Charles I began his rule in 1516 after the long rule of Ferdinand and Isabella. Their reign had been renowned for religious problems and conflict such as the Inquisition and the War with Granada. But why was Charles’ rule relatively less problematic in this area than for other rulers and what were the major problems Charles faced instead.Unlike Isabella of the previous reign, Charles was not overly emotional in an aim to unify the empire by religion. However this would have possibly helped Charles as the only common factor that linked his territories was their common loyalty to him as ruler and thus he depended on that. This was a great weakness, as later on he would not have the means to make ‘the whole world receive the catholic faith’.
A lot of Charles’ time was spent trying to ‘rule personally’ in each place to keep the loyalty strong, but the problem with this was that travelling there and back took years and there were few times when Charles stayed in one place long enough to make any real changes. This is one consideration to look at when considering Charles and his dealings with religion in Spain.For real problems to begin and swell to cause substantial problems, Charles would have had to have taken a part in dissolving any conflict for them to be rated by Historians as major problems. The truth is that rebellions such as Communeros and Germania were quite probably similar in proportion of importance and religious upheaval as for other new rulers but Charles quickly put these revolts down. Later he never personally involved himself by keeping stability in Spain through employ regents and people in high office to deal with these matters while he was away.
Charles’ was faced with a vast amount of problems, War with France, War with the Turks and Protestantism in Germany. The interests of Spain and the Holy Roman Empire did not always relate and the reason that religion was not much of a problem for Spain between 1516 – 1558 was distance. The German struggle with Protestants seemed a distant threat and would never corrupt Spain. It was also at the bottom of the list of priorities as real wars were being fought. Yet protestant ideas did reach Spain, beginning with Erasmus, who was not at first welcomed into Spain as the Mendicant Friars resented the attacks made on them. This was not a good first impression, then as other Spanish humanists began to emerge the message sent out was exile. Luis Vives an important humanist of his age was exiled and his family persecuted b7y the Inquisition. This message was strong and powerful and one of intolerance and the Erasmianists departed leaving no real effective support in high places.
The effectiveness of the Inquisition also made it difficult for real problems to arise in Spain. As it had been based on the Muslims and the Jews in previous years now was becoming vigilant against Protestants. Once they discovered Protestants they seized them, just as it had stopped the mysticism of the Illuminists in the 1520s and the Erasmists. In 1547 censorship was introduced with the Papal Index actively banning a number of books, so the Inquisition began to seize major imports at all the large ports. Even so Lutheran ideas were carried across to Spain, but as more arrests were made and the Inquisition put fear into people the idea wasn’t followed. This shows another good reason why religious issues never exceeded a high enough standard to cause problems.
The inquisition had become so good at stamping out unwanted religion even Luther and Calvinist ideas could never break into Spain as the Protestants were stamped out, in a way the Inquisition isolated Spain from the rest of Europe as there was also little commitment to the renaissance.As a result of having nothing else to follow in Spain, a new wave of Spanish culture returned. Poetry inspired by ‘Juan Boscann’ flourished and people became once again interested in what the Spanish scholars could do, in some respects nationalism took hold of the people.
The era was described as being ‘the quintessential age of chivalry’, with books such as ‘Amadis of Gaul’ being published they became very popular and a further 267 more editions of this particular line being published. The people also became caught up in the exciting adventures of Spanish adventurers on the front line of discovery in America. These new waves of interest took the attention away from what was going on in Europe, helped by Charles’ own personal interest in the Indies and America. Charles liked historians such as Antonio de Herrera and Lopez de Gomara and invested money in other scholars which led to advances in the Geography, Navigation, Engineering and Medicine and Spain became a key figure in Mainstream science and discovery.This Cultural Revolution didn’t stop there as unintentionally Charles tried to improve the bureacratic needs of the state, by making it a requirement that all council members be ‘Letrados’ with at least 10 years of Law experience. This sparked interest in higher education for not only the higher offices by the general public. Localities with money opened Grammar schools and at higher levels – universities – there by 1563, 38 colleges had been set up, a vast majority during Charles’ reign.
One important institute set up in 1527 was the Franciscan School of Spirituality which set the tone that education and Roman Catholicism could combine and accept one another, during this mystical period the question was ‘taking up God into the Soul and the Soul in to God’? This showed where Spanish Catholicism excelled most and people were not ready to change the catholic faith another reason why the problems Charles faced were minimal because they were not supported by the vast public.Ferdinand and Isabella policy on religion had been an inconsistent one as they represented the different needs of Aragon and Castille. However Charles did not have this problem his policy was to be seen as the Protector of the Catholic Faith and his policy when it could be directed at something other than war was focused on this. It would be wrong to say that the reign between 1516 and 1558 went by completely problem free though. In his final years 1557-58 there was a religious crisis in Seville where further policy was set by the regents in charge to cut off Spain from all foreign ideas as it was a ‘threat to the security to the state’.
Charles was not present and again this did not pose him personally a major problem, which is possibly part of the answer to the initial question.Why did religion not pose a major problem to Charles I as ruler of Spain? Because he was not only ruler of Spain he was the Holy Roman Emperor and had other major problems to deal with, yet in Spain too the inquisition and the cultural revolution managed to keep the protestant threat from Europe out for long periods of time. Revolts were dealt with quickly and efficiently and Europe’s problems were seen to be far away and unlikely to ever cause problems in Spain.