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Between Christian and Jew

Between Christian and Jew: Conversion and Inquisition in the Crown of Aragon, 1250-1391

Paola Tartakoff
Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 264
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  • Book Info
    Between Christian and Jew
    Book Description:

    In 1341 in Aragon, a Jewish convert to Christianity was sentenced to death, only to be pulled from the burning stake and into a formal religious interrogation. His confession was as astonishing to his inquisitors as his brush with mortality is to us: the condemned man described a Jewish conspiracy to persuade recent converts to denounce their newfound Christian faith. His claims were corroborated by witnesses and became the catalyst for a series of trials that unfolded over the course of the next twenty months. Between Christian and Jew closely analyzes these events, which Paola Tartakoff considers paradigmatic of inquisitorial proceedings against Jews in the period. The trials also serve as the backbone of her nuanced consideration of Jewish conversion to Christianity-and the unwelcoming Christian response to Jewish conversions-during a period that is usually celebrated as a time of relative interfaith harmony. The book lays bare the intensity of the mutual hostility between Christians and Jews in medieval Spain. Tartakoff's research reveals that the majority of Jewish converts of the period turned to baptism in order to escape personal difficulties, such as poverty, conflict with other Jews, or unhappy marriages. They often met with a chilly reception from their new Christian brethren, making it difficult to integrate into Christian society. Tartakoff explores Jewish antagonism toward Christians and Christianity by examining the aims and techniques of Jews who sought to re-Judaize apostates as well as the Jewish responses to inquisitorial prosecution during an actual investigation. Prosecutions such as the 1341 trial were understood by papal inquisitors to be in defense of Christianity against perceived Jewish attacks, although Tartakoff shows that Christian fears about Jewish hostility were often exaggerated. Drawing together the accounts of Jews, Jewish converts, and inquisitors, this cultural history offers a broad study of interfaith relations in medieval Iberia.

    eISBN: 978-0-8122-0675-3
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Note on Names, Money, Terminology, and Transliterations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Map 1
    (pp. xi-xi)
  5. Map 2
    (pp. xii-xii)
  6. Map 3
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  7. Introduction
    (pp. 1-10)

    Writing about Muslim converts to Christianity in thirteenth-century Valencia, the great historian of the medieval Mediterranean, Robert I. Burns, noted that converts were “a by-product of the main dispute, a kind of displaced person, whose story and status illumine the larger scene.”¹ The same could be said of Jewish converts to Christianity who lived in the Crown of Aragon during the century that preceded the massacres and forced conversions of 1391.² Their lives lay bare the intensity of mutual hostility between Christians and Jews across a period whose first decades in particular have been celebrated as a time of interreligious...


    • Four Arrests
      (pp. 13-15)

      Fra Sancho de Torralba, an inquisitorial commissary in Aragon and the prior of the Dominican monastery of Calatayud, was reputedly zealous in faith and eager to glorify Jesus Christ.¹ On Friday, January 5, 1341, when he learned that the representative of the justicia of Calatayud had condemned a Jewish convert to the stake, and that a group of Jews was rumored to have persuaded this convert to court this fate, he rushed to the scene with his partner in matters pertaining to “heretical depravity,” Bernardo Duque, the commissary of the bishop of Tarazona. The convert, whose name was Pere, was...

    • Chapter 1 Defending the Faith: Medieval Inquisitors and the Prosecution of Jews and Converts
      (pp. 16-32)

      Pope Gregory IX surely never dreamed, when he appointed the first inquisitors in 1231, that medieval inquisitions would become a nexus of conflict between Christians and Jews. As the head of an increasingly self-conscious and assertive church, Gregory’s immediate aim was the eradication of Christian heresy. The pope assigned members of the newly founded Franciscan and Dominican orders to this task and, in conjunction with local bishops, these friars set about using Roman inquisitorial procedure to lead “the writhing serpent” of heresy out from “the bosom of the sinner.”²

      Whether by converting hearts or destroying bodies, inquisitors were determined to...

    • Chapter 2 From Resistance to Surrender: Jewish Responses to Inquisitorial Prosecution
      (pp. 33-55)

      The Jews whom Pere blamed for his misadventures were terrified when they learned that they were suspected of “crimes of heretical depravity.” Jucef de Quatorze fled to Valencia, where he was arrested and put on trial by the inquisitorial commissary fra Berenguer Saiol. Salomon and Miriam Navarro prepared to flee to Castile, where medieval inquisitions never took root. Before they could leave, however, fra Sancho de Torralba sent the justicia of the neighboring town of Ricla, Gosalbo de Grades, to arrest Salomon and escort him to Calatayud for interrogation.²

      As Jews who sought to evade inquisitors’ grasp physically, Jucef de...

    • Four Condemnations
      (pp. 56-58)

      In a draft of his final sentence, fra Bernat de Puigcercós recommended sending Jucef de Quatorze and the Almulis to the stake on the grounds that, as Jews, all three individuals were impenitent, in spite of their promises to abjure. Fra Bernat could not fathom that Jews could repent sincerely of having harmed Christians and the Christian faith.¹ Between August 5 and 7, 1342, however, a group of legal and religious experts challenged this proposal. These advisors argued that, although there was no question that Jucef de Quatorze should be relinquished to the secular arm as a relapsed heretic, and...


    • Alatzar and Abadia, Baptized
      (pp. 61-62)

      Two Jewish converts to Christianity—Pere and Abadia—were at the heart of the proceedings against Janto and Jamila Almuli and Jucef de Quatorze. Pere first denounced the Almulis and Jucef de Quatorze to the tribunal of fra Sancho de Torralba, and fra Sancho proceeded with the investigation in order to punish the Almulis and Jucef de Quatorze for persuading Pere and Abadia to renounce Christianity and burn at the stake. Nevertheless, the records of the trials of the Almulis and Jucef de Quatorze reveal little about Pere and Abadia. Regarding Pere, they tell us that his Jewish name was...

    • Chapter 3 Between Doubt and Desire: Jewish Conversion, Converts, and Christian Society
      (pp. 63-80)

      The medieval Crown of Aragon was home to a wide variety of Jewish converts—men and women, the single and the married, parents and children. Several converts had been wealthy or learned as Jews, such as the physician Vincenç Esteve, whose possessions King Jaume II promised to protect from confiscation in 1307; the physician brothers Romeu and Pere de Pal, who converted during the second quarter of the fourteenth century; the physician Pere de Gràcia, who converted prior to 1347; the physician Jaume de Faro, who converted during the third quarter of the fourteenth century; and the son of the...

    • Chapter 4 Homeward Bound: The Fates of Jewish Converts
      (pp. 81-95)

      In the environs of the medieval Crown of Aragon, a handful of Jewish converts fared well after baptism, including several individuals who had been wealthy or learned as Jews. At least two converts rose in the ranks of the Dominican order. Pablo Christiani served as the Christian disputant at the Barcelona Disputation of 1263, and Ramon of Tàrrega, who converted in 1346 or 1347 at the age of eleven, became a theologian.² Others received royal privileges. For example, the physician Vincenç Esteve and the son of the queen’s treasurer, Juan Sánchez de Calatayud, were exempted, by Jaume II and Joan...

    • Two Converts, Repentant
      (pp. 96-98)

      The records of the trials of Janto and Jamila Almuli and Jucef de Quatorze suggest that Pere and Abadia were among the disillusioned and remorseful converts who sought to return to Judaism. According to Salomon Navarro, Abadia repeatedly visited the Jewish quarter of Calatayud after his baptism, and he conversed there with distinguished members of the aljama. Moreover, according to Jucef de Quatorze, Abadia told these Jews that he wanted to return to Judaism, and the Jews “approved of what Abadia said he wanted to do and strengthened him in his intent.” Jucef de Quatorze commented also that, although he...


    • The Intervention
      (pp. 101-105)

      The records of the trials of the Almulis and Jucef de Quatorze provide direct insight into inquisitorial thought and practice, and they grant valuable glimpses of the experiences of Jewish apostates. They are clouded as a window on to Jewish life, however, both on account of the vagaries of the process of inquisitorial record production, and also because of the nature of the conditions that they documented. Inquisitorial scribes and notaries paraphrased, summarized, and translated material, thereby obscuring the voices of defendants and witnesses. Moreover, to the extent that we can recover these voices, there remains the challenge of interpreting...

    • Chapter 5 Apostasy as Scourge: Jews and the Repudiation of Apostates
      (pp. 106-116)

      In the eyes of medieval Jews, apostasy was a heinous sin. It involved the abandonment of a God, a people, and a promised destiny. Going over to Christianity, moreover, was uniquely egregious. Christianity was not merely, to quote Jucef de Quatorze, “empty, erroneous, and false,” but, in some ways, it was antithetical to Judaism.² The doctrines of the Trinity, the Incarnation, and the Virgin Birth, for example, were viewed as flagrant breaches of Judaism’s most sacred precepts, and medieval Jewish polemicists—including the philosopher and legal scholar Hasdai Crescas of Barcelona (c. 1340–1410/11)—thus railed against these dogmas at...

    • Chapter 6 Recruiting Repentance: The Re-Judaization of Apostates
      (pp. 117-131)

      In spite of the intensity with which many Jews repudiated apostates, relations between Jews and apostates in the Crown of Aragon were not uniformly antagonistic. Some Jews continued to interact productively with apostates, for example, by lending them money at interest. On the basis of Deuteronomy 23:21, taking interest was forbidden between Jews. To the extent that apostates no longer were considered full-fledged Jews, however, Jews could lend to them. Thus, in late thirteenth-century Mallorca, Jews lent money at interest to an apostate named Guillem Godor, and, in fourteenth-century Vic, Jews lent money at interest to an apostate named Mateo...

    • The Road to the Stake
      (pp. 132-134)

      The records of the trials of the Almulis and Jucef de Quatorze provide three conflicting accounts of Pere’s departure from La Almunia de Doña Godina following the gathering at the Almulis’ home. According to Pere’s first confession, Pere met with the Almulis on the morning of Friday, January 5, 1341 (and not on the evening of Thursday, January 4), and he departed for Calatayud immediately thereafter, with the intention of accomplishing everything that the Almulis had instructed him to do.¹

      According to Pere’s second confession and the testimonies of Salomon and Miriam Navarro, however, the Almulis and Jucef de Quatorze...

  11. Conclusion
    (pp. 135-140)

    Inspired by the story of Pere, this book has explored Jewish conversion and the inquisitorial prosecution of Jews and converts in the Crown of Aragon during the century prior to 1391. In so doing, it has highlighted Christian suspicion of Jews who converted to Christianity and Jewish suspicion of apostates who returned to Judaism, sentiments that stemmed both from general perceptions of converts’ and returnees’ ties to their previous faiths and also from disdain for these individuals’ behavior. The present work also has shown, however, that, in spite of widespread distrust of converts and returnees, Christians and Jews deemed converts...

  12. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. 141-142)
  13. Notes
    (pp. 143-172)
  14. Glossary
    (pp. 173-174)
  15. Bibliography
    (pp. 175-198)
  16. Index
    (pp. 199-206)
  17. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 207-209)