I have been trying, without success, to find an exemplification or any lesser copy of the Papal bull (issued by Pope Sixtus IV on November 1, 1478) known as Exigit Sinceras Devotionis Affectus (sometimes Exigit Sincerae Devotionis) which authorized what became known as the Spanish Inquisition.

I have looked high and low and other people I know (including academics, librarians, and theologians) have also engaged in this search to no avail. Numerous papers, books, articles, and websites cite or reference this infamous document yet I have been unable to locate even a mere index listing for the actual text of this historic bull.

I am wondering if this could be a lost or destroyed document yet I also have found no mention of such an event happening.


William Thomas Walsh's Characters of the Inquisition (1940) ch. 5 ("Torquemada") fn. 10 gives this as the citation for the Latin text:

For the complete Latin text of this Bull, see the Boletín de la real academia de la historia, Vol. IX, p. 172; also, with related documents, in Vol. XV, p. 453 et seq.

Walsh gives an extended quote, the Latin of which begins on Boletín de la real academia de la historia vol. 15, p. 450:

Torquemada must have been consulted at this point and probably gave the same advice. It was he that the King and Queen commissioned with Cardinal Mendoza, to write a petition to be sent to Rome, asking the Pope for the necessary authority. This document was read and approved by a Junta of nobles, lay and clerical, before it was despatched.

On November 1, 1478, Pope Sixtus IV wrote a Bull which makes plain the sort of picture that must have been painted for him by the representatives of the Spanish monarchs at Rome.

The genuine devotion and sound faith manifested in your reverence for us and the Roman Church,

he wrote,

require that as far as we can in the sight of God, we grant your requests, particularly those which concern the exaltation of the Catholic Faith and the salvation of souls. From your letter recently shown us, we learn that in various cities, sections and regions of the Spanish Kingdoms, many of those who of their own accord were born anew in Christ in the sacred waters of Baptism, while continuing to comport themselves externally as Christians, yet have secretly adopted or returned to the religious observances and customs of the Jews, and are living according to the principles and ordinances of Judaical superstition and falsehood, thus falling away from the true orthodox Faith, its worship, and belief in its doctrines. They have not feared, nor do they now fear, to incur the censures and penalties pronounced against the followers of heretical perversity under the constitutions of Pope Boniface VIII, our predecessor of happy memory; and not only do they themselves persist in their blindness, but they also infect with their blindness those born of them, or having communication with them, and their numbers increase not a little. And because of their continued crimes, they weary our forbearance, as is piously believed, and that of the ecclesiastical prelates who are expected to look into such matters, by their wars, by slaughter, and by other evident injuries to men, endured by God, in despite of the aforesaid Faith, to the peril of souls, and the scandal of many. For this reason you have caused humble supplications to be addressed to us, that so pernicious a sect be totally uprooted in the said Kingdoms…

Rejoicing in God over your praiseworthy zeal for the safety of souls, and hoping that you will not only drive out this falsehood from your realms, but that, also, in our times, you will reduce to your rule the Kingdom of Granada and those adjacent places where infidels live, and through the divine mercy will convert the infidels to the true Faith, so that what your predecessors, on account of various obstacles, were denied, may be accomplished by you, and your glory be crowned with that eternal beatitude which is the reward of a vow well kept, we therefore, wishing to grant your petitions and to apply to these things the suitable remedies, are desirous of granting your supplications and permitting three—or at least two—bishops or archbishops, or other men of good reputation who are secular priests or religious of the mendicant or non-mendicant orders, men above forty years of age, of good conscience and praiseworthy life, masters or bachelors in theology, either doctors in canon law or licentiates carefully examined, God-fearing men, whom you may cause to be selected in various cities and dioceses of the said Kingdoms, to take action straightway concerning those accused of crimes, and those who conceal or aid and abet them, under the usual jurisdiction and authority that law and custom allow to Ordinaries and Inquisitors of heretical depravity.

  • This is great Geremia, especially the excerpted text. I tried to look up the Latin text you mentioned ( Tomo IX, p. 172 ) and it seems to be the wrong reference as that page is a discussion of the history of Spanish artillery. Could you double check that citation please? Thank you. – O.M.Y. Mar 25 '18 at 19:45
  • @O.M.Y. You were able to find Boletín de la real academia de la historia (tomo 9) online? I was only able to find vol. 15, which also contains the Latin text; it begins at the last ¶ of p. 449, to which I also linked in my answer. – Geremia Mar 25 '18 at 23:58
  • Geremia, volume 9 (and many others) are available on the link I provided as text only (no page images) but with original page numbers indicated in the text like --> 172 --> this. Start at the catalog page here., then you will have to drill down to see the text. I will describe the drill down in the next comment due to space limits.. – O.M.Y. Mar 26 '18 at 3:03
  • Start at the catalog (see "here" link in previous comment), then click the desired volume, click the HTML "book" icon, click a section title (should be listed in page order), the next page will have a "Notas de reproducción original." item which will show the original page #s included for that section. At the bottom you will have either another HTML book icon or else a PDF book icon. If a PDF book it will link to scanned and searchable original page images for the section. If HTML book it will bring up one more link that will display text only (no image) for the section. Great find, thank you! – O.M.Y. Mar 26 '18 at 3:13

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