Cartagena. Whilst there are grisly instruments of torture used by the inquisition, the museum covers much of the city’s history from the 19th century onwards. Highlights include old maps of the Nuevo Reino de Granada, a model of how the city would have looked in the 19th century, pre-Columbian artefacts and an assortment of items which give a feel for this period of the city’s history.
There are slightly limited English translations, so a guide can be useful if you want to appreciate the museum to its fullest. It’s open every day of the week, although Sunday has curtailed hours.
Getting to Palacio de la Inquisición
The Palacio de la Inquisición is in the historic heart of Cartagena, on the Calle de la Inquisición. Walking is your best bet – everything in the old city is easily accessible by foot, and the narrow streets make traffic a nightmare.