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      WHEN the news arrived in Toledo in 1485 that a tribunal of the Holy Office was about to be established there, a number of Conversos sought safety elsewhere. A band of six such culprits made their way to the port of Valencia where they bought a small boat and set sail for a foreign port. A few days later Providence stirred up capricious winds which blew them back to Valencia. They were immediately seized and sent back to Toledo where they became the first burning victims of the Inquisition in that city.

      Flight from Spain was becoming a common Converso occupation, and Torquemada worked hard to seal off the borders. He ever secured the cooperation of the Pope, who used his spiritual powers to persuade foreign potentates to return Inquisition fugitives to Spanish justice. Even so, the number of escapees grew yearly, and fortunately for civilization they included the maternal ancestors of Montaigne, who emigrated to France after one of the clan was burned at Saragossa. If he could not destroy the bodies of those who escaped him, Torquemada could still ravish their memory and visit their sins on subsequent generations. Escaped persons were formally tried in absentia, solemnly condemned at the Auto de Fe, and as solemnly burned in effigy. Their guilt was distributed among their heirs in the form of infamous memory and dishonor, as well as proscription from public office in church or state.

      The same penalties were visited on those who died before their heresy was detected. In his Instructions to the various tribunals, Torquemada directed that if a deceased party were found guilty, his property was to be confiscated and his name erased from the roll of the righteous by digging up his bones and burning them at the Auto de Fe. This rule applied to anybody who had died within the last fifty years, although the enthusiasm of local Inquisitors on one occasion prompted them to burn a heretical corpse which had been blaspheming holy burial ground for a good seventy years. Some kind of record for brevity was made in another case when a Converso cadaver was summoned for trial in Toledo almost before rigor mortis had set in. One Fernando Alfonso, who had apparently lived as a good Christian all his life, was heard to mumble a Jewish prayer just


before he expired. He was immediately denounced and a case was formally opened against him. We do not know the result, since his trial record is not complete. In any case, Fernando was probably beyond caring, although the outcome meant a great deal to his heirs who stood to lose their inheritance to the Inquisition. The burning of effigies and bones probably compensated somewhat for the absence of live originals. But in the very heart of the Christian community there lived a body of unbelievers whom the Inquisition could not touch unless they made an overt assault on Christianity. The Inquisition, as a domestic arm of the Christian church, had authority to deal only with crimes of heresy within that church. The Jew, by definition, was beyond its jurisdiction. Though he rejected the Redeemer, lived in infidelity, and blasphemed the True Faith by his mere existence, yet he was immune from punishment so long as he continued, with his stiff-necked pertinacity, to live under the Law of Moses in preference to the Truth of Christ.

      There were ways, of course, of making a Jew eligible for Inquisitorial attention by encouraging him to accept Christian baptism. We have already seen this technique in operation under the initial guiding spirit of Archdeacon Ferdinand Martinez in 1391. By the mid-fifteenth century the main interest of the orthodox had shifted to the growing Converso element as a Frankenstein of subversion among the Faithful. There was always time, however, to make life miserable for the Jews. They were banished from Barcelona in 1425, although the edict was not rigidly enforced. In 1450, the Jewish remnant of Seville begged


the protection of King John II against the preachings of a Franciscan friar who was exhorting the local populace to smite the Jews of Seville as their fathers had done sixty years before. A few years later John's successor, Henry IV, sent a royal order throughout Castile. "Prelates, powerful men, clergy, and common people," he lamented, were raising up violence against the Jews to "take by force their synagogues, burial grounds and property and to do other bad things to them." Henry expressed the royal displeasure over such attacks as a threat to an important source of kingly revenue.

      There were also some Ritual Murders, of course. Friar Alonso de Espina records several in the 1450's, and in 1468 Torquemada witnessed the punishment of a band of Hebrew assassins in Segovia. They were accused of crucifying a Christian boy at Sepulveda, a small town near Segovia, with the customary dismal consequences of drawing and quartering, hanging, and burning.

      Ferdinand and Isabella were as determined to keep the Jews in their place as they were to purge the Conversos. Their employment of Jewish advisers like Don Abraham Seneor had no bearing where the defense of the True Faith was concerned. The destructive Ordinances of 1412, which had been neglected for some years, were re-enacted under the Catholic Monarchs and vigorously enforced. Also revived in full force were the edicts expelling all Jews from Barcelona, the rigid segregation laws, and the prohibition against the employment of Jewish physicians. Where the clerical and royal health were at stake, the latter prohibition did not apply. Torquemada's Dominicans obtained special permission


from the Pope to employ Jewish physicians on the plea that there were few doctors of the True Faith in Spain. The Catholic Kings also employed a Jewish physician and, if we can trust the word of contemporaries, it almost cost them the life of their son Prince Juan. It seems the prince was much taken with a golden ball which he royal physician (Maestre Ribas Altas) wore about his neck. After a good deal of boyish wheedling and nagging he finally persuaded the reluctant doctor to give it to him. He soon discovered how to pry the locket open and, to his horror, found inside an obscene miniature of the Savior saluting the royal physician's rump, Prince Juan was so distressed that he fell ill and began wasting away. His distraught father finally coaxed the secret from him and burned the Jew alive, after which the prince immediately began to mend.

      The People were happy to follow the royal lead against the Jews. A Franciscan friar excited riots in Jerez with strenuous denunciations of the Jews there as sodomites as well as Antichrists. The duke of Alva burned a rabbi with some of his flock accused of throwing stones at a Cross on Good Friday. The city fathers of Cuenca banned all Jews from town, except for physicians, who were permitted to visit the city as long as was necessary to cure Christian ailments. In Avila the local citizens decided to enforce personally the laws requiring Jews to wear only the plainest clothing. They invaded the ghetto quid broke into Jewish homes, plundering them of jewelry, silk clothing, and any fancy trimmings which caught their eye. They mauled the Jewish women, beat up their protesting husbands and wrecked their homes, in the


ancient tradition of hooliganism parading under Virtue's banners.

      The Crown was not amused. Persecution of Jews must be guided by statutory regulations, not by popular whimsy. The Jews were an important source of revenue for the holy war against the Moors stubbornly holding out in the southern corner of Andalusia. Ferdinand and Isabella threatened stern punishment for assaults on the Jewish community, and in 14 .3 they addressed a strongly worded proclamation to all citizens -f the real n-. commanding them to pay their just debts to their Jewish creditors in the interests of the financial solvency of the Crown, This was followed by orders to the municipal authorities of Burgos and Bilbao revoking their punitive financial laws against the Jewish communities there.

      Jewish agents on missions for the Crown had to be protected beforehand from the general populace. We can appreciate how hazardous it was for a Jew to travel around Spain from the provisions of a blanket edict issued in 1488 on behalf of the Jew Samuel Abolafia, Every person in every city, town, or place through which the royal Jew passed, was warned not to molest him in any way. No money was to be extorted from him under any pretext whatever. He was not to be abused, or mistreated, imprisoned, or killed, for he was under the royal protection.

      We get an occasional glimpse of the tense struggle at court between Torquemada and Don Abraham Seneor, who used all his influence with Ferdinand and Isabella to save his fellow Jews from the destruction Torquemada was planning for them. The two antagonists had supported


the union of the Catholic Kings, each in accordance with his own expectations of what it might mean for Spanish Judaism. Don Abraham undoubtedly had something to do with the Crown's apparent reluctance to allow their subjects a free hand against the Jews. On one occasion he was personally instrumental in thwarting such action by one of Torquemada's disciples in the monastery of Segovia. Friar Antonio de la Pena undertook a popular preaching campaign against the Jews. He wept copiously, and his audience wept with him, over the wicked ways of the sons of Moses, and he demanded that the Faithful burn down the ghetto and destroy the "wolves" within. The Jews of Segovia complained to Don Abraham who interceded with the Crown, and Torquemada's Dominican cohort was effectively silenced by royal order.

      But time and circumstances were on the side of the Inquisitor General, and the best Don Abraham could hope for was a delaying action. Although Jews were normally beyond the Inquisition's reach, they could be brought to trial for subversive activities against the True Faith. Under this provision Torquemada used the machinery of orthodoxy to build a case against the Jews in general as a threat to the security of Christianity in Spain. With evidence of a Jewish conspiracy to subvert the Church and, by implication, the State itself, he would be in a strong position to bring about the final destruction of Judaism in the Spanish peninsula.

      The Jews performed a double function for the Inquisition. They were employed as informants against backsliding Conversos. Many Jews undoubtedly looked on this with repugnance, so Torquemada forced the


Spanish rabbis to demand it under pain of excommunication from the synagogue. Some Jews, however, apparently got a vengeful pleasure out of compromising their former co-religionists. In some of the extant trials of this period, the accusations of Jewish witnesses are too patently absurd and contradictory to be taken seriously. In one trial a Jewish informant admitted that he had given much testimony against Conversos "regarding things he knew about as well as things he did not know about." And at Toledo in 1488 eight Jews were torn with hot pincers and stoned to death for giving false testimony against Conversos. It was not for moral turpitude that they were so savagely executed, but for their "attempts to discredit the Holy Office," as the record blandly tells us.

      Torquemada's "evidence" of a Jewish conspiracy to undermine Church and State is hardly impressive on the basis of any intrinsic judgment. But to people who are already persuaded of the truth of a proposition, the flimsiest "evidence" constitutes positive proof. In fact, even the lack of evidence proves only that the Enemy is diabolically clever at covering his tracks. As proof of his claims, Torquemada was able to lay before the Crown some choice material from Inquisition cases involving Jewish aggressions against the Faith. Extensive investigations of the ghetto at Huesca revealed that Christians were being seduced into Judaism by the local rabbis who were performing secret circumcisions during the late night hours. Equally shocking was the disclosure that a rabbi of Huesca was kidnapped and imprisoned by his peers in order to prevent him from carrying out his


intention to convert to Christianity. In Guadalupe the Inquisitors turned up a Jew who had been living (unbaptized) for forty years as a friar in the local Geronomite monastery. He was promptly burned in front of the monastery gates, but there was a widespread suspicion that others like him were poisoning the religious orders all over Spain. Other trials revealed political as well as religious treason among the Jews. It was reported that they not only believed that the Messiah was yet to come, but that he would arrive very soon in the person of the Sultan of Turkey. As they had welcomed the Moors in the eighth century, the Jews were looking forward to the Sultan's conquest of Spain. The Sultan, they claimed, was the defender of Mosaic Law and the destroyer of Christian Law, and would come as Jehovah's instrument to slay the Christians and free the Jews from bondage.

      Combining such evidence with the zeal that convinces, Torquemada achieved some modest results. Ferdinand and Isabella expelled the Jews from half a dozen major cities in a series of edicts whose language was clearly inspired by the Inquisitor General. The royal order banishing the Jews from Saragossa in 1486, for example, might well have been written by Torquemada himself.

      It appears from experience (announced the king) that the damaging inroads of heresy among Christians have resulted from communication between Jews and New Christians. The only effective remedy, therefore, is to remove these Jews from among New Christians, as we have already done in the archbishopric of Seville and the bishoprics of Cordova and Jaen. Now, in view of the harm done by the


Jews of Saragossa, it is our will that the Jews of that city also be expelled from both the city and the entire archbishopric as well as from the bishopric of Santa Maria. A formal order for said expulsion will accordingly be prepared by the devout Father (Torquemada), prior of the monastery of Santa Cruz.

      This was a step in the right direction toward Torquemada's goal of complete expulsion. Ferdinand and Isabella, however, were not yet willing to commit themselves to such a drastic step. There were, of course, potent considerations in favor of it. Isabella's celebrated piety was the kind which impels a certain type of True Believer to destroy those who worship false gods, and she very likely shared her confessor's convictions about a Jewish conspiracy against the Faith. By this time too the political confusions of the past seven centuries had been focussed into a Great Crusade about to be consummated by glorious victory. The last of the Moorish kings in Spain was at bay behind the walls of Granada, and his days were. clearly numbered. Spain's mission was now revealed: unification under the sword and the Cross; exile or death to unbelievers. On a more secular level, the Catholic Kings would be relieved of the anxieties of disaffection among the masses who persisted in taking the law into their own hands where Jews were concerned, despite the sternest admonitions from the throne. Expulsion of the Jews would unquestionably be a popular action, and even the most powerful despot does well to keep an ear cocked to the rumblings of the masses.


      But then, the Jews had been on the Spanish scene as long as the Christians themselves. They were a capable, hardworking people who had serviced the royal machinery with money and brains, and even now continued to do so. Could the Crown do as well without them as it did with them? Except for Jews like Abraham Seneor, who were profitably employed in the royal service, the vast majority of Moses' children were safely locked up in the ghetto where they could not brainwash Christians. Perhaps the status quo could be maintained indefinitely.

      Torquemada pressed his case. Abraham Seneor pleaded for his kinsmen. The Crown hesitated.

      It was time for a Ritual Murder.


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