Statistiche - Around Naples

english yellow pages

Viceroy Don Pedro de Toledo
by Jeff Matthews
Besides priming Naples for the great age of the Baroque, Don Pedro is widely remembered as the viceroy who tried to institute the Spanish Inquisition in Naples in 1547--and failed. As a simple statement of fact, that appears to have happened, but the reasons for it are a bit unclear.

Some sources claim that Naples was a center of Protestantism in the form of adherents of Juan de Valdez (c. 1500-1541), sometimes called "the Italian Martin Luther". It is true that there were "Valdesians" in Naples, but the Spanish historian Francisco Elias de Tejada says plausibly that the group was very small and not even made up of Neapolitans [Tejada, below]. Thus, they couldn't have represented any sort of home-grown threat to Roman Catholic orthodoxy. It is also true that Naples was the home of a number of "academies": the Pontanian; the Sereni, the Incogniti; the Ardenti. These were essentially discussion groups where literati and scholars sat around and chewed the intellectual fat. No doubt they discussed Martin Luther, the Inquisition, Copernicus--all that--but there is no evidence at all that they were a nest of heresy that would require the offices of the Inquisition to stamp out.

A few months before announcing that the Spanish Inquisition would be setting up shop in Naples, don Pedro closed the academies and forbade them from meeting or publishing. When the official announcement of the Inquisition finally came in May of 1547, the protest was immediate, turning violent very quickly with troops squaring off against the populace in the streets. This was not a "popular" revolution (as one might view the Masaniello revolt of a century later). Considerable numbers of landed nobility and officials in and around Naples and Salerno supported the protests and promptly protested to Charles V against "abuse by the viceroy"--don Pedro. [Ample details of the noblemen and gentry involved in the protests are found in Storia di Napoli, bibliography, below.] Naples had just been through 15 years of city-building, every brick of which was paid for by increasing taxes. Neapolitan property owners knew that the Inquisition had a reputation for confiscating the wealth and property of those whom it questioned. Luigi Amabile [cited in Tejada] says, "Undoubtedly, confiscation of assets was the main reason that everyone in Naples was set against the Inquisition."

It is also good to look at the character of the Holy Roman Emperor. Charles V (second photo) was a devout Catholic, but he was a strong emperor. It had taken him years to build Naples, the largest city in the Spanish Empire, into a bulwark against threats of Turkish invasion. There is not the slightest doubt that he was more concerned with that than with ensuring religious orthodoxy, especially if it meant setting up religious tribunals above his own civil ones and fragmenting the city and vice-realm socially. It is also the case that the Papacy and Charles V did not get along very well. Charles was convinced that the Papacy was constantly conspiring with France against him; also, Charles' army was responsible for the Sack of Rome in 1527. Thus, a number of things taken together may have been responsible for Charles calling off the inquisition.

The long and the short of it is that don Pedro, upon the order of the emperor, backed down. At first, this seems like some sort of a popular blow against absolutism, a type of Magna Carta affair that wrung concessions from the monarch. That would be a gross over-interpretation of what happened. Calling off the Spanish Inquisition in Naples was a pragmatic move by the emperor to insure stability in Naples. Benedetto Croce [bibliography, below] notes that the revolt, indeed, set the stage for a less drastic version of the Spanish Inquisition, the Universal Roman inquisition, instituted in Naples under a later viceroy with little protest.

Don Pedro's time had clearly come and gone. In 1552, Charles V calmed the populace even more by sending Toledo off to Siena to handle some local problem. The viceroy died in Florence the following year. In spite of Don Pedro's religious zeal, his reputation as a city-builder has stood the test of time. The city of Naples still bears his stamp in countless places. He is entombed in the church of San Giacomo degli Spagnoli.

Sources cited:

Amabile, Luigi. Il santo Officio della Inquisizione in Napoli, S. Lapi, Cittŗ di Castello 1892; [photostatic reprint]: Rubbettino, Soveria Mannelli. 1987.

Croce, Benedetto. Storia del Regno di Napoli. Bari. 1915.

De Seta, Cesare. Le Cittŗ nella Storia d'Italia: Napoli, "Il Viceregno" , pp 106-128. Editore Laterza, Roma- Bari. 1981.

Storia di Napoli, vol 5 (pp. 47-70), Societŗ Editrice Storia di Napoli.

Tejada, Francisco Elžas. Napoli Spagnola, vol. 2. Controcorrente, Napoli, 2002. (Original: Nŗpoles hispanico. Madrid. 1958.)

additional note:

A website of historical coins ( at ) carries this interesting description of a coin:

"The reverse of this coin celebrates a happy conclusion to a series of disorganised revolts culminating in the serious uprising of 1547 in response to the attempt made by the Viceroy Don Pedro de Toledo to introduce heavy taxation and the Spanish Inquisition into the kingdom of Naples. Though quelled by force, dissension remained, and a Neapolitan embassy was sent to plead with the emperor to intervene. In exchange for 100,000 ducats, Charles V formally undertook to never allow The Office of the Holy Inquisition to be introduced again."

I have been unable to trace the source of that claim that Charles V was bribed into calling off the Inquisition in Naples.