Archivo Histórico Nacional

The Archivo Histórico Nacional is located at Calle Serrano 115 in Madrid. Their hours are 8:30-6:00, which gives researchers an early start.


The entrance to the Archivo Histórico Nacional

International visitors will need to bring their passports to enter the building, and to obtain a investigator’s card. Once inside the archive, you are assigned a specific seat, given as much space as possible from other patrons to avoid mixing the records.

There are several computers available to locate items on the catalogue, and the archivists are more than willing to help. Spanish is necessary to get much done with them.

We focused our search in inquisition records, specifically looking for one individual who was listed as a familiare in the baptismal records of his children. The  record proving his purity of blood would likely be found in the Tribunal de Valladolid.

We found this information through searching the archives catalogue at, as well as several books that contained indexes of the materiales of the different archives.


The entrance to the Archives.

Once in the archive, we were invited to speak with Ignacio, one of the archivists, who is an expert in the inquisition. We explained our problem, and he immediately explained that it was highly unlikely that we would find any records from the small town in Vallodolid.

During the Inquisition, each town had one comisario, the curate, and several familiares, depending on the size of the town. Familiares were people of lesser nobility and good position. While they were not compensated monetarily for becoming a familiare, they received other benefits, like getting food at lower rates, having the first pick of meat, being able to carry arms at night, and holding a higher position in the social hierarchy than their fellow lesser nobility.

In order to become a familiare, surveys were sent to the friends, family, and neighbors of the individual, certifying both their reputation and those of their parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents, as well as ensuring that all three generations were strong Catholics. This had to be done twice, as the applicant’s spouse became a familiare at the same time. The applicant had to pay a fee for these surveys, as well as the reports certifying that they were of ‘pure blood.’ However, if a person’s parent had served as a familare, they did not need to obtain this certificate. Two copies were made of the finished applications. One was kept at the district Tribunal, the other sent to the Consejo.

It may be difficult finding certificates of ‘pure blood’ in the later years of the inquisition. First, if the person’s father served as a familiare, the son would not have paid for his own certificate. Even if he was a first-generation familiare, by the time he gained the office, it was not a highly sought position, and the inquisition itself was in a (comparatively) lax stage. Because of this, the certification process was often less stringent than the requirements, with few surveys being sent out, and little effort being made to ensure the purity of the applicant’s blood. Because of this, the officials at the Tribunal rarely sent these poorly done papers on to the Consejo, meaning that the only remaining copy would be that stored at the Tribunal. Unfortunately, the records of Valladolid were destroyed during the Guerra de la Independencia.

Ignacio still checked the catalogue of Inquisition records for both Valladolid and Toledo, but there were no records for someone with the surname Rebollo, nor any records from Sola.

We asked one more question about a house in the town of Garganta la Olla, which had the layout of an inquisition prison, as well as several torture devices. Ignacio assured us that torture was only permitted in the cities that served as sitas/tribunales for the Inquisition. Garganta la Olla was never a sita. It is much more likely that the prison was for the civil Justice, which also used torture to exact information.

Torture only occurred in 10% of the Inquisition investigations, and was only employed if the ‘guilt’ of the person was vague. Youth, elderly, pregnant woman, and otherwise frail people were exempt from torture, and it could only take place after a doctor had examined the person and permission from the Consejo had been obtained. A notary was present at each torture session, as the prisoner later had to be presented with the transcript of what they said and certify that it was true, meaning that the tortures of the inquisition were well documented, and if by some reason Garganta la Olla had ever served as one of those locations, it would have been recorded and noted already.


One thought on “Archivo Histórico Nacional

  1. Very interesting info about the inquisition and torture in Garganta la Olla. Thanks for asking the question and publishing the info.


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