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How successful was Philip II in implementing his religious policies?

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Introduction

How successful was Philip II in implementing his religious policies during his reign in Spain? One of Philip's main aims during his reign was to implement the religious policies he had set out for Spain; some, however, proved more successful than others. In 1556, the beginning of Philips reign, the Spanish Church was in dire need of reform; many of the lower clergy were uneducated, impoverished and morally compromised, much of rural Spain had little Christian understanding, delving in sacramental magic and pagan rituals, their faith was still rooted in local superstition - this was far from orthodox worship. The state of the Spanish Church did not reflect Philips inherited title of 'Most Catholic King', Philip knew it was his duty to uphold his name and his reputation, as well as his religious beliefs. He was famously quoted telling the Pope 'rather than suffer the least damage to religion and the service of God, I would lose all my states and 100 lives, if I had them; for I do not propose nor desire to be ruled by heretics'. ...read more.

Middle

Shortly after coming in to power Philip employed The Inquisition to win the struggle against heresy and monitor the Tridentine decrees reform programme. Philips reign began with the wave of 'protestant panic', so The Inquisitions first task was to persecute 'Lutheran heretics', as to not allow the protestant reformation to affect Spain as it had the rest of Europe. In 1559 'autos de fe' were held these were large 'ritualised' trials in which heretics were executed and demonstrations of penance were held, there was even burning alive of those who did not confess. Although this regime against the Protestants was no more brutal than that of England or France, it became one of the foundation stones to the black legend of the inquisition. Limpieza - purity of blood statutes were reintroduced, conversos and Moriscos were excluded from Church institutions and Philip effectively divided the country. Many humanists and theologians who had previously strayed marginally from orthodox and were treated as suspicious, mystics could still be found in religious establishments but they had to become much more careful in their activities. ...read more.

Conclusion

Philips dispersion of the Moriscos and his seemingly ethnic cleansing of Spain only encouraged the black legend - bad for his reputation. Overall Philips attempts to implement his religious policies were not very successful. While seen as 'Champion of Catholicism' in the sixteenth century, Philips attempts to Christianise Spain alienated and stifled Spain bringing about the 'Black Legend' which tarnished his treasured reputation. His inability to work well with the Pope only stalled his progress and little change occurred in the more rural areas of Spain. Kamen argued 'Spain was barely more Christianised in 1600 than it had been in 1500, for all the efforts of the king, inquisition and Counter-reformation'. The inquisition power could have been use more efficiently and given the right resources and organisation, Philips policies could have perhaps been implemented more successfully. However it wasn't it all dim, Philip did make some improvement in clerical standards and eliminated much heresy within his lands as well as successfully implementing the Tridentine decrees within the council of Trent. Factors such as finance, clashes with the papacy and the Morisco revolt prevented ~Philip from successfully completing his religious policies within Spain during his reign, only managing to implement his ideas rather than fulfil his policies. ...read more.

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