Palacio de la Inquisición

Palacio de la Inquisición information

Cartagena , Colombia
Street Plaza de Bolívar
adult/child COP$14,000/10,000
Opening hours
9am-6pm Mon-Sat, 10am-4pm Sun
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Lonely Planet review

The haunting Palace of the Inquisition is one of the finest buildings in town. Although the site was the seat of the Punishment Tribunal of the Holy Office from 1610, the palace wasn't completed until 1776. It is a good example of late-colonial architecture, noted particularly for its magnificent baroque stone gateway topped by the Spanish coat of arms, and the long balconies on the facade.

On the side wall, just around the corner from the entrance, you'll find a small window with a cross on top. Heretics were denounced here, and the Holy Office would then instigate proceedings. The principal 'crimes' were magic, witchcraft and blasphemy. When culprits were found guilty they were sentenced to death in a public auto-da-fé (public execution of heretics). Five autos-da-fé took place during the Inquisition until independence in 1821. About 800 folk were condemned to death and executed. The Inquisition did not judge the indigenous people.

The palace is today a museum, displaying the Inquisitors' gnarly instruments of torture (a gruesome sight but by far the most fascinating thing here). The museum also houses pre-Columbian pottery and historical objects dating from both colonial and independence times, including arms, paintings, furniture and church bells. A good model of Cartagena from the beginning of the 19th century and an interesting collection of old maps of the Nuevo Reino de Granada from various periods are also on display. There are no English translations, but guides (COP$35,000 in English) are available. Go in a group if you can: these prices count for up to five people.