On 31st July 1826 the Spanish Inquisition executed its last victim in Valencia. The heinous crime for which he was publicly garrotted in the square that stood where the Central Market stands today, was that of not attending mass. This outrage was reported by certain women, acting without malice aforethought and purely in the interest of public decency and the greater glory of God.
The victim (although let’s face it, he brought it upon himself) was Cayetano Ripoll a humble schoolmaster (should have known!) from the Russafa district of Valencia (a nest of heresy even then!)
He had fought against the French invaders during the Napoleonic war and been taken to France as a prisoner, where he discovered Rousseau and converted to Deism. He was also suspected of being a Mason.
In 1824 the Inquisition arrested Cayetano and (surprise, surprise) confiscated all his belongings.
He was allowed no legal representation and not allowed to participate in his ‘trial’ until the verdict was read to him and the sentence ordered to be carried out within twenty four hours.
After the hanging, Cayetano’s body was placed in a barrel with flames painted on it, symbolic of being burnt at the stake (after all we’re not savages you know!) and cast into the River Turia.
His last words were: “I die reconciled to God and to Man.”
The execution caused a scandal throughout Europe, particularly as the Inquisition had been abolished 6 years previously. It appears that the Valencian church was just showing a little bit of nostalgic initiative.
The case was severely criticised in the British press at the time.
Today, the public square where Valencia’s executions took place is occupied by the lively Central Market, where housewives come and go buying carrots and fish, never suspecting for one moment that any day now they could be accused and executed on the same spot where their shopping baskets, for the moment, do not contain the heads of heretics.
A square near Avenida Blasco Ibañez testifies to the fact that he is not completely forgotten if you have a really good street map. Children play there today in a little park, which may be some kind of satisfaction to Cayetano the teacher.