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From the Rise of the Kabbala (1270 C. E.) to the 

Permanent Settlement of the Marranos 

IN Holland (i6i3 C. E.) 



The Jewish PxraLiCATioN Society of America 


Copyright, 1894, by 


All rights reserved. No part of this book may be 
reproduced in any Jorm without permission in 
writing from the publisher: except by a reviewer 
who may quote brief passages in a review to be 
printed in a magazine or newspaper. 






Progress of the Kabbala— Todros Halevi and his Sons- 
Isaac Allatif and his Kabbalistic Doctrines — Adventurous 
Career of Abraham Abulafia — He assumes the Character 
of Messiah — Opposition of Ben Adret — The Prophet of 
Avila — Joseph Jikatilla and his Kabbalistic Mazes — The 
Impostor Moses de Leon — Forgeries of the Kabbalists — 
Origin of the Zohar — Its Doctrines and Influence — 
Shem-Tob Falaquera — Isaac Albalag — Levi of Ville- 
franche — Samuel Sulami and Meiri — Abba-Mari's Exag- 
gerated Zeal — Jacob ben Machir Profatius and the Con- 
troversy regarding the Study of Science — Asheri — The 
Poet Yedaya Bedaresi page i. 

1270 — 1328 C.E. 


Philip le Bel — The Jews of France plundered and banished — 
Estori Parchi ; Aaron Cohen ; Laments of Bedaresi — 
Eleazar of Chinon, the Martyr — Return of the Jews to 
France ; their Precarious Position — Progress of the Con- 
troversy regarding the Study of Philosophy — Abba-Mari 
and Asheri — Death of Ben Adret — Rabbinical Revival 
in Spain — Isaac Israeli II — Samuel and the Queen Maria 
Molina — Don Juan Emanuel and Judah Ibn-Wakar — The 
Jews of Rome — Robert of Naples and the Jews — Peril 
of the Jews in Rome — Kalonymos ben Kalonymos, his 
Satires — Immanuel and Dante — The Poet Judah Sici- 
liano — Leone Romano and King Robert — Shemarya 
Ikriti — Position of Karaism — Aaron the Elder and the 
Prayer-Book of the Karaites page 46. 

1306 —1328 C.E. 




Condition of Palestine — Pilgrims and Immigrants — Sham 
Tob Ibn-Gaon — Favorable Position of the Jews in Cas- 
tile under Alfonso XI — Persecution in Navarre — Joseph 
de Ecija and Samuel Ibn-Wakar — Increase of Anti- 
Jewish Feelings — Abner-Alfonso of Burgos, Convert to 
Christianity, and Persecutor of the Jews — Gonzalo Mar- 
tinez — Fall of Martinez and Deliverance of the Jews — 
Decline of the Study of Science — The Study of the 
Talmud prosecuted with Renewed Vigor — Jacob and 
Judah Asheri — Isaac Pulgar, David Ibn-Albilla — The 
Provencal Philosophers Ibn-Kaspi, Leon de Bagnols, and 
Vidal Narboni — Decline of the Study of the Talmud in 
Germany — Emperor Louis of Bavaria and the Jews ■- 
Persecution by the " Leather- Arms " . . . . page 73. 

1328 — 1350 C.E. 


Rise of the False Accusation against Jews of Poisoning 
the Wells — Massacres in Southern France and Catalo- 
nia — The Friendly Bull of Pope Clement VI — Terrible 
Massacres in all Parts of Germany — Confessions wrung 
from the Jews on the Rack — The Flagellants as a Scourge 
for the Jews — King Casimirjof Poland — Persecution in 
Brussels — The Black Death in Spain — Don Pedro the 
Cruel and the Jews — Santob de Carrion and Samuel 
Abulafia — Fall of Don Pedro and its Consequences for 
the Jews — Return of the Jews to France and Germany 
— The " Golden Bull " — Manessier de Vesoul — Mata- 
thiah Meir Halevi — Synod at Mayence . . page 100. 

1348— 1380 C.E. 


The Jews of Spain after the Civil War— Joseph Pichon and 
Samuel Abrabanel — The Apostates : John of Valladolid 
— Menachem ben Zerach, Chasdai Crescas, and Isaac 
ben Sheshet — Chayim Gallipapa and his Innovations — 
Prev6t Aubriot and the Jews of Paris — The French 


Rabbinate — Reviv'al of Jewish Influence in Spain — The 
Jews of Portugal— The Jewish Statesmen, David and 
Judah Negro — Rabbis and Clergy — Persecutions in Ger- 
many and Spain — The First Germs of the Inquisition — 
Second Expulsion of the Jews from France — The Convert 
Pessach-Peter — Lipmann of Miihlhausen . . page 136. 

1369 — 1380 C.E, 



The Marranos — The Satirists — Pero Ferrus of Alcala, 
Diego de Valencia, and Villasandino — Astruc Raimuch 
and Solomon Bonfed — Paul de Santa Maria and his 
Zealous Campaign against the Jews — Joshua Ibn- 
Vives — Profiat Duran (Efodi) — Meir Alguades — The 
Philosophy of Crescas— Death of Henry III of Castile 
and Unfavorable Change in the Position of the Jews — 
Messianic Dreams of the Kabbalists — Jews seek an 
Asylum in Northern Africa — Simon Duran — Geronimo 
de Santa Fe, Vincent Ferrer and Benedict XIII — Anti- 
Jewish Edict of Juan II — Special Jewish Costume — 
Conversion of Jews owing to Ferrer's Violent Efforts — 
Disputation at Tortosa — The Jewish Spokesmen at the 
Conference — Incidents of the Meeting — Geronimo insti- 
gates the Publication of a Bull for the Burning of the 
Talmud — Pope Martin V befriends the Jews . page 179. 

1391— 1420 C.E. 



The Hussite Heresy — Consequences for the Jews involved 
in the Struggle — Jacob Molin— Abraham Benveniste and 
Joseph Ibn-Shem Tob in the Service of the Castilian 
Court — Isaac Campanton, the Poet Solomon Dafiera — 
Moses da Rieti — Anti- Christian Polemical Literature — 
Chayim Ibn-Musa — Simon Duran and his Son Solomon — 
Joseph Albo as a Religious Philosopher — Jewish Philo- 
sophical Systems — Edict of the Council of Basle against 
the Jews — Fanatical Outbreaks in Majorca — Astruc 
Sibili and his Conversion to Christianity . . page 221. 

1420 — 1442 C.E. 




Pope Eugenius IV, under the Influence of Alfonso de 
Cartagena, changes his Attitude towards the Jews — His 
Bull against the Spanish and Italian Jews in 1442 — Don 
Juan II defends the Jews — Pope Nicholas V's Hostility — 
Louis of Bavaria — The Philosopher Nicholas of Cusa 
and his Relation to Judaism— John of Capistrano — His 
Influence with the People is turned against the Jews — 
Capistrano in Bavaria and Wiirzburg — Expulsion of the 
Breslau Community — Expulsion of the Jews from Briinn 
and Olmiitz — The Jews of Poland under Casimir IV — 
Capture of Constantinople by Mahomet II — The Jews 
find an Asylum in Turkey — The Karaites — Moses Kap- 
sali — Isaac Zarfati — Position of the Jews of Spain — 
Persecutions directed by Alfonso de Spina — The Condi- 
tion of the Marranos page 248. 

1442 — 1474 C.E. 


Position of the Jews of Italy — The Jewish Bankers — Yechiel 
of Pisa — His Relations with Don Isaac Abrabanel — Jew- 
ish Physicians, Guglielmo di Portaleone — Revival of 
Learning among Italian Jews — Messer Leon and Elias 
del Medigo — Pico di Mirandola, the Disciple of Medigo 
— Predilection of Christians for the Kabbala — Jochanan 
Aleman — Religious Views of Del Medigo — German Rab- 
bis immigrate into Italy — Joseph Kolon, his Character 
and his Feud with Messer Leon — Judah Menz, an An- 
tagonist of Del Medigo — Bernardinus of Feltre — Jews 
banished from Trent on a False Charge of Child-Murder 
— The Doge of Venice and Pope Sixtus IV befriend the 
Jews — Sufferings of the Jews of Ratisbon— Israel Bruna 
— Synod at Nuremberg— Emperor Frederick III, 

page 285 
1474 — 1492 C.E. 



Jewish Blood in the Veins of the Spanish Nobility — The 
Marranos cling to Judaism and manifest Unconquerable 


Antipathy to Christianity — Ferdinand and Isabella — 
The Dominicans, Alfonso de Ojeda, Diego de Merlo, and 
Pedro de Solis — The Catechism of the Marranos — A Po- 
lemical Work against the Catholic Church and Despot- 
ism gives a Pov/erful Impulse to the Inquisition — The 
Tribunal is established in 1480 — Miguel Morillo and Juan 
de San Martin are the first Inquisitors — The Inquisition 
in Seville — The "Edict of Grace" — The Procession and 
the Auto-da-fe — The Numbers of the Accused and Con- 
demned — Pope Sixtus IV and his Vacillating Policy with 
Regard to the Inquisition — The Inquisition under the 
first Inquisitor General, Thomas deTorquemeda; its Con- 
stitutions — The Marranos of Aragon — They are charged 
with the Death of the Inquisitor Arbues — Persecutions 
and Victims — Proceedings against two Bishops Favorable 
to the Jews, De Avila and De Aranda . . page 308. 

1474— 1483 C.E. 


Friendship of Marranos and Jews — Torquemada demands 
of the Rabbis of Toledo the Denunciation of Marra- 
nos — Judah Ibn-Verga — Jewish Courtiers under Fer- 
dinand and Isabella — Isaac Abrabanel: his History 
and Writings — The Jews of Portugal under Alfonso V — 
The Ibn-Yachya Brothers — Abrabanel's Flight from Por- 
tugal to Spain — The Jews of Granada: Isaac Hamon — 
Edict of Banishment promulgated by Ferdinand and Isa- 
bella — Its Consequences — Departure from Spain — Num- 
ber of the Exiles — Decline in the Prosperity of Spain 
after the Banishment of the Jews — Transformation of 
Synagogues and Schools into Churches and Monasteries 
— The Inquisition and the Marranos — Deza, the Succes- 
sor of Torquemada page 334. 

1483— 1492 C.E. 


The Exiles from Navarre — Migration to Naples — King 
Ferdinand I of Naples and Abrabanel — Leon Abrabanel 
— Misfortunes of the Jews in Fez, Genoa, Rome, and the 
Islands of Greece — The Sultan Bajazet — Moses Kapsali 
— Spanish Jews in Portugal — The Jewish Astronomers, 


Abraham Zacuto and Jose Vecinho — ^The Jewish Trav- 
elers, Abraham de Beyaand Joseph Zapateiro — Outbreak 
of the Plague among the Spanish Jews in Portugal — Suf- 
ferings of the Portuguese Exiles — Judah Chayyat and his 
Fellow-Sufferers — Cruelty of Joao II — Kindly Treatment 
by Manoel changed into Cruelty on his Marriage — Forc- 
ible Baptism of Jewish Children — Levi ben Chabib and 
Isaac Caro — Pope Alexander VI — Manoel's Efforts on 
Behalf of the Portuguese Marranos — Death of Simon 
Maimi and Abraham Saba /^,^^357- 

1492 — 1498 C.E. 


Widespread Consequences of the Expulsion — The Exiles — 
Fate of the Abrabanel Family — Leon Medigo — Isaac 
Akrish — The Pre-eminence of Jews of Spanish Origin — 
The North-African States: Samuel Alvalensi, Jacob 
Berab, Simon Duran II — The Jews of Algiers, Tripoli 
and Tunis — Abraham Zacuto and Moses Alashkar — 
Egypt : Isaac Shalal, David Ibn-Abi Zimra — The Jews 
of Cairo — Selim I — Cessation of the Office of Nagid — 
Jerusalem — Obadyah di Bertinoro — Safet and Joseph 
Saragossi — The Jews of Turkey — Constantinople — Elias 
Mizrachi: the Karaites — The Communities of Salonica 
and Adrianople — The Jews of Greece — Elias Kapsali — 
The Jews of Italy and the Popes : Bonet de Lates — The 
Ghetto in Venice — Samuel Abrabanel and Benvenida 
Abrabanela — Abraham Farissol — The Jews of Germany 
and their Sorrows — Expulsion of the Jews from Various 
Towns — The Jews of Bohemia — Jacob Polak and his 
School — The Jews of Poland page 382. 

1496— 1525 C.E. 


Antecedents of the Convert John Pfefferkorn — Pfefferkom 
and the Dominicans of Cologne — Hoogstraten, Ortuinus 
Gratius and Arnold of Tongern— Victor von Karben — 
Attacks on the Talmud and Confiscation of Copies in 
Frankfort — Reuchlin's Hebrew and Kabbalistic Studies 
— The Controversy concerning the Talmud — Activity on 


both Sides— Public Excitement— Complete Victory of 
Reuchlin's Efforts in Defense of Jewish Literature- 
Ulrich von Hutten— Luther— Revival of Hebrew Studies, 

page 422. 
15CX) — 1520 C.E. 



Internal Condition of Judaism — Division in the Communi- 
ties — The Lack of Interest in Poetry — Historical Studies 
— Leon Medigo's " Dialogues of Love" — Supremacy of 
the Kabbala— Messianic Hopes — The Marranos and the 
Inquisition — Henrique Nunes — The Traveler David Reu- 
beni in Rome — Solomon Molcho — His Relations with 
David Reubeni — Joseph Karo and his "Maggid" — 
Clement VII — Molcho in Ancona and Rome — His Favor 
with the Cardinals — Death of Molcho — The Enthusiastic 
Regard in which he was held — Duarte de Paz— Paul III 
— Charles V and the Jews — Emanuel da Costa, 

page 477. 
1500 — 1538 C.E. 



Efforts towards Unity — Jacob Berab proposes the Re-intro- 
duction of Rabbinical Ordination into Palestine — Suc- 
cessful Opposition of Levi ben Chabib — Joseph Karo — 
His Connection with Solomon Molcho and his Messianic 
Visions — Karo's Religious Code — Converts to Judaism at 
the Era of the Reformation — Expulsion of the Jews from 
Naples and Prague — Their Return to the latter Town — 
Dr. Eck — Martin Luther and the Jews — Moses Hamon 
— Jewish Histories by Joseph Cohen, the Ibn-Vergas, 
and Samuel Usque — Elegy of Samuel Usque — Reaction 
in the Catholic Church ; Loyola establishes the Order 
of Jesuits — The Censorship of Books — Eliano Romano 
and Vittorio Eliano — Fresh Attacks on the Talmud — 
Paul IV and his anti-Jewish Bulls — Persecution of the 
Marranos by the Inquisition in Ancona — Joseph Nassi — 
The Levantine Jews — Expulsion of the Jews from Aus- 
tria and Bohemia— Relations of Pope Pius IV and V to 
the Jews page 529. 

1538— 1566 CE. 




Joseph Nassi's Favorwith Sultan Solyman — His Friendship 
for Prince Selim— Hostility of Venice and France to 
Nassi — Joseph Nassi restores Tiberias, and is created 
Duke of Naxos — The Vizir Mahomet Sokolli — The Turks, 
at the Instigation of Nassi, conquer Cyprus — Rebellion 
against Philip II in the Netherlands — Solomon Ashkenazi 
— Election of Henry of Anjou as King of Poland — Ashke- 
nazi negotiates a Peace between Venice and Turkey — Ge- 
dalya Ibn-Yachya and Jewish Literature in Turkey — 
Joseph Karo compiles the "Shulchan Aruch" — Azarya 
dei Rossi — Isaac Lurya — The Jewish "Dark Age" — 
Spread of the Kabbala — Lurya's Disciple, Chayim Vital 
Calabrese — Death of Joseph Nassi — Esther Kiera and the 
Influence of Jewish Women in Turkey . . page 593. 

1566 — 1600 C.E. 


Condition of Poland — Favorable Situation of the Jews in 
that Country — Anti-Jewish Party in Poland — The Jewish 
Communities — Judaizing Poles — Studies of the Jews — 
The Talmud in Poland — Solomon Lurya — Moses Isserles 
— The Historian, David Gans — "Zemach David" — Su- 
premacy of the Polish Authorities in Rabbinical Matters 
— The Jewish Seminaries in Poland — The Disputations 
at the Fairs— Chiddushim and Chillukim — Stephen Ba- 
thori — His Kindness towards his Jewish Subjects — Sigis- 
mund III — Restriction on the Erection of Synagogues — 
Jewish Synods — Vaad Arba Arazoth — Mordecai Jafa — 
Christian Sects in Poland — The Socinians or Unitarians 
— Simon Budny — The Reformers and the Jews — Isaac 
Troki — "The Strengthening of Faith" . . page 611. 

1566 — 1600 C.E. 


Revival of Catholicism — Decay in European Culture — Ill- 
treatment of Jews in Berlin — Emperor Rudolph II of 
Austria— Diminution in the Numbers of Italian Jews- 
Pope Gregory XIII — Confiscation of Copies of the T^- 


mud — Vigorous Attempts at the Conversion of Jews — 
Pope Sixtus V — The Jewish Physician David de Pomis 
— Renewal of Persecution by Clement VIII — Expulsion 
from Various Italian States — The Censors and the Tal- 
mud — The Jews at Ferrara — Settlement of Jews in Hol- 
land—Samuel Pallache — Jacob Tirado and the Marranos 
in Amsterdam — Tolerant Treatment — The Poet, David 
Jesurun — Moses Uri — Hebrew Printing in Amsterdam, 

page 650. 
1593—1618 C.E. 



The Amsterdam Jewish Community — Its Wealth, Culture, 
and Honored Position — Zacuto Lusitano — Internal Dis- 
sensions — The Talmud Torah School — Saul Morteira, 
Isaac Aboab, and Manasseh ben Israel — The Portuguese 
Congregation in Hamburg — The First Synagogue — 
Lutheran Intolerance — John Miller — Jewish Colony in 
Brazil — The Chief Communities in Germany — Persecu- 
tion in Frankfort — Dr. Chemnitz — The Vienna Congre- 
gation — T.iomann Heller — Ferdinand IPs Zeal for the 
Conversion ot Jews— Influence of the Thirty Years' 
War on the Fortunes of the Jews .... page 676 

1618 — 1648 C.£. 


) YHOl 





Progress of the Kabbala — Todros Halevi and his Sons — Isaac Allatif 
and his Kabbalistic Doctrines — Adventurous Career of Abraham 
Abulafia — He assumes the Character of Messiah — Opposition of 
Ben Adret — The Prophet of Avila — Joseph Jikatilla and his 
Kabbalistic Mazes — The Impostor Moses de Leon — Forgeries 
of the KabbaUsts — Origin of the Zohar — Its Doctrines and 
Influence — Shem-Tob Falaquera — Isaac Albalag — Levi of Ville- 
franche — Samuel Sulami and Meiri — Abba-Mari's Elxaggerated 
Zeal — Jacob ben Machir Profatius and the Controversy regard- 
ing the Study of Science — Asheri — The Poet Yedaya Bedaresi. 

1270 — 1328 c.E. . 

The secret science of the Kabbala, which hitherto 
had assumed a modest deportment and been of a 
harmless character, began to foment discord in Ben 
Adret's time, ensnare the intelligence and lead 
astray the weak. What it lacked in intrinsic truth 
and power of conviction, it endeavored to supply 
by presumptuousness. It had already spread from 
Gerona, its original seat, and from northern Spain 
by way of Segovia to southern Spain, as far as the 
Castilian capital, Toledo, the Jewish community of 
which had before strenuously opposed obscurantism. 
In the city of Toledo the Kabbala won thfe adher- 
ence, among others, of one man who, by his noble 
birth, his princely state, his high position, his wealth 
and learning, gave it great weight. This man, whose 
influence is even now not fully recognized, was 
Todros ben Joseph Halevi, of the noble Toledan 
family of Abulafia (born 1234, died after 1304). He 


was a nephew of that Meir Abulafia who had been 
so obstinate an adversary of Maimuni and rational- 
istic thought. Todros Abulafia took as a model his 
uncle, who in his old age had laid his hands on his 
head, and blessed him. When he grew up, he ap- 
plied himself to the Talmud and to secret lore ; but 
he must have been a man of affairs, too, for he ob- 
tained an honorable position at the court of Sancho 
IV, and was in special favor with the wise queen, 
Maria de Molina, as a physician and financier. By 
the Jews he was esteemed and venerated as their 
prince (Nasi). When the king and queen of Spain 
held a meeting in Bayonne with the king of France, 
Philip le Bel, to settle their mutual hostilities (1290), 
Todros Abulafia was in the train of the former, and 
received the most flattering homage from the Jews 
of southern France. Todros, like his uncle, was a 
determined opponent of philosophy and its devo- 
tees. He had no words bitter enough against the 
would-be wise people who hold everything which 
appears incompatible with logic as incredible and 
impossible. Even Maimuni, whom he highly re- 
spected, he censured for undervaluing the impor- 
tance of the sacrifices so greatly as to explain them 
merely as a concession to the heathen propensities 
of the people, and for calling the offering of incense 
an expedient for purifying the air. He waged 
vehement warfare against the philosophy which 
denies the existence of evil spirits, which to him was 
identical with doubting the existence of angels. 
Having been initiated into the secret science by 
one of the earliest Kabbalists, perhaps by Jacob of 
Segovia, who formed a school of his own, Todros 
valued it as divine wisdom, to uncover whose veil 
to laymen was fraught with danger. The recogni- 
tion of the secret doctrine by a person of so high a 
position could not but produce some effect. His 
sons, Levi and Joseph, likewise plunged headlong 
into its study. Two of the four Kabbalists of his 


time, who developed the Kabbala, and extended its 
influence, ranged themselves under the banner of 
Todros Abulafia, and dedicated their compositions 
to him. These four Kabbalists of the first rank, 
who established new theories with more or less suc- 
cess, were Isaac Ibn-Latif, Abraham Abulafia, Joseph 
Jikatilla, and Moses de Leon, all Spaniards. They 
obscured the mental light, with which men of intel- 
lect, from Saadiah to Maimuni, had illumined Judaism, 
and substituted for a refined religious belief, fantastic 
and even blasphemous chimeras. The intellectual 
degradation of the Jews in the following centuries is 
to a large extent their work. They led astray both 
their own times and posterity through designed or 
unintentional imposition, and the injuries which they 
inflicted on Judaism are felt even at the present day. 
The least harmful of these four was Isaac ben 
Abraham Ibn-Latif or Allatif (born about 1220, died 
about 1290). He no doubt owed his origin to the 
south of Spain, for he was acquainted with Arabic. 
Nothing is known of his history beyond the fact that 
he was on friendly terms with Todros Abulafia, to 
whom he dedicated one of his works. His writings, 
as has been said by one who came after him, seem 
to "stand with one foot on philosophy and with the 
other on the Kabbala." But Allatif only toyed with 
philosophical formulae, their meaning does not seem 
to have become known to him. He was not of a 
thoughtful nature, and did not enrich the Kabbala, 
although he attempted to give himself the appear- 
ance of following original methods, and avoided the 
usual Kabbalistic expressions. Allatif started with 
the thought that a philosophical view of Judaism was 
not the "right road to the sanctuary," and that it 
was, therefore, needful to seek a higher conception, 
but, instead of making the way clear, he concealed 
it by empty allusions and unmeaning phrases. Alla- 
tif laid more weight than his predecessors on the 
close connection between the spiritual and the mate- 


rial world — between God and His creation. For the 
Godhead is in all, and all is in it. In soul-inspiring 
prayers the human spirit is raised to the world- 
spirit (Sechel ha-Poel), to which it is united "in a 
kiss," and, so influencing the Divinity, it draws down 
blessings on the sublunar world. But not every 
mortal is capable of such spiritual and efficacious 
prayer; therefore, the prophets, the most perfect 
men, were obliged to pray for the people, for they 
alone knew the power of prayer. The unfolding 
and revelation of the Deity in the world of spirits, 
spheres and bodies, were explained by Isaac Allatif 
in mathematical formulae. Isaac Allatif must, how- 
ever, be considered a clear thinker, when compared 
with his enthusiastic contemporary, Abraham Abu- 
lafia, who endeavored to establish a new order of 
things by Kabbalistic sophisms. 

Abraham ben Samuel Abulafia (born 1240, in 
Saragossa, died 1291) was an eccentric personage, 
full of whims, and fond of adventures. Endowed 
with a lively mind and with more than a moderate 
amount of knowledge, he renounced the ways of 
common sense to throw himself into the arms of 
enthusiasm. His whole life from his entry into 
manhood was a succession of adventures. His 
father, who had instructed him in the Bible and the 
Talmud, died when his son was a youth of eighteen, 
and two years later Abraham undertook a journey 
of adventure, as he relates, in order to discover the 
mythical river Sabbation or Sambation, and to be- 
come acquainted with the supposed Israelite tribes 
dwelling on its banks, no doubt with a Messianic 
purpose. His mind was in a constant tumult. He 
wrestled for clearness, but fell ever deeper into 
mazes and illusions. One thing, however, became 
evident to him, that the philosophy with which he 
had much occupied himself offered no certainty, 
and, therefore, no satisfaction to the religious mind 
thirsting after truth. Even the trite Kabbala as 


commonly accepted, with its doctrine about the Sefi- 
roth, did not satisfy his soul, since both only nursed 
the pride of knowledge. He, a Kabbalist, criticised 
the unsoundness of this mystic theory so severely 
and correctly that it is surprising that he should have 
conceived still more insane notions. Abraham Abu- 
lafia sought after something higher, for prophetic 
inspiration, which alone opens the fountain of truth, 
without traversing the laborious path of systematic 

At length Abulafia believed that he had found 
what his soul was yearning for, and that through 
divine inspiration he had come upon a higher Kab- 
bala, in relation to which the lower mystical doctrine 
and philosophy were only handmaids. This Kab- 
bala alone, he maintained, offers the means of com- 
ing into spiritual communion with the Godhead, and 
of obtaining prophetic insight. This means was far 
from new, but the firm conviction of its effectiveness 
and his application of it are peculiar to Abulafia. 
To decompose the words of Holy Writ, especially 
the all-hallowed name of God, to use the letters as 
independent notions (Notaricon), or to transpose 
the component parts of a word in all possible per- 
mutations, so as to form words from them (Tsiruf), 
or finally to employ the letters as numbers (Gema- 
tria), these are the means of securing communion 
with the spirit-world. But this alone is not sufficient. 
He who desires to render himself worthy of a 
prophetic revelation, must adopt an ascetic mode of 
living, must remove himself from the turmoil of the 
world, shut himself up in a quiet chamber, deliver 
his soul from earthly cares, clothe himself in white 
garments, wrap himself up with Talith and Phylac- 
teries, and devoutly prepare his soul, as if for an 
interview with the Deity. Besides, he must pro- 
nounce the letters of God's name at intervals, with 
modulations of the voice, or write them down in a 
certain order, at the same time making energetic 


movements, writhing and bending forward till the 
mind becomes dazed, and the heart filled with a 
glow. Then the body will be surprised by sleep, 
and a sensation will arise, as if the soul were released 
from the body. In this condition, if it become last- 
ing through practice, the divine grace is poured into 
the human soul, uniting with it in a kiss, and the 
prophetic revelation follows quite naturally. This 
means of working himself up into a state of ecstasy 
Abulafia certainly practiced, exciting his heated 
fancy to delirium He considered his Kabbala to 
be prophetic inspiration, by means of which he alone 
could penetrate into the secrets of the Torah. For 
the plain sense of the words and the simple practice 
of the religious precepts were merely for the un- 
initiated, like milk for children. Experts, on the 
other hand, find the higher wisdom in the numerical 
value of the letters and in the manifold changes of 
the words. 

In this way he laid down his Kabbala, in anti- 
thesis to the superficial or baser Kabbala, which 
occupies itself with the Sefiroth, and, as he gibingly 
said, erects a sort of Decem-unity instead of the 
Christian Trinity. He lectured on his Kabbala 
in Barcelona, Burgos, and Medina-Celi. So low 
was the general intelligence, that this half-insane 
enthusiast found old and young to listen to 
him. Two of his disciples, Joseph Jikatilla, and 
Samuel, alleged to be a prophet, both of Medina- 
Celi, proclaimed themselves to be prophets and 
workers of miracles. Abulafia appears, nevertheless, 
to have aroused opposition in Spain, or at least not 
to have found any real sympathy ; he left his native 
country a second time, betaking himself once more 
to Italy, where he reckoned upon stronger support. 
In Urbino for the first time he produced prophetic 
writings, and alleged that God had spoken with him. 
At last he conceived the mad idea of converting the 
pope to Judaism (Sabbath-eve, 1281). The attempt 


cost him dear. He was arrested two days later in 
Rome, languished twenty-eight days in prison, and 
escaped the stake only through the circumstance 
that God, as he expressed it, had caused a double 
mouth (or tongue ?) to grow in him. Possibly he 
told the pope that he, too, taught the doctrine of the 
Trinity. After this he was allowed to walk about 
Rome in freedom. Thence Abulafia proceeded to 
the island of Sicily, and in Messina he met with a 
favorable reception, gaining six adherents. Here 
he finally proclaimed that he was not only a prophet 
but the Messiah, and set forth his claims in writing 
(November, 1284). God, he said, had revealed to 
him His secrets, and had announced to him the end 
of the exile and the beginning of the Messianic 
redemption. The gracious event was to take place 
in the year 1 290. Mysticism has always been the 
ground on which Messianic fancies have thriven. 

Through strictly moral deportment, ascetic life 
and revelations veiled in obscure formulae, perhaps 
also through his winning personality and boldness, 
Abraham Abulafia found many in Sicily who believed 
in him, and began to make preparations for return- 
ing to the Holy Land. But the intelligent part of 
the Sicilian congregation hesitated to join him with- 
out investigation. They addressed themselves to 
Solomon ben Adret, to obtain information from him 
respecting Abraham Abulafia. The rabbi of Bar- 
celona, who was acquainted with Abulafia's earlier 
career, sent an earnest letter to the community of 
Palermo, in which he severely condemned the self- 
constituted Messiah as illiterate and dangerous. 
Naturally, Abulafia did not allow this attack to 
remain unanswered, but proceeded to defend him- 
self from the denunciation. In a letter he justified 
his prophetic Kabbala, and hurled back Ben Adret's 
invectives in language so undignified that many 
thought the letter not genuine. 

But his abusive retort was of no avail, for other 


congregations and rabbis, who may have feared 
that a persecution might be the consequence of 
his fantastic doctrines, also expressed themselves 
against Abulafia. He was harassed so much in 
Sicily that he had to leave the island, and settle in 
the tiny isle of Comino, near Malta (about 1288). 
Here he continued to publish mystical writings, 
and to assert that he would bring deliverance to 
Israel. Persecution had embittered him. He lev- 
eled charges against his brethren in faith, who in 
their stubbornness would not listen to him : "Whilst 
the Christians believe in my words, the Jews eschew 
them, and absolutely refuse to know anything of the 
calculation of God's name, but prefer the calculation 
of their money." Of those who exclusively occu- 
pied themselves with the Talmud, Abulafia said that 
they were seized by an incurable disease, and that 
they were far inferior to those skilled in the higher 
Kabbala. Abraham Abulafia, besides twenty-six 
on other subjects, composed at least twenty-two 
so-called prophetic works, which, although the pro- 
duct of a diseased brain, were used by the later 
Kabbalists. What at last became of the prophetic 
and Messianic enthusiast and adventurer is not 

His extravagant conduct did not fail to produce 
evil consequences, even in his own time, and was as 
infectious as an epidemic. About the same time 
there arose in Spain two enthusiasts, of whom one 
was probably Abraham Abulafia's disciple. One of 
them made his appearance in the small town Ayllon 
(in the district of Segovia), the other in the large 
congregation of Avila, Both proclaimed themselves 
to be prophets, and announced in mystic language 
the advent of the Messianic kingdom. Both found 
followers. The adherents of the prophet of Avila 
related, that in his youth he had been ignorant, and 
could neither read nor write ; that an angel, who 
appeared to him in his sleeping, and sometimes also 


in his waking moments, suddenly endowed him 
through higher inspiration, with the power of writing 
a comprehensive work, full of mystical ideas, and a 
diffuse commentary (without which at that time no 
fairly respectable book could be conceived). When 
the people of Avila and remote congregations heard 
of this they wondered greatly. The story excited 
extraordinary interest, and the representatives of 
the congregation of Avila consulted Solomon ben 
Adret, the last commanding authority of that time, 
as to whether they should accept this new prophecy. 

Himself a partial follower of the secret science, 
subscribing only to the Biblical and the Talmudical 
miracles, the rabbi of Barcelona replied that he 
would have considered the affair of the prophet of 
Avila as arrant fraud, if trustworthy people had not 
attested its truth. Still he could not possibly recog- 
nize him as a prophet, for he lacked the principal 
conditions which the Talmud lays down as essential 
to prophecy : outside of Palestine, prophecy is alto- 
gether impossible ; the age is not suitable for pro- 
phetic revelation, and the prophetic spirit can not rest 
upon a perfectly ignorant person. It was incredible 
that a man should go to bed an idiot and get up a 
prophet. The story required the most painstaking 
and impartial investigation. 

In spite of the warning of the most honored rabbi 
of the time, the prophet of Avila pursued his course, 
and fixed the last day of the fourth month (1295) 
as the beginning of the Messianic redemption. The 
easily influenced and ignorant multitude made 
preparations for its coming, fasted, and spent money 
lavishly in alms, that they might be found accept- 
able in the Messianic kingdom, and be permitted to 
partake of its bliss. On the appointed day, the de- 
luded people, dressed as on the Day of Atonement, 
hastened to the synagogues, and waited there to 
hear the trumpet-blasts announcing the Messianic 
advent. But the expected Messiah did not show 


himself, nor was there any sign of him. Instead, 
they are said to have noticed on their garments 
small crosses, for which they were totally unpre- 
pared, and which pardy sobered and pardy terrified 
them. It is possible that some of the incredulous in 
the congregation had fastened the crosses secretly 
on their garments, either to practice a joke upon 
their credulous brethren, or to point out to what 
end Messianic charlatanry was destined to lead 
them, and thus cure them of their delusion. Some 
of the impostor's followers are said to have gone 
over to Chrisdanity in consequence of this incident ; 
others, to have been plunged into melancholy, be- 
cause they could not explain the presence of the 
crosses. What became of the prophets, or beguiled 
deceivers, of Ayllon and Avila is not related. Like 
Abraham Abulafia they were lost sight of, and have 
importance only as the excrescences of a diseased 
state. It is possible that another disciple of Abulafia, 
Joseph Jikatilla, who also was looked upon as a 
performer of miracles, and had his dwelling not far 
from Ayllon, played a part in the mad or deceitfiil 
pranks of the prophets of Ayllon and Avila. Joseph 
ben Abraham Jikatilla (born in Medina-Celi, died in 
Penjafiel, after 1305), heard, at the age of twenty 
years, an exposition of the bewildering secret doc- 
trine of Abulafia, and whilst the latter still was in 
Spain, he composed a Kabbalistic book of his own, 
in which he exhibits the same eccentricities as his 
master. He, too, occupied himself with the mysti- 
cism of letters and numbers, and with the transpo- 
sition of letters. Joseph Jikatilla's writings are in real- 
ity only an echo of Abraham Abulafia's fancies; the 
same delusion is apparent in both. But far more 
influential and more pernicious than these three 
Kabbalists, Allatif, Abulafia, and Jikatilla, was Moses 
de Leon, whose ascendancy was felt both by his 
contemporaries and posterity. Although a contem- 
porary and fellow-specialist unmasked his perform- 

CH. I. 


ances, Moses de Leon succeeded in introducing into 
Jewish literature and thought a book which gave the 
Kabbala a firm foundation and wide extension, in 
brief, raised it to the zenith of its power. The ques- 
tion about Moses ben Shem Tob de Leon (born in 
Leon about 1250, died in Arevalo, 1305) is only 
whether he was a selfish or a pious impostor. His 
intention was certainly to deceive and lead astray, 
and in this respect he appears much baser than 
Abulafia, who at all events was sincere and naive in 
his delusion. A sciolist, who had mastered neither 
the Talmud nor any other subject thoroughly, Moses 
possessed the skill to use deftly the little that he 
knew, to write easily and fluently, to discover a 
connection between the most remote things and 
verses of Scripture piled up in the chamber of his 
memory, and to couple them with playful wit. Even 
the Kabbala was not present to him as a system ; he 
knew merely its forms and technical terms, and 
employed them in a skillful manner. 

Of careless prodigality, Moses de Leon expended 
everything that he had without reflecting what would 
remain for the morrow ; he made use of the Kabbala 
which had come into fashion to procure for himself 
a rich source of revenue. He led a wandering life, 
lived a long time in Guadalaxara, then in Viverro, in 
Valladolid, and finally in Avila. At first he publish- 
ed his intellectual productions under his own name 
(about 1285). His writings, however, were not suf- 
ficiently noticed, and brought him but little fame and 
money. Moses de Leon then hit upon a much more 
effective means for opening hearts and purses. He 
commenced the composition of books under feigned 
but honored names. If he put the doctrines of the 
Kabbala, worn threadbare, to be sure, into the mouth 
of an older, highly venerated authority, some impos- 
ing name from the dazzling past, — taking care, of 
course, to make the coloring and the method of 
presentation archaic — would not such a composition 


be eagerly swallowed ? Would he not be richly 
rewarded if he hinted that he was in possession of 
so costly a treasure ? Moses de Leon knew well 
the credulity of those who devoted themselves with 
more or less earnestness to the study of the Kab- 
bala ; how they eagerly sought for every word which 
they were led to think originated from ancient times. 
For, since the secret science had been promulgated, 
and had striven for recognition, doctrines which 
sounded Kabbalistic had been fathered upon old and 
illustrious names, and thus had found acceptance. 
But Moses de Leon did his work much more cleverly 
than most forgers. He found the most likely author 
for the secret doctrine, against whom there could be 
little or no objection, in the person of the Tanaite 
Simon bar Yochai, who is said to have spent thirteen 
years in a cave, solitary and buried in profound reflec- 
tion, and whom ancient mysticism represented as re- 
ceiving revelations. Simon bar Yochai was assuredly 
the right authority for the Kabbala. But he must not 
be permitted to write or speak Hebrew, for in this 
language the Kabbalists would recognize the echo 
of their own voices. He must express himself in 
Chaldee, in a half obscure language, peculiarly fit 
for secrets, and sounding as if from another- world. 
And thus there came into the world a book, the 
book Zohar (brilliancy), which for many centuries 
was held by Jews as a heavenly revelation, and was 
and partly is even now regarded by Christians as an 
old tradition. But seldom has so notorious a forgery 
so thoroughly succeeded. Moses de Leon well 
knew how to produce the proper effect on credulous 
readers. He made Simon bar Yochai appear in 
splendor, surrounded by a halo, in the book Zohar, 
and impart his revelation to a circle of select pupils 
(sometimes twelve, sometimes six), "scholars who 
shine with heaven's light." "When they assembled 
to compose the Zohar, permission was granted to 
the prophet Elijah, to all the members of the celestial 


conclave, all the angels, spirits, and higher souls to 
act in sympathy with them, and the ten spiritual 
substances (Sefiroth) were charged with the duty of 
revealing to them deeply hidden secrets, reserved 
for the time of the Messiah." Or in another version : 
Simon bar Yochai summoned his followers to a great 
council, and heard the flapping of the wings of the 
celestial host, who also had assembled to listen to 
the disclosure of mysteries till then unknown even 
to the angels. The Zohar glorifies its author exces- 
sively. It calls him the holy light, who stands higher 
than the greatest prophet, Moses, "the faithful 
shepherd." " I swear by the holy heavens and the 
holy earth," the Zohar makes Simon bar Yochai 
exclaim, " that I behold now what no other mortal 
since Moses ascended Sinai for the second time has 
beheld, aye, even more than he. Moses knew not 
that his countenance shone ; I. however, know that 
my countenance shines." On account of God's love 
for the writer of the Zohar, his generation merited 
the revelation of truths till then hidden. As lono- as 
he who illumines everything lives, the sources of the 
world are opened and all secrets are disclosed. 
" Woe to the generation forsaken by Simon bar 
Yochai." He is almot deified in the Zohar. His dis- 
ciples once broke out into ecstatic praise that he had 
mounted the degrees to heavenly wisdom, which 
none of his predecessors had done; and of him it is 
written in Scripture, "All men are to appear before 
the lord," z. <?., before Simon bar Yochai. This extrav- 
aofant grlorification and self-deification, sufficient to 
mark a forgery, are not without design. They were 
to meet the objection, how the Kabbala, so long 
unknown, and kept secret by the prudent Kabba- 
lists — for they had hesitated to impart any of it in 
writing — how this mysterious wisdom could all at 
once come to light, and be revealed to every one's 
knowledge. The Zohar frequently uses the fol- 
lowinof excuse: As the time in which Simon bar Yochai 


lived was especially meritorious and rich in grace, 
and as the Messianic period was near, the veil which 
had concealed the book so long could now be 
drawn aside. 

There are certainly very few compositions which 
have exercised so much influence as the Zohar, or 
which can be compared with it in regard to the re- 
markable nature of its contents and form. It is 
a book without beginning or end, of which it is 
unknown whether it once formed part of a whole, 
whether the extant portions originally belonged to 
it, or were added later, or whether at an earlier 
period more of it was in existence. It consists of 
three principal parts, with appendices and explana- 
tory comments. The absence of form in this farrago 
made it possible for certain portions to be imitated. 
It is so easy and tempting to imitate its wild though 
sonorous style. Thus the forgery was counter- 
forged. It is not positively certain whether the Zohar 
is to be regarded as a running commentary to the 
Pentateuch, as a theosophic manual, or as a collec- 
tion of Kabbalistic sermons. And its contents are 
just as curious, confused and chaotic as its form and 
external dress. The Zohar with its appendages in 
no wise develops a Kabbalistic system like Azriel's, 
neither does it unfold an idea like Abraham Abula- 
fia, but plays with the Kabbalistic forms as with coun- 
ters — with the En-Sof, with the number of the Sefi- 
roth, with points and strokes, with vowels, accents, 
with the names of God and the transposition of their 
letters, as well as with the Biblical verses and Agadic 
sayings — casts them about in eternal repetition, and 
in this manner produces sheer absurdities. Occa- 
sionally it gives a faint suggestion of an idea, but in 
a trice it evaporates in feverish fancies, or dissolves 
in childish silliness. 

The underlying principle of the Zohar (if we may 
speak of principles in reference to this book) is that 
the historical narratives and religious statutes of the 


Bible were never intended to be understood in a 
plain, simple sense, but that they contain something 
higher, mysterious, supernatural. " Is it conceiv- 
able," the Zohar makes one of Simon bar Yochai's 
circle exclaim, "that God had no hoHer matters to 
communicate than these common things about Esau 
and Hagar, Laban and Jacob, Balaam's ass, Balak's 
jealousy of Israel, and Zimri's lewdness ? Does a 
collection of such tales, taken in their ordinary sense, 
deserve the name of Torah ? And can it be said of 
such a revelation that it utters the pure truth ?" " If 
that is all the Torah contains," remarks Simon bar 
Yochai (orMoses de Leon), "we can produce in our 
time a book as good as this, aye, perhaps better. 
No, no ! the higher, mystical sense of the Torah is 
its true sense. The Biblical narratives resemble a 
beautiful dress, which enraptures fools so that they 
do not look beneath it. This robe, however, covers 
a body, i. e., the precepts of the Law, and this again a 
soul, the higher soul. Woe to the guilty, who assert 
that the Torah contains only simple stories, and 
therefore look only upon the dress. Blessed are the 
righteous, who seek the real sense of the Law. The 
jar is not the wine, so stories do not make up the 
Torah." Thus the secret lore of Moses de Leon 
naturally has free play to pervert everything and 
anything, and give it the seal of sublimit}', and in 
this manner to promulgate a false doctrine, not only 
absurd, sometimes even blasphemous and immoral. 
All laws of the Torah are to be considered as parts 
and constituents of a higher world ; they resolve 
themselves into the mysteries of the masculine and 
feminine principle (positive and negative). Only 
when both parts meet, does the higher unity arise. 
Consequently, whenever any one transgresses one 
of the laws, he obscures the brilliant image of the 
higher world. 

It is almost impossible to give an idea of the 
abuse which the Zohar, or Moses de Leon, practices 


in the interpretation of Holy Writ, and how he 
twists the sense of the words. In the verse, "Raise 
your eyes to heaven, and see who has created this," 
a profound mystery is supposed to reside, which the 
prophet Elijah learned in the celestial school, and 
revealed to Simon bar Yochai; namely, that God had 
been unknown and obscure before the creation of 
the world, in a manner existing, and still not exist- 
ing. He was the "Who" (the unknown subject). 
The creation is part of His self-revelation. It was 
by the creation that He first proclaimed Himself as 

The Zohar is particularly concerned with that side 
of man which is an eternal riddle to man, — the soul, 
its origin and end. Like the older Kabbalists, the 
Zohar assumed the pre-existence of the souls in 
the brilliant world of the Sefiroth. They are there 
wrapped in a spiritual robe, and entranced in the 
contemplation of God's light. When the souls are 
about to enter this world they assume an earthly 
garment, the body ; but as soon as they are to leave 
the earth, the angel of death divests them of this 
earthly garment. If a soul lives piously and morally 
here below, it receives its former heavenly robe, and 
can once more enjoy the blissful ecstasy of God's 
presence ; if not, particularly if it departs from the 
world impenitent, it wanders about naked and 
ashamed till purified in hell. The nakedness of the 
soul, paradise and hell — depicted in fantastic, ba- 
roque, and terrible images — are themes for which 
the Zohar often and gladly makes digressions. 
What happens to the soul during sleep, and the 
shadows of life — sin, impurity in small and great 
things — are likewise favorite subjects for discussion 
In the Zohar, to which it frequently reverts, present- 
ing them in the greatest variety of guises and repe- 
titions. One of the older Kabbalists arrived at 
the notion that to the higher world, the world of 
light, of holiness, and of angels, there was a sharp 


antithesis — a world of darkness, of unholiness, of 
Satan, in short the principle of evil, which was like- 
wise developed into ten degrees (Sefiroth) at the 
creation of the world. In spite of their opposite 
characters, the two worlds are of one origin, forming 
opposite poles, and are in the same relation to each 
other as the right side is to the left. Accordingly, 
evil is called in the language of the Kabbalists the 
left or other side. The Kabbalists gave another 
representation of the Satanic empire. On the bor- 
der of the world of light, the world of darkness is 
situated, and encompasses it as the shell surrounds 
the kernel of the fruit. Hence the Zohar meta- 
phorically designates evil, or sin, with its ten de- 
grees, as shell (Kelifa). This side is the favorite 
topic of the Zohar; for here it can apply its peculiar 
exposition of the Scriptures. The ten Sefiroth of 
the left side, the Satanic kingdom, are enumerated 
and denominated by names which savor of barbar- 
ism. The names sound like those of the princes of 
the demons in the book of Enoch, and are perhaps 
borrowed thence : Samael or Samiel, Azael, Angiel, 
Sariel, Kartiel. The Zohar identifies all blasphemers 
and wicked people with the evil principle of the 
"shells" (Kelifoth) — the first serpent, Cain, Esau, 
Pharaoh, and Esau's empire, Rome, and the civil 
and spiritual power of Christendom in the Middle 
Ages, which rested on violence and injustice. Israel 
and righteous people, on the other hand, belong to 
the world of light, the right Sefiroth. "He who 
goes after the left side (sin), and defiles his actions, 
draws upon himself the impure spirits ; they attach 
themselves to him, nor do they ever leave him." 
The laws of the Torah have no other object than to 
effect and cherish the union of the souls with the 
world of light. Every transgression of them brings 
the souls to the world of darkness, evil spirits, and 
impurity. The Zohar coarsely represents the con- 
nection of the souls with light or with darkness by 


the image of wedded union, as, in general, it as- 
serts the mascuhne and feminine principle in the 
higher world, even in reference to the Deity. As 
long as Israel lives in exile, the divine unity is defi- 
cient and disrupted ; God will become one only in 
those days when the Mistress (Matronita) will 
espouse the King. 

Moses de Leon would have left n. gap, if he had 
not spoken of the Messianic period — the keynote of 
the Kabbala — and determined its date. In fact, the 
sudden revelation of the doctrine so long held 
secret rests on the assumption that the time of the 
Messiah is near. But here the forger betrays him^ 
self Instead of indicating a period or a year for 
the appearance of the Messiah approximating the 
age of Simon bar Yochai (in the second century), 
the Zohar, with its casuistical playing with letters 
and numbers, demonstrated that it would happen in 
the beginning of the fourteenth century, therefore 
in the lifetime of the author. ** When the sixtieth 
or the sixty-sixth year will pass the threshold of the 
sixth thousand, the Messiah will show himself ;" but 
some time will pass before all nations will be con- 
quered, and Israel be gathered together. The Mes- 
siah will first be summoned to appear on earth from 
his secret abode in Paradise, "the bird's nest," 
where he has been dwelling in bliss since the begin- 
ning of the world. A bloody conflict will then break 
out in the world. Edom and Ishmael (Christian and 
Mahometan nations) will vehemendy contend with 
one another, and eventually both will be annihilated 
by a mightier conquering people. Signs and mira- 
cles will presage the time, and the resurrection of 
the dead and a general diffusion of the Kabbalistic 
knowledge of God will constitute the end of the 
world. Moses de Leon intended to arouse in the 
minds of his contemporaries the hope that they 
would behold the time of the Messiah with their own 
eyes. He was perhaps as much a victim to Messi- 


anic enthusiasm as Abraham Abulafia. Despite the 
Zohar's endeavor to exalt rabbinical Judaism and its 
law, and by a mystical explanation to give every 
custom, however trivial, a special signification and 
higher import, it carps at and criticises the Talmud 
and its method, though in an obscure, equivocal 
manner, and with the most innocent air in the 
world. It represents the study of the Kabbala as 
of much higher importance than the study of the 
Talmud, and even of the Bible. The Kabbala has 
the power of soaring, and is able to follow the flight 
of the Deity in His inscrutable guidance of things ; 
the Talmud, on the other hand, and its adherents, 
have clipped wings, and cannot elevate themselves 
to higher knowledge. The Zohar compares the 
Mishna (Talmud) with a lowly slave ; the Kabbala, 
on the other hand, with a powerful mistress. The 
former has to do with inferior matters, with " clean 
and unclean," with "permitted and prohibited," with 
" what is and is not fit to be used." As long as this 
woman rules with her "now pure, at another time 
impure blood," the union of the Father with the 
Matrona (God with Israel) cannot take place. In 
the Messianic period, on the other hand, when the 
higher knowledge will awake, and gain the ascend- 
ency, the Kabbala will once more assert its domin- 
ion over the slave (Talmud), as in the time of the 
lawgiver Moses. The Zohar lastly compares the 
study of the Talmud with a rugged, unproductive 
rock which, when struck, gives out scanty drops of 
water, causing only disputes and discussions. The 
Kabbala, on the other hand, is like a spring flowing 
abundantly, to which only a word needs to be spoken 
to cause it to pour out its refreshing and vivifying 

When the Zohar or Midrash of Simon bar Yochal 
was published, it aroused the greatest wonder among 
the Kabbalists. They seized upon it with avidity. 
Moses de Leon received vast multitudes of orders 


to send copies. The question, whence all at once 
had come so comprehensive a work of an old teacher 
of the Mishna, not a trace of which had been known 
till then, was thus answered: Nachmani had 
exhumed it in Palestine, had sent it to his son in 
Catalonia, by a whirlwind it had been carried to 
Aragon or Alicante (Valencia), where it had fallen 
into the hands of Moses de Leon, who alone pos- 
sessed the original document. The repute of the 
newly discovered Kabbalistic treasure soon spread 
through the whole of Spain. The school of Abulafia 
at once gave the Zohar the tribute of its acknowl- 
edgment, and considered it indisputably genuine. 
Moses de Leon's wildest hopes were more than 
realized. There were, of course, Kabbalists who 
doubted that the Zohar had originated with Simon 
bar Jochai and his school, but none the less did they 
pay homage to the book as to a pure source for 
Kabbalistic theories. When the Kabbalist Isaac of 
Accho,whohad escaped the massacre that had ensued 
upon the capture of that city, arrived in Spain, and 
saw the Zohar, he was staggered, and became 
desirous of coming to the root of the question, 
whether this alleged ancient Palestinian work was 
really genuine, as he had been born and educated 
in the Holy Land, had associated with Nachmani's 
pupils, and yet had never heard a syllable about it. 
When he met Moses de Leon in Valladolid, the 
latter took a solemn oath that he had in his house 
at Avila an old copy of the book from the hand of 
Simon bar Yochai, and pledged himself to submit it 
to Isaac of Accho for examination. But Moses de 
Leon became ill on his journey home, and died 
in Arevalo (1305). The veil around the origin 
of the Zohar was wrapped still closer. Two 
influential men of Avila, David Rafan and Joseph 
de Avila, had indeed discovered the simple truth 
from Moses de Leon's wife and daughter. Moses 
de Leon had never possessed the original copy. 


but had evolved it out of his own inner conscious- 
ness, and had written it with his own hand. His 
wife frankly related that she had often asked her 
husband why he published the productions of his 
own intellect under a strange name, and that he 
had answered that the Zohar would not, under his 
own name, have brought him any money, but 
assigned to Simon bar Yochai it had been a lucrative 
source of income. 

Thus wife and daughter, without being aware of 
the full gravity of their assuredly unassailable 
testimony, unmasked Moses de Leon as a forger. 
Nevertheless, the Zohar met with the unqualified 
applause of the Kabbalists, because it supplied a 
want which would have had to be provided for in 
one way or another. The Kabbalistic doctrine, 
which had already gained so much weight, had 
hitherto been without firm basis ; it had no other 
authority than the very doubtful one of Isaac the 
Blind. Now the dignified figure of a teacher of the 
Mishna in communion with departed spirits and 
celestial hosts and angels confirmed the truths which 
were not only doubted by many at the time, but 
absolutely ridiculed. Should they, then, not cling 
to it and defend it? What Moses de Leon put into 
the mouth of Simon bar Yochai, " Many will range 
themselves round the book Zohar, when it becomes 
known, and nourish their minds with it at the end 
of days," actually happened soon after his death. 
If the Zohar did not bring the Kabbalists anything 
essentially new, it exhibited to them what they 
did know in so peculiar a form and language, 
that they were wonderstruck. Everything in it is 
contrived for effect, for illusion, and for fascina- 
tion. The long discussions which Simon bar Yochai 
holds with his circle or with the " faithful shepherd," 
have dramatic power, especially the scene in which, 
in premonition of his speedy dissolution, he imparts 
once more what he so often had proclaimed. Full 


of effect, and, upon minds easily accessible to faith, 
of transporting and overwhelming influence, are the 
oft-recurring exclamations in the Zohar : Woe, woe 
to those who believe, or do not believe, or fail to 
respect, this and that. Sometimes short prayers are 
interspersed, which, being elevated and imaginative, 
are peculiarly fitted to fill the soul with mysterious 
awe. Even the characteristic terms introduced 
instead of the usual Kabbalistic forms are calculated 
to arouse interest by their double sense. The author 
designated God and the higher spiritual substances 
(Sefiroth) collectively or in their single parts and 
effects, as father, mother, the prototype of man, bride, 
matron, the white head, the large and the small face, 
the mirror, the higher heaven, the higher earth, lily, 
apple-orchard, and so on. The pious were gained 
over to the side of the Zohar, as it attributes to every 
religious custom and every practice a higher import, 
a higher sanctity, and a mysterious effect. 

So a new text-book of religion was by stealth 
introduced into Judaism. It placed the Kabbala, 
which a century before had been unknown, on the 
same level as the Bible and the Talmud, and to a 
certain extent on a still higher level. The Zohar 
undoubtedly produced good, in so far as it opposed 
enthusiasm to the legal dry-as-dust manner of the 
study of the Talmud, stimulated the imagination and 
the feelings, and cultivated a disposition that re- 
strained the reasoning faculty. But the ills which it 
has brought on Judaism outweigh the good by far. 
The Zohar confirmed and propagated a gloomy 
superstition, and strengthened in people's minds 
the belief in the kingdom of Satan, in evil spirits 
and ghosts. 

Through its constant use of coarse expressions, 
often verging on the sensual, in contradistinction 
to the chaste, pure spirit pervading Jewish litera- 
ture, the Zohar sowed the seeds of unclean desires, 
and later on produced a sect that laid aside all regard 


for decency. Finally, the Zohar blunted the sense 
for the simple and the true, and created a visionary 
world, in which the souls of those who zealously 
occupied themselves with it were lulled into a sort 
of half-sleep, and lost the faculty of distinguishing 
between right and wrong. Its quibbling interpreta- 
tions of Holy Writ, adopted by the Kabbalists and 
others infected with this mannerism, perv^erted the 
verses and words of the Holy Book, and made the 
Bible the wrestling-ground of the most curious, in- 
sane notions. The Zohar even contains utterances 
which seem favorable to the Christian dogma of the 
Trinity of the Godhead. The mystics dismembered 
the fair form of Holy Writ, indulged in mad sport, 
and stupefied all sense for truth, but they were 
scarcely more guilty in this respect than the so-called 
philosophers of the time. Maimuni's attempt to 
bring Judaism and its religious literature into conso- 
nance with reason, to give certain too realistic verses 
of the Bible a philosophical, or at least a tolerable 
sense, and place religious precepts on the basis of 
an intelligible, acceptable purpose, encouraged half- 
learned men to explain everything and anything in 
the same way. Hence the allegorizing of the Scrip- 
tures, the Agada, and the rites, was carried to an 
incredible extreme. These pseudo-philosophers di- 
vested the stories of the creation and of the patri- 
archs of their historical character, and interpreted 
them as philosophical commonplaces, in which they 
sported with Aristotelian and Maimunist terms, as 
the Zohar with Kabbalistic terms. Abraham and 
Sarah, for example, denote to the allegorists matter 
and form, Pharaoh denotes vicious desires, Egypt the 
body, the land of Goshen the heart, Moses the divine 
spirit, and the Urim and Thummim, which the High 
Priest wore on his breast in the Temple, were the 
astrolabe of the astronomers, with which they calcu- 
lated time, longitude and latitude. If there had 
been at that time any Jewish thinkers of the first 


rank, they would have made serious efforts to put a 
stop to this childish proceeding, whether Kabbalistic 
or pseudo-philosophical. But the age of Ben Adret 
happened to be poor in great intellects. Even the 
two chief representatives of the philosophy of that 
time, Shem-Tob Falaquera and Isaac Albalag, were 
not above mediocrity, and were themselves tainted 
with the current errors. 

There were, however, certain men of bolder spirit, 
who from philosophical premises drew conclusions 
endangering the stability of Judaism. Like their 
predecessors, the Alexandrine allegorists, many in- 
telligent and consistent thinkers were induced at 
this time to disregard the ceremonies of Judaism by 
assigning erroneous purposes to religious precepts. 
As the ceremonies are intended simply to awaken 
certain religious, philosophical, or moral feelings, 
they argued, it is sufficient to call up these thoughts, 
to be penetrated by them, to occupy one's mind 
constantly with them, while the observance of relig- 
ious customs is superfluous. Several members of 
this school denied Moses' prophetic character, ac- 
cepting him only as an ordinary lawgiver, such as 
other nations had, and thus rejected the divinity of 
the Torah. The pseudo-philosophers cast a doubt 
upon the very fundamentals of Judaism, and thereby 
provoked a reaction injurious to free inquiry. 

The chief authority of this allegorical school was 
a man of vast erudition, but full of crotchets, who, 
without desiring it, occasioned violent conflicts. 
This was Levi ben Abraham ben Chayim, of Ville- 
franche, not far from Perpignan (born about 1240, 
died after 1315). Coming from a respectable family 
of scholars, he was deeply read in the Talmud ; but 
he was more attracted by Maimuni's philosophy and 
Ibn-Ezra's astrology, being a warm adherent of the 
belief of the latter in the influence of the stars over 
human destiny. Of a volatile rather than a solid 
mind, Levi ben Chayim had no perfect conception 


of Maimuni's aims. To him Judaism resolved itself 
into philosophical platitudes, which, preposterous 
and childish as they sound to us, were, strange to 
say, regarded by the people of early times as pro- 
found wisdom. Ben Chayim was the disseminator 
of that superficial method satisfied with formulae 
instead of thoughts. He composed two chief works, 
one in verse, the other in prose, a kind of encyclo- 
paedia, in which he applied the theory derived from 
Maimuni to all branches of knowledge. In these 
books he translated the historical narratives in the 
Bible into philosophical generalities, explained the 
standing still of the sun on the occasion of Joshua's 
victory as a natural occurrence, and in general, 
adopted any method of expounding which depends 
on word-t\visting. Levi ben Chayim repudiated the 
allegorical interpretations of laws; in fact, he de- 
nounced the allegorists as heretics, and desired to 
preserve the historical character of the biblical 
narratives as much as possible. Like his proto- 
type, Ibn-Ezra, he tried to keep secret his deepest 
convictions, so that not even his friends could fathom 
his ideas. This Judaism, disfigured by absurd phil- 
osophical interpretations, was not only privately 
taught, but preached in the synagogues. 

The home of this pseudo-philosophy was the not 
insignificant congregation of Perpignan, the capital 
of the province of Roussillon, which belonged to the 
kingdom of Aragon. Although the Jews had no 
enviable lot, and were compelled to live in the most 
miserable part of the town, that assigned to lepers, 
they nevertheless preserved a taste for science and 
free inquiry, and eagerly awaited the new theories 
taught by the exponents and followers of Maimuni's 
philosophy. Here poor Levi of Villefranche had 
found a place of refuge at the house of a rich and 
influential man, Don Samuel Sulami or Sen Escalita, 
whose piety, learning and liberality were praised 
beyond measure by his contemporaries. "From 


Perpignan to Marseilles there is not another who 
can be compared with Samuel Sulami in knowledge 
of the Law, benevolence, piety and humility. He 
gives charity in secret, his house is open to every 
traveler; and he is indefatigable in getting books 
for his collection." He corresponded on learned 
topics with Ben Adret, and took interest in the phil- 
osophical interpretation of the Bible and the Agada. 
Even the rabbi of Perpignan was a friend of free 
thought and a determined enemy of mummified 
orthodoxy and the unreflecting faith of the literalist. 
This was Don Vidal Menachem ben Solomon Meiri 
(born Elul, 1249, died about 1306), little celebrated 
in his own time, but none the less of great impor- 
tance. Though not of commanding influence, he 
possessed an attractive personality. He had what 
nearly all his contemporaries sorely lacked, mod- 
eration and tact. These qualities are revealed 
particularly in Meiri's style. Nearly all the Jewish 
authors of Spain and Provence wrote their prose 
and verse in a redundant, bombastic style, as if the 
whole literary thesaurus of the Bible were needed to 
express a meager idea. The much-admired model 
of this time, the moral poet Yedaya Bedaresi, is so 
prolix in saying the most ordinary platitude, that one 
has to peruse whole pages of his apology, reflections, 
and miscellaneous writings before coming across a 
tolerable idea. The style in vogue, a mosaic of 
Biblical phrases, favored verbosity. But Don Vidal 
Meiri forms a glorious exception to this practice, his 
style being terse and clear. In his commentaries to 
the tractates of the Talmud which relate to cere- 
monial duties, he proceeds throughout in a method- 
ical manner, advances from the general to the par- 
ticular, arranges his material in lucid order, and 
seeks to give the reader information, not to confuse 
him. Of a similar character is Meiri's exposition of 
Holy Writ. The philosophers and mystics always 
endeavored to find some higher meaning in it, the 


simple explanation being too prosaic for them, and 
accordingly they put upon the Bible their own ex- 
travagant nonsense. Not so Meiri. He certainly 
assumed that there are many commands and narra- 
tives in the Bible which point to something higher 
than the Hteral meaning, but the majority of theni 
must, he maintained, be taken quite literally. Meiri 
was naturally dissatisfied with the extravagant man- 
nerisms of the allegorists, but it did not enter his 
mind to reject the good together with the bad, to 
interdict learning because of its abuse. 

These proceedings were not regarded quite so 
calmly by certain bigots, dwelling in the city which 
had produced tlie obscurantist Solomon of Mont- 
pellier, the proscriber of Maimuni and his composi- 
tions, and author of so much dissension and evil. 
Although pseudo-philosophical extravaganzas were 
not more dangerous than the follies of the Kab- 
balists, the watchers of Zion nevertheless overlooked 
the latter, and waged energetic warfare with the 
former, so that the philosophers obtained more 
weight than they would otherwise have had. The 
bigots of Montpellier well-nigh kindled the fire of 
discord in Jacob. The first instigator of this ill- 
timed zeal belonged to that class of men who mark 
off the province of faith according to an exact rule, 
denounce every movement and opinion which trans- 
gress their limit as heresy, and desire to have 
them rooted out with anathemas and scourges, 
where possible with fire and sword — a class of men 
in whom fanatical zeal cannot be separated from a 
kind of egoism. To this category belonged Abba- 
Mari ben Moses, of Montpellier, or^ as his aristo- 
cratic title ran, Don Astruc En-Duran de Liinel. 
Of a respectable family, and of great influence in 
the capital of Languedoc, Abba-Mari was certainly 
not without culture, and he had great veneration 
for Maimuni and his compositions ; but he had 
irrevocably attached himself to the Jewish creed as 


laid down by Nachmani, and was indignant if any- 
one ventured to consider it from the point of view 
of another system. He did not object to miraculous 
tales ; on the contrary, the more the better. The 
conclusions of philosophy and science, which denied 
the possibility of these miracles, in no way disturbed 
him. In the choice between Moses and Aristotle, 
or between the authorities of the Talmud and the 
upholders of philosophy, he was not for a moment 
doubtful to whom to give the preference. To be 
sure, this narrow-minded point of view is justifiable ; 
but Abba-Mari wanted to thrust his opinion upon 
every one else, and to persecute all who thought 
otherwise. Not only did he hold in abomination 
the allegorical exegesis publicly preached, but he 
reprobated the study of all profane literature as the 
cause of this aberration. He regretted that the 
scourge could no more be brought into requisition 
to silence those who filled their minds with such 
learning as endangered religion. 

Abba-Mari, however, did not possess sufficient 
authority to proceed against Levi of Villefranche 
and his school. He addressed himself to the most 
influential rabbi of the time, Ben Adret of Barcelona, 
and charged that their perversities would accomplish 
the dissolution of Judaism, if a restraint were not 
put upon them. He importuned Ben Adret to 
exercise his great influence. The rabbi naturally 
found the circumstance deplorable that " strangers 
had forced their way through the gates ofZion." 
He exhorted Abba-Mari to organize a party to 
oppose this extravagant movement, but positively 
refused his support, as he did not like to interfere in 
the affairs of congregations abroad. Other bigots, 
however, took up the cause, and hurried it to a crisis, 
among them Don Bonafoux Vidal, of Barcelona, and 
his brother, Don Crescas Vidal, who had moved to 
Perpignan, both highly respected and learned, but as 
intolerant as Abba-Mari. Don Crescas made a propo- 


sition, which met with much applause. The study of 
science, and the reading of profane Uterature in 
general, was to be prohibited to Jewish youths till 
their thirtieth year. Only men of mature age, " who 
had filled their minds with the Bible and the Talmud, 
were to be allowed to warm themselves by the 
strange fires of philosophy and the natural sciences." 
Although Ben Adret did not feel disposed to take 
measures against the study of science, he neverthe- 
less considered it his duty to persecute the provoker 
of so much animosity. He took umbrage at the 
pious Samuel Sulami for granting a heretic shel- 
ter in his house, thus giving him an opportunity to 
spread his pernicious views. He harassed Samuel 
Sulami so unmercifully, and subjected his conscience 
to such torment, that the man, not very remarkable 
for strength of character, became shaken in his pre- 
vious convictions. When a daughter of his died he 
believed that it was a punishment for his sinfulness, 
and renounced his hospitality to Levi. Many mem- 
bers of the congregation of Perpignan bitterly 
resented the suspicion of heresy cast upon Levi, 
and as they knew Ben Adret to be a man of stain- 
less character, they vented their dissatisfaction on 
the instigator, Abba-Mari, to whom they imputed 
sordid ulterior designs and personal motives. 

Abba-Mari and his allies, who felt themselves 
helpless without powerful support, labored without 
intermission to inflame the zeal of the Barcelona 
rabbinate, that it might forbid free inquiry and the 
study of science. At the same time they promised 
the co-operation of the whole congregation of Mont- 
pellier, which, being the chief one in southern 
France, would draw other communities after it. Ben 
Adret and his college, imagining from Abba-Mari's 
exaggerated description that Judaism was in the great- 
est danger, were at last determined to take up the 
matter, but desired first to sound the congregation 
of Montpellier as to its feeling on the subject, and for 


this purpose sent a letter to be read before the 
members in case they felt disposed to join them in 
interdicting the study of the natural sciences. But 
as soon as the proposed ban against the sciences 
became known, decided opposition arose among the 
most important men of the congregation. 

There was at that time in Montpellier a man, who 
by reason of his family, position, wealth and knowl- 
edge, was held in high estimation by his people, 
and who had imbibed a love for the sciences with his 
mother's milk. Jacob ben Machir Tibbon, known 
in Christian circles as Don Profiat, or Profatius 
(born about 1236, died after 131 2), was descended 
on one side from the celebrated Meshullam of 
Liinel, the first to promote a revival of learning 
in southern France, and on the other side he was 
related to the Tibbonides. From his birth he was 
taught to look upon Judaism and science as twin 
sisters, dwelling together in the utmost harmony. 
Like all educated Jews of his time, he was well 
grounded in Jewish literature, the Bible, and the 
Talmud, practiced medicine as his profession, but 
devoted himself with particular zeal to mathematics 
and astronomy. His accurate observation of the 
inclination of the earth's axis to the orbit was taken 
by later master astronomers as the basis of their 
investigations. As he had acquired a knowledge of 
Arabic, he was able to translate useful scientific 
works from that language into Hebrew. His wealth 
of knowledge was not employed as a means of 
/gratifying his vanity or ambition, but he properly 
regarded it as the distinction of man, enabling him 
to arrive at self-knowledge. Jacob Tibbon main- 
tained that in the happy time of the Jewish people 
science had its home in their midst, but exile and 
suffering had banished it, and its former exponents 
now had to become students in order to learn the 
results arrived at by foreign nations. In his scien- 
tific labors Jacob ben Machir had a very noble end 


in view. He aimed at elevating his co-religionists 
in the eyes of the Christian world, and silencing the 
sneers of their enemies, who tauntingly said that 
they were destitute of all knowledge. 

This man was now asked to assist in banishing 
science from the Jewish world. If Abba-Mari wished 
to carry out in Montpellier his scheme of holding 
the Jewish youth aloof from the study of the sciences, 
he was bound to take Jacob ben Machir into con- 
sideration. For he was held in high esteem by his 
congregation on account of his many excellent traits 
and his meritorious achievements, and had the great- 
est influence with the members entided to a vote. 
Indeed, he was the first to whom Abba-Mari dis- 
closed the project, supported by the Barcelona 
rabbinate, against the study of the profane sciences, 
and he reckoned upon Jacob's co-operation. With 
impressive decisiveness, Profiat not only refused 
participation, but pointed out the sad consequences 
of so serious a step, and importuned him to omit 
the public reading of Ben Adret's letter. Abba- 
Mari and his ally, Todros of Beaucaire, nevertheless 
persisted in their determination, and summoned the 
members of the congregation to an important 
conference in the synagogue on a Sabbath 
(Elul- August, 1304). It was immediately apparent 
that the zealots had deceived themselves, or had 
been too confident in their assertion that the Jews 
of Montpellier would give unanimous consent to the 
interdict to be laid on science. A portion of the 
congregation even abstained from taking part in 
the deliberations, and Jacob ben Machir raised an 
emphatic protest against the proposed enslaving 
of the intellect. A violent discussion ensued, and 
the meeting dispersed without coming to a resolu- 
tion. Soon a party, consisting of advocates of 
science, and of friends, adherents and parasites of 
the highly esteemed leader, rallied round Jacob 
Machir, the most distinguished representative of 


science. The obscurantists and the simple-minded 
attached themselves to Abba-Mari, so that the con- 
gregation became a prey to division and conflict. 
Each party endeavored to gain supporters, both 
within and without the community. 

It became a point of honor with Abba-Mari to 
bring the affair to a conclusion conformable to his 
own views, for his defeat had exposed his true 
position to Ben Adret and the Barcelona congre- 
gation. After the unfavorable issue of the first 
deliberation in the synagogue, he hardly ventured 
to answer the man whom he had assured of a unani- 
mous adoption of his proposal. He, therefore, 
worked very energetically in collecting at least 
twenty-five signatures of members of the congrega- 
tion, to give Ben Adret proof that he did not stand 
alone in his extreme views. 

It was no less a point of honor with Jacob Tibbon 
not to allow the interdiction of science to come into 
force. For he and the Tibbonides believed that the 
attacks were directed chiefly against their highly- 
venerated ancestors, Samuel Ibn-Tibbon and Jacob 
Anatoli, because the latter's book of sermons 
(Maimed) had been the first to explain away Biblical 
tales and religious laws, and at that time was used 
in certain quarters for Sabbath devotions. Ben 
Adret, at Abba-Mari's instigation, did, indeed, treat 
Anatoli, the favorite of the Tibbonides, with scorn. 
Of Samuel Ibn-Tibbon, the translator of Maimuni's 
works, and propagator of his theories, the austere 
bigots had not a good word to say. Judah ben 
Moses, his great-grandson, consequently became the 
soul of what may be called the Tibbonide party, 
which agitated against Abba-Mari's plan. To attract 
outsiders, the Tibbonides gave out that the adver- 
saries of science once more had in view the denuncia- 
tion of Maimuni and his compositions as heretical, and 
that Abba-Mari wanted to take up the position of 
Solomon of Montpellier. This was a very happy 


party manoeuvre ; it won over even those who had 
shown indifference to the burning topic of the day, 
for they thought themselves in duty bound to take 
up arms on behalf of Maimuni's honor. The 
Tibbonide party, thus strengthened, sent a trenchant 
and pointed letter to Ben Adret and the Barcelonians, 
to ask them to reconsider their decision. It is true, 
they were not able to offer any convincing reasons 
for the admission of science into the Jewish curricu- 
lum ; but the arguments which they set forth in its 
favor were considered satisfactory in a superficial 
age. They appealed to King Solomon's wisdom, 
" from the cedar of Lebanon to the hyssop on the 
wall," which, they said, referred to nothing but 
natural science. From the Talmud, too, reasons were 
adduced for the study of science. They would not 
admit the validity of the reply that it was not 
intended to interdict research generally, only to 
prohibit immature young men from its pursuit. That, 
they said, was an evasion of the main point at issue. 
For a man not familiar with science before his 
thirtieth year was permanently incapable of engaging 
in its study, and in advanced age could never 
retrieve the loss. The Tibbonides, moreover, pro- 
tested that they were branded as heretics, because 
along with the Torah they paid homage to the 
profane sciences. They did not recognize the 
superiority of any one in piety and orthodoxy. 
Lastly, the Tibbonides exhorted Ben Adret and his 
college to bury the hatchet of denunciation and 
discord. The spirited and defiant tone assumed by 
Jacob ben Machir and his adherents greatly pro- 
voked the Barcelonians. The tension increased. 
Bitter and caustic letters flew hither and thither. 
Both sides labored to gain new adherents in other 
congregations, and to draw over the waverers. The 
communities of Argentiere, Aix, Avignon and Liinel, 
through their representatives, declared in favor of 
Abba-Mari and his followers. In Perpignan, the 


chief seat of the much-assailed enlightenment, a 
relative of Abba-Mari agitated in his favor. The 
latter was particularly desirous of securing the 
assistance of a man who, by reason of his noble birth 
and highly honorable position, had powerful influence 
in Perpignan and elsewhere. This was Kalonymos 
ben Todros of Narbonne, thought to be a descend- 
ant of the house of King David. Kalonymos did 
not at first appear inclined to take part in the 
proscription of science ; but Abba-Mari from the 
one side and Ben Adret from the other assailed him 
with such pertinacity that at length he promised his 
consent and co-operation. As the Tibbonide party 
had also gained new adherents, Ben Adret himself 
shrank from pushing the controversy to extremes, 
and decided not to issue the decree of excommuni- 
cation till at least twenty congregations had declared 
themselves unequivocally in favor of it. 

Whilst in southern France and Spain the balance 
was inclining now to one side, now to the other, in 
the dispute about the admission of scientific studies 
into Jewish circles, the German communities were 
passing through a series of the most deplorable 
events, which drove to Spain a man who spoke the 
deciding word in favor-of the excommunication and 
proscription of free inquiry. He was of high 
morality, rare disinterestedness, of pure aspiration 
and sincere piety, and possessed profound Talmud- 
ical learning, but was filled with the fanatical hate 
of his countrymen against profane knowledge. The 
emigration of Asheri or Asher from Germany to 
Spain inaugurates an unhappy period for the Spanish 
and Provencal Jews in their efforts for the progress 
of culture. 

Asher ben Yechiel (born about 1250, died 1327) 
of the Rhine district, sprang from ancestors who 
centered their whole world in the Talmud. A dis- 
ciple of the celebrated Meir of Rothenburg, Asher 
acquired the acute Tossafist method, composed 


Tossafist works, but had a finer sense of system 
and order than this school. After the death of his 
master, whose corpse the unprincipled emperor, 
Adolph of Nassau, refused to give up for burial with- 
out remuneration, Asheri was reckoned among the 
most influential rabbinical authorities of Germany. 
A paroxysm of persecutions of the Jews broke out 
in his time, far worse than those during the crusades ; 
it robbed thousands of innocent men of their lives, 
or sentenced them to a lot worse than death. A 
civil war raged at that time in Germany between 
Adolph of Nassau and Albrecht of Austria, who 
were contending for the empty glitter of the Ger- 
man crown. This strife promised impunity for auda- 
cious attacks on the Jews, who were proscribed by 
the church and society, and an opportunity was 
easily found. A report was spread that the Jews 
of the little town of Rottingen (in Franconia) had 
desecrated a sacramental wafer and pounded it in a 
mortar, and blood was said to have flowed from it. 
A nobleman of the place, named Rindfleisch, took 
up the cause of the host alleged to have been dese- 
crated, declared that he had received a mission from 
heaven to root out the accursed race of Jews, and 
gathered a credulous, besotted mob around him to 
assist in his bloody intentions. He and his troops 
first of all consigned the Jews of Rottingen to the 
flames (7th lyar — 20th April, 1298). From this 
place the rabble of slaughterers, under Rindfleisch's 
leadership, traveled from town to town, always 
swelling their numbers with others of their descrip- 
tion, and destroyed all the Jews who fell into their 
hands, even those converted to Christianity. Rind- 
fleisch, impelled by audacity and spurious enthusi- 
asm, fairly forced the inhabitants of various towns 
to ill-treat their Jewish fellow-citizens brutally. The 
great community of Wiirzburg was completely 
blotted out (i2thAb — 24th July). In Nuremberg 
the Jews had at first fled for refuge into the fortress. 


but being attacked there, too, they took to arms, 
and though assisted by humane Christians, were 
overpowered at last, and all butchered (2 2d Ab — 
I St August). Asheri's relative and fellow-student, 
Mordecai ben Hillel, who had compiled a very im- 
portant rabbinical work, fell at about the same time, 
together with his wife and five children. Many 
parents, lest their children from fear of death should 
renounce their faith, threw them with their own 
hands into the flames, and plunged in after them. 
In Bavaria the congregations of Ratisbon and Augs- 
burg were the only ones to escape the slaughter. 
In the first city, where they had the right of citizen- 
ship from time immemorial, the .mayor protected 
them with great zeal. In Augsburg, too, the mayor 
and council defended them against the destroyers, 
Rindfleisch and his horde. 

This bloody persecution spread from Franconia 
and Bavaria to Austria, swept away more than a 
hundred and forty congregations and more than 
100.000 Jews, and lasted nearly half a year. The 
Jews of Germany all trembled, and were prepared 
to meet destruction. This would certainly have 
come if the civil war in Germany had not been 
brought to an end by the death of Emperor Adolph, 
and the election of Albrecht. The second Habs- 
burger energetically restored the country to a state 
of peace, brought to book the perpetrators of the 
outrages on the Jews, and imposed fines on the 
towns which had participated in them, on the ground 
that he had suffered losses in his purse through the 
immolation of his " servi camerae " and their goods. 
The majority of the Jews baptized through fear 
returned to Judaism, apparently with the connivance 
of the emperor and the representatives of the church. 
The after-throes of this massacre were likewise bitter 
enough. The wives of those who had perished could 
not authenticate the death of their husbands through 
Jewish witnesses, as no men remained alive com- 


patent to give testimony. They could appeal only 
to the statement of baptized Jews, whose evidence 
was considered by many rabbis to be invalid accord- 
ing to the Talmudical marriage laws. Asheri, 
however, was sensible enough to unbend from this 
strictness, and allowed the widows to marry again 
on the evidence of baptized Jews returned to 

Asheri did not feel very secure in Germany after 
this bloody massacre, or perhaps he was threatened 
with danger on the part of Emperor Albrecht. It 
was said that the emperor demanded of him the sum 
of money which the Jews were to pay as ransom 
for the imprisoned Meir of Rothenburg, for which 
Asheri had become security. He accordingly left 
Germany (summer of 1303), and traveled from one 
country to another with his wife, his eight sons and 
grandsons, and on account of his reputation, he 
was everywhere treated with the utmost respect, 
especially in Montpellier, even before the breaking 
out of the controversy. He finally settled in 
Toledo, the largest city of Spain (January, 1305). 
With joy the illustrious German rabbi was installed 
by the Toledo congregation in the vacant rabbi- 
nate. With Asheri the dismal spirit of over-piety, 
so hostile to knowledge, entered into the Spanish 

iVsheri did not conceal his antipathy to profane 
culture. He could not conceive how pious Jews, 
in southern France and in Spain, could occupy 
themselves with subjects outside of the Talmud. 
With the utmost scorn he discountenanced the very 
aspiration of the Spanish and Provengal Jews on 
which they prided themselves. He thanked his 
Creator that He had protected him from the baneful 
influence of science. He did not give the southern 
Frenchmen and the Spanish Jews credit for thor- 
oughness even in knowledge of the Talmud, and 
maintained that the German and northern French 


Jews alone had inherited wisdom from the time of 
the destruction of the Temple. A man like this, 
incapable of appreciating the sciences, and harbor- 
ing enmity to everything not in the Talmud, was 
bound to exercise an influence prejudicial to knowl- 
edge. Next to him Solomon ben Adret himself 
appeared more or less of a freethinker. Abba-Mari 
forthwith availed himself of the man, from whom he 
expected effectual support for his party. He re- 
quested him to express his views on the pending 
question. Asheri, of course, gave Abba-Mari his 
unqualified approval, but was of opinion that he did 
not go far enough, for the evil would not be eradi- 
cated, if the pursuit of the sciences were allowed at 
a ripe age. The poison of heresy had spread too far, 
every one was infected by it, and the pious were 
open to the reproach that they shut their eyes to it. 
His proposal was that a synod should be convoked, 
and a resolution be taken that study was to be de- 
voted solely to the Talmud, while the sciences were 
to be pursued only when it was neither day nor 
night — that is, not at all. This exclusive fidelity to 
the Talmud, which rejected all compromise, advo- 
cated by an energetic man of pure character, made 
an overpowering impression on the unsettled minds 
of Spanish Jews. Ben Adret himself, who had 
hitherto always hesitated to lead the movement, all 
at once declared that he was prepared to pronounce 
the ban, if Abba-Mari and the prince, Kalonymos, 
would prepare it. An officious zealot, Samson ben 
Meir, disciple of Ben Adret, took upon himself to 
collect assenting signatures from twenty congrega- 
tions. Toledo was especially reckoned upon, having 
been swayed by Asheri's mind, and next, Castile 
generally, which as a rule followed the guidance of 
the head community. 

How artificial and opposed to the sentiment of the 
majority this zeal was, became apparent especially in 
the congregation of Montpellier, styled the tower of 


Zion by Abba-Mari's party. In this congregation 
the zealots did not venture to collect signatures for 
the sentence of excommunication. As if in defiance, 
one of the Tibbonides announced that he would give 
a reading from Anatoli's book of sermons on a cer- 
tain Sabbath, and immediately drew a numerous 
audience. Abba-Mari, who had repeatedly boasted 
to Ben Adret of his mighty influence, and had per- 
suaded him that the whole congregation, except a 
few deluded people, were on his side, now had to 
admit that Montpellier was not to be reckoned upon 
in this affair. In the consciousness that their party 
was in a minority in southern France, the two lead- 
ers, Abba-Mari and Kalonymos, of Narbonne, made 
the ecclesiastical ban unexpectedly mild, both as to 
wording and contents. First, the reading of works 
on natural science and of metaphysical books only 
was to be prohibited, all other branches of learning 
being expressly allowed. Secondly, the writings of 
Jewish authors, even those dealing with natural 
science or metaphysics, were to be excluded from 
the inhibition. Abba-Mari, with a view to meeting 
his adversaries half-way, had made the proposal to 
fix the period when the study of every department 
of learning was to be allowed, not at the thirtieth, 
but at the twenty-fifth year of the student's age. Ben 
Adret, however, who could not tolerate half-meas- 
ures nor brook retreat, had now become more 
severe. He who formerly had to be driven and 
urged on, now became the propeller. Asheri's 
influence is not to be mistaken. On the Sabbath of 
Lamentation in commemoration of the destruction 
of Jerusalem, he and his colleagues ordered the 
anathema against the study of the sciences to be 
read amid solemn ceremonies, the scroll of the Law 
in the arms of the reader (4th Ab — 26th July, 1305). 
Whoever read any scientific book before the twenty- 
fifth year of his age was liable to the penalty of 
excommunication. The ban was to remain in force 


for half a century. The philosophical expounders 
of Holy Writ were doomed in the hereafter, and 
in this world subjected to excommunication, and 
their writings condemned to be burnt. As no 
exception was made of scientific works composed in 
Hebrew, according to the formulation of the ban, 
not only Anatoli's book of sermons was exposed to 
proscription, but also Maimuni's philosophical writ- 
ings. Ben Adret and his college allowed only the 
study of medicine, on the ground that its practice is 
permitted in the Talmud. This was the first heresy- 
tribunal in Jewish history, and Ben Adret was at its 
head. The Dominicans had found docile emulators 
among the Jews. 

According to the communal system in the Middle 
Ages, every congregation was independent, and the 
resolutions of one congregation had no force with 
another. The ban accordingly had validity only 
in Barcelona, unless some other congregation con- 
firmed it. Ben Adret, however, labored to have 
it adopted by other congregations. The sentence, 
signed by Ben Adret, his two sons, and more than 
thirty of the most influential members of the Bar- 
celona congregation, was dispatched to the congre- 
gations of Spain, Languedoc, northern France, and 
Germany. But the ban was not so readily adopted 
as the authorities of Barcelona had flattered them- 
selves it would be. Jacob ben Machir and his party 
had already received notice that a blow was being 
meditated against them, and accordingly made prep- 
arations for a countermove. They resolved from 
the first to frustrate the effect of the ecclesiastical 
interdict of *the study of science. They drew up a 
resolution in Montpellier which contained three im- 
portant points. A sentence of excommunication 
was to fall upon those who, out of religious scruples, 
ventured to debar or withdraw their sons, whatever 
their youth, from the study of any science whatso- 
ever, regardless of the language in which it was 


treated; secondly, upon those who presumed to 
utter an irreverent or abusive word against the great 
Maimuni, and, lastly, also upon those who presumed 
to denounce a religious author on account of his 
philosophical system. The last point was intro- 
duced for the sake of Anatoli's memory, which his 
opponents had vilified. Thus there was ban against 
ban. Jacob Tibbon and his friends caused their 
resolution in favor of science and its advocates to 
be announced in the synagogue, and the great 
majority of the congregation of Montpellier took 
his side. Party zeal, however, impelled the Tibbon- 
ides to take an ill-advised step, which threatened to 
produce the same evil consequences as had ensued 
at the time of the first conflict in Montpellier with 
the obscurantists. As Jacob ben Machir Profatius 
and others of his party had influence with the 
governor of the city, they wished to secure his as- 
sistance in the event of their opponents' endeavor- 
ing violently to carry the Barcelona interdict into 
effect. The governor, however, explained to them 
that he was interested only in one point: that the 
Jewish youth should not be prevented from reading 
other than Talmudical works. He should strongly 
deprecate any attempt to discourage the study of 
extra-Talmudical literature, because, as he frankly 
expressed himself, he would not consent to their 
being deprived through fear of excommunication of 
the means to potential conversion to Christianity. 
To the other points he was indifferent. 

Abba-Mari and his party were now in despair 
on account of the activity of their opponents. As 
the resolution in favor of the unrestricted study of 
science had been adopted by the majority of the 
community, according to rabbinical law it was 
binding on the minority as well, and therefore on 
their leader, and they could not legally stand by 
the interdict of Barcelona. Thus the zealots, the 
provokers of the conflict, had their hands tied, and 


were caught in their own net. They did what they 
could ; they protested against the resolution of the 
Tibbonides, and advertised their protest far and wide. 
But they could not conceal that they had suffered a 
defeat, and were obliged to consult certain author- 
ities as to whether the resolutions of the Tibbonides 
were binding on them. Ben Adret was thus placed 
in an embarrassing position. The party of Jacob 
ben Machir believed, or wished to have it believed, 
that the prohibition of the rabbis of Barcelona in 
reference to the study of scientific books, was meant 
to apply to Maimuni's works, too. They obtained 
the credit of having taken up the cudgels in behalf 
of Maimuni's honor, and of contending for the glory 
of Judaism ; whilst their opponents, Ben Adret 
included, through their narrow-mindedness and 
obstinacy, were exposing their reh'gion to the scorn 
of educated Christians. The vindicators of science 
seemed to be continually gaining in public opinion. 
There now appeared on their side a young poet, 
whose eloquent defense, written in a highly imagi- 
native style, made a great impression. It gives a 
faithful picture of the feeling and excitement which 
agitated the souls of the champions of science, and, 
therefore, awakens interest even in the present day. 
In a modest manner, but with manly spirit, the poet 
tells Ben Adret truths which he never had the 
opportunity of hearing in his own circle. This 
young poet, more famous through his letter than 
through his verses, was Yedaya En-Bonet ben 
Abraham, better known under the name of Bedaresi 
(of Beziers) and under the poetical pseudonym of 
Penini (born about 1280, died about 1340). Yedaya 
Penini, son of the bombastic pott, Abraham Bedaresi, 
had more talent as a poet than his father. He 
possessed a lively imagination and overflowing 
wealth of language, and lacked only restraining 
tact, and a dignified, universally acceptable, uplifting 
aim for poetry. This deficiency gave his poems the 


appearance of empty grandiloquence and artificiality. 
He had inherited the defect of his father, inability to 
control the superabundance of words by the law 
of beauty. He was too ornate, and he moralized, 
instead of elevating and impressing. In his seven- 
teenth yearYedaya Bedaresi wrote a book of morals 
(Pardes), and in his earliest years, whilst his father 
was still alive, he composed a prayer of about one 
hundred verses, in which all the words begin with 
the same letter (Bekashoth ha-Memin), and which 
his father, and perhaps his contemporaries, admired, 
but which is nevertheless very insipid. An admirer 
of Maimuni and Ibn Ezra, Bedaresi considered 
science and philosophy of equal importance with 
Judaism, or, like most thoughtful men of that time, 
he believed that the one contained the other. 

Bedaresi conceived that his deepest convictions 
had been assailed by Ben Adret's anathema, and 
that it had in reality been directed against Maimuni's 
name, and, therefore, he could not restrain himself 
from addressing a sharp rebuke to the excommuni- 
cators. As he lived in Montpellier and was certainly 
attached to Jacob ben Machir's party, it is quite 
probable that he wrote the defense of Maimuni and 
of science, sent to Ben Adret, at their instigation 
(December, 1305, or January, 1306). This missive, 
like most of those written in this controversy, was 
intended not only for the individual addressed, but 
for the Jewish reading public in general. After 
Bedaresi had expressed his respect for the upright, 
learned rabbi of Barcelona, he remarked that he 
and his friends were not indignant about the ban, for 
science was invulnerable, and could not be injured 
by the fulmination of excommunicators. They were 
only hurt that Ben Adret should brand the Jewish 
congregations of southern France as heretics and 
renegades, and expose them to contempt in his mes- 
sage to many congregations and countries. Ben 
Adret, he continued, had allowed himself to be taken 


in tow by Abba-Mari, and had made a mountain of a 
mole-hill. From time immemorial, from Saadiah's 
age, science was not only tolerated in Judaism, but 
cherished and fostered, because its importance in 
religious knowledge was indisputable. Moreover, 
the denouncers of heresy were not consistent ; they 
excluded the science of medicine from the ban, 
although this science, like every other, had a side 
which was in conflict with religion. How could they 
dare impugn the writings of Maimuni, whose dazzling 
personality outshone all his great predecessors? At 
the end, Yedaya Bedaresi observed that violent 
faction fights had broken out in Montpellier. Did 
they wish to continue to foment party strife, that the 
absence of unity among the Jews might occasion the 
Christians unholy satisfaction? "We cannot give 
up science ; it is as the breath to our nostrils. Even 
if Joshua would appear and forbid it, we could not 
obey him, for we have a warranty, who outweighs 
you all, Maimuni, who has recommended it, and 
impressed it upon us. We are ready to set our 
goods, our children, and our very lives at stake for 
it." In conclusion, he invited Ben Adret to advise 
his friends in Montpellier to relinquish heresy hunt- 
ing, and desist from stirring the fire of discord. 

At the same time, furious disputes broke out in 
the church, between King Philip IV of France and 
Pope Boniface VIII, but here the subject of the dis- 
pute was not ideal good, not science and free 
research, but purely dominion, power and mammon. 
There was war to the knife between the chiefs of the 
two parties. The king accused the pope of heresy, 
simony, covetousness, perjury, and impurity. And 
the pope released the subjects from their oath to 
their hereditary king, and gave away his empire. 
The Jewish hostilities had neither the same wide 
range, nor yet the same bottomless wickedness, 

Ben Adret and several who had signed the decree 
of excommunication, Moses Iskafat Meles and Solo- 


mon Gracian, were so unpleasantly affected by 
Bedaresi's letter, and feared its effect so much, that 
they hastened to offer the explanation that they had 
in no wise animadverted upon Maimuni's writings, 
whom they revered in the highest degree. They 
even exhorted Abba-Mari's party to make peace 
with their opponents, to vindicate their dignity 
before their common enemy. But the controversy 
was now at a stage when it could no longer be 
settled peaceably. The mutual bitterness was too 
violent, and had become too personal. Each party 
claimed to be in the right from its own standpoint; 
neither could consent to a compromise nor make 
concessions. Each adhered to its own principles; 
the one sought to enforce the freedom of science, 
the other protested that Jewish youth, before ma- 
turity, must be guarded from the deleterious poison 
of knowledge. Whilst the adherents of Abba-Mari 
were seeking legal decisions to prove the ban of 
their opponents unauthorized, a sad event happened, 
which, like a whirlwind, tore friends asunder, and 
dashed enemies against each other. 



Philip le Bel — The Jews of France plundered and banished — Estori 
Parchi ; Aaron Cohen ; Laments of Bedaresi — Eleazar of 
Chinon, the Martyr — Return of the Jews to France ; their Pre- 
carious Position — Progress of the Controversy regarding the 
Study of Philosophy — Abba-Mari and Asheri — Death of Ben 
Adret — Rabbinical Revival in Spain — Isaac Israeli II — Samuel 
and the Queen Maria Molina — Don Juan Emanuel and Judah 
Ibn-Wakar — The Jews of Rome — Robert of Naples and the 
Jews — Peril of the Jews in Rome — Kalonymos ben Kalonymos, 
his Satires — Immanuel and Dante — The Poet Judah Siciliano — 
Leone Romano and King Robert — Shemarya Ikriti — Position 
of Karaism — Aaron the Elder and the Prayer-Book of the 

1306 — 1328 C.E. 

Philip IV, le Bel, at that time the king of France, 
one of those monarchs who made arrogant and 
unprincipled despotism familiar to Europe, suddenly 
issued a secret order (21st January, 1306), imposing 
the strictest silence, to the higher and lower officials 
throughout his kingdom, to put all the Jews of 
France under arrest on one and the same day, with- 
out warning of any kind. Before the Jews had fully 
recovered from fasting on the Day of Lamentation 
in remembrance of the destruction of Jerusalem, and 
as they were about to begin their daily business, 
the constables and jailors appeared, laid hands upon 
them, and dragged young and old, women and 
children, to prison (loth Ab — 22d July). There 
they were told that they had to quit the country 
within the space of a month, leaving behind both 
their goods and the debts owing to them. Whoever 
was found in France after that time was liable to 
the penalty of death. What could have induced 
this prudent rather than clerical prince so suddenly 


to change his sentiments towards the Jews ? It was 
certainly not clerical intolerance, nor was it yielding 
to the will of the people. For the French, even in 
the Middle Ages, were not bigoted, and it was not 
their wish to remove the Jews to free themselves 
from usurers. Avarice was the first motive of this 
cruel order. For Philip's feud with the pope, and 
his war with the rebellious Flemish, had so ex- 
hausted his treasury, and had rendered necessary 
so unsparing an extortion of money that, as the 
ballads of the time scoffingly said, '* The fowl in the 
pot was not secure from the king's grasp." The 
king wanted to replenish his coffers from the 
property of the Jews. Another circumstance is said 
to have moved him to this hard-hearted resolution. 
The German emperor Albrecht, who at that time 
was not on good terms with Philip, had demanded 
the surrender of the kingdom of Aries ; further, 
that he should deliver up Jesus* supposed crown 
of thorns, and lastly, that he should acknowledge the 
authority of the successor of Vespasian, Titus, and 
Charlemagne over the French Jews, i.e., yield to 
him a portion of the hard-earned property of the 
Jews. Philip is said to have consulted his lawyers, 
to decide to whom the authority over the Jews ap- 
pertained, and as they adjudged it to the German 
emperor, the idea occurred to him to fleece the Jews 
of their property, and to send his " servi camerae " 
naked and bare to Albrecht. Before the world the 
king covered his act of violence, inhuman as it was 
unstatesmanlike, with the excuse that incredible out- 
rages of the Jews had rendered their expulsion im- 
perative. That he had aimed at the possessions of 
the Jews was shown by his relentless plundering. 
The officials left the unhappy Jews nothing beyond 
the clothes they wore, and to everyone not more 
than seemed necessary for a day's living (12 gros 
Tournois). Wagonfuls of the property of the Jews, 
gold, silver and precious stones were transported to 


the king ; and less valuable objects were sold at a 
ridiculously low price. At the appointed time 
(September, 1306), they were banished, about 
100,000 souls, from the country which their an- 
cestors had inhabited, in part at the time of the 
Roman republic, long before Christianity had spread 
into France. Some who could not separate them- 
selves from their property and the country which 
they loved went over to Christianity. The whole 
congregation of Toulouse is said to have been 
guilty of this cowardice, which scarcely seems cred- 
ible. The celebrated seats, at which so much intel- 
lect had been displayed, the colleges of Rashi, Tam, 
and the Tossafists : Troyes, Paris, Sens, Chinon, 
Orleans ; the places in which a higher culture had 
had its temple : Beziers, Liinel, Montpellier, whence 
the combatants forandagainstscience were plunged 
into common misery, — all these schools and syna- 
gogues were sold to the highest bidder or given 
away. A German or an English king might have de- 
stroyed the holy places of the Jews — King Philip le 
Bel made a present of a synagogue to his — coach- 
man. An approximate idea can be formed of the 
sums which the expulsion and robbery of the Jews 
brought in to the king, if it is kept in mind that the 
sale of the Jewish goods in the house of the prefect 
of Orleans alone brought in 337,000 francs. 

How many of the refugees, reduced to beggary, 
fell victims to the hardships of their journey cannot 
be known. The bitter plaints of those oppressed by 
the heavy affliction sound mournful and touching 
even at this distance of time. Estori Parchi, then 
a youth of many accomplishments and noble heart, 
a relative of Jacob ben Machir, whose parents had 
emigrated from Spain to southern France, thus 
describes his sorrow: "From the house of study 
have they torn me ; naked was I forced as a young 
man to leave my ancestral home, and wander from 
land to land, from people to people, whose tongues 


were strange to me." Parchi at length found a 
resting-place in Palestine. Another fugitive, the 
learned Aaron Cohen of Narbonne, poured forth 
this elegy: "Unhappy me, I saw the misery of the 
banishment of the sons of Jacob, like a herd of 
cattle driven asunder. From a position of honor I 
was thrown into a land of darkness." The sudden 
turn of fortune which changed rich men into beggars, 
and exposed the delicate and those used to the 
comforts of life to bitter privation, filled the bom- 
bastic poet Yedaya Bedaresi with gloomy reflections. 
In vivid colors he painted the trouble and pain of 
life, and man's helplessness and nothingness. His 
"Trial of the World" (Bechinath Olam), suggested 
by personal observation and bitter experience, con- 
sequently makes a depressing and mournful im- 
pression, and reflects faithfully the melancholy 
feelings of the ill-starred race. 

The expulsion of the Jews from France by the 
stony-hearted Philip le Bel did not come off without 
martyred victims. Those who transgressed the 
time of grace, yet rejected solicitations to abjure 
their faith, were punished by death. A martyr of 
this time, Eleazar ben Joseph of Chinon, is specially 
famous. He was a learned, noble-minded man, a 
correspondent of Ben Adret, master of many dis- 
tinguished disciples, among them the youthful Parchi, 
one of the last of the Tossafist school. He was 
condemned to the stake, although no crime could 
be laid at his door except that he was a Jew. With 
him died two brothers. The expatriated Jews dis- 
persed in all parts of the world ; many traveled to 
Palestine. But the majority remained as near as 
possible to the French borders, in Provence proper, 
at that time pardy under German suzerainty, in the 
province of Roussillon, which belonged to the Ara- 
gonian king of Majorca, and in that island. Their 
intention was to wait for a favorable change of 
fortune, which would permit them to return to the 


land of their birth. They had not speculated falsely. 
King Philip himself was induced by avarice to 
unbend from his severity. 

The vehement struggle in Montpellier about per- 
mitting Jewish youth to engage in the study of the 
sciences, remarkable to relate, continued after the 
banishment from France (September, 1306), and the 
mutual hatred of the two parties was in no way 
abated by suffering. A portion of the Tibbonide 
party had settled in Perpignan, which belonged to 
the king of Majorca, who was no favorer of the 
Jews. At his command copies of the Talmud were 
once more delivered up to the auto-da-fe ; but as he 
hoped to gain some advantage by the settlement 
of intelligent, industrious Jews, he suffered them. 
Abba-Mari and another portion of the congregation 
of Montpellier at first took up their abode in the 
town of Aries, but as he could not stay there, he, too, 
emigrated to Perpignan (January, 1307). But the 
opposing party, which had influence with the king 
or governor, endeavored to hinder his settlement in 
that place. Abba-Mari's partisans, by making rep- 
resentations to the king, succeeded in obtaining 
permission for him to live in Perpignan. Here 
the controversy raged anew. Solomon ben Adret 
and Asheri, particularly the latter, whose decision of 
character had acquired for him the chief authority, 
again interfered. Asheri declared that he had given 
his signature in a half-hearted manner to the decree 
prohibiting young men from occupying themselves 
with profane studies ; for, according to his opinion, 
it was too great a concession to permit it at the 
age of twenty-five. Science ought to be prohibited 
altogether, for it inevitably lures on to unbelief. 
The defenders of science were to be condemned 
without mercy, since the afflictions of exile had made 
no impression on them, suffering had not broken 
their spirit of defiance, and had not chastened their 
hardness of heart. 


This view, that qualities prejudicial to Judaism 
were inherent in science, gained supremacy after 
Ben Adret's death (1310), when Asheri was ac- 
knowledged in Spain and in the neighboring coun- 
tries as the only authority in religious matters. 
Asheri, his sons and companions who had migrated 
with him from Germany, transplanted from the 
Rhine to vivacious Toledo that spirit of hon^est, but 
tormenting, narrow-minded and intolerant piety; 
that gloomy disposition which regards even harmless 
joy as a sin ; that feeling of abjectness, which char- 
acterized the German Jews of the Middle Ages, and 
they inoculated the Spanish Jews with it. The free 
activity of the mind was checked. Asheri concen- 
trated ail his mental power on the Talmud and its 
exposition. His chief work was a compilation of 
the Talmud for practical use (1307 — 13 14). On all 
occasions he endeavored to enforce a difficult, 
painful, and severe discipline. If any one desired 
to express his thoughts on any department of 
knowledge whatsoever, he had to array his subject 
in the garments of contrite orthodoxy. When the 
erudite Isaac ben Joseph Israeli II, of Toledo, pub- 
lished an astronomical work (13 10), he had to 
adjust it to Talmudical standards, and introduce it 
by a confession of faith, for only in this manner 
could he find grace in Asheri's eyes. 

At about this time, during Asheri's rabbinate in 
Toledo, prominent Jews once more obtained influence 
at court. King Ferdinand IV (1295 — 1312) had a 
Jewish treasurer named Samuel, whose counsels he 
followed in political matters too. The dowager 
queen, Maria de Molina, who had held the reins of 
government during her son's minority, with feminine 
passionateness hated the favorite Samuel, who is 
said to have nourished the enmity between mother 
and son. One day, when Samuel was in Badajos, 
and was preparing to accompany the king to Seville, 
he was attacked by an assassin, and so severely 


wounded that he was left for dead. It is not known 
who instigated the deed. The king had such care 
and attention devoted to Samuel, that he recovered 
from his wounds. 

Don Ferdinand's death brought in its train a time 
of unquiet, of civil war, and social anarchy for 
Spain. As the Infante Alfonso was still a child in 
the cradle, several persons, the clever Maria de 
Molina, the young queen-mother Constantia, and 
the uncles of the young king contended for the 
guardianship and the regency, and provoked faction 
feuds in the country (131 2 — 1326). Donna Maria 
de Molina, who conducted the government, did not 
extend her hate against her son's Jewish counselor 
to the community to which he belonged. As in the 
lifetime of her husband she had had a Jewish 
favorite, Todros Abulafia, so during her regency 
she had a Jewish treasurer, Don Moses. When the 
council of Zamora (13 13) renewed canonical laws 
hostile to the Jews, the cortes of Burgos demanded 
the exclusion of Jews from all honors and offices, and 
the pope issued a bull that Christians were to be 
absolved from their debts to Jews on account of 
usury, the wise regent submitted only in part. She 
ordered that Jews should not bear high-sounding 
Christian names, nor enter into close intercourse 
with Christians ; but she most emphatically declared 
herself against the unjust abolition of debts, and 
published a law that no debtor could make himself 
free of his obligation to professors of the Jewish 
faith by appealing to a papal bull. 

The regency of Don Juan Emanuel inaugurated 
an improvement in the condition of the Castilian 
Jews (13 19 — 1325). The regent was a friend of 
learning, himself an author and poet, and was con- 
sequently held in esteem by educated Jews, A Jew 
of Cordova, Jehuda ben Isaac Ibn-Wakar, found 
high favor in his eyes, and probably acted as his 
treasurer. At his solicitation Juan Emanuel once 


more invested the rabbinate with penal jurisdiction, 
which the Jews had partly lost during the regency 
of Maria de Molina, and had practiced only pri- 

Jehuda Ibn-Wakar, however, was an admirer of 
Asheri, and, like the latter, of excessive piety, 
desiring to have every religious transgression pun- 
ished with the utmost severity. When a Cordovan 
uttered a blasphemy in Arabic, Ibn-Wakar asked 
Asheri what was to be done with him, and the latter 
replied that his tongue should be cut out. A beauti- 
ful Jewess having had intercourse with a Christian, 
Don Juan Manuel resigned her to the punishment 
of the Jewish court, and Jehuda Ibn-Wakar con- 
demned her to have her face disfigured by the 
removal of her nose, and Asheri confirmed the 

The southern Spanish and Castilian congregations 
still lived in peace, and in the undisturbed posses- 
sion of their goods ; on the other hand, the northern 
Spanish, and still more the southern French congre- 
gations were exposed to bloody attacks by fanatical 
hordes, which the church had unfettered, and then 
could not restrain. Jews once more lived in France. 
Louis X had recalled them nine years after their 
banishment (13 15). This king, himself seized by a 
desire to abrogate the ordinances of his father and 
indict his counselors, had been solicited by the people 
and the nobility, who could not do without the Jews, 
to re-admit them into France. He accordingly 
entered into negotiations with them in reference to 
their return. But the Jews did not accept his pro- 
posal without deliberation, for they well knew the 
inconstancy of the French kings, and the fanatical 
hatred of the clergy against them. They hesitated 
at first, and then submitted their conditions. These 
were, that they be allowed to reside in the same 
places as before ; that they should not be indictable 
for former transgressions; that their synagogues, 


churchyards, and books be restored to them, or sites 
be granted for new places of worship. They were 
to have the right of collecting the money owing to 
them, of which two-thirds should belong to the king. 
Their former privileges, as far as they were still in 
force, were to be again extended to them, or new 
ones conceded. King Louis accepted all these 
conditions, and granted them also the right of emi- 
gration under certain restrictions. In order to con- 
ciliate the clergy, he, on his side, imposed the condi- 
tions that they wear a badge of a certain size and 
color, and hold neither public nor private disputa- 
tions on religion. Two high officials (prud'hommes, 
auditeurs des Juifs) were appointed to superintend 
the re-settlement of the Jews. Their residence in 
France was fixed for twelve years ; if the king should 
resolve to expel them again after the expiration of 
that period, he put himself under the obligation to 
give them a year's warning that they might have 
time to make their preparations. The king pub- 
lished this decree, declaring that his father had been 
ill-advised to banish the Jews. As the voice of the 
people solicited their return, as the church desired 
a tolerant policy, and as the sainted Louis had set 
him the precedent of first banishing and then re- 
admitting them, he had, after due consultation with 
the prelates, the barons, and his high council, per- 
mitted the return of the Jews. The French Jews 
streamed back in masses to their former dwelling- 
places, regarding this event as a miraculous redemp- 
tion. When Louis X died a year after, and his 
brother Philip V, the Long, ascended the throne, he 
extended their privileges, and protected them espe- 
cially from the enmity of the clergy ; so that they 
and their books could be seized only by royal offi- 
cers. But they were not free from vexation by the 
degenerate clergy, who insisted that the Jews of 
Montpellier, who thought they could venture on 
certain liberties, should re-affix the Jew-badge on 


their dress. At one time they accused the Jews of 
Liinel with having pubHcly outraged the image of 
Christ on the Purim festival ; at another time they 
ordered that two wagonfuls of copies of the Talmud 
be publicly burned in Toulouse. Such occurrences, 
however, were mere child's play compared with what 
they had to endure from the bigoted multitude. 

Philip V had the idea, repugnant to the spirit of 
the time, of undertaking a crusade to wrest the 
Holy Land, after so many vain attempts, from the 
hands of the infidels. This enterprise appeared so 
foolish to the discerning, that even Pope John XXII, 
the second of the popes that resided in Avignon in- 
stead of at Rome, dissuaded him from it. Never- 
theless, the fancy, as soon as it was known, inflamed 
the minds of the rude populace. A young man of 
excited imagination gave out that a dove had settled 
at one time on his head, at another, on his shoulder, 
and when he had sought to seize it, it had trans- 
formed itself into a beautiful woman, who urged 
him to gather a troop of crusaders, assuring him of 
victory. His utterances found credulous hearers, 
and the lower people, children, and swine-herds 
attached themselves to him. A wicked priest and 
an unfrocked Benedictine monk used the oppor- 
tunity to force their way to the front, and thus arose 
in northern France (1320) a numerous horde of 
forty thousand shepherds (Pastoureaux, Pastorelli, 
Roim), who moved in procession from town to town 
carrying banners, and announced their intention of 
journeying across the sea to deliver the so-called 
holy sepulcher. Their attention was immediately 
turned to the Jews, possibly because they wanted to 
raise money for the purchase of weapons by robbing 
the Jews of their possessions, or a Jew, as is related, 
had made sport of their childish heroism. The 
massacre of the Jews by the shepherds (Gesereth- 
ha-Roim) is another bloody page in Jewish history. 

Nearly all the crusading enterprises had com- 


menced with the murder of Jews; so this time. 
The shepherd-gangs which had collected near the 
town of Agen (on the Garonne) cut down all the 
Jews they met on their march from this place to 
Toulouse, if they refused to be baptized. About 
five hundred Jews had found refuge in the fortress 
of Verdun (on the Garonne), the commandant hav- 
ing placed a strong tower at their disposal. The 
shepherds took it by storm, and a desperate battle 
took place. As the Jews had no hopes of rescue, 
they had recourse in their despair to self-destruction. 
The unhappy people selected the oldest and most 
respected man of their number to slay them one 
after the other. The old man picked out a muscular 
young assistant in this ghastly business, and both 
went to work to rid their fellow-sufferers of their 
miserable lives. When at last the young man, after 
slaying his aged partner, was left alone, the desire 
of life came strong upon him ; he declared to the 
besieging shepherds that he was ready to go over 
to them, and asked to be baptized. The latter were 
just or cruel enough to refuse the request, and tore 
the renegade to pieces. The Jewish children found 
in the tower were baptized by force. The governor 
of Toulouse zealously espoused the cause of the 
Jews, and summoned the knights to take the ap- 
proaching shepherds prisoners. Thus many of them 
were brought in chains to the capital, and thrown 
into prison. But the mob, which sympathized with 
them, banded together, and set them at liberty, the 
result being that the greater part of the congrega- 
tion of Toulouse was destroyed. A few seceded to 
Christianity. On the capture of the shepherds near 
Toulouse, the Jews in the neighborhood, who had 
been granted shelter in Castel-Narbonnais, thought 
that they were now free of all danger, and left their 
place of refuge. They were surprised by the rabble, 
and annihilated. Thus perished almost all the Jews 
in the neighborhood of Bordeaux, Gascogne, Tou- 


louse, Albi, and other towns of southern France. 
Altogether, more than 120 Jewish congregations in 
France and northern Spain were blotted out through 
the rising of the Shepherds, and the survivors were 
so impoverished by spoliation that they were de- 
pendent upon the succor of their brethren in other 
parts, which flowed to them in abundance even from 

The following year, too, was very unfortunate for 
the Jews, the trouble again beginning in France. 
This persecution was occasioned by lepers, from 
whom it has its name (Gesereth Mezoraim). The 
unhappy people afflicted by leprosy in the Middle 
Ages were banished from society, declared dead as 
citizens, shut up in unhealthy quarters, and there 
tended after a fashion. Once, when certain lepers 
in the province of Guienne had been badly provided 
with food, they conceived and carried into effect the 
plan of poisoning the wells and rivers, through 
which many people perished (132 1). When the 
matter was traced back to the lepers, and they were 
examined under torture, one of them invented, or 
somebody suggested to him, the lying accusation 
that the Jews had inspired them with the plan of 
poisoning the waters. The charge was generally 
believed; even King Philip V had no doubt about 
it. Sometimes it was asserted that the Jews wanted 
to take revenge for the sufferings experienced at 
the hands of the Shepherds the year before ; again, 
that they had been persuaded by the Mahometan 
king of Granada to cause the Christians to be 
poisoned ; or it was suggested that they had done 
it in league with the Mahometan ruler of Palestine, 
to frustrate the intended crusade of King Philip. 
In several places Jews were arrested on this accusa- 
tion, unmercifully tortured, and some of them burnt 
(Tammuz — July, 1321). In Chinon a deep pit was 
dug, fire kindled in it, and eight Jewish men and 
women thrown in, who sang whilst dying. The 


mothers had previously cast in their children, to 
save them from forcible baptism. Altogether five 
thousand are said to have suffered death by fire in 
that year. Many were banished from France, and 
robbed by the heartless populace. Philip was con- 
vinced later on of the untruth of the accusation; 
but as the Jews had been accused, he seemed to 
think that the opportunity might be used to swell 
the treasury. Accordingly, the congregations were 
condemned by Parliament to a penalty of one 
hundred and fifty thousand pounds (Parisian) ; they 
were to apportion the contributions among them- 
selves. Deputies (procureurs) from northern France 
(de la langue frangaise) and from Languedoc, met 
and enacted that the southern French Jews, deci- 
mated and impoverished by the previous year's 
massacre, were to contribute forty-seven thousand 
pounds, and the remainder was to be borne by the 
northern French Jews. The wealthiest Jews were 
put under arrest as security for the payment of the 
fine, and their goods and debts distrained. 

In the same year a great danger threatened the 
oldest of the European communities. Misfortune 
came upon it the more unexpectedly as till then it 
had tasted but little of the cup of misery which the 
Jews of England, France and Spain so often had to 
drink to the dregs. It was because Rome did not 
belong to the pope, but to the families of Orsini 
and Colonna, to the Ghibellines and Guelphs — the 
great and minor lords, who fought out their party 
feuds in that city — that the Jews were left untouched 
by papal tyranny. It was well for them that they 
were little considered. 

At about this time the Roman Jews had made an 
advance in material welfare and intellectual culture. 
There were some who possessed houses like palaces, 
furnished with all the comforts of life. Since the 
time when, through the concurrence of favorable 
circumstances, they had tasted of the tree of knowl- 


edge, learning and poetry were cherished by the 
Italian Jews. The seeds which Hillel of Verona, 
Serachya ben Shaltiel and others had scattered, 
commenced to bear fruit. When the flower of 
intellectual glory in southern France began to decay 
through the severity of Talmudical rigorists and the 
bloody persecutions, it unfolded itself in Italy, 
especially in Rome. At that time the first rays of a 
new cultural development, breaking through the 
gloom of priestcraft and the rude violence of the 
Middle Ages, appeared in Italy. A fresh current of 
air swept the heavens in Italy in the beginning of the 
fourteenth century, the epoch of Dante, thawing the 
icy coat of the church and of knightdom, the two pil- 
lars of the Middle Ages. A sense of citizenship, the 
impulse towards liberty, enthusiastic love for science, 
were the striking symptoms of a new spirit, of a striv- 
ing for rejuvenescence, which only the emperor, the 
embodiment of rude, ungainly knighthood, and the 
pope, the incarnation of the stern, unbending church, 
failed to perceive. Every greater or lesser Italian 
lord made it a point of honor to encourage art and 
science, and patronize poets, artists and learned 
men at his court. Nor were the Jews overlooked 
at this juncture. One of the most powerful Italian 
princes, Robert of Anjou, king of Naples, count of 
Provence (Arelat), vicar-general of the Papal States 
and for some time titular lieutenant of the Holy 
Roman empire, was a friend of science, a warm 
admirer also of Jew'sh literature, and consequently 
a protector of the Jews. Several Jewish litterateurs 
were his teachers, or at his instance undertook 
scientific and theological works. 

Either in imitation of the current practice or from 
sincere interest in Jewish literature, rich Jews, who 
played the part of small princes, invited Jewish 
authors into their circle, lightened their material 
cares by liberal support, and stimulated their activity 
by encouragement. Thus it came to pass that three 


Jewish Italian men of letters had the courage to 
compete with the Spaniards and Provencals. These 
were Leo Romano, Judah Siciliano, and above all 
the poet Immanuel Romi, who once more ennobled 
neo-Hebrew poetry, and raised it to a higher level. 
The Roman congregation at that time displayed 
exceptional interest in Jewish writings. OfMaimuni, 
the embodiment of science for them as for the rest 
of the Jewish world, they possessed the copious 
Religious Codex, and the translation of his "Guide;" 
but of his luminous Mishna commentary, composed 
originally in Arabic, only those parts which Charisi 
and Samuel Ibn-Tibbon had done into Hebrew. 
The representatives of the Roman congregations, to 
whom probably the poet Immanuel also belonged, 
wished to have a complete edition of the work, and 
sent a messenger to Barcelona to Ben Adret 
expressly for the purpose of procuring the remain- 
ing parts. The affair was not so simple as the 
Roman Jews had imagined. The greater portion of 
the anxiously desired commentary of Maimuni on 
the Mishna, on account of peculiar difficulties, was 
not yet rendered into Hebrew. The greatest obstacle 
was the circumstance that the Spanish Jews, except 
those in Toledo and in the neigborhood of the king- 
dom of Granada, had forgotten Arabic. Ben Adret, 
who wished to oblige the Roman congregation, 
endeavored to get the required portions translated 
into Hebrew. He encouraged scholars, learned both 
in Arabic and the Talrhud, to undertake this difficult 
task, and Joseph Ibn-Alfual and Jacob Abbassi of 
Huesca, Solomon ben Jacob and Nathaniel Ibn- 
Almali, the last two physicians of Saragossa, and 
others divided the labor among themselves. Jewish 
literature is indebted for the possession of this most 
valuable work of Maimuni to the zeal of the Roman 
congregation, of Ben Adret, and these translators. 
The Roman community was roused from Its peace- 
ful occupations and undisturbed quiet by a rough 


hand, and awakened to the consciousness that it 
existed under the scourge of priestcraft and the 
caprice of its rulers. 

It is related that a sister of the pope (John XXII), 
named Sangisa, had repeatedly exhorted her brother 
to expel the Jews from the holy city of Christendom. 
Her solicitations had always been fruitless; she 
therefore instigated several priests to give testimony 
that the Jews had ridiculed by words and actions a 
crucifix which was carried through the streets in a pro- 
cession. The pope thereupon issued the command to 
banish all the Jews from Roman territory. All that 
is certain is that the Jews of Rome were in great 
danger during that year, for they instituted an extra- 
ordinary fast, and directed fervent prayers to heaven 
(21 Sivan — 18 June, 1321), nor did they fail to em- 
ploy worldly means. They sent an astute mes- 
senger to Avignon to the papal court and to King 
Robert of Naples, the patron of the Jews, who hap- 
pened to be in that city on state affairs. The mes- 
senger succeeded, through the mediation of King 
Robert, in proving the innocence of the Roman Jews 
in regard to the alleged insulting of the cross and the 
other transgressions laid to their charge. The twenty 
thousand ducats, which the Roman community is 
said to have presented to the sister of the pope, 
silenced the last objections. The Jews of Rome 
entered their school of trouble later than the Jews 
of other countries. For that reason it lasted the 

Whilst King Robert was residing in southern 
France, he seems to have made the acquaintance of 
a learned, genial Jewish satirist, Kalonymos ben 
Kalonymos, and to have taken him into his service. 
This talented man (born 1287, died before 1337) 
possessed solid knowledge, was familiar with the 
Arabic language and literature (which was very re- 
markable in a Provencal), and in his youth (1307- 
131 7) translated medical, astronomical, and philo- 


sophical writings from that language into Hebrew. 
Kalonymos ben Kalonymos was not merely a hewer 
of wood and drawer of water, an interpreter in the 
realm of science ; he had intellect enough to make 
independent observations. Disregarding the prov- 
ince of metaphysical speculation, he was more inter- 
ested in pure ethics, which he especially wished to 
inculcate in his co-religionists, " because neglect and 
ignorance of it leads men to all kinds of perversities 
and mutual harm." He did not treat the subject in 
a dry, uninteresting style, but sought to clothe it in 
attractive garments. With this end in view, Kalony- 
mos adapted a part of the Arabic encyclopedia of 
science (which was in circulation under the name of 
" Treatises of the Righteous Brethren ") for a dia- 
logue between man and beasts, giving the theme a 
Jewish coloring. 

In another work, "Touchstone" (composed at the 
end of 1322), Kalonymos ben Kalonymos held up a 
mirror for his Jewish contemporaries, in which they 
could recognize their perversities, follies, and sins. 
To avoid giving himself the appearance of an irre- 
proachable censor of morals, he enumerated his own 
sins, more in satire than as a confession. Kalony- 
mos whimsically satirized even Judaism. He wished 
he had been born a woman, for then he w^ould not 
have had to bear the burden of six hundred and 
thirteen religious laws, besides so many Talmudical 
restrictions and rigorous ordinances, which could 
not possibly be fulfilled, even when a man tried with 
the most exacting conscientiousness. As a woman, 
he would not have to trouble himself with so much 
reading, to study the Bible, the Talmud, and the 
subjects belonging to it, nor torment himself with 
logic, mathematics, physics, astronomy, and phi- 
losophy. By ind by Kalonymos' satire grew 
deeply serious. The degradation of his Jewish co- 
religionists, and the bloody persecutions occasioned 
by the Shepherds and the lepers, dispelled his mock- 


ing humor, and satire was changed into lamentation. 
In Rome, which King Robert assigned to him as a 
place of residence, Kalonymos, having been fur- 
nished with letters of recommendation, obtained 
entry into a joyous, vivacious, imaginative circle of 
men, by whom he was stimulated to write a peculiar 
parody. He composed a treatise for the Jewish 
carnival (Purim), in which he imitated the tenor and 
spirit of the Talmud, its method, controversies, and 
digressions, with considerable wit. It is a fine 
parody, exciting laughter at every step, and one can 
not tell whether it was intended as a harmless car- 
nival joke or as a satire on the Talmud. Kalony- 
mos occupied a position of importance in the Roman 
congregation. Handsome in form, of abundant 
accomplishments, solid character, all his excellencies 
enhanced by the good opinion of King Robert of 
Naples, he was everyone's favorite. The Italian 
Jews were proud of him. But Kalonymos was not 
a true poet, still less an artist. 

Much more gifted, profound, and imaginative was 
his older friend and admirer, Immanuel ben Solo- 
mon Romi (born about 1265, died about 1330). He 
was an anomaly in the Jewish society of the Middle 
Ages. He belonged to that species of authors 
whose writings are all the more attractive because 
not very decent. Of overflowing wit, extravagant 
humor, and caustic satire, he is always able to 
enchain his readers, and continually to provoke their 
merriment. Immanuel may be called the Heine of 
the Jewish Middle Ages. Immanuel had an inex- 
haustible, ready supply of brilliant ideas. And all 
this in the holy language of the Prophets and Psalm- 
ists. Granted that the neo-Hebrew poets and 
thinkers, the grammarians and Talmudists, had lent 
flexibility to the language, but none of Immanuel's 
predecessors had his power of striking from it 
showers of sparkling wit. But if, on the one side, 
he developed the Hebrew language almost into a 


vehicle for brilliant repartee, on the other side, he 
robbed it of its sacred character. Immanuel trans- 
formed the chaste, closely-veiled maiden muse of 
Hebrew poetry into a lightly-clad dancer, who 
attracts the attention of passers-by. He allows 
his muse to deal with the most frivolous and 
indelicate topics without the slightest concealment 
or shame. His collection of songs and novels tends 
to exert a very pernicious and poisonous effect upon 
hot-blooded youth. But Immanuel was not the 
hardened sinner, as he describes himself, who thought 
of nothing but to carry on amours, seduce the fair, 
and deride the ugly. He sinned only with the 
tongue and the pen, scarcely with the heart and the 

Though he often indulges in unmeasured self- 
laudation, this simple description of his moral con- 
duct must still be credited: "I never bear my 
enemies malice, I remain steadfast and true to my 
friends, cherish gratitude towards my benefactors, 
have a sympathetic heart, am not ostentatious with 
my knowledge, and absorb myself in science and 
poetry, whilst my companions riot in sensual enjoy- 
ments." Immanuel belonged to those who are 
dominated by their wit, and cannot refrain from 
telling some pointed witticism, even if their dearest 
friends are its victims, and the holiest things are 
dragged in the mire by it. He allowed himself to 
be influenced by the vivacity of the Italians and the 
Europeanized Jews, and put no curb upon his tongue. 
What is remarkable in this satirist is that his life, 
his position, and occupation seem to have been in 
contradiction with his poetical craft. In the Roman 
community he filled an honorable position, was 
something like a president, at all events a man of 
distinction. He appears to have belonged to the 
medical profession, although he made sport of the 
quackery of physicians. In short, he led the domes- 
tic life of his time, a life permeated by morality 

CH. II. 


and religion, giving no opportunity for excess. But 
his honorable life did not prevent him from singing 
riotous songs, and from writing as though he were 
unconscious of the seriousness of religion, of respon- 
sibiHty and learning. Immanuel was acquainted, if 
not on intimate terms, with the greatest poet of the 
Middle Ages, the first to open the gates of a new 
epoch, and to prognosticate the unity of Italy in 
poetic phrase. Probably they came to know each 
other on one of Dante's frequent visits to Rome, 
either as ambassador or exile. Although their 
poetic styles are as opposite as the poles — Dante's 
ethereal, grave, and elevated ; Immanuel's forcible, 
gay, and light — they, nevertheless, have some points 
of contact. Each had absorbed the culture of the 
past; Dante the catholic, scholastic, and romantic 
elements ; Immanuel the biblical, Talmudical, Maim- 
unist, philosophical, and neo-Hebraic products. 
Both elaborated this many-hued material, and 
molded it into a new kind of poetry. The Italians 
at that time were full of the impulse of life, and 
Immanuel's muse is inspired by the witchery of 
spring. He wrote ably in Italian, too, of which a 
beautiful poem, still extant, gives evidence. Im- 
manuel was the first to adapt Italian numbers to 
the neo-Hebraic lyre. He introduced the rhyme in 
alternate lines (Terza rima in sonnet form), by which 
he produced a musical cadence. His poems are 
not equally successful. They are wanting not in 
imagination, but in tenderness and grace. His 
power lies in poetical prose (Meliza), where he can 
indulge in free and witty allusions. In this style he 
composed a host of short novels, riddles, letters, 
panegyrics, and epithalamia, which, by clever turns 
and comic situations, extort laughter from the most 
serious-minded readers. 

In one of his novels he introduces a quarrelsome 
grammarian of the Hebrew language, a verbal critic 
who takes the field in grammatical campaigns, and 


is accompanied by a marvelously beautiful woman. 
Immanuel enters into a hair-splitting disputation 
that he may have the opportunity of coquetting with 
the lovely lady. He suffers defeat in grammar, but 
makes a conquest in love. Immanuel's description 
of hell and paradise, in which he imitated his friend 
Dante, is full of fine satire. Whilst the Christian 
romantic poet shows gravity and elevation in his 
poetical creation, represents sinners and criminals, 
political opponents and enemies of Italy, cardinals 
and popes, as being tortured in hell, metes out, as it 
were, the severe sentences of judgment day ; his 
Jewish friend, Immanuel, invents scenes in heaven 
and hell for the purpose of giving play to his hu- 
morous fancy. Dante wrote a divine, Immanuel a 
human, comedy. He introduces his pilgrimage to 
heaven and hell by relating that he once felt greatly 
oppressed by the burden of his sins, and experi- 
enced compunction ; at this juncture his young 
friend Daniel, by whose untimely death he had 
lately been deeply affected, appeared to him, and 
offered to guide him through the dismal portals of 
hell and the elysian fields of the blessed. In the 
chambers of hell Immanuel observes all the wicked 
and godless of the Bible. Aristotle, too, is there, 
"because he taught the eternity of the world," and 
Plato, "because he asserted the reality of species" 
(Realism). Most of all he scourges his contem- 
poraries in this poem. He inflicts the torment of 
the damned upon the deriders of science ; upon a 
Talmudist who secretly led a most immoral life ; 
upon men who committed intellectual thefts, and 
upon those who sought to usurp all the honors of 
the synagogue, the one to have his seat by the Ark 
of the Covenant, the other to read the prayers on 
the Day of Atonement. Quack doctors are also 
precipitated into hell, because they take advantage 
of the stupidity and credulity of the multitude, and 
bring trusting patients to a premature grave. His 


young, beatified guide goes widi him through the 
gates of Paradise. How the departed spirits rejoice 
at the poet's approach ! They call out, " Now is the 
time to laugh, for Immanuel has arrived." In the 
description of paradise and its inhabitants, Immanuel 
affects to treat his theme very seriously ; but he 
titters softly within the very gates of heaven. Of 
course, he notices the holy men, the patriarchs, 
the pious kings and heroes of the Jewish past, the 
prophets and the great teachers, the poets, Jehuda 
Halevi and Charisi, the Jewish philosopher Maimuni. 
But next to King David, who fingers the harp and 
sings psalms, he observes the harlot Rahab who 
concealed the spies in Jericho, and Tamar who sat 
at the cross-roads waiting. Dante excludes the 
heathen world from paradise, because it did not ac- 
knowledge Christ, and had no share in the grace of 
salvation. Immanuel sees a troop of the blessed, 
whom he does not recognize, and asks their leader 
who they are. "These are," answers the latter, 
"righteous and moral heathens, who attained the 
height of wisdom, and recognized the only God as 
the creator of the world and the bestower of grace." 
The pious authors, David, Solomon, Isaiah, Ezekiel, 
on seeing Immanuel, darted forward to meet him ; 
each one thanks him for having expounded his 
writings so well, and here older and contemporary 
exegetists come in for their share of Immanuel's sly 

Neo-Hebraic poetry, which began with Jose ben 
Jose, and reached its zenith in Ibn-Gebirol and 
Jehuda Halevi, attains its final stage of development 
in Immanuel. The gamut had now been run. After 
Immanuel, the Hebrew muse became silent for a 
long time, and it required a fresh and powerful 
stimulus to awaken it from slumber to new energy. 
Verses were, of course, written after his days, and 
rhymes polished, but they are as far removed from 
poetry as a street-song from a soul-stirring melody. 


The fate of Hebrew poetry is illustrated in Im- 
manuel's career. For a long period he was popular, 
every one sought his friendship, but in old age he 
fell into neglect and poverty. His own statement 
is that his generosity dissipated his means. He was 
as much derided as he had formerly been praised. 
He left Rome with his family, traveled about, and 
found repose at length at the house of a wealthy, 
influential friend of art (Benjamin?) in Fermo, who 
interested himself in him, and encouraged him to 
arrange the verses and poems written at different 
periods of his life into a symmetrical whole. 

The praises which Immanuel bestows on his own 
productions, and his boast that he casts the old 
poets into the shade, certainly tend to produce a bad 
impression. Nevertheless, like every expert in his 
profession, he was far removed from that repulsive 
vanity which perceives its own depreciation in the 
recognition of another. To true merit Immanuel 
gave the tribute of his warmest praise, and modestly 
conceded precedence to it. Not only did he extol 
the highly honored Kalonymos, basking in the sun- 
shine of the king's favor, with the most extravagant 
figures of speech, but he praised almost more 
heartily the poet Jehuda Siciliano, who lived in 
straitened circumstances. He gave him the palm 
for poetical verse, maintaining his own superiority 
in poetical prose. But for Immanuel, nothing would 
have been known of this poet. Poor Siciliano had 
to waste his power in occasional poems for his 
subsistence, and was thus unable to produce any 
lasting work. With glowing enthusiasm Immanuel 
eulogizes his cousin, the young and learned Leone 
Romano, Jehuda ben Moses ben Daniel (born about 
1292), whom he calls the " Crown of Thought." In 
paradise he allots to him the highest place of honor. 
Leone Romano was the teacher of King Robert of 
Naples, and instructed him in the original language 
of the Bible. He knew the language of learned 


Christendom, and was probably the first Jew to pay 
attention to scholastic philosophy. He translated 
for Jewish readers the philosophical compositions of 
Albertus Magnus, Thomas Aquinas, and others. 
Leone Romano composed original works of exegesis, 
set forth in philosophical method. Greatly as his 
contemporaries admired his learning and intellect, 
which had achieved so much when he had scarcely 
arrived at man's estate, he exercised no influence 
whatever on posterity. 

The Roman society which promoted science and 
poetry may be said to have included also the grand- 
son of a Roman emigrant who took up his abode in 
Greece, Shemarya Ikriti (Cretan) of Negroponte 
(flourished 1290 — 1320). He stood in close rela- 
tion with the Roman community and King Robert. 
Familiar with Talmudical literature, as he probably 
was rabbi in Negroponte, he devoted himself to 
philosophical speculations, and was, perhaps, well 
read in the Greek philosophical literature in its origi- 
nal language. In his youth, Ikriti, like many of his 
contemporaries, occupied himself with translations 
of philosophical works. Later on he conceived a 
plan of practical utility, in which he thought he could 
turn his knowledge to account. He sought to 
smooth over the diflference between the Rabbanites 
and the Karaites, and lastingly to reconcile the sects 
at enmity with each other for centuries, "that all 
Israel may once more be united in one fraternal 
bond." Shemarya of Negroponte was the first, per- 
haps the only Rabbanite, who, if he did not extend the 
hand of reconciliation to Karaism, at least showed 
a friendly disposition towards it. He recognized 
that both parties were in error ; Karaism was wrong 
in rejecting Talmudical traditions unconditionally ; 
but the Rabbanites sinned against truth in placing 
the Talmud in the forefront, and overlooking the 
Bible. In Greece there may have been Karaites at 
that time who had come from Constantinople. To 


these Shemarya Ikriti addressed himself to incline 
their minds towards union with the mother com- 

For the difficult task of bringing discordant faiths 
into harmony, much intelligence and energy were 
required, and Shemarya could furnish only good 
will. He was not deficient in knowledge, but his 
mental grasp was not sufficiendy powerful. At 
the instance of King Robert, who interested himself 
in Jewish literature, he wrote a commentary on the 
Bible, and forwarded to him, with a dedication, the 
books first completed (1328). It read as follows: 
"To our noble king Robert, adorned like King 
Solomon with the crown of wisdom and the diadem 
of royalty, I send this exposition of the cosmogony 
and the Song of Songs." His Biblical commentaries 
were set forth with great dififuseness, covered a great 
range, and were not calculated to appeal to the 
Karaites, and draw them over to the side of rabbini- 
cal Judaism. His attempt at reconciliation mis- 
carried, perhaps was not made in the proper spirit ; 
for there was a disposition on the part of some 
Karaites to treat his overtures favorably, and his 
efforts would not have failed, if they had been con- 
ducted with skill. Nevertheless, Ikriti was held in 
such esteem in his time that the Roman congrega- 
tion took an interest in his labors, entered into 
correspondence with him, while the Karaites assidu- 
ously read his works, and in later times considered 
him a member of their own party. 

Karaism was still dragging itself along in its 
decaying, stiffening form. Internal schisms remained 
unaccommodated. Different Karaite congregadons 
celebrated the fesdvals at different times: the 
Palestinians, according to the observation of the 
new moon, and the extra-Palestinian congregations, 
in common with the Rabbanites. Their extremely 
severe marriage laws were not finally settled even 
at this epoch. Karaism at that time had three 


centers — Cairo in Egypt, Constantinople in the 
Byzantine Empire, and Sulchat (Eski-Crim) in the 
Crimean peninsula. Some importance was pos- 
sessed by Aaron ben Joseph the Elder, physician in 
Constantinople (flourished about 1270 — 1300). He 
came originally from the Crimea, made extensive 
voyages, and acquired a knowledge of medicine 
and philosophy. Aaron I also made himself inti- 
mate with Rabbanite literature to a degree that few 
of his sect attained. He made use of Nachmani's 
commentary on the Pentateuch, and from this 
circumstance arose the mistake of later Karaites, 
that Aaron had sat at Nachmani's feet. His famili- 
arity with Rabbanite literature had a beneficial 
effect on his style ; he wrote much more clearly and 
intelligibly than most of the Karaite authors. He 
was even disposed to accept the tradition of the 

He completely fixed the Karaite prayer book 
(Siddur Tefila), hitherto in an unsettled condition, 
incorporating into it hymns written by Gebirol, 
Jehuda Halevi, Ibn-Ezra, and other Rabbanite 
liturgical poets. Aaron himself possessed very 
little poetical genius, and his metrical prayers, with 
which he enriched the prayer book of the Karaites, 
have no great poetical merit, but by the admission 
of hymns written by Rabbanites into his compila- 
tion, he showed that he knew how to appreciate the 
devout sublimity in the prayers of the Spanish 
Jews, and that he was not altogether devoid of taste. 
If Shemarya, of Negroponte, had undertaken to effect 
a reconciliation between the Rabbanites and the 
Karaites in a more intelligent and energetic manner, 
there can be no doubt that Aaron would willingly 
have offered his assistance, provided, of course, that 
he had known of Shemarya's attempt. There was 
not wanting among Karaites a strong inclination for 
union. Owing to the activity of Abraham Maimuni 
II, a great-grandson of the renowned Maimuni, who 


had succeeded to the post of Chief (Nagid) of the 
Rabbanite communities in Egypt after the death of 
his father David, an important Karaite congrega- 
tion in Egypt on one day openly acknowleged the 
teachings of the Rabbanites. In Palestine, too, 
frequent conversions of Karaites to Talmudical 
Judaism took place. On this account the rabbis of 
the time were more favorably disposed towards 
them. On the one hand, the strict Talniudist Sam- 
son of Sens denounced the Karaites as heathens, 
whose wine was not to be partaken of by orthodox 
Jews; on the other hand, Estori Parchi, who had 
been banished from Provence, and who, emigrating 
to Palestine, had settled in Bethshan, recognized 
them as co-religionists, led astray by erroneous 
notions, but not to be rejected. 



Condition of Palestine — Pilgrims and Immigrants — Shem Tob Ibn- 
Gaon — Favorable Position of the Jews in Castile under Alfonso 
XI — Persecution in Navarre — Joseph de Ecija and Samuel Ibn- 
Wakar — Increase of Anti-Jewish Feelings — Abner-Alfonso of 
Burgos, Convert to Christianity, and Persecutor of the Jews — 
Gonzalo Martinez — Fall of Martinez and Deliverance of the 
Jews — Decline of the Study of Science — The Study of the Talmud 
prosecuted with Renewed Vigor — Jacob and Judah Asheri — 
Isaac Pulgar, David Ibn-Albilla — The Provengal Philosophers 
Ibn-Kaspi, Leon de Bagnols, and Vidal Narboni — Decline of 
the Study of the Talmud in Germany — Emp)eror Louis of Bavaria 
and the Jews — Persecution by the " Leather-Anns." 

1328 — 1350 C.E. 

The Holy Land was once more accessible to its 
children. The Egyptian sultans, into whose power 
it passed after the fall of Accho and the expulsion 
of the Christians, were more tolerant than the 
Christian Byzantine emperors and the Prankish 
crusading kings. They did not hinder the coming 
of Jewish pilgrims who desired to lighten their over- 
burdened hearts by praying and weeping over the 
ruins of the past, so rich in recollections, or at the 
graves of their great men there interred ; nor did 
they oppose the settlement of European exiles, who 
again cultivated the soil of the land of their fathers. 
The long, firm, yet mild, reign of the Mameluke 
sultan, Nassir Mahomet (1299 — 1341), was a happy 
time for the Jews who visited Palestine. Whilst 
under the rule of the Christian governors of the 
country no Jew was permitted to approach the 
former capital, at this time Jewish pilgrims from 
Eg)'pt and Syria regularly came to Jerusalem, to 
celebrate the festivals, as in the time when the 
Temple shone in all its splendor. The Karaites 
established special forms of prayer for those who 



went on pilgrimages to Jerusalem ; at their depart- 
ure, the whole congregation assembled to give ut- 
terance in prayer to the bitter-sweet emotions 
connected with Zion. The immigrants who settled 
in Palestine engaged in agriculture. They came to 
feel so thoroughly at home there that the question 
was mooted whether the laws of tithes, of the year 
of release, and others ought not to be again carried 
into effect. In consequence of the freedom and tol- 
erance which the Jews were enjoying, many en- 
thusiastic spirits were again seized by the ardent 
desire to kiss the dust of the Holy Land. Emigra- 
tion to Palestine, especially from the extreme west, 
became very common at this time. 

A pupil of Meir of Rothenburg, named Abraham, 
a painstaking copyist of holy writings, considered 
his dwelling in the Holy Land a mark of divine 
grace. Two young Kabbalists, Chananel Ibn-As- 
kara and Shem Tob Ibn-Gaon from Spain, also trav- 
eled thither, probably to be nearer the source of 
the mystic doctrines, which fancy assigned to this 
country, and took up their residence in Safet. But 
instead of obtaining fresh information upon the doc- 
trines of the Kabbala; one of them — Ibn-Askara died 
in his youth — introduced new features of the science. 
Shem Tob ben Abraham Ibn-Gaon, from Segovia 
(born 1283, died after 1330), whose teacher in the 
Talmud had been Ben Adret, and in the Kabbala 
Isaac ben Todros, was a zealous adherent of the 
secret science, and described even Maimuni as a 

The congregation of Jerusalem was at this time 
very numerous. A large portion of the Rabbanite 
community led a contemplative life, studied the Tal- 
mud day and night, and became engrossed with the 
secret lore of the Kabbala. There were also handi- 
craftsmen, merchants, and several acquainted with 
the science of medicine, with mathematics and as- 
tronomy. The artistic work of the famous callig- 


raphers of Jerusalem was in great demand, far and 
near. Hebron, too, possessed a vigorous commun- 
ity, whose members engaged chiefly in the weaving 
and dyeing of cotton-stuffs, and in the manufacture 
of glass wares, exported in large quantities. In the 
south of Palestine, in company with Mahometans, 
Jewish shepherds again pastured their flocks after 
the manner of the patriarchs. Their rabbi was also 
a shepherd, and delivered discourses upon the Tal- 
mud in the pasture fields for such as desired to ob- 
tain instruction. 

Although the Holy Land was the goal of arden^ 
longing hearts, yet it was no more a center for the 
dispersed of the Jewish race than it had been for a 
long time previous. It could not produce an original 
leader of any sort, and lived upon the crumbs of cult- 
ure dropped by the Jews in Europe. The Kabbala, 
studied in Palestine since the time of Nachmani, 
was an exotic plant which could never flourish very 
well there, and degenerated into rankest supersti- 
tion. The Holy Land did not even produce a Tal- 
mudical authority of widespread renown ; also for 
earnest rabbinical studies it had become dependent 
upon Europe. The leadership of Judaism in the days 
after the death of Ben Adret and Asheri remained 
with Spain, not as formerly Aragon, but Castile, 
where the family of Asheri and their views prevailed. 
Here lived Talmudical authorities whose decisions 
were considered final. Here was still to be found, 
if not a flourishing state of science, at least appre- 
ciation of scientific research. In Castile, under the 
rule of the powerful and intelligent Alfonso XI, the 
Jews were in so prosperous a condition that, com- 
pared with other countries in Europe, this period 
may be called a Golden Age. Several clever Jews 
in succession, under the modest title of ministers 
of finance (Almoxarif), exercised an influence upon 
the course of politics. Not only the court, but also 
the great nobles, surrounded themselves with Jew- 


ish counselors and officers. In place of the humble, 
servile bearing-, and the degrading badge which the 
church decreed for the Jews, the Jewish Spaniards 
still bore their heads erect, and clothed themselves 
in gold and silk. Dazzled by the glitter of this fav- 
orable state of affairs, some recognized the fulfill- 
ment of the old prophecy, "the scepter shall not 
depart from Judah," which Christians had so often 
employed in their attacks on Judaism. 

It is scarcely to be wondered at, if the Spanish 
Jews were unduly elated because of the promotion 
of a few from their midst to state offices. Such 
prominent public men were for the most part a pro- 
tecting shield for the communities against the ava- 
ricious and turbulent lower orders of the nobility, 
against the stupid credulity and envy of the mob, 
and the serpent-like cunning of the clergy, lying 
concealed but ready to attack the Jews. Jewish 
ministers and counselors in the service and the reti- 
nue of the king, clothed in the costume of the court, 
and wearing at their sides the knightly sword, by 
these very circumstances, without special mterces- 
sion, disarmed the enemies of their brethren in faith 
and race. The impoverished nobles, who possessed 
nothing more than their swords, were filled with envy 
of the rich and wise court Jews ; but they were com- 
pelled to stifle their feelings. The masses, guided 
by appearances, did not venture, as was done in 
Germany, to ill-treat or slay any Jew they chanced 
across, as an outlaw and a pariah, because they 
knew that the Jews were held in high favor at court. 
They often overrated their influence, believing that 
the Jews at court could obtain a hearing with the 
king at any time. Even the haughty clergy were 
obliged to restrain themselves so long as Joseph of 
Ecija, Samuel Ibn-Wakar, and others, were in a 
position to counteract their influence. 

If the Castilian Jews compared the condition of 
their brethren in neighboring countries with their 


own, they must certainly have felt exalted, and 
entitled to be proud of their lot. In Aragon, at 
this time united into one kingdom with the islands 
of Majorca and Sicily, the persecuting spirit of the 
church, which Raymond de Penyaforte had stirred 
up, and Jayme I had perpetuated by means of 
oppressive laws, was rampant. In Navarre, which 
for half a century had belonged to the crown of 
France, the hatred against the Jews burned with a 
frenzy hitherto to be met with only in Germany. 
The last of the Capets, Charles IV, was dead, and 
with the accession of Philip VI to the French throne 
the House of Valois began. It is noteworthy that 
even Christians believed that the extinction of the 
lineal successors of Philip le Bel was retribution for 
his merciless expulsion of the Jews from France. 
The people of Navarre strove to separate them- 
selves from the rule of France, and form an inde- 
pendent state. It is not known in how far the Jews 
stood in the way of their project. Anyhow it is 
certain that suddenly, throughout the whole country, 
a bloodthirsty enmity arose against the Jews, 
prompted by envy of their riches, and fostered by 
the monks. A Franciscan, named Pedro Olligoyen, 
made himself most prominent in goading on the 
deluded mob against the innocent Jews. In the 
large congregation of Estella a most horrible mas- 
sacre began on a Sabbath (23d Adar — 5th March, 
1328). The infuriated mob raised the cry, "Death 
to the Jews, or their conversion." 

In vain did the Jews attempt to defend themselves 
in their streets ; the inhabitants of the city, strength- 
ened by troops from other places, besieged them, 
and took by storm the walls which surrounded the 
Jewish quarter, breaking them down and slaying 
almost all the Jews of the city. They also set fire to 
the Jewish houses, and reduced them to ashes. The 
description by an eye-witness of his own sufferings 
gives only a feeble idea of the horrors of this savage 


massacre in Estella. The murderers had slain the 
parents and the four younger brothers of Menachem 
ben Zerach, then barely twenty years old, afterwards 
a scholar of commanding influence. He himself was 
wounded by the murderers and knocked down, lying 
on the ground unconscious, from evening till mid- 
night, beneath a number of corpses. A compassion- 
ate knight, a friend of Menachem's father, searched 
for him beneath the pile of corpses, took him to his 
house, and had him carefully tended till he recovered 
from his wounds. Similar scenes of barbarity were 
enacted in other parts of the country, especially in 
Tudela, the largest community in Navarre, and in 
the smaller ones of Falcos, Funes, Moncilla, Viana 
and others, but nowhere to so frightful an extent 
as in Estella. Over six thousand Jews perished in 
these massacres. Only the Jews of the capital, 
Pampeluna, appear to have escaped these savage 
attacks. The people of Navarre at length suc- 
ceeded in their desire ; their country was separated 
from France, and obtained a king of its own, Philip 
III, Count of Evreux and Angouleme. As soon as 
he was crowned, the relatives of the murdered 
entreated him to mete out justice. At first, Philip 
prosecuted the guilty persons in real earnest ; he 
ordered the ringleaders, the Franciscan Pedro 
Olligoyen and others to be cast into prison, and laid 
a fine upon the cities in which these crimes had been 
committed. But, in course of time, he liberated all 
the imprisoned, and remitted the fine as an act of 
grace. He took good care, too, not to let the stolen 
property and the possessions of persons without 
heirs escape him ; they had to be surrendered to 
him, just as in Germany. There was no objection 
to the Jews'being slaughtered, but the royal treasury 
was not to suffer loss on that account. This king 
and his successors imposed new burdens upon 
the wretched people. The Jews of Navarre now 
began to sink into degradation like those of Germany. 


The sun that was shining upon them In Castile at 
this time was, strictly speaking, only a false sun, but 
its glimmer, compared with the gloom wherein the 
congregations of other countries were steeped, gives 
at least momentary pleasure, Alfonso XI, as soon 
as he came of age, and obtained the sovereignty 
(1325 — 1380), had two Jewish favorites, Don Joseph 
of Ecija and Samuel Ibn-Wakar. The former, 
whose full name was Joseph ben Ephraim Ibn-Ben- 
veniste HalevI, had a pleasing exterior, understood 
music, and knew how to ingratiate himself with those 
in power. At the recommendation of his uncle, the 
king had made him not only minister of finance 
(Almoxarif), but also his confidential counselor 
(privado), whose opinion he highly valued. Joseph 
of Ecija possessed a state carriage, knights accom- 
panied him as an escort on his journeys, and hidal- 
gos dined at his table. On one occasion the king 
dispatched him on a very important and honorable 
mission which almost cost him his life. He was 
besieged by the citizens of Valladolid in the palace 
of the Infanta, and they demanded his surrender 
with tumultuous clamor. Some of Joseph's retinue 
succeeded in escaping from the city, and they hast- 
ened at full speed to the king, to whom they related 
what had taken place. Alfonso rightly considered 
this a revolt against his sovereignty. He marched 
rapidly against Valladolid, and summoned the 
knights of Old Castile to join him. For the sake of 
his Jewish favorite, he besieged the former capital of 
his kingdom, burnt many houses, and would have 
destroyed the place entirely, had not more moderate 
persons intervened, and explained to the king that 
the people were not so much embittered against 
Don Joseph as against Don Alvar Nunez, whose 
influence was most hateful to them. Don Alfonso 
thereupon condescended to remove Alvar from his 
public offices, whilst Don Joseph continued in favor 
with the king. 


The other favorite of King Alfonso was his 
physician, Don Samuel Ibn-Wakar (Abenhuacar). 
This man had a scientific education, was an astron- 
omer, and perhaps the astrologer of his master. 
Although he occupied no public office, and took no 
part in state affairs, yet, through the favor of the 
king, he possessed very great influence. There 
existed between Don Joseph of Ecija and Ibn- 
Wakar the jealousy which is common among cour- 
tiers who bask in the rays of the same sun. On 
account of their rivalry, these two favorites sought 
to injure each other, and thus they and their co- 
religionists incurred the hatred of the people. 

Some wealthy Jews, probably relying upon the 
favorable position of their friends at court, carried 
on money transactions in an unscrupulous manner. 
They extorted a high rate of interest, and merci- 
lessly persecuted their dilatory Christian debtors. 
The king himself encouraged the usury of the Jews 
and Moors, because he gained advantage there- 
from. The complaints of the people against the 
Jewish and Mahometan usurers grew very numer- 
ous. The cortes of Madrid, Valladolid and other 
cities made this point the subject of petitions pre- 
sented to the king, demanding the abolition of these 
abuses, and the king was compelled to yield to their 

The minds of the people, however, remained em- 
bittered against the Jews. The cortes of Madrid 
thereupon called for several restrictive laws against 
the Jews, such as, that they should not be allowed 
to acquire landed property, and that Jewish minis- 
ters of finance and farmers of taxes should not be 
appointed (1329). Alfonso replied, that, in the 
main, things should continue as they had been be- 
fore. Don Samuel Ibn-Wakar rose even higher in 
the royal favor. Don Alfonso intrusted him with 
the farming of the revenues derived from the im- 
portation of goods from the kingdom of Granada. 


He, moreover, obtained the privilege empowering 
him to issue the coinage of the realm at a lower 
standard. Joseph of Ecija now became jealous and 
offered a higher sum for the right of farming the 
import-taxes from Granada. When he thought he 
had supplanted his rival, the latter dealt him a 
severe blow. Ibn-Wakar succeeded in persuading 
the king that it would be more advantageous to 
the people of Castile to carry the protective system 
to its uttermost limits, and prohibit all imports from 
the neighboring Moorish kingdom (1330 — 133 1). 

Whilst the two Jewish courtiers were stri\ang 
to injure each other, the enemies of the Jews were 
busily at work to imperil their reputation and the 
existence of all the Castilian congregations. They 
inflamed the minds of the people by representing to 
them that, owing to the depreciation in the value of 
money, brought about by die farmer of the coinage, 
Ibn-Wakar, the price of the necessaries of life had 
risen, these articles being exported to the neighbor- 
ing countries, where they were bartered for silver, 
which had a higher value in their own land. The 
enemies of the Jews also brought the influence of 
the church to bear to arouse the prejudices of the 
king against all the Jews. Their champion was a 
Jew, who no sooner had embraced Christianity, than 
he became a fanatical persecutor of his brethren. 
This was the infamous Abner, the forerunner of the 
baptized and unbaptized Jew-haters, who prepared, 
and at length accomplished, the humiliation and 
banishment of the Spanish Jews. 

Abner of Burgos, or as he was afterwards called, 
Alfonso Burgensis de Valladolid (born about 1270, 
died about 1346), was well acquainted with biblical 
and Talmudical writings, occupied himself with 
science, and practiced medicine. His knowledge 
had destroyed his religious belief, and turned him 
not only against Judaism, but against all faiths. 
Troubled by cares for his subsistence, Abner did 


not obtain the desired support from his kinsmen in 
race. He was too little of a philosopher to accept 
his modest lot. His desires were extravagant, and 
he was unable to find the means to satisfy them. In 
order to be able to live in ease and splendor, Abner 
determined, when nearly sixty years of age, to adopt 
Christianity, although this religion was as little able 
to give him inward contentment as that which he 
forsook. As a Christian, he assumed the name of 
Alfonso. The infidel disciple of Aristotle and Aver- 
roes accepted an ecclesiastical office ; he became 
sacristan at a large church in Valladolid, to which a 
rich benefice was attached, enabling him to gratify 
his worldly desires. He attempted to excuse his 
hypocritical behavior and his apostasy by means of 
sophistical arguments. 

Alfonso carried his want of conscientiousness so 
far that not long after his conversion to Christianity 
he attacked his former brethren in faith and race with 
bitter hate, and showed the intention of persecuting 
them. Owing to his knowledge of Jewish literature, 
it was easy for him to discover its weak points, em- 
ploy them as charges against Judaism, and draw the 
most hateful inferences. Alfonso was indefatigable 
in his accusations against the Jews and Judaism, 
and composed a long series of works, in which he 
introduced arguments partly aggressive, partly de- 
fensive of his new faith against the attacks upon it 
by the Jews. In his abuse of Judaism, the Hebrew 
language, in which he composed with much greater 
ease than in Spanish, was made to do service. 

Alfonso had the brazen impudence to send one of 
his hateful writings to his former friend, Isaac Pulgar. 
The latter replied in a sharply satirical poem, and 
pressed him close in his polemical writings. The 
Jews of Spain had not yet become so disheartened 
as to suffer such insolent attacks in silence. Another 
less renowned writer also answered Alfonso, and 
thus a violent literary warfare broke out 


Alfonso of Valladolid, however, did not content 
himself with polemical writings ; he boldly presented 
himself before King Alfonso XI, and laid his accus- 
ations against the Jews before him. He raked up 
anew the remark of the Church Father Jerome and 
others, that the Jews had introduced into their book 
of prayer a formula of imprecation against the God 
of the Christians and his adherents. The repre- 
sentatives of the Jewish community in Valladolid, 
probably summoned by the king to justify them- 
selves, emphatically denied that the imprecation 
originally leveled against the Minim (Nazarenes) 
referred to Jesus and his present followers. Alfonso, 
however, would not admit the validity of this excul- 
pation, and pledged himself to prove his charges 
against the Jews in a disputation. The king of 
Castile thereupon commanded the representatives 
of the Valladolid community to enter upon a relig- 
ious discussion with the sacristan. It took place 
in the presence of public officials and Dominicans. 
Here Alfonso Burgensis repeated his accusations, 
and was victorious, inasmuch as, in consequence of 
this disputation. King Alfonso issued an edict (25th 
Februar)', 1336) forbidding the Castilian communi- 
ties, under penalty of a fine, to use the condemned 
prayer or formula of imprecation. Thus the ene- 
mies of the Jews succeeded in winning over the 
king, who was really well-disposed towards the 
Jews. More ominous events were to happen. 

King Alfonso was not very constant ; he trans- 
ferred his favor from one person to another. He 
took into his confidence a man unworthy of the dis- 
tinction, named Gonzalo Martinez (Nunez) de 
Oviedo, originally a poor knight, who had been pro- 
moted through the patronage of the Jewish favorite, 
Don Joseph of Ecija. Far from being grateful to 
his benefactor, he bore deep hatred against him 
who had thus raised him, and his hostile feeling ex- 
tended tn all Jews. When he had risen to the post 


of minister of the royal palace, and later to that of 
Grand Master of the Order of Alcantara (1337), he 
revealed his plan of annihilating the Jews. He 
lodged a formal charge against Don Joseph and Don 
Samuel Ibn-Wakar, to the effect that they had en- 
riched themselves in the service of the king. He 
obtained the permission of the king to deal with 
them as he chose, so as to extort money from them. 
Thereupon Gonzalo ordered both of them, together 
with two brothers of Ibn-Wakar, and eight relatives 
with their families, to be thrown into prison, and 
confiscated their property. Don Joseph of Ecija 
died in prison, and Don Samuel died under the tor- 
ture to which he was subjected. This did not sat- 
isfy the enemy of the Jews. He now sought to 
destroy two other Jews, who held high positions 
at court — Moses Abudiel and (Sulaiman?) Ibn- 
Yaish. He implicated them in a charge, pretending 
all the while to be friendly towards them. Through 
their downfall Gonzalo Martinez thought to carry 
into effect his wicked plan against the Castilian Jews 
without difficulty. 

The Moorish king of Morocco, Abulhassan 
(Alboacin), whose help was implored by his op- 
pressed co-religionists in Granada, had sent a very 
large army under the command of his son, Abume- 
lik, over the straits to undertake a vigorous campaign 
against Castile. On the reception of this news, terror 
spread throughout Christian Spain. King Alfonso 
forthwith appointed Gonzalo Martinez, Master of the 
Order of Alcantara, as general in charge of this 
war, and invested him with plenary power. But 
funds were wanting ; at the deliberation on ways 
and means of procuring them, Gonzalo propounded 
his plan for depriving the Jews of their wealth, and 
then expeUing them from Castile. By this means, 
large supplies of money would flow into the royal 
treasury; for all the Christians who were dunned 
by the Jews would willingly pay large sums of 


money to rid themselves of their enemies. For- 
tunately this proposal met with opposition in the 
royal council, and even from the most prominent 
clergyman in Castile, the archbishop of Toledo. 
The latter urged that the Jews were an inexhaust- 
ible treasure for the king, of which the state should 
not deprive itself, and that the rulers of Castile had 
guaranteed them protection and toleration. Don 
Moses Abudiel, who obtained information concerning 
the council held to decide on the weal or woe of the 
Jews, advised the congregations to institute public 
fasts, and to supplicate the God of their fathers to 
frustrate the wickedness of Gonzalo. The latter 
marched to the frontier against the Moorish army, 
and secured an easy victory. It happened, fortun- 
ately for the Spaniard, that the Moorish general, 
Abumelik, fell pierced by an arrow, and his army, 
filled with dismay at this event, was defeated and 
put to rout. The vainglory of the Grand Master 
of Alcantara now attained a high pitch. He thought 
to obtain such great importance in Spanish affairs 
that the king would be compelled to approve of all 
measures proposed by him. He was, indeed, filled 
with that pride which precedes a fall. 

The feeble hand of a woman was the cause of his 
downfall. The beautiful and sprightly Leonora de 
Guzman, who had so enthralled the king with her 
charms that he was more faithful to her than to his 
wife, hated the favorite Gonzalo Martinez, and suc- 
ceeded in making the king believe that he spoke ill 
of him. Alfonso desiring to learn the real truth of 
the matter sent a command to Gonzalo to present 
himself before him in Madrid ; he, however, dis- 
obeyed the royal command. To be able to defy the 
anger of the king, he stirred up the knights of the 
Order of Alcantara and the citizens of the towns 
assigned to his government, tc rebel against his 
sovereign, entered into traitorous negotiations with 
the king of Portugal and with the enemy of the 


Christians, the king of Granada. Alfonso was forced 
to lead his nobles against him, and besiege him in 
Valencia de Alcantara. In mad defiance, Gonzalo 
directed arrows and missiles to be aimed at the king, 
which mortally wounded a man in the vicinity of 
Alfonso. But some of the knights of the Order of 
Alcantara forsook their Grand Master, and sur- 
rendered the stronghold to the king. There 
remained nothing for Gonzalo except to yield. He 
was condemned to death as a traitor, and was burnt 
at the stake (1336), and thus ended the man w^ho 
had sworn to annihilate the Jews. The Castilian 
congregations thereupon celebrated a new festival 
of deliverance, in the same month in which the evil 
plans of Haman against the Jews had recoiled on 
his own head. Alfonso again received the Jews 
into his favor, and raised Moses Abudiel to a high 
position at his court. From this time till the day of 
his death, Alfonso XI acted justly towards his 
Jewish subjects. 

It may be thought that, under these on the whole 
favorable circumstances, the Jews occupied them- 
selves with their intellectual culture, which had 
already developed its full blossom ; but it was not 
so. Castile in particular, and all Spain, at this 
epoch, were very deficient in men who cultivated 
Jewish science. The Talmud constituted the only 
branch of study which intellectual men attended to, 
and even here there was no particular fertility. 
Decrease in strength manifested itself even in the 
study of the Talmud. The most famous rabbis of 
this period had so great a mistrust of their own 
powers that they no longer dared take an independ- 
ent view of anything, and relied more and more 
upon the conclusions of older authorities. They 
made it very convenient for themselves by slavishly 
following Maimuni's Code in practical decisions, 
deviating from it only in such particulars as Asheri 
had objected to. The latter had pretty well sue- 


ceeded, if not in altogether destroying the inclina- 
tion of the Spanish Jews to engage in scientific 
inquiry, at least in bringing science into disrepute, 
and thus weakening its study. The distinguished 
supporters of philosophy henceforth no more came 
from Spain ; the few that came into prominence were 
from southern France. These were Ibn-Kaspi, Ger- 
sonides and Narboni. Asheri and his sons, who 
inherited his hostility to science, in causing the view 
to become general throughout Spain, that a man 
should not engage in higher questions concerning 
Judaism and its connection with philosophy, did not 
consider that by this means the spirit of the Spanish 
Jews would become enfeebled and incapacitated for 
Talmudical investigations, too. The Jewish sons 
of Spain were not so well suited for the study of 
narrow Talmudism as the German Jews. Prevented 
from occupying themselves with science, they lost 
their buoyancy of spirit, and became unfit for the 
studies permitted. Even their pleasure in song and 
their poetical talents died away. Occasionally a 
poem was still produced, but it consisted merely of 
rude and unimaginative rhymes. In time they were 
no better than the German Jews, whom they had 
before so greatly despised. Even their prose style, 
on which the Spanish Jews had formerly bestowed 
so much care, degenerated for the most part into 
spiritless verbosity. The charming writer, Santob 
de Carrion, who as early as the time of Alfonso XI 
had clothed his thoughts in beautiful Spanish verse, 
was a solitary poet, whose song awoke no echo. 

The eight sons of Asheri, his relatives, who had 
emigrated with him from Germany to Toledo, 
together with his numerous grandsons, dominated 
Spanish Judaism from this time onwards. They 
introduced a one-sided Talmudical method of in- 
struction deeply tinged with a gloomy, ascetic view 
of religion. The most famous of the sons of 
Asheri were Jacob (Baal ha-Turim) and Jehuda, 


both intensely religious, and of unselfish, self-sacri- 
ficing dispositions ; they were, however, limited to 
a very narrow range of ideas. Both were as learned 
in the Talmud as they were ignorant in other sub- 
jects, and possessed every quality calculated to 
bring the decay of religion into accord with the in- 
creasing sufferings of the Jews in this third home 
of their race. 

Jacob ben Asheri (born about 1280, died 1340) 
was visited by bitter misfortunes. His life was one 
chain of sufferings and privations ; but he bore all 
with patience, without murmur or complaint. Al- 
though his father, Asheri, had brought much wealth 
with him to Spain, and had always been in good 
circumstances, yet his son, Jacob, had to suffer the 
bitterest pangs of poverty. Nevertheless, he re- 
ceived no salary as a rabbi : in fact, he does not 
appear to have filled that post at any time. As with 
all the family of Asheri, both sons and grandsons, 
the Talmud constituted his exclusive interest in life ; 
but he displayed more erudition than originality. 
His sole merit consists in the fact that he brought 
the chaos of Talmudical learning into definite order, 
and satisfied the need of the time for a complete 
code of laws for religious practice. 

Owing to his German origin and to his residence 
in Spain, Jacob Asheri became familiar with the 
productions of the different schools and authorities 
in their minutest details. He was thus well suited 
to control this chaotic mass and reduce it to order. 
On the basis of the labors of all his predecessors in 
this field, especially of Maimuni,. Jacob compiled a 
second religious code (in four parts, Turim, short- 
ened to Tur, about 1340). This work treated solely 
of religious practice, that is, of the ritual, moral, 
marriage and civil laws. He omitted all such things 
as had fallen into disuse since the destruction of the 
Temple and because of altered circumstances. With 
the composition of this work, a new phase in the 
inner development of Judaism may be said to begin. 


Jacob's code forms part of a graduated scale, 
by means of which it can be ascertained to how low 
a level official Judaism had sunk since the time 
of Maimuni. In Maimuni's compilation thought is 
paramount ; every ritual practice, of whatever kind, 
whether good or bad, is brought into connection 
with the essence of religion. In Jacob's code, on 
the other hand, thought or reasoning is renounced. 
Religious scrupulousness, which had taken so firm a 
hold of the German Jewish congregations, inspires 
the laws, and imposes the utmost stringency and 
mortifications. Maimuni, in accepting religious pre- 
cepts as obligatory, was guided entirely by the 
Talmud, and but seldom included the decisions of 
the Geonim as invested with authority. Asheri's 
son, on the contrary, admitted into his digest of 
religious laws everything that any pious or ultra- 
pious man had decided upon either out of scrupu- 
losity or as a result of learned exposition. In his 
code, the precepts declared to be binding by rab- 
binical authorities far outnumbered those of Talmudic 
origin. One might almost say that in Jacob Asheri's 
hands, Talmudical Judaism was transformed into 
Rabbinism. He even included some of the follies 
of the Kabbala in his religious digest. 

Jacob's code is essentially different from that of 
Maimuni, not only in contents, but also in form. 
The style and the language do not manifest the 
conciseness and lucidity of Maimuni's. Notwith- 
standing this, his code soon met with universal 
acceptance, because it corresponded to a want of 
the times, and presented, in a synoptical form, all 
the ordinances relating to the ritual, to marriage, 
and civil laws binding on the adherents of Judaism 
in exile under the rule of various nations. Rabbis 
and judges accepted it as the criterion for practical 
decisions, and even preferred it to Maimuni's work 
A few of the rabbis of that age refused to forego 
their independence, and continued to pronounce 


decisions arrived at by original inquiry, and there- 
fore paid little heed to the new religious code. The 
great majority of them, on the other hand, not only 
in Spain, but also in Germany, were delighted to 
possess a handy book of laws systematically pre- 
senting everything worth knowing, making deep, 
penetrative research superfluous, and taxing the 
memory more than the understanding. Thus Jacob's 
Tur became the indispensable manual for the knowl- 
edge of Judaism, as understood by the rabbis, for a 
period of four centuries, till a new one was accepted 
which far surpassed the old. 

His brother, Jehuda Asheri, w^as on a par with 
Jacob in erudition and virtue, but did not possess 
similar power of reducing chaos to order. He was 
born about 1284, and died in 1349. After the death 
of his father, the community of Toledo elected him 
as Asheri's successor in the rabbinate of the Spanish 
capital. He performed the functions of his office 
with extraordinary scrupulousness, w^ithout respect 
of persons, and was able to call the whole commun- 
ity to witness that he had never been guilty of the 
slightest trespass. When Jehuda Asheri, on account 
of some small quarrel with his congregation, re- 
solved to take up his abode in Seville, the entire 
community unanimously begged of him to remain 
in their midst, and doubled his salary. In spite of 
this show of affection, he did not feel comfortable 
in Spain, and in his will he is said to have advised 
his five sons to emigrate to Germany, the original 
home of his family. The persecution of the German 
Jews, during the year of the epidemic pestilence, 
probably taught them that it was preferable to 
dwell in Spain. By reason of his position in the 
most important of the congregations and of his 
comprehensive rabbinical learning, Jehuda Asheri 
was regarded as the highest authority of his age, 
and was preferred even to his brother Jacob. 

Seeing that even the study of the Talmud, so 


zealously pursued in Spain, had fallen into this 
state of stagnation and lassitude, the other branches 
of science could not complain that they made no 
progress, or were not attentively cultivated. The 
study of the Bible, Hebrew grammar, and exegesis 
were entirely neglected ; we can recall hardly a 
single writer who earnestly occupied himself with 
these subjects. Owing to the energetic zeal of 
Abba-Mari, the interdict of Ben Adret, and the pro- 
nounced aversion of Asheri, reasoning had fallen 
into disrepute and decay. The truly orthodox 
shunned contact with philosophy as the direct route 
to heresy and infidelity, and pseudo-pious people 
behaved in a yet more prudish fashion towards it. 
It required courage to engage in a study inviting 
contempt and accusations of heresy. The Kabbala, 
too, had done its work, in dimming the eyes of men 
by its illusions. There were but few representa- 
tives of a philosophical conception of Judaism in 
those days ; these were Isaac Pulgar, of Avila, 
David Ibn-Albilla of Portugal, and Joseph Kaspi of 
Argentiere, in southern France. 

Levi ben Gerson, or Leon de Bagnols, was more 
renowned and more talented than any of these. He 
was also called Leo the Hebrew, but more usually 
by his literary name Gersonides (born 1288, died 
about 1345). He belonged to a family of scholars, 
and among his ancestors he reckoned that Levi of 
Villefranche who had indirectly caused the prohibi- 
tion of scientific study. In spite of the interdict of 
Ben Adret forbidding the instruction of youths in 
science, Gersonides was initiated into it at a very 
early age, and before he had reached his thirtieth 
year he was at work at a comprehensive and pro- 
found work upon philosophy. Gersonides was 
gifted with a versatile and profound intellect, and 
averse to all superficiality and incompleteness. In 
astronomy he corrected his predecessors, and made 
such accurate observations that specialists based 


their calculations upon them. He invented an 
instrument by means of which observations of the 
heavens could be made more certain. This discov- 
ery filled him with such ecstasy that he composed a 
Hebrew poem, a kind of riddle, upon it, though he 
was an unpoetical man, and had his head filled with 
dry calculations and logical conclusions. He also 
wrote works upon the science of medicine, and dis- 
covered new remedies. At the same time he was 
held in very high repute by his contemporaries as 
a profound Talmudist, and inspired by his love for 
systematic arrangement, wrote a methodology of 
the Mishna. 

Maestro Leon de Bagnols, as he was called as a 
physician, fortunately did not belong to the Jews of 
France proper: he successively lived in Orange, 
Perpignan, and in Avignon, at this time the home of 
popedom. Therefore, he had not been a sufferer 
in the expulsion of his co-religionists from this land ; 
but his heart bled at the sight of the sufferings which 
the exiles were made to undergo. He moreover 
escaped from the effects of the rising of the Shep- 
herds, and the subsequent bitter calamities. At 
about the same time, his fertile powers of production 
began to put forth fruit, and he began the series of 
writings which continued for more than twenty years 
(132 1 — 1343). None of his writings created such a 
sensation as his work on the philosophy of religion 
(Milchamoth Adonai). In this he set forth the 
boldest metaphysical thoughts with philosophical 
calmness and independence, as if paying no heed to 
the fact that by his departure from the hitherto re- 
ceived notions upon these questions, he was laying 
himself open to the charges of heresy and heter- 
odoxy. *Tf my observations are correct," he re- 
marked, "then all blame leveled against me, I 
regard as praise." Leon de Bagnols belonged to 
a class of thinkers seldom met with, who, with 
majestic brow, seek truth for its own intrinsic value, 


without reference to other ends and results which 
might cause conflict. Levi ben Gerson thus ex- 
pressed his opinion upon this subject : Truth must 
be brought out and placed beneath the glare of open 
daylight, even if it should contradict the Torah in 
the strongest possible manner. The Torah is no 
tyrannical law, which desires to force one to accept 
untruth as truth, on the contrary, it seeks to lead 
man to a true understanding of things. If the truth 
arrived at by investigation is in harmony with the 
utterances of the Bible, then so much the better. 
In his independence of thought, the only parallel to 
Gersonides among Jewish inquirers is Spinoza. Un- 
like many of his predecessors, he would not look 
upon science as a body of occult doctrines designed 
for an inner circle of the initiated. He moreover 
refused to follow slavishly the authorities in philos- 
ophy regarded as infallible. He propounded in- 
dependent views in opposition not only to Maimuni 
and Averroes, but also to Aristotle. Leon de Bag- 
nols did not establish a perfect and thoroughly 
organized system of the philosophy of religion, but 
treated of the difficulties which interested the think- 
ers of the age more incisively than any of his pre- 

In spite of his great ability, Gersonides exercised 
very little influence apon Judaism. By the pious, 
he was denounced as a heretic, because of his inde- 
pendent research, and his ambiguous attitude 
towards the doctrine of the creation. They took 
the title of his chief work, "The Battles of the 
Lord," to mean " Battles against the Lord." So 
much the warmer was his reception by Christian in- 
quirers after truth. Pope Clement VI, during the 
lifetime of the author, commanded his treatise upon 
astronomy and the newly-invented instrument to be 
translated into Latin (1342). 

Of a similar nature was another representative of 
philosophical Judaism of this age, Moses ben Joshua 


Narboni, also called Maestro Vidal (born about 
1300, died 1362). His father Joshua, who belonged 
to a family in Narbonne, but resided in Perpignan, 
was so warmly interested in Jewish, that is to say 
Maimunistic, philosophy, that in spite of the inter- 
dict hurled against all who studied the subject, he 
instructed his son therein when he was thirteen 
years old. Vidal Narboni became an enthusiastic 
student. He divided his admiration between 
Maimuni and Averroes, his writings consisting 
chiefly of commentaries upon their works. His 
travels from the foot of the Pyrenees to Toledo 
and back again to Soria (1345 — 1362) enriched 
and amended his knowledge. He was interested 
in anything worth knowing, and made obser- 
vations with great accuracy. No calamities or 
troubles succeeded in damping his zeal in the in- 
quiry after truth. In consequence of the Black 
Death, an infuriated mob fell upon the community 
at Cervera. Vidal Narboni was compelled to take 
to flight with the rest of the congregation ; he lost 
his possessions, and, what was more painful to him, 
his precious books. These misfortunes did not dis- 
turb him ; he took up the thread of his work where 
it had been interrupted. He accomplished no 
entirely independent or original work ; he was a 
true Aristotelian of Averroist complexion. Nar- 
boni conceived Judaism as a guide to the highest 
degree of theoretical and moral truth: the Torah 
has a double meaning — the one simple, direct, for 
the thoughtless mob, and the other of a deeper, 
metaphysical nature for the class of thinkers — a 
common opinion in those times, Gersonides alone 
demurring. Narboni, too, gave expression to he- 
retical views, that is, such as are contrary to the 
ordinarily accepted understanding of Judaism, but 
not with the freedom and openness of Levi ben 
Gerson. He rejected the belief in miracles, and 
attempted to explain them away altogether, but de- 


fended man's freedom of will by philosophical argu- 
ments. Death overtook him in the very midst of 
his labors when, advanced in years, he was on the 
point of returning to his native land from Soria, on 
the other side of the Pyrenees, where he had spent 
several years. 

Though the Karaite, Aaron ben Elia Nicomedi, 
may be reckoned among the philosophers of this time, 
he can scarcely be admitted into the company of Levi 
ben Gerson and the other Provencal thinkers. His 
small stock of philosophical knowledge was a matter 
of erudition, not the result of independent thought. 
Aaron II, of Nicomedia (in Asia Minor, born about 
1300, died 1369), who probably lived in Cairo, was 
indeed superior to his ignorant brother Karaites, 
but several centuries behind the Rabbanite philoso- 
phers. His thoughts sound like a voice from the 
grave, or as of one who has slumbered for many 
years, and speaks the language of antiquity, not 
understood by the men of his own day. 

Aaron ben Elia was not even able to indicate the 
end aimed at by his work, "The Tree of Life." 
Without being himself fully conscious of his motives, 
he was guided in its composition by jealous rivalry 
of Maimuni and the Rabbanites. It vexed him sorely 
that Maimuni's religious philosophical work, " The 
Guide," was perused and admired not only by Jews, 
but also by Christians and Mahometans, whilst the 
Karaites had nothing like it. Aaron desired to save 
the honor of the Karaites by his "Tree of Life." 
He sought to detract from the merits of the work of 
Maimuni, and remarked that some of the statements 
to be found in the book had been made by Karaite 
philosophers of religion. Notwithstanding this, he 
followed Maimuni most minutely, and treated only 
of those questions which the latter had raised ; but 
he sought to solve them not by the aid of philos- 
ophy, but by the authority of the Bible. 

The history of this period, when dealing with 


events in Germany, has nothing but calamities to 
record : bloody assaults, massacres, and the conse- 
quent intellectual poverty. Asheri and his sons 
were either deluded or unjust when they preferred 
bigoted Germany to Spain, at that time still tolera- 
ble, and cast longing looks thitherwards frorn Toledo. 
From the time of Asheri' s departure till the middle 
of the century, misfortune followed upon misfortune, 
till nearly all the congregations were exterminated. 
On account of this state of affairs, even the study 
of the Talmud, the only branch of learning pursued 
in Germany with ardor and thoroughness, fell into 
decay. How could the Germans gather intellectual 
strength, when they were not certain about one 
moment of their lives, or their means of sustenance? 
Their state in a most literal way realized the pro- 
phetical threat of punishment: "Thy life shall hang 
in doubt before thee ; and thou shalt fear day and 
night. In the morning thou shalt say. Would God 
it were even ! and at even thou shalt say. Would 
God it were morning ! for the fear of thine heart 
wherewith thou shalt fear." Emperor Louis, the 
Bavarian, is reported to have been favorably in- 
clined towards the Jews, which is said to have made 
them proud. But this is idle calumny both against 
the emperor and the Jews. No German ruler before 
him had treated his " servi camerae " so badly, 
pawned them and sold them, as Louis the Bavarian. 
He also imposed a new tax upon the Jews, the 
so-called golden gift-pence. As the emperors had 
gradually pawned all the revenues derived from 
their "servi camerae" to enable them to satisfy 
their immediate necessity for money, Louis the 
Bavarian was driven to cogitate upon some new 
means of obtaining supplies from them. He pro- 
mulgated a decree (about 1342), which commanded 
that every Jew and Jewess in the German Empire 
above the age of twelve, and possessed of at least 
more than twenty florins, should pay annually to 


the king or the emperor a poll-tax of a florin. He 
probably derived his right, if, indeed, the question 
of right was considered in reference to the treat- 
ment of Jews, from the fact that the German em- 
perors were in possession of all the prerogatives 
once claimed by those of Rome. As the Jews, 
since the days of Vespasian and Titus, had been 
compelled to pay a yearly tax to the Roman em- 
perors, the German rulers declared themselves the 
direct heirs to this golden gift-pence. 

Hitherto the massacres of Jews in Germany had 
taken place only at intervals, and in a few places ; 
but now, under the reign of Louis, owing to riots 
and civil wars, they became much more frequent 
During two consecutive years (1336 — 1337), a regu- 
larly organized band of peasants and rabble, who 
called themselves " the beaters of the Jews," made 
fierce attacks upon them with unbridled fury and 
heartless cruelty. Two dissolute noblemen w^ere at 
the head of this troop ; they gave themselves the 
name of Kings Leather-arm (Armleder) from a piece 
of leather which they wore wound round the arm. 
In this persecution, as in that of Rindfleisch, the fan- 
aticism and blind superstition inculcated by the 
church played an important part One of the 
Leather-arms announced that he had received a di- 
vine revelation which directed him to visit upon the 
Jews the martyrdom and the wounds which Jesus 
had suffered, and to avenge his crucifixion by their 
blood. Such a summons to arms seldom remained 
unanswered in Germany. Five thousand peasants, 
armed with pitchforks, axes, flails, pikes, and what- 
ever other weapons they could lay hands upon, 
gathered around the Leather-arms, and inflicted a 
bloody slaughter upon the Jewish inhabitants of Al- 
sace and the Rhineland as far as Suabia. As 
frequently happened during such barbarous perse- 
cutions, numbers of Jews, on this occasion also, put 
an end to their own lives, after having slain theii* 


children to prevent their falling Into the hands of 
the Church. Emperor Louis the Bavarian did in- 
deed issue commands to protect the heretic Jews 
(April, 1337), but his help came too late, or was of 
little effect. At length the emperor succeeded in 
capturing one of the Leather-arms, whom he ordered 
to be executed. 

At about the same time a bloody persecution, 
prompted by the frenzy of avarice, was set on foot 
in Bavaria. The councilors of the city of Decken- 
dorf (or Deggendorf) desired to free themselves 
and all the citizens from their debts to the Jews, and 
enrich themselves besides. To carry out this plan, 
the fable of the desecration of the host by the Jews, 
with the accompaniment of the usual miracles, was 
spread abroad. When the populace had been incited 
to a state of fanatical frenzy, the council proceeded 
to execute the project which it had secretly matured 
outside the town, so as not to arouse any suspicion 
among the Jews. On the appointed day (30th Sep- 
tember, 1337), at a signal from the church bell, the 
knight Hartmann von Deggenburg, who had been 
initiated in the conspiracy, rode with his band of 
horsemen through the open gates into Deckendorf, 
and was received with loud rejoicing. The knight 
and the citizens thereupon fell upon the defenseless 
Jews, put them to death by sword and fire, and pos- 
sessed themselves of their property. In honor of 
the miracles performed by the host that had been 
pierced by the knives of the Jews, a church of the 
Holy Sepulcher was erected, and appointed as a 
shrine for pilgrims ; and the puncheons which the 
Jews had used, together with the insulted host, were 
placed beneath a glass case, and guarded as relics. 
For many centuries they were displayed for the edi- 
fication of the faithful, — perhaps are still displayed. 
The lust for slaughter spread abroad into Bavaria, 
Bohemia, Moravia, and Austria. Thousands of 
Jews perished by different forms of torture and 


death. Only the citizens of Vienna and Ratisbon 
protected their Jewish inhabitants against the infuri- 
ated mob. The friendly efforts of Pope Benedictus 
XII were of little avail against the brutal spirit of 
the then Christian world. 



Rise of the False Accusation against Jews of Poisoning the Wells- 
Massacres in Southern France and Catalonia — The Friendly 
Bull of Pope Clement VI — Terrible Massacres in all Parts of Ger- 
many — Confessions wrung from the Jews on the Rack — The 
Flagellants as a Scourge for the Jews — King Casimir of Poland 
— Persecution in Brussels — The Black Death in Spain — Don 
Pedro the Cruel and the Jews — Santob de Carrion and Samuel 
Abulafia — Fall of Don Pedro and its Consequences for the Jews 
— Return of the Jews to France and Germany — The " Golden 
Bull" — Manessier de Vesoul — Matathiah Meir Halevi — Synod 
at Mayence. 

1348 — 1380 C.E. 

The assistance of the pope was of very little use to 
the Jews, and the protection of the German emperor 
was like the support of a broken reed. Within ten 
years they learned this comfortless experience ; for 
soon came most mournful days for the Jewish com- 
munities in most parts of Europe where the cross 
held sway, to which the slaughter by the Leather- 
arms and the brutal atrocities of Deckendorf were 
but a weak prelude. 

The glimpse of good fortune which the Spanish 
Jews enjoyed under Alfonso XI served only to 
bring down upon their brethren in the other Christian 
countries a widespread, intense, indescribably cruel 
persecution with which none of the massacres that 
had hitherto taken place can be compared. The 
destroying angel called the Black Death, which 
carried on its ravages for over three years, made 
its way from China across lands and seas into the 
heart of Europe, heralded by premonitory earth- 
quakes and other terrifying natural phenomena. 
Sparing neither rank nor age, it left a devastated 
track behind, sweeping away a fourth part of all 
mankind (nearly 25,000,000) as with a poison-laden 


breath and stifling every noble impulse. In Europe 
the invisible Death with its horrors turned the Chris- 
tians into veritable destroying angels for the Jews. 
Those whom the epidemic had spared were handed 
over to torture, the sword, or the stake. Whilst 
neither Mahometans nor Mongols who suffered from 
the plague attacked the Jews, Christian peoples 
charged the unhappy race with being the originators 
of the pestilence, and slaughtered them e7i masse. 
The church had so often and impressively preached 
that infidels were to be destroyed ; that Jews were 
worse than heretics, even worse than unbelieving 
heathens ; that they were the murderers of Chris- 
tians and the slayers of children, that at last its true 
sons believed what was said, and carried its doctrines 
into effect. Owing to the prevailing misery, disci- 
pline and order, obedience and submissiveness were 
at an end, and each man was thrown upon his own 
resources. Under these circumstances, the effects 
of the education of the church appeared in a most 
hideous form. The Black Death had indeed made 
itself felt among Jews also ; but the plague had 
visited them in a comparatively milder form than the 
Christians, probably on account of their greater 
moderation, and the very careful attention paid their 
sick. Thus the suspicion arose that the Jews had 
poisoned the brooks and wells, and even the air, in 
order to annihilate the Christians of every country 
at one blow. 

It was charged that the Spanish Jews, supposed 
to be in possession of great power and influence 
over the congregations of Europe, had hit upon this 
diabolical scheme ; that they had dispatched mes- 
sengers far and wide with boxes containing poison, 
and by threats of excommunication had coerced the 
other Jews to aid in carrying out their plans, and 
that these directions issued from Toledo, which 
might be viewed as the Jewish capital. The infatu- 
ated populace went so far as to name the man who 


had delivered these orders and the poison. It was 
Jacob Pascate, said they, from Toledo, who had set- 
tled in Chambery (in Savoy), from which as a center 
he had sent out a troop of Jewish poisoners into all 
countries and cities. This Jacob, together with a 
Rabbi Peyret, of Chambery, and a rich Jew, Aboget, 
was said to have dealt largely in the manufacture 
and sale of poisons. The poison, prepared by the 
Jewish doctors of the black art in Spain, was re- 
ported to be concocted from the flesh of a basilisk, 
or from spiders, frogs and lizards, or from the hearts 
of Christians and the dough of the consecrate^l 
wafers. These and similar silly stories invented by 
ignorant, or, perhaps, malicious people, and distorted 
and exaggerated by the heated imagination, were 
credited not alone by the ignorant mob, but even by 
the higher classes. The courts of justice earnestly 
strove to learn the real truth of these rumors, and 
employed the means for confirming a suspicion used 
by the Christians of the Middle Ages with especial 
skill — torture in every possible form. 

As far as can be ascertained, these tales concern- 
ing the poisoning of the brooks and wells by Jews 
first found credence in southern France, where 
the Black Death as early as the beginning of the 
year 1348 had obtained many victims. In a certain 
town of southern France, on one day (the middle 
of the month of May), the whole Jewish congrega- 
tion, men, women, and children, together with their 
holy writings, were cast into the flames. From that 
place the slaughter spread to Catalonia and Aragon. 
In these provinces, in the same year, anarchy was 
rife, because the nobles and people had revolted 
against the king, Don Pedro, in order to secure cer- 
tain of their privileges against the encroachments 
of the monarch. When the tales of the poisoning 
of the wells had taken firm root in the minds of the 
people of these countries also, the inhabitants of 
Barcelona gathered together on a Saturday (towards 


the end of June), slew about twenty persons, and 
pillaged the Jewish houses. The most distinguished 
men of the city received the persecuted people 
under their protection, and aided by a terrible storm, 
loud thunder and flashes of lightning, they made a 
successful attack upon the deluded or plunder-seek- 
ing assailants of the Jews. 

A few days later the community at Cervera was 
attacked in a similar manner, eighteen of its mem- 
bers killed, and the rest compelled to flee. The 
Jewish philosopher, Vidal Narboni, happened to be 
in the town, and in the assault he lost his posses- 
sions and his books. All the congregations of 
northern Spain knew themselves in danger of being 
attacked ; they instituted public fasts, implored mercy 
from heaven, and barricaded those of their quarters 
which were surrounded by walls. In Aragon, how- 
ever, the higher classes came to the help of the Jews. 
Pope Clement VI, who had taken so much interest 
in the astronomical works of Gersonides, and who, 
terrified at the approach of death, had shut himself 
up in his room, still felt for the sufferings of an in- 
nocent, persecuted people. He issued a bull in 
which, under pain of excommunication, he prohibited 
anyone from killing the Jews without proper judicial 
sentence, or from dragging them by force to be 
baptized, or from despoiling them of their goods 
(the beginning of July). This bull was probably 
of some use in southern France, but in the other 
parts of the Christian world it produced no effect. 
One country followed the example of another. 
The ideally beautiful region surrounding Lake 
Geneva next became the scene of a most frightful 
pe*-secution. At the command of Amadeus, duke 
of Savoy at that time, several Jews suspected of 
poisoning were arrested and imprisoned in two 
small towns, Chillon and Chatel, on Lake Geneva, 
A commission of judges was appointed to inquire 
into the charges brought against the prisoners, and, 


if convicted, they were to be severely punished. In 
this country, then, a prince and his tribunal believed 
the preposterous fable of the poisoning by Jews. 
On the Day of Atonement (15th September, 1348), 
three Jews and a Jewess in Chillon were made to 
undergo torture : the surgeon Valavigny, from 
Thonon, Bandito and Mamson, from Ville-Neuve, 
and, three weeks later, Bellieta and her son Aquet. 
In their pain and despair, they told the names of 
the persons from whom they had received the poison, 
and admitted that they had scattered it in different 
spots near wells and brooks. They denounced 
themselves, their co-religionists, their parents and 
their children as guilty. Ten days later the merci- 
less judges again applied the torture to the enfee- 
bled woman and her son, and they vied with each 
other in their revelations. In Chastelard five Jews 
were put to the torture, and they made equally 
incredible confessions of guilt. Aquet made the 
wild statement that he had placed poison in 
Venice, in Apulia and Calabria, and in Toulouse, 
in France. The secretaries took down all these 
confessions in writing, and they were verified by 
the signatures of their authors. To remove all 
doubts concerning their trustworthiness, the crafty 
judges added that the victims were only very lightly 
tortured. In consequence of these disclosures, not 
only the accused who acknowledged their crime, 
but all the Jews in the region of Lake Geneva and 
in Savoy were burnt at the stake. 

The report of the demonstrated guilt of the Jews 
rapidly made its way from Geneva into Switzerland, 
and here scenes of blood of the same horrible 
description were soon witnessed. The consuls of 
Berne sent for the account of the proceedings of 
the courts of justice at Chillon and Chastelard, They 
then put certain Jews to the torture, extracted con- 
fessions from them, and kindled the funeral pyre 
for all the Jews (September). 


The annihilation of the Jews on the charge of 
poisoning was now systematically carried out, begin- 
ning with Berne and Zofingen (canton Aargau). 
The consuls of Berne addressed letters to Basle, 
Freiburg, Strasburg, Cologne, and many other 
places, with the announcement that the Jews had 
been found guilty of the crime imputed to them ; 
and also sent a Jew, bound in chains, under convoy, 
to Cologne, that every one might be convinced 
of the diabolical plans of the Jews. In Zurich the 
charge of poisoning the wells was raised together 
with that of the murder of a Christian child. There, 
also, those who appeared to be guilty were burnt at 
the stake, the rest of the community expelled from 
the town, and a law passed forbidding them ever to 
return thither (21st September). The persecution 
of the Jews extended northwards with the pestilence. 
Like the communities around Lake Geneva, Jews 
in the cities surrounding Lake Constance, in St. 
Gall, Lindau, UeberHngen, Schaffhausen, Constance 
(Costnitz), and others, were burnt at the stake, put 
to the wheel, or sentenced to expulsion or compul- 
sory baptism. Once again Pope Clement VI took 
up the cause of the Jews ; he published a bull to the 
whole of Catholic Christendom, in which he declared 
the innocence of the Jews regarding the charge 
leveled against them. He produced all possible 
reasons to show the absurdity of the accusation, 
stating that in districts where no Jew lived the 
people were visited by the pestilence, and that Jews 
also suffered from its terrible effects. It was of no 
avail that he admonished the clergy to take the Jews 
under their protection, and that he placed the false 
accusers and the murderers under the ban (Septem- 
ber) . The child had become more powerful than its 
parent, wild fancy stronger than the papacy. 

Nowhere was the destruction of the Jews prose- 
cuted with more thoroughness and more intense 
hatred than in the Holy Roman Empire. In vain 


the newly-elected emperor, Charles IV, of Luxem- 
burg, issued letter after letter forbidding the persons 
of the Jews, his "servi camerse," to be touched. 
Even had he possessed more power in Germany, he 
would not have found the German people willing to 
spare the Jews. The Germans did not commit their 
fearful outrages upon the Jews merely for the sake 
of plunder, although a straightforward historian of 
that epoch, Clpsener of Strasburg, remarks that 
"their goods were the poison which caused the 
death of the Jews." Sheer stupidity made them 
believe that Jews had poisoned the wells and rivers. 
The councils of various towns ordered that the 
springs and wells be walled in, so that the citizens 
be not poisoned, and they had to drink rain water 
or melted snow. Was it not just that the Jews, the 
cause of this evil, should suffer? 

There were some too sensible to share the delu- 
sion that the Jews were the cause of the great 
mortality. These few men deserve a place in 
history, for, despite their danger, they could feel 
and act humanely. In the municipal council of 
Strasburg, the burgomaster Conrad (Kunze) of 
Wintertur, the sheriff, Gosse Sturm, and the master 
workman, Peter Swaber, took great trouble to prove 
the Jews innocent of the crimes laid at their door, 
and defended them against the fanatical attack of 
the mob and even against the bishop. The coun- 
cilors of Basle and Freiburg likewise took the part 
of the unhappy people. The council of Cologne 
wrote to the representatives of Strasburg that it 
would follow the example of the latter town with 
regard to the Jews ; for it was convinced that the 
pestilence was to be considered as a visitation from 
God. It would, therefore, not permit the Jews to 
be persecuted on account of groundless reports, but 
would protect them with all its power, as in former 
times. In Basle, however, the guilds and a mob 
rose in rebellion against the council, repaired 


with their flags to the city hall, insisted that the 
patricians who had been banished on account of 
their action against the Jews, should be recalled, 
and the Jews banished from the city. The coun- 
cil was compelled to comply with the first demand ; 
as to the second, it deferred its decision until a 
day of public meeting, when this matter was to 
be considered. In Benfelden (Alsace) a council 
was actually held to consider the course to be fol- 
lowed with regard to Jews. There were present 
Bishop Berthold of Strasburg, barons, lords, and 
representatives of the towns. The representatives 
of Strasburg bravely maintained the cause of the 
Jews, even against the bishop, who either from 
malice or stupidity was in favor of their complete 
destruction. Although they repeatedly demonstrated 
that the Jews could not be the cause of the pesti- 
lence, they were out-voted, and it was decided to 
banish the Jews from all the cities on the upper 
Rhine (towards the close of 1348). 

The Jews of Alsace, through the decision of 
Benfelden, were declared outlaws, and were either 
expelled from the various places they visited, or 
burnt. A hard fate overtook the community of 
Basle. On an island of the Rhine, in a house 
especially built for the purpose, they were burnt to 
death (January 9th, 1349), and it was decided that 
within the next two hundred years no Jew should 
be permitted to settle in that city. A week later 
all the Jews of Freiburg were burnt at the stake 
with the exception of twelve of the richest men, 
who were permitted to live that they might disclose 
the names of their creditors, for the property of the 
victims fell to the community. The community of 
Speyer was the first sacrifice amongst the communi- 
ties of the Rhineland. The mob rose up and killed 
several Jews, others burning themselves in their 
houses, and some going over to Christianity. The 
council of Speyer took the property of the Jews, 


and confiscated their estates in the neighborhood. 
The council of Strasburg remained firm in its pro- 
tection of the Jews, sending out numerous letters 
to obtain proofs of their innocence. But from many- 
sides came unfavorable testimony. The council of 
Zahringen said that it was in possession of the 
poison the Jews had scattered. When tried it proved 
fatal to animals. The council would not let it go 
out of its hands, but would show it to a messenger. 

A castellan of Chillon had the confessions of the 
Jews tortured in the district of Lake Geneva copied, 
and sent them to the council of Strasburg. Only 
the council of Cologne encouraged Wintertur to 
support the cause of the Jews, and to take no notice 
of the demands of their enemies. At length the 
trade-guilds rose against Wintertur and his two 
colleagues, who were deposed from office. A new 
council was chosen that favored the persecutions of 
the Jews. In the end, the entire community of 
Strasburg — 2,000 souls — were imprisoned. The 
following day, on a Sabbath (14th February, 1349), 
they were all dragged to the burial ground. Stakes 
were erected, and they were burnt to death. Only 
those who in despair accepted the cross were spared. 
The new council decreed that for a period of a 
hundred years no Jew should be admitted into Stras- 
burg. The treasures of the Jews were divided 
amongst the burghers, some of whom were loth to 
defile themselves with the money, and, by the ad- 
vice of their confessors, devoted it to the church. 

Next came the turn of Worms, the oldest Jewish 
community in Germany. The Jews of this town 
had the worst to fear from their Christian fellow- 
citizens, Emperor Charles IV having given them 
and their possessions to the town in return for ser- 
vices, so that " the city and the burghers of Worms 
might do unto the Jews and Judaism as they wished, 
might act as with their own property." When 
the council decreed that the Jews should be burnt, 


the unfortunates determined to anticipate the death 
which awaited them from the hangman. Twelve 
Jewish representatives are said to have repaired to 
the town hall and begged for mercy. When this 
was refused to them, they are said to have drawn 
forth the weapons concealed in their clothes, to have 
fallen on the councilors, and killed them. This story 
is legendary ; but it is a fact that nearly all the Jews 
of Worms set fire to their houses, and that more 
than 400 persons were burned to death (loth Adar 
— I St March. 1349). The Jews of Oppenheim like- 
wise burnt themselves to death to escape being tor- 
tured as poisoners (end of July). The community 
of Frankfort remained secure so long as the rival 
emperors, Charles IV and Gunther of Schwarzburg, 
were fighting in that neighborhood ; the latter holding 
his court in Frankfort. When he died, and the con- 
test was ended, the turn of the Jews of Frankfort 
came to be killed. On being attacked they burned 
themselves in their houses, causing a great con- 
flagration in the city. In Mayence, where the Jews 
had hitherto been spared, a thief, during a flagellation 
scene, stole his neighbor's purse. An altercation 
arose, and the mob seized the opportunity to attack 
the Jews. They had, no doubt, been prepared, and 
300 of them took up arms, and killed 200 of the mob. 
This aroused the anger of the entire Christian com- 
munity, which likewise took to arms. The Jews 
fought a considerable time ; at length, overpowered 
by the enemy, they set fire to their houses (24th 
August). Nearly 6,000 Jews are said to have per- 
ished in Mayence. In Erfurt, out of a community of 
3,000 souls, not one person survived, although the 
council, after their slaughter in the whole of Thur- 
ingia, including Eisenach and Gotha, had long pro- 
tected them. In Breslau, where a considerable 
community dwelt, the Jews were completely de- 
stroyed. Emperor Charles gave orders to seize the 
murderers and give them their due punishmenL 


But he had taken no steps to hinder the horrible 
slaughter enacted everywhere, although informed of 
the plots against the Jews. In Austria, also, the 
outcry was made that the Jews were poisoners, 
and terrible scenes ensued. In Vienna, on the 
advice of Rabbi Jonah, all the members of the 
congregation killed themselves in the synagogue. 
In Krems, where there was a large congregation, 
the populace of the town, assisted by that of a neigh- 
boring place named Stein and the villages, attacked 
the Jews, who set fire to their houses and died (Sep- 
tember, 1349), only a few being saved. 

In Bavaria and Suabia, persecution was also rife, 
and the communities of Augsburg, Wiirzburg, Mun- 
ich, and many others succumbed. The Jews of 
Nuremberg, through its extensive commerce, pos- 
sessed great riches and grand houses, and were 
the especial objects of dislike to the Christians. 
Their destruction was so imminent that Emperor 
Charles IV freed the council from responsibility if 
they should be injured against its wish. 

At length their fate was fulfilled. On a spot 
afterwards called Judenbiihl (Jews' hill), the follow- 
ers of the religion of love erected a pile, and all 
those who had not emigrated were burnt or killed. 
The council of Ratisbon did its utmost to save the 
community, the oldest in the south of Germany. 
For here also the mob demanded the annihilation or 
banishment of the Jews. The dukes of Bavaria, the 
sons of Emperor Louis, who favored the persecution 
of the Jews, had given the people permission in 
writing to "treat the Jews as they liked, according 
to honor or necessity, and banish them with or with- 
out justice." Margrave Louis of Brandenburg, son 
of Emperor Louis, one of the partisans of the rival 
emperor, Gunther of Schwarzburg, showed his 
religious feeling by giving orders to burn all the 
Jews of Konigsberg (in Neumark), and to confis- 
cate their goods. So inhuman were people in those 


days that the executioner boasted of his deed, and 
gave documentary evidence that Margrave Louis 
had commanded the Jews to be burnt. In North 
Germany there Hved but few Jews, except in Magde- 
burg, but there, too, they were burnt or banished. 
In Hanover (in 1 349) the flagellants were rampant. 
Outside of Germany, amongst the nations still 
uncivilized, there were comparatively few persecu- 
tions. Louis, King of Hungary, an enthusiast for 
his faith, drove the Jews out of his land, not as 
poisoners, but as infidels, who opposed his scheme 
of conversion, although he had given them equal 
rights with the Christians and privileges besides. 
The Hungarian Jews who remained true to their 
faith emigrated to Austria and Bohemia. In Poland, 
where the pestilence also raged, the Jews suffered 
but slight persecution, for they were favored by 
King Casimir the Great. At the request of some 
Jews who had rendered services to him, the king, 
after his ascent upon the throne (October 9th, 1334) 
confirmed the laws enacted nearly a century before 
by Boleslav Pius, duke of Kalish, or rather by 
Frederick the Valiant, archduke of Austria, and 
accepted by the king of Hungary and various 
Polish princes. Holding good only in the dukedom 
of Kalish and Great Poland, they were extended by 
Casimir to the whole of the Polish empire. Thir- 
teen years later, Casimir altered the laws by which 
the Jews were permitted to lend money at interest, 
but we must not deduce that he was inimical to the 
Jews, for he expressly states that he made this 
limitation only at the request of the nobility. In the 
years of the pestilence, too, Casimir appears to have 
protected the Jews against the outbreaks of the mis- 
guided multitude, for the accusation of the poison- 
ing of wells by the Jews had traveled from Germany 
across the Polish frontier, and had roused the 
populace against them. Massacres occurred in 
Kalish, Cracow, Glogau, and other cities, especially 


on the German frontier. If the number of Jews 
stated to have been killed in Poland (10,000) be 
correct, it bears no relation to the enormous multi- 
tudes who fell as victims in Germany. Later (1356) 
Casimir is said to have taken a beautiful Jewish 
mistress named Esther (Esterka), who bore him two 
sons (Niemerz and Pelka) and two daughters. The 
latter are said to have remained Jewesses. In 
consequence of his love to Esther, the king of 
Poland is supposed to have bestowed special favors 
and privileges on some Jews, probably Esther's 
relations. But the records, handed down by untrust- 
worthy witnesses, cannot be implicitly believed. 

At all events, the Jews of Poland fared better than 
those of Germany, seeing that they were placed on 
an equality, if not with the Roman Catholics, yet 
with the Ruthenians, Saracens, and Tartars. The 
Jews were permitted to wear the national costume 
and gold chains and swords, like the knights, and 
were eligible for military service. 

As on the eastern frontier of Germany, the Jews 
on the western side, in Belgium, were also perse- 
cuted at the period of the Black Death. In Brussels 
a wealthy Jew stood in great favor with the duke of 
Brabant, John II. When the flagellants came, and 
the death of his co-religionists was imminent, this 
Jew entreated his patron to accord them his protec- 
tion, which John willingly promised. But the ene- 
mies of the Jews had foreseen this, and ensured 
immunity from punishment through the duke's son. 
They attacked the Jews of Brussels, dragged them 
into the streets, and killed all — about 500. 

In Spain, the congregations of Catalonia, which, 
after those of Provence, supplied the first victims, 
conceived a plan to prevent the outrages of fanati- 
cism. They determined to establish a common fund 
in support of their people who should become desti- 
tute through a mob or persecution. They were to 
choose deputies to entreat the king (Don Pedro IV) 


to prevent the recurrence of such scenes of horror. 
Other concessions were to be sought, but the plan 
was never carried into effect, owing to delay on the 
part of the Jews of Aragon, and also probably 
because too much was expected of the king. The 
Jews under Aragonian rule were still behind those 
in the kingdom of Castile. 

In Castile also the Black Death had held its grue- 
some revelries ; but here the population, more intel- 
ligent than elsewhere, did not dream of holding the 
Jews responsible for its ravages. In Toledo and 
Seville the plague snatched away many respected 
members of the community, particularly from the 
families of Abulafia, Asheri, and Ibn-Shoshan. The 
grief of the survivors is vividly depicted in such of 
the tombstone inscriptions of the Toledo Jewish 
cemetery as have come down to us. King Alfonso 
XI was amongst the victims of the insidious plague, 
but not even a whisper charged the Jews with 
responsibility for his death. During the reign of 
Don Pedro (1350 — 1369), Alfonso's son and suc- 
cessor, the influence of the Castilian Jews reached a 
height never before attained. It was the last luster 
of their splendid career in Spain, soon to be shrouded 
in dark eventide shadows. The young king, only 
fifteen years of age when called to the throne, was 
early branded by his numerous enemies with the 
name of "Pedro the Cruel." His favors to the 
Jews had a share In procuring him this nickname, 
although he was not more cruel than many of his 
predecessors and successors. Don Pedro was a 
child of nature with all the good and the bad quali- 
ties implied ; he would not submit to the restrictions 
of court etiquette, nor allow himself to be controlled 
by political considerations. Through the duplicity 
and faithlessness of his bastard brothers, sons of 
Alfonso's mistress, Leonora de Guzman — the same 
who had unconsciously saved the Jews from Immi- 
nent destruction — the king was provoked to san- 


guinary retaliation. The instinct of self-preservation, 
the maintenance of his royal dignity, filial affection, 
and attachment to an early love, had more to do 
with his reckless, bloody deeds than inherent cruelty 
and vengeance. The young king, destined to come 
to so sad an end, involving the Castilian Jews in his 
fall, was from the beginning of his reign surrounded 
by tragic circumstances. His mother, the Portu- 
guese Infanta Donna Maria, had been humiliated 
and deeply mortified by her husband at the mstiga- 
tion of his mistress, Leonora de Guzman. Don 
Pedro himself had been neglected for his bastard 
brothers, and particularly for his elder half-brother, 
Henry de Trastamara. The first important duty of 
his reign, then, was to obtain justice for his humil- 
iated mother, and degrade the rival who had caused 
her so much misery. That he tolerated his bastard 
brothers is a proof that he was not of a cruel dispo- 
sition. His severity was felt more by the grandees 
and hidalgos, who trampled on justice and humanity, 
and ill-treated the people with cavalier arrogance. 
Only in these circles Don Pedro had bitter enemies, 
not amongst the lower orders, which, when not mis- 
led, remained faithful to him to death. The Jews also 
were attached to him. They risked property and 
life for their patriotism, because he protected them 
against injustice and oppression, and did not treat 
them as outcasts. The Jews certainly suffered much 
through him, not in the character of patient victims, 
as in Germany and France, but as zealous partisans 
and fellow combatants, who shared the overthrow 
of their leader with his Christian followers. 

Shortly after Don Pedro had ascended the throne, 
when the grief caused by the death of King Alfonso 
XI was still fresh, a venerable Jewish poet ventured 
to address to the new monarch words of advice in 
well-balanced Spanish verses. This poet, Santob 
(Shem Tob) de Carrion, from the northern Spanish 
town of that name (about 1300 — 1350), a member 


of a large community, has been entirely neglected 
in Jewish literature. Christian writers have pre- 
served his memory and his verses. Santob's (or as 
abbreviated, Santo's) poetical legacy deserves to be 
treasured. His verses flow soft and clear as the 
ripples of an unsullied spring, dancing with silvery 
brightness out of its rocky hollow. He had not 
only thoroughly mastered the sonorous periods of 
the Spanish language, at that time in a transition 
state between tenderness and vigor, but had en- 
riched it. Santob embodied the practical wisdom of 
his time in beautiful strophes. His *' Counsels and 
Lessons," addressed to Don Pedro, have the char- 
acter of proverbs and apothegms. He drew upon 
the unfailing wealth of maxims of the Talmud and 
later Hebrew poets for his verse, and the sweetness 
of his poetry was derived from various sources. 

Santob's verses are not always of this gentle, 
uncontroversial character. He did not hesitate to 
speak sternly to those of his co-religionists who 
had become wealthy by the king's bounty, and 
he denounced the prejudice with which Spanish 
Christians regarded whatever was of Jewish origin. 
Even to the young king he was in the habit of in- 
dulging in a certain amount of plain speaking ; and 
in his stanzas, more than 600 In number, he often 
drew for his majesty's benefit suggestive pictures of 
virtue and vice. He reminded the king, too, of 
promises made to Santob by his father, and bade 
him fulfill them. From this it would appear that our 
Jewish troubadour, who wooed the muse so success- 
fully, was not a favorite of fortune. Little, how- 
ever, is known of him beyond his verses, and we 
have no knowledge of the reception which his rep- 
resentations met at the hands of Don Pedro. 

To other prominent Jews the king's favor was 
unbounded. Don Juan Alfonso de Albuquerque, 
his tutor and all-powerful minister, recommended 
for the post of minister of finance a Jew who had 



rendered him great services, and the king appointed 
Don Samuel ben Meir AUavi, a member of the lead- 
ing family of Toledo, the Abulafia-Halevis, to a 
state situation of trust, in defiance of the decision 
of the cortes that Jews should no longer be eligible. 
Samuel Abulafia not only became treasurer-in-chief 
(Tesoreo mayor), but also the king's confidential 
adviser (privado), who had a voice in all important 
consultations and decisions. Two inscriptions 
referring to Don Samuel, one written during his 
lifetime, the other after his death, describe him as 
noble and handsome, instinct with religious feel- 
ing, a benevolent man, " who never swerved from 
the path of God, nor could he be reproached with 
a fault." 

Another Jew who figured at Don Pedro's court 
was Abraham Ibn-Zarzal, the king's physician and 
astrologer. Don Pedro was, indeed, so surrounded 
by Jews, that his enemies reproached his court for 
its Jewish character. Whether the protection he ex- 
tended to his Jewish subjects was due to the influ- 
ence of these Jewish favorites or to his own im- 
pulses is unknown. On opening for the first time 
the cortes of Valladolid (May, 1351), he was pre- 
sented with a petition, praying him to abolish the 
judicial autonomy enjoyed by the Jewish communi- 
ties and their right to appoint their own Alcaldes ; he 
replied that the Jews, being numerically a feeble 
people, required special protection. From Christian 
judges they would not obtain justice, or their cases 
would be delayed. 

Whilst the relatives of the young king were in- 
triguing to arrange a marriage between him and 
Blanche, daughter of the French Due de Bourbon, 
he fell in love with Maria de Padilla, a clever, beau- 
tiful lady of a noble Spanish family. It is said that 
he was formally married to her in the presence of 
witnesses. At any rate, he caused the marriage 
proposals to Blanche to be withdrawn ; but the 


Bourbon princess, either of her own accord, or at 
the instance of her ambitious relatives, insisted on 
coming to Spain to assume the diadem. Her re- 
solve brought only sorrow to herself and misfortune 
to the country. The nearest relatives of the king 
strained every nen/e to procure the celebration of 
the marriage, and in this they succeeded ; but Don 
Pedro remained with his bride only two days. The 
result of this state of things was that to the old 
parties in the state another was added, some 
grandees taking part with the deserted queen, 
others with Maria de Padilla. To the latter belono-ed 
Samuel Abulafia and the Jews of Spain. The 
reason assigned was that Blanche, having observed 
with displeasure the influence possessed by Samuel 
and other Jews at her husband's court, and the 
honors and distinctions enjoyed by them, had made 
the firm resolve, which she even commenced to put 
into execution, to compass the fall of the more 
prominent Jews, and obtain the banishment of the 
whole of the Jewish population from Spain. She 
made no secret of her aversion to the Jews, but, on 
the contrary, expressed it openly. For this reason, 
it is stated, the Jewish courtiers took up a position 
of antagonism to the queen, and, on their part, lost 
no opportunity of increasing Don Pedro's dislike 
for her. If Blanche de Bourbon really fostered such 
anti-Jewish feelings, and circumstances certainly 
seem to bear out this view, then the Jews were com- 
pelled in self-defense to prevent the queen from 
acquiring any ascendency, declare themselves for 
the Padilla party, and support it with all the means 
in their power. Dissension and civil war grew out 
of this unhappy relation of the king to his scarcely 
recognized consort. Albuquerque, who was first 
opposed to the queen, and then permitted himself to 
be won over to her side, fell into disgrace, and 
Samuel Abulafia succeeded him as the most trusted 
of the king's counselors. Whenever the court 


moved, Samuel, with other eminent grandees, was 
in attendance on the king. 

One day Don Pedro's enemies, at their head his 
bastard brothers, succeeded in decoying him, with a 
few of his followers, into the fortress of Toro. His 
companions, among whom was Samuel Abulafia, 
were thrown into prison, and the king himself was 
placed under restraint (1354). Whilst a few of 
the loyal grandees and even the Grand Master of 
Calatrava were executed by the conspirators, the 
favorite Samuel was, strange to say, spared. Later 
on he succeeded in escaping with the king. Having 
shared his royal master's misfortune, he rose still 
higher in his favor, and the esteem in which he was 
held by the king was largely increased by his suc- 
cessful administration of the finances, which he had 
managed so as to accumulate a large reserve, of 
which few of Don Pedro's predecessors had been 
able to boast. The treacherous seizure of the king 
at Toro formed a turning point in his reign. Out 
of it grew a fierce civil war in Castile, which Don 
Pedro carried on with great cruelty. In this, how- 
ever, the Jewish courtiers had no hand ; even the 
enemies of the Jews do not charge the Jewish min- 
ister with any responsibility for Don Pedro's exces- 
ses. The bastard brothers and their adherents 
endeavored to seize the chief town, Toledo. Here 
Don Pedro had numerous partisans, amongst them 
the whole of the Jewish community, and they con- 
tested the entrance of the brothers. One of the 
gates was, however, secretly opened to them by 
their friends, and they immediately attacked the 
quarters in which the Jews lived in large numbers. 
In Alcana street they put to the sword nearly 
12,000 people, men and women, old and young. 
But in the inner town they failed to make any 
impression, the Jews having barricaded the gates and 
manned the walls, together with several noblemen 
belonging to the king's party (May, 1355). A few 


days later Don Pedro entered Toledo. By his 
adherents in the city he was received with enthusi- 
asm, but he dealt out severe retribution to all who 
had assisted his brothers. 

Samuel Abulafia, by the wisdom of his counsels, 
his able financial administration, and his zeal for the 
cause of Maria de Padilla, continued to rise in the 
favor of the king. His power was greater than that 
of the grandees of the realm. His wealth was 
princely, and eighty black slaves ser\'ed in his palace. 
He seems to have lacked the generosity which would 
have suggested employing some portion of his 
power and prosperity for the permanent benefit of 
his race and religion. He certainly "sought to pro- 
mote the welfare of his people," as an inscription 
tells us ; but he failed to understand in what this 
welfare consisted. Against injustice and animosity 
he protected his brethren, promoted a few to state 
employment, and gave them opportunities for enrich- 
ing themselves, but he was far from being what 
Chasdai Ibn-Shaprut and Samuel Ibn-Nagrela had 
been to their co-religionists. Samuel Abulafia 
appears to have had little sympathy with intellectual 
aspirations, or with the promotion of Jewish science 
and poetic literature. He built synagogues for 
several of the Castilian communities, and one of 
especial magnificence at Toledo, but not a single 
establishment for the promotion of Talmudic study. 

The Abulafia synagogue at Toledo which, trans- 
formed into a church, is still one of the ornaments 
of the town, was, like most of the Spanish churches 
of that period, built partly in the Gothic, partly in 
the Moorish style. It consisted of several naves 
separated from each other by columns and arches. 
The upper part of the walls is decorated with deli- 
cately cut arabesques, within which, in white char- 
acters on a green ground, the eightieth Psalm may 
be read in Hebrew. On the north and south sides 
are inscriptions in bas-relief, reciting the merits of 


Prince Samuel Levi ben Meir. The community 
offers up its thanks to God, " who has not withdrawn 
His favor from His people, and raised up men to 
rescue them from the hands of their enemies. Even 
though there be no longer a king in Israel, God has 
permitted one of His people to find favor in the eyes 
of the king, Don Pedro, who has raised him above 
the mighty, appointed him a councilor of his realm, 
and invested him with almost royal dignities." The 
name of Don Pedro appears in large and prominent 
letters, suggesting that this prince, in intimate rela- 
tions with the Jews, belonged, one may say, to the 
synagogue. In conclusion, the wish is expressed 
that Samuel may survive the rebuilding of the 
Temple, and officiate there with his sons as chiefs of 
the people. 

This large and splendid synagogue was completed 
in the year 1357. For the following year the be- 
ginning of the Messianic period had been predicted, 
a century before, by the astronomer Abraham ben 
Chiya and the rabbi and Kabbalist Nachmani, and, 
a few decades before, by the philosopher Leon de 
Bagnols. As this prophecy was not literally fulfilled, 
many Jews began to regard the eminence attained 
by Samuel and other leading Jews as a suggestion of 
the scepter of Judah. It was- a dangerous aberration, 
whose pitfalls were fully appreciated by Nissim 
Gerundi ben Reuben (about 1340 — 1380), rabbi of 
Barcelona, the most important rabbinical authority 
of his day. Justly fearing that the belief in the 
coming of a Messiah would suffer discredit by the 
non-fulfillment of such prophecies, he preached 
against the calculation of the end of the world from 
expressions in the book of Daniel. 

Don Samuel exercised too decided an influence 
over the king to avoid making enemies. Even had 
he been a Christian, the court party would have de- 
vised schemes to bring about his fall. Attempts were 
made to stir up the Castilian population against the 


Jews, particularly against the Jewish minister, not 
only by Don Pedro's bastard brother, Don Henry, 
and Queen Blanche, but by all formerly in the king's 
service. Don Pedro Lopez de Ayala, poet, chron- 
icler, and the king's standard-bearer, has given us, 
in one of his poems, a picture of the feelings of the 
courtiers for favored Jews: "They suck the blood 
of the afflicted people ; they lap up their possessions 
with their tax-farming. Don Abraham and Don 
Samuel, with lips as sweet as honey, obtain from the 
king whatever they ask." Samuel's fall was de- 
sired by many. It is even said that some Toledo 
Jews, envious of his good fortune, charged him with 
having accumulated his enormous wealth at his 
royal master's expense. Don Pedro confiscated 
Samuel's entire fortune and that of his relatives, 
170,900 doubloons, 4,000 silver marks, 125 chests 
of cloth of gold and silver and 80 slaves from the 
minister, and 60,000 doubloons from his relatives. 
According to some writers, an extraordinary quan- 
tity of gold and silver was found buried under Sam- 
uel's house. Don Pedro ordered his former favorite 
to be imprisoned at Toledo and placed upon the 
rack at Seville, in order to force him to disclose 
further treasures. He, however, remained firm, re- 
vealed nothing, and succumbed under the torture 
(October or November, 1360). His gravestone re- 
cites in simple phrase how high his position had 
been, and how his soul, purified by torture, had 
risen to God. Concerning Don Pedro, the inscrip- 
tion has not a single condemnatory expression. 

Samuel Abulafia's death did not change the 
friendly relations between the king and the Jews. 
They remained faithful to him, and he continued to 
confer important distinctions on members of their 
body. They consequently came in for a share of 
the hatred with which the enemies of the king re- 
garded him. The king resolved to put to death his 
detested consort (1361). Whatever the character 


of the queen, whether she was a saint or the re- 
verse, whether or not she had deserved her fate, 
the method of her death must ever remain a stain 
on Don Pedro's memory. In spite of the animosity 
with which De Ayala regarded the Jews, there is no 
intimation in his chronicle that any of Don Pedro's 
Jewish favorites were concerned in this crime. It 
was reserved for a later period to invent fables 
identifying them with the king's guilt. A story was 
forged to the effect that a Jew had administered 
poison to the queen on the king's order, because 
she had insisted on the expulsion of the Jews from 
Spain. A French romance, in which an endeavor is 
made to varnish the deeds and misdeeds of the 
French adventurers who fought against Don Pedro 
and the Jews, attributes the queen's death to a 
Jewish hand. 

Don Pedro announced publicly, before the assem- 
bled cortes at Seville, that his marriage with Blanche 
of Bourbon had been illegal, inasmuch as he had 
been previously married to Maria de Padilla. He 
called witnesses, among them a few of the clergy, 
and these confirmed his statement on oath. Through 
the murder of Blanche, and its consequences, an 
opportuntity offered itself to Don Henry de Trasta- 
mara to obtain allies for the dethronement of the 
king, and of this he was not slow to avail him- 
self. The Bourbons in France and the king prom- 
ised him aid, and allowed him to enlist the wild 
lances of the so-called great or white company, 
who, at the conclusion of the war with England, 
were rendering France insecure. The pope, dis- 
pleased at the favors shown by Don Pedro to the 
Jews, also supported Don Henry, and placed the 
king of Spain under the ban. 

To invest his rebellion with a tinge of legality 
and win the feelings of the people, Don Henry 
blackened his brother's character, picturing him as 
an outcast who had forfeited the crown because he 


had allowed his states to be governed by Jews, and 
had himself become attached to them and their re- 
ligion. Don Henry carried his calumnies so far as 
to state that not only his mistress, Maria de Padilla, 
was a Jewess, but that Don Pedro himself was of 
Jewish extraction. 

With the mercenaries of the "white company," 
graceless banditti, Henry crossed the Pyrenees to 
make war on and, if possible, depose his brother. 
At the head of these French and English outlaws 
stood the foremost warrior of his time, the hero and 
knight-errant, Bertrand du Guesclin (Claquin), cele- 
brated for his deeds of daring, his ughness, and his 
eccentricity, who, like the Cid, has been glorified by 
legend. The Jews consistently cast in their fortunes 
with those of the Don Pedro party, and supported 
it with their money and their blood. They flocked 
to its standard in the field, and garrisoned the 
towns against the onslaughts of Don Henry and Du 
Guesclin. The wild mercenaries to whom they were 
opposed avenged themselves not only on the Jew- 
ish soldiers, but also on those who had not borne 

The approach of the enemy compelled Don Pedro 
to abandon Burgos, the capital of Old Castile, and 
at an assembly of the inhabitants it was prudently 
resolved not to contest Don Henry's entrance. On 
taking possession of the town, where he was first 
proclaimed king (March, 1360), Henry levied a fine 
of 50,000 doubloons on the Jewish community, and 
canceled all outstanding debts due from Christians 
to Jews. The Jews of Burgos, unable to pay this 
large contribution, were compelled to sell their 
goods and chattels, even the ornaments on the 
scrolls of the Law. Those who could not make up 
their share of the contribution were sold into slavery. 
The whole of Spain fell to the conqueror in conse- 
quence of Don Pedro's neglect to concentrate round 
himself that portion of the population on which he 


could rely, or to buy over the free lances of the 
"white company," as he had been advised. The 
gates of Toledo, the capital, were opened to the 
victor, although Don Pedro's party, to which the 
Jews belonged, strongly counseled defense. Upon 
the Toledo community Don Henry also levied a 
heavy fine for its fidelity to the legitimate king. 
Don Pedro's last refuge was Seville, which he also 

Once again fortune smiled on Don Pedro, after 
he was compelled to cross the Pyrenees as a fugi- 
tive, and leave the whole of his country in the hands 
of the enemy. The heroic Prince of Wales, called 
the Black Prince from the color of his armor, being 
in the south of France, undertook to come to the aid 
of the deposed monarch both for the sake of a legiti- 
mate cause, and in expectation of rich rewards in 
money and land. Henry de Trastamara was com- 
pelled to leave Spain (1367). The whole of the 
peninsula hailed the victor Don Pedro and his ally, 
the Black Prince, with enthusiasm, as it had pre- 
viously rejoiced at the triumph of his brother and 
the wild Constable of France, Bertrand du Gues- 
clin. Soon, however, the scene changed. The 
Black Prince left Don Pedro, and Don Henry 
returned with new levies from France. The north- 
ern towns of Spain again fell before his arms. The 
citizens of Burgos opened their gates to the con- 
queror, but the Jews remained true to the unfor- 
tunate Don Pedro. Assisted by a few loyal noble- 
men, they bravely defended the Jewry of Burgos, 
and were subdued only by the superior strength of 
the enemy. They obtained a favorable capitulation, 
providing for their undisputed continuance in the 
town, but they were forced to pay a war indemnity 
of one million maravedis. 

This time the Christian population was desirous 
of profiting by the revolt against Don Pedro. The 
cortes of Burgos represented to Henry that the 


Jews, having been favorites and officials under the 
former king, were largely responsible for the civil 
war, and that he should sanction a law to exclude 
them in future from all state employment, including 
the post of physician to the king or queen, and also 
from the right of farming taxes. To this Don 
Henry replied that such a practice had not been 
countenanced by any former king of Castile. He 
would, however, not consult with the Jews at his 
court, nor permit them the exercise of functions 
which might prove detrimental to the country. 
From this it is evident that Henry had no particular 
aversion to the Jews. Possibly, he feared that by 
oppressing them he might drive them to acts of 

Don Pedro still counted many adherents in the 
country. Most of the Jewish communities remained 
true to him, and Jews served in his army, and fought 
against the usurper for the king, who to the last 
treated them with special favor. Even when in 
despair he was obliged to call to his assistance the 
Mahometan king of Granada, he impressed upon 
that monarch the duty of protecting the Jews. Not- 
withstanding this, the Jews endured indescribable 
sufferings at the hands of both friend and foe. Don 
Pedro being entirely dependent on the auxiliaries 
of the Black Prince and on those of the Mahometan 
king, his wishes with respect to the Jews were not 
regarded. The community of Villadiego, celebrated 
for its benevolence and the promotion of learning, 
was utterly destroyed by the English. The same 
evil fortune befell Aguilar and other communities. 
The inhabitants of Valladolid, who paid allegiance 
to Don Henry, plundered the Jews, demolished 
their eight synagogues, despoiled them of their 
treasures, and tore up the sacred writings. A period 
of shocking degeneracy followed. Wherever Don 
Henry came, he laid the Jews under heavy contri- 
butions, precipitating them into poverty, and leaving 


them nothing but their lives. The Mahometan king, 
Don Pedro's ally, carried three hundred Jewish 
families as prisoners from Jaen to Granada. Still 
worse was the treatment of the violent Du Guesclin. 
A prey to French Jew-hatred, he could not look 
upon Jews as his equals in party strife and war, 
but only as slaves who had dared draw the sword 
against their masters. The misery was so great 
at this time that many Jews became converts to 

The community of Toledo suffered most severely. 
In emulation of Don Pedro's Christian adherents, 
they made the greatest sacrifices for the defense of 
the town, and endured a long and frightful siege. 
The famine during the investment was so great that 
the unfortunates consumed, not only the parchment 
of the La^\, but even the flesh of their own chil- 
dren. Through hunger and war the greater portion 
of the Toledo community perished — according to 
some 8,000 persons, according to others more than 
10,000. At last, at Montiel, Don Henry defeated 
his brother, who had been abandoned by all his 
partisans (14th March, 1369). Don Pedro's end was 
tragic. When the brothers met, Henry is said to 
have hurled these insulting words in his face : 
" Where is the Jew, the son of a harlot, who calls 
himself king of Castile?" They then closed in a 
struggle. Don Pedro was overcome, and beheaded 
by his brother's general, Du Guesclin. Pope Urban 
V could not contain his delight on hearing the news 
of Don Pedro's death. " The church must rejoice," 
he wrote, "at the death of such a tyrant, a rebel 
against the church, and a favorer of the Jews and 
Saracens. The righteous exult in retribution." The 
humiliation and abasement of the Spanish Jews, 
which the papacy had so long failed to accomplish, 
was obtained unexpectedly by the civil war in Castile. 
At Montiel they suffered a defeat pregnant with 
consequences fatal to their future. 


Had a traveler, like Benjamin of Tudela, journeyed 
through Europe in the latter half of the fourteenth 
century, with the object of visiting, enumerating, 
and describing the various Jewish communities, he 
would have had a dismal picture to give us. From 
the Pillars of Hercules and the Atlantic Ocean to 
the banks of the Oder or the Vistula, he would have 
found in many districts no Jews at all, and elsewhere 
only very small, poverty-stricken, wretched com- 
munities, still bleeding from the wounds inflicted 
by the plague-maddened populace. According to 
human calculation, the destruction of the Jews in 
western and central Europe was imminent. Those 
who had survived the pitiless massacre, or been 
spared a desperate suicide, had lost courage. Com- 
munal ties were for the most part rent asunder. The 
recollection of the scenes of horror through which 
they had passed long agitated the small number 
of surviving Jews, and left them no hope of better 
times. Lord Byron's elegiac lines — 

" The wild dove hath her nest, the fox his cave. 
Mankind their country — Israel but the g^ave," 

are applicable to the whole of the mediaeval history 
of the Jews, but to no period more than to this. 
Western and central Europe had become for the 
descendants of the patriarchs and the prophets one 
vast grave, which insatiably demanded new victims. 
It is remarkable that the Jews had become indis- 
pensable to the Christian population, in spite of the 
venomous hatred with which the latter regarded 
them. Not only princes, but cities, and even the 
clergy, had a mania for "possessing Jews." A few 
years after the terrible frenzy which followed the 
Black Death, German citizens and their magistrates 
hastened to re-admit the Jews ; they soon forgot 
their vow, that for a hundred or two hundred years 
no Jew should dwell within their walls. The bishop 
of Augsburg applied to Emperor Charles IV for the 


privilege " to receive and harbor Jews." The elec- 
tors, ecclesiastical as well as secular, were bent upon 
curtailing the exclusive right of the German em- 
peror to possess serfs of the chamber (servi camerae), 
and upon acquiring the same right for themselves. 
Gerlach, archbishop of Mayence, especially exerted 
himself to wrest this privilege from Emperor Charles 
IV, his success being to no small extent due to 
the desire of the emperor to retain his popularity 
amongst the electors. At an imperial Diet held at 
Nuremberg in November, 1355, where a kind of 
German constitution, known as the "Golden Bull," 
was promulgated, the emperor conferred on the 
electors, in addition to the right of discovery of 
metal and salt mines, the privilege to hold Jews ; 
that is to say, he yielded to them this source of rev- 
enue in addition to such sources as deposits of metal 
and salt. But it was only to the electors that the 
emperor conceded this right ; he retained his rights 
over the "servi camerae" living under the rule of 
the minor princes and in cities. The archiepiscopal 
elector of Mayence lost no time in utilizing the new 
privilege, and immediately employed a Jew to obtain 
others for him. Thus the Jews were at once repelled 
and attracted, shunned and courted, outlawed and 
flattered. They were well aware that it was not for 
their own sake that they were tolerated, but solely 
on account of the advantages they afforded the 
authorities and the population. How, then, could 
they be expected not to devote themselves to money- 
making, the sole means by which they were enabled 
to drag out a miserable existence ? 

In France, as in Germany, financial considerations 
induced the rulers to consent to the re-admission of 
the Jews. The embarrassments resulting from fre- 
quent wars with England, particularly felt after the 
captivity of King John (September, 1356), threatened 
to reduce this chivalrous land to the condition of a 
province of the English crown. Money especially 


was wanting. Even to ransom the imprisoned king 
the assembled States-General did not vote supplies, 
or they burdened their grant with heavy conditions. 
The third estate rose in rebellion, and encouraged 
the peasants to throw off the yoke of the nobles. 
Anarchy reigned throughout the country. At this 
juncture the Jews, with their financial skill, appeared 
to the dauphin Charles, who acted as regent during 
the captivity of the king, as providential deliverers 
of the state. A clever Jew, Manessier (Manecier) 
de Vesoul, actively negotiated the return of the Jews 
to France, whence they had been so frequently 
banished. The dauphin-regent had granted per- 
mission to a few Jews to return, but if the impover- 
ished state or court was to reap any real benefit 
from such return, it was necessary that it should 
take place on a large scale. Hence, the plan which 
Manessier submitted to the prince was approved in 
every detail, and the return of the Jews for twenty 
years was authorized under the most favorable con- 
ditions. Neither the Jews nor their representative, 
Manessier, cared to take advantage of so important 
an offer without the consent of the imprisoned king. 
The plan was accordingly submitted to him for con- 
firmation. At the instance of Manessier de Vesoul, 
the Jews at the same time laid before the king a 
memorial setting forth that they had been unjustly 
expelled from France, and that they could not for- 
get the land of their birth. The imprisoned monarch 
then issued a decree (March, 1360), by which, with 
the consent of the higher and lower clergy, the 
higher and lower nobility, and the third estate, per- 
mission was granted to all Jews to enter France 
and reside there for twenty years. They were 
allowed to take up their abode in any part of the 
country, in large and small towns, villages and 
hamlets, and to possess, not only houses, but also 

The head of every Jewish family was, however. 


compelled, on entering the country, to pay a sum 
of fourteen florins (florins de Florence) for himself, 
and one florin for each child or other member of 
his family ; besides this, he became liable to an 
annual Jew tax of seven florins, and one for each 
individual of his household. On the other hand, the 
emigrants were to enjoy extensive privileges. They 
were not amenable to the jurisdiction of the ordinary 
courts or officials, but had a special justiciary in the 
person of Count d'Etampes, a prince of the blood 
royal, who acted as their protector (gardien, con- 
servateur), and whose duty it was to appoint inves- 
tigating judges and commissioners, and to safeguard 
the interests of the community when endangered. 
Cases of misdemeanor and crime amongst them- 
selves were to be tried by two rabbis and four 
assessors. From the decisions of this tribunal there 
was no appeal. The property of the convicted 
Jewish criminal, however, became forfeited to the 
king, to whom, in addition, the rabbis had to pay 
the sum of one hundred florins. For past misde- 
meanors and crimes the king granted them a com- 
plete amnesty. They were protected against the 
violence of the nobles and the petty annoyances of 
the clergy. They could not be forced to attend 
Christian services or discourses. Their furniture, 
cattle, and stores of grain and wine, as well as their 
sacred books, not merely the Bible, but copies of 
the Talmud also, were to be guaranteed against con- 
fiscation, so that the public burning of the Talmud 
at Paris could not be repeated. The amplest pro- 
tection was given their trade. They were allowed 
to charge 80 per cent interest (4 deniers on the 
livre) on loans, and to take pledges, their rights 
upon which were safeguarded by a fence of laws. 
Manessier de Vesoul himself, the active and zealous 
negotiator of these privileges, was appointed to a 
high position at court. He became receiver general 
(procureur or receveur-general),and in this capacity 


was responsible for the punctual payment of the 
Jew taxes, his commission being nearly 14 per cent. 
The result of the granting of these privileges was 
that the Jews entered France in large numbers, even 
foreigners being permitted to settle there, or take 
up a more or less protracted residence. 

The extensive privileges granted to the Jews 
excited envy. The Christian physicians, exposed to 
the competition of Jewish doctors, complained that 
the latter had not passed a public examination, and 
denounced them as charlatans. The judges and 
officials, without power over the Jews and having no 
opportunity for extorting money from them, com- 
plained that they abused their privileges. The 
clergy, indignant at the favored position of the Jews, 
but having no real grievance, complained that they 
no longer wore the prescribed badge. The feeble 
king allowed an order to be extorted from him, to 
some extent in contradiction of his own decree, by 
which only such Jews were to be permitted to prac- 
tice medicine as had passed an examination, and all 
Jews, not excepting those even who enjoyed especial 
privileges (Manessier and his family), were to wear 
a red and white wheel-shaped badge (rouelle) of the 
size of the royal seal. Finally the Jews were re-com- 
mitted to the jurisdiction of the ordinary courts, and 
the earlier arrangements annulled. 

As soon as the politic dauphin ascended the 
throne, under the title of Charles V, and adopted a 
strict system of government, to deliver himself from 
dependence on the States-General (May, 1364), he 
proceeded to assure himself of the sources of 
revenue possessed by the Jews. He restored the 
privileges partly abolished by his father, lengthened 
the period of residence by six years, and secretly 
granted permission to Hebrew money dealers to 
exceed the charge of 80 per cent on loans. At the 
instance of Manessier de Vesoul, always zealous 
in the interests of his co-religionists, the Jews were 


again withdrawn from the jurisdiction of the ordi- 
nary tribunals, and committed to the care of their 
official protector, Count d' Etampes. The clergy, 
whose hatred of the Jews bordered on inhumanity, 
were rendered powerless. In the south of France, 
the heads of the church had threatened with excom- 
munication any Christians who should trade with 
Jews, or provide them with fire, water, bread, or 
wine, and by this means, had so stirred up the 
fanaticism of the people, that the lives and prop- 
erty of the Jews were imperiled. To counteract 
this, the governor of Languedoc issued, in the name 
of the king, an ordinance informing the officials, 
both lay and ecclesiastical, that all who exhibited 
hostility toward the Jews would be unsparingly 
punished in person and substance. 

During the reign of Charles V (1364 — 1380), 
then, the condition of the Jews was at least endur- 
able. Manessier remained receiver general of the 
Jew taxes for the north of France (Langue d'Oyl), 
and the same functions were discharged by Denis 
Quinon in Languedoc. On the complaint of the 
latter that a few Jewish converts, in conjunction 
with the Christian clergy, had forced their former 
brethren to attend the churches to hear sermons, 
the king issued a rescript (March, 1368) severely 
prohibiting all such unseemly compulsion. Sub- 
sequently, Charles prolonged the period for remain- 
ing in the country by ten years, and later on by six 
more. All this was brought about by the indefatig- 
able Manessier (1374). His zeal in the Jewish 
cause and the advantages the king derived from his 
exertions were rewarded by the exemption of him- 
self and his family from every kind of tax, contri- 
bution and service to the crown (1375). 

Although the German and French Jews appeared 
to revive after their dreadful sufferings, it was only 
a material revival ; their spirit remained dead. Their 
intellectual powers had disappeared. In France, 


where, during more than two centuries, from Rashi 
to the last of the Tossafists, the study of the Talmud 
had been carried to its most flourishing point, and 
where remarkable acuteness and intellectual depth 
had been developed, the new emigrants exhibited so 
astonishing an ignorance that they were obliged to 
commence their studies anew. The indulgences of 
the kings, John and Charles, certainly spoke of 
rabbis who should be invested with authority to try 
Jewish criminals ; but there was not a single pro- 
found Talmudist among them ; indeed, according to 
the avowal of contemporary writers, not more than 
five of even mediocre attainments. The only devotee 
of Talmudical study, Mattathiah ben Joseph Provenci, 
has left nothing in writing to testify to his ability. 
Held in such esteem by Charles V that he and his 
family were exempted from wearing the distinctive 
badges prescribed by law, and apparently related to 
the receiver general, Manessier de Vesoul, Mata- 
thiah was in the best position to deal with the pre- 
vailing ignorance. He re-established a college at 
Paris, assembled pupils, expounded the Talmud 
to them, ordained them to rabbinical offices, and 
caused copies of the Talmud to be written. In 
consequence of his energy and his comparatively 
great learning, he was chosen by the newly estab- 
lished French communities to the office of chief 
rabbi and chief justice in civil and penal cases, his 
appointment being confirmed by the king. His 
school had to supply the communities with rabbis, 
but his pupils enriched rabbinical literature by their 
contributions as little as he himself Even Provence, 
once so fruitful of Jewish literature, had become 
intellectually impoverished. 

In Germany, where the rabbis had once been so 
proud of their traditional knowledge, the Black 
Death, with its attendant persecutions and banish- 
ments, had so thinned the ranks of the Jews that 
extraordinary intellectual decay had set in. The 


illiterate and the superficial, in the absence of better 
men, were inducted into rabbinical offices. This 
mischievous practice was vigorously opposed by 
Meir ben Baruch Halevi, a rabbi, who, in his time, 
passed for a great authority in Germany (1370 — 
1390). Rabbi at Vienna, as his father had been 
before him, Meir Halevi (Segal) ordered that no 
Talmudical student should exercise rabbinical func- 
tions unless authorized by a rabbi of standing. 
Until then it had been the practice for anyone who 
felt able and willing to assume the rabbinical office 
without further ceremony, or, if he perchance settled 
in the neighborhood of his teacher, to obtain per- 
mission from him. As from the time of Gershom of 
Mayence there had always been great Talmudists 
in Germany, public opinion counteracted the abuse 
of this liberty ; for had an unqualified person arro- 
gated to himself the exercise of rabbinical functions, 
he would have incurred general derision and con- 
tempt. After the Black Death, however, this deter- 
rent lost much of its force through the scarcity of 
Talmudists. The order of Meir of Vienna, that 
every rabbi should be ordained, that he should earn 
the title (Morenu), and that, without such prepara- 
tion, he should be precluded from dealing with matri- 
monial matters, marriages and divorces, was dictated 
by the exigencies of the times, not the presumptu- 
ousness of its author. The insignificance of even 
the most respected of the German rabbis of this 
period is apparent from the fact that not one of them 
has left any important Talmudical work ; that, on 
the contrary, they all pursued a course productive 
of mental stagnation. Meir Halevi, his colleague 
Abraham Klausner, and Shalom, of Austria, rabbi 
at Neustadt, near Vienna, devoted themselves 
exclusively to writing down and perpetuating the 
customs of the communities (Minhagim), to which, 
formerly, but very little attention had been given. 
They and their disciples, Isaac Tyrnau of Hungary, 


and Jacob Molin (Maharil) have left behind them 
nothing but such insipid compilations. If the 
Austrian school, which at this time preponderated, 
was so wanting in intellectuality, how much more 
the Rhenish, from which only names have come 
down to us. 

Through the disasters that resulted from the 
Black Death, the memories of old times had become 
so obliterated that the Rhenish rabbis found them- 
selves compelled, in consequence of differences of 
opinion on points of marriage law, to convene a 
synod, exclusively for the purpose of restoring old 
regulations. At the meeting at Mayence (15th 
Ab — 5th August, 1 381) a few of the rabbis, together 
with some of the communal leaders, renewed the 
old decisions of Speyer, Worms and Mayence 
(Tekanoth Shum) ; as, for instance, that the childless 
widow should be released, without extortion or 
delay, from the obligation of marrying her brother- 
in-law, and should receive a definite portion of the 
property left by her husband. Among the rabbis 
who took part in this synod there is not one name 
of note. 



The Jews of Spain after the Civil War — ^Joseph Pichon and Samuel 
Abrabanel — The Apostates : John of ValladoUd — Menachem ben 
Zerach, Chasdai Crescas, and Isaac ben Sheshet — Chayim Galli- 
papa and his Innovations — Prevot Aubriot and the Jews of 
Paris — The French Rabbinate — Revival of Jewish Influence in 
Spain — The Jews of Portugal — The Jewish Statesmen, David 
and Judah Negro — Rabbis and Clergy — Persecutions in Germany 
and Spain — The First Germs of the Inquisition — Second Expul- 
sion of the Jews from France — The Convert, Pessach-Peter — 
Lipmann of Miihlhausen. 

1369 — 1380 c. E. 

The heart of the Jewish race had become not 
less crippled and sickly than its members. In Spain 
disintegrating forces were at work on the firm 
nucleus of Judaism, which had so long defied the 
corroding influences of ecclesiastical and civil ani- 
mosity. The prince, whom the Jews at the dictates 
of their loyalty had so sturdily resisted, against 
whom they had even taken up arms ; the bastard, 
Don Henry de Trastamara ; the rebel who had 
brought civil war upon his native land, and flooded 
it with a marauding soldiery ; the fratricide, who had 
burst the bonds alike of nature and law, had, after 
the victory of Montiel, seized the scepter with his 
blood-stained hands, and placed the stolen crown of 
Castile on his guilty head. Of the large Jewish 
population, a considerable proportion had, during 
the protracted and embittered civil war, met death 
on the field of battle, in the beleaguered towns, and, 
armed and unarmed alike, at the swords of the 
mercenaries of the "white company." 

The Jewish community of Toledo, the Castilian 
capital — the "Crown of Israel" of the Middle Ages, 
and, in a measure, the Jerusalem of the Occident — • 


did not number, after the raising of the siege, as 
many hundreds of Jews as previously thousands. The 
remainder of the Jews of Castile had been reduced 
to beggary by the depredations and confiscations of 
friend and foe. Not a few, in their despair, had 
thrown themselves into the arms of Christianity. A 
striking picture of the unhappy condition of the 
Castilian communities at this period is furnished by 
a contemporary writer, Samuel ^ar^a : " In truth, 
plunderers followed on plunderers, money vanished 
from the purse, souls from the bodies ; all the pre- 
cursory sufferings of the Messianic period arrived 
— but the Redeemer came not! " 

After Don Henry's victory, the Jews had good 
reason to tremble. One pretext for making war on 
his brother was the favor shown by Don Pedro to 
Jews. Now he had become the arbiter of their 
destinies. Would he not, like another Vespasian 
or Hadrian, place his foot on the necks of the van- 
quished? The gloomiest of their anticipations, how- 
ever, were not realized. Don Henry II was as little 
able to dispense with the Jews as his predecessors, 
or the French and German princes. Jews were the 
only financiers able to keep the state exchequer in 
prosperity and order, and for this purpose Don 
Henry stood in need of them more than ever. 
During the war he had incurred debts for the pay- 
ment of the troops with which Du Guesclin had 
assisted him, and for help received in other quarters 
he had made promises which had to be redeemed. 
The countr}' had become impoverished by the pro- 
tracted war. Who was to procure the necessary 
sums, and provide for the systematic collection of 
the taxes, if not the Jews ? Henry was not blind to 
the merits of the Jews exemplified in their constancy 
to his brother. Instead of punishing the conquered, 
he appreciated their fidelity, saying : " Such subjects 
a king must love and reward, because they main- 
tained proper loyalty to their conquered king unto 
death, and did not surrender to the victor." 


Don Henry, then, was guilty of the conduct which, 
in the case of his brother, he branded as a crime in 
the eyes of all Christendom ; he employed able Jews 
in the service of the state, confiding to them the 
finances in particular. Two Jews from Seville, Don 
Joseph Pichon and Don Samuel Abrabanel, he ap- 
pointed to important posts, the former as receiver 
general of taxes, and Almoxarif to the king, by 
whom he was held in high esteem. Other Jews, 
distinguished for their ability or their wealth, had 
access to Don Henry's court. 

If the king bore the Jews no grudge for the part 
they had taken in the war against him, the general 
population was not so magnanimous. The nobility 
and the commonalty could not forgive their having 
confronted them as foes in the besieged towns and 
on the open battle-fields. A passion for venge- 
ance, linked with the usual Jew-hatred, blinded 
them to the benefits which the Jews contributed 
to the welfare of the state, and their only thought 
was how to gratify their resentment. The Jews, 
being the vanquished, ought, as they thought, to 
be reduced to a kind of serfdom. The hostile 
feeling of the populace manifested itself on the 
assembling of the first- cortes at Toro (1371). 
Here the enemies of the Jews opened the attack. 
The cortes expressed to the king their displeasure 
that this "evil, audacious race," these enemies 
of God and Christendom, were employed in 
"high offices " at court and by the grandees of 
the realm, and that the farming of the taxes was 
confided to them, by which means feeble Christians 
were held in subjection and fear. The cortes ac- 
cordingly made explicit demands upon the crown 
with respect to the Jews. From that time forward 
they were not to be eligible for any kind of state 
employment; they were to live in Jewish quarters 
separated from the Christian population, be forced to 
wear Jew-badges, be prohibited from appearing in 


public in rich apparel, from riding on mules, and from 
bearing Christian names. To Don Henry these de- 
mands were very unwelcome, but he dared not re- 
fuse some concessions. The majority he dismissed 
with the remark that in his treatment of Jews he only 
followed the example of his ancestors, especially 
that of his father, Alfonso XI. The two restrictions 
conceded were, if not of material significance, yet 
calculated to have a sinister effect. These were 
that the Castilian Jews should don the degrading 
badges, and give up their Spanish names. The 
pride of the Jews, equal to that of the grandees and 
the hidalgos, was deeply wounded. A century and 
a half had elapsed since the canonical law concern- 
ing the Jew-badge, the outcome of papal intolerance 
and arrogance, had been promulgated. During the 
whole of that period the Jews of Castile had been 
able to prevent its application to themselves, but 
now they also were to be compelled to wear the 
stigma on their garments. They who had been ac- 
customed to hold their heads high, and rejoice in 
sounding titles, were, like the German Jews, to slink 
along with downcast eyes, and be called by their 
Oriental names. They could not accustom them- 
selves to this humiliating" situation. 

In consequence of an outcry made by some of his 
subjects, who had been ruined by loans from Jewish 
creditors, and complained of usurious interest, Don 
Henry made encroachments upon their private 
rights. He decided that if the Christian debtors 
discharged their obligations within a short space of 
time, they need refund only two-thirds of the prin- 
cipal borrowed. 

The misery resulting from the civil war and the 
new restrictions exercised a depressing effect on the 
Castilian Jews. Their most prominent men, those 
who had access to court, and possessed wealth and 
influence, especially Samuel Abrabanel, exerted 
themselves to remedy the gloomy state of affairs. 


They particularly endeavored to restore the abased, 
impoverished, and disorganized community of To- 
ledo ; but it was beyond their power to revive the 
scholarly culture and intellectual distinction to which 
the Toledo community had been as much indebted 
for its leading position as to the prosperity of its 
members. The unhappy war, and the evils follow- 
ing in its trail, had stunted the Jewish mind, and 
diverted it from intellectual to material interests. 
Disorganization proceeded with great strides. In- 
difference to scientific work resulted in so general 
an ignorance, that what formerly every tyro was fa- 
miliar with now passed for transcendent wisdom. 
We have an example of the mawkishness to which 
the new Hebrew poetry had fallen in the verses of 
the poetaster Zarak (Zerach) Barfat, who, in a poet- 
ical paraphrase of the book of Job, completely mar- 
red the beauties of that work of art. Just at this 
period men of learning and ability were urgently 
required, for representatives of Christianity began 
to make earnest and energetic attacks on Judaism 
to obtain converts from amongst its adherents. 

Don Henry had much to thank the clergy for ; 
they had sanctified his usurpation, and acquiesced 
in his arrogated succession. From gratitude and a 
false conception of religiousness, he conceded much 
to them. At his command, Jews were again forced 
to take part in religious debates, in which there was 
much to lose and nothing to gain. 

Two baptized Jews received from the king the 
privilege of holding religious discussions in every 
province and town of Castile, which they might com- 
pel Jews to attend. 

One of these apostates was John of Valladolid. 
At Burgos the discussion took place before Arch- 
bishop Gomez of Toledo. At Avila the whole com- 
munity was compelled to repair to the great church 
(1375), where the debate was carried on in the 
presence of many Christians and Mahometans. 


Moses Cohen de Tordesillas, who was as familiar 
with Christian as with Jewish theological authorities, 
appeared on behalf of the Jews. He entered upon 
his dangerous enterprise with trepidation, for he had 
had an opportunity to form an estimate of Christian 
charity. During the civil war, Christian marauders 
had robbed him of all his possessions, and had even 
personally ill-used him in order to force him to em- 
brace Christianity. All these trials he had suffered 
with the courage of strong convictions, but he had 
become so poverty-stricken that he had to accept 
support from the community of Avila. 

Moses de Tordesillas did not find his part in the 
discussion too difficult. The apostate John of Valla- 
dolid laid stress on the proposition that the dogmas 
of Christianity — the Messianic claim, the Divinity 
and Incarnation of Jesus, the Trinity, and the Vir- 
ginity of the " Mother of God" — could be demon- 
strated from the Old Testament. It was consequently 
not difficult for his Jewish opponent to confute his 
arguments. After four debates John was obliged to 
abandon his task, vanquished. This, however, did 
not conclude the matter. A pupil of the apostate, 
Abner-Alfonso, appeared soon after, and challenged 
Moses de Tordesillas to a debate on the Talmud 
and Agadic texts. In case of refusal, he threatened 
publicly to impeach the Talmud as the source of 
anti-Christian sentiments. Moses was again forced 
to meet a series of silly assertions and charges, and 
to drag himself through the thorny length of another 
controversy. By the advice of the Avila community, 
he committed to writing the principal arguments 
used in these discussions under the title, " Ezer ha- 
Emuna," and sent them to his Toledan brethren for 
use under similar circumstances. Moses de Torde- 
sillas' disputations, notwithstanding the difficulties of 
his position, were characterized by calmness and 
equanimity. Not a word of abuse or invective 
escaped him, and he counseled his Toledo brethren 


not to permit themselves to be tempted by their zeal 
to vexatious expressions, "for it is a fact," he said, 
" that the Christians possess the power and disposi- 
tion to silence truth by force." Toledo, formerly 
recognized as the teacher of Jewry, was now 
obliged to play the part of pupil, and follow formu- 
laries in the disputations to which its members might 
be invited. 

As if the more far-seeing Jews had anticipated 
the approach of the gloomiest era of Spanish Juda- 
ism, they provided their co-religionists for the coming 
struggle with casque and buckler, so that the inexor- 
able foe might not surprise them unarmed. A 
Spanish Jew, contemporary with Moses de Tordesil- 
las, compiled a polemical work, more exhaustive 
than its predecessor, defending Judaism and attack- 
ing Christianity. Shem-Tob ben Isaac Shaprut of 
Tudela had at an early age been forced into the 
position of a defender of his brethren against pro- 
selytizing attempts. Cardinal Don Pedro de Luna, 
who later on, as Pope Benedict XIII, brought so 
much confusion into the church and evil on the Jews, 
was possessed of a perfect mania for conversion and 
religious controversy. At Pampeluna he summoned 
Shem-Tob ben Shaprut to a debate on original sin 
and salvation, and the latter was compelled to sus- 
tain his part in the presence of bishops and learned 
prelates. The war between England and Castile, 
the scene of which was Navarre, obliged Shem-Tob 
ben Shaprut, with many other Jews, to quit the 
country (1378) and settle in the neighboring town 
of Tarazona, in Aragon. Observing here that Jews 
of the stamp of John de Valladolid were extremely 
zealous in the promotion of religious discussions, the 
conversion of weaklings, and the maligning of Jewish 
literature, he published (1380) a comprehensive work 
("Eben Bochan"), unmasking the speciousness of 
the arguments deduced by Christian controversial- 
ists from the Bible and the Talmud. The work is 


written in the form of a discussion between a 
believer in the unity of God and a Trinitarian. To 
enable the Jews to use weapons out of the Christian 
armory, Shem-Tob ben Shaprut translated into 
Hebrew extracts from the four Gospels, with incisive 
commentaries. Subsequently the anti-Jewish work 
of the apostate Abner-Alfonso fell into his hands, 
and he refuted it, argument by argument. 

These polemical works did not prove of far- 
reaching importance ; at any rate, their effect was 
not what their authors had expected. The Jews of 
Spain did not so much stand in need of writings as 
of men of force of character, commanding person- 
ality and dignity, able to raise, if not the masses, at 
least the half-educated classes, and imbue them with 
somewhat of their own spirit. The ban against sci- 
entific studies, pronounced by excessive fear and 
extreme religiousness, notably avenged itself. It 
dwarfed the intelligence of the people, and deprived 
them of that capacity for appreciating the signs of 
the times which only a liberal education can develop. 
Even faith suffered from this want of culture in the 
rising generation. Only one Jew of profound phil- 
osophic genius stands out prominently in the his- 
tory of this period, and the influence he exerted over 
a rather small circle was due less to his superior 
intelligence than to his position and Talmudic 
knowledge. The majority of the Spanish rabbis, 
if not actually hostile, were indifferent to the sci- 
ences, especially to religious philosophy. Only lay- 
men devoted themselves to such pursuits, and they 
were neither exhaustive in their inquiries nor crea- 
tive in their speculations. It is characteristic of this 
period that Maimuni's philosophical "Guide of the 
Perplexed" was entirely neglected, the fashion 
being to read and discuss Ibn-Ezra. The frag- 
mentary nature of the writings of this commentator, 
the ingenuity and acuteness, the disjointedness of 
thought, the variety of matter, which characterize 


his work, appealed to the shallowness of this retro- 
grade generation. Shem-Tob ben Shaprut, Samuel 
(Jarga, Joseph Tob-Elem, Ezra Gatifio, and others 
wrote super-commentaries on Ibn-Ezra's commen- 
tary on the Pentateuch. The solution of riddles 
propounded by Ibn-Ezra, and the discovery of his 
secrets, and explanations of his obscurities, seriously 
exercised the minds of large circles of students. 

The Talmud, with which the more thoughtful 
minds, prompted by a religious bias, continued to 
be engaged, fared no better than secular learning. 
Here, also, a state of stagnation, if nothing worse, had 
supervened. The rabbis of some large communities 
were not even able to discharge one of their chief 
duties, the explanation of the Talmud to their dis- 
ciples. A French Talmudist, Solomon ben Abra- 
ham Zarfati, who had settled at Majorca, could 
venture to speak slightingly of the Spanish rabbis, 
not excepting the celebrated Nissim Gerundi, and 
compare them disparagingly with the French and 
German rabbis. A measure of the average intelli- 
gence of the rabbis of this period is yielded by the 
works of Menachem ben Zerach, chief rabbi of 
Toledo, even after its misfortunes a very important 
Jewish community. 

Menachem ben Aaron ben Zerach (born 1310, 
died 1385) counted several martyrs in his family. 
His father, Aaron, was one of the unfortunates 
whom the cupidity and tyranny of a French king 
had banished. With the limited means spared by 
legalized robbery he had settled in Estella, a not 
inconsiderable Navarrese community. His father, 
mother, and four brothers perished in the massacre 
of Jews instigated by a Dominican friar. Young 
Menachem was severely wounded in this outbreak, 
and might have succumbed but for the assistance of 
a nobleman of his father's acquaintance. On his 
recovery he devoted himself daily to Talmudical 
study, and later on attended the celebrated schooj 


of the Asheride Judah of Toledo. After he had 
passed his fortieth year, Menachem ben Zerach 
became chief of an academy, the care of which was 
confided to him by the Alcala (de Henares) com- 
munity. During the civil war in Castile he was 
wounded and plundered by the lawless soldiery, 
and of his entire fortune, only his house, field, and 
collection of books remained. Don Samuel Abra- 
banel assisted him in his distress, so that he was 
enabled to recover somewhat from his misfortunes. 
Through his interposition Menachem was called 
from Alcala to assume the rabbinate of Toledo, 
where he opened an academy. As the disciple and 
successor of Jehuda Asheri, considerable Tal- 
mudical attainments were with justice expected of 
him. But he did not rise above the mediocrity of 
his times. To remedy the increasing ignorance of 
religious forms and duties, he wrote a compendium 
of theoretic and practical Judaism ("Zeda la- 
Derech," 1374), as comprehensible as it was short, 
for the use of prominent Jews, who, employed at 
court and by the grandees, had not sufficient leisure 
to search an extensive literature for instruction. 
His work is interspersed with scientific elements — 
psychological and religio-philosophical — but it is 
weak and commonplace, full of platitudes, and its 
several parts do not cohere. Even the Talmudical 
elements are neither profound nor original. The 
only redeeming feature is that it is conceived in a 
warm, sympathetic spirit, distinguishing it from the 
usually dry rabbinical disquisitions. 

Only two men of this time are raised by their 
character and learning above the dead level of pre- 
vailing mediocrity: Chasdai Crescas and Isaac ben 
Sheshet. They both lived in the kingdom of Ara- 
gon, where the Jews under Pedro IV and Juan I 
were neither so poor nor so oppressed as their breth- 
ren in Castile. Chasdai Crescas and Isaac ben She- 
shet were not sufficiently great to dominate their 


contemporaries, or prescribe their own views as 
rules of conduct; they were, however, the foci of 
large circles, and were frequently appealed to for 
final decisions on complicated and difficult questions. 
Both worked earnestly for the maintenance and 
furtherance of Judaism, for the preservation of peace 
in the communities at home and abroad, and for the 
consolation and re-animation of the broken in spirit, 
notwithstanding that their means were limited, and 
the times unpropitious. 

Chasdai ben Abraham Crescas (born 1340, died 
1410), originally of Barcelona, and subsequently of 
Saragossa, where he ended his days, did not belong 
to the class of ordained rabbis, but he had been 
educated on Talmudical lines, and was an accom- 
plished Talmudist. His wealth and his occupa- 
tions seem to have indisposed him for this honor- 
able position. Chasdai Crescas was in close relation 
with the court of Juan I, of Aragon, was frequently 
consulted on important state questions, and also had 
much intercourse with the grandees of the kingdom. 
In the views of the various schools of philosophy he 
was well versed ; the independence and depth of 
thought he evinced in dealing with them stamp him 
an original thinker. His ideas, of course, were 
largely based upon religious, or rather Jewish con- 
victions, which, however, he presented in an original 
form. Chasdai Crescas was the first to recognize 
the weak points of the prevailing Aristotelianism, 
and he attacked it with irresistible force. Of his 
youth nothing is known, and it is impossible to say 
under what influences those ripe powers of mind 
were developed which enabled him to question the 
authority not only of Maimonides and Gersonides, 
but of Aristotle himself. His ancestors were learned 
Talmudists, and his grandfather enjoyed a reputa- 
tion equal to that of the famous Asheri family. In 
Talmudical studies he was a disciple of Nissim 
Gerundi, of Barcelona. Chasdai Crescas was kind 


and gentle, a friend in need, and a faithful defender 
of the weak. During the unhappy days which broke 
upon the Jews of Spain in his lifetime, he devoted 
all his powers to the mitigation of the disasters 
which befell his brethren. 

Similar in character, but fundamentally opposed 
to him in the disposition of his mind, was his friend 
and senior, Isaac ben Sheshet Barfat (Ribash, born 
1 3 lo, died about 1 409) . A native of Barcelona, and 
having studied under Ben Adret's son and pupils, 
Isaac ben Sheshet may, in a measure, be considered 
a disciple of Ben Adret. He acquired his teacher's 
capacity for seizing the spirit of the Talmud and 
expounding it lucidly, and far surpassed him in hos- 
tility to secular studies. Ben Adret had permitted 
the circumstances of his times to extort from him 
the prohibition of such studies, as far as raw youths 
were concerned ; Ben Sheshet, in his rigid ortho- 
doxy, took the view that even mature men should 
hold aloof from them, although at that period there 
was but little fear of heresy. The physical sciences 
and philosophy, he held, should be completely 
avoided, as they were calculated to undermine the 
two essential supports of the Torah, the doctrines 
of the creation, and of a Providence ; because they 
exalted reason over faith, and generated doubts of 
miracles. In Gersonides, and even Maimuni, Ben 
Sheshet found illustrations of the pernicious effects 
of philosophic speculation. He granted that they 
were men of incomparable genius, but he insisted 
that they had been seduced by philosophy to adopt 
heterodox views, and explain certain miracles of the 
Bible rationalistically. Ben Sheshet was of high 
moral character ; his disposition was kindly, and on 
several occasions he willingly sacrificed his personal 
interests to adv^ance the common good and to pro- 
mote peace. But when he suspected the violation 
of a Talmudical precept or the non-observance of 
even an unessential custom, his mildness was imme- 
diately transformed into most obdurate severity. 


On account of his Talmudical learning, his clear, 
penetrating intellect, and his irreproachable char- 
acter, he was much sought after. The important 
community of Saragossa elected him its rabbi. 
Immediately on taking office, Isaac ben Sheshet 
gave an illustration of the tenacity with which he 
clung to the letter of the Law, even when it con- 
flicted with the spirit. He observed, with regret, 
that the practice obtained of reading the book of 
Esther on the feast of Purim in a Spanish transla- 
tion, for the benefit of the women. This practice 
had been introduced into other Spanish communi- 
ties, and was not only applauded by all men of com- 
mon sense, but had even been authorized by a few 
rabbis, who considered it unobjectionable from a 
Talmudical point of view. Ben Sheshet raised a 
cry of alarm, as if Judaism had been threatened 
with ruin. He called to his assistance the authority 
of his teacher, Nissim Gerundi, and together they 
opposed the excellent custom with sophistical argu- 
ment. They appear to have been successful in 
abolishing it. 

Still more characteristic of Isaac ben Sheshet is 
his quarrel with Chayim ben Gallipapa, a rabbi, 
stricken in years, whose opinions differed from those 
of the rabbi of Saragossa. This man (born 13 10, 
died 1380), rabbi of Huesca and Pampeluna, was a 
singular figure in the Middle Ages, whom it is dif- 
ficult to classify. Whilst the rabbis of the time, 
particularly since the rise of the Asheride teaching, 
exceeded all bounds in the imposition of burden- 
some observances, and always, in cases of doubt, 
decided in favor of their most rigorous fulfillment, 
Gallipapa took the opposite view, and maintained 
that the aim of all Talmudical exegesis should be to 
disencumber life. The times, he considered, had 
improved, and neither the ignorance of the people 
nor the fear of defection was so great as to warrant 
such severity. This principle was no mere theory 



with Gallipapa, for he followed it practically. The 
freedom he suggested concerned matters of com- 
parative insignificance, but at that time every trifle 
was regarded as important. On certain dogmas, 
also, Gallipapa held independent views. The Mes- 
sianic belief which, since the time of Maimonides, 
had become an article of faith, to deny which was 
heresy, he boldly set aside. Gallipapa considered 
that the prophecies, in Isaiah and Daniel, of the 
great prosperity of Israel in the future, had been 
fulfilled in the days of the Maccabees, and wrote a 
work on the subject. Against this hardy innovator, 
a storm naturally arose. A neighboring rabbi, 
Chasdai ben Solomon, of Tudela, a man of not over- 
fine sensibilities, denounced him to Isaac ben She- 
shet, and the latter lectured the venerable Gallipapa, 
who had sent disciples into the world, as if he had 
been a mere schoolboy. He adjured Chayim Galli- 
papa to avoid scandal and give no opportunity for 
schism amongst his brethren. The modest attempt 
at reform went no further. 

This severe tendency in matters of religion was 
the natural outcome of the prevailing spiritual needs; 
and it must be confessed that the more rigorous, the 
better it was adapted to them. Isaac ben Sheshet 
and his friend Chasdai Crescas, who, although no 
enemy of secular learning, entertained the same 
view as his colleague, and defended his orthodoxy 
on philosophic grounds, were considered, after the 
death of Nissim Gerundi, the most eminent rab- 
binical authorities of their day, not in Spain only. 
From far and near, inquiries were addressed to 
them, principally to Isaac ben Sheshet, but also to 
Chasdai Crescas. The proudest rabbis and the 
largest communities invoked their counsel, and 
were content to abide by their decisions. The 
court of Aragon also regarded them as the leaders 
of the Jewish communities, but this operated to 
their disadvantage. In consequence of the denun- 


ciation of some malevolent person, the ground of 
which is unknown, the king, Don Pedro IV, ordered 
Chasdai Crescas, Isaac ben Sheshet, his brother, 
Crescas Barfat, the aged Nissim Gerundi of Barce- 
lona, and two others, to be thrown into prison. 
After a long time, they were released on bail. We 
may believe Isaac ben Sheshet, when he assures us 
that he and his fellow-prisoners were all innocent 
of the offense or crime laid to their charge. Their 
innocence must have come to light, for they after- 
wards remained unmolested. 

The authority of Chasdai Crescas and Isaac^ben 
Sheshet was appealed to by the French communities 
to settle an important point in a dispute about the 
chief rabbinate of France. A change, largely the 
outcome of the political condition of the country, 
had come over the circumstances of these commu- 
nities. Manessier de Vesoul, the zealous defender 
and protector of his co-religionists, was dead (about 
1375 — 1378). Of his four sons — Solomon, Joseph, 
Abraham, and Haquinet — the eldest succeeded to 
his father's post of receiver general of the Jew taxes 
and political representative of the French Jews, and 
the second became a convert to Christianity. Solo- 
mon and his brothers enjoyed the same esteem at 
the royal court as their father. They were exempted 
from wearing the humiliating Jew badge, and they 
diligently cared for the interests of their brethren. 
Among Jews, however, they do not seem to have 
obtained the consideration that their father had en- 
joyed. On the death of the king, Charles V, their 
importance ceased altogether. The regent Louis, 
Duke of Anjou, confirmed, for a consideration, the 
privileges acquired by the French Jews (14th October, 
1380), and prolonged their term of sufferance in the 
land by another five years. His protection, however, 
did not reach far, or rather it involved the Jews in 
his own unpopularity. The impoverished popula- 
tion of Paris, driven to despair by burdensome taxa- 


tion, loudly and stormily demanded redress of the 
young king and the regent. Egged on by a nobility 
involved in debt, they included the Jews in their out- 
cry, and demanded that the king should expel from 
the country "these shameful usurers who have 
ruined whole families." The people did not stop 
at words; at the instigation of the nobles, they 
attacked the houses of the Jews (November i6th, 
1380), robbed the exchequer of the receiver general 
(of the Vesoul family), pillaged their dwelling-houses, 
destroyed the bonds of the debtors, appropriated 
the accumulated pledges, murdered a few Jews, and 
tore children from the arms of fleeing and weeping 
Jewish mothers to baptize them forthwith. A large 
number of Jews saved themselves by flight to the 
fort Chatelet. The regent was much irritated by 
this violent outbreak, but was unable to punish the 
offenders at once on account of the excited state of 
the people. He ordered that the Jews be re- 
instated in their homes, and the plunder restored to 
them. Few complied with the order. The prevot 
of Paris, Hugues Aubriot — a man of considerable 
energy, who had beautified and enlarged the French 
capital — also interested himself in the Jews. In 
particular, he brought about the restitution of the 
stolen and baptized children. For this he was 
violently attacked by men whose learning should 
have taught them better. Aubriot, by his orderly 
administration, had made enemies of the university 
professors and students, who denounced as criminal 
his interference for the benefit of the Jews. He 
was accused before the bishop of Paris of having 
held intercourse with Jewish women, and even of 
being a secret adherent of Judaism. He was found 
guilty of heresy and infidelity, and made to pay with 
imprisonment for his humane conduct towards the 
Jews. Not only in Paris, but also in other towns 
where the people rose against heavy taxation, Jews 
fell victims to the popular excitement. Four months 


later, similar bloody scenes were enacted in Paris 
and the provinces when the rising of the Maillotins 
(so called from the mallets with which the insurgents 
were armed) took place. For three or four days 
in succession Jews were again plundered, ill-treated, 
and murdered (March ist, 1381). The king, Charles 
VII, or rather the regent, attempted to protect the 
Jews and to obtain some indemnification of their 
losses. They were, however, unable to recover 
from the blow they had received. In these tumults 
the sons of Manessier de Vesoul appear either to 
have lost their lives, or, at any rate, their position of 

This change in the fortunes of the French Jews 
brought in its train a violent communal dispute, the 
excitement of which extended far and wide. The 
chief rabbi, Matathiah Provenci, had been gathered 
to his fathers. The communities had elected his 
eldest son, Jochanan, in his place, and the king had 
confirmed their choice. He had been in office five 
years, and was projecting the establishment of an 
academy, when a former pupil of his father, one 
Isaiah ben Abba-Mari, arrived in France from Savoy 
■with the authorization of the German chief rabbi, 
Meir ben Baruch Halevi^ granting to him alone the 
right to maintain an academy and ordain pupils as 
rabbis. Whoever exercised rabbinical functions 
without his authority and, especially, meddled with 
marriages and divorces, was threatened with excom- 
munication. All unauthorized documents were de- 
clared null and void. By virtue of his authority, 
and in consequence of Jochanan's refusal to sub- 
ordinate himself to him, Isaiah relieved him of his 
office (about 1 380 — 1 390). The Vesoul family being 
extinct or having lost prestige, Jochanan found him- 
self without influential support. Many of the French 
Jews, however, were extremely wroth at this violent, 
imperious behavior of the immigrant rabbi. They 
condemned the presumptuousness of the German 


rabbi, Meir Halevi, in treating France as though it 
were a German province, and protested against his 
dictating laws to the French communities, as it had 
always been the custom to regard each community, 
and certainly the Jews of each country, as independ- 
ent. The result was a storm of indignation, which 
increased considerably when Isaiah proceeded to 
appoint his own relatives to the various rabbinates. 
It being impossible to settle the dispute by an appeal 
to the home-authorities, Jochanan turned with his 
grievance to the two foremost representatives of 
Spanish Judaism, Chasdai Crescas and Isaac ben 
Sheshet. Both these "Catalonian grandees," as 
they were called, pronounced in favor of Jochanan. 
This decision, however, was not destined to bring 
about lasting peace, for the days of the Jews in 
France were numbered. 

The storm on this occasion arose in Spain, and 
convulsed for a time the entire Jewish race. The 
golden age of the Spanish Jews had passed away ; 
still they were more firmly established in the Penin- 
sula than in any other country. It required a series 
of violent shocks, extending over an entire century, 
to completely uproot them, whilst in France they 
were swept away by a breath, like twigs planted in 
quicksand. For the sanguinary drama which com- 
menced towards the end of the fourteenth century, 
and ended in the latter part of the fifteenth, the 
Spanish Jews were themselves largely to blame. It 
is true that the many had to suffer for the few, for 
when the enemies of the Jews complained of their 
obsequious attendance at court and on the grandees, 
of their wealth accumulated by usury, and their 
flaunting in silks and satins, blame was due only to 
a few of the most prominent, for whose follies and 
extravagances the masses were not responsible. 
Indeed, there were Jews who complained that their 
moral sense was deeply wounded by the selfishness 
and covetousness of their wealthy brethren. " For 


these troubles," says one, "the titled and wealthy 
Jews are greatly to be held responsible; their only 
consideration is for their position and money, whilst 
for their God they have no regard." In fact, the 
union that had previously been the chief source of 
strength among the Spanish Jews, was broken up. 
Jealousy and envy among the Jewish grandees had 
undermined fraternal feeling, which formerly had 
induced each to merge his interests in those of the 
community at large, and all to combine for the 
defense of each. Generosity and nobility of mind, 
once the brilliant qualities of the Spanish Jews, had 
now become almost extinct. A contemporary writer 
pictures their degeneracy in darkest hues, and if 
only one half of what he tells us is true, their decline 
must have been grave indeed. 

"The majority of wealthy Jews," says Solomon 
Alami in his "Mirror of Morals," or "Letter of 
Warning," "who are admitted to royal courts, and 
to whom the keys of public exchequers are con- 
fided, pride themselves on their dignities and wealth, 
but give no thought to the poor. They build them- 
selves palaces, drive about in splendid equipages, 
or ride on richly caparisoned mules, wear magni- 
ficent apparel, and deck their wives and daughters 
like princesses with gold,- pearls, and precious stones. 
They are indifferent to their religion, disdain 
modesty, hate manual labor, and live in idleness. 
The wealthy love dancing and gaming, dress in the 
national costume, and go about with sleek beards. 
They fill themselves with dainties, whilst scholars 
starve on bread and water. Hence, the rabbis are 
despised, for all classes prefer to have their sons 
taught the lowest of handicrafts to bringing them 
up to the study of the Law. At sermon time, the 
great resign themselves to sweet slumber, or talk 
with one another, and the preacher is frequently 
disturbed by men and women at the back of the 
synagogue. On the other hand, how devout are 


the Christians in their houses of worship ! In every 
town the noble live at variance with one another, 
and stir up discord on the most trivial questions. 
Still worse is the jealousy with which they regard 
each other; they slander one another before the 
king and the princes." 

It is certainly true that at this period secret de- 
nunciations, once almost unknown among the Jews, 
were exceedingly rife, even rabbis being occasionally 
the victims. As the aged Nissim Gerundi, Isaac ben 
Sheshet, Chasdai Crescas, and their friends were 
victimized by the conspiracy of some miserable 
calumniator, so an attempt was made to ruin the 
rabbi of Alkolea de Cinca, En-Zag Vidal de Tolosa, 
by representations to the queen of Aragon. 

The rabbis, who, with one or two assessors, con- 
stituted courts of justice for criminal cases, dealt 
severely with such traitors, and even sentenced 
them to death. In the communities of Castile, Ara- 
gon, Valencia, and Catalonia, the privilege of pass- 
ing death-sentences was of great antiquity. The 
Jewish courts required for the execution of such 
sentences special sanction from the king in a sealed 
letter (Albala, Chotham); but, if necessary, this could 
be obtained through the medium of Jewish courtiers, 
or by bribery. Such proceedings, however, only 
increased the evil they were designed to cure. The 
accused were made short work of without exhaust- 
ive inquiry, or sufficient testimony, and this naturally 
infuriated their relatives and friends. It did not un- 
frequently occur that utterances were construed as 
treasonable which had no such character. The ill- 
advised action of the Jewish court of Seville (or 
Burgos) on an unfounded charge of disloyalty to 
the community preferred against an eminent and 
beloved co-religionist was, if not the actual cause, 
at any rate the occasion of the first widespread and 
sanguinary persecution of the Jews in Spain, the 
final result being the total expulsion of the Jews 
from the Peninsula. 


Joseph Pichon, of Seville, high in favor with the 
king of Castile, Don Henry II, whose receiver 
general of taxes he had been, was accused of em- 
bezzlement by some jealous Jewish courtiers. He 
was imprisoned by the king, condemned to pay a 
fine of 40,000 doubloons, and then set free. He 
afterwards retrieved his reputation, and became 
extraordinarily popular among the Christian popula- 
tion of Seville. To avenge his wrongs, or possibly 
with a view to his own vindication, he had entangled 
his enemies in a serious accusation, when Don Henry 
died. His son, Don Juan I, was crowned at Burgos, 
the capital of Old Castile (1379). During the 
coronation festivities, a Jewish court of justice (at 
Burgos or Seville) condemned Pichon as an enemy 
to the community and a traitor (Malshim, Malsin), 
without affording him an opportunity of being heard 
in defense. Some Jews, having access to the court, 
asked permission of the young king to execute a 
dangerous member of their own body without men- 
tioning his name. Confidants of the king are said 
to have been bribed to obtain the royal signature to 
this decree. Provided with the king's warrant and 
the death sentence of the rabbinical college, Pichon's 
enemies repaired to the chief of police (Alguacil), 
Fernan Martin, and obtained his assistance at the 
execution. Early on the morning of the 2 1 st August, 
two or three Jews, together with Martin, entered 
Pichon's house whilst he was yet asleep, and awoke 
him under the pretext that his mules were to be 
seized for debt. As soon as he appeared at the 
door of his dwelling, he was arrested by the Jews 
intrusted with the carrying out of the sentence, and, 
without a word, beheaded. 

Whether Pichon had deserved death, even accord- 
ing to rabbinical law, or whether he fell a victim to 
the intrigues of his enemies, is not known. It is 
not difficult to understand that so cruel an act should 
have stirred up widespread indignation. The anger 


of the young king knew no bounds when he learnt 
that his coronation festivities had been stained with 
the murder of one who had rendered his father sub- 
stantial services, and that his own sanction had been 
surreptitiously obtained. He immediately ordered 
the execution of the Jews who had carried out the 
sentence, and of a Jewish judge of Burgos. Even 
the chief of police, Fernan Martin, was ordered to 
be put to death for the assistance he had given ; 
but at the intercession of some nobles, his life was 
spared, and his punishment commuted to the chop- 
ping off of one hand. This incident had other 
grave consequences. The king at once deprived 
the rabbis and Jewish courts of justice of jurisdic- 
tion in criminal cases, on the ground of their abuse 
of the privilege. At the first meeting of the cortes 
at Soria (1380), he made this restriction a permanent 
statute. By its terms the rabbis and communal 
leaders were thenceforth prohibited from decreeing 
punishments of death, dismemberment, or exile, and 
in criminal cases were to choose Christian judges. 
One of the reasons assigned was that, according to 
the prophets, the Jews were to be deprived of all 
power and freedom after the advent of Jesus. The 
still exasperated king then arraigned the Jews on 
other charges. He accused them particularly of 
cursing Christians and the Christian church in their 
prayers, and with receiving Mahometans, Tartars, 
and other foreign persons into the pale of Judaism, 
and having them circumcised. These alleged prac- 
tices were forbidden under heavy penalties. The 
feeling against the Jews was not limited to the king 
and the court circle. The entire population of 
Castile was roused by the apparently unjust execu- 
tion of Joseph Pichon, and by the circumstance that 
his death was not the work of irresponsible indi- 
viduals, but of the foremost leaders of the Jewish 
community. In Seville, where Pichon had been 
very popular, the fury against the Jews rose to such 


a height that, had the opportunity presented itself, 
summary vengeance would have been taken. 

Accusations against the Jews and petitions for the 
restriction of their liberties became the order of the 
day at the meetings of the cortes, as formerly at the 
councils of the Visigothic kings. The infuriated 
Don Juan acquiesced in this agitation, in so far as 
it did not tend to the detriment of the royal finances. 
At the cortes of Valladolid (1385), he granted the 
petition for the legalization of the canonical restric- 
tions, presented by the clergy, and accordingly pro- 
hibited the living together of Jews and Christians, 
and the suckling of Jewish infants by Christian 
nurses, under pain of public whipping. He also 
consented to the passing of a law excluding Jews 
(and Mahometans) from the post of treasurer to the 
king, queen, or any of the royal family. 

Curiously, it was the quarrel over the chief rabbi- 
nate of Portugal that snatched the crown of that 
country, at the moment when it was within his grasp, 
from this monarch, who cannot be said to have been 
wholly hostile to the Jews. By a treaty with King 
Ferdinand of Portugal, it had been agreed that, 
male heirs to the crown failing, he, or rather his 
second wife, the Portuguese Infanta Beatrice 
(Brites), should have the first right to the succes- 
sion. In Portugal the Jews had always been toler- 
ated, and, up to the time of their expulsion from the 
country, suffered no persecution. During the reign 
of King Ferdinand (1367 — 1383), their position was 
exceptionally happy. Since the thirteenth century 
(1274), the government of the community had been 
more completely in its own hands than in any other 
European country. Some of their peculiar institu- 
tions dated even further back. At the head of the 
Portuguese Jews was a chief rabbi (Ar-Rabbi Mor), 
possessing almost princely privileges. On account 
of the importance of the office he was always 
appointed by the king, who conferred it as a reward 


for services rendered to the crown, or to add to the 
dignity of some particular favorite. The chief rabbi 
used a special signet, administered justice in all its 
branches, and issued decrees under his own sign- 
manual with the addendum : "By the grace of my 
lord, the king, Ar-Rabbi Mor of the communities of 
Portugal and Algarve." It was his duty to make an 
annual circuit of all the Portuguese communities, to 
investigate their affairs, invite individuals to lay 
before him their grievances, even against the rabbis, 
and remedy abuses wherever they existed. On 
these journeys he was accompanied by a Jewish 
judge (Ouvidor), a chancellor (Chanceller) with his 
staff, a secretary (Escrivao), and a sheriff (Porteiro 
jurado), to carry out the sentences of his court. 
The chief rabbi or Ar-Rabbi Mor, appointed in each 
of the seven provinces of the kingdom provincial 
rabbis (Ouvidores) subject to him. These rabbis 
were established in the seven principal provincial 
Jewish centers, Santarem, Vizeu, Cavilhao, Porto, 
Torre de Montcorvo, Evora and Faro. They gov- 
erned the provincial communities, and were the 
judges of appeal for their several districts. The 
local rabbis were elected by the general body of 
contributing members of the community ; but the 
confirmation of their election and their investiture 
proceeded from the chief rabbi, under a special deed 
issued in the name of the king. The judicial au- 
thority of the rabbis extended to criminal cases, 
and they retained this privilege much longer than 
their Spanish brethren. Public documents had to be 
written in the vernacular. The Jewish form of oath 
was very simple, even in litigation with Christians ; 
it required nothing but the presence of a rabbi and 
the holding up of the Torah. 

The king, Don Ferdinand, had two Jewish favor- 
ites, who supervised his monetary affairs: Don 
Judah, his chief treasurer (Tesoreiro Mor), and Don 
David Negro, of the highly-respected Ibn-Yachya 


family, his confidant and counselor (Almoxarif). 
When this frivolous and prodigal monarch died, and 
the regency was undertaken by the queen, Leonora 
— a princess whose beauty rendered her irresistible, 
but who was hated for her faithlessness and feared for 
her vindictiveness and craft — the municipal authori- 
ties of Lisbon approached her with an urgent prayer 
for the abolition of sundry unpopular measures of the 
late king. Among other things they asked that 
Jews and Moors should no longer be allowed to hold 
public offices. Leonora craftily replied that during 
the Hfetime of the king she had exerted herself to 
procure the exclusion of Jews from public offices, 
but her representations had always been unheeded. 
Immediately after the king's death she had removed 
Judah and David Negro from the public service, and 
dismissed all the Jewish receivers of taxes. She 
nevertheless retained Judah in her immediate circle, 
anticipating that, on account of his wealth and ex- 
perience, he might prove of use to her. Leonora's 
scheme to obtain absolute authority and share the 
government with her paramour was frustrated by 
the still craftier bastard Infante Don Joao, Grand 
Master of Avis. In the art of winning public favor 
and turning it to account, Don Joao was a master, 
and he soon brought things to such a pass that the 
queen regent was forced to leave the capital. Burn- 
ing for revenge, Leonora invoked the aid of her 
son-in-law. King Don Juan of Castile, with the 
result that a sanguinary civil war was commenced. 
In opposition to the aristocratic faction, supporting 
the queen regent and the Castilians, there arose a 
popular party, which enthusiastically espoused the 
cause of Don Joao of Avis. Leonora was obliged 
to fly before the hatred of her people and take 
refuge in Santarem. Among her escort were the 
two Jewish grandees, Judah and David Negro, who 
had escaped from Lisbon in disguise. Hither came 
King Juan of Castile ; and Leonora, in order to 


be enabled to take full vengeance on her enemies, 
renounced the regency in his favor, and placed at 
his disposal all her adherents, comprising the entire 
Portuguese nobility, together with a large number 
of fortresses. The idea of the Castilian king in 
undertaking this enterprise was to unite the crowns 
of Portugal and Castile; but for the realization of 
this project a thorough understanding between 
Leonora and her son-in-law and her ungrudging 
co-operation were indispensable. This important 
harmony was disturbed by a question as to the 
appointment of a chief rabbi, and owing to this dis- 
pute their agreement was transformed into bitter 
and disastrous enmity. 

The rabbinate of Castile became vacant in 1384. 
Leonora, desiring to obtain the appointment for her 
favorite Judah, made application to the king on his 
behalf. At the instance of his wife Beatrice, he con- 
ferred the dignity upon David Negro. Leonora's 
anger at this rebuff was expressed with vehemence. 
She is reported to have said to her circle of adher- 
ents : " If the king refuses so trivial a favor, the first 
I have asked of him, to me, a woman, a queen, a 
mother, one who has done so much for him, what 
have I and what have you to expect ? Even my 
enemy, the Grand Master of Avis, would not have 
treated me thus. You will do better to go over to 
him, your legitimate master." Leonora transferred 
to her son-in-law, King Juan, all the hatred with 
which she had formerly regarded the Grand Master 
of Avis. She organized a conspiracy to murder 
him, the details of which she confided to the former 
treasurer Judah. The plot was, however, discov- 
ered by the chief rabbi elect, David Negro, who 
saved the king's life. Don Juan immediately caused 
the queen dowager to be arrested and thrown into 
prison. Judah also was imprisoned, and ordered to 
be executed, but at the energetic intercession of his 
rival, David Negro, his life was spared. This 


quarrel with and imprisonment of his mother-in-law 
cost Don Juan all support in Portugal. Thenceforth 
he encountered resistance on every side, and was 
obliged to resort to forcible measures for the subju- 
gation of the country. His plans, however, all 
failed, and in the end he found himself compelled 
to renounce his hope of a union of the two lands. 

A few rabbis intrigued to obtain rabbinical office, 
and involved their several communities in much un- 
seemly strife, as, for example, David Negro and 
Judah, Isaiah ben Abba-Mari and Jochanan in 
France, Solomon Zarfati and En-Vidal Ephraim 
Gerundi in the Island of Majorca, and Chasdai ben 
Solomon and Amram Efrati in Valencia, but it m.ust 
be acknowledged that such incidents were of rare 
occurrence. To the majority, the rabbinate was as 
a holy priesthood, the duties of which they sought 
to discharge in all purity of heart and deed, with 
devotion and self-denial. They were generally ex- 
amples to their communities, not only in learning 
and piety, but in high-mindedness, conscientious- 
ness, and the purity of their morals. Even the less 
worthy cannot be charged with anything more seri- 
ous than a desire for place, and a certain degree of 
irascibility. It would be a gross libel on their 
memory to compare them with the servants of the 
church during the same period. At no time in its 
history had Christianity more reason to be ashamed 
of its representatives than during the fourteenth and 
the succeeding century. Since the papacy had es- 
tablished itself at Avignon, it had become a perfect 
hot-bed of vice, the contagion of which spread over 
the clergy down to the lowliest friar. Besides, there 
arose passionate strife between pope and anti-pope, 
between one college of cardinals and another, di- 
viding the whole of Christendom into two huge, 
bitterly hostile camps. It was only natural that the 
clergy should infect the lay world with their im- 
measurable dissoluteness and vice, Yet these degen- 


erate, inhuman and degraded Christian communities 
presumed to treat the modest, virtuous, pious Jews 
as outcasts and accursed of God. Although supe- 
rior in everything save wickedness and the virtues of 
a robber chivalry, they were denied the commonest 
rights of man. They were baited and slaughtered 
like beasts of the field. In Nordlingen the entire 
Jewish community, including women and children, 
was murdered (1384). All over Suabia they were 
persecuted, and in Augsburg they were imprisoned 
until a ransom of 20,000 florins was paid. A char- 
acteristic illustration is furnished by the following 
occurrence : The rabbis and communal leaders of 
central Germany had determined to hold a synod at 
Weissenfels, in Saxony, for the purpose of deliber- 
ating upon certain religious questions, and adopting 
resolutions of public utility (1386). They had pro- 
vided themselves with safe-conduct passes from the 
Saxon princes, it being unsafe for Christians to 
travel on the public highroads, and, of course, much 
more so for Jews. Nevertheless, a party of German 
robber-nobles, anticipating rich booty, waylaid the 
travelers on their return journey, and, having plun- 
dered and ill-used them, threw them into prison, and 
liberated them only on the payment of a ransom of 
5,000 groschen. The rabbis and their companions 
complained to the princes of this attack, and the 
latter, indignant at the disrespect with which their 
authority had been treated, summoned the noble 
marauders to answer the charges urged against 
them. The line of defense adopted by the spokes- 
man of the accused was that they had no idea of 
disregarding the safe-conduct passes of the princes, 
but that they held the opinion that the Jews, the 
enemies of the church, did not deserve the protection 
of Christian authorities. The speaker continued 
that, for his own part, wherever he met the enemies 
of Christ, he would give them no quarter. A de- 
fense of this kind could not fail to obtain applause. 


Its Spirit was that of the majority of the Christians 
of that day. The accused were absolved from 
blame, and the Jews dismissed without redress, 
*' for the defense captivated the princes." 

The art of poetry, which should beautify life, be- 
gan to work like poison on the moral atmosphere 
of the Jews. For some centuries past romantic 
works had variously portrayed the character of a 
creditor, who, as equivalent for a debt, claimed a 
certain portion cut from the body of his creditor, 
either a liege lord from his vassal, or a nobleman 
from a burgher. At first this was harmless fiction, 
but afterwards it was turned against the Jews, as 
though only a Jewish Shylock could be capable of 
such hardness of heart as to insist on the payment 
of a pound of flesh from a Christian. Thus cannibal 
hatred of Christians was foisted on the Jews, and 
received credence. Romances took up the theme, 
and made it popular. 

The depraved, dissolute clergy — a class of men 
who, in an age of public decency, would have been 
objects of universal contempt, or might have earned 
the corrections of a Bridewell — affected to feel in- 
sulted by contact with the Jews, and, under the pre- 
text that their cloth was disgraced by them, caused 
new scenes of horror and cruelty. In Prague, since 
the time of Charles IV the chief city of Germany, a 
bloody persecution was set on foot by their agency. 
A local priest — perhaps one of those whom Emperor 
Wenceslaus had caused to be pilloried with their 
concubines — passed through the Jewish quarter on 
Easter Sunday (April i8th, 1389) with the host, to 
visit a dying person. Jewish children playing in 
the street — it was one of the latter days of the 
Passover feast — were throwing sand at one another, 
and a few grains happened to fall upon the priest's 
robe. His attendants immediately turned upon the 
children, and cruelly beat them. Their cries quickly 
brought their parents to their rescue, whereupon 


the priest fled to the market-place, loudly proclaim- 
ing that his holy office had been profaned by Jews. 
To invest the incident with the necessary import- 
ance, he exaggerated it, and said that he was pelted 
with stones until forced to drop the host. The citi- 
zens and lower orders of Prague immediately banded 
themselves together, and, armed with murderous 
weapons of every description, made a violent attack 
upon the houses of the Jews. As usual, they offered 
their victims the choice between death and baptism, 
but they found them steadfast in their faith. Many 
thousands perished in the massacre, which lasted a 
whole day and night. Several of the Jews, among 
them their venerable rabbi, first took the lives of 
their wives and children, and then their own, to 
escape the cruelties of their enemies. The syna- 
gogue was laid in ashes, and the holy books and 
scrolls torn and trodden under foot. Not even the 
burial ground escaped the fury of these Christian 
zealots. The corpses in the streets were stripped 
of their clothing, left naked, and then burnt. 

For the same offense — that is, for no offense at 
all — the communities in the vicinity of the Bohemian 
capital were "confined, oppressed, ill-treated and 
persecuted " The reigning pope issued a bull con- 
demning the outrages (July 2d, 1389), and based 
his action upon the edict of Pope Innocent IV, which 
enacted that Jews should not be forcibly baptized, 
nor disturbed in the observance of their festivals ; 
but he failed to produce an impression on the con- 
sciences of the faithful. It was in vain, too, that the 
Jews appealed to their liege lord, the German em- 
peror Wenceslaus, in whose capital the persecution 
had originated. This prince — who, had he not been 
an emperor, would certainly have been a freebooter 
— was a man of sense only on the rare occasions 
when he was not intoxicated. His reply to the rep- 
resentations of his Jewish subjects was that they 
had deserved the attacks made upon them, as they 


had had no right to show themselves outside their 
houses on Easter Sunday. For the goods and chat- 
tels they had left behind them he exhibited more 
concern, promptly ordering them to be appropriated 
to his empty exchequer. This was the measure of 
his general attitude towards the Jews. During sev- 
eral years he attempted to possess himself of their 
monetary claims on his Christian subjects, and to 
carry out his design he convened (1385) a confer- 
ence of representatives of the Suabian cities, which 
met at Ulm. Despite the impoverishment of the 
German communities, he exacted from every Jew, 
even from every Jewish youth and maiden, the so- 
called " golden penny " poll-tax, amounting to one 
gulden annually. He openly declared that the pos- 
sessions of the Jews were his personal property, 
and forbade them to sell or mortgage anything. 
And still Emperor Wenceslaus was not the worst 
of rulers in the eyes of the Jews. The rabbi, Avi- 
gedor Kara, of Prague, boasted his friendship ; and 
the Jews of Germany whispered significantly to one 
another that his allegiance to the teaching of Christ 
was very weak. 

This storm of spoliation and persecution had no 
far-reaching consequences in the history of the 
German Jews. It could not affect their abject con- 
dition, for they had been too long accustomed to 
turn their cheeks submissively to the smiter. Quite 
different were the effects of a contemporary perse- 
cution in Spain. Here the very heart of the Jew- 
ish race was attacked, and the results made them- 
selves felt in the history of the whole Jewish people. 
The Spanish Jews had until then been more hated 
than despised; the horrors of this persecution, 
however, so thoroughly cowed their spirits, so par- 
alyzed their energies, and humbled their pride, that 
they, too, became the scorn of their oppressors. 
As in Prague, the outbreak was the work of an 
ecclesiastic and a mob, but here it assumed the 


vastest proportions, and developed permanent re- 
sults, the operations of which were disastrous in 
the extreme. It arose in Seville through the agita- 
tion of a fanatical priest, Ferdinand (Ferrand) 
Martinez, who seemed to consider implacable hatred 
of the Jews as the essence of his religion; His 
discourses were devoted to stirring up the popu- 
lace against them, and he thundered against their 
hardened infidelity, their pride, their heaped-up 
riches, their greed, and their usury. In Seville he 
found the people only too ready to listen to him, 
for there the Jews were hated with special intensity. 
The citizens could not forgive them the important 
part they had played in the civil war between Don 
Pedro and Don Henry II, and particularly the sus- 
picious circumstances of the death of Joseph Pichon, 
who had been so popular among them. As long 
as Don Juan I lived, Martinez took care to restrain 
the mob from open violence, for though the king 
regarded the Jews with but little affection, he was 
in the habit of punishing lawless outbreaks with the 
utmost severity. No sooner was he dead, however, 
than the bigoted cleric thought he might dare the 
utmost. The circumstances of the government 
were favorable to the development of his plans. 
The new monarch, Henry III, was a boy of only 
eleven years of age, and in the council of regency 
discord reigned, threatening to involve the country 
in another civil war. 

One day (March 15, 1391) — a memorable day, not 
only for the Jews and for Spain, but for the history 
of the entire world, for on that day the first germ of 
the monstrous Inquisition was created — Martinez, 
preaching as usual against the Jews, deliberately 
incited the mob to riot in the expectation that 
many Jews would abjure their religion. The 
passions of the multitude became inflamed, and 
broke out in wild uproar. The authorities of the 
city, the Mayor (Alguacil mayor), Don Alvar Perei 


de Guzman, and two of the magistrates interposed 
to protect the Jews, arresting two of the ringleaders 
in the riot, and ordering them to be flogged. This 
proceeding excited the fanatical mob only the more. 
In their fury they put a large number of Jews to 
death, and threatened with a like fate the governor 
of the city, Don Juan Alfonso, and the officials who 
were attempting to shield the unfortunate Hebrews. 
A few of the leading Jews of Seville, perceiving that 
the local authorities were not strong enough to 
grapple with the rising, hurried to the court of the 
young king, and appealed to the council of regency 
to stop the slaughter of their brethren. Their rep- 
resentations were favorably received. Messengers 
were dispatched forthwith to Seville with instruc- 
tions to tell the populace to abstain from further 
outrage. The local nobility seconded the action of 
the king, and, ranging themselves on the side of the 
Jews, succeeded in mastering the rioters. When 
the Christian inhabitants of the neighboring towns 
showed a disposition to imitate the scenes enacted 
in Seville, the council of regency also sent messen- 
gers thither armed with the same powers. Thus, 
for a brief moment, the threatened Jew-hunt was 
delayed, but by no means suppressed. It was soon 
renewed with greater violence, and on a far more 
extended scale. The young king and a few of the 
members of the council of regency were probably 
earnest in their desire not to permit the massacres, 
but, unfortunately, they were not sufficiently inter- 
ested to take adequate precautions against them. 
One such precaution should have been to silence 
the outrage-monger, Ferdinand Martinez, or at least 
to prohibit his inflammatory harangues ; but they 
did nothing of the kind. They left him perfectly 
free to level his poisonous eloquence at the Jews, 
and he was not slow to take advantage of their inac- 
tion. Encouraged by the dissensions in the govern- 
ment, and the disorder which consequently reigned 


throughout the entire land, he again set himself to 
stir up the rabble of Seville, and this time with 
greater success. Hardly three months after the last 
outbreak, the mob resumed (June 6th, 1391) its 
holy work of massacre by setting fire to the Jewish 
quarter (Juderia) and slaughtering its inhabitants. 
The result was that, of the important and wealthy 
community of Seville, which had numbered 7,000 
families, or 30,000 souls, but few remained. Murder 
counted not more than 4,000 victims, but to escape 
death the majority permitted themselves to be bap- 
tized. Women and children were sold into Maho- 
metan slavery by the bloody rioters. Of the three 
synagogues of Seville two were transformed into 
churches. Among the large number who sought 
refuge from fire and sword at the baptismal font 
was Samuel Abrabanel, the ancestor of the after- 
wards celebrated Abrabanel family, and an ornament 
of his community in the reign of Don Henry II, with 
whom he possessed great influence. He adopted 
the Christian name of Juan de Sevilla. 

From Seville the persecution swept like a raging 
torrent over a large portion of Spain. Its progress 
was stimulated more by a craving for plunder than 
by fanatical eagerness to proselytize. Cordova, the 
parent community of the Peninsula, the mold in 
which the high character of Spanish Judaism had 
been cast, was the next scene of its activity. Here 
also many Jews were cruelly murdered, and a large 
number forced to embrace Christianity. On the fast 
day commemorating the fall of Jerusalem (Tammuz 
17th — June 20th) the population of the capital, 
Toledo, rose against the largest Jewish community 
in Spain. The blood of the believers in the unity 
of God, who steadfastly refused to change their 
faith, deluged the streets. Among the many mar- 
tyrs who fell at Toledo were the descendants of the 
Asheri family. They met death with the same un- 
flinching courage as their German brethren. Jehuda 


ben Asher II, one of Asheri's great-grandsons, who 
lived in Burgos, but happened to be at Toledo, took 
with his own hands the lives of his mother-in-law 
and wife, and then his own. Here also a large 
number went over to Christianity. About seventy- 
communities were visited by this terrible persecu- 
tion, among them those of Ecija, Huete, Logrono, 
Burgos, Carrion, and Ocana. At Ascalona not a 
single Jew remained alive. The thoroughly mad- 
dened Christian population meditated a similar fate 
for the Moors, or Mahometans, living in the king- 
dom of Seville. The more prudent among them, 
however, pointed out the danger of such a step, 
reminding them that the Christians living in the 
Mahometan kingdom of Granada, or held as pris- 
oners by the Moors on the other side of the straits 
of Gibraltar, might be sacrificed in retaliation. The 
massacre of the Moors was consequently aban- 
doned. The Jews alone were made to drain the 
cup of bitterness to the dregs, because they were 
too weak to protect themselves. Nothing demon- 
strates more impressively that the clergy had suc- 
ceeded in transforming the people into a race of 

In the kingdom of Aragen, where both ruler and 
people were opposed to Castile, and, as a rule, held 
that to be wrong which in the latter state was con- 
sidered right, the hatred and persecution of the 
Jews were promoted with the same zeal. Here the 
government was in the hands of the weak but well- 
meaning king, Juan I, who, absorbed by his love of 
music and the chase, wielded but little authority, 
and was the laughing-stock of his generally un- 
cultured subjects. About three weeks after the 
outbreak at Toledo, the inhabitants of the province 
of Valencia rose against the Jews (Ab 7th — July 9th). 
Of the 5,000 souls that constituted the Jewish com- 
munity in the city of Valencia, not one was left. 
Some 250 were murdered, a few saved them- 


selves by flight, and the rest embraced Christianity. 
Throughout the length and breadth of the kingdom 
the defenseless Jews were attacked with fire and 
sword, the community of Murviedro alone being 

The sanguinary madness then crossed the sea, 
and alighted on the island of Majorca. In the 
capital, Palma, a crowd of roughs and sailors pa- 
raded the Monte-Zion street, in which the Jews 
resided, and holding aloft a cross, rudely formed by 
tying together two cudgels, shouted " Death to the 
Jews" (August 2d — Ellul ist). One sturdy Jew, 
assaulted by the rabble, ventured to defend himself, 
and severely punished his assailants. Hereupon the 
mob broke out in uncontrollable violence, and 300 
martyrs fell to its fury. Among the victims was the 
rabbi, En-Vidal Ephraim Gerundi, whose contro- 
versy with Solomon Zarfati has already been re- 
ferred to. A large number of Jews here also sought 
safety in baptism. 

Three days later, as if by previous arrangement, 
the Jew-massacres began in Barcelona, one of the 
proudest homes of Jewish intelligence. The great 
wealth which the Jews of this city had acquired by 
their extensive maritime commerce appears to have 
excited the envy of the Christians, and tempted 
them to outrage. On the 5th August, a Sabbath, 
on which was held a minor festival in honor of Mary, 
the mob attacked the Jews as if to honor their queen 
of heaven with human sacrifices. In the first as- 
sault, close upon 250 victims fell. The larger por- 
tion of the community were harbored and cared for 
in the citadel by the governor of the town ; but here 
again the rabble opposed the nobility. They at- 
tacked the citadel with crossbows, laid siege to it in 
due form, and ultimately set it on fire. When the 
imprisoned Jews saw that there was no longer a 
chance of being saved, a large number slew them- 
selves with their own hands, or threw themselves 


from the walls. Others sallied forth from the fort- 
ress to meet their assailants in the open field, and 
fell in honorable combat. Among the martyrs was 
the noble Chasdai Crescas' young- and only son, 
then on the eve of his marriage. Eleven thousand 
Jews are said to have been baptized on this occa- 
sion. Only a very few escaped, and not one re- 
mained in Barcelona. The same fate befell the 
communities of Lerida, Gerona, and other towns, 
in each case a large number of Jews being mur- 
dered, some being baptized, and a very few escap- 
ing by flight. In Gerona, where the community 
was distinguished for rigid piety, the number of 
converts to Christianity was exceedingly small, the 
rabbis setting their flocks an example by their stead- 
fastness and contempt for death. In Catalonia, as 
in Valencia, but few Jews were spared, and they 
owed their good fortune to the protection received 
— in exchange, of course, for large sums of money — 
in the castles of the nobility. In Aragon itself the 
outbreaks were not so serious, as the Jewish com- 
munities had made a timely and prudent offer of all 
their wealth for the protection of the court. 

For three months fire and sword raged unresisted 
in the majority of the Spanish Jewries. When the 
storm abated, the Jews remaining were so broken 
in spirit that they did not venture forth from their 
places of refuge. The sad occurrences were de- 
scribed in a heart-breaking, tearful epistle to the 
community of Perpignan, which Chasdai Crescas, 
who had been robbed of an only son and his entire 
fortune, penned in answer to their sympathetic in- 
quiries. Thus, to Spanish Jews came the tragical 
fate which had befallen their German brethren, 
hardly half a century before, at the time of the Black 
Death. They also had acquired materials for bitter 
songs of lamentation, which they inserted in the 
Jewish liturgy. But the consequences of the per- 
secution were even more terrible than the persecu- 


tion itself. Their pride was completely crushed, 
and their spirit permanently darkened. They who 
had formerly held their heads so proudly aloft, now 
slunk timidly along, anxiously avoiding every Chris- 
tian as a possible murderer or instigator of murder- 
ous assaults. If hundred Jews were assembled, and 
a single rough abused them, they fled like a flock 
of frightened birds. This persecution gave them 
their first experience of the bitterness of exile, for, 
notwithstanding many untoward circumstances, they 
had always imagined themselves secure and at home 
in Spain. Now, for the first time, their haughty 
demeanor was humbled. They were no longer the 
men who had so valiantly wielded the sword in the 
armies of Don Pedro. In Portugal alone the Jews 
were free from fanatical attacks. Its king, Don 
Jocio I, enjoyed a popularity to which, in a crisis, he 
was able to appeal. As his instructions were cheer- 
fully obeyed, he was able to preserve order and put 
down outbreaks with a firm hand. The chief rabbi, 
Don Moses Navarro, brought under his notice the 
two bulls of the popes Clement VI and Boniface IX, 
in which force was forbidden in converting Jews. 
The king immediately issued an order (July 17th, 
1392) prohibiting persecutions. Wide publicity was 
given to the bulls in every town in Portugal, and 
they were inserted among the statutes of the realm. 
Portugal thus became an asylum for the persecuted 
Jews of Spain. 

The Jews of the south of France were not entirely 
exempted from the horrors of this persecution. 
The tempest which had crossed the sea to the 
island of Majorca also whirled over the snow- 
capped Pyrenees, and caught up the Jews of Prov- 
ence in its deadly eddies. No sooner was intelli- 
gence received of the bloody massacres of the Jews 
of Spain than the populace of Provence rose, and 
began to plunder and murder their Jewish 


The Jews in France had been permitted to settle 
in the country only for a specified time, and, although 
this term was frequently extended, their thoughts 
were necessarily always directed towards possible 
banishment. They were compelled to amass and 
keep in readiness sufficient money to enable them, 
at any moment, to start life afresh in another land. 
Like their ancestors in Egypt, they were ready for 
an exodus, their loins girded, their shoes on their 
feet, and their staffs in their hands. Although the 
acquisition of land was allowed them, they were 
obliged to concentrate themselves on the money 
business, and pursue the advantages offered by each 
moment. Necessity made them usurers. Some 
among them charged a higher rate of interest than 
permitted by the privileges granted them, and 
exacted even compound interest from dilatory 
debtors. But it was the king himself who forced 
them to immoderate, exasperating usury, by the 
extravagant demands he made upon their purses to 
meet the expenses of his wars, and the Jews could 
fulfill his demands only by transgressing the laws, 
but their exactions naturally rendered them hateful 
in the eyes of the general public. That Jewish 
creditors frequently had ill-intentioned or tardy 
Christian debtors imprisoned to force them to dis- 
charge their liabilities tended to increase the bitter- 
ness. The exercise of this right was regarded as a 
triumph of " the children of the devil over the chil- 
dren of heaven." The public became so angered at 
their possessing the privilege that the king, Charles 
VI, was obliged to abolish it. On the other hand, 
the necessityof maintaining the privilege was shown 
to be so imperative — the Jews being threatened 
with the entire loss of their outstanding debts — that 
the king and parliament had to grant it a month 
later in a modified form. They permitted the Jews 
to imprison only the debtors who, in their bonds, 
made themselves answerable with their bodies, 


A trifling circumstance sufficed to kindle into a 
flame these embers of Jew-hatred in France. A 
wealthy Israelite, Denys Machault, of Villa-Parisis, 
became a convert to Christianity, and then suddenly 
disappeared. The affair became the subject of 
stranore rumors. Some said that he had been mur- 


dered by Jews ; others that he had been hurried 
abroad with a view to providing him with an easy 
means of returning to Judaism. The clergy inter- 
ested themselves in the mystery, fanatical appeals 
were made to the people, and, eventually, the Paris 
tribunals prosecuted seven prominent Hebrews. A 
commission of priests and lawyers subjected the 
accused to the rack, and extorted the confession 
that they had advised Denys Machault to abandon 
his new faith. The commission condemned them to 
the stake as promoters of apostasy from Christianity, 
Parliament substituted an apparently milder punish- 
ment. It ordered the accused to be scourged in three 
of the public places of Paris, kept in goal until Denys 
Machault re-appeared, and then, stripped of all their 
possessions, expelled the country. From the pub- 
licity given to this affair, it created an extraordinary 
sensation, and still further inflamed the popular pas- 
sions against the Jews. 

For about three months the court extended a 
protecting wing over the unfortunate Jews, but soon 
withdrew it in face of the stormy, menacing clamor 
of the clergy and people. At last the enemies of 
the Jews prevailed upon the king to promulgate the 
order of banishment. Doubtless with malice afore- 
thought the day chosen for the issue of the decree 
was the solemn Fast of Atonement (September 
17th, 1394), when the Jews were afflicting their 
souls during the entire day in the synagogues. The 
prolonged term granted for their sojourn in the 
country not having expired, it became necessary to 
put forward an excuse for ignoring the convention. 
The royal decree was not able to impute to the Jews 


Specific crimes or misdemeanors, and, consequently, 
confined itself to vague generalities. It had been 
reported to his majesty by trustworthy persons, in- 
cluding many of his lieutenants and other officials, 
that complaints had been made concerning offenses 
committed by the Jews against the Christian religion 
and the special laws drawn up for their control. 
That meant that they had encouraged baptized Jews 
to recant, and had practiced extortionate usury — 
the latter Charles had partly approved and partly 
condoned. The decree then stated that his majesty 
had made the irrevocable law that henceforth no 
Jews should be allowed to reside or tarry in any 
part of France, either in Languedoil or Languedoc 
(northern and southern France). 

Thus, ninety years after their first expulsion by 
Philip le Bel, and after a second sojourn of thirty- 
four years, the French Jews were compelled once 
more to grasp the wanderer's staff. Charles, how- 
ever, dealt more leniently with them than his heart- 
less ancestor. They were not, as before, robbed 
of all their possessions, and turned adrift stripped 
to the skin. On the contrary, Charles VI issued 
orders to the prevot of Paris and his provincial 
governors, instructing them to see that no harm 
come to the Jews, either in their persons or their 
chattels, and that they cross the frontier safely. 
Time was also allowed them up to the 3d November 
to collect their debts. They did not leave France 
until the end of 1394 or the beginning of the follow- 
ing year. To some of the nobility and towns the 
expulsion was not a welcome measure. Thus, the 
Count de Foix wished at all hazards to retain the 
community of Pamier, and had to be forced by royal 
officers to expel the Jews. In Toulouse twelve Jew- 
ish families, and in the vicinity seven more, remained 
behind, so that they must have received special 
indulgences. Jews also remained in the provinces 
not directly dependent on the French crown — in the 


Dauphine, in Provence proper, and in Aries, these 
being fiefs of the German empire. The flourishing 
seaport, Marseilles, possessed a Jewish community 
for a long time after the expulsion. Even the popes 
of Avignon tolerated Jews in Avignon and Carpen- 
tras, the chief towns of their small ecclesiastical 
province of Venaissin ; and here they remained 
until very recent times, using a ritual of their own, 
which differed from that of their Spanish and their 
French brethren. The papacy had now little to fear 
from the helpless, enfeebled Jews ; hence, doubtless, 
this parade of toleration. 

The exiles who failed to find an asylum in the 
tolerant principalities of France emigrated to Ger- 
many and Italy; only a few directed their steps to 
Spain, formerly the most hospitable refuge for per- 
secuted Jews. Since the massacres of 1391 that 
country had become a purgatory to the native Jews, 
and so long as foreign Jews could find a shelter else- 
where, they naturally avoided its frontiers. French 
communities migrated in a body to Piedmont, and 
settled in the towns of Asti, Fossano, and Moncalvo, 
where they could maintain unchanged their old 
synagogue ritual. The fate of the larger number 
of the French exiles may be described in the words 
of Amos : " As if a man did flee from a lion, and a 
bear met him ; or went into the house, and leaned 
his hand on the wall, and a serpent bit him." Almost 
everywhere they were met with a storm of barbarity, 
not unfrequently stirred up against them by baptized 
Jews. In Germany an apostate named Pessach, who, 
with Christianity, had adopted the name of Peter, 
brought serious accusations against his brethren in 
race, with a view to bringing about another per- 
secution. To the usual charges that the Jews called 
Jesus the crucified or the hanged, and that they 
cursed the Christian clergy in one of their prayers, 
Pessach-Peter added others. He stated that an 
abusive allusion to Jesus was contained in the sub- 


lime Alenu prayer, which pictures the future reign of 
God on earth, and he made other lying and ludicrous 
charges. The result was that a large number of the 
Jews of Prague were arrested and imprisoned 
(August 3d, 1399). Among them was the fore- 
most and, perhaps, only really learned German Jew 
of the Middle Ages, Lipmann (Tab-Yomi) of Mlihl- 
hausen, a scholar accomplished alike in Biblical and 
Talmudical lore, who had read not only Karaite 
authors, but also the New Testament in a Latin 
version. The clergy called upon him to answer 
Pessach-Peter's charges. His defense was forcible, 
but seems to have had little effect, for on the day 
Emperor Wenceslaus was deposed, and Rupert of 
the Palatinate elected his successor (August 2 2d, 
1400), seventy-seven Jews were executed, and three 
weeks later three more led to the stake. 



The Marranos — The Satirists — Pero Ferrus of Alcala, Diego de 
Valencia, and Villasandino — Astruc Raimuch and Solomon 
Bonfed — Paul de Santa Maria and his Zealous Campaign 
against the Jews — Joshua Ibn-Vives — Profiat Duran (Efodi) — 
Meir Alguades — The Philosophy of Crescas — Death of Henry III 
of Castile and Unfavorable Change in the Position of the Jews — 
Messianic Dreams of the Kabbalists — Jews seek an Asylum in 
Northern Africa — Simon Duran — Geronimo de Santa F6, Vincent 
Ferrer and Benedict XIII — Anti-Jewish Edict of Juan II — Special 
Jewish Costume — Conversion of Jews owing to Ferrer's Violent 
Efforts — Disputation at Tortosa — The Jewish Spokesmen at the 
Conference — Incidents of the Meeting — Geronimo instigates the 
Publication of a Bull for the Burning of the Talmud — Pope 
Martin V befriends the Jews. 

1391 — 1420 C.E. 

The baptized Jews who had abandoned their faith 
during the terrible persecution of 1391 became a 
source of considerable trouble to their Spanish 
brethren. They had embraced the cross only to 
save their lives, or the lives of those dear to them ; 
for, surely, they had found no convincing demon- 
stration of the truth of the Christian religion in the 
violence of its missionaries, or in the death agonies 
of their brethren in race who had perished rather 
than apostatize. Dazed and broken-hearted, these 
forced converts (Anusim) to Christianity felt more 
intense antipathy to their new religion than when 
they had been openly opposed to it. It was natural 
for them to resolve to take the first opportunity of 
casting away their disguise, and returning to Juda- 
ism with increased zeal. Many of these new Chris- 
tians emigrated to the neighboring Moorish coun- 
tries ; to Granada or across the straits to Morocco, 
Tunis, or Fez, where the people, wiser and more 
tolerant than Christian Europe, gladly opened their 


doors to a wealthy and industrious race. The 
majority, unable to leave Spanish territory, yet 
averse to wholly discarding their ancient faith, joined 
in Jewish ceremonies and celebrations whilst out- 
wardly appearing Christians. The kings of Castile, 
Aragon and Majorca, who had disapproved of con- 
versions by mob violence, allowed the Jews to do 
as they pleased. The authorities either did not or 
would not see their relapse into Judaism, and the 
Inquisition had not yet been established in Spain. 
These forced converts gradually formed themselves 
into a peculiar class, outwardly Christians, at heart 
Jews. By the populace, who nicknamed them 
Marranos, or " The Damned," they were regarded 
with more distrust and hatred than the openly ob- 
servant Jews, not because of their secret fidelity to 
Judaism, but on account of their descent and inborn 
intelligence, energy, and skill. Baptized Jews, who 
had been glad to disencumber themselves of their 
Judaism, shared in these feelings of aversion. They 
were the worldlings who valued wealth, rank, and 
luxury above religion, or the over-educated whose 
philosophy had led them to skepticism, and whose 
selfishness induced them to welcome a change which 
brought them out of the narrow confines of a small 
community, and opened up a wider world to them. 
Their hearts had never been with Judaism, and they 
had adhered to it only out of respect or a certain 
compunction. To them, forced baptism was a relief 
from chafing fetters, a welcome coercion to over- 
come scruples which had always sat hghtly upon 
them. For their own advantage they simulated 
devotion to Christianity, but were on that account 
neither better nor more religious men. The un- 
scrupulous among them found special pleasure in 
the persecution of their former religion and its fol- 
lowers. To gratify their malice, they brought 
charges against rabbis and other representative 
Jews, or any member of the community, thus en- 


dangering the existence of the whole body of Jews 
in the country. It was bad enough that the latter 
had been robbed of so many able and learned men 
— physicians, authors, poets — and that the church 
had been enriched by their wealth and intelligence; 
but these very forces were used to inflict further 
mischief on the Jews that had remained steadfast. 
Knowing the faults of their former brethren, the 
converts could easily attack them. Don Pero Fer- 
rus, a baptized Jew, made the community and rab- 
bis of Alcala the target for his ridicule. In a poem 
he represents himself exhausted from want of sleep 
finding repose at last in the synagogue of this 
town, when suddenly he is disturbed, and scared 
away without mercy by "Jews with long beards and 
slovenly garments come thither for early morning 
prayer." A sharp rejoinder to this effort of Ferrus' 
" buffoon tongue " was put forth by a Jewish poet 
in the name of the Alcala community, Spanish 
poetry reaped considerable advantage from these 
passages at arms. Verse, up to that period starched, 
solemn, and stately as the punctilious ceremonial 
of the Madrid court, in the hands of Judaeo-Christian 
satirists acquired the flexibility, wit and merriment 
of neo-Hebraic poetry at its best. This tone and 
style were gradually adopted by Christian poets, 
who borrowed expressions from Jewish writers to 
give point to their epigrams. Not only the apos- 
tate, the monk, Diego de Valencia, used Hebrew 
words in lampoons on the Jews, but the same prac- 
tice was adopted with surprising dexterity by the 
Christian satirist, Alfonso Alvarez de Villasandino, 
the "poet prince" of his day. A malicious critic 
might have been inclined to say that Spanish poetry 
was in process of being Judaized. 

A few of the new-Christians showed as active a 
zeal in the propagation of Christianity as if they had 
been born Dominicans, or as if they felt isolated 
in their new faith among the old Christians, and 


yearned for the companionship of their former 
friends. A newly-baptized physician, Astruc Rai- 
much, of Fraga, who, as a Jew, had been a pillar of 
orthodoxy, exerted himself to make converts, taking 
to himself the name of Francisco God-flesh (Dios- 
Carne). He spread his snares particularly with a 
view to entrapping one of his young friends. A 
fluent writer of Hebrew, Astruc-Francisco drew up 
a letter in that language, dwelling on the decline of 
Judaism and enthusiastically propounding the dog- 
mas of Christianity. His applications of Biblical 
texts to the doctrines of the Trinity, Original Sin, 
Redemption, and the Lord's Supper, appear almost 
droll in Hebrew. His friend's answer was meek 
and evasive, every word carefully weighed to avoid 
offending the delicate sensibilities of the church and 
its zealous servants. More spirited was the reply 
of the satirical poet, Solomon ben Reuben Bonfed, 
who in rhymed prose set himself to confute Astruc- 
Francisco's arguments with unsparing incisiveness. 
Apologizing in his introduction for interfering be- 
tween two friends, he proceeded to point out that 
as a Jew the questions discussed concerned him 
nearly, whilst the misstatements made rendered it 
impossible for him to remain silent. Solomon Bon- 
fed examined somewhat minutely the dogmas of the 
Incarnation, Original Sin, and Transubstantiation, 
showing them to be irrational and untenable. He 
justly said : " You twist and distort the Bible text to 
establish the Trinity. Had you a Quaternity, you 
would demonstrate it quite as strikingly and con- 
vincingly from the books of the Old Testament." 

Of all the Jews baptized in 1391, however, none 
inflicted so much injury on his former brethren as 
Rabbi Solomon Levi of Burgos (born 1351 — 1352, 
died 1435), who as a Christian rose to very im- 
portant ecclesiastical and political dignities under 
the name of Paul Burgensis, or de Santa Maria. 
Previous to his change of creed he had been a rabbi, 


and he was well versed in Biblical, Talmudical, and 
Rabbinical literature. As a Jew he was extremely 
orthodox and punctilious, passing in his own circle 
for a pillar of the faith. His nature was, however, 
shrewd and calculating. Ambitious and vain to the 
last degree, he soon began to regard as too narrow 
his sphere of action within the walls of the college, 
which during a long period counted him amongst 
its students and teachers. He longed for a life of 
bustling activity. To obtain a state appointment, 
he sought access to court, and began to live like a 
grandee, with equipage and horses and numerous 
retinue. It was his ambition to become a Jewish 
Almoxarif or even to obtain a higher appointment. 
His occupations bringing him into daily contact with 
Christians, and frequently involving him in religious 
controversies, he devoted some attention to church 
literature, in order to be able to make a display of 
learning. The massacres of 139 1 dissipated his last 
hope of obtaining high preferment as a Jew, and he 
consequently resolved, in his fortieth year, to be 
baptized. To derive the best advantage from his 
conversion, the new Christian, Paul de Santa Maria, 
caused it to be understood that he had embraced 
Christianity willingly, as a result of the convincing 
arguments put forth in the theological writings of 
the schoolman Thomas Aquinas. The Jews received 
such protestations with distrust. Knowing him 
well, they did not scruple to ascribe his conversion 
to a craving for rank and power. After his change 
of creed, his family, wife and sons, renounced him. 
For a commoner, the only road to high office lay 
through the church. Solomon-Paul knew this well, 
and at once proceeded to Paris and attended the 
University, where he pursued theology. His knowl- 
edge of Hebrew gave him a great advantage, and 
helped him to distinguish himself. It was not long 
before the quondam rabbi became a duly ordained 
Catholic priest. Then he betook himself to the 


papal court at Avignon, where the haughty, obstin- 
ate, and proselytizing cardinal, Pedro de Luna, 
reigned as anti-pope under the title of Benedict 
XIII. Here, during the stormy church schism, favor- 
able opportunities for intrigue and personal advance- 
ment presented themselves. Paul won the pope's 
favor by his shrewdness, zeal, and eloquence. He 
was appointed archdeacon of Trevinjo and canon of 
Seville, his first steps on the ladder of the Catholic 
hierarchy. He abandoned himself to the most 
ambitious dreams : he might become a bishop, a 
cardinal, and why not the pope ? The times were 
propitious. He boasted that he was descended from 
the most ancient and the noblest branch of the 
Hebrew race, the tribe of Levi, the same that had 
given birth to Mary, the mother of Jesus. He was 
not an ordinary priest sprung from the people, but 
had ancestors bound to be acknowledged and dis- 
tinguished by the church. On the recommendation 
of the pope, he was later on overwhelmed with 
honors and favors by the king of Castile, Don 
Henry III, and his ambition was satisfied. 

The apostasy of so respected a rabbi as Solomon 
Burgensis not only created the greatest astonish- 
ment among Jews, but filled them with anxiety. 
Would this example not find imitators in a time of 
so much trouble and temptation ? Would it not 
bias waverers, or at least encourage pretending 
Christians to persevere in the course begun ? The 
prevailing disquietude was increased when it was 
found that after his own conversion Paul considered 
it his duty to convert his former co-religionists. To 
this end he left no stone unturned. With voice and 
pen he assailed Judaism, seeking his weapons in 
Jewish literature itself. Not long after his conver- 
sion he addressed a letter to his former acquaint- 
ance, Joseph (Jose) Orabuena, physician in ordinary 
to King Charles III of Navarre, and chief rabbi of 
the Navarrese communities, in which he stated that 


he acknowledged and honored Jesus as the Messiah 
whose advent had been foretold by the prophets, 
and invited Orabuena to follow his example. To 
another chief rabbi, Don Meir Alguades, physician 
in ordinary to the Castilian king, Don Henry III, 
Paul de Santa Maria addressed a Hebrew satire in 
prose and verse, in which he ridiculed the innocent 
celebration of the Jewish feast of Purim. As if 
grudging the Jews the moderate pleasures in which 
they indulged during this festival, he exaggerated 
their love of drink, and boasted of his own sobriety. 
Paul evinces in this satire considerable skill in 
handling the new-Hebrew language, but, notwith- 
standing his opportunities, he exhibits little wit. 

As soon as he had acquired a position at the 
papal court at Avignon, he devoted himself to cal- 
umniating the Jews with a view to bringing about 
new persecutions. His purpose became so obvious 
that the cardinal of Pampeluna himself, and other 
ecclesiastics, ordered him to desist. It is true the 
Jews had to pay dearly for his silence. He also in- 
trigued against Chasdai Crescas, So far did this 
apostate carry his enmity to Judaism that he advised 
the king, Don Henry III, to abstain from employing 
both Jews and new-Christians in state offices. Did 
he wish to render impossible the rivalry of some 
fellow-Hebrew, his superior in adroitness? In his 
writings Paul de Santa Maria exhibited as much 
hatred of Judaism as of Jews. While the Francis- 
can monk, Nicholas de Lyra, a born Christian, held 
up the works of Jewish commentators like Rashi 
as models of simple exegesis, the former rabbi 
found every observation of a Rabbinical writer in- 
sipid, nonsensical, and scandalous. On the other 
hand, the most ridiculous commentary of a church 
writer was to him a lofty, unsurpassable work. 

Thoughtful Jews were not slow to recognize their 
bitterest foe in this new-Christian, and they prepared 
for a severe struggle with him, notwithstanding that 


their choice of weapons was limited. Christians 
were not only free to say what they pleased in 
demonstration and defense of their doctrines, but 
could appeal to the summary authority of the sword 
and the dungeon. Jews were forced to all kinds of 
circumlocution and ambiguity to avoid provoking 
the violence of their adversaries. The gallant stand 
of a mere handful of Jews against power and 
arrogance should excite the admiration of all whose 
sympathies are not with victorious tyranny, but with 
struggling right. 

The campaign against Paul de Santa Maria was 
opened by a young man, Joshua ben Joseph Ibn- 
Vives of Lorca ( Allorqui) , a physician and an Arabic 
scholar, who had formerly sat at the feet of the rene- 
gade rabbi. In an humble epistle, as though a docile 
pupil were addressing an illustrious master, Joshua 
Allorqui administered many a delicate reproof to 
his apostate teacher, and at the same time, by his 
naive doubts, dealt destructive blows at the funda- 
mental doctrines of Christianity. He observes in 
his introduction that the conversion of his beloved 
teacher had to him more than to others been a source 
of astonishment and reflection, as his example had 
been a main support of his own religious belief. He 
was at a loss to conceive the motives of the sudden 
change. He could not think that he had been led 
away by desire for worldly distinction, " for I well 
remember," he says, "how, surrounded by riches 
and attendants, thou didst yearn for thy former 
humble state with its life of retirement and study, 
and how it was thy wont to speak of thy high posi- 
tion as empty mockery of happiness." Nor could 
he suppose that Paul's Jewish convictions had been 
disturbed by philosophic doubt, as up to the moment 
of his baptism he had conscientiously observed all 
the ceremonial laws, and had known how to discrimin- 
ate between the kernel of philosophic truth which 
harmonizes with religion and the pernicious shell 


which SO often passes for the real teaching. Could 
it be that the sanguinary persecution of the Jews 
had led him to doubt the possibility of the enduring 
power of Judaism ? But even this theory was un- 
tenable, for Paul could not be unaware of the fact 
that only a minority of Jews live under Christian 
rule, that the larger numbers sojourn in Asia, and 
enjoy a certain degree of independence ; so that if 
it pleased God to allow the communities in Christian 
lands to be extirpated, the Jewish race would not by 
any means disappear from the face of the earth. 
There remained, continued Joshua Vives of Lorca, 
the assumption that Paul had carefully studied Chris- 
tianity, and had come to the conclusion that its dog- 
mas were well founded. He begged him, therefore, 
to impart to him the convictions at which he had 
arrived, and thus dissipate the doubts which he 
(Joshua) still entertained as to the truth of Christi- 
anity. Allorqui then detailed the nature of his 
doubts, covertly but forcibly attacking the Christian 
system. Every sentence in this epistle was calcu- 
lated to cut the Jew-hating new-Christian to the 
quick. The evasive and embarrassed reply, which 
Paul indited later on, clearly indicated how he had 
winced under this attack. 

The philosopher, Chasdai Crescas, also came for- 
ward in gallant defense of the religion of his fathers. 
He composed (1396) a polemical treatise (Tratado), 
in which he tested philosophically the Christian arti- 
cles of faith, and demonstrated their untenableness. 
This work was addressed to Christians more than to 
Jews, and was particularly intended for the perusal 
of Spaniards of high rank whose friendship Chasdai 
Crescas enjoyed. Hence it was written not in He- 
brew but in Spanish, which the author employed 
with ease, and its tone was calm and moderate. 
Chasdai Crescas set forth the unintelligibility of the 
doctrines of the Fall, the Redemption, the Trinity, 
the Incarnation, the Immaculate Conception, and 


Transubstantiation, and examined the value of bap- 
tism, the coming of Jesus, and the relation of the 
New Testament to the Old, with dispassionate delib- 
eration, as if he did not know that he was dealing 
with questions which might at any moment light the 
fires of an auto-da-fe. 

At about the same time an accomplished Mar- 
rano, who had relapsed into Judaism, published a 
pungent attack on Christianity and the new-Chris- 
tians. In the entire history of Judseo-Christian con- 
troversy no such stinging satire had been produced 
on the Jewish side as that now issued by the phy- 
sician, astronomer, historical student, and gram- 
marian Profiat Duran. During the bloody persecu- 
tion of 1 39 1 in Catalonia, Profiat Duran, otherwise 
Isaac ben Moses, or, as he called himself in his 
works, Efodi (Ephodaeus), had been forced to sim- 
ulate conversion to Christianity. He was joined 
by his friend David Bonet Buen-Giorno. Both 
resolved at a convenient opportunity to abandon 
their hated mask and emigrate to Palestine, where 
they could freely acknowledge Judaism. Their af- 
fairs being arranged, Profiat Duran traveled to a 
seaport town in the south of France, and there 
awaited his friend. The latter, in the meantime, 
was sought out by or came across the Jew-hating 
apostate, Solomon Paul de Santa Maria, and was 
prevailed upon to remain a Christian. What was 
Profiat Duran's astonishment when he received a 
letter announcing, with much exultant vaporing, the 
definite acknowledgment of Christianity by En 
Bonet, who exhorted him also to remain in the pale 
of his adopted faith. The letter contained an en- 
thusiastic panegyric of Paul de Santa Maria, who 
had been taken into the favor of the king of Castile. 
Profiat Duran could not remain silent. In reply, he 
inflicted punishment on his friend, and more par- 
ticularly on the proselytizing Paul, in an epistle 
characterized by the keenest irony, which has not 


yet lost its sting. It pretends to assent to every- 
thing advanced by Bonet, and to confirm him in his 
resolve to remain a Christian, " Be not ye like 
your fathers" (Altehi ka-Abothecha) is the refrain 
throughout, and so artfully is this admonition em- 
ployed that Christians used it (under the title Alteca 
Boteca) as an apology for Christianity. Whilst 
thus pretending to criticise the errors of the older 
faith, Profiat Duran dwells on the Christian dogmas, 
naively describing them in their most reprehensible 
form. He concentrates on the weaknesses of Chris- 
tianity the full light of reason, Scriptural teaching 
and philosophic deduction, apparently with no de- 
sire to change his friend's intention. A portion of 
the satire is directed against the Jew-hater Paul de 
Santa Maria, upon whom Bonet had bestowed un- 
stinted praise. "Thou art of opinion that he may 
succeed in becoming pope, but thou dost not inform 
me whether he will go to Rome, or remain at Avig- 
non " — a cutting reference to the papal schism dis- 
tractingr the church. " Thou extollest him for havingr 
made efforts to free Jewish women and children 
from the obligation of wearing the Jew badge. 
Take the glad tidings to the women and children. 
For myself, I have been told that he preached mis- 
chief against the Jews, and that the cardinal of 
Pampeluna was compelled to order him to be silent. 
Thou art of opinion that he, thy teacher, will soon 
receive the miter or a cardinal's hat. Rejoice, for 
then thou also must acquire honors, and wilt be- 
come a priest or a Levite." Towards the end Pro- 
fiat Duran changes irony into a tone of seriousness : 
he prays his former friend not to bear as a Chris- 
tian the name of his respected father who, had he 
been alive, would sooner have had no son than one 
faithless to his religion. As it is, his soul in Para- 
dise will bewail the faithlessness of his son. This 
satirical epistle was circulated as a pamphlet. Its 
author sent copies not only to his former friend, but 


also to the physician of the king of Castile, the chief 
rabbi, Don Meir Alguades. So telling was the 
effect produced, that the clergy, as soon as they dis- 
covered its satirical character, made it the subject 
of judicial inquiry, and committed it to the flames. 
At the request of Chasdai Crescas, Profiat Duran 
wrote another anti-Christian work, not, however, a 
satire, but in the grave language of historical inves- 
tigation. In this essay he showed, from his intimate 
acquaintance with the New Testament and the lit- 
erature of the church, how in course of time Chris- 
tianity had degenerated. 

Favored and promoted by the anti-pope, Bene- 
dict XIII, of Avignon, Paul of Burgos rose higher 
and higher; he became bishop of Carthagena, chan- 
cellor of Castile and privy counselor to the king, 
Don Henry III. His malice did not succeed in 
prejudicing the king against the Jews, or inducing 
him to bar them from state employment. Don 
Henry had two Jewish physicians, in whom he 
reposed especial confidence. One, Don Meir Al- 
guades, an astronomer and philosopher, he ap- 
pointed, perhaps in imitation of Portugal, to the 
chief rabbinate of the various Castilian communities. 
He was always in the king's train, and it is probable 
that to some extent he influenced him favorably 
towards his co-religionists. The other was Don 
Moses Zarzel (^argal), who celebrated in rich 
Spanish verse the long wished for birth of an heir 
to the Castilian throne, borrowing the beauties of the 
neo-Hebraic poetry to do honor to the newly-born 
prince, in whose hands, he prophesied, the various 
states of the Pyrenean Peninsula would be united. 
The calm, as between two storms, which the Spanish 
Jews enjoyed during the reign of Don Henry was 
favorable to the production of a few literary fruits, 
almost the last of any importance brought forth in 
Spain. None of these works was epoch-making; 
they were useful, however, in keeping alive the 


spirit of better times, and in preventing the treas- 
ures of Jewish literature from being forgotten. 
Profiat Duran managed to make people forget his 
baptism and to setde down quietly in Spain or 
Perpignan, where he commentated Maimuni's phil- 
osophy, and some of Ibn-Ezra's works. He also 
composed a mathematical and calendarial essay 
(Chesheb-Efod) and an historical account of the per- 
secutions to which his race had been subjected since 
the dispersion. His best work is a Hebrew gram- 
mar (" Maase Efod," written about 1403), in which 
he summarizes the results of older writers, rectifies 
their errors, and even attempts to formulate the 
principles of Hebrew syntax. 

A production of more than common merit was 
written by Chasdai Crescas, now on the brink of the 
grave, his spirits shattered by persecution. He was 
a profound, comprehensive thinker, whose mind 
never lost itself in details, but was forever striving 
to comprehend the totality of things. His scheme 
for a work treating, in the manner of Maimuni, of 
all phases and aspects of Judaism, investigating the 
ideas and laws out of which Jewish teaching had 
gradually developed, and reharmonizing the details 
with the whole where the connection had ceased to 
be apparent, bears witness to the extraordinary 
range of his learning and the perspicacity of his mind. 
The work was to be at once a guide to Talmudical 
study and a practical handbook. Death appears 
to have prevented the accomplishment of this gi- 
gantic enterprise, only the philosophic portion, or 
introduction, being completed. In this introduction 
Chasdai Crescas deals, on the one hand, with the 
principles of universal religion, the existence of God, 
His omniscience and providence, human free-will, 
the design of the universe, and, on the other, with 
the fundamental truths of Judaism, the doctrines of 
the creation, immortality, and the Messiah. 

Crescas was less dominated by the Aristotelian 


bias of mediseval philosophy than his predecessors. 
It had lost its halo for him ; he perceived its weak- 
nesses more clearly than others, and probed them 
more deeply. With bold hands he tore down the 
supports of the vast edifice of theory constructed by 
Maimuni on Aristotelian grounds to demonstrate 
the existence of God and His relation to the uni- 
verse, and, conversant with the whole method of 
scholastic philosophy, he combated it with destruct- 
ive force. 

While the philosophy of his day appeared to him 
thus vague and illusory, he considered the founda- 
tions of Judaism unassailable, and set himself to 
show the futility of the criticisms of the former. 
The acknowledgment of Divine omniscience led 
him to the daring statement that man in his actions 
is not quite free, that everything is the necessary 
result of a preceding occurrence, and that every 
cause, back to the very first, is bound to deter- 
mine the character of the final action. The human 
will does not follow blind choice, but is con- 
trolled by a chain of antecedent circumstances and 
causes. To what extent can the doctrine of reward 
and punishment be admitted, if the will is not 
free? Chasdai Crescas' answer to this is that 
reward and punishment wait on intentions, not on 
actions. He who, in purity of heart, wishes to 
accomplish good — which must, of course, necessarily 
follow — deserves to be rewarded, as the man who 
willingly promotes evil, deserves punishment. The 
highest good to which man can aspire, and the end 
of all creation, is spiritual perfection, or bliss ever- 
lasting, not to be obtained, as the philosophers 
imagine, by filling the mind with metaphysical theo- 
ries, but only through the active love of God. This 
is the substance of all religion and particularly of 
Judaism. From this point of view it may with 
justice be said that " the world was created for the 
sake of the Torah," for the aim of the Law is to 


lead to immortality by means of ideas and com- 
mandments and the guidance of thoughts and 

Chasdai Crescas, the first to distinguish between 
universal religion and specific forms, such as Juda- 
ism and Christianity, propounded, deviating from 
Maimuni's system, only eight peculiarly Jewish 
tenets. His just objection to Maimuni's thirteen 
articles of faith was that they were either too many 
or too few, inasmuch as they blended indiscriminately 
fundamental truths common to all religions, and 
teachings peculiar to Judaism. 

Together with Profiat Duran and Chasdai Cres- 
cas, Don Meir Alguades, the Castilian chief rabbi, 
appeared, in the brief interval between two bloody 
persecutions in Spain, as a writer of philosophic 
works. He was not an independent inquirer; he 
merely translated the ethics of Aristotle (1405, in 
collaboration with Benveniste Ibn-Labi) into He- 
brew, making the work accessible to Jews, who, in 
practical life, lived up to its principles better than 
the Greeks, who produced them, or the Christians, 
who, in the pride of faith and church doctrine, con- 
sidered themselves above the necessity of conform- 
ing to the requirements of morality. 

Throughout the reign of Don Henry III of Cas- 
tile the life of the Jews was tolerable. The young 
but vigorous monarch severely punished Fernan 
Martinez, the primemoverin the massacres of 1391, 
as a warning against further excesses. He per- 
mitted the Jews to acquire land, renewed the law of 
his ancestor, Alfonso XI, and relieved his Jewish 
tax-farmers and finance administrators from restric- 
tions. As soon as he died (the end of 1406) the 
affairs of the Jews again took an unfavorable turn, 
foreshadowing unhappy times. The heir to the 
crown, Juan II, was a child, barely two years old. 
The regency devolved on the queen-mother, Cata- 
lina (Catherine) of Lancaster, a capricious, arrogant 


and bigoted young woman, who imagined that she 
ruled, while she was herself ruled by her various 
favorites. The co-regent, Don Ferdinand, later 
king of Aragon, who was intelligent and kind, 
allowed himself to be guided by the clergy. By his 
side in the council of state sat the apostate rabbi, 
Solomon alias Paul de Santa Maria, another and 
more mischievous Elisha-Acher, in whose eyes 
Judaism was an abomination, and every Jew a 
stumbling-block. The deceased king, Don Henry 
III, had appointed him executor of his will and tutor 
to his heir ; he consequently had an influential voice 
in the council of the regency. What a prospect for 
the Jews of Castile ! It was not long before they were 
made to feel the hostile spirit of the court. First it 
exhibited itself in attempts to humiliate the more 
notable Jews who had intercourse with the court 
circle and the grandees of the kingdom, and occu- 
pied positions of distinction. The intention was to 
dismiss them from these positions with the reminder 
that they belonged to a despised caste. 

An edict was issued (October 25th, 1408), in the 
name of the infant king, reviving the anti-Jewish 
statutes of the code of Alfonso the Wise. "Whereas 
the exercise of authority by Jews may conduce to 
the prejudice of the Christian faith," their occupa- 
tion of posts in which they might possess such au- 
thority was forbidden for all future time. Every Jew 
permitting himself to be invested with official func- 
tions, either by a nobleman or a municipality, was to 
be fined twice the amount of the revenue of such 
post, and, if his fortune did not suffice to make up 
the required amount, it would be confiscated, and 
the delinquent become liable to a punishment of 
fifty lashes. A Christian appointing a Jew to a post 
of influence would also be punished with a fine. To 
insure the working of the edict, it was enacted that 
the informer and the court of law concerned in a 
case should secure each one-third of the confiscated 


estates. Officials were charged to make the edict 
known everywhere, and carefully to watch that its 
injunctions were carried out. It is impossible not 
to suspect the hand of Paul de Santa Maria in this 
decree. No one knew better than he the strong and 
the weak points in the character of the Spanish Jews, 
and he doubtless calculated that Jewish notables, in 
danger of losing their official employment and high 
social position, would go over to Christianity, while 
the faithful, excluded from intercourse with Christian 
society and from participation in the public life of 
the country, would suffer a decline similar to that of 
the German Jews. 

At the same time he vented his hate on Meir Al- 
guades, the physician of the dead king. The queen- 
regent had no cause to injure this Jewish notable; 
only Paul could desire his ruin, because he was the 
mainstay of his opponents and the leader of those 
who held him up to contempt. With the object of 
procuring his downfall, a vindictive accusation was 
trumped up against him. While the queen-mother, 
with the infant king, was staying at Segovia, some 
priests charged a Jew of the town with having bought 
a consecrated host from the sacristan, in order to 
blaspheme it. They further stated that the holy 
wafer had worked such terrible wonders while in the 
possession of the Jew, that in fear and trembling he 
had delivered it up to the prior of a monastery. 
Whether this story was fabricated, or whether there 
was a grain of truth in a bushel of fiction, it is im- 
possible to say ; it sufficed, however, to attract the 
serious attention of the bishop. Velasquez de Tor- 
desillas, who caused a number of Jews to be 
arrested as accomplices in the crime, among them 
Don Meir Alguades, Criminal proceedings were 
formally commenced by order of the queen-regent, 
and Alguades and his fellow-prisoners were sub- 
jected to torture, and confessed their guilt. It is 
stated that in his agony Meir Alguades made a con- 


fession of another kind — that the king, Henry III, 
had come by his death at his hands. Although 
everybody knew that the king had been ailing from 
his youth, Don Meir — who must have been specially 
interrogated while under torture as to whether he 
had poisoned the king — was put to death in the 
most inhuman manner. He wao torn limb from 
limb. The same fate befell the other prisoners. 
Still not satisfied, the bishop of Segovia accused 
some Jews of having bribed his cook to poison his 
food, and they also were put to death. At about 
this time one of the synagogues in Segovia was 
transformed into a church. 

The troubled times, projecting shadows of a still 
more unhappy future, produced the melancholy 
phenomenon of another Messianic frenzy. Again 
it arose in the minds of mystics. The Zohar having 
adroitly been raised to the dignity of an approved 
authority, the Kabbala daily acquired more influ- 
ence, although it was not studied in proportion to 
the zeal with which its authority was advocated. 
Three Kabbalists were particularly active in exciting 
the emotions and turning the heads of the people — 
Abraham of Granada, Shem Tob ben Joseph, and 
Moses Botarel. The first composed (between 1391 
and 1409) a Kabbalistic work, a farrago of strange 
names of the Deity and the angels, of transposed 
letters, and jugglery with vowels and accents. 
Abraham of Granada had the hardihood to teach 
that those who could not apprehend God by Kab- 
balistic methods belonged to the weak in faith, were 
ignorant sinners, and like the depraved and the 
apostate were overlooked by God, and not found 
worthy of His special providence. He thought that 
the relinquishment of their religion by cultured Jews 
was explained by their fatal application to scientific 
study, and their contempt for the Kabbala. On the 
other hand, he professed to see in the persecutions 
of 1 391, and in the conversion of so many prominent 


Jews to Christianity, the tokens of the Messianic 
age, the suffering that must precede it, and the ap- 
proach of the redemption. Shem Tob ben Joseph 
Ibn-Shem Tob (died 1430) accused the Jewish 
philosophers, Maimuni, Gersonides, and others, of 
seducing the people to heresy and infidelity, and with 
being the real cause of apostasy in troubled times. 
In a work entitled " Emunoth " he made violent 
attacks on Jewish thinkers and philosophic studies 
generally, and taught that the salvation of Israel lies 
in the Kabbala, the oldest Jewish tradition, and the 
genuine, pure truth. The entire book is composed 
of grave charges against the more enlightened 
school of Jewish thinkers, and panegyrics of Kab- 
balistic nonsense. 

These two men, Abraham of Granada and Shem 
Tob, though narrow-minded, were sincere, differing 
in this respect from Moses Botarel (or Botarelo), 
also a Spaniard, from Cisneros, in Castile, who pur- 
sued his course with fraudulent intent. He g^ave 
out that he was a thaumaturge and prophet ; he an- 
nounced himself even as the Messiah. He prophe- 
sied that in the spring month of 1393 the Messianic 
age would be ushered in by extraordinary marvels. 
Later on he wrote a work full of lies and delusions. 
In his pride andboastfulness, he addressed a circular 
letter to all the rabbis of Israel, declaring that he 
was in a position to solve all doubts, and throw 
light on all mysteries, that he was the chief of the 
great Synhedrin, and a great deal more in the same 
charlatan ic strain. 

As in the days of the oppression by the Visigothic 
kings, an asylum for persecuted Jews was formed 
> on that portion of the African coast facing Spain. 
Many of the north African towns, such as Algiers, 
Miliana, Constantine, Buja, Oran, Tenes, and Tlem- 
gen, were filled with Jews fleeing from the massa- 
cres of 1 39 1, and with new-Christians anxious to 
get rid of the Christianity which they had been 

iqS history of the jews. CH. VI. 

forced to embrace, but which they hated cordially. 
Almost daily there came fresh troops of refugees 
from all parts of Spain and Majorca. They trans- 
planted to their new fatherland their intelligence, 
wealth, industry, and commercial enterprise. The 
Mahometan Berber princes, then more tolerant and 
humane than the Christians, received them without 
imposing a poll tax. At first the Mahometan popu- 
lation grumbled a little at so sudden and considera- 
ble an increase in the number of inhabitants, fearing 
that the price of provisions would be raised. When, 
however, the narrow-mindedness and selfishness of 
their complaints were pointed out to them by an 
intelligent kadi they were satisfied, and the Jews 
were allowed to settle in their midst in peace. The 
small Berber communities formed since the cessa- 
tion of the Almohade persecution a century before, 
acquired greater importance through this immi- 
gration. The new-comers preponderated in numbers 
over the native Jews, so that the latter, to a certain 
extent, were forced to adopt the Spanish communal 
organization and the Sephardic ritual. The Span- 
iards, in fact, became the leading element in the old 
African communities. 

The distinguished rabbi, Isaac ben Sheshet-Barfat, 
who had escaped from Spain and settled in Algiers, 
was recognized by the king of Tlemgen as chief 
rabbi and judge of all the communities. This he 
owed to the influence of one of his admirers, Saul 
Astruc Cohen, a popular physician and an accom- 
plished man, who not only practiced his art gratui- 
tously, but spent his fortune in relieving both 
Mahometan and Jewish poor. In the name of the 
king the local rabbis were forbidden to assume cler- 
ical or judicial functions without the authority of the 
chief rabbi, Isaac ben Sheshet. This in no way 
detracted from the esteem in which Ben Sheshet 
was held, and applications for the decision of diffi- 
cult questions continued to pour in upon him. In 


Algiers he continued to oppose wrong-doing with 
the conscientiousness and impartiaHty that had 
always characterized him. Among the members of 
his community was a mischievous personage (Isaac 
Bonastruc?), who had considerable influence with 
the Algerian authorities. Actuated by self-interest 
he was desirous of stopping the daily increasing 
immigration of Marranos, and to this end persuaded 
the kadi to impose a tax of one doubloon on every 
immigrant. Finding that troops of fugitives con- 
tinued to arrive, he set himself to work upon the 
selfishness of the community, so that they might 
oppose any further influx of their brethren. Fifty- 
five new-Christians, who had recanted, from Valencia, 
Barcelona, and Majorca, were waiting to land in the 
harbor of Algiers, but were refused permission by 
Jews. This was tantamount to throwing them on the 
mercy of Christian executioners. Such selfishness 
and injustice the chief rabbi, Isaac ben Sheshet, could 
not tolerate, and he laid the ban on the heartless Jews, 
who tried to escape the punishment. So determined 
was his attitude that, with the assistance of Astruc 
Cohen and his brother, the Marranos were ultim- 
ately brought safe to land. In Africa Ben Sheshet- 
Barfat worked for nearly twenty years, promoting 
the welfare of his co-religionists and the interests of 
religion and morality. His declining years were 
embittered by the persistent attacks of a young rabbi, 
Simon ben Zemach Duran, an able Talmudist, who 
had emigrated from Majorca. 

Ben Sheshet was succeeded on his death by Simon 
Duran (born 1361, died 1444). The community of 
Algiers elected him on condition that he did not seek 
a ratification of his appointment from the king, prob- 
ably because the authority derived by his predeces- 
sor from the royal confirmation had been too uncon- 
trolled. Simon Duran, an accomplished mathema- 
tician and physician, was the first Spanish-Jewish 
rabbi to take pay. He publicly excused himself 


for doing so, on the ground of his necessitous cir- 
cumstances. During the persecutions in Majorca a 
portion of his large fortune had been lost, and the 
remainder had been sacrificed in bribing the inform- 
ers who threatened to dehver him as a Judaizing 
Christian to the Dominican Moloch. He had arrived 
in Algiers almost a beggar, and the healing art, by 
which he had hoped to earn a subsistence, had 
brought him nothing, physicians enjoying but little 
consideration among the Berbers. Subsequently 
Simon Duran justified the payment of rabbis from 
the Talmud. Were the abbots, bishops, and princes 
of the church equally conscientious? 

As if the Jews of Spain had not had enough ene- 
mies in the poor, indolent burghers and nobles, who 
regarded their opulence with so much jealousy, in 
the clergy, who cloaked their immorality with zeal 
for the propaganda of the faith, or in the upstart 
converts, who sought to disguise their Jewish origin 
by a show of hatred of their former brethren, there 
arose at about the beginning of the fifteenth century 
three new Jew-haters of the bitterest, most implac- 
able type. One was a baptized Jew, another a Do- 
minican friar, and the third an abandoned anti-pope. 
On these three men, Joshua Lorqui, Fra Vincent 
Ferrer, and Pedro de Luna, or Benedict XIII, the 
responsibility must rest for the events which directly 
conduced to the most terrible tragedy in the history 
of the Jews of Spain. Joshua Lorqui of Lorca as- 
sumed on his baptism the name Geronimo de Santa 
Fe, became physician in ordinary to the Avignon 
pope, Benedict, and, like his teacher, Solomon-Paul 
de Santa Maria, considered it his mission in life to 
draw his former brethren over to Christianity by 
every possible means, Vincent Ferrer, afterwards 
canonized, was one of those gloomy natures to whom 
the world appears a vale of tears, and who would 
wish to make it one. In saint-like virtue, indeed, he 
stood alone among the clergy and monks of his day. 


The pleasures of life had no charm for him ; for gold 
and worldly distinction he thirsted not ; he was pene- 
trated with true humility, and entered on his work 
with earnestness. Unfortunately, the degeneracy 
and foulness of society had impressed him with the 
fantastic idea that the end of the world was at hand, 
and that mankind could be saved only by adopting 
the Christian faith and a monastic mode of life. 
Vincent Ferrer consequently revived flagellation. 
He marched through the land with a troop of fanat- 
ics who scourged their naked bodies with knotted 
cords, and incited the masses to adopt the same form 
of penance, believing that it would bring about the 
salvation of the world. Gifted with a sympathetic 
voice, an agreeable manner, and considerable elo- 
quence, this Dominican friar soon obtained ascend- 
ancy over the public mind. When amid sobs he 
recalled the sufferings of Jesus, and depicted the 
approaching end of the world, the emotions of his 
auditors became violently agitated, and he could lead 
them to good or to evil. He had given up a high 
position at the papal court to lead the life of a flag- 
ellant and barefooted friar. This helped to increase 
the number of his admirers and disciples, for renun- 
ciation of position and wealth on the part of an ec- 
clesiatic was without parallel. Ferrer, however, 
abused his power by the promotion of sanguinary 
deeds. He directed his fanatical denunciations not 
only against Jews and heretics, but even against 
friends who had helped to raise him from the dust. 
The terrible demoralization of the church is illus- 
trated in this monk. The wrangling of three con- 
temporary popes, each declaring himself to be the 
vicegerent of God, one of whom, John XXIII (1410 
— 1 41 5), had exhausted the catalogue of vices and 
deadly sins, a pirate, a trafficker in indulgences, an 
assassin, and a debauchee — all this did not so strik- 
ingly indicate the prevailing degeneracy as the fanat- 
ical excesses of one really pure, moral nature like 


Vincent Ferrer. The dove had become transformed 
into a venomous snake, the lamb into a rapacious 
beast. So much viciousness cannot be spontaneous 
in human character, in the adherents of Christianity; 
it must have been derived from the Christian teach- 
inor itself. 

Unlike Wycline and other reformers, Ferrer did 
not raise his voice against the shortcomings of the 
church, but devoted himself to Jews and heretics, 
whom he hated as adversaries of Christianity and 
opponents of the infallibility of the pope. With pen 
and voice he opened a crusade against Jews, which 
he sustained for several years. His most vehement 
invective was aimed at the Spanish new-Christians, 
who during the massacres of 1391 had gone over to 
the church, but still largely conformed to Judaism. 
Partly from fear of incurring the severe punishment 
attaching to apostasy, partly won over by the fiery 
eloquence of the preacher, the Marranos made a 
contrite confession of faith, which Ferrer regarded 
as a great victory for the church, a triumph for the 
truths of Christianity, leading him to hope that the 
conversion of the entire body of Jews might be 
vouchsafed to him. By his influence with the people, 
who honored him as a saint, he was very useful to 
the kings of Spain in putting down popular risings 
durinof the civil wars without bloodshed. Encour- 
aged by the consideration of the Castilian royal 
family, Ferrer craved permission not only to preach 
in the synagogues and mosques, but to force Jews 
and Mahometans to listen to his addresses. A cru- 
cifix in one arm, the Torah in the other, escorted by 
flagellants and spearmen, he called upon the Jews, 
" with a terrible voice," to enrol themselves under 
the cross. 

Seraphic as he was, Vincent Ferrer was not averse 
to the employment of force. He represented to the 
Spanish rulers that the Jews should be strictly 
isolated, as their intercourse with the Christian pop- 


ulation was calculated to injure the true faith. His 
suggestions met with too ready a response. Through 
him and the other two conversionists, unspeakable 
sorrows were brought upon the Spanish Jews ; 
indeed, the years from 141 2 to 141 5 may be reck- 
oned among the saddest in the sorrowful history of 
the Jewish people. Shortly after Ferrer's appear- 
ance at the most Christian court, the regent Donna 
Catalina, the Infante Don Ferdinand, and the apos- 
tate Paul Burgensis de Santa Maria, in the name of 
the child-king, Juan II, issued an edict of twenty-four 
articles (January 12th, 141 2), the aim of which was 
to impoverish and humiliate the Jews, and reduce 
them to the lowest grade in the social scale. It 
ordered that they should live in special Jew-quarters 
(Juderias), provided with not more than one gate 
each, under pain of confiscation of fortune and per- 
sonal chastisement. No handicraft was to be exer- 
cised by them ; they were not to practice the heal- 
ing art, nor transact business with Christians. It 
goes without saying that they were forbidden to hire 
Christian servants and fill public offices. Their 
judicial autonomy was abolished, not only in criminal 
cases, in which they had long ceased to exercise it, 
but also in civil disputes. The edict prescribed a 
special costume for the Jews. Both men and women 
were to wear long garments, in the case of males, of 
coarse stuffs. Whoever dressed in the national cos- 
tume, or in fine materials, became liable to a heavy 
fine ; on a repetition of the offense, to corporal pun- 
ishment and confiscation of property. The wearing 
of the red Jew badge was, of course, insisted upon. 
Males were prohibited from shaving the beard or 
cutting the hair under pain of one hundred lashes. 
No Jew was to be addressed, either in conversation 
or in writing, by the title " Don," to the infringe- 
ment of which a heavy fine was also attached. They 
were interdicted from carrying weapons, and might 
no longer move from town to town, but were to be 


fixed to one place of abode. The Jew detected in 
an evasion of the latter restriction was to lose his 
entire property, and be made a bondman of the 
king. Grandees and burghers were sternly 
enjoined to afford not the slightest protection to 

It is not unwarrantable to assume the influence of 
the apostate Paul de Santa Maria in the details of 
these Jew-hating laws. They singled out the most 
sensitive features of the Jewish character, pride and 
sense of honor. Wealthy Jews, in the habit of ap- 
pearing in magnificent attire and with smoothly- 
shaven chins, were now to don a disfiguring costume, 
and go about with stubbly, ragged beards. The 
cultivated, who as physicians and advisers of the 
grandees had enjoyed unrestricted intercourse with 
the highest ranks, were to confine themselves to 
their Jew quarter, or be baptized, baptism being the 
hoped-for result of all these cruel restrictions, 
enforced with merciless vigor. A contemporary 
writer (Solomon Alami) describes the misery caused 
by the edict : " Inmates of palaces were driven into 
wretched nooks, and dark, low huts. Instead of 
rustling apparel we were obliged to wear miserable 
clothes, which drew contempt upon us. Prohibited 
from shaving the beard, we had to appear like 
mourners. The rich tax-farmers sank into want, 
for they knew no trade by which they could gain a 
livelihood, and the handicraftsmen found no custom. 
Starvation stared everyone in the face. Children 
died on their mothers' knees from hunger and 

Amid this tribulation the Dominican Ferrer in- 
vaded the synagogues, crucifix in hand, preached 
Christianity in a voice of thunder, offering his hear- 
ers enjoyment of life and opportunities of prefer- 
ment, or threatening damnation here and hereafter. 
The Christian populace, inflamed by the passionate 
eloquence of the preacher, emphasized his teaching 


by violent assaults on the Jews. The trial was 
greater than the unhappy Castilian Jews could bear. 
Flight was out of the question, for the law forbade 
it under a terrible penalty. It is not surprising, then, 
that the weak and lukewarm among them, the com- 
fort-loving and wordly-minded, succumbed to the 
temptation, and saved themselves by baptism. 
Many Jews in the communities of Valladolid, 
Zamora, Salamanca, Toro, Segovia, Avila, Bena- 
vente, Leon, Valencia, Burgos, Astorga, and other 
small towns, in fact, wherever Vincent Ferrer 
preached, went over to Christianity. Several syna- 
gogues were turned into churches by Ferrer. In 
the course of his four months' sojourn (December, 
141 2 — March, 141 3) in the kingdom of Castile, this 
proselyte-monger inflicted wounds upon the Jews 
from which they bled to death. 

When, however, he repaired to the kingdom of 
Aragfon — summoned thither to advise on the rival 
claims of several pretenders to the throne — and 
when through his exertion the Castilian Infante, Don 
Ferdinand, was awarded the Aragonese crown (June, 
1414), a trifling improvement took place in the con- 
dition of the Castilian Jews. The regent, Donna 
Catalina, issued a new edict in the name of her son 
(17th July). In this document the Jews were still 
interdicted the exercise of handicrafts, but were al- 
lowed, under a multitude of conditions, to visit mar- 
kets with their merchandise. The prohibition to 
hire Christian or Mahometan domestics was con- 
firmed ; but, on the other hand, the employment of 
day-laborers and gardeners for the fields and vine- 
yards of Jews, and shepherds for their flocks, was 
permitted. The new law triflingly allowed Jews 
to trim their hair and to clip with shears, but not 
entirely remove, their beards ; a fringe of hair was 
ordered to be left on the chin, and shaving with the 
razor was forbidden, as though the queen-regent 
and her sage counselors were anxious that Jewish 


orthodoxy should not be wronged. The new decree 
conceded the wearing of dress materials of a value 
of sixty maravedis (under the former edict the value 
had been fixed at half this sum), but imposed a 
funnel-shaped head-covering, to which it was for- 
bidden to attach tassels. The vehemence with 
which the edict declaimed against the ostentation 
of Jewish women disclosed its female authorship. 
Under this decree, freedom of domicile was once 
more accorded to Jews. It is noteworthy that the 
new edict applied only to Jews, whereas its prede- 
cessor restricted Mahometans as well. 

With the transfer of the fanatical Ferrer to Ara- 
gon, the communities of that kingdom began to ex- 
perience trials and misfortunes. The newly-elected 
king, Don Ferdinand, owed his crown to Ferrer, for 
as arbitrator between the rival pretenders he had 
warmly espoused his cause, proclaimed him king, 
and united the populace in his favor. Ferdinand 
consequently paid exceptional veneration to his 
saintliness, appointed him his father-confessor and 
spiritual adviser, and granted him his every wish. 
Foremost among Ferrer's aspirations was the con- 
version of the Jews, and to advance it the king com- 
manded the Jews of Aragon to give every attention 
to his discourses. The zealous proselytizer made a 
tour of the kingdom, vehemently denouncing the 
Jews in every town he visited. His intimidations 
succeeded in converting a large number, particularly 
in Saragossa, Daroca, Tortosa, Valencia, and Ma- 
jorca. Altogether Ferrer's mission to the Jews of 
Castile and Aragon is said to have resulted in not 
less than 20,500 forced baptisms. 

This, however, did not end the woes of Spanish 
Jews. Pope Benedict XIII had still worse troubles 
in store for them, employing as his instrument his 
newly-baptized Jewish physician, Joshua Lorqui, 
otherwise Geronimo de Santa Fe. This pope, de- 
posed by the council of Pisa as schismatic, heretic 


and forsworn, deprived of his spiritual functions and 
put under the ban, projected the conversion of the 
entire body of Jews in Spain to the church, at that 
time the object of universal opprobrium. On the 
Pyrenean peninsula he was still regarded as the 
legitimate pope, and from this base of operations he 
used every effort to procure a general acknowledg- 
ment of his authority. He was not slow to perceive 
that the general conversion of the Jews would pow- 
erfully assist his design. If it were vouchsafed to him 
to overcome at last the obstinacy, blindness and infi- 
delity of Israel, and to bring it under the sovereignty 
of the cross — would it not be the greatest triumph 
for the church and for himself? Would it not put 
all his enemies to shame ? Would not the faithful 
range themselves under the pope who had so glori- 
fied the church? What better proof could he give 
that he was the only true pontiff? 

To promote this scheme, Benedict, by the author- 
ity of the king, Don Ferdinand, summoned (towards 
the end of 141 2) the most learned rabbis and stu- 
dents of Scripture in the kingdom of Aragon to a 
religious disputation at Tortosa. The apostate 
Joshua Lorqui, who was well read in Jewish litera- 
ture, was to prove to the Jews, out of the Talmud 
itself, that the Messiah had come in the person of 
Jesus. The design was to operate on the most 
prominent Jews, the papal court being convinced 
that, their conversion effected, the rank and file 
would follow of their own accord. Geronimo care- 
fully selected the names of those to be invited, and 
the pope or the king attached a punishment to their 
non-attendance. What were the Jews to do ? To 
come or to remain away, to accept or to refuse, was 
equally dangerous. About twenty-two of the most 
illustrious Aragonese Jews answered the summons. 
At their head was Don Vidal ben Benveniste Ibn- 
Labi (Ferrer), of Saragossa, a scion of the old Jew- 
ish nobility, a man of consideration and culture, a 


physician and neoHebrew poet. Among his com- 
panions were Joseph Albo, of Monreal, a disciple of 
Chasdai Crescas, distinguished for his philosophic 
learning and genuine piety ; Serachya Halevi Sa- 
ladin, of Saragossa, translator of an Arabic philo- 
sophic work; Matathias Yizhari (En Duran?),of 
the same town, also a polished writer ; Astruc Levi, 
of Daroca, a man of position ; Bonastruc Desmaes- 
tre, whose presence was most desired by the pope, 
because he was learned and distinguished; the ven- 
erable Don Joseph, of the respected Ibn-Yachya 
family, and others of lesser note. 

Although the Jewish notables summoned to the 
disputation were men of liberal education, and Don 
Vidal even spoke Latin fluently, none of them pos- 
sessed that stout-heartedness and force of character 
which impress even the most vindictive enemy, and 
which Nachmani so conspicuously displayed when 
alone he encountered two of the bitterest adversaries 
of Judaism — the Dominican General De Penyaforte 
and the apostate Pablo Christiani. A succession 
of humiliations and persecutions had broken the 
manhood of even the proudest in Jewry, and had 
transformed all into weaklings. They were no match 
for perilous times. When Benedict's summons 
reached them, they trembled. They agreed to act 
with circumspection and calmness, not to interrupt 
their opponent, and, above all, to be united and har- 
monious, but they disregarded these resolutions, ex- 
posed their weakness, and eventually broke up into 
factions, each of which took its own course. 

Duly commissioned by his schismatic master, the 
renegade Geronimo drew up a program. In the 
first place, proofs were to be adduced from the Tal- 
mud and cognate writings that the Messiah had 
already come in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. 
The papal court flattered itself that this would bring 
about widespread conversion of the Jews, but, in 
case of failure, there was to follow a war of exter- 


ruination against the Talmud on account of the 
abominations it contained, and the support it af- 
forded the Jews in their bHndness. Geronimo de 
Sante Fe accordingly composed a treatise on the 
Messianic character and Divinity of Jesus as illus- 
trated in Jewish sacred writings. He collected all 
the specious arguments, the sophistries and text 
twistings which his predecessors had developed from 
their obscure, senseless, Scriptural interpretations, 
added nonsense of his own, declared playful Agadic 
conceits to be essential articles of faith, and refuted 
Jewish views of the questions discussed. He enum- 
erated twenty-four conditions of the coming of the 
Messiah, and exerted himself to show that they had 
all been fulfilled in Jesus. His fundamental con- 
tention was that the Christians constituted the true 
Israel, that they had succeeded the Jewish people in 
Divine favor, and that the Biblical terms, mountain, 
tent, temple, house of God, Zion and Jerusalem were 
allegorical references to the church. An instance of 
his ridiculous arguments may be mentioned. Like 
John of Valladolid, he saw in the irregular formation 
of a letter in a word in Isaiah a deep mystery, indi- 
cating the virginity of Mary, and the realization of 
the Messianic period by the advent of Jesus. From 
another prophetic verse he expounded the immac- 
ulate conception of Jesus in so indecent a manner 
that it is impossible to repeat his explanation. This 
treatise, which blended the Patristic and the Rab- 
binic spirit, having been examined by the pope 
and his cardinals, was ordered to serve as the theme 
of the disputation. 

No more remarkable controversy was ever held. 
It occupied sixty-eight sittings, and extended, with 
few interruptions, over a year and nine months 
(from February, 1413, until the 12th November, 
1414). In the foreground stands a pope, abandoned 
by almost the whole of Christendom, and hunted 
from his seat, anxious for a favorable issue, not for 


the glorification of the faith, but for his own tem- 
poral advancement; by his side, a baptized Jew, 
combating Rabbinical Judaism with Rabbinical 
weapons ; and in the background, a frenzied Dom- 
inican preacher with his escort of flagellants, pro- 
moting a persecution of the Jews to give force to 
the conversionist zeal of Tortosa. The helpless, 
bewildered Jews could only turn their eyes to heaven, 
for on earth they found themselves surrounded by 
bitter enemies. When, at their first audience with 
Pope Benedict (6th February, 141 3), they were 
asked to give their names for registtation, they 
were seized with terror ; they imagined their lives 
in jeopardy. The pope quieted them with the ex- 
planation that it was only a customary formality. 
On the whole he treated them at first with kindness 
and affability, the usual attitude of princes of the 
church when they have an end to attain. He as- 
sured them that no harm would befall them ; that 
he had summoned them merely to ascertain whether 
there was any truth in Geronimo's statement that 
the Talmud attested the Messianic character of Jesus, 
and he promised them the fullest freedom of speech. 
At the end of the first audience he dismissed them 
graciously, assigned quarters to each of the notables, 
and gave instructions that their comfort should be 
cared for. A few prophesied from this friendly re- 
ception a successful issue for themselves and their 
cause, but they knew little of Rome and the vice- 
gerents of God. 

A few days later the disputation began. When 
the Jewish notables entered the audience hall, they 
were awe-struck by the splendor of the scene: 
Pope Benedict, on an elevated throne, clad in his 
state robes; around him the cardinals and princes 
of the church, resplendent in jeweled vestments ; 
beyond them nearly a thousand auditors of the 
highest ranks. The little knot of defenders of 
Judaism trembled before this imposing and confident 


array of the forces of Christianity. The pope him- 
self presided, and opened the sitting with an address 
to the Jews. He informed them that the truth of 
neither Judaism nor Christianity was to be called 
into question, for the Christian faith was above 
discussion and indisputable, and Judaism had once 
been true, but had been abrogated by the later dis- 
pensation. The disputation would be confined to 
the single question, whether the Talmud recognized 
Jesus as the Messiah. The Jews were conse- 
quently limited to mere defense. At a sign from 
the pope, the convert Geronimo stood forth, and, 
after a salutation of the papal toe, delivered himself 
of a long-winded harangue, abounding in Christian, 
Jewish, and even scholastic subtleties, and full of 
praise of the magnanimity and graciousness of the 
pope in endeavoring to bring the Jews into the way 
of salvation. His text, applied to the Jews, was a 
verse from Isaiah : " If ye be willing and obedient, 
ye shall eat the good of the land; but if ye refuse 
and rebel, ye shall be devoured with the sword" — 
which disclosed the final argument of the church. 
In reply, Vidal Benveniste, who had been elected 
spokesman by the notables, delivered a speech in 
Latin, which evoked a compliment from the pope. 
Don Vidal exposed Geronimo's malignity in threat- 
ening the sword and other punishments before the 
arguments on either side were heard. The pope 
acknowledged the justice of the reproof, and said 
in extenuation that Geronimo had still the boorish- 
ness derived from his Jewish origin. The notables 
plucked up courage to petition the pope to release 
them from further controversy, giving as their 
reason that their opponent employed scholastic 
methods of reasoning, in which it was impossible for 
them to follow him, as their faith was founded not 
on syllogisms but on tradition. The pope naturally 
declined to accede to this request, but invited them 
to continue the discussion on the following day, and 


had them escorted to their quarters by officers of 
high rank. 

Overwhelmed with anxiety, the Jewish notables and 
the entire community of Tortosa assembled in the 
synagogue to implore help of Him who had so often 
stood by their fathers in their hours of need, 
and to pray that acceptable words might be put 
into their mouths, so that by no chance ex- 
pression they should provoke the wild beasts 
seeking to devour them. Serachya Halevi Saladin 
gave expression to the gloomy feelings of the con- 
gregation in his sermon. 

For a time the controversy retained its friendly 
character. Geronimo quoted obscure Agadic pas- 
sages from the Talmud and other Hebrew writings 
to establish his astounding contention that the Tal- 
mud attests that Jesus was the Messiah. Generally 
the pope presided at the disputations, but occasion- 
ally grave matters affecting his own position neces- 
sitated his absence. The maintenance of his dignity 
was threatened by the convening of the council of 
Constance by the Christian princes, which consti- 
tuted itself the supreme court in the conflict between 
the three popes. Consequently, Benedict had to 
hold frequent consultations with his friends. On 
these occasions, his place was taken by the general 
of the Dominicans or the chamberlain of the papal 
palace. The proofs adduced by Geronimo in sup- 
port of his statements were so absurd that it should 
have been easy for the Jewish delegates to refute 
them. But their words were wilfully misinterpreted, 
so that in several instances it was recorded in the 
protocol that they had conceded the point under 
discussion. A few of them consequently committed 
their refutations to writing; but they still met with 
arbitrary treatment. Some points raised by them 
were condemned as not pertinent to the discussion. 
The Jewish delegates, who had entered on the con- 
troversy with unwilling hearts, were exhausted by 


the talking and taunting, and were anxious to avoid 
retort. Suddenly the pope threw aside his mask of 
friendliness, and showed his true disposition by 
threatening them with death. Sixty-two days the 
war of tongues had lasted, and the representatives 
of Judaism showed no sign of their much-hoped-for 
conversion. Their power of resistance appeared to 
grow with the battle. So. in the sixty- third sitting, 
the pope changed his tactics. At his command Ge- 
ronimo now came forward as the censor of the Tal- 
mud, accusing it of containing all kinds of abomi- 
nations, blasphemy, immorality and heresy, and 
demanding its condemnation, A few new-Christians, 
among them Andreas Beltran (Bertrand) of Va- 
lencia, the pope's almoner, valiantly seconded this 

Geronimo had prepared, at the instance of the 
pope, a treatise with this purpose in view. He had 
collected all the extravagances accidentally uttered 
by one or two of the hundreds of Agadists figuring 
in the Talmud. Shameless malice or ignorance dic- 
tated manifestly false accusations against the Tal- 
mud. Thus, he stated that it permitted the beating 
of parents, blasphemy, and idolatry, also the break- 
ing of oaths, provided that on the previous Day of 
Atonement the precaution had been taken to declare 
them invalid. Conscientiousness in respect to oaths 
and vows he thus construed as perfidy, and, like 
Nicholas-Donin, drew the conclusion that the Jews 
did not fulfill their obligations towards Christians. 
Of course, he revived the calumny of Alfonso of 
Valladolid, that the Jews cursed the Christians in 
their daily prayers. Every inimical reference in the 
Talmud to heathens or Jewish Christians, Geronimo 
interpreted as applying to Christians, a fabrication 
with disastrous consequences, inasmuch as the ene- 
mies of the Jews repeated these deadly charges 
without further inquiry. When the attacks on the 
Talmud unexpectedly became the subject of discus- 


sion, the Jewish representatives defended the ar- 
raigned points, but were so hard pressed that they 
split up into two parties. Don Astruc Levi handed 
in a written declaration, setting forth that he ascribed 
no authority to the Agadic sentences quoted incrimi- 
nating the Talmud ; that he held them as naught, and 
renounced them. The majority of the notables sup- 
ported him. To save the life of the whole they sac- 
rificed a limb. Joseph Albo and Ferrer (Don Vidal) 
alone maintained their ground, declaring that the 
Talmudic Agada was a competent authority, and 
that the equivocal passages had a different mfeaning 
from that ascribed to them, and weref not to be in- 
terpreted literally. So the machinations of the pope 
and his creatures had at least succeeded in bringing 
about a division in the ranks of the defenders of 

The principal object of the disputation — the con- 
version of the Jews eti masse through the example 
of their most prominent leaders — was not attained. 
All the means employed failed — the benignant re- 
ception, the threats of violence, the attack on Jewish 
convictions. An expedient, calculated entirely for 
effect, had also been tried, which, it was thought, 
would so mortify the notables that, dazed and over- 
whelmed, they would throw down their arms and 
surrender at discretion. The fanatical proselytizer 
Vincent Ferrer had returned from Majorca to Cata- 
lonia and Aragon, and, surrounded by his terror- 
inspiring band of flagellants, had renewed his mis- 
sion to the Jews, amid dismal chants and fiery 
exhortations to embrace the cross. Again he suc- 
ceeded in winning over many thousands to Chris- 
tianity. In the great Jewish communities of Sara- 
gossa, Calatajud, Daroca, Fraga and Barbastro, the 
conversions were limited to individuals ; but smaller 
congregations, such as those of Alcafiiz, Caspe, 
Maella, Lerida, Alcolea and Tamarite, hemmed in 
by hostile Christians, who spared neither limb nor 

CH. VI. benedict's bull. 215 

life, went over in a body to Christianity. All these 
proselytes were gradually brought, in small and 
large troops, to Tortosa, and conducted, at the 
order of the pope, into the audience hall, where, 
before the entire assembly, they made public pro- 
fession of the Christian faith. Living trophies, they 
were intended to shadow forth the impending vic- 
tory of the church, dishearten the defenders of 
Judaism, and press upon them the conviction that, 
as in their absence the Jewish communities were 
melting away, all resistance on their part was in 
vain. It is no small merit that Don Vidal, Joseph 
Albo, Astruc Levi, and their companions refused to 
yield to the pressure. The pope saw his hopes 
shattered. Not a sinorle notable wavered, and con- 

versions of large masses did not take place. The 
great communities of Aragon and Catalonia re- 
mained true to their faith, with the exception of a 
few weaklings, amongst them some relations of 
Vidal Benveniste. The council of Constance would 
soon meet, and Benedict would be unable to appear 
before it as the triumphant conqueror of Judaism — 
would have no special claim to preference over the 
other two competing popes. 

In his disappointment he vented his spleen on 
the Talmud and the already restricted liberties of the 
Jews. At the last sitting of the disputation he 
dismissed the Jewish notables with black looks, 
from which they easily divined his evil intentions. 
Various obstacles prevented him from putting them 
into force for six months, when (May nth, 1415) 
they were embodied in a bull of eleven clauses. 
The Jews were forbidden to study or teach the Tal- 
mud and Talmudic literature ; all copies of the Tal- 
mud were to be sought out and confiscated. Anti- 
Christian works, written by Jews, especially one 
entitled "Mar Mar Jesu," were not to be read under 
pain of punishment for blasphemy. Every com- 
munity, whether large or small, was prohibited from 


possessing more than one simple, poorly appointed 
synagogue. The Jews were to be strictly separated 
from Christians, were not to eat, bathe, or do busi- 
ness with them. They were to occupy no official 
posts, exercise no handicrafts, not even practice 
medicine. The wearing of the red or yellov/ Jew 
badge v^^as also enjoined by this bull. Finally, all 
Jews were to be forced to hear Christian sermons 
three times a year — during Advent, at Easter, and 
in the summer. In the first sermon the Prophets 
and the Talmud were to be used to prove that the 
true Messiah had come ; in the second, their atten- 
tion was to be directed to the abominations and 
heresies contained, according to Geronimo's treatise, 
in the Talmud, alone responsible for their infidelity ; 
and in the third it was to be impressed upon them 
that the destruction of the temple and the disper- 
sion of the Hebrew people had been predicted by 
the founder of Christianity. At the close of each 
sermon the bull was to be read aloud. The strict 
execution of this malignant edict was confided by 
the pope to Gonzalo de Santa Maria, son of the 
apostate Paul, who had been taken over to Chris- 
tianity by his father. 

Fortunately, the vindictive schemes of Pope Bene- 
dict never came into active operation. While he 
was still engaged in tormenting the Jews, the coun- 
cil of Constance decreed his deposition. As he had 
obstinately opposed the advice of the king, Don 
Ferdinand, and the German emperor, Sigismund, 
to lay aside the tiara of his own initiative, he was 
abandoned by his Spanish protectors. The weapons 
he had employed recoiled upon himself. His last 
adherents were drawn from him by Vincent Ferrer's 
fanatical preaching. The flagellant priest not only 
exhorted the king of Aragon to renounce " this 
unfrocked and spurious pope," but he held forth 
everywhere — in the churches and the open streets 
— that "a man like this pope deserves to be pur- 


sued to death by every right-thinking Christian." 
Deserted by his protectors, his friends, and even 
his proteges, there now remained to Pedro de Luna, 
of all his possessions, only the small fortress of 
Peniscola, and even here King Ferdinand, urged on 
by Santa Maria, the pope's creature, threatened him 
with a siege. In the end this ambitious and obstin- 
ate man covered himself with ridicule by attempting 
to continue to play the part of pope in his tiny 
palace. He appointed a college of four cardinals, 
and pledged them before his death not to recognize 
the pope elected at Constance, but to choose a suc- 
cessor from among their own body. When he died, 
his college elected two popes instead of one. Such 
was the infallibility of the church, into the pale of 
which it was sought to force the Jews. What be- 
came of the malicious apostate, Joshua Lorqui- 
Geronimo de Santa Fe, after the fall of his master, 
is not known. In Jewish circles he was remembered 
by the well-earned sobriquet of " The Calumniator" 
(Megadef). King Ferdinand of Aragon, who had 
always allowed himself to be influenced by enemies 
of the Jews, died in 141 6. His death was followed, 
after a short interval, by that of the Jew-hating 
regent, Catalina of Castile, the instrument of Vin- 
cent's Jew-hunt (1418), and finally by that of Vin- 
cent himself (1419), who had the mortification to 
see the flagellant movement, to which he owed his 
saintly reputation, condemned by the council of 
Constance, he himself being compelled to disband 
his "white troop." 

Although the chief persecutors of the Jews had 
disappeared, the unhappy conditions created by them 
remained. The exclusive laws of Castile and the 
bull of Pope Benedict were still in force. Ferrer's 
proselytizing campaigns had severely crippled the 
Spanish, and even foreign communities. In Portu- 
gal alone they met with no success. The Portu- 
guese ruler, Don Joao I, had other interests to pur- 


sue than the conversion of Jews. He was then 
occupied in that first conquest on the coast of Africa, 
opposite to Portugal, which laid the foundation of 
the subsequent maritime supremacy of the Portu- 
guese. When Vincent Ferrer petitioned King JoSo 
for permission to come to Portugal in order to make 
the pulpits and streets resound with his dismal har- 
angues on the sinfulness of the world and the blind- 
ness and obstinacy of the Jews, the Portuguese king 
informed him that he " might come, but with a crown 
of red-hot iron on his head." Portugal was the only 
refuge on the Pyrenean peninsula from the prosely- 
tizing rage of the flagellant preacher, and many 
Spanish Jews who had the means of escaping fled 
thither. Don Judah Ibn Yachya-Negro, held in high 
esteem by King Joao I, and, perhaps, appointed by 
him chief rabbi of Portugal, represented to him the 
horrors of enforced baptism, and the necessary in- 
sincerity of the professions of unwilling converts. 
The king consequently issued his commands that the 
immigrant new-Christians should not be interfered 
with or delivered up to Spain. 

In other parts of Europe, where the fanatical 
Dominican had been, or whither reports of his deeds 
or misdeeds had penetrated, the Jews were forced to 
drain the cup of bitterness to the dregs. In Savoy, 
which Vincent Ferrer had visited, they were obliged 
to hide themselves with their holy books in mount- 
ain caves. In Germany, persecutions of Jews had 
always found a congenial soil, and they were pro- 
moted by the anarchy which prevailed during the 
reign of Sigismund and the sessions of the council 
of Constance. Even the Italian communities, though 
for the most part undisturbed, lived in continual 
anxiety, lest the movement strike a responsive 
chord in their politically distracted land. They 
convened a great synod, first at Bologna, then at 
Forli (1416 — 1418), to consider what measures 
might be adopted to avert the threatened danger. 


Happily, at this moment, after a long schism, bitter 
strife and a plurality of anti-popes, the council of 
Constance elected a pope, who, though full of dis- 
simulation, was not the most degraded in the 
college of cardinals. Martin V, who was said by 
his contemporaries to have appeared simple and 
good before his election, but to have shown himself 
afterwards very clever and not very kind, received 
the Jews with scant courtesy when, during his pro- 
gress through Constance, they approached him car- 
rying lighted tapers in festive procession, and offered 
him the Torah with a prayer for the confirmation of 
their sufferance. From his white palfrey with silk 
and gold trappings he answered them : "You have 
the law, but understand it not. The old has passed 
away, and the new been found." (The blind finding 
fault with the seeing.) Yet he treated them with 
leniency. At the request of Emperor Sigismund, 
he confirmed the privileges granted to the Jews of 
Germany and Savoy by the preceding emperor, Ru- 
pert, denouncing attacks on their persons and prop- 
erty, and the practice of converting them by force. 
The emperor, who may be accused of thoughtlessness 
but not of a spirit of persecution, thereupon issued 
his commands to all the German princes and magis- 
trates, cities and subjects, to allow his "servi cam- 
erae " the full enjoyment of the privileges and im- 
munities which had been given them by the pope 
(February 26th, 141 8). A deputation of Jews, com- 
missioned by the Italian synod, also waited upon the 
now generally acknowledged pope, and craved his 
protection. Even the Spanish Jews appear to have 
dispatched an embassy to him, consisting of two of 
their most distinguished men, Don Samuel Abra- 
banel and Don Samuel Halevi. When the Jews 
complained of the insecurity of their lives, the at- 
tacks on their religious convictions, and the frequent 
desecration of their sanctuaries, the pope issued a 
bull (January 31st, 141 9), with the following pre- 
amble : 


" Whereas the Jews are made in the image of God, and a remnant 
of them will one day be saved, and whereas they have besought our 
protection, following in the footsteps of our predecessors we command 
that they be not molested in their synagogues ; that their laws, rights, 
and customs be not assailed ; that they be not baptized by force, con- 
strained to observe Christian festivals, nor to wear new badges, and 
that they be not hindered in their business relations with Christians." 

What could have induced Pope Martin to show such 
friendly countenance to the Jews? Probably he had 
some idea of checkmating by this means the Jew- 
hating Benedict, who still played at being pope in 
his obscure corner. The principal consideration 
probably was the rich gifts with which the Jewish 
representatives approached him. Although at the 
council of Constance no cardinal was poorer than 
Martin, and his election was in great measure ow- 
ing to this fact, on the throne of St. Peter he 
showed no aversion to money. On the contrary, 
everything might be obtained from him if money 
were paid down ; without it, nothing. 



The Hussite Heresy — Consequences for the Jews involved in the 
Struggle — Jacob Molin — Abraham Benveniste and Joseph Ibn- 
Shem Tob in the Service of the Castilian Court — Isaac Cam- 
panton, the Poet Solomon Dafiera — Moses Da Rieti — Anti- 
Christian Polemical Literature — Chayim Ibn-Musa — Simon Duran 
and his Son Solomon — Joseph Albo as a ReUgious Philosopher — 
Jewish Philosophical Systems — Edict of the Council of Basle 
against the Jews — Fanatical Outbreaks in Majorca — Astruc 
Sibili and his Conversion to Christianity. 

1420— 1442 C.E. 

Meanwhile history received a fresh impulse, which, 
although coming from weak hands, produced a for- 
ward movement. The spreading corruption in the 
church, the self-deifying arrogance of the popes and 
the licentiousness of priests and monks revolted the 
moral sense of the people, opened their eyes, and 
encouraged them to doubt the very foundations of 
the Roman Catholic system. No improvement could 
be expected from the princes of the church, the 
jurists and diplomatists who met in council at Con- 
stance to deliberate on a scheme of thorough 
reform. They had only a worldly object in view, 
seeking to gloss over the prevailing rottenness by 
transferring the papal power to the high ecclesiastics, 
substituting the rule of an aristocratic hierarchy for 
papal absolutism. A Czech priest, John Huss, of 
Prague, inspired by the teachings of Wycliffe, spoke 
the magic word that loosened the bonds in which 
the church had ensnared the minds of men. " Not 
this or that pope," he said in effect, "but the papacy 
and the entire organization of the Catholic church 
constitute the fundamental evil from which Chris- 
tendom is suffering." The flames to which the 
council of Constance condemned this courageous 


priest only served to light up the truth he had 
uttered. They fired a multitude in Bohemia, who 
entered on a life and death struggle with Catholi- 
cism. Whenever a party in Christendom opposes 
itself to the ruling church, it assumes a tinge of the 
Old Testament, not to say Jewish, spirit. The 
Hussites regarded Catholicism, not unjustly, as 
heathenism, and themselves as Israelites, who must 
wage holy war against Philistines, Moabites, and 
Ammonites. Churches and monasteries were to 
them the sanctuaries of a dissolute idolatry, temples 
to Baal and Moloch and groves of Ashtaroth, to be 
consumed with fire and sword. The Hussite war, 
although largely due to the mutual race-hatred of 
Czechs and Germans, and to religious indignation, 
began in a small way the work of clearing the church 
doctrine of its mephitic elements. 

For the Jews, this movement was decidedly 
calamitous, the responsibility for which must rest, 
not with the wild Hussites, but with the Catholic 
fanaticism stirred up against the new heresy. The 
former went little beyond denunciations of Jewish 
usury; at the most, sacked Jewish together with 
Catholic houses. Of special Hussite hostility to the 
Jews no evidence is forthcoming. On the other 
hand, Catholics accused Jews of secretly supplying 
the Hussites with money and arms; and in the 
Bavarian towns near the Bohmerwald, they per- 
secuted them unmercifully as friends and allies of 
the heretics. The Dominicans — the "army of anti- 
Christ" as they were called — included the Jews in 
their fierce pulpit denunciations of the Hussites, 
and inflamed the people and princes against them. 
The crusades against the Hussites, like those against 
the Mahometans and Waldenses, commenced with 
massacres of Jews. Revived fanaticism first affected 
the Jews in Austria — a land which, like Spain, passed 
from liberal tolerance of Jews to persecution, and 
in bigotry approximated so close to the Iberian 


kingdom that it ultimately joined it. The mind of 
Archduke Albert, an earnest and well-intentioned 
prince, was systematically filled with hatred against 
the " enemies of God." Fable after fable was in- 
vented, which, devoid even of originality, sufficed 
to drive to extreme measures a man of pure char- 
acter, ignorant of the lying devices of the Jew- 
haters. Three Christian children went skating in 
Vienna ; the ice broke through, and they were 
drowned. When the anxious parents failed to find 
them, a malicious rumor was set on foot that they 
had been slaughtered by Jews, who required their 
blood for the ensuing Passover celebration. Then a 
Jew was charged with a crime calculated to incense 
the populace to a still greater degree. The wife of 
the sacristan of Enns was said to have purloined 
the consecrated host from the church, and sold it to 
a wealthy Jew named Israel, who had sent it to a 
large number of Jewish communities in and out of 
Austria. The charges of Jewish murders of Chris- 
tian children and Jewish profanations of hosts had 
not lost their charm in the fifteenth century, and 
their inventors could calculate their effect with ac- 
curacy. By order of the archduke, the sacristan's 
wife and her two accomplices or seducers, Israel 
and his wife, were brought to Vienna, examined, 
and forced to confess. The records of the case 
are silent as to the means employed to obtain the 
avowal of guilt; but the procedure of mediaeval 
Christendom in such trials is well known. 

Archduke Albert issued the order that in the 
early morning of the 23d May, 1420 (loth Sivan), 
all the Jews in his realm should be thrown into pri- 
son, and this was promptly done. The moneyed 
Jews were stripped of their possessions, and the 
poor forthwith banished the country. In the gaols, 
wives were separated from their husbands, and 
children from their parents. When from helpless- 
ness they fell to hopelessness, Christian priests 


came to them with crosses in their hands and 
honeyed words on their lips to convert them. A 
few of the poorer-spirited saved their Hves by ac- 
cepting baptism. The more resolute slew them- 
selves and their kinsfolk by opening their veins 
with straps, cords, or whatever they found to hand. 
The spirit of the survivors was broken by the length 
and cruelty of their imprisonment. Their children 
were taken from them, and immured in cloisters. 
Still they remained firm, and on the 13th March 
(9th Nisan), 142 1, after nearly a year's confinement, 
they were committed to the flames. In Vienna alone 
more than a hundred perished in one field near the 
Danube. Another order was then issued by Arch- 
duke Albert, forbidding Jews to stay thenceforth in 

The converts proved no gain to the church. The 
majority seized the first opportunity of emigrating 
and relapsing into Judaism. They bent their steps 
to Bohemia, rendered tolerant by the Hussite 
schism, or northwards to Poland and southwards 
to Italy. How attached the Austrian Jews were to 
their religion is shown by the conduct of one clever 
youth. Having received baptism, he had become 
the favorite of Duke Frederick, afterwards the 
German emperor, but, although living in luxury, 
he was seized with remorse for his apostasy, and 
boldly expressed his desire to return to Judaism. 
Frederick exerted himself to dissuade his favorite 
from this idea. He begged, entreated, and even 
threatened him ; he sent a priest to advise him ; all, 
however, in vain. Finally, the duke handed the 
"obstinate heretic and backslider" over to the 
ecclesiastical authorities, who condemned him to 
the stake. Unfettered and with a Hebrew song on 
his lips the Jewish youth mounted the scaffold. 

In the meantime, the devastating war broke out 
between the fierce Hussites and the not less barbar- 
ous Roman Catholics, between the Czechs and the 


Germans. A variety of nationalities participated in 
the sanguinary struggle as to the use of the cup by 
the laity in the eucharist. Emperor Sigismund, who 
found it impossible to subdue the insurrection with 
his own troops, summoned the imperial army to 
his standard. Wild free-lances, men of Brabant and 
Holland, were taken into his pay. From all quar- 
ters armed troops poured into the Bohemian valleys 
and against the capital, Prague, where the blind 
hero, Zisca, bade defiance to a world of foes. On 
the way, the German imperial army exhibited its 
courage by attacks on the defenseless Jews. " We 
are marching afar," exclaimed the mercenaries, "to 
avenge our insulted God, and shall those who slew 
him be spared?" Wherever they came across 
Jewish communities, on the Rhine, in Thuringia and 
Bavaria, they put them to the sword, or forced them 
to apostatize. The crusaders threatened, on their 
return from victory over the Hussites, to wipe the 
Jewish people from the face of the earth. Jewish 
fathers of families true to their faith gave orders 
that, at a certain signal, their children should be 
killed to avoid falling into the hands of the blood- 
thirsty soldiery. Letters of lamentation over the 
threatened disaster, calling upon him to implore the 
intervention of heaven, were addressed from far and 
near to the illustrious rabbi of Mayence, Jacob ben 
Moses Molin Halevi (Maharil, born 1365, died 
1427), the most pious rabbi of his time. His 
arrangement of the synagogue ritual and melodies 
is used to this day in many German communities, 
and their colonies in Poland and Hungary. Jacob 
Molin ordered a general fast, accompanied by fer- 
vent prayer, and his instructions were circulated 
from one community to another throughout the land. 
The German congregations forthwith assembled 
for solemn mourning and humiliation, and fasted 
during four days between New Year and Atonement 
(8th — nth September, 142 1), and for three succes- 


sive days after Tabernacles, the observance being 
as strict as on the most sacred fast days of the 
Jewish calendar. It was a time of feverish tension 
for the German Jews. In their despair they prayed 
that victory might be vouchsafed to the Hussites, 
and it seemed as if their supplications were heard. 
For, shortly afterwards, the imperial army and its 
mercenary allies assembled near Saatz were stricken 
with such terror at the news of Zisca's approach, 
that they sought safety in disorderly flight, disband- 
ing in all directions, and hurrying home by different 
routes. Famished and footsore, a few of the very 
men who had vowed death and extirpation to the 
Jews, appeared at the doors of their houyes, begging 
for bread, which was gladly given them. Privation 
had so reduced the fugitives that they could no* 
have harmed a child. 

The Dominican clergy commissioned to preach 
against the Hussites did not cease to foster Catholic 
hatred of Jews. From their pulpits they thundered 
against heretics and Jews alike, cautioning the faith- 
ful against holding intercourse with them, and con- 
sciously and unconsciously inciting to attacks on 
their persons and property. The Jews flew for help 
to the pope, Martin V — doubtless not with empty 
hands — and again obtained a very favorable bull (23d 
February, i42 2),in which Christians were enjoined to 
remember that their religion had been inherited from 
Jews, who were necessary for the corroboration of 
Christian truth. The pope forbade the monks to 
preach against intercourse between Jews and Chris- 
tians, and declared null and void the ban with which 
transgressors had been threatened. He recom- 
mended to Catholics a friendly and benevolent atti- 
tude towards their Hebrew fellow-citizens, severely 
denounced violent attacks upon them, and con- 
firmed all the privileges which had from time to 
time been granted by the papacy. This bull was, 
however, as ineffectual as the protection which 


Emperor Sigismund had so solemnly promised the 
Jews. A persecuting spirit continued to animate 
the Christian church. The monks did not cease to 
declaim against the " accursed " Jewish nation ; the 
populace did not refrain from tormenting, injuring 
and murdering Jews ; even succeeding popes ignored 
the bull, and restored the odious canonical restric- 
tions in all their stringency. Turning a deaf ear to 
both pope and emperor, the citizens of Cologne 
expelled the Jewish community, perhaps the oldest 
in Germany. The exiles took up their abode at 
Deutz (1426). In the South German towns, Ravens- 
burg, Ueberlingen and Lindau, the Jews were burnt 
because of a lying blood accusation (1431). 

The literary work of the German Jews was, as a 
consequence, poor and inconsiderable. Anxiety 
and persecution had deadened their intellect. Even 
in Talmudical study the German rabbis hardly rose 
above mediocrity, and gave nothing of consequence 
to the world. Some rabbis were installed by the 
reigning prince ; at least Emperor Sigismund com- 
missioned one of his Jewish agents, Chayim of 
Landshut, "to appoint three rabbis (Judenmeister) 
in Germany." Under such auspices, appointments 
were probably determined less by merit than by 
money. For a college, in which students were pre- 
pared for the rabbinate, a heavy tax had to be paid, 
notwithstanding that the instruction was given grat- 
uitously. Besides Jacob Molin, only one name of 
importance emerges from the darkness of this 
period, Menachem of Merseburg, or, as he was 
generally called, Meil Zedek. He wrote a compre- 
hensive work on the practice of the Talmudic mar- 
riage and civil law, which the Saxon communities 
adopted for their authoritative guidance. He, at 
least, departed from the beaten track of his older 
contemporaries or teachers, Jacob Molin and Isaac 
Tyrnau, who attached value to every insignificant 
detail of the liturgy. By and by Menachem of 


Merseburg was recognized as an authority, and an 
excellent regulation drawn up by him received uni- 
versal assent. Among the Jews at that period, 
marriages took place at a very early age ; girls in 
their teens were hurried into matrimony. Accord- 
ing to Talmudical law a girl, under age, who had 
been given in marriage by her mother or brothers 
and not by her father, was permitted, on attaining 
her majority, in her twelfth year, and even much 
later under some circumstances, to dissolve her 
union without further ceremony than a declaration 
of her intention to do so, or the contracting of 
another marriage (Miun). Menachem of Merse- 
burg felt the indecency of so sudden and often ca- 
pricious a dissolution of marriage, and he decided 
that formal bills of divorce should be required. 

The literary achievements of the Spanish Jews 
during this period were not of a higher character ; 
they exhibited unmistakable signs of decay, notwith- 
standing that their situation had become more toler- 
able since the death of the bigoted and wanton 
queen regent, Catalina, and the fall of the anti-pope, 
Benedict XIII, and his Jewish accomplices. Don 
Juan II — or, rather, his favorite, Alvaro de Luna, to 
whom the manao-ement of the state was confided — 
stood too much in need of the assistance of Jewish 
financiers during the frequently recurring civil wars 
and insurrections to do anything to offend them. 
Hence, during his reign, restrictive laws against the 
Jews seem to have been enacted only to be broken, 
Jews were again admitted to public employment, 
regardless of the fact that such appointments had 
been sternly forbidden both by kings and popes. An 
influential Jew, Abraham Benveniste, surnamed 
Senior, distinguished for his intelligence and wealth, 
was invested with a high dignity at the court of Don 
Juan, and was thus in a position to frustrate threat- 
ened persecutions of his co-religionists. Also Joseph 
ben Shem Tob Ibn-Shem Tob, a cultivated and fruit- 


ful writer, proficient in philosophic studies, was in 
the service of the state under Juan II. On the one 
hand, the cortes did not fail to remind the king that 
by his father's laws and by papal decrees the Jews 
were excluded from public offices, and, on the other 
hand. Pope Eugenius IV, successor to Martin V, 
strained every effort to humiliate the Jews and har- 
den their lot, even forbidding Don Juan to befriend 
them ; but these representations were of no avail. 
To the cortes of Burgos the king replied evasively 
that he would cause an examination to be made of 
the laws promulgated in regard to the Jews by his 
father, and of the papal bulls, and he would take care 
to observe everything calculated to promote the ser- 
vice of God and the welfare of the state. Against 
the pope's interference with his crown-rights he en- 
tered a protest. 

This king gave permission to the no less noble 
than wealthy rabbi, Abraham Benveniste, to hold a 
meeting of delegates from various communities in 
the royal palace of Avila (1432). These delegates 
were to bring harmony into the state of moral and 
religious disorder caused by the attacks of the 
masses in 141 2 — 1415. The smaller communities 
were without teachers, the large ones without rabbis 
and preachers. Many of them had been reduced to 
poverty, and the richer members were unwilling to 
contribute to the support of religious institutions. 
Evil ways and denunciations by the unscrupulous 
had acquired the upper hand, because the represen- 
tative men and the few rabbis did not venture to 
punish the evildoers. Abraham Benveniste, there- 
fore, framed a statute (the law of Avila), which com- 
pelled people to establish schools and colleges, to 
introduce order into the communities, and to punish 
miscreants. Juan II confirmed this statute. 

The literature of the Spanish Jews, however, was 
powerless to recover itself. Despite the calm suc- 
ceeding the storm, it seemed to wither like autumn 


leaves. The decline was most marked in the de- 
partment of Talmudic study. After the emigration 
of Isaac ben Sheshet and the death of Chasdai 
Crescas, no Spanish rabbi obtained more than local 
authority and reputation. The only upholder of the 
traditions of the rabbinate was Isaac ben Jacob Cam- 
panton, who lived to be more than a hundred years 
old (born 1360, died at Pefiafiel 1463); but he pro- 
duced only one work (Darke ha-Talmud), which 
exhibited neither genius nor learning. Still, in his 
day, Campanton passed for the Gaon of Castile. 
Neo-Hebraic poetry, which had blossomed so pro- 
fusely on Spanish soil, faded and drooped. Of those 
who cultivated it during this period only a few are 
remembered — Solomon Dafiera, Don Vidal Ben- 
veniste, the leading speaker on the Jewish side at 
the disputation of Tortosa, and Solomon Bonfed. 
The most gifted was the last. He was ambitious 
to emulate Ibn-Gebirol; but he possessed little more 
than the sensitiveness and moroHeness of his great 
exemplar, like him imagining himself to be the 
sport of fortune, with a prescriptive right to lamen- 

The Jews of Italy failed to distinguish themselves 
in poetry even during the Medici period, in spite of 
the hiofh culture which, with the Hussite movement, 
was eating away the foundations of mediaeval 
Catholicism. Since Immanuel Romi, the Jews of 
Italy had produced but one poet ; even he was not 
a poet in the noblest sense of the word. Moses 
ben Isaac (Gajo) da Rieti, of Perugia (born 1388, 
died after 145 1), a physician by profession, a dab- 
bler in philosophy, and a graceful writer in both 
Hebrew and Italian, might have passed for an artist 
if poetry were a thing of meter and rhyme, for in 
his sublimely conceived poem both were faultless. 
His desire was to glorify in poetry Judaism and 
Jewish antiquity, the sciences, and the illustrious 
men of all ages. He employed an ingenious form 


of verse, in which the stanzas were connected by 
threes by means of cross-rhymes. But Da Rieti's 
language is often rough, many of his allusions show 
want of taste, and where he should rise to lofty 
thought he sinks into puerilities. Only in one re- 
spect does his work mark an advance in neo- 
Hebrew poetry. He breaks entirely with the tra- 
ditional Judaeo-Arabic method of a single rhyme. 
There is variety in his versification ; the ear is not 
wearied by monotonous repetition of the sameor simi- 
lar sounds, and the lines fall naturally into stanzas. 
He also avoids playing on Biblical verses, the objec- 
tionable habit of Judaeo-Spanish poets. In a word, 
Da Rieti supplied the correct form for neo- Hebrew 
poetry, but he was unable to vivify it with an attrac- 
tive spirit. Yet the Italian Jews adopted a part of 
his poem into their liturgy, and recited extracts daily. 
From the Apennine Peninsula let us turn back to 
the Pyrenean, where the pulsation of historic life 
among the Jews, though gradually becoming weaker, 
still was stronger than in the other countries in 

which they were dispersed. The two branches of 
intellectual activity which formerly, in their palmy 
days, had exercised every mind — the severe study 
of the Talmud and the airy pursuit of the poetic 
muse — had lost their predominance in the Spanish 
Jewries. The systematic study of the Scriptures 
also was no longer properly cultivated. The literary 
activity of this period was almost exclusively di- 
rected towards combating the intrusiveness of the 
church, repelling its attacks on Judaism, and with 
standing its proselytizing zeal. Faithful and strong- 
minded Jewish thinkers held it a duty to proclaim 
their convictions aloud, and to admonish waverers 
and strengthen them. The more the preaching 
monks, especially apostates of the stamp of Paul de 
Santa Maria, Geronimo de Santa Fe, and Pedro de 
la Caballeria, exerted themselves to prove that the 
Christian Trinity was the true God of Israel, taught 


and typified in the Bible and the Talmud, and the 
more the church stretched forth its tentacles towards 
the Jews, straining every nerve to fold them in its 
fatal embrace, the more necessary was it for the 
synagogue to watch over its sacred trust, and guard 
its holy of holies from idolatrous desecration. It was 
especially necessary that the weaker-minded should 
be spared confusion in religious and doctrinal mat- 
ters. Hence Jewish preachers devoted themselves 
more than ever to expounding the doctrine of the 
unity of God in their pulpits. They pointed out the 
essential and irreconcilable difference between the 
Jewish and the Christian conception of the Deity, 
and characterized their identification as false and 
impious. The time resembled that other epoch in 
Jewish history when Hellenized Jews tried to induce 
their brethren to deny God, and were supported by 
the secular arm. Some preachers, in their zeal, 
went to extremes. Instead of relying exclusively 
on the convincing demonstrations in the Bible text, 
or on the attractive illustrations of the Agada, they 
resorted to the armory of scholasticism, employing 
the formulae of philosophy and, in the presence of 
the Torah, and by the side of the Hebrew prophets 
and the Talmudical sages, quoted Plato, Aristotle, 
and Averroes. 

This controversial literature, cultivated on a large 
scale, was designed to defend Judaism against cal- 
umny and abuse, rather than to convert a single 
Christian soul. Its aim was to open the eyes of 
Jews, so that ignorance or credulity might not lead 
them into the snares prepared for them. Doubtless 
it also desired to stir up the new-Christians, and to 
re-animate their Jewish spirit beneath the disguise 
they had assumed to save their lives. Hence the 
majority of the polemical writings of the day were 
merely vindications of Judaism from the old charges 
fulminated by Nicholas de Lyra a century before, or 
more recently by Geronimo de Santa F6 and others, 


and widely circulated by the Christian clergy. Solo- 
mon-Paul of Burgos, who had been appointed bishop 
of his native town, wrote, in his eighty-second year 
(1434, a year before his death), a venomous tract 
against Judaism — " Searching the Scriptures " (Scru- 
tinium Scriptuarum) — in the form of a dialogue 
between a teacher and his pupil, the unbelieving 
Saul and the converted Paul. Solomon-Paul does 
not seem to have retained much of the wit which, 
according to Jewish and Christian panegyrists, had 
at one time distinguished him — it had probably be- 
come blunted amid the luxurious ease of the episco- 
pal palace — for his tract, devoutly Christian and 
Catholic in tone, is pointless and dull. Another 
ex-rabbi who devoted himself to attacking Judaism 
was Juan de Espana, also called Juan the Old (at 
Toledo), a convert who in old age had embraced 
Christianity under the influence of Vincent Ferrer's 
proselytizing efforts. He wrote a treatise on his 
own conversion and a Christian commentary on the 
seventy-second Psalm, in both of which he asserted 
the genuineness of his change of creed, and urged 
the Jews to abjure their errors. How many weak- 
minded Jews must have been influenced by the zeal, 
earnest or hypocritical, of such men as these, be- 
longing to their own race, and learned in their lit- 

It is impossible to exaggerate the services of the 
men who, deeply impressed with the gravity of the 
crisis, threw themselves into the breach, with exhor- 
tations to their co-religionists to remain faithful to 
their creed. In defiance of the dangers which men- 
aced them, they scattered their inspiriting discourses 
far and wide. Foremost among them were the men 
who had distinguished themselves at the Tortosa 
disputation by their unyielding attitude and their 
courage in withstanding the unjustifiable attacks 
upon the Talmud — Don Vidal (Ferrer) Ibn-Labi 
and Joseph Albo. The former drew up in Hebrew 


a refutation of Geronimo's impeachment of the 
Talmud (Kodesh ha-Kodashim), and the latter cir- 
culated, in Spanish, an account of a religious con- 
troversy he had sustained with an eminent church 
dignitary. Isaac ben Kalonymos, of a learned Pro- 
vencal family named Nathan, who associated a great 
deal with learned Christians, and frequently had to 
defend his religious convictions, wrote two polem- 
ical works, one entitled " Correction of the False 
Teacher," directed against Geronimo's libelous 
essay, and the other, called "The Fortress," of 
unknown purpose. He also compiled a laborious 
work of reference intended to assist others in de- 
fending Judaism from attack. Isaac Nathan, in his 
intercourse with Christians, often had to listen to 
criticisms of Judaism, or evidences drawn from the 
Hebrew Bible, in favor of Christian dogmas, which 
he found were always based on false renderings of 
Hebrew words. To put an end to these illusory 
outgrowths of prevailing ignorance of the original 
text of the Scriptures, or, at least, to lighten the 
labors of his brethren in refuting them, he resolved 
to compile a comprehensive digest of the linguistic 
materials of the Bible, by which the actual meaning 
of each word should be made clear. According 
to the plan adopted, any one can ascertain, at a 
glance, both how often a certain word occurs in the 
Bible, and its varying meanings according to the 
contexts. The work thus undertaken by Isaac 
Nathan was of colossal scope, and occupied a long 
series of years (September, 1437 — 1445). It was a 
Bible concordance, that is, the verses were grouped 
alphabetically under the reference words according 
to roots and derivations. The existing Latin con- 
cordances served in a measure as models, although 
their purpose was the less ambitious one of assist- 
ing preachers to find texts. Isaac Nathan, who 
produced various other works, by this concordance 
rendered inestimable and lasting service to the 


Study of the Bible, although his labor was of a 
purely mechanical kind. Originating from the tem- 
porary needs of the polemical situation, it has been, 
and will ever remain, a powerful weapon for ensur- 
ing the triumph of Judaism in its struggles with 
other religious systems. 

The philosopher, Joseph Ibn-Shem Tob (born 
1400, died a martyr 1460), who was a voluminous 
writer, a popular preacher, and a frequenter of the 
Castilian court, also entered the lists against Chris- 
tianity to expose the fallacy and unreasonableness 
of its dogmas. In his frequent intercourse with 
Christians of distinction, both clerical and lay, he 
found it necessary to make himself thoroughly 
acquainted with Christian theology that he might 
adduce cogent arguments in reply to those who 
wished to convert him, or in his presence made the 
oft- reiterated statement of the falsity of Judaism. 
Occasionally a regular controversy in defense of 
his creed was forced upon him. The fruits of his 
studies and thought he committed to writing in the 
shape of a small treatise, entitled " Doubts of the 
Religion of Jesus," in which he criticised with un- 
sparing logic the dogmas of Original Sin, Salvation, 
and Incarnation. Besides, he wrote, for the in- 
struction of his brethren, a detailed commentary 
on Profiat Duran's satire on Christianity, and made 
available for them, by means of a Hebrew transla- 
tion, Chasdai Crescas' polemical work against the 
Christian religion, originally written in Spanish. 
Strange to say, the Spanish Jews preferred, as a 
rule, Hebrew books to those in the language of 
their adopted country. 

Among the authors of polemical works against 
Christianity a contemporary of Joseph Ibn-Shem 
Tob deserves special mention. History has hitherto 
forgotten Chayim Ibn-Musa, from Bejar, in the 
neighborhood of Salamanca (born about 1 390, died 
about 1460), a physican, versifier and writer, who 


had access to the Spanish court and the grandees 
through his medical skill, and so, frequent oppor- 
tunities of discussing questions of doctrine with 
ecclesiastics and learned laymen. A colloquy pre- 
served by Chayim Ibn-Musa illustrates the spirit 
which prevailed in Spain before the hateful Inquisi- 
tion silenced all freedom of speech. A learned 
ecclesiastic once asked Ibn-Musa why, if Judaism, as 
he maintained, was the true faith, the Jews could 
not possess themselves of the Holy Land and 
Jerusalem ? Ibn Musa replied that they had lost 
their country through the sins of their fathers, 
and could regain it only by perfect atonement and 
purgation. He, in turn, propounded a question : 
Why are the Christians no longer in possession of 
the Holy Sepulcher? and why does it, together with 
all the sites associated with the Passion, continue in 
the hands of Mahometan infidels, notwithstanding 
that Christians, by means of confession and absolu- 
tion, and through the medium of the nearest availa- 
ble priest, can free themselves at any moment from 
sin ? Before the ecclesiastic could bethink himself 
of a suitable reply, a knight, who had formerly been 
in Palestine, interposed: The Mahometans are the 
only people who deserve to possess the site of the 
Temple and the Holy Land, for neither Christians 
nor Jews hold houses of prayer in so much honor 
as they. The Christians, during the night before 
Easter (Vigils), perpetrate shameful abominations 
in the churches at Jerusalem, abandon themselves 
to debauchery, harbor thieves and murderers, and 
carry on bloody feuds within their precincts. They 
dishonor their character in the same way as the 
Jews profaned their Temple. Therefore, God, in 
His wisdom, has deprived the Jews and the Chris- 
tians of the Holy City, and has intrusted it to the 
Mahometans, because, in their hands, it is safe 
from desecration. To his observation the Christian 
priest and the Jewish physician could oppose only 
abashed silence. 


Chayim Ibn-Musa devoted himself to the task of 
discrediting the chief sources of the materials of 
Christian attacks on Judaism, the writings of the 
Franciscan Nicholas de Lyra. He not only refuted 
the assertions put forward in those works, but de- 
prived them of the soil upon which they fed. The 
ever-recurring controversies between Jews and 
Christians led to no conclusions, and left each party 
in the belief that it had gained a victory, because 
they generally turned on secondary questions, the 
disputants never discussing fundamental premises, 
but wrangling, each from his undemonstrated basis. 
Chayim Ibn-Musa wished to introduce method into 
these controversies, and to lay down clear princi- 
ples for the defense of Judaism. Accordingly, he 
drew up rules which, strictly observed, were bound 
to lead to a definite result. In the first place, he 
advised Jews invariably to hold fast in a disputation 
to the simple meaning of the Scriptures, always 
to take the context into account, and especially to 
avoid allegorical or symbolical methods of interpre- 
tation, which left Christian polemics free to intro- 
duce arbitrary theories. Further, Jewish disputants 
were to announce that they ascribed no authority in 
matters of belief either to the Chaldaic translation 
of the Bible (Targum) or to the Greek (Septuagint), 
these being the sources of the false proofs adduced 
by Christians. He counseled them to abandon even 
Agadic exegesis, and not to hesitate to declare that 
it had no weight in determining the doctrines of 
Judaism. These and similar rules Chayim Ibn- 
Musa applied to this writings of Nicholas de Lyra, 
successfully refuting them from beginning to end in 
a comprehensive work, justly entitled " Shield and 

The anti-Christian polemical literature of this 
period was further enriched by two writers, father 
and son, living in Algiers, far removed from the 
scenes of the Christian propaganda. But Simon 


ben Zemach Duran and his son, Solomon Duran, 
were Spaniards by birth and education. In his 
philosophic exposition of Judaism, the former de- 
voted a chapter to Christianity, maintaining, in an- 
swer to Christian and Mahometan objections, the 
inviolability of the Torah. This chapter, entitled 
"Bow and Buckler," and described as being "for 
defense and attack," proves the contention of older 
writers, and more recently of Profiat Duran, that 
Jesus' intention was not to abolish Judaism. The 
rabbi of Algiers exhibits extraordinarily wide 
acquaintance with the literature of the New Testa- 
ment and thorough familiarity with church doctrine, 
combats each with weapons taken from its own 
arsenal, and criticises unsparingly. 

Solomon Duran I (born about 1400, died 1467), 
who succeeded his father in the Algerian rabbinate, 
combined with profound Talmudic knowledge a 
decided leaning towards a rationalistic apprehension 
of Judaism. Unlike his father and his ancestor, 
Nachmani, he was a sworn enemy of the Kabbala. 
During his father's lifetime and at his request, he 
wrote a refutation of the shameless, lying accusa- 
tions brought against the Talmud by Geronimo de 
Santa Fe. In an exhaustive treatise ("Letter on the 
Conflict of Duties " ) he deals sharply with Geroni- 
mo's sallies. He repels the accusation that the 
Talmud teaches lewdness, and proves that it really 
inculcates extreme continence. Jews who regulate 
their Hves according to Talmudical prescriptions 
scrupulously abstain from carnal sins, holding them 
in great abhorrence, and pointing with scorn at 
persons guilty of them. How, asks Solomon Duran, 
can Christians reproach Jews with unchastity — they, 
whose holiest men daily commit sins which dare not 
be mentioned to modest ears, and which have 
become proverbial as " Monk's sin " (peccato dei 

Religious philosophy, which had been raised to 


the perfection of a science only by Jewish-Spanish 
thinkers, had its last cultivators in Spain during this 
period. The same men who protected Judaism 
against the onslaughts of Christianity defended it 
against benighted Jews who wished to banish light, 
and, like the Dominicans, desired to establish blind 
faith in the place of reason and judgment Zealots 
like Shem Tob Ibn-Shem Tob and others, biased by 
their narrow Talmudical education, and misled by 
the Kabbala, saw in scientific inquiry a byroad to 
heresy. Perceiving that for the most part cultivated 
Jews succumbed to the proselytizing efforts of 
Vincent Ferrer and Pope Benedict, men of the 
stamp of Shem Tob were confirmed in their belief 
that philosophic culture, nay, reflection on a relig- 
ious topic, irretrievably lead to apostasy. The logical 
result of religious impeachment of science was the 
condemnation of Maimuni and all the Jewish think- 
ers who had allowed reason to have weight in 
religious questions. Against this form of bigotry 
Joseph Albo entered the lists with a complete 
religio-philosophical work (Ikkarim, "fundamental 
teachings"), in which he attempted to separate the 
essential doctrines of Judaism from the non-essen- 
tial, and to fix the boundary line between belief and 

Joseph Albo (born about 1380, died about 1444), 
of Monreal, one of the principal representatives of 
Judaism at the Tortosa disputation, who, probably 
through the intolerance of Pope Benedict, had emi- 
grated to Soria, was a physician and a pupil of 
Chasdai Crescas, hence well acquainted with the 
physical sciences and the philosophic thought of his 
time. Although a strict adherent of Talmudical 
Judaism, he was, like his teacher, not averse to phi- 
losophic ideas. Indeed, he tried to reconcile them, 
without, of course, permitting Judaism to yield a jot 
to philosophy. Albo had not, however, the pro- 
fundity of his teacher; as a thinker he was super- 


ficial, commonplace, and incapable of writing with 
logical sequence. On the advice of his friends, he 
undertook to investigate in how far freedom of 
inquiry in religious matters was possible within the 
limits of Judaism. At the same time he wished to 
fix the number of articles of faith and to decide the 
question whether the number thirteen adopted by 
Maimuni was correct, orwhetheritcould be increased 
or lessened without justly bringing a charge of heresy 
on him who made the change. Thus originated his 
religio-philosophical system, the last on Spanish soil. 
Albo's style differs widely from that of his predeces- 
sors. He was a preacher — one of the cleverest and 
most graceful — and this circumstance exercised 
marked influence on his method of exposition. It 
is easy, comprehensible, popular and captivating. 
Albo has the knack of explaining every philosophic 
idea by a striking illustration, and of developing it 
by skillful employment of Bible verses and Agadic 
aphorisms. What his style thus gained, on the one 
hand, in intelligibility and popularity, it lost, on the 
other, through a certain redundancy and shallowness. 
It is a remakable fact that Albo, who thought that 
he was developing his religio-philosophical system 
exclusively in the native spirit of Judaism, placed at 
its head a principle of indubitably Christian origin; 
so powerfully do surroundings affect even those who 
exert themselves to throw off such Influence. The 
religious philosopher of Soria propounded as his 
fundamental idea that salvation was the whole aim 
of man in this life, and that Judaism strongly empha- 
sized this aspect of religion. His teacher, Chasdai 
Crescas, and others, had considered man's aim 
the bliss of the future life, to be found in proximity 
to the Deity and In the union of the soul with the 
all-pervading spirit of God. According to Albo 
highest happiness consists not so much In the 
exaltation of the soul as in its salvation. That is 
the nucleus of Albo's religio-philosophical system. 


Man attains only after death the perfection for which 
he is destined by God ; for this higher hfe his mun- 
dane existence is but a preparation. How can he 
best utiHze his term of preparation ? There are three 
kinds of institutions for the reclamation of man from 
barbarism and his advancement to civilization. The 
first is Natural Law, a sort of social compact to ab- 
stain from theft, rapine and homicide ; the second is 
State Legislation, which cares for order and morals; 
and the third is Philosophical Law, which aims at 
promoting the enduring happiness of man, or, at 
least, at removing obstacles in the way of its realiza- 
tion. All these institutions, even when highly de- 
veloped, are powerless to assist the real welfare of 
man, the redemption of his soul, his beatitude ; for 
they concern themselves only with actions, with 
proper conduct, but do nothing to inculcate the views 
or supply the principles which are to be the main- 
springs of action. If the highest aim of man be 
eternal life or beatitude after death, then there must 
be a Divine Legislation, without which man in this 
world must always be groping in darkness and miss- 
ing his highest destiny. This Divine Legislation 
must supply all the perfections lacking in its mun- 
dane counterpart. It must have for its postulate a 
perfect God, who both wishes and is able to promote 
the redemption of man ; it must further bear wit- 
ness to the certainty that this God has revealed an 
unalterable Law calculated to secure the happiness 
of man ; and finally it must appoint a suitable re- 
quital for actions and intentions. Hence this Divine 
Legislation has three fundamental principles: the 
Existence of God, the Revelation of His Will, and 
just Retribution after Death. These are the three 
pillars on which it rests, and it requires none other. 
Judaism, then, according to Albo, is a discipline 
for eternal salvation. It is " the Divine Legislation" 
(Dath Elohith), and, as such, comprises many reli- 
gious laws — 613 according to the customary calcula- 


tion — to enable each individual to promote his own 
salvation. For even a single religious precept fulfilled 
with intelligence and devotion, and without mental 
reservation or ulterior motive, entitles man to sal- 
vation. Consequently, the Torah, with its numer- 
ous prescriptions, is not intended as a burden for its 
disciples, nor are the Jews threatened, as Christian 
teachers maintain, with a curse in the event of their 
not observing the entire number of commandments. 
On the contrary, the object is to render easy the 
path to higher perfection. Therefore, the Agada 
says that every Israelite has a share in Eternal Life 
(Olam ha-ba), for each one can obtain this end by 
the fulfillment of a single religious duty. 

Arrived at this point, the religious philosopher of 
Soria propounds the question whether Judaism can 
ever be altered as previous dispensations were by the 
Sinaitic Revelation. This question required specially 
careful consideration, as Christians always maintained 
that Christianity was a new revelation, as Judaism 
had been in its time; that the "New Covenant" 
took the place of the " Old," and that by the Gospel, 
the Torah had been fulfilled, i. e., abrogated. Albo 
had acknowledged the existence of rudimentary 
revelations previous to that of Sinai, and to avoid 
being entrapped by the consequences of his own 
system he put forward a peculiar distinction. That 
which God had once revealed by His own mouth 
direct to man was, by virtue of that fact, unalter- 
able and binding for all time; but that which had 
been communicated only by a prophetic intermedi- 
ary might suffer change or even annulment. The 
Ten Commandments which the Israelites had re- 
ceived direct from God, amid the flames of Sinai, 
were unalterable ; in them the three cardinal prin- 
ciples of a divine legislation are laid down. On the 
other hand, the remaining prescriptions of Judaism, 
imposed on the people solely through the mediation 
of Moses, were open to change or even revocation. 


But this instability of a portion, perhaps a large por- 
tion, of the Jewish religious law was only a theory, 
propounded simply as a possibility. In practice the 
obligations of the Torah were to be regarded as 
binding and unalterable, until it should please God 
to reveal other laws through the medium of a pro- 
phet as great as Moses, and in as open and convin- 
cing a manner as on Sinai. Hitherto no prophet had 
made good his claim so far as to render necessary 
the rescinding of any portion of Judaism. 

Albo's religious system is far from satisfactory. 
Based upon the Christian doctrine of salvation, it 
was compelled to regard faith, in a Christian sense, 
as the chief condition of the soul's redempdon, and 
the ordinances of Judaism as sacraments, similar to 
baptism or communion, upon which salvation was 
dependent. Nor is the development of his theory 
strictly logical. Too often the arts of the preacher 
take the place of severe reasoning, and for the illus- 
tration of his ideas he indulges in prolix sermons in 
exposition of Biblical and Agadic texts. 

A bolder thinker than Albo, but, like him, a 
preacher, was his junior contemporary, Joseph Ibn- 
Shem Tob. At one time, when in disgrace with the 
king of Castile, and leading a wandering life, he held 
forth every Sabbath to large audiences. He had 
been well schooled in philosophy. His Kabbalistical, 
gloomy and fanatical father, who denounced philos- 
ophy as a primary source of evil, damned Aristotle 
to hell, and even accused Maimuni of heterodoxy, 
must have been scandalized when his son Joseph 
plunged deep, and with all his heart, into the study 
of Aristotle and Maimuni. But Joseph did not hesi- 
tate to stigmatize the error of his father and of those 
who thought the employment of philosophic methods 
opposed to the interests of religion. He, on the 
contrary, held that they were essential for the at- 
tainment of the higher destiny to which all men, 
especially Israelites, are called. The cultured, philo- 


sophical Jew who intelligently discharges all the re- 
ligious duties of Judaism obviously realizes his high 
aim much sooner than the Israelite who practices his 
ceremonial blindly, without wisdom or understand- 
ing. Science is also of great value in enabling 
human intelligence to discriminate error. It is the 
nature of man's imperfect intellect to foster truth 
and error side by side ; but knowledge teaches how 
to distinguish between the true and the false. On 
the other hand, gaps in philosophical teaching are 
bridged over by the Sinaitic Law. In so far as the 
latter conceives the happiness of man in the survival 
of the spirit after the destruction of the body, it is 
immeasurably the superior of philosophy. Judaism 
also names the means of attaining eternal happiness 
— the conscientious fulfillment of religious obliga- 
tions. On this point, Joseph Shem Tob's view ap- 
proximates that of Joseph Albo. In his eyes, also, 
the commandments of Judaism have a sacramental 
character, but he does not emphasize salvation so 
much as Albo, Joseph Ibn-Shem Tob went so far, 
however, as to deny that the objects of the religious 
laws were knowable, and, to a certain extent, ascribed 
to them a mystical influence. 

None of these writings of the first half of the fif- 
teenth century, philosophical or polemical, was the 
fruit of leisure and an unfettered spirit. All were 
stimulated into existence by the urgent necessities 
of the times, and were put forth to protect the relig- 
ious and moral treasure-house from pressing danger. 
In order not to succumb, Judaism was forced simul- 
taneously to strengthen itself from within and ward 
off attacks from without. 

It was, indeed, more than ever necessary for Juda- 
ism to arm itself, doubly and trebly ; its darkest 
days were approaching. Again the grim church 
fiend arose, and the gruesome shadow of its ex- 
tended wings swept anxiously across Europe. As 
in the time of Innocent III, so again at this period 


the church decreed the degradation and proscription 
of the Jews. The old enactments were solemnly 
renewed by the official representatives of Christen- 
dom, assembled in QEcumenical Council at Basle, 
where they had declared their infallibility, and even 
satin judgment on the papacy. Curious, indeed! 
The council could not arrange its own concerns, 
was powerless to bring the mocking Hussites back 
to the bosom of Mother Church, despaired of put- 
ting an end to the dissoluteness and vice of the 
clergy and monks, yet gave its attention to the Jews 
to lead them to salvation. Leprous sheep them- 
selves, they sought to save unblemished lambs! The 
Basle church council, which sat for thirteen years 
(June, 143 1 — May, 1443), examining all the great 
European questions, gave no small share of Its at- 
tention to the Jews. Their humiHation was neces- 
sary for the strengthening of Christian faith — such 
was the ground on which the council proceeded at 
its nineteenth sitting (September 7th, 1434), when it 
resolved to revise the old and devise new restric- 
tions. The canonical decrees prohibiting Christians 
from holding intercourse with Jews, from rendering 
them services, and from employing them as physi- 
cians, excluding them from offices and dignities, 
imposing on them a distinctive garb, and ordering 
them to live in special Jew-quarters, were renewed. 
A few fresh measures were adopted, new In so far 
as they had not previously been put forward by 
the highest ecclesiastical authorities. These pro- 
vided that Jews should not be admitted to uni- 
versity degrees, that they should be made. If neces- 
sary, by force, to attend the delivery of conver- 
sionist sermons, and that at the colleges means 
should be provided for combating Jewish heresy by 
instruction in Hebrew, Chaldee, and Arabic. Thus 
the CEcumenlcal Council, which gave itself out as 
inspired by the Holy Ghost, designed the conver- 
sion of all Jews. It adopted the program of Penya- 


forte, Pablo Christiani, and Vincent Ferrer, who had 
counseled systematic application of pressure to in 
duce the Jews to abandon "their infidelity." On 
the baptized Jews, too, the Basle church council be- 
stowed special attention. They were to be favored, 
but also carefully watched, lest they marry Jews, 
keep the Sabbath and Jewish feasts, bury their dead 
according to Jewish rites, or, in fact, follow any 
Jewish observances. 

A fanatical paroxysm broke out afresh in various 
towns of Europe, commencing in the island of Ma- 
jorca. The remnant of the congregation of Palma 
was hated alike by the priests and the mob, .and 
both gave a willing ear to the rumor that the Jews, 
during Holy Week, had crucified the Moorish servant 
of a Jew, and put him to the torture. The reputed 
martyr was still living, but, nevertheless. Bishop Gil- 
Nunjoz caused two Jews to be imprisoned as ring- 
leaders. Thereupon arose a contest between the 
bishop and the governor, Juan Desfar, the latter 
maintaining that as the Jews were the property of 
the king, he alone could condemn them. The bishop 
was obliged to hand over the Jews, who were locked 
up in the governor's jail. The priests, however, in- 
cited the mob against the governor and the Jews, 
and before Juan Desfar could arrange for a hearing, 
the people were prepossessed against him. A court 
composed chiefly of Dominicans and Franciscans 
was called together, and employed the rack as the 
most effectual means of obtaining the truth from the 
witnesses. One of the accused put to the torture 
acknowledged all that was desired, and pointed out 
any Jews who happened to be mentioned as his ac- 
complices. An unprincipled Jew named Astruc 
Sibili, who lived in strife with many members of the 
community, and feared to be involved in the blood 
accusation, came forward as the denouncer of his 
co-religionists. Apparently of his own accord 
Astruc Sibili acknowledged that the servant had 


been crucified, and pointed out several Jews as the 
murderers. Although he kept himself clear from 
all complicity in the matter, Astruc Sibili was soon 
punished for his denunciations — he was thrown into 
prison as an accomplice. The fate of the informer 
and the flight of several Jewish families, justly- 
fearing a repetition of massacres, from Palma to a 
mountain in the vicinity, excited the Christian in- 
habitants yet more. The fugitives were pursued, 
placed in fetters, and brought back to the city, their 
flight being considered a proof of the guilt of the 
entire community. Astruc Sibili and three others 
were condemned to be burnt at the stake, but their 
punishment was commuted to death by hanging, 
on condition that they be baptized. To this they 
agreed, considering baptism the last straw by which 
their lives might be saved. The whole community, 
men, women and children, two hundred in all, went 
over to Christianity to escape a horrible death. 
The priests had ample employment in baptizing the 
converts. How little they believed in the imputed 
crime of the condemned was shown when, the 
gallows being reached, the priests, encouraging the 
mob to do the same, demanded the pardon of the 
condemned. The governor yielded to the voice of 
the people, and by a procession and amid singing 
they were escorted to the church, where a Te 
Deum was chanted. Thus ended the community 
of Majorca, which had lasted over a thousand years, 
and had greatly contributed to the well-being of the 
island. With it disappeared the prosperity of this 
fruitful and favored island. Simon Duran, deeply 
grieved at the secession of the community of Palma, 
which he had lovingly cherished, silenced his con- 
science with the thought that he had not been remiss 
in exhortation. 

w. # ?. 



Pope Eugenius IV, under the Influence of Alfonso de Cartagena, 
changes his Attitude towards the Jews — His Bull against the 
Spanish and Italian Jews in 1442 — Don Juan II defends the 
Jews — Pope Nicholas V's Hostility — Louis of Bavaria — The 
Philosopher Nicholas of Cusa and his Relation to Judaism — 
John of Capistrano — His Influence with the People is turned 
against the Jews — Capistrano in Bavaria and Wiirzburg — Expul- 
sion of the Breslau Community — Expulsion of the Jews from 
Briinn and Olmiitz — The Jews of Poland under Casimir IV — 
Capture of Constantinople by Mahomet II — The Jews find an 
Asylum in Turkey — The Karaites — Moses Kapsali — Isaac Zar- 
fati — Position of the Jews of Spain — Persecutions directed by 
Alfonso de Spina — The Condition of the Marranos. 

1442 — 1474 C.E. 

About the middle of the fifteenth century, venomous 
hatred of Jews, become characteristic of Spain and 
Germany, began to increase, and at the end of that 
century reached its highest development. In Spain 
it was stimulated principally by envy of the in- 
fluential positions still enjoyed by Jews in spite of 
misfortune and humiliation ; in Germany, on the 
contrary, where the Jews moved like shadows, it 
arose from vague race-antipathy, of which religious 
differences formed only one aspect. An unfortunate 
event for the German communities was the death of 
Emperor Sigismund (towards the end of 1437) at 
the moment when the council of Basle was casting 
a threatening glance in their direction. This prince 
was not a reliable protector of the Jews. Often 
enough he bled them to relieve his ever-recurring 
pecuniary embarrassments, and he even charged 
them with the expenses of the council of Constance. 
But so far as lay in his power he set his face against 
the bloody persecutions of his Hebrew subjects. 
He was succeeded as German king and emperor 


by the Austrian Archduke Albert, who had already 
distinguished himself by inhumanity towards Jews. 
Albert II was a deadly enemy of Jews and heretics. 
He could not exterminate either, for the Hussites 
had courage and arms, and the Jews were an indis- 
pensable source of money ; but whenever it was 
sought to injure them he gladly assisted. When 
the town council of Augsburg decided to expel the 
Jewish community (1439), the emperor joyfully 
gave his consent. Two years were granted them 
to dispose of their houses and immovables ; at the 
end of that time they were one and all exiled, and 
the grave stones in the Jewish cemetery used to 
repair the city walls. Fortunately for the Jews, 
Albert reigned only two years, and the rule of the 
Holy Roman Empire, or rather the anarchy by 
which it was convulsed, devolved on the good- 
natured, weak, indolent, and tractable Frederick III. 
As a set off, two fanatical Jew-haters now arose — 
Pope Eugenius IV and the Franciscan, John of 
Capistrano, a cut-throat in the guise of a lowly 
ser\'ant of God. 

Eugenius. whom the council of Basle had degraded 
step by step, depriving him of his dignities and 
electing another pope in his place, ultimately tri- 
umphed through the treachery of some of the prin- 
cipal members of the council and the helplessness 
of the German princes, and was again enabled to 
befool the Christian nations. Eugenius, though of 
narrow, monkish views, was at first not unfavorably 
disposed towards the Jews. At the beginning of his 
pontificate, he confirmed the privileges granted Jews 
by his predecessor, Martin V, promised them his 
protection, and forbade their forcible baptism. But 
he was soon influenced in an opposite direction, and 
developed extraordinary zeal in degrading the Jews 
andwididrawing all protection from them. The prime 
mover in this conversion seems to have been Alfonso 
de Cartagena, a son of the apostate Paul de Santa 


Maria. Appointed bishop of Burgos on the death 
of his father, Alfonso warmly espoused the cause of 
Pope Eugenius at the council of Basle, and hence 
rose high in the favor of the pontiff. He alone could 
have been the author of the complaints against the 
pride and arrogance of the Castilian Jews which 
induced the pope to issue the bull of 1442. This 
document was addressed to the bishops of Castile 
and Leon (loth August, 1442), and was to the effect 
that it had come to the knowledge of his Holiness 
that the Jews abuse the privileges granted them by- 
former popes, blaspheming and transgressing to the 
vexation of the faithful and the dishonor of the true 
faith. He felt himself compelled, therefore, to with- 
draw the indulgences granted by his predecessors — 
Martin and other popes — and to declare them null 
and void. At the same time Eugenius repeated the 
canonical restrictions in a severer form. Thus, he 
decreed that Christians should not eat, drink, bathe, 
or live with Jews (or Mahometans), nor use medicines 
of any kind purveyed by them. Jews (and Ma- 
hometans) should not be eligible for any office or 
dignity, and should be incompetent to inherit prop- 
erty from Christians. They were to build no more 
synagogues, and, in repairing the old, were to avoid 
all ornamentation. They were to seclude themselves 
from the public eye during Passion Week, to the 
extent even of keeping their doors and windows 
closed. The testimony of Jews (and Mahometans) 
against Christians was declared invalid. Eugenius' 
bull emphatically enjoined that no Christian should 
stand in any relation of servitude to a Jew, and 
should not even kindle a fire for him on the Sab- 
bath; that Jews should be distinguished from Chris- 
tians by a peculiar costume, and reside in special 
quarters. Furthermore, every blasphemous utter- 
ance by a Jew about Jesus, the " Mother of God," 
or the saints, was to be severely punished by the 
civil tribunals. This bull was ordered to be made 


known throughout the land, and put in force thirty 
days later. Heavy penalties were to be exacted 
for offenses under it. If the culprit was a Christian, 
he was to be placed under the ban of the church, 
and neither king nor queen was to be exempt ; if a 
Jew, then the whole of his fortune, personal and 
real, was to be confiscated by the bishop of the dio- 
cese, and applied to the purposes of the church. 
By means of circular letters, Eugenius exhorted the 
Castilian ecclesiastics to enforce the restrictions 
without mercy. He dared not be outdone in Jew- 
hatred by the council of Basle. At about the same 
time, or perhaps earlier, Eugenius issued a bull of 
forty-two articles against the Italian Jewish commu- 
nities, in which, among other things, he ordered 
that, under pain of confiscation of property', Jews 
should not read Talmudic literature. 

The papal bull for Castile was proclaimed in 
many of the towns, as it would appear, without the 
consent of the king, Juan II. The fanatics had won 
the day ; all their wishes were fulfilled. The mis- 
guided people at once considered Jews and Ma- 
hometans outlawed, and proceeded to make vio- 
lent attacks on their persons and property. Pious 
Christians interpreted the papal ordinances to mean 
that they were not to continue commercial relations 
of any kind with the Jews. Christian shepherds forth- 
with abandoned the flocks and herds committed 
to their charge by Jews and Mahometans, and 
plowmen turned their backs upon the fields. The 
union of towns (Hermandad) framed new statutes for 
the more complete oppression of the proscribed of 
the church. In consternation the Jews appealed to the 
king of Castile. Their complaints had all the more 
effect upon him as their damage meant damage 
to the royal exchequer. Accordingly, Juan II, or 
rather his favorite, Alvaro de Luna, issued a counter 
decree (April 6th, 1443). He expressed his indig- 
nation at the shamelessness which made the papal 


bull an excuse for assaults on the Jews and Mahom- 
etans. Canonical, royal and imperial law agreed in 
permitting them to live undisturbed and unmolested 
among Christians. The bull of Pope Eugenius 
placed Jews and Mahometans under certain spe- 
cific restrictions ; but it did not follow that they 
might be robbed, injured or maltreated, that they 
might not engage in trade or industry, nor work 
as weavers, goldsmiths, carpenters, barbers, shoe- 
makers, tailors, millers, coppersmiths, saddlers, 
rope-makers, potters, cartwrights or basket-makers, 
or that Christians might not serve them in , these 
pursuits. Such service involved neither relaxation 
of Christian authority nor dangerous intimacy with 
Jews. Nor did it appear that the avocations men- 
tioned conferred any of that prestige which solely 
the bull was designed to deny to Jews. 

Christians should certainly abstain from the medi- 
cines of Jewish or Moorish physicians, unless com- 
pounded by Christian hands ; but this did not mean 
that skillful doctors of the Jewish or the Mahometan 
faith should not be consulted, or their medicines 
not used, when no Christian physician was available. 
Juan II imposed upon the magistracy the duty of 
safeguarding the Jews and Mahometans, as objects 
of his special protection, and instructed them to 
punish Christian offenders with imprisonment and 
confiscation of goods. He furthermore ordered 
that his pleasure be made known throughout the 
land by public criers, in the presence of a notary. 

Whether this sophistical decree was of any real 
use to the Jews is doubtful. Don Juan II had not 
much authority in his kingdom, and was obliged 
to make frequent concessions to hostile parties, 
with whom his own son occasionally made common 
cause. The Castilian Jews were consequently 
abandoned to the arbitrary authority of the local 
magistrates during the remainder of the reign of this 
well-meaning but weak monarch, and were obliged 


to come to terms with them whenever protection 
was required against violence or false accusations. 
Did any misfortune threaten a Jew, then the tailor 
would fly to his princely patron, or the goldsmith to 
a grandee of high position, and seek to avert it by 
supplications or gold. It was truly no enviable 
situation in which the Jews found themselves. 

Eugenius' successor, Pope Nicholas V (March, 
1447 — March, 1455), continued the system of de- 
grading and oppressing the Jews. As soon as he 
ascended the throne of St. Peter he devoted himself 
to abolishing the privileges of the Italian Jews, 
which Martin V had confirmed and Eugenius had 
not formally revoked, and subjecting them to excep- 
tional laws. In a bull, dated June 23d, 1447, he 
repeated for Italy the restrictions which his prede- 
cessor had formulated for Castile, re-enacting them 
in the fullest detail, not even omitting the prohibition 
against the lighting of fires for Jews on the Sabbath. 
But though Nicholas' bull was only a copy, it had 
much more real force than the original ; for its exe- 
cution was confided to the pitiless Jew-hater and 
heretic-hunter, John of Capistrano. On him de- 
volved the duty of seeing, either in person or 
through his brother Franciscans, that the provisions 
of the bull were literally obeyed, and infractions 
strictly punished. If, for example, a Jewish physi- 
cian provided a suffering Christian with the means 
of regaining health, Capistrano was authorized to 
confiscate the whole of the offender's fortune and 
property. And the saintly monk, with heart of stone, 
was just the man to visit such a transgression with 
unrelenting severity. 

The Jew-hatred of the council of Basle and the 
popes spread like a contagion over a wide area. 
The fierce and bigoted Bavarian Duke of Landshut, 
Louis the Rich — "a hunter of game and Jews " — 
had all the Jews of his country arrested on one day 
(Monday, October 5th, 1450), shortly after his acces- 


slon to power. The men were thrown into prison, 
the women shut up in the synagogues, and their 
property and jewelry confiscated. Christian debtors 
were directed not to pay their Jewish creditors more 
than the capital they had originally borrowed, and 
to deduct from that the interest already paid. After 
four weeks of incarceration the unhappy Jews were 
obliged to purchase their lives from the turbulent 
duke for 30,000 gulden, and then, penniless and 
almost naked, they were turned out of the country. 
Gladly would Louis have meted out the same treat- 
ment to the large and rich community of Ratisbon, 
which was within his jurisdiction. As, however, his 
authority was recognized only to a limited extent, 
and as the Jews of the city were under the protec- 
tion of the council and Its privileges, he was obliged 
to content himself with levying contributions. Many 
Jews are said to have been driven by anxiety and 
want into embracing Christianity. 

As the rest of the European Jews regarded their 
Spanish brethren as an exalted and favored class, 
so the papacy directed special attention to them in 
order to put an end to their favorable position in the 
state. Either on the proposition of the king to 
modify the severe canonical restrictions against Jews, 
or on the petition of their enemies to confirm them. 
Pope Nicholas V issued a new bull (March ist, 
1 45 1 ). He confirmed the old exclusions from Chris- 
tian society and all honorable walks of life, and 
entirely abolished the privileges of the Spanish and 
the Italian Jews. 

The unpitying harshness of canonical legislation 
against the children of Israel was unconsciously 
based on fear. All-powerful Christianity dreaded 
the influence which the Jewish mind might exert on 
the Christian population in too familiar intercourse. 
What the papacy concealed in the incense-clouds of 
its official decrees was disclosed by a philosophical 
writer and cardinal standing in close relation with the 


papal court. Nicholas de Cusa (from Cues on the 
Moselle), the last devotee of scholasticism, into 
which he tried to introduce mystic elements, enthusi- 
astically advocated, in the face of the dissensions of 
Christendom, a union of all religions in one creed. 
The church ceremonies he was prepared to sacrifice, 
nay, he was ready to accept circumcision, if, by such 
means, non-Christians could be won over to the 
belief in the Trinity. He feared, as he distinctly said, 
the stiffneckedness of the Jews, who cling so stub- 
bornly to their monotheism ; but he consoled himself 
with the reflection that an unarmed handful could 
not disturb the peace of the world. It is true, the 
Jews were unarmed ; but, mentally, they were still 
powerful, and Nicholas resolved to devote himself 
to the task of depriving them of intellectual strength. 
The pope had appointed him legate for Germany, 
where he was to reform church and cloister {1450 — 
145 1). But the cardinal also occupied himself with 
the Jewish question. At the provincial council of 
Bamberg he put into force the canonical statute 
concerning Jew badges, which provided that men 
should wear round pieces of red cloth on their 
breasts, and women blue stripes on their head- 
dresses — as if the branding of Jews could heal the 
dissolute clergy and their demoralized flocks of their 
uncleanness. The only result of the isolation of the 
Jews was their protection from the taint of prevail- 
ing immorality. The cardinal was not successful in 
purifying the clergy, or in putting an end to the 
fraud of bleeding hosts and miracle-working 
images, against which he had exclaimed so loudly. 
The church remained corrupt to the core. There 
would have been abundant cause to fear the Jews, 
if they had been permitted to probe the suppurating 

Especially troublesome to the church were the \Xf-^ 
thousands of baptized Jews in Spain, who had been Oi^O y 

driven into its fold by the massacres, pulpit denun- 


ciations, and legal restrictions to which their race 
was exposed. Not only the lay new-Christians, but 
also those who had taken orders or had assumed 
the monk's garb, continued to observe, more or less 
openly, the Jewish religious laws. The sophistry of 
the converts, Paul de Santa Maria and Geronimo 
de Santa Fe, regarding the testimony in the Old 
Testament and the Talmudic Agada to the Messiah- 
ship of Jesus, the Incarnation of God, the Trinity 
and other church dogmas, impressed the Marranos 
but little. In spite of baptism, they remained stiff- 
necked and blind, i. e., true to the faith of their 
fathers. Don Juan of Castile, at the instigation of 
his favorite, Alvaro de Luna, who was anxious to 
strike at his arch-enemies, the new-Christians, com- 
plained to Pope Nicholas V of the relapses of the 
Marranos, and the pontiff knew of no remedy but 
force. He addressed rescripts to the bishop of 
Osma and the vicar of Salamanca (November 20th, 
145 1 ), empowering them to appoint inquisitors to 
inquire judicially into cases of new-Christians 
suspected of Judaizing. The inquisitors were 
authorized to punish the convicted, imprison them, 
confiscate their goods and disgrace them, to degrade 
even priests, and hand them over to the secular arm 
— a church euphemism for condemning them to the 
heretic's stake. This was the first spark of the hell- 
fire of the Inquisition, which perpetrated more in- 
humanity than all the tyrants and malefactors 
branded by history. At first this bull seems to have 
been ineffectual. The times were not ripe for the 
bloody institution. Besides, the Christians them- 
selves helped to keep up the connection of the bap- 
tized Jews with their brethren in race. They denied 
equal rights to new-Christians of Jewish or Mahom- 
etan origin, and wished to exclude them from all 
posts of honor. Against this antipathy, inherent in 
the diversity of national elements, the pope was 
compelled to issue a bull (November 29th, 1451), 


but it was powerless to uproot the prejudice. It 
could be removed only by higher culture, not at the 
dictation of a church chief, even though he boasted 
of infallibility. 

How absurd, then, to continue driving such pros- 
elytes into the church ! Yet this was done by the 
Franciscan monk, John of Capistrano (of Neapoli- 
tan origin), who is responsible for immense injury 
to the Jews of many lands. This mendicant friar, 
of gaunt figure and ill-favored appearance, pos- 
sessed a winning voice and an iron will, which 
enabled him to obtain unbounded influence, not 
only over the stupid populace, but also over the 
cultivated classes. With a word he could fascinate, 
inspire, or terrify, persuade to piety or incite to 
cruelty. Like the Spanish Dominican, Vincent 
Ferrer, the secret of Capistrano' s power lay not so 
much in his captivating eloquence as in the sympa- 
thetic modulations of his voice and the unshakable 
enthusiasm with which he clung to his mistaken 
convictions. He himself firmly believed that, with 
the blood he had gathered from the nose of his 
master, Bernard of Sienna, and his capuche, he could 
cure the sick, awake the dead and perform all kinds 
of miracles, and the misguided people not only be- 
lieved but exaggerated his professions. His strictly 
ascetic life, his hatred of good living, luxury and 
debauchery, made an impression the deeper from its 
striking contrast to the sensuality and dissoluteness 
of the great bulk of the clergy and monks. Wher- 
ever Capistrano appeared, the people thronged by 
thousands to hear him, to be edified and agitated, 
even though they did not understand a syllable of 
his Latin addresses. The astute popes, Eugenius 
IV and Nicholas V, recog-nized in him a serviceable 
mstrument for the restoration of the tottering 
authority of St. Peter. They rejoiced in his homi- 
lies on the infallibility of the papacy and his fiery 
harangues on the extermination of heretics, and the 


necessity of withstanding the victoriously advancing 
Turks. They offered no objection if, at the same 
time, he thought proper to vent his monkish gall 
upon harmless amusements, pastimes and the ele- 
gancies of life, seeing that they themselves were 
not disturbed in their enjoyments and pleasures. 
Among the standing themes of Capistrano's excit- 
ing discourses — second only to his rancor against 
heretics and Turks, and his tirades against luxury 
and sports — were his denunciations of the impieties 
and the usury of Jews. This procured his appoint- 
ment by Pope Nicholas to the post of inquisitor of 
the Jews, his duty being to superintend the enforce- 
ment of the canonical restrictions against them. He 
had in Naples occupied the position of inquisitorial 
judge for the Jews, on the nomination of Queen 
Joanna, who had empowered him to punish with the 
severest penalties any failure to observe the eccle- 
siastical law or wear the Jew badge. 

When this infuriate Capuchin visited Germany, he 
spread terror and dismay among the Jews. They 
trembled at the mention of his name. In Bavaria, 
Silesia, Moravia, and Austria, the bigotry of the 
Catholics, already at a high pitch on account of the 
Hussite schism, was further stirred by Capistrano, 
and, the Bohemian heretics being beyond its reach, 
it vented itself upon Jews. The Bavarian dukes, 
Louis and Albert, who had on one occasion before 
driven the Jews out of their territories, were made 
still more fanatical by Capistrano. The former de- 
manded of certain counts, and of the city of Ratis- 
bon, that they expel the Jews. The burgomaster 
and town council, however, refused, and would not 
withdraw the protection and the rights of citizen- 
ship which the Jews had enjoyed from an early 
period. But they could not shield them from the 
hostility of the clergy. Eventually even the Ratis- 
bon burghers, despite their good will for their Jewish 
fellow-citizens, fell under the influence of Capis- 


trano's fanaticism, and allowed themselves to be 
incited to acts of unfriendliness. In the midwife 
regulations, promulgated during the same year, 
occurs a clause prohibiting Christian midwives from 
attending Jewish women, even in cases where the 
lives of the patients were at stake. 

The change of public feeling in respect to the 
Jews, brought about by Capistrano, is strikingly il- 
lustrated by the conduct of one eminent ecclesiastic 
before and after the appearance of the Capuchin in 
Germany. Bishop Godfrey, of Wurzburg, reigning 
duke of Franconia, shortly after his accession to the 
government of the duchy, had granted the fullest 
privileges to the Jews. More favorable treatment 
they could not have desired. For himself and his 
successors he promised special protection to all 
within his dominions, both to those settled and those 
who might settle there later. They were to be freed 
from the authority of the ordinary tribunals, lay and 
ecclesiastical, and to have their disputes inquired 
into and adjudicated by their own courts. Their 
rabbi (Hochmeister) was to be exempt from taxes, 
and to be allowed to receive pupils in his Vesktda a.t 
his discretion. Their movements were to be unre- 
stricted, and those who might desire to change their 
place of residence were to be assisted to collect 
their debts, and provided with safe-conduct on their 
journeys. It was further promised that these privi- 
leges should never be modified or revoked, and the 
dean and chapter unanimously recognized and guar- 
anteed them " for themselves and their successors 
in the chapter." Every Jew who took up his abode 
within Bishop Godfrey's jurisdiction was provided 
with special letters of protection. But after Capis- 
trano had begun his agitation, how different the 
attitude towards Jews ! We soon find the same 
bishop and duke of Franconia issuing, "on account 
of the grievous complaints against the Jews in his 
diocese," a statute and ordinance (1453) decreeing 


their banishment. They were allowed until the i8th 
January of the following year to sell their immov- 
ables, and within fourteen days after thit date, they 
were to leave, for "he (the bishop) would no longer 
tolerate Jews in his diocese." The towns, barons, 
lords, and justices were enjoined to expel the Jews 
from their several jurisdictions, and Jewish creditors 
were deprived of a portion of the debts owing 
to them. When Jews were concerned, inhuman 
fanaticism could beguile a noble-hearted prince of 
the church and an entire chapter of ecclesiastics 
into a flagrant breach of faith. 

Capistrano's influence was most mischievous for 
the Jews of Silesia. Here he showed himself in 
truth to be the "Scourge of the Jews," as his ad- 
mirers called him. The two chief communities in 
this province, which belonged half to Poland and 
half to Bohemia, were at Breslau a'd Schweidnitz, 
and the Jews composing them, not h. g permitted 
to possess real property, and being, besides, largely 
engaged in the money traffic, had considerable 
amounts of money at their command. The majority 
of the nobles were among their debtors, and several 
towns were either themselves debtors or had be- 
come security for their princes. Hence it is not 
unlikely that some debtors of rank secretly planned 
to evade their liabilities by ridding themselves of 
the Jews. At any rate the advent of the fanatical 
Franciscan afforded an opportunity for carrying out 
such a design. 

Capistrano came to the Silesian capital on the 
invitation of the bishop of Breslau, Peter Novak, 
who found himself unable to control his subordinate 
ecclesiastics. Summoning the clergy to his pres- 
ence, the Franciscan preacher upbraided them for 
their sinful, immoral, and sensual lives. The doors 
of the church in which the interview took place were 
securely bolted, so that no lay ear might learn the 
full extent of the depravity of the ministers of the 


Gospel. But nearer to his heart than the reclama- 
tion of the clergy was the extermination of the 
Hussites, of whom there were many in Silesia, and 
the persecution of the Jews. The frenzied fanati- 
cism with which Capistrano's harangues inspired 
the people of Breslau directed itself principally 
against the Jews. A report was spread that a Jew 
named Meyer, one of the wealthiest of the Breslau 
Israelites, in whose safe-keeping were many of the 
bonds of the burghers and nobles, had purchased a 
host from a peasant, had stabbed and blasphemed 
it, and then distributed its fragments among the 
communities of Schweidnitz, Liegnitz, and others 
for further desecration. It need hardly be said that 
the wounded host was alleged to have shed blood. 
This imbecile fiction soon reached the ears of the 
municipal authorities, with whom it found ready 
credence. Forthwith all the Jews of Breslau, men, 
women and childen, were thrown into prison, their 
entire property in the "Judengasse" seized, and, 
what was most important to the authors of the 
catastrophe, the bonds of their debtors, worth about 
25,000 Hungarian gold florins, confiscated (2d May, 
1453). The guilt of the Jews was rendered more 
credible by the flight of a few of them, who were, 
however, soon taken. Capistrano assumed the 
direction of the inquiry into this important affair. 
As inquisitor, the leading voice in the prosecution 
of blasphemers of the consecrated wafer by right 
belonged to him. He ordered a few Jews to be 
stretched on the rack, and personally instructed the 
torturers in their task — he had experience in such 
work. The tortured Israelites confessed. Mean- 
time another infamous lie was circulated, A wicked 
baptized Jewess declared that the Breslau Jews had 
once before burnt a host, and that, on another occa- 
sion, they had kidnaped a Christian boy, fattened 
him, and put him into a cask studded with sharp 
nails, which they rolled about until their victim 


gave up the ghost. His blood had been distributed 
among the Silesian communities. Even the bones 
of the murdered child were alleged to have been 
found. The guilt of the Jews appeared established 
in these various cases, and a large number, in all 
318 persons, were arrested in different localities, 
and brought to Breslau. Capistrano sat in judg- 
ment upon them, and hurried them to execution. 
At the Salzring — now Bliicherplatz — where Capis- 
trano resided, forty-one convicted Jews were burnt 
on one day (2d June, 1453). ^^^ rabbi (Phineas?) 
hanged himself; he had also counseled others to 
take their own lives. The remainder were banished 
from Breslau, all their children under seven years 
of age having previously been taken from them 
by force, baptized, and given to Christians to be 
brought up. This was Capistrano's wish, and in a 
learned treatise he explained to King Ladislaus 
that it was in consonance with the Christian religion 
and orthodoxy. The honest town clerk, Eschenloer, 
who did not venture to protest aloud against these 
barbarities, wrote in his diary, " Whether this is 
godly or not, I leave to the judgment of the min- 
isters of religion." The ministers of religion had 
transformed themselves Into savages. The goods 
of the burnt and banished Jews were, of course, 
seized, and with their proceeds the Bernardine 
church was built. It was not the only church 
erected with bloody money. In the remaining Sile- 
sian towns the Jews fared no better. Some were 
burnt, and the rest chased away, stripped almost to 
the skin. 

When the young king, Ladislaus, was petitioned 
by the Breslau town council to decree that from that 
time forward no Jew would be allowed to settle in 
Breslau, not only did he assent "for the glory of 
God and the honor of the Christian faith," but he 
added, in approval of the outrages committed, "that 
they (the Silesian Jews) had suffered according to 


their deserts," a remark worthy of the son of Albert 
II, who had burnt the Austrian Jews. The same 
monarch also sanctioned — doubtless at the instiga- 
tion of Capistrano, who passed several months at 
Olmiitz — the expulsion of the Jews from the latter 
place and from Briinn. 

The echoes of Capistrano's venomous eloquence 
reached even Poland, disturbing the Jewish communi- 
ties there from the tranquillity they had enjoyed for 
centuries. Poland had long been a refuge for hunted 
and persecuted Jews. Exiles from Germany, Aus- 
tria and Hungary found a ready welcome on the 
Vistula. The privileges generously granted them 
by Duke Boleslav, and renewed and confirmed by 
King Casimir the Great, were still in force. The 
Jews were, in fact, even more indispensable in that 
country than in other parts of Christian Europe ; 
for in Poland there were only two classes, nobles 
and serfs, and the Jews supplied the place of the 
middle class, providing merchandise and money, 
and bringing the dead capital of the country into 
circulation. During a visit which Casimir IV paid 
to Posen shortly after his accession, a fire broke 
out in this already important city, and, with the 
exception of its few brick houses, it was totally de- 
stroyed. In this conflagration, the original document 
of the privileges granted the Jews a century before 
by Casimir the Great perished. Jewish deputations 
from a number of Polish communities waited upon 
the king, lamenting the loss of these records, so 
important to them, and praying that new ones might 
be prepared according to existing copies, and that 
all their old rights might be renewed and confirmed. 
Casimir did not require much persuasion. In order 
that they might live in security and contentment 
under his happy reign, he granted them privileges 
such as they had never before enjoyed in any Euro- 
pean state (14th August, 1447). This king was in 
no respect a slave of the church. So strictly did he 


keep the clergy within bounds that they charged him 
with persecuting and robbing them. He forbade 
their meddHng in affairs of state, saying that in such 
matters he preferred to rely on his own powers. 

Either the king was misled by a false copy of the 
original charters, or he desired to avail himself of 
the opportunity of enlarging their scope without 
appearing to make fresh concessions ; at all events, 
the privileges accorded under the new statute were, 
in many respects, more considerable than those for- 
merly enjoyed by the Jews. Not alone did it per- 
mit unrestricted trading and residence all over the 
then very extensive kingdom of Poland, but it an- 
nulled canonical laws often laid down by the popes, 
and only recently re-enacted by the general church 
council of Basle. Casimir's charter mentioned that 
Jews and Christians might bathe together, and in 
all respects enjoy free intercourse with each other. 
It emphatically decreed that no Christian could 
summon a Jew before an ecclesiastical tribunal, and 
that if a Jew was so summoned, he need not ap- 
pear. The palatines in their several provinces were 
enjoined to see that the Jews were not molested by 
the clergy, and generally to extend to them powerful 
protection. Furthermore; no Jew might be accused 
of using Christian blood in the Passover ceremo- 
nies, or of desecrating hosts, "Jews being inno- 
cent of such offenses, which are repudiated by their 
religion." If a Christian charged an individual Jew 
with using Christian blood, his accusation had to be 
supported by native, trustworthy Jewish witnesses 
and four similarly qualified Christian witnesses, and 
then the accused was to suffer for his crime, and his 
co-religionists were not to be dragged into it. In 
the event, however, of the Christian accuser not 
being in a position to substantiate his charge by 
credible testimony, he was to be punished with 
death. This was a check on ever-recurring cal- 
umny with its train of massacres of Jews. Casi- 


mir also recognized the judicial autonomy of the 
Jewish community. In criminal cases between jews, 
or between jews and Christians, the ordinary tri- 
bunals were not to interfere, but the palatine, or his 
representative, assisted by Jews, was to adjudicate. 
In minor law-suits the decision was to rest with the 
Jewish elders (rabbis), who were permitted to inflict 
a fine of six marks in cases where their summonses 
were not obeyed. To keep the authority of the 
Jewish courts within reasonable bounds, Casimir's 
charter enacted that the ban should be pronounced 
on a Jew only with the concurrence of the entire 
community. Truly, in no part of Christian Europe 
were the Jews possessed of such important privi- 
leges. They were renewed and issued by the king 
with the assent of the Polish magnates. Also the 
Karaite communities of Troki, Luzk, etc., received 
from Casimir a renewal and confirmation of the 
privileges granted them by the Lithuanian Duke 
Witold in the thirteenth century. 

The clergy looked with jealous eyes on this com- 
plaisance to the Jews, and zealously worked to in- 
duce the king to change his friendly attitude. At 
the head of the Polish priesthood thus hostile to the 
Jews stood the influential bishop and cardinal of 
Cracow, Zbigniev Olesnicki. The protection ac- 
corded the Jews and Hussites by the king was to 
him a source of deep chagrin, and, to give effective 
vent to his feelings, he sent in hot haste for the 
heretic-hunter Capistrano. Capistrano entered Cra- 
cow in triumph, and was received by the king and 
the clergy like a divine being. During the whole of 
his stay in Cracow (August 28th, 1453, to May, 
1454), aided by Bishop Zbigniev, he stirred up King 
Casimir against the Hussite heretics and the Jews. 
He publicly remonstrated with him on the subject, 
threatening him with hell-fire and an unsuccessful 
issue to his war with the Prussian order of knights, 
if he did not abolish the privileges enjoyed by Jews, 


and abandon the Hussite heretics to the church. It 
was easy to predict a defeat at the hands of the 
Prussian knights, seeing that the pope and the whole 
of the PoHsh church were secretly assisting them 
against Casimir. 

Therefore, when the Teutonic knights, in aid of 
their Prussian allies, took the jfield against Poland, 
and the Polish army, with King Casimir at its head, 
was ignominiously put to flight (September, 1454), 
the game of the clerical party was won. They spread 
the rumor that the disaster to Poland was a conse- 
quence of the king's favor to Jews and heretics. To 
retrieve his fallen fortunes, and to undertake a vig- 
orous campaign against the Prussians, Casimir 
needed the assistance of Bishop Zbigniev, and the 
latter was in a position to make his own terms. The 
Jews were sacrificed — the king was compelled to 
give them up. In November, 1454, Casimir revoked 
all the privileges he had granted the Jews, on the 
ground that "infidels may not enjoy preference over 
the worshipers of Christ, and servants may not be 
better treated than sons." By public criers the 
king's resolve was made known throughout the land. 
Besides, Casimir ordered that the Jews of Poland 
wear a special costume to distinguish them from 
Christians. Capistrano was victorious all along the 
line. Through him the Jews were abased even in the 
land where they had been most exalted. The results 
of this misfortune were not long in showing them- 
selves. The Jewish communities mournfully wrote 
to their brethren in Germany, *'that 'the monk' had 
brought grievous trouble," even to those who lived 
under the scepter of the king of Poland, whose lot 
had formerly been so happy that they had been able 
to offer a refuge to the persecuted of other lands. 
They had not believed that an enemy could reach 
them across the Polish frontier ; and now they had 
to groan under the oppression of the king and the 


Meanwhile, heavy but deserved judgment de- 
scended on Christendom. After an existence of 
more than a thousand years the sin-laden Byzantine 
empire, which had stood its ground for centuries in 
spite of its rottenness, had at length collapsed with 
the fall of Constantinople (May 29th, 1453). The 
Turkish conqueror, Mahomet II, had given New 
Rome over to slavery, spoliation, massacre, and 
every horror and outrage, yet had, by no means, 
requited the wrongs she had inflicted on others and 
herself. From Constantine, the founder of the By- 
zantine empire, who placed a blood-stained sword 
in the hands of the church, to the last of the emper- 
ors, Constantine Dragosses, of the Palaeologus fam- 
ily, everyone in the long series of rulers (with the 
exception of the apostate Julian) was more or less 
inspired by falsehood and treachery, and an arro- 
gant, hypocritical, persecuting spirit. And the peo- 
ple, as well as the servants of state and church, 
were worthy of their rulers. From them the Ger- 
man, Latin and Slavonic peoples had derived the 
principle that the Jews ought to be degraded by 
exceptional laws, or even exterminated. Now, how- 
ever, Byzantium itself lay shattered in the dust, and 
wild barbarians were raising the new Turkish em- 
pire on its site. Heavy vengeance had been ex- 
acted. Mahomet II, the conqueror of Constanti- 
nople, threw a threatening glance at the remainder 
of Europe, the countries of the Latin Church. The 
whole of Christendom was in danger ; yet the Chris- 
tian rulers and nations were unable to organize an 
effective resistance against the Turkish conquerors. 
The perfidy and corruption of the papacy now bore 
bitter fruit. When the faithless pope, Nicholas V, 
called upon Christendom to undertake a crusade 
against the Turks, his legates at the diet of Ratis- 
bon were compelled to listen to unsparing denunci- 
ation of his corruption. Neither the pope nor the 
emperor, they were told, had any reaj thought of 


undertaking a war against the Turks ; their sole idea 
was to squander upon themselves the money they 
might collect. When the Turks made preparations 
to invade Hungary, and threatened to carry the vic- 
torious crescent from the right to the left side of the 
Danube, Capistrano preached himself hoarse to 
kindle enthusiasm for a new crusade. His tirades 
had ceased to draw. Their only effect was to aS' 
semble a ragged mob of students, peasants, mendi- 
cant friars, half-starved adventurers and romantic 
fanatics. The ghost of mediaevalism vanished before 
the dawn of a new day. 

It seems almost providential that, at a moment 
when the persecutions in Europe were increasing in 
number and virulence, the new Turkish empire 
should have arisen to, offer an hospitable asylum to 
the hunted Jews. When, three days after the 
chastisement which he inflicted on Constantinople, 
the sultan, Mahomet II, proclaimed that all the fugi- 
tive inhabitants might return to their homes and 
estates without fear of molestation, he gave a benev- 
olent thought to the Jews. He permitted them to 
settle freely in Constantinople and other towns, 
allotted them special dwelling-places, and allowed 
them to erect synagogues and schools. Soon after 
his capture of Constantinople, he ordered the elec- 
tion of a Greek patriarch, whom he invested with a 
certain political authority over all the Greeks in his 
new dominions, and also nominated a chief rabbi to 
preside over the Hebrew communities. This was a 
pious, learned, upright Israelite, named Moses 
Kapsali. Mahomet even summoned this rabbi to 
the divan, and singled him out for special distinction, 
giving him a seat next to the mufti, the Chief Ulema 
of the Mahometans, and precedence over the patri- 
arch. Moses Kapsali (born about 1420, died about 
1495), also received from the sultan a kind of political 
suzerainty over the Jewish communities in Turkey. 
The taxes imposed upon the Jews he had to appor- 


tion among communities and individuals ; he had to 
superintend their collection and to pay them into 
the sultan's exchequer. He was furthermore 
empowered to inflict punishment on his co-religion- 
ists, and no rabbi could hold office without his sanc- 
tion. In short, he was the chief and the official rep- 
resentative of a completely organized Jewish com- 
munal system. 

This favorable situation of the Jews had a stimu- 
lating effect on the degenerate Karaites, who mi- 
grated in considerable numbers from Asia, the 
Crimea and southern Poland, to take up their abode 
with their more happily placed brethren in Con- 
stantinople and Adrianople. The Karaites, whose 
fundamental principle is the study and reasonable 
interpretation of the Bible, were in so lamentable a 
state of ignorance, that their entire religious struct- 
ure had become a system of authorized dogmas 
and traditions more rigid even than that of the Rab- 
banites. The extent of their intellectual decline 
may be measured by the fact that in the course of a 
century they failed to produce a single moderately 
original theological writer. Those w^ith a bent for 
study were compelled to sit at the feet of Rabbanite 
teachers and receive from them instruction in the 
Scriptures and the Talmud. The proud masters of 
Bible exegesis had become the humble disciples of 
the once despised Rabbanites. The petrifaction of 
Karaism is illustrated by an event in European 
Turkey. A Karaite college, consisting of Mena- 
chem Bashyasi, his son Moses Bashyasi, Menachem 
Maroli, Michael the Old, his son Joseph, and a few 
others, had permitted the lights necessary for the 
Sabbath eve to be prepared on Friday, so that the 
holy day need not be spent in darkness. The col- 
lege gave adequate reasons for the innovation. 
According to a Karaite principle, not only an eccle- 
siastical authority, but any individual is justified in 
abolishing an ancient custom, or annulling former 


decisions, if he can cite sufficient exegetical author- 
ity. Nevertheless, stormy opposition arose (about 
1460) against this decision, aimed at a custom de- 
rived, perhaps, from Anan, the founder of Karaism, 
and hence possessing the sacredness conferred by 
the rust of seven centuries. Schism and friction 
were the result. The section of the community 
which ventured to prepare the lights required for 
the Sabbath eve was abused, and charged with 
heresy. Moreover, the schism relating to the com- 
mencement of the festivals was still unhealed. The 
Palestinian Karaite communities and their neigh- 
bors continued to distinguish between an ordinary 
and a leap year by the state of the barley harvest, 
and to regulate their festivals by the appearance of 
the new moon. On the other hand, the communi- 
ties in Turkey, the Crimea, and southern Poland, 
used the calendar of the Rabbanites. These heredi- 
tary differences were eating more and more into the 
solidarity of the sect, for there was no means of 
composing them, and agreeing upon uniform prin- 

The conspicuous decrepitude of Karaism and the 
ignorance of its followers afforded the Rabbanites 
in the Turkish empire an opportunity for reconciling 
them to Talmudic Judaism, or, at least, overcoming 
their bitter hostility towards it. Rabbanite teachers, 
Enoch Saporta, an immigrant from Catalonia, 
Eliezer Kapsali, from Greece, and Elias Halevi, 
from Germany, stipulated that their Karaite pupils, 
whom they instructed in the Talmud, should 
thenceforward abstain, in writing and in speech, 
from reviling Talmudic authorities, and from 
desecrating the festivals of the Rabbanite calendar. 
In the difficult position in which studiously inclined 
Karaites found themselves, they could not do 
otherwise than give this promise. The Turkish 
chief rabbi, Moses Kapsali, was of opinion that, as 
the Karaites rejected the Talmud, they might not be 


taught in It. But he was a disciple of the strict 
German school, which, in its gloomy ultra-piety, 
would allow no concessions, even thougrh the 
gradual conversion of a dissenting sect could be 

When contrasted with the miserable condition of 
the Jews in Germany, the lot of those who had 
taken up their abode in the newly-risen Turkish 
empire must have seemed unalloyed happiness. 
Jewish immigrants who had escaped the ceaseless 
persecutions to which they had been subjected in 
Germany expressed themselves in terms of rapture 
over the happy condition of the Turkish Jews. Un- 
like their co-religionists under Christian rule, they 
were not compelled to yield up the third part of 
their fortunes in royal taxes ; nor were they in any 
way hindered in tlie conduct of business. They 
were permitted to dispose of their property as they 
pleased, and had absolute freedom of movement 
throughout the length and breadth of the empire. 
They were subject to no sumptuary laws, and were 
thus able to clothe themselves in silk and gold, if 
they chose. 

The fruitful lands taken from the slothful Greek 
Christians were occupied by them, and offered rich 
reward to their industry. Turkey was, in short, 
correctly described by an enthusiastic Jew as a land 
"in which nothing, absolutely nothing, is wanting." 
Two young immigrants, Kalmann and David, 
thought that if German Jews realized but a tenth 
part of the happiness to be found in Turkey, they 
would brave any hardships to get there. These two 
young men persuaded Isaac Zarfati, who had jour- 
neyed in Turkey in earlier times, and whose name 
was by no means unknown in Germany, to write a 
circular letter to the Jews of the Rhineland, Styria, 
Moravia and Hungary, to acquaint them with the 
happy lot of Jews under the crescent as compared 
with their hard fate under the shadow of the cross. 


and to call upon them to escape from the German 
house of bondage and emigrate to Turkey. The 
lights and shadows of his subject could not have 
been more sharply defined than they are in Zarfati's 
letter (written in 1456), whose graphic, often some- 
what too artificial language does not readily lend 
itself to translation : 

*' I have heard of the afflictions, more bitter than 
death, that have befallen our brethren in Germany 
— of the tyrannical laws, the compulsory baptisms 
and the banishments. And when they flee from one 
place, a yet harder fate befalls them in another. I 
hear an insolent people raising its voice in fury 
against the faithful ; I see its hand uplifted to smite 
them. On all sides I learn of anguish of soul and 
torment of body ; of daily exactions levied by mer- 
ciless extortioners. The clergy and the monks, 
false priests, rise up against the unhappy people of 
God and say : * Let us pursue them even unto de- 
struction ; let the name of Israel be no more known 
among men.* They imagine that their faith is in 
danger because the Jews in Jerusalem might, per- 
adventure, buy the Church of the Sepulcher. For 
this reason they have made a law that every Jew 
found upon a Christian ship bound for the East 
shall be flung Into the sea. Alas ! how evilly are 
the people of God in Germany entreated ; how 
sadly is their strength departed ! They are driven 
hither and thither, and they are pursued even unto 
death. The sword of the oppressor ever hangs 
over their heads ; they are flung into the devouring 
flames, into swift flowing rivers and into foul 
swamps. Brothers and teachers ! friends and ac- 
quaintances ! I, Isaac Zarfati, from a French stock, 
born in Germany, where I sat at the feet of my 
teachers, I proclaim to you that Turkey is a land 
wherein nothing is lacking. If ye will, all shall yet 
be well with you. The way to the Holy Land lies 
open to you through Turkey. Is it not better for 


you to live under Moslems than under Christians ? 
Here every man may dwell at peace under his own 
vine and his own fig-tree. In Christendom, on the 
contrary, ye dare not clothe your children in red or 
in blue, according to your taste, without exposing 
them to insult and yourselves to extortion ; and, 
therefore, are ye condemned to go about meanly 
clad in sad-colored raiment. All your days are full 
of sorrow, even your Sabbaths and the times 
appointed for feasting. Strangers enjoy your goods ; 
and, therefore, of what profit is the wealth of your 
rich men ? They hoard it but to their own sorrow, 
and in a day it is lost to them for ever. Ye call 
your riches your own — alas ! they belong to your 
oppressors. They bring false accusations against 
you. They respect neither age nor wisdom ; and, 
though they gave you a pledge sealed sixty-fold, yet 
would they break it. They continually lay double 
punishments upon you, a death of torment and con- 
fiscation of goods. They prohibit teaching in your 
schools ; they break in upon you during your hours 
of prayer ; and they forbid you to work or conduct 
your business on Christian feast-days. And now, 
seeing all these things, O Israel, wherefore sleepest 
thou ? Arise, and leave this accursed land for 

Isaac Zarfati's appeal induced many Jews to emi- 
grate forthwith to Turkey and Palestine. Their 
grave demeanor, extreme piety, and peculiar ap- 
parel at once distinguished them from the Jews 
of Greece and the Orient, and ere long the new- 
comers exercised considerable influence upon the 
other inhabitants of the countries in which they 

There were peculiar circumstances connected 
with the prohibition of the emigration of Jews to 
Palestine. The Jewish inhabitants of Jerusalem 
had obtained permission from a pasha to build a 
synagogue on one of the slopes of Mount Zion. 


The site of this synagogue adjoined a piece of land 
owned by Franciscan monks, or rather containing 
the ruins of one of their chapels, known as David's 
chapel. When this permission was given to the 
Jews, the monks raised as much clamor as though 
all Palestine, including the Holy City, had been 
their peculiar inheritance since the beginning of 
time. They forthwith carried their complaints to 
the pope, and represented that, if the Jews were 
permitted to take such liberties as this, it would not 
be long before they took possession of the Church 
of the Holy Sepulcher itself. The pope at once is- 
sued a bull directing that no Christian shipowner 
should convey Jewish emigrants to the Holy Land. 
As the Levantine trade was at that time almost en- 
tirely in the hands of the Venetians, the doge was 
prevailed upon to issue stringent orders to all the 
shipmasters of the mainland and the islands not to 
give passage to Palestine to any Jews. 

It is, indeed, strange that, while the Christian 
powers were under the impression that they had 
hemmed in the children of Israel on all sides like 
hunted animals, the Turks of Eastern Europe 
opened a way of escape to them. Ere another 
half century had passed, their Spanish brethren, 
savagely hunted from the Peninsula, were destined 
to seek the same asylum. 

It must, however, be admitted that under the 
sway of the Castilian king, Henry IV, and that of 
John II, of Aragon, the condition of the Spanish 
Jews was one of comparative peace and comfort. 
But it was the calm that went before the storm. 
The doubly impotent Castilian king was gentle to a 
degree ill-befitting a ruler of men. Although, as 
Infante, Don Henry had allowed himself to be per- 
suaded by his partisans to replenish his exhausted 
coffers by plundering the houses, not only of the 
Jews, but also of the new-Christians or converts 
from Judaism, he had no personal antipathy to the 


people of Israel. A Jewish physician was his con- 
fidential minister. Not long after his accession to 
the throne he had even sent him to the Portuguese 
court on the most delicate mission of obtaining the 
hand of the young, beautiful princess of Portugal 
for his sovereign. The Jewish diplomatist brought 
his mission to a successful conclusion, but was as- 
sassinated in the hour of his success. 

In spite of the papal bull and the repeated or- 
dinances of the cities, Don Henry employed a 
Jewish farmer of taxes, one Don Chacon, a native 
of Vitoria ; and he, too, fell a sacrifice to his office. 
A rabbi, Jacob Ibn-Nunez, his private physician, was 
appointed by Henry to apportion and collect the 
tribute of the Jews of Castile ; while Abraham 
Bibago, yet another Jew of eminence, stood high 
in the favor of John II of Aragon. 

The example of the courts naturally affected the 
greater nobles, who, when their own interests were 
not concerned, troubled themselves very little about 
ecclesiastical edicts. The practice of medicine was 
still entirely in the hands of Jews, and opened 
to them the cabinets and the hearts of kings and 
nobles. It was in vain that papal bulls proclaimed 
that Christians should not employ Jewish physicians. 
There were few or no Christians who understood 
the healing art, and the sick had no recourse save 
to the skill of the Jews. Even the higher clergy 
had but little regard for the bulls of Eugenius, 
Nicholas, and Calixtus. They had too much care 
for the health of the flesh to refuse the medical 
aid of the Jews on account of a canonical decree. 
Most of the tyrannical restrictions belonging to the 
minority of John II and the times of the regent 
Catalina were completely forgotten. Only on one 
point did Henry insist with rigor. He would not 
permit the Jews to clothe themselves luxuriously. 
This was partly on account of his own preference 
for simplicity of dress, partly because he was 


desirous that the envy of Christians should not be 
excited against them. Under the mild rule of Don 
Henry, the Jews who had been more or less com- 
pulsorily baptized either returned to their faith, or 
at least observed the Jewish ritual unmolested. 
During the Feast of the Passover they lived upon 
rice entirely in order, on the one hand, to partake 
of nothing leavened, and, on the other, to avoid the 
suspicion of Judaism. 

Hatred of the Jew, which burnt most fiercely in 
the great towns, naturally made it impossible for 
the orthodox to behold without indignation this 
favoritism towards the supposed enemies of their 
faith, and they made use of a weapon whose efficacy 
had been proved in other lands. The cry went 
forth : The Jews have put Christian children to 
death! Then came the report that "a Jew in the 
neighborhood of Salamanca had torn a child's heart 
out ;" or, "Jews elsewhere have cut pieces of flesh 
out of a living Christian child," and so on. By 
means of such rumors, the fanaticism of the mob 
was speedily inflam.ed, the magistrates took up the 
matter, and the accused Jews were thrown into 

The king, well aware of the origin and object of 
these accusations, had them thoroughly sifted, with 
the result that the innocence of the accused was 
completely established. Nothwithstanding this fact, 
the enemies of the Jews maintained their guilt. 
Some insiuuated that the judges had been bribed ; 
while others asserted that the new-Christians had 
exerted themselves in behalf of their kinsmen, and 
that the king himself was partial to them. 

Among all their enemies the man who raged most 
bitterly and fiercely against the Spanish Jews was a 
preacher in Salamanca, Alfonso de Spina, a Franciscan 
monk, of the same order and opinions as Capistrano. 
Instead of the venomed tongue, he used the poi- 
soned pen against them. This man enjoyed a certain 


amount of fame, because he happened to have ac- 
companied Alvaro de Luna, the once all-powerful 
minister of John II, to the scaffold as his confessor. 
This bigoted priest thundered unceasingly from the 
altar steps against the Jews and their patrons, and 
especially against the new-Christians as secret ad- 
herents of their former faith. As his preaching did 
not appear to him to produce sufficient effect, De 
Spina issued, in 1460, a virulent work in Latin, di- 
rected against Jews, Moslems, and other heretics, 
under the title "Fortalitium Fidei." In this book 
he collected everything that the enemies of the Jews 
had ever written or said against them. He repro- 
duced every absurd legend and idle tale that he 
could procure, and seasoned the whole collection 
with every device of rhetoric that his malice could 
suggest. In his opinion it was only right and natural 
that all Moslems and heretics should be extermi- 
nated root and branch. Against the Jews, however, 
he proposed to employ apparently lenient measures. 
He would simply take their younger children from 
them, and bring them up as Christians, an idea for 
which he was indebted to the scholastic philosopher. 
Duns Scotus, and his fellow Franciscan, Capistrano. 
De Spina most deeply deplored that the various 
laws for the persecution of the Jews, promulgated 
during the minority of John II, were no longer in 
force under his successor. In most trenchant words 
he rebuked the king, the nobles and the clergy for 
the favor that they showed to Jews ; and, in order 
to inflame the mob, he untiringly retailed all the old 
fables of child-murder, theft of the host, and the 
like, in the most circumstantial narrative, and in- 
sinuated that the partiality of the king permitted 
these abominable crimes to go unpunished. 

The fanaticism aroused by Alfonso de Spina was 
by no means without effect ; indeed, the most la- 
mentable consequences ere long resulted from it. 
A monk, crucifix in hand, proposed a general mas- 


sacre of the Jews of Medina del Campo, near Val- 
ladolid, and his words were favorably received. The 
inhabitants of the town fell upon the Jews, and burnt 
several of them alive with the sacred books which 
they happened to find in their possession. Murder 
was naturally followed by plunder of the victims' 
goods. The king had the ringleaders of this out- 
rage punished ; but this was all that he could do. 
He was unable to prevent a recurrence of such 
scenes. He had been compelled to recognize the 
abject position of the Jews officially in the statute 
book which his advisers, his secret enemies, Don 
Pacheco, Marquis of Villena, and the Count of 
Valencia, prepared at his request. Don Pacheco, 
who by his intrigues brought both king and country 
to confusion, was himself of Jewish blood, his mother, 
who had married a Spanish noble, being the daugh- 
ter of a Jew named Ruy Capron. Notwithstanding 
this fact, he included the most odious enactments in 
Don Henry's revised statute book. All the earlier 
disabilities were revived : the exclusion of Jews from 
all offices, even from practice as apothecaries, the 
wearing of distinctive badges, restriction to the Jew- 
ries of towns, and even confinement to their houses 
during Holy Week. 

The civil war kindled by the intrigues of Don 
Pacheco and other courtiers through the burlesque 
deposition of Don Henry in Avila, and the corona- 
tion of his younger brother, Alfonso, bore more 
heavily on the Jews than even on the general popu- 
lation of Castile. 

In 1467 Alfonso's party had by treason become 
master of Segovia, and immediately a riot against 
the Jews began here. The enemies of this unhappy 
people spread the report that, on the suggestion of 
their rabbi, Solomon Picho, the Jews of the little 
community of Sepulveda, not far from Segovia, had 
during Holy Week so cruelly tortured a Christian 
child that it died upon the cross (April, 1468). On 


the motion of Bishop Juan Arias, of Avila, of Jew- 
ish race, several Jews (eight or sixteen, according to 
different accounts), whom the popular voice had ac- 
cused, were hauled from Sepulveda to Segovia, and 
there condemned to the stake, the gallows and the 
bowstring, whereupon the Christians of Sepulveda 
fell upon the few remaining Jews of the community, 
massacred some, and hunted the rest from the neigh- 
borhood. Is it not strange that in Castile and in 
Silesia, in Italy and in Poland, the selfsame accusa- 
tions were raised, and followed by the same sen- 

Scarcely was Alfonso's party dissolved by the 
death of its puppet king before another sprang up, 
which professed to defend the rights of the Infanta 
Isabella, sister of Don Henry. The utter weakness 
which Henry betrayed encouraged the rebels to 
make the most outrageous assaults upon his pre- 
rogatives. The cortes convened at Ocana in 1469, 
wishing to humiliate him, took up the Jewish ques- 
tion. They reminded him of the laws of his ances- 
tors, and told him to his face that he had violated 
these laws by endowing Jews with the chief offices 
in the collection of the royal revenues. They further 
asserted that, owing to this distinguished example, 
even princes of the church had farmed out the rev- 
enues of their dioceses to Jews and Moslems, and 
that the tax-farmers actually levied their contribu- 
tions in the churches. In conclusion, they insisted 
that the edicts be once more stringently enforced, 
and that heavy penalties be imposed for their trans- 

The finances of this monarch, who, in consequence 
of his liberality and the expense of putting down 
the ever-recurring revolts against his authority, was 
in constant need of money, would have been in a 
sorry condition had he intrusted them to Christian 
tax-farmers. The latter bid only a small amount 
for the privilege ; moreover, they might have made 


use of the rebellious factions to rid themselves of 
their obligations. A king who said to his treasurer: 
" Give to these that they may serve me, and to those 
that they may not rob me ; to this end I am king, 
and have treasures and revenues for all purposes " 
— such a king could not dispense with Jewish 

Thus there existed, in Castile, an antagonism 
between the edicts against the Jews and the inter- 
ests of the state ; and this antagonism roused the 
mob, inspired alike by ecclesiastical fanaticism and 
envious greed against their Jewish fellow-townsmen, 
to the perpetration of bloody outrages. The fury 
of the orthodox was also excited against the new- 
Christians, or Marranos, because, happier than their 
former fellow-believers, they were promoted to the 
highest offices in the state by reason of their superior 

The marriage of the Infanta Isabella with Don 
Ferdinand, Infante of Aragon, on the 19th of Octo- 
ber, 1469, marked a tragical crisis in the history of 
the Spanish Jews. Without the knowledge of hei* 
royal brother, and in open breach of faith — since she 
had solemnly promised to marry only with his con- 
sent — she had followed the advice of her intriguing 
friends, and had given her hand to the Prince of 
Aragon, who, both in Jewish and in Spanish history, 
under the title of "The Catholic," has left an 
accursed memory behind him. Don Abraham 
Senior had promoted this marriage, hoping by it to 
increase the welfare of his brethren. Many new 
complications arose in Castile out of this union. 
Isabella's partisans, anticipating that under her rule 
and that of her husband the persecution of the Jews 
would be made legal, took up arms in Valladolid, 
Isabella's capital, and fell upon the new-Christians 
(September, 1470). The victims assumed the de- 
fensive, but were soon compelled to surrender. 
Thereupon they sent a deputation to Henry, beg- 


ging him to protect them. The king did, indeed, 
collect troops, and march against the rebelhous city, 
but he had to be grateful that he himself was well 
received by the citizens, and could not think of pun- 
ishing even the ringleaders. 

Two years later the new-Christians underwent a 
persecution, which surely must have caused them to 
repent having taken shelter at the foot of the cross. 
The religious populace blamed the Marranos, not 
altogether without reason, for confessing Christian- 
ity with their lips while in their souls they despised 
it. It was said that they either did not bring their 
children to be baptized, or if they were baptized, 
took them back to their houses and washed the stain 
of baptism off their foreheads. They used no lard 
at their tables, only oil ; they abstained from pork, 
celebrated the Jewish Passover, and contributed 
oil for the use of the synagogues. They were 
further said to have but small respect for cloisters, 
and were supposed to have profaned sacred relics 
and debauched nuns. The new-Christians, were, in^ 
fact, looked upon as a cunning and ambitious set of 
people, who sought eagerly for the most profitable 
offices, thought only of accumulating riches, and 
avoided hard work. They were believed to con- 
sider themselves as living in Spain as Israel did in 
Egypt, and to hold it to be quite permissible to 
plunder and outwit the orthodox. These accusa- 
tions were not by any means merited by the new- 
Christians as a body, but they served to inflame the 
mob, and caused it to hate the converts even more 
bitterly than the Jews themselves. 

The outbreak above referred to arose as follows : 
A certain princess was going through the streets of 
Cordova with the picture of the Virgin under a can- 
opy, and a girl, a new-Christian, either by accident 
or design, poured some water out of a window on 
the canopy. The consequence was a frenzied rising 
against the converted Jews. An excited smith in- 


cited the Christian mob to avenge the insult offered 
to the holy picture — for it was said that the girl had 
poured something unclean upon it — and in an in- 
stant her father's house was in flames. The nobles 
sought to defend the Marranos, and in the skirmish, 
the smith was killed. This so enraged the already 
furious mob that the men-at-arms were forced to re- 
tire. The houses of the new-Christians were now 
broken into, plundered, and then reduced to ashes ; 
while those who had not been able to save them- 
selves by flight were massacred in the most barbar- 
ous manner (March 14th — 15th, 1472). The fugi- 
tives were hunted like wild beasts in the chase. 
Wherever they were seen, the most horrible death 
inevitably awaited them. Even the peasant at work 
in the field struck them down without ado. The 
slaughter which thus began at Cordova spread 
rapidly from town to town. Those of the Cordovan 
fugitives who had found a temporary refuge in 
Palma lost no time in seeking a stronghold to afford 
them protection from the tempest of persecution. 
One of their company, Pedro de Herrera, held in 
the highest respect both by his fellow-sufferers and 
the governor, De Aguilar, went to Seville to seek an 
interview with the duke of Medina-Sidonia, lieuten- 
ant-governor of the province. He asked for the 
fortress of Gibraltar as a city of refuge for himself 
and his brethren, under their own command. In 
return, he promised to pay a considerable yearly 
tribute. The duke had signified his consent to this 
proposition, and the new-Christians had betaken 
themselves to Seville to sign the contract, when the 
friends of the duke took alarm. They believed that 
the Marranos were not to be trusted, and expressed 
the fear that they might enter into an alliance with 
the Moors, and deliver the key of the Spanish coast 
into their hands. The duke, however, insisted upon 
completing the contract, whereupon the opponents 
of the scheme gave the signal to the mob of Seville, 


which instantly rose against the new-Christians in 
an outburst of fanatical frenzy. It was with diffi- 
culty that the governor protected them. They were 
forced to return hastily to Palma, were waylaid by 
the country people, and ill-treated and plundered 


Thus the plan of Pedro de Herrera and his 
friends served only to bring greater misery upon 
them, endangering the whole body of new-Chris- 
tians as well a? the Jews themselves. As early as 
this, the idea took shape among both the converted 
and the unbaptized Jews to leave the now in- 
hospitable Peninsula and emigrate to Flanders or 

Attacks upon the new-Christians were now so 
frequent that they suggested to the cunning and 
ambitious minister, Pacheco, the means of carrying 
out a coup d'etat. This unscrupulous intriguer, who 
for two decades had kept Castile in constant con- 
fusion, saw with secret chagrin that the reconcilia- 
tion of Don Henry with his sister and successor 
bade fair to completely annul his influence. To bring 
about new complications he determined to gain 
possession of the citadel (Alcazar) of Segovia, at 
that time occupied by the king. With this end in 
view, he instigated, through his dependents, another 
assault upon the baptized Jews, during the confusion 
of which his accomplices were to seize Cabrera, the 
governor of the castle, and, if possible, the king 
himself. The conspiracy was betrayed only a few 
hours before it was to be carried into action ; but 
the attack upon the new-Christians was perpetrated. 
Armed bands perambulated the streets of Segovia, 
broke into the houses of the Marranos, and slew 
every man, woman and child that fell into their 
hands (May i6th, 1474). 

The crowning misfortune of the Jewish race in 
Spain came in the death of Don Henry in the fol- 
lowing December. The rulers of the united king- 


doms of Aragon and Castile now were his sister, 
the bigoted Isabella, who was led by advisers hostile 
to the Jews, and Ferdinand, her unscrupulous hus- 
band, who pretended to be excessively pious. Sad 
and terrible was the fate that impended over the 
sons of Jacob throughout the length and breadth of 
the Pyrenean Peninsula. 



Position of the Jews of Italy — The Jewish Bankers — Yechiel of Pisa 
— His Relations with Don Isaac Abrabanel — Jewish Physicians, 
Guglielmo di Portaleone — Revival of Learning among Italian 
Jews — Messer Leon and Elias del Medigo — Pico di Mirandola, the 
Disciple of Medigo— Predilection of Christians for the Kabbala 
— Jochanan Aleman — Religious Views of Del Medigo — German 
Rabbis immigrate into Italy — ^Joseph Kolon, his Character and 
his Feud with Messer Leon — Judah Menz an Antagonist of Del 
Medigo — Bemardinus of Feltre — Jews banished from Trent 
on a False Charge of Child-Murder — The Doge of Venice 
and Pope Sixtus IV befriend the Jews — Sufferings of the Jews of 
Ratisbon — Israel Bruna — Synod at Nuremberg — Emperor Fred- 
erick in. 

1474 — 1492 C.E. 

The Spanish Jews would have belied their native 
penetration and the wisdom born of bitter experi- 
ence had they not foreseen that their position would 
ere long become unbearable. 

Because they did foresee it, they turned their gaze 
towards those countries whose inhabitants were most 
favorably disposed towards Jews. Italy and the 
Byzantine Empire, just wrested from the cross, were 
now the countries of greatest toleration. In Italy, 
where men saw most clearly the infamy of the pa- 
pacy and the priesthood, and where they had most to 
suffer from their selfishness, the church and her ser- 
vants were utterly without influence over the peo- 
ple. The world-wide commerce of the wealthy and 
flourishing republics of Venice, Florence, Genoa 
and Pisa, had in a measure broken through the nar- 
row bounds of superstition, and enlarged men's 
range of vision. The interests of the market-place 
had driven the interests of the church into the back- 
ground. Wealth and ability were valued even in 


those who did not repeat the Catholic confession of 
faith. Not only the merchants, but also the most 
exalted princes were in need of gold to support the 
mercenary legions of their Condottieri in their daily 
feuds. The Jews, as capitalists and skillful diplo- 
matists, were, therefore, well received in Italy. This 
is proved by the fact that when the city of Ravenna 
was desirous of uniting itself to Venice, it included 
among the conditions of union the demand that 
wealthy Jews be sent to it to open credit-banks and 
thus relieve the poverty of the populace. 

Jewish capitalists received, either from the reign- 
ing princes or the senates, in many Italian cities, 
extensive privileges, permitting them to open banks, 
establish themselves as brokers, and even charge a 
high rate of interest (20 per cent). The archbishop 
of Mantua in 1476 declared in the name of the pope 
that the Jews were permitted to lend money upon 
interest. The canonical prohibition of usury could 
not withstand the pressure of public convenience. 
The Jewish communal regulations also tended to 
guard the bankers from illegal competition, for the 
rabbis threatened with the ban all those members of 
the community who lent money on interest without 
proper authorization. 

A Jew of Pisa, named Yechiel, controlled the 
money market of Tuscany. He was, by no means, 
a mere heartless money-maker, as the Christians 
were wont to call him, but rather a man of noble 
mind and tender heart, ever ready to assist the poor 
with his gold, and to comfort the unfortunate by 
word and deed. Yechiel of Pisa was also familiar 
with and deeply interested in Hebrew literature, and 
maintained friendly relations with Isaac Abrabanel, 
the last of the Jewish statesmen of the Peninsula. 
When Alfonso V of Portugal took the African sea- 
board towns of Arzilla and Tangier, and carried off 
Jews of both sexes and every age captive, the Por- 
tuguese community became inspired with the pious 


desire to ransom them. Abrabanel placed himself 
at the head of a committee to collect money for this 
purpose. As the Portuguese Jews were notable to 
support the ransomed prisoners until they found 
means of subsistence, Abrabanel, in a letter to Ye- 
chiel of Pisa, begged him to make a collection in 
Italy. His petition was heeded. 

The Jews of Italy were found to be desirable citi- 
zens, not only for their financial ability, but also for 
their skill as physicians. In his letter to Yechiel, 
Abrabanel asked whether there were Jewish physi- 
cians in the Italian states, and whether the princes of 
the church employed them. "Physicians," he said, 
"possess the key to the hearts of the great, upon 
whom the fate of the Jews depends." 

A celebrated Jewish doctor, Guglielmo (Benja- 
min?) di Portaleone, of Mantua, first was physician 
in ordinary to Ferdinand of Naples, who ennobled 
him ; he next entered the service of Duke Galeazzo 
Sforza, of Milan, and in 1479 became body physician 
to Duke Ludovico Gonzaga. He was the founder 
of a noble house and of a long line of skillful Italian 
physicians. There even arose an intimate relation 
between Jews and Christians in Italy. When a 
wealthy Jew — Leo, of Crema — on the marriage of 
his son, arranged magnificent festivities which lasted 
eight days, a great number of Christians took part, 
dancing and enjoying themselves to the intense dis- 
pleasure of the clergy. Totally forgotten seemed 
the bull in which Nicholas V had quite recently for- 
bidden under heavy penalties all intercourse of 
Christians with Jews, as well as the employment of 
Jewish physicians. In place of the canonically pre- 
scribed livery of degradation, the Jewish doctors 
wore robes of honor like Christians of similar stand- 
ing ; while the Jews connected with the courts wore 
golden chains and other honorable insignia. The 
contrast between the condition of Jews in Italy and 
that of their brethren in other lands is well illustrated 


by two similar incidents, occurring simultaneously in 
Italy and Germany, but differing greatly in their 

The mother of a family in Pavia, in consequence 
of differences with her husband, had given notice of 
her desire to be received into the Catholic Church. 
She was put into a convent where she was to be 
prepared for baptism. The bishop's vicar, with other 
spiritual advisers, was earnestly occupied with the 
salvation of her soul, when she was suddenly seized 
with remorse. The bishop of Pavia, far from pun- 
ishing her for this relapse, or seeking to oppose her 
desire, interceded for her with her husband. He 
advised him to take her out of the convent forth- 
with, and testified most favorably as to her behavior, 
so that her husband, a descendant of the family of 
Aaron, might not be obliged, under the Jewish law, 
to put her away. 

In the same year a spiteful fellow in Ratisbon, Kal- 
mann, a precentor (Chazan), took the fancy to turn 
Christian. He frequented the convent, attended 
church, and at length the bishop received him in his 
house, and instructed him in the Christian religion. 
To curry favor with the Christians he calumniated 
his fellow-believers by asserting that they possessed 
blasphemous writings against Christianity. Kal- 
mann also came to rue the step he had taken. He 
secretly attended the synagogue, and at length, dur- 
ing the absence of the bishop, left his house, and 
returned to the Jews. The clergy of Ratisbon were 
infuriated against him, arraigned him before the 
Inquisition, and charged him with having sought to 
blaspheme the church, God, and the blessed Virgin. 
He was specially charged with having said that, it 
baptized, he would remain a Christian only till he 
found himself at liberty. On the strength of this, 
he was condemned, and put to death by drowning. 

Wherever even a little indulgence was granted 
the Jews, their dormant energy revived ; and the 


Italian Jews were able to display it all the sooner 
from the fact that they had gained a certain 
degree of culture in the days of Immanuel and 
Leone Romano. They took an active part in the 
intellectual revival and scientific renascence which 
distinguished the times of the Medici. Jewish 
youths attended the Italian universities, and ac- 
quired a liberal education. The Italian Jews were 
the first to make use of the newly-discovered art 
of Gutenberg, and printing-houses soon rose in 
many parts of Italy — in Reggio, Ferrara, Pieva di 
Sacco, Bologna, Soncino, Iscion, and Naples. In the 
artistic creations of the time, however, in painting 
and sculpture, the Jews had no share. These lay 
outside their sphere. But several educated Jews 
did not a little for the advancement and spread of 
science in Italy. Two deserve especial mention ; 
Messer Leon and Elias del Medigo, the latter of 
whom not only received the light of science, but also 
shed it abroad. 

Messer Leon, or, by his Hebrew name, Judah 
ben Yechiel, of Naples, flourished between 1450 
and 1490, and was both rabbi and physician in 
Mantua. In addition to being thoroughly versed in 
Hebrew literature, he was a finished Latin scholar, 
and had a keen appreciation of the subtleties of 
Cicero's and Quintilian's style. Belonging to the 
Aristotelian school, he expounded several of the 
writings of the philosopher so highly esteemed in 
synagogue and church, and wrote a grammar and a 
book on logic, in the Hebrew language, for Jewish 
students. More important than these writings is 
his Hebrew rhetoric (Nofeth Zufim), in which he 
lays down the laws upon which the grace, force and 
eloquence of the higher style depend, and proves 
that the same laws underlie sacred literature. He 
was the first Jew to compare the language of the 
Prophets and Psalmists with Cicero's — certainly a 
bardy undertaking in those days when the majority 


of Jews and Christians held the Scriptures in such 
infinite reverence that a comparison with profane 
pagan Hterature must have seemed a species of 
blasphemy. Of course, this was possible only in the 
times of the Medici, when love for Greek and Latin 
antiquities rose to positive enthusiasm. Messer 
Leon, the learned rabbi of Mantua, was liberal in 
all respects. He was never weary of rebuking the 
formal pietists for striving to withhold foreign influ- 
ences from Judaism, as though it could be profaned 
by them. He was rather of opinion that Judaism 
could only gain by comparisons with the culture of 
the ancient classical literatures, since thereby its 
beauty and sublimity would be brought to light. 

Elias del Medigo, or Elias Cretensis (1463— 1498), 
the scion of a German family that had emigrated to 
Crete, is a striking figure in later Jewish history. 
He was the first great man produced by Italian Ju- 
daism. His was a mind that shone clearly and bril- 
liantly out of the clouds which obscured his age ; 
the mind of a man of varied and profound knowl- 
edge, and of both classical and philosophical culture. 
So completely had he assimilated the Latin literary 
style that he was able, not only to issue works in 
that language, but also to present Hebrew syntax 
under Latin analogies. 

Medigo kept aloof from the vacuity of Italian 
sciolists, who were under the spell of the newly-dis- 
covered neo-Platonic philosophy introduced by Fi- 
cinus. He gave allegiance to those sound thinkers, 
Aristotle, Maimuni, and Averroes, whose systems 
he made known to Christian inquirers in Italy, by 
tongue and pen, through the medium of transla- 
tions and in independent works. That youthful 
prodigy of his time. Count Giovanni Pico di Miran- 
dola, made the acquaintance of Medigo, and became 
his disciple, friend and protector. Mirandola, who 
was a marvel by reason of his wonderful memory, 
wide erudition, and dialectic skill, and was, moreover, 


on friendly terms with the ruling house of the Medicis 
in Tuscany, learnt from his Jewish friend the He- 
brew language, and the Arabic development of the 
Aristotelian philosophy, but he might also have 
learnt clearness of thought from him. 

On one occasion a quarrel on a learned subject 
broke out in the University of Padua. The profes- 
sors and students were divided into two parties, 
and, according to Christian custom, were on the 
point of settling the question with rapier and pon- 
iard. The University, acting with the Venetian 
senate, which was desirous of ending the dispute, 
called upon Elias del Medigo to act as umpire. 
Everyone confidently expected a final settlement 
from his erudition and impartiality. Del Medigo 
argued out the theme, and by the weight of his 
decision brought the matter to a satisfactory con- 
clusion. The result was that he became a public 
lecturer on philosophy, and discoursed to large 
audiences in Padua and Florence. The spectacle 
was, indeed, notable. Under the very eyes of the 
papacy, ever striving for the humiliation and enslave- 
ment of the Jews, Christian youths were imbibing 
wisdom from the lips of a Jewish teacher. Against 
the protectors of Jews in Spain it hurled the thun- 
ders of excommunication, while in Italy it was forced 
passively to behold favors constantly showered upon 
the Jews by Christians. 

Pico di Mirandola, a scholar rather than a thinker, 
took a fancy to plunge into the abysses of the Kab- 
bala. He was initiated into the Kabbalistic laby- 
rinth by a Jew, Jochanan Aleman, who had emigrated 
from Constantinople to Italy. Aleman, himself a 
confused thinker, made him believe that the secret 
doctrine was of ancient origin, and contained the 
wisdom of the ages. Mirandola, who had a mar- 
velous faculty of assimilation, soon familiarized him- 
self with the Kabbalistic formulae, and discovered 
confirmations of Christian dogma in them; in fact, he 


found far more of Christianity than of Judaism. 
The extravagances of the Kabbala demonstrated in 
his eyes the doctrines of the Trinity, the Incarna- 
tion, Original Sin, the Fall of the Angels, Purga- 
tory, and Eternal Punishment. He lost no time in 
translating several Kabbalistic writings from He- 
brew into Latin in order to bring this occult lore to 
the knowledge of Christian readers. Among the 
nine hundred points which Pico, at the age of 
twenty-four, pledged himself to defend — to which 
end he invited all the learned of the world to Rome, 
and undertook to pay the cost of their journeys — 
was this : No science affords more certainty as to 
the Godhead of Christ than Kabbala and magic ! 
Even Pope Sixtus IV (1471 — 1484) was by this 
means so strongly attracted to the Kabbala that he 
was eager to procure Latin translations of Kabbal- 
istic writings for the benefit of the Catholic faith. 

It is a striking proof of his sober mind and healthy 
judgment that Elias del Medigo kept himself aloof 
from all this mental effeminacy and childish enthusi- 
asm for the pseudo-doctrine of the Kabbala. He 
had profound contempt for the Kabbalistic phantom, 
and did not hesitate to expose its worthlessness. 
He had the courage openly to express his opinion 
that the Kabbala is rooted in an intellectual swamp, 
that no trace of this doctrine is to be found in the 
Talmud, that the recognized authorities of ancient 
Judaism knew nothing of it, and that its supposed 
sacred and ancient groundwork, the Zohar, was by 
no means the work of the celebrated Simon bar 
Yochai, but the production of a forger. In short, he 
considered the Kabbala to be made up of the rags 
and tatters of the neo-Platonic school. 

Del Medigo had, in fact, very sound and healthy 
views on religion. Although a warm adherent of 
Judaism, entertaining respect also for its Talmudic 
element, he was yet far from indorsing and accepting 
as truth all that appears in the Talmud. When re- 


quested by one of his Jewish disciples, Saul Cohen 
Ashkenasi, of Candia, to give his confession of Jew« 
ish faith, especially his views on the signs which 
distinguish a true religion, Elias Cretensis issued a 
small but pregnant work, "The Investigation of Re- 
ligion" (Bechinath ha-Dath), which gives a deep 
insight into his methods of thought. 

It cannot be maintained that Del Medigo sugges- 
ted novel trains of thought in his work. In general, 
the Italians were not destined to endow Judaism 
with new ideas. Moreover, he occupied the stand- 
point of belief rather than of inquiry, and his aim 
was to defend, not to cut new paths. Standing 
alone in the mental barrenness of his age, Del 
Medigo's sound views are like an oasis in the desert. 
He must be credited, too, with having recognized as 
deformities, and with desiring to remove, the addi- 
tions to Judaism by Kabbalists and pseudo-philoso- 

Unfortunately, the rabbis who emigrated from 
Germany to Italy assumed an attitude distincdy 
hostile to philosophical investigation and its pro- 
moters, Elias del Medigo and Messer Leon. With 
their honest, but one-sided, exaggerated piety, they 
cast a gloomy shadow wherever their hard fate had 
scattered them. Fresh storms breaking over the 
German communities had driven many German Jews, 
the most unhappy of their race, into transalpine 
lands. Under Emperor Frederick III, who for half 
a century had with astounding equanimity beheld 
most shameless insults to his authority on the 
part of an ambitious nobility, a plundering squire- 
archy, a demoralized clergy, and the self-seeking 
patricians of the smaller towns, the Jewish commu- 
nities but too often saw their cup of bitterness over- 
flow. Frederick himself was by no means hostile to 
them. On the contrary, he frequently issued decrees 
in their favor. Unhappily, his commands remained 
for the most part a dead letter, and his laxity of rule 


encouraged the evil-minded to the commission of 
the most shameful misdeeds. It was dangerous for 
the German Jews to go beyond the walls of their 
cities. Every man was their foe, and waylaid them 
to satisfy either his fanaticism or his cupidity. Every 
feud that broke out in the decaying German empire 
brought misery to them. 

Among exiles from Mayence were two profound 
Talmudic scholars. They were cousins, by name 
Judah and Moses Menz. The former emigrated to 
Padua, and there received the office of rabbi, while 
the latter at first remained in Germany, and then 
passed over to Posen. As the result of expulsion 
or oppression, many rabbis were emigrating from all 
parts of Germany, and on account of their superior 
Talmudic knowledge these German emigrants were 
elected to the most distinguished rabbinical positions 
in Italy. They re-indoctrinated with their prejudice 
and narrowness of vision the Italian Jews, who were 
making determined efforts to free themselves from 
the bonds of the Middle Ages. 

The most distinguished rabbis of Italy were at 
that time Judah Menz and Joseph Kolon, and pre- 
cisely these two were most inimical to any liberal 
manifestation within Judaism, and most strenuously 
opposed the advocates of freedom. Joseph ben 
Solomon Kolon (flourished 1460 — 1490) was of 
French extraction, his ancestors having been ex- 
pelled from France ; but he passed his youth in 
Germany, and belonged to the German school. He 
subsequently lived with his relatives in Chambery 
until the Jews were hunted out of Savoy. With 
many companions in misfortune he went to Lom- 
bardy, where he gained his living by teaching; 
finally he became rabbi of Mantua. Endowed 
with extraordinary penetration, and fully the equal 
of the German rabbis in the depth of his Talmudic 
learning, Joseph Kolon was celebrated in his day as 
a Rabbinical authority of the first magnitude, and 


his academy rivaled the German school itself. He 
was consulted by both German and Italian com- 
munities. On scientific subjects and all matters out- 
side the Talmud he was as ignorant as his German 
fellow-dignitaries. A resolute, decided nature, 
Joseph Kolon was a man of rigid views on all 
religious matters. His ruggedness involved him in 
unpleasant relations with Moses Kapsali in Con- 
stantinople, and in a heated controversy with the 
cultured Messer Leon in his own community. How- 
ever well they might agree for a time, Joseph 
Kolon, the strict Talmudist, and Messer Leon, the 
cultured man of letters, could not long tolerate 
each other. When the conflict between them broke 
out, the whole community of Mantua took sides in 
their feud, and split into two parties as supporters 
of the one or the other. The strife at length be- 
came so keen that in 1476 — 1477 Duke Joseph of 
Mantua banished them both from the city; after 
which Kolon became rabbi of Pavia. 

Still more strained were the relations between the 
rabbi Judah Menz and the philosopher Elias del 
Medigo. The former (born 1408, died 1509), a man 
of the old school, of comprehensive knowledge of 
Talmudic subjects, and of remarkable sagacity, was 
most resolutely opposed to scientific progress and 
freedom in religious matters, and after his expulsion 
from Mayence transplanted the narrow spirit of the 
German rabbis to Padua and Italy in general. 

The relatively secure and honorable position of 
the Jews in Italy did not fail to rouse the displeasure 
of fanatical monks, who sought to cover with the 
cloak of religious zeal either their dissolute conduct 
or their ambitious share in worldly affairs. The 
colder the Christian world grew towards the end of 
the fifteenth century with regard to clerical institu- 
tions, the more bitterly did the monastic orders rage 
against the Jews. Preaching friars made the chan- 
cels ring with tirades against them, and openly ad- 


vocated their utter extermination. Their most 
desperate enemy at this time was the Franciscan 
Bernardinus of Feltre, a worthy disciple of the 
bloodthirsty Capistrano. The standing text of his 
sermons was: Let Christian parents keep a watch- 
ful eye on their children lest the Jews steal, ill-treat, 
or crucify them. 

He held up Capistrano, the Jew-slayer, as the type 
and model of a true Christian. In his eyes friendly 
and neighborly intercourse with Jews was an abom- 
ination, a most grievous sin against canonical law. 
Christian charity, he admitted, directs that Jews, 
being human, be treated with justice and human- 
ity; but at the same time the canonical law for- 
bids Christians to have any dealings with them, 
to sit at their tables, or to allow themselves to 
be treated by Jewish physicians. As the aristoc- 
racy everywhere, in obedience to their own inter- 
ests, took the part of the Jews, Bernardinus inflamed 
the lower classes against the Jews and their patrons. 
Because certain Jewish capitalists had been success- 
ful, he depicted all Jews as vampires and extor- 
tioners, and roused the ill will of the populace 
against them. " I, who live on alms and eat the 
bread of the poor, shall I be a dumb dog and not 
howl when I see the Jews wringing their wealth from 
Christian poverty? Yea! shall I not cry aloud for 
Christ's sake ? " Such is a fair specimen of his 

Had the Italian people not been actuated by strong 
good sense, Bernardinus would have become for 
the Jews of Italy what, in the beginning of the same 
century, the Dominican, Vincent Ferrer, had been 
to the Jews of Spain, and Capistrano, to the com- 
munities of Germany and the Slav countries. The 
authorities sorely hindered Bernardinus in his busi- 
ness of Jew-baiting, and his bloodthirsty sermons 
mostly failed of effect. When he was conducting 
his crusade in Bergamo and Ticini, Duke Galeazzo, 


of Milan, forbade him to proceed. In Florence, in 
fact everywhere in Tuscany, the enlightened prince 
and the senate took the part of the Jews with vigor. 
The venomous monk spread the report that they 
had allowed themselves to be bribed with large sums 
by Yechiel of Pisa and other wealthy Jews. As 
Bernardinus was inciting the youth of the city against 
the Jews, and a popular rising was imminent, the 
authorities ordered him to quit Florence and the 
country forthwith, and he was compelled to submit 
(1487). Little by little, however, by dint of untir- 
ing repetition of the same charges, he managed so 
far to inflame public opinion against the Jews that 
even the Venetian senate was not always able to 
protect them. Finally, he succeeded in bringing 
about a bloody persecution of the Jews, not, indeed, 
in Italy, but in the Tyrol, whence it spread to Ger- 

While Bernardinus was preaching in the city of 
Trent, he remarked with no little chagrin the friendly 
relation between Jews and Christians. Tobias, a 
skillful Jewish physician, and an intelligent Jewess, 
named Brunetta, were on most friendly terms with 
the upper classes, enjoying their complete confi- 
dence. This roused his ire not a little, and he made 
the chancels of Trent ring with savage tirades 
against the Jews. Some Christians called him to 
account for his hatred of Jews, remarking that 
though they were without the true faith, those of 
Trent were worthy folk. The monk replied: "Ye 
know not what misfortune these good people will 
bring upon you. Before Easter Sunday is past they 
will give you a proof of their extraordinary good- 
ness." It was easy for him to prophesy, for he and 
a few other priests had arranged a cunning plan, 
which not only brought about the ruin of the com- 
munity of Trent, but also caused the greatest injury 
to the Jews of various countries. Chance aided 
him by creating a favorable opportunity. 


In Holy Week of 1475 a three-year-old child, 
named Simon, the son of poor Christian parents, 
was drowned in the Adige, and the corpse was 
caught in a grating close to the house of a Jew. In 
order to anticipate misrepresentation of the event, 
he hurried to Bishop Hinderbach to give him notice 
of the occurrence. The bishop took two men of 
high position with him, went to the place, and had 
the body carried into the church. As soon as the 
news spread, Bernardinus and other hostile priests 
raised a fierce outcry against the Jews, saying that 
they had tortured and slain the child, and then flung 
it into the water. The body of the supposititiously 
illtreated child was exhibited, in order to inflame 
the fury of the populace against them. The bishop 
had all the. Jews of Trent, high and low, cast into 
prison, commenced proceedings against them, and 
called a physician, Matthias Tiberinus, to testify to 
the violent death of the child. A baptized Jew, 
one Wolfkan, from Ratisbon, an engrosser, came 
forward with the most fearful accusations against his 
former co-religionists. His charges the more readily 
found credence as the imprisoned Jews confessed 
under torture that they had slain Simon, and drunk 
his blood on the night of the Passover. Brunetta 
was said to have supplied the weapons for the pur- 
pose. A letter also was said to have been found in 
the possession of a rabbi, Moses, which had been 
sent from Saxony, asking for Christian blood for the 
next Passover. Only one of the tortured victims, a 
man named Moses, endured every torment without 
confirming the lying accusations of his enemies. The 
result was that all the Jews of Trent were burnt, and 
it was resolved that no Jew should thenceforth settle 
in the city. Four persons only became converts to 
Christianity, and were pardoned. 

The bishop of Trent, Bernardinus, and the monks 
of all orders made every effort to utilize this occur- 
rence for the general ruin of the Jews. The corpse 


of the child was embalmed, and commended to the 
populace as a holy relic. Thousands made pilgrim- 
ages to its remains, and ere long it was believed by 
the faith-drunken pilgrims that they had seen a halo 
about the remains of the child Simon. So much was 
said about it that even its inventors came to believe 
in the martyrdom. From every chancel the Domin- 
icans proclaimed the new miracle, and thundered 
against the infamy of the Jews. Two lawyers from 
Padua who visited Trent in order to convince them- 
selves of the truth of the occurrence were almost 
torn to pieces by the fanatical mob. It was impera- 
tive that the man/el be believed in, and so the Jews 
of all Christian countries were jeopardized anew. 
Even in Italy they dared not go outside the towns 
lest they be slain as child-murderers. 

The doge, Pietro Mocenigo, and the Venetian 
senate, on the complaint of the Jews about the in- 
security of their lives and property', issued orders to 
the podesta of Padua energetically to defend them 
against fanatical outbreaks, and to forbid the preach- 
ing friars to inflame the mob against them. The 
doge accompanied the orders with the remark that 
the rumor that Jews had slain a Christian child in 
Trent was a fabrication, a device invented by their 
enemies to serve some purpose. When Pope Sixtus 
IV was urged to canonize little Simon he steadfastly 
refused, and sent a letter to all the towns of Italy, 
on October loth, 1475, forbidding Simon of Trent 
to be honored as a saint until he could investigate 
the matter, and thus he allayed the popular excite- 
ment against the Jews. The clergy, nevertheless, 
permitted the bones of Simon to be held sacred, and 
instituted pilgrimages to the church built for his 

Through this circumstance Jew hatred in Germany 
gained fresh vigor. The citizens of Frankfort-on- 
the-Main exhibited, on the bridge leading to Sachsen- 
hausen, a picture representing in hideous detail a 


tortured child, and the Jews leagued with the devil 
in their bloody work. The news of the child-murder 
in Trent spread like wildfire through the Christian 
countries, and became the source of new sufferings 
to Jews. Nowhere were these sufferings so severe 
as in the free city of Ratisbon, containing one of the 
oldest Jewish communities in South Germany. It 
was held to be not only very pious but of distin- 
guished morality, and it was considered a high 
honor to intermarry with the Jews of Ratisbon. 
Within the memory of man no native Jew had been 
brought before the tribunal for any moral lapse. 
The community was regarded as the most learned 
in the land, and the parent of all German com- 
munities. It possessed chartered liberties, which 
the emperors, in consideration of a crown-tax, were 
accustomed to renew on their accession. The Jews 
of Ratisbon were half recognized as burghers, and 
mounted guard with the Christians as militia. One 
might almost say that the Bavarian princes and 
corporations vied with each other in favoring them 
— of course, merely to share their purses. In the 
latter half of this century they had become a verita- 
ble bone of contention between the Duke of Bava- 
ria-Landsberg and Frederick III, who, hard pressed 
on all sides, not only in the empire, but even in his 
own possessions, hoped to fill his empty coffers with 
the wealth of the Jews. 

In addition to these the Kamerau family made 
claims upon the Jews of Ratisbon, as well as the 
town council, and, of course, the bishop. These 
contradictory and mutually hostile demands made 
the position of the Jews anything but a bed of roses. 
First from one side and then from another came 
orders to the council to imprison the Jews, their 
chiefs, or their rabbi, at that time the sorely-tried 
Israel Bruna, until, worn out by confinement, they 
decided to pay what was claimed. The council did 
indeed seek to shield them, but only so long as no 


danger threatened the citizens, or the Jews did not 
compete with the Christian guildmembers. 

To escape these cruel and arbitrary extortions, 
prudence directed that they place themselves under 
the protection of one of the Hussite nobles or cap- 
tains. They would thus enjoy more security than 
vvas possible under the so-called protection of the 
emperor, since the fiery Hussites were not a little 
feared by the more sluggish Germans. Although 
they had to some extent abandoned their heretical 
fanaticism, and had taken service under the Catho- 
lic sovereigns, their desperate valor was still a 
source of terror to the orthodox clergy. The event 
proved that the Jews had acted wisely in appealing 
to their protection. 

A bishop named Henry was elected in Ratisbon, 
a man of gloomy nature, to whom the sentiment of 
mercy was unknown, and he naturally insisted on 
the enforcement of the canonical restrictions against 
the Jews. As examples to others, for instance, he 
mercilessly punished a Christian girl who had 
entered the service of a Jew, and a Christian barber 
who had let blood for a Jewish customer. His ani- 
mosity was contagious. On one occasion, when the 
Jewish midwife was sick, and a Christian was about 
to attend some Jewish women, the council actually 
dared not give her the required permission without 
the episcopal sanction. 

Bishop Henry and Duke Louis, one in their 
hatred of Jews, now pursued what seemed to be a 
preconcerted plan for the ruin or conversion of the 
Jews of Ratisbon. On the one hand, they obtained 
the acquiescence of the pope, and on the other, the 
assistance of influential persons on the city council. 
Their campaign began with attempts at conversions 
and false accusations, for which they availed them- 
selves of the assistance of a couple of worthless 
converted Jews. One of these, Peter Schwarz by 
name, wrote slanderous and abusive pamphlets 


against his former co-religionists. The other, one 
Hans Vayol, heaped the vilest calumnies upon the 
aged rabbi, Israel Bruna, amongst other things 
charging him with purchasing from him a seven- 
year-old Christian child and slaughtering it, and the 
rabbi of Ratisbon, already bowed down by sorrow 
and suffering, was charged with the death of the 

Israel Bruna (of Briinn, born 1400, died 1480) 
was one of those sons of sorrow who seem to fall 
from one misfortune into another. He appears to 
have been exiled from Briinn, where he was recog- 
nized as a Rabbinical authority, and after many 
wanderings, to have traveled by way of Prague to 
Ratisbon. He settled there, and wished to perform 
the functions of rabbi for those who might place 
confidence in him. But a Talmudic scholar who 
resided in the city, one Amshel, a layman, not an 
elected rabbi, raised objections to his competitor^ 
and forbade Israel Bruna to hold discourses before^ 
disciples, to deal with matters of divorce, to exer- 
cise any Rabbinical functions, or to divide the 
honors of the office with himself. As each had his 
followers, a schism arose in the community of Ratis- 
bon. His two teachers, Jacob Weil and Isserlein, 
upholders of the freedom of the Rabbinical office 
and pronounced opponents of spiritual officialism, 
took the part of the persecuted Israel Bruna, with 
whom David Sprinz, a rabbi of Nuremberg, also 
took sides. These men proved in the clearest man- 
ner that any Jew is competent to assume Rabbinical 
functions, provided he possesses the requisite 
knowledge, is authorized by a recognized teacher, 
and leads a pious and moral life. They further^ 
adduced in favor of Israel Bruna the fact that he 
contributed his quota to the communal treasury, and 
was therefore a worthy member of the community.. 
The breach nevertheless remained open, and Israel' 
Bruna was often exposed to insults from the oppo- 


site party. Once when he was about to hold a dis- 
course, several of the ringleaders left the lecture- 
room, and were followed by many others. Disciples 
of his opponent secretly painted crosses on his seat 
in the synagogue, wrote the hateful word "heretic" 
(Epicuros) beside them, and offered other insults to 
him. As time went on, after the death of the great 
rabbis, Jacob Weil and Israel Isserlein, Bruna was 
recognized as a Rabbinical authority, and from far 
and near questions were sent to him. His misfor- 
tunes, however, did not cease. When Emperor 
Frederick demanded the crown-tax from the com- 
munity of Ratisbon, Duke Louis opposed the pay- 
ment, and the council was unable to decide which 
side to assist. The emperor thereupon threw Israel 
Bruna into prison to force him to threaten his peo- 
ple with the ban if they did not pay over the third 
part of their possessions. He was released only on 
bail of his entire property; and, in addition, the 
fearful charges of child-murder and other capital 
crimes were raised against the decrepit old man by 
the converted Jew, Hans Vayol. Bishop Henr)^ and 
the clergy were only too ready to gratify their 
hatred of Jews by means of this accusation, and 
the besotted populace gave all the more credence 
to the falsehood, as rumors of the death of Chris- 
tian children at the hands of Jews daily increased. 
No one in Ratisbon doubted that gray old Israel 
Bruna had foully murdered a Christian child, and he 
was on the point of being put to death on the de- 
mand of the clerg^^ To withdraw him from the fury 
of the mob, the council, which feared to be made 
answerable, imprisoned him. 

In the meantime the anxious community appealed, 
not only to the emperor, but also to the Bohemian 
king. Ladislaus, more feared than the emperor; and 
ere long stringent directions came from both to re- 
lease the rabbi instantly without ransom. The coun- 
cil, however, excused itself on the plea of fear of 


the bishop and the mob. Thereupon followed a 
mandate from the emperor to defer the execution of 
Israel Bruna until he came to the diet at Augsburg. 
The council was still less satisfied with this order, 
for it feared to lose its jurisdiction over the Jews. It 
accordingly prepared to take decisive action in the 
matter. The accuser, Hans Vayol, was led on the 
stone bridge, where the executioner stood in readi- 
ness. He was informed that he must die, and ad- 
monished not to go into eternity with a lie on his 
lips The hardened sinner maintained his accusa- 
tions against the Jews in general, but confessed that 
the rabbi, Israel Bruna, was innocent of the charge 
of child-murder, and on receipt of another rescript 
from the emperor, Vayol was banished, and the rabbi 
released from prison. He was, however, compelled 
to take an oath that he would not revenge himself 
for his long sufferings. This poor, feeble graybeard 
— how could he have avenged himself? 

At this juncture the news of the martyrdom of 
Simon of Trent reached Ratisbon, and added fuel to 
the fire. Bishop Henry was delighted to have an 
opportunity of persecuting the Jews with impunity 
in the interest of the faith. He had heard some- 
thing of this child-murder on his journey to Rome. 
On his return, he urged the council to institute 
a rigid inquiry respecting the Jews accused by 
Wolfkan. The result of the extorted confessions 
was the imprisonment of the whole community. 
Sentinels stood on guard day and night at the four 
gates of the Jewry of Ratisbon, and permitted no 
one to enter or go out. The possessions of the 
whole community were confiscated by the commis- 
sioners and judges who took an inventory of every- 
thing. A horrible fate threatened the unhappy chil- 
dren of Israel. 

This trial, which caused considerable attention in 
its day, proved quite as prejudicial to the citizens as to 
the Jews themselves. Immediately after the inquiry 


began, several Jews of Ratisbon had betaken them- 
selves to Bohemia and to the emperor, and tried by 
every means to save their unhappy brethren. They 
knew that to explain their righteous cause gold, and 
plenty of it, would be above all things necessary. 
For this reason several Bavarian rabbis assembled 
in a synod at Nuremberg, and decided that the Ba- 
varian communities and every individual not abso- 
lutely impoverished should contribute a quota to 
make up the amount necessary to free the accused 
Jews of Ratisbon. When the safety of their breth- 
ren was in question, the Jews, however fond they 
might be of money, were by no means parsimonious. 
The intercession of the Bohemian nobles under 
whose protection several of the Ratisbon commu- 
nity had placed themselves led to no result. Far 
more efficacious were the golden arguments which 
the ambassadors of the community laid before Em- 
peror Frederick and his advisers. It is only just to 
say that this usually feeble sovereign displayed con- 
siderable ability and firmness in this inquiry. He 
was so strongly convinced of the falsehood of the 
blood accusation against the Jews that he would not 
allow himself to be deceived by any trickery. He 
dispatched rescript after rescript to the council of 
Ratisbon, ordering the immediate release of the im- 
prisoned Jews, the cessation of the durance of the 
community, and the restoration of their property. 
The council, through fear of the bishop and the 
duke, delayed the execution of the order, and the 
emperor became furious at the obstinacy of the citi- 
zens when news was brought to him that, in spite of 
the imperial command, they had already executed 
some of the Jews. He thereupon declared the city 
to have fallen under the ban of the empire on ac- 
count of its obstinate disobedience, and summoned 
it to answer for its contumacy. At the same time 
he sent the imperial chancellor to deprive the city of 
penal jurisdiction and to threaten it with other se* 
vere penalties. 


Frederick, as a rule weak, showed surprising 
firmness on this occasion. New and shameless 
charges were nevertheless brought by the clergy 
against the Jews. In Passau they were accused of 
having bought consecrated wafers from a Christian, 
and profaned them ; whereupon certain marvels 
were said to have occurred. For this the bishop of 
Passau had a great number of Jews put to death, 
some "mercifully" by the sword, others at the 
stake, and others by means of red-hot pincers. In 
memory of this inhumanity and "to the glory of 
God," a new church was built near the scene of the 
atrocities. A Jew and a Jewess of Ratisbon were 
accused of complicity in this crime, and thrown into 
prison with the others. All the details were brought 
to the notice of the emperor in order to rouse his 
anger. He, however, maintained his conviction that 
the Jews of Ratisbon were innocent, and issued a 
new order to the effect that those in prison on the 
charge of profaning the host were neither to be 
tortured nor put to death, but to be treated like 
other prisoners. In vain the council sent deputy 
after deputy to the imperial court. Frederick 
roundly declared, "In justice and honor I neither 
can nor will permit these Jews to be slain, and the 
men of Ratisbon who have so long hardened them- 
selves in their disobedience shall certainly not sit in 
judgment upon them." 

Thus, after long resistance, the council was com- 
pelled to kiss the rod, and give a written promise to 
release the imprisoned Jews, and not to drive any 
out of the city on account of this trial. Further, 
the city was sentenced to pay a fine of 8,000 gulden 
into the imperial exchequer and to find bail in 10,000 
gulden — which latter burden, strangely enough, the 
Jews had to bear. An appeal to the pope was out 
of the question, since experience had taught that 
" the papal court was even more greedy of gold 
than the imperial." 


When the community of Ratisbon was informed 
of this conclusion of the affair, and of the condi- 
tions under which it could gain its freedom — by 
paying not only the sum imposed upon itself, 
but also the fine of the city and the costs of the 
proceedings — it refused. The delegates said that 
the total exceeded the possessions of the Jews, 
as they had been deprived, for three long years, 
of freedom and all opportunity of earning money. 
They preferred their present miserable state to 
becoming beggars. So they remained two years 
longer in durance, partly on account of lack of 
money, and partly by reason of the excessive bail 
demanded. They were finally set at liberty on 
taking an oath that they would not take revenge, 
nor convey their persons or their goods out of the 
city of Ratisbon. 

All the Jews living in Suabia were expelled, 
doubtless in consequence of false accusations in 
connection with the child-murder of Trent. As late 
as in the eighteenth century, the shameless falsehood 
was repeated, and in many parts entailed upon the 
Jews the sacrifice of life and property. 



Jewish Blood in the Veins of the Spanish NobiUty — The Marranos 
ding to Judaism and manifest Unconquerable Antipathy to 
Christianity — Ferdinand and Isabella — The Dominicans, Alfonso 
de Ojeda, Diego de Merlo, and Pedro de Solis — The Catechism 
of the Marranos — A Polemical Work against the Cathohc 
Church and Despotism gives a Powerful Impulse to the Inqui- 
sition — The Tribunal is established in 1480 — Miguel Morillo and 
Juan de San Martin are the first Inquisitors — The Inquisition in 
Seville — The " Edict of Grace" — The Procession and the Auto- 
da-f6 — The Numbers of the Accused and Condemned — Pope 
Sixtus IV and his Vacillating Policy with Regard to the Inqui- 
sition — The Inquisition under the first Inquisitor General, 
Thomas de Torquemada; its Constitutions — The Marranos of 
Aragon — They are charged with the Death of the Inquisitor 
Arbues — Persecutions and Victims — Proceedings against two 
Bishops Favorable to the Jews, De Avila and De Aranda. 

1474— 1483 C.E. 

A Jewish poet called Spain the "hell of the Jews ;" 
and, in very deed, those foul fiends in monks' 
cowls, the inventors of the Holy Inquisition, made 
that lovely land an Inferno. Every misery, every 
mortal pang, conceived only by the most extrava- 
gant imagination of poet; every horror that can 
thrill the heart of man to its lowest depths, these 
monsters in the garb of humility brought upon the 
Jews of the Hesperian Peninsula. 

These Calibans also said, " * Burn but their books ;* 
for therein lies their power." The Dominicans 
wished to destroy not only the bodies, but the very 
soul and spirit of the Jews. Yet they were not 
able to quench the life of Judaism. They only suc- 
ceeded in transforming the Spanish paradise into 
one vast dungeon, in which the king himself was 
not free. The Inquisition, created by the begging 
friars, wounded the Jew deeply, yet not mortally. 


His wounds are now almost healed ; but Spain 
suffers still, perhaps beyond hope of cure, from 
the wounds dealt by the Inquisition. Ferdinand the 
Catholic and Isabella the Bigot, who, through the 
union of Aragon and Castile, laid the foundation 
for the greatness of Spain, prepared the way, at the 
same time, by the establishment of the Inquisition, 
for her decay and final ruin. 

The new-Christians, who dwelt by hundreds and 
thousands throughout the kingdoms of Aragon and 
Castile, were so many thorns in monkish flesh. Many 
of them held high offices of state, and by means of 
their wealth wielded great and far-reaching influence. 
They were also related to many of the old nobility; 
indeed, there were few families of consequence 
who had not Jewish blood in their veins. They 
formed a third part of the townspeople, and were 
intelligent, industrious, and peaceful citizens. These 
Marranos, for the most part, had preserved their 
love for Judaism and their race in the depths of their 
hearts. As far as they could, they observed Jewish 
rites and customs, either from piety or from habit. 
Even those who, upon philosophical grounds, were 
indifferent to Judaism, were not less irreconcilably 
hostile to Christianity, which they were compelled 
to confess with their lips. Although they did not 
have their children circumcised, they washed the 
heads of the infants immediately after baptism. 
They were, therefore, rightly looked upon by the 
orthodox clergy either as Judaizing Christians, or as 
apostate heretics. They took no count of the 
origin of their conversion, which had been accom- 
plished with fire and sword. They had received the 
sacrament of baptism, and this condemned them 
and their descendants to remain in the Christian 
faith, however hateful it might be to them. Rational 
legislation would have given them liberty to return 
to Judaism, and, in any case, to emigrate, in order 
to avoid scandal. But the spiritual powers were 


full of perversity. That which demands the freest 
exercise of the powers of the soul was to be brought 
about by brute force, to the greater glory of God ! 

During the lifetime of Don Henry IV the clerical 
members of the cortes of Medina del Campo had 
persistently advanced the proposal that a court of 
Inquisition be instituted to bring recusant or sus- 
pected Christians to trial, and inflict severe punish- 
ment with confiscation of goods. Unfortunately for 
the clericals, the king was by no means zealous for 
the faith or fond of persecution ; and so this decision 
of the cortes, like many others, remained a dead 
letter. The Dominicans, however, promised them- 
selves greater results under the new sovereigns — 
Queen Isabella, whose confessors had reduced her 
to spiritual slavery, and Don Ferdinand, who, by no 
means so superstitiously inclined, was quite ready 
to use religion as the cloak of his avarice. It is said 
that the confessor, Thomas de Torquemada, the in- 
carnation of the hell-begotten Holy Inquisition, had 
extorted from the Infanta Isabella a vow that, when 
she came to the throne, she would devote herself to 
the extirpation of heresy, to the glory of God and 
the exaltation of the Catholic faith. She was now 
queen; " her throne was established; and her soul 
was sufficiently beclouded to believe that God had 
raised her solely to cleanse Spanish Christianity 
from the taint of Judaism." 

The prior of a Dominican monastery, Alfonso de 
Ojeda, who had the ear of the royal consorts, made 
fearful representations to them as to the offenses of 
the new-Christians against the faith. Aided by two 
others of like mind, he strained every nerve to set 
the Inquisition in motion against the Marranos ; and 
the papal nuncio in Spain, Nicolo Franco, supported 
the proposition of the monk for a tribunal to call 
them to account for their transgressions. 

Without further consideration Don Ferdinand, 
seeing that his coffers would be filled with the 


plunder of the accused, gave his assent to the 
scheme. The more scrupulous queen hesitated, 
and the royal pair decided to appeal to the pope for 
advice. The two Spanish ambassadors at the court 
of Rome, the brothers Francisco and Diego de San- 
tillana, earnestly pressed the pope and the college 
of cardinals to grant the request of their sovereigns. 
Sixtus IV, from whom anything, good or bad, could 
be obtained for gold, immediately grasped the 
money-making aspect of the Holy Inquisition. In 
November, 1478, he issued a bull empowering the 
sovereigns to appoint inquisitors from among the 
clergy, with full authority to sit in judgment on all 
heretics, apostates, and their patrons, according to 
the laws and customs of the ancient Inquisition, sen- 
tence them, and — most important point of all— con- 
fiscate their goods. 

Isabella, who had been somewhat favorably influ- 
enced in behalf of the new-Christians, was not 
inclined to adopt rigorous measures to begin with. 
At her direction, the archbishop of Seville, Cardinal 
Mendoza, prepared a catechism in 1478 for the use 
of new-Christians, and issued it to the clergy of his 
diocese, in order that they might instruct the Mar- 
ranos in the articles, the sacraments, and the usages 
of the Christian religion. The authors of this 
measure displayed strange simplicity in believing 
that the baptized Jews would allow an antipathy, 
which every day found new incitement, to be ap- 
peased by the dry statements of a catechism. The 
Marranos naturally remained in what the church 
considered their blindness ; that is to say, in the 
purity of their monotheism and their adherence to 
their ancestral religion. 

It happened that a Jew or a new-Christian 
grievously offended the sovereigns by the publica- 
tion of a small work in which he exposed at once 
the idolatrous cult of the church and the despotic 
character of the government. Hereupon the queen 


became more and more inclined to assent to the 
proposals for the establishment of the bloody 
tribunal. The work made so strong an impression 
that the queen's father-confessor, in 1480, published 
a refutation by royal command. The attitude of the 
court became more and more hostile to new- 
Christians, and when the commission appointed by 
the sovereigns to inquire into the improvement or 
obstinacy of the Marranos reported that they were 
irreclaimable, it was authorized to frame the statute 
for the new tribunal. The commission was com- 
posed of the fanatical Dominican, Alfonso de Ojeda, 
and the two monks — one in mind and order- — Pedro 
de Solis and Diego de Merlo. 

Had demons of nethermost hell conspired to tor- 
ment innocent men to the last verge of endurance 
and to make their lives one ceaseless martyrdom, 
they could not have devised more perfect means 
than those which the three monks employed against 
their victims. 

The statute was ratified by the sovereigns, and 
the tribunal of the Holy Inquisition was appointed 
on September 17th, 1480. It was composed of men 
well fitted to carry out the bloody decree : the Dom- 
inican Miguel Morillo, inquisitor in the province of 
Roussillon, and renowned as a converter of heretics 
by means of torture ; Juan de San Martin ; an as- 
sessor, the abbot Juan Ruez, and a procurator fiscal, 
Juan Lopez del Barco. These men were formally 
confirmed by Sixtus IV as judges in matters of faith, 
and of heretics and apostates. The tribunal was 
first organized for the city of Seville and its neigh- 
borhood, as this district stood immediately under 
royal jurisdiction, and, therefore, possessed no cortes, 
and because it contained a great many Marranos. 
Three weeks later the sovereigns issued a decree 
calling upon all officials to render the inquisitors 
every assistance in their power. 

It is noteworthy that as soon as the creation of 


the tribunal became known, the populace every- 
where looked upon it with displeasure, as though 
suspicious that it might be caught in the net spread 
for the Marranos. While the cortes of Medina del 
Campo proposed the establishment of a court for 
new-Christians, the great popular assembly at 
Toledo in the same year — the first after the acces- 
sion of Ferdinand and Isabella — maintained abso- 
lute silence on the question, as though it desired 
to have no share in the unholy work. The mayor 
and other officials of Seville proved so disinclined 
to assist the inquisitors that it was necessary to 
issue a second royal decree on December 27th, 

1480, directing them to do so. The nobles, allied 
with the converted Jews either through blood or 
friendship, stood stoutly by them, and sought 
by every means to protect them against the new 

As soon as the new-Christians of Seville and the 
neighborhood received news of the establishment of 
the Inquisition, they held a meeting to consider 
means of turning aside the blow aimed at them. 
Several wealthy and respected men of Seville, Car- 
mona and Utrera, among them Abulafia, the financial 
agent of the royal couple, prepared to do battle 
with their persecutors. They distributed money and 
weapons among the people, to enable them to de- 
fend themselves. An old man urged the conspir- 
ators to armed resistance ; but the conspiracy was 
betrayed by the daughter of one of its members, 
and all fell into the hands of the tribunal. Others, 
who had collected their possessions, and fled to 
the province of Medina-Sidonia and Cadiz, under 
whose governors they hoped to receive protection 
against the threatened persecution, were deceived, 
for the Inquisition went to work with remorseless 
severity. As soon as it had taken up its quarters 
in the convent of St. Paul at Seville, on January 2d, 

1 48 1, it issued an edict to the governor of Cadiz 


and other officials to deliver up the Marranos and 
distrain their goods. Those who disobeyed were 
threatened not only with excommunication, but also 
with the punishment assigned, as sharers of their 
guilt, to all who showed sympathy to heretics — con- 
fiscation of goods and deprivation of office. 

The Inquisition inspired so much terror that the 
nobility lost no time in imprisoning those to whom 
they had lately promised protection, and in sending 
them in custody to Seville. The number of these 
prisoners was so great that the tribunal was soon 
obliged to seek another building for its functions. 
It selected a castle in Triana, a suburb of Seville. 
On the gate of this house of blood were inscribed, 
in mockery of the Jews, certain verses selected from 
their Scriptures : — "Arise, God, judge Thy cause ; " 
" Catch ye foxes for us," which plainly showed the 
utter heartlessness of their judges. Fugitives when 
caught were treated as convicted heretics. So early 
as the fourth day after the installation of the 
tribunal, it held its first sitting. Six Marranos who 
had either avowed their old religion before their 
judges, or made horrible confessions on the rack, 
were condemned and burnt alive. The tale of vic- 
tims grew to such proportions that the city authori- 
ties set apart a special place as a permanent execu- 
tion ground, which subsequently became infamous 
as the Quemadero, or place of burning. Four huge 
caricatures of prophets distinguished this spot, exist- 
ing to the present day to the shame of Spain and 
Christianity. For three hundred years the smoke of 
the burnt-offering of innocence ascended to heaven 
from this infernal spot. 

With that mildness of mien which skillfully covers 
the wisdom and the venom of the serpent, Miguel 
Morillo and his coadjutors gave to the new-Chris- 
tians guilty of relapse into Judaism a certain time 
in which to declare their remorse. Upon doing this 
they would receive absolution, and be permitted to 


retain their property. This was the Edict of Grace ; 
but it was not wanting in threats for those who 
should permit the time of respite to elapse, and be 
denounced by others as backsliders. The full vigor 
of the canonical laws against heresy and apostasy 
would then be exercised against them. The credu- 
lous in crowds obeyed the summons. Contritely 
they appeared before the tribunal, lamented the 
awful guilt of their lapse into Judaism, and awaited 
absolution and permission to live in peace. But now 
the inquisitors imposed the condition that they de- 
clare by name, position, residence and other particu- 
lirs all persons of their ac(|uaintance whom they 
knew to be apostates. This declaration they were 
to substantiate on oath. In the name of God they 
were asked to become accusers and betrayers — the 
friend of his friend, the brother of his brother, and 
the son of his father. Terror, and the assurance 
that the betrayed should never know the names of 
their betrayers, loosed the tongues of the weak- 
hearted, and the tribunal soon had a long list of 
heretics upon whom to carry out its bloody work. 

Not only the hunted Marranos, every Spaniard 
was called upon by an edict of the inquisitors to 
become an informer. Under threat of excommuni- 
cation every one was bound to give, within three 
days, a list of acquaintances guilty of Jewish heresy. 
It was a summons to the most hateful vices of man- 
kind to become allies of the court : to malice, hatred 
and revenge, to sate themselves by treachery ; to 
greed, to enrich itself; and to superstition, to gain 
salvation by betrayal. 

And what were the signs of this heresy and apos- 
tasy ? The Inquisition had published a very com- 
plete, practical guide on the subject, so that each 
informer might find good grounds for his denunci- 
ation. The following signs of heresy were set forth : 
if baptized Jews cherished hopes of a Messiah ; if 
they held Moses to be as efficacious for salvation as 


Jesus; if they kept the Sabbath or a Jewish feast; 
if they had their children circumcised ; if they ob- 
served the Jewish dietary laws ; if they wore clean 
linen or better garments on the Sabbath, laid table- 
cloths, or lit no fire on this day, or if they went 
barefoot on the Day of Atonement, or asked par- 
don of each other. If a father laid his hands in 
blessing on his children without making the sign of 
the cross ; if one said his prayers with face turned 
to the wall, or with motions of the head ; or if he 
uttered a benediction (Baraha, Beracha) over the 
wine-cup, and passed it to those seated at the table 
with him, he was to be deemed recalcitrant. As a 
matter of course, neglect of the usages of the church 
was the strongest ground for suspicion and accusa- 
tion. Again, if a new-Christian repeated a psalm 
without adding the Gloria ; or if he ate meat on fast- 
days ; or if a Jewish woman did not go to church 
forty days after her lying-in ; or if parents gave their 
children Jewish names, the charge of heresy was 
held proved. 

Even the most innocent actions, if they happened 
to coincide with Jewish usages, were regarded as 
signs of aggravated heresy. If anyone, for instance, 
on the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles accepted gifts 
from the table of Jews, or sent them ; or if a 
new-born child was bathed in water in which gold 
coins and grains of corn had been placed ; or if a 
dying man in his last moments turned his face to 
the wall — all such actions were held to be signs of 

By such means unscrupulous people were given 
ample opportunity for denunciation, and the tribunal 
was enabled to accuse of heresy the most orthodox 
proselytes when it desired to destroy their influence 
or confiscate their property. Naturally the dungeons 
of the Inquisition were soon filled with Jewish here- 
tics. Fully 15,000 were thrown into prison at the 
outset. The Christian priests of Moloch inaugu- 


rated the first auto-da-fe, on January 6th, 1481, with 
a solemn procession, repeated innumerable times 
during the following three hundred years. The 
clergy in their gorgeous vestments and with cruci- 
fixes; the grandees in black robes with their ban- 
ners and pennons; the unhappy victims in the 
hideous San Benito, short and clinging, painted 
with a red cross, and flames and figures of devils; 
the accompanying choir of a vast concourse — so 
the executioners with proud bearing and the victims 
in most miserable guise marched to the place of 
torment. Arrived there the inquisitors recited their 
sentence on the victims. To the horror of the scene 
was added the ghastly mockery that the tribunal did 
not execute the sentence of death, but left it to the 
secular judge; for the church, though steeped to the 
lips in blood, was supposed not to desire the 
death of the sinner. The Jewish heretics were 
given to the flames forthwith, or, if penitent, they 
were first strangled. In the first auto-da-fe, at which 
the bishop, Alfonso de Ojeda, preached the inaugu- 
ration sermon, only six Judaizing Christians were 
burnt. A few days later the conspirators of Car- 
mona, Seville, and other towns, and three of the 
most wealthy and respected of the Marranos, among 
whom was Diego de Suson, the possessor of ten 
millions, and Abulafia, formerly a Talmudic scholar 
and a rabbi, were burnt to death. On the 26th of 
March seventeen victims suffered death by fire on 
the Quemadero. In the following month a yet 
greater number were burnt ; and up to November 
of the same year 298 burnt-offerings to Christ 
gasped out their lives in flame and smoke in the 
single district of Seville. In the archbishopric of 
Cadiz no less than 2,000 Jewish heretics were burnt 
alive in the course of that year, most of them being 
wealthy or well-to-do, their possessions, of course, 
going to the royal exchequer. Not even death 
afforded a safeguard against the fury of the Holy 


Office. These ghouls of reUgion tore from their 
graves the corpses of proselytes who had died in 
heresy, burnt them, confiscated their possessions in 
the hands of their heirs, and condemned the latter 
to obscurity and poverty that they might never 
J aspire to any honorable office. Here was a splendid 
field for the avarice of the king. When it was im- 
possible to convict a wealthy heir, it was only neces- 
sary to establish proofs of a relapse to Judaism 
against his dead father, and then the property fell 
partly to the king, partly to the Holy Inquisition ! 

Many Marranos saved themselves by flight from 
the clutches of the merciless persecutors, and took 
refuge in the neighboring Moslem kingdom of 
Granada, in Portugal, Africa, Provence, or Italy. 
Those who reached Rome approached the papal 
court with bitter complaints about the savage and 
arbitrary proceedings of the Inquisition against 
themselves and their companions in misery. As 
the complainants did not come with empty hands, 
their cause usually obtained a ready hearing. On 
the 29th of January, 1482, the pope addressed a 
severe letter to Ferdinand and Isabella, censuring 
the conduct of the Inquisition in no measured terms. 
He stated that he had been assured that the pro- 
ceedings of the tribunal were contrary to all forms 
of justice, that many were unjustly imprisoned, and 
subjected to fearful tortures. Innocent people had 
been denounced as heretics, and their property 
taken from their heirs. In this letter the pope ad 
mitted that he had issued the bull for the institu- 
tion of the Inquisition without due consideration ! 

Sixtus further stated that, in strict justice, he 
ought to depose the inquisitors, De Morillo and San 
Martin ; but out of consideration for their majesties 
he would allow them to remain in possession of 
their offices, only so long, however, as no further 
complaints were made against them. Should pro- 
tests again be raised he would restore the inquisi- 



torial office to the bishops, to whom it properly be- 
longed. The pope refused the request of Don 
Ferdinand to institute in the other provinces of the 
united kingdom extraordinary tribunals for the trial 
of heretics. 

But Don Ferdinand also knew how to apply the 
golden key to the papal cabinet, and obtained a bull 
sanctioning the establishment of the Inquisition in 
the provinces of Aragon. In this bull, dated Feb- 
ruary nth, 1482, Sixtus appointed six monks and 
clerics as chief inquisitors, among them Thomas de 
Torquemada, general of the Dominicans of Avilo, 
a monk already infamous for his bloodthirsty fanati- 
cism. In another letter, of the 17th of April, he 
invested these men with discretionary powers, in 
virtue of which they were able to dispense with cer- 
tain forms of common law, the hearing of witnesses 
and the admission of pleaders for the defense. 
Thus were fresh victims brought to the stake. 

In the kingdom of Aragon, however, where the 
nobility and the middle class had a weighty voice in 
public matters, the condemnation of Jewish heretics 
without formal trial raised such formidable opposi- 
tion that Cardinal Borgia, afterwards the infamous 
Alexander VI, and the king himself, petitioned 
the pope for a modification of the conditions gover- 
ning the practice of the tribunal. In a letter of 
the loth of October, Sixtus excused himself from 
making any radical changes in consequence of the 
absence of the cardinals, who had fled from Rome 
in mortal fear of the plague. But he abrogated the 
conditions which too flagrantly violated the princi- 
ples of common law ; that is to say, he ordered that 
accuser and witnesses should be confronted with the 
accused, and that the process should be conducted 
in public. 

The Inquisition also met with great opposition in 
Sicily, an appanage of the kingdom of Aragon. The 
people and even the authorities took the part of the 


new- Christians, and shielded them from the perse- 
cution of their bloodthirsty judges. Christians 
themselves openly charged that the victims were not 
, executed out of zeal for the faith, but from insatia- 
^ ble greed which sought ceaseless confiscations. The 
bigoted Isabella was sorely troubled at having her 
pious desire to devote the proselytes to death thus 
evilly represented, and even the pope behaved as 
though it wounded him to the heart. (February, 


Sixtus IV had the greatest interest in maintaining 
friendly relations with the Spanish court, and, there- 
fore, made every concession with regard to the In- 
quisition. As it often happened that Christian 
proselytes condemned by the tribunal, who had suc- 
ceeded in escaping to Rome, purchased absolution 
from the papal throne, with the infliction of only a 
light, private penance, the sovereigns saw that their 
efforts to purge the Christian faith by the extermi- 
nation of Jewish proselytes, especially by the con- 
fiscation of their goods, were most unpleasantly 
thwarted. The court, therefore, insisted that the 
pope appoint a judge of appeals in Spain itself, so 
that the rulings of the Inquisition might not be re- 
versed in foreign countries, where all kinds of un- 
favorable influences might be brought to bear. The 
pope agreed to this proposition, and appointed 
Inigo Manrique chief judge of appeals in cases in 
which the condemned moved for a revision of their 
trial. This measure was, however, of very doubtful 
benefit to the unfortunate culprits, for upon what 
ground could they base their appeal when the trial 
\ had been conducted in secret, and neither accuser 
' nor witnesses were known to them? It is altogether 
likely, too, that the tribunal did not leave them very 
much time to institute proceedings for the revision 
of the verdict. Between the passing of the sen- 
tence and the last act of the auto-da-fe only a very 
short interval elapsed. 


Another measure of the Spanish court, calculated 
to deprive the accused of the last hope of acquittal, 
was approved by the pope. Baptized Jews, or new- 
Christians descended from them, frequently held 
bishoprics, and were naturally favorably inclined to 
their unfortunate and persecuted brethren in race. 
At the request of the Spanish court, the pope issued 
a bull decreeing that no bishop, vicar, or member 
of the upper clergy descended from a Jewish family, 
whether paternally or maternally, should sit as a 
judge in any court for the trial of heretics. From 
this prohibition there was only a step to the condem- 
nation of clergy of Jewish blood to the stake. Both 
his own frame of mind and his political position now 
inclined the pope to encourage the sovereigns in the 
prosecution of their bloody work. He reminded 
them that Jesus had established his kingdom on earth 
solely by the extirpation of idolatry and the exter- 
mination of idolators, and he pointed to the recent 
victories which the Spaniards had gained over the 
Moslems in Granada as the reward of heaven for 
their efforts towards the purification of the faith — 
that is to say, for the burning of new-Christians and 
the confiscation of their goods. 

Had his Holiness, Sixtus IV, not been infamous 
as a monster of depravity, sensuality and unscru- 
pulousness, who appointed boys that he had him- 
self abused to bishoprics and the cardinal dig- 
nity, and who bestowed no clerical office without 
payment — as his contemporary, Infessura, the chan- 
cellor of Rome, has recorded — his conduct with 
regard to the Holy Inquisition would have been suf- 
ficient to brand him with immortal infamy. Within 
a short period he published the most contradictory 
decisions, and did not take the trouble to veil his in- 
consistency with the most flimsy pretense. Scarcely 
had he proclaimed the utmost rigors against Juda- 
izing heretics, and appointed a tribunal of appeals, 
than he partly abrogated these bulls, and issued an* 


Other prescribing milder proceedings to the Inquisi- 
tion, only to alter this policy in its turn. 

The hated Marranos, among them the high-spir- 
ited Juan de Seville, had exerted themselves to pro- 
cure from the papal court a decree to the effect that 
those who had undergone private penance in Rome 
should not be submitted to the oppression and per- 
secution of the avaricious king and his bloodthirsty 
inquisitors, but should be regarded and treated as 
orthodox Christians. At first the pope consented, 
and issued a bull on August 2d, 1483, "to be held 
in eternal remembrance and as guide for the 
future," in which he especially directed that rigor 
be tempered with mercy in dealing with the new- 
Christians, seeing that the severity of the Inquisition 
had overstepped the bounds of justice. The bull 
enacted that all new-Christian who had confessed 
their remorse to the confessor-general in Rome, and 
had been assigned a penance, should not be pur- 
sued by the Inquisition, and should have their trials 
suppressed. It exhorted the king and queen, " by 
the bowels of Jesus Christ," to remember that in 
mercy and kindness alone may man resemble God, 
and that, therefore, they might in this follow in the 
steps of Jesus, whose peculiar attribute it was to 
show mercy and to pardon. The pope permitted 
this bull to be copied indefinitely, each copy to have 
the authority of the original, in order that the papal 
attitude with regard to new-Christians might be 
made universally known. Sixtus concluded with the 
statement that he issued this bull entirely of his own 
motion, not in obedience to external influence, al- 
though it was well known in high circles that it had 
been bought with new-Christian gold. The sover- 
eigns, however, would have nothing to do with 
mercy or forbearance ; they desired the death of 
the culprits and the possession of their property. 
Nor was the pope really inclined to mild measures. 
A few days later, on August 13th, he recalled this 


bull, excusing himself to the king for its tenor, and 
said that it had been issued in too great haste. Such 
was the consistency and infallibility of his Holiness, 
Pope Sixtus IV ! 

In vain Don Juan de Seville, who had procured 
the promulgation of the favorable bull, endeavored 
to circulate it. He failed to find any clerical official 
in Spain to copy and confirm it. He, therefore, ap- 
plied to the Portuguese archbishop of Evora, who 
caused it to be copied by his notary and recognized 
as authentic. The Inquisition, however, was ex- 
tremely suspicious of those who had sought and 
obtained indulgences at Rome, and Don Juan de 
Seville and his companions fell at length into its 
hands, and were severely punished 

Terrible though the tribunal had hitherto been ; 
though many thousands of compulsory proselytes 
and their descendants, during its three snort years 
of existence, had been cast into the flames, left to 
rot in its dungeons, driven from their country, or re- 
duced to beggary, it was child's play compared with 
what it became when placed under the control of a 
priest whose heart was closed to every sentiment of 
mercy, whose lips breathed only death and destruc- 
tion, and who united the savagery of the hyena with 
the venom of the snake. Until now the Inquisition 
had been confined to southern Spain, to the districts 
of Seville and Cadiz, and the Christian province of 
Andalusia. In the remaining provinces of Spain it 
had hitherto been unable to get a footing, in conse- 
quence of the resistance offered to its introduction J 
by the cortes. Through the opposition of the people, 
the wicked will of the inquisitors Morillo and Juan 
de San Martin had remained inoperative ; their up- 
lifted arm was paralyzed by innumerable difficulties. 
If here and there a few courts were heid in the re- 
maining districts of Spain, they were isolated and 
without organization, and were thus unable to furnish 
each other with victims. King Ferdinand thus had 


not yet collected treasure enough, nor had the pious 
Isabella beheld a sufficient number of new-Christians 
writhing in the flames. For their joint satisfaction 
they now persuaded the pope to appoint an inquisi- 
tor-general who should constitute, direct, and super- 
vise the several courts, that none of the suspected 
Marranos might avoid their fate, and that the oppo- 
sition of the populace might be broken down by 
every species of terrorism. In cold blood, and with 

N little interest even for the faith itself, the pope as- 
sented; and in May, 1483, appointed the Dominican, 
Thomas de Torquemada, hitherto prior of a mon- 
astery in Segovia, inquisitor-general of Spain. There 
are certain men who are the embodiment of good or 
evil sentiments, opinions and principles, and fully 
illustrate their extremest consequences. Torque- 
mada was the incarnation of the Holy Inquisition 

^ with all its devilish malice, its heartless severity, its 
bloodthirsty ferocity. 

" Out of Rome hath arisen a savage monster of 
such wondrous shape and hideous appearance that 
at the sound of its name all Europe trembles. Its 
carcass is of iron, tempered in deadly poison, and 
covered with scales of impenetrable steel. A thou- 
sand venom-dropping wings support it when it 
hovers over the terrified earth. Its nature is that 
of the ravening lion and the snake of the African 
desert. Its bite is more terrible than that of the 
hugest monster. The sound of its voice slays more 
speedily than the deadly glance of the basilisk. 
From its eyes and mouth stream fire and ceaseless 
lightnings. It feeds on human bodies, and its drink 
is human tears and blood. It excels the eagle in 
the speed of its flight, and where it broods its black 
shadow spreads the gloom of night. Though the 
sun shine never so clearly, the darkness of Egypt 
follows in its track Wheresoever it flies, every 
green meadow that it touches, every fruitful tree on 
which it sets foot, withers and dies, With its de- 


stroying fangs it roots up every herb that grows, 
and with the poison of its breath it blasts the 
circle in which it moves to a desert like that of 
Syria, where no green thing grows, no grass-blade 

Thus did a Jewish poet, Samuel Usque, himself 
singed by its flames, depict the Inquisition. 

The inscription which the poet Dante placed upon 
the portal of Hell — 

"All hope abandon, ye who enter here ! " 

would have been even more suitable to the dungeons 
of the Holy Inquisition, which the cruel energy of 
Torquemada now established in nearly all the great 
towns of Spain. He at once instituted three new 
tribunals in Cordova, Jaen and Villareal (Ciudad- 
Real), and, later on, one in Toledo, the capital of 
southern Spain. The offices of the Inquisition were 
entirely filled by him with hypocritical and fanatical 
Dominicans, whom he made the tools of his will, so 
that they worked like an organism with a single 
head, ready at his word to perpetrate the most hid- 
eous barbarities with a composure that cannibals 
might have envied. In those days Spain was filled 
with the putrefaction of the dungeon, the stench of 
corpses, and the crackling of the flames in which 
were burning innocent Jews, forced into a faith the 
falsity of which was demonstrated by every action 
of the servants of the church. A wail of misery 
piercing bone and marrow went through that lovely 
land ; but their Catholic majesties paralyzed the 
arm of every man prompted by mercy to put a stop 
to the butchery. At the court itself there sat a com- 
mission on the affairs of Jewish Christians, of which 
the inquisitor-general held the presidency. 

Don Ferdinand wished to perpetuate the jurisdic- 
tion of the Inquisition in his hereditary lands, in 
order to fill his purse with the spoils of the new- 
Christians setded there. During the assembly of 


the cortes at Tarazona, in April, 1484, he laid his 
plans before his privy council, and canceled the 
ancient privileges of the country, which had existed 
from the earliest times, and which provided that no 
native of Aragon, whatever his crime, should suffer 
confiscation of his property. The inquisitor-general 
accordingly appointed for the archbishopric of Sara- 
gossa two inquisitors who rivaled himself in blood- 
thirsty fanaticism, the canon, Pedro Arbues de Epila, 
and the Dominican, Gaspard Juglar. A royal or- 
dinance was now issued to all officials and nobles, 
directing them to give every assistance to the in- 
quisitors. The grand justiciary of Aragon, though 
of Jewish origin, and other dignitaries, were obliged 
to take an oath that they would spare no efforts to 
exterminate the culprits condemned by the tribunal. 

Torquemada, the very soul of the Inquisition, now 
decided to publish a code for the guidance of the 
judges, so that the net might be drawn as closely as 
possible round his victims. The whole body of in- 
quisitors was assembled to consider this design, and, 
under the title of "Constitutions," issued, on October 
29th, 1484, a code of laws, calculated to inspire the 
utmost horror had no more been done than commit 
them to paper. It has been asserted that the monkish 
inquisitors merely copied the anti-Jewish enactments 
of the councils under the Visigothic kings. It is true 
that the decrees of Receswinth threatened with death, 
by fire or stoning, all new-Christians convicted of 
adherence to Jewish customs. The comparison is, 
nevertheless, incorrect. For not the enactments 
against heresy, but their enforcement, distinguishes 
the "Constitutions" of the Inquisition as the most 
hideous ever fashioned by human wickedness. It 
was as though the most malicious demons had taken 
counsel to discover how they might bring innocent 
human beings to destruction. 

One decree ordained a respite of thirty days for 
those who of their own free will would tender con- 


fession of their relapse to Judaism. These were to 
be spared all punishment and confiscation of goods 
with the exception of a moderate fine. They were, 
however, compelled to put their confession into 
writing, to give exact answers to all questions put 
to them, and especially to betray their fellow-offend- 
ers, and even those whom they only suspected of 
Judaizing tendencies. Those who confessed after 
the expiration of the time of respite were to lose all 
their property, even that which they had possessed 
at the time of their falling away from Christianity, 
and though it had passed into other hands. Only 
new-Christians under twenty years old were ex- 
empted from loss of property in the event of later 
confessions ; but they were compelled to bear a 
mark of infamy composed of flaming crosses, the 
San Benito, upon their clothing, and to take part in 
the processions and attend high mass in this guise. 
Those whose remorse awakened after the appointed 
day were indeed to receive indulgence, but they 
were to remain branded for life. Neither they nor 
their descendants were ever to hold any public office, 
nor to wear any garment embroidered with gold, 
silver or pearls, or made of silk or fine wool, and 
they were condemned to bear the " fiery cross " for 
ever. Should the inquisitors discover that the con- 
fession of a penitent was insincere, it was their duty 
to deny him absolution, to treat him as a recalcitrant, 
and to consign him to the flames. If a penitent 
made only a partial confession of his sins, he, too, 
was condemned to death. The evidence against a 
Judaizing Christian might, when not otherwise con- 
venient, be taken through other persons. It was 
not necessary to place this testimony before the 
accused in full detail, but merely as an abstract. If, 
in spite of the evidence laid before him, he main- 
tained that he had never relapsed into Judaism, he 
was condemned to the flames as impenitent. Incon- 
clusive proofs of relapse brought against a Marrano 


Stretched him upon the rack ; in case he confessed 
under torture, he was submitted to a second trial. 
If he then adhered to what he had confessed under 
torture he was condemned ; if he denied it, he 
underwent the torture again. In those cases in 
which an accused person failed to answer to the 
summons issued against him, he was condemned as 
a contumacious heretic, i. e., his property was con- 

In the face of such proceedings — the parody of a 
trial — and the pre-determination on the part of the 
judge to consider the accused guilty, how was it 
possible for any Marrano to prove his innocence ? 
The dungeon and the rack frequently made the 
accused so indifferent to their fate and so weary of 
life that they made confessions as to themselves, 
their friends and even their nearest relatives which 
appeared to vindicate the necessity for the Inqui- 
sition. The trial of every new-Christian involved 
others in apparent guilt, and brought new exami- 
nations and new accusations in its train, thus furnish- 
ing an ever-increasing number of victims to the 
Holy Office. 

The towns of the kingdoms of Aragon and 
Valencia had from the first manifested the greatest 
displeasure at the introduction of the Inquisition. 
Up to this period they had been less despotically 
governed than Castile, and were exceedingly jealous 
of their freedom. Above everything the Aragonese 
valued, as the apple of their eye, the privilege which 
forbade the confiscation of goods even on account 
of the gravest offenses. Now the officers of the 
Inquisition were to be invested with unlimited power 
over life and property. The new-Christians, who 
held high offices and influential positions in Aragon, 
were naturally eager to foment and increase the dis- 
content. In Teruel and Valencia, in 1485, disas- 
trous popular risings broke out against the Inquisi- 
tion, and were quelled only after great bloodshed. 


The Marranos and those of Jewish descent did not, 
however, surrender their project of paralyzing the 
Inquisition in Aragon. Some of the highest digni- 
taries of state were numbered among them ; as, for 
example, Luis Gonzalez, royal secretary of state for 
Aragon ; Alfonso de Caballeria, the vice-chancellor; 
his brother, the king's major-domo; Philip Clemente, 
chief notary ; and such high hidalgos as the Counts 
of Aranda, together with many knights, among 
whom were the valiant Juan de Abadia, whose sister 
was burnt for heresy, and Juan Perez Sanchez, 
whose brothers were at court. 

As soon as the first victims fell under the Inqui- 
sition in Saragossa, influential new-Christians 
brought pressure to bear upon the cortes to induce 
them to protest, both to the king and to the pope, 
against the introduction of the tribunal into Aragon. 
Commissioners were sent to the royal and papal 
courts to effect in person the repeal of the ordi- 
nances. They expected but little trouble in Rome, 
for there everything was to be had for money. With 
the king it seemed to be a matter of much greater 
difficulty. Ferdinand remained obstinately fixed in 
the resolution to exterminate the Jewish Christians 
by means of the Inquisition, and to acquire their 
property. When the commissioners sent news to 
their friends in Aragon of the failure of their efforts, 
Perez Sanchez conceived a plot to remove Pedro 
Arbues, chief inquisitor for Aragon, in order to 
cripple the activity of the Inquisition by terrorism, 
and to force the king to give way. He imparted 
his project to his friends, and many bound them- 
selves to stand by him. In order to win over the 
entire body of new- Christians, and to induce them 
to stand firmly together, the leaders of the conspir- 
acy laid them under contribution for the expenses 
of carrying out the project. A hidalgo, Blasco de 
Alagon, collected the money, and Juan de Abadia 
undertook to hire the assassins, and to see that the 


death of Arbues was achieved. This conspiracy 
was joined by many distinguished persons of Jew- 
ish descent in Saragossa, Tarazona, Calatayud, 
Huesca and Barbastro. 

Juan de Abadia procured two trustworthy men, 
Juan de Esperaindo and Vidal de Uranso, with four 
assistants, to accompHsh the death of the inquisitor 
Arbues. The intended victim appears to have sus- 
pected the plot, for he protected his body with a 
shirt of mail and his head with a species of steel 
cap. Before daybreak on the 15th of September, 
1485, as he was entering the church with a lantern 
to hear early mass, the conspirators followed him. 
As soon as he had fallen on ihis knees, Esperaindo 
struck him on the arm with his sword, while Vidal 
wounded him in the neck. He was borne out of 
the church bathed in blood, and died two days 
later. The conspirators took instant flight. As 
soon as the news of the attack on the chief inqui- 
sitor spread in Saragossa it produced a violent 
reaction. The orthodox Christians assembled in 
crowds crying in tones of fury: "To the flames 
with the Jew-Christians! They have murdered the 
chief inquisitor ! " The Marranos would have been 
massacred in a body there and then, had not the 
royal bastard, the youthful Archbishop Alfonso of 
Aragon, mounted his horse, and restrained the 
crowd by an armed force, promising them the fullest 
satisfaction by the severe punishment of the guilty 
persons and their accomplices. 

King Ferdinand made good use of the unfor- 
tunate conspiracy in the establishment of the In- 
quisition in Aragon. The sovereigns carried public 
mourning for the murdered Arbues to the verge of 
idolatry. A statue was consecrated to his memor).', 
in honor of his services to religion and the exter- 
mination of Jewish heretics. The Dominicans were 
by no means displeased at the death of the chief 
inquisitor. They were, in fact, in need of a martyr 


to enable them to surround their tribunal of blood 
with a halo of glory. They used every effort to 
raise Pedro Arbues to the rank of saint or Christian 
demi-god. It was not long before they fabricated 
a divine communication from the sainted heretic- 
slayer, in which he exhorted all the world to support 
and carry forward the Holy Inquisition, and soothed 
the scruples of the members of the tribunal, on 
account of the enormous number of men they had 
consigned to the flames, by assuring them that the 
most honorable places in heaven awaited them as 
the reward of their pious efforts. 

The unsuccessful conspiracy of the Marranos in 
Saragossa afforded a vast number of fresh victims 
to the Christian Moloch. A few of the conspirators 
made full confession, and so the inquisitors soon 
had a complete list of the culprits. These were 
pursued with redoubled vigor as Judaizing heretics 
and enemies of the Holy Office. Those who had 
borne a leading part in the conspiracy, as soon as 
they fell into the hands of their judges, were dragged 
through the streets of Saragossa, their hands were 
hewn off, and they were then hanged. Juan de 
Abadia escaped this dishonorable fate by killing 
himself in prison. More than two hundred Jewish 
Christians were burnt as accomplices, a yet greater 
number were condemned to perpetual imprison- 
ment, among them a high dignitary of the Metro- 
politan Church of Saragossa, and not a few women 
of gentle birth. Francisco de Sante-Fe also died at 
the stake. Even those who had given shelter to 
the conspirators for a brief period during their flight 
were compelled to attend an auto-da-fe as penitents, 
and lost their civil rights. How far the inhumanity 
of the persecutors went is especially shown by one 
of the punishments inflicted. A conspirator, Gas- 
pard de Santa Cruz, had been successful in making 
his escape to Toulouse, and there died in peace. 
The Inquisition, not content with burning him in 


effigy, laid hands upon his son as an accomplice in 
his father's flight, and condemned him to travel 
to Toulouse to communicate his sentence to the 
Dominicans of that city, and to desire them to ex- 
hume the body of his father and burn it. The weak 
son performed his disgraceful mission, and brought 
back to Saragossa the certificate of the Dominicans 
to the effect that the corpse of the father had been 
dishonored on the prayer of the son. 

Certain towns of northern Spain, such as Lerida 
and Barcelona, still obstinately resisted the intro- 
duction of the Inquisition. Their resistance proved 
vain. The iron will of Fernando and the blood- 
thirsty fanaticism of Torquemada overcame every 
obstacle, and the papal court was obliged to give 
its assent to every proposal. From that time forth 
the number of victims continued to increase. On 
the 1 2th of February, i486, an auto-da-fe was cele- 
brated in Toledo with 750 human burnt-offerings, 
while on the 2d of April in the same year, 900 vic- 
tims were offered up, and on the 7th of May, 750. 
On the i6th of August twenty-five Jewish heretics 
were burnt alive in Toledo ; on the following day 
two priests suffered ; and on the loth of December 
950 persons were condemned to shameful public 
penance. In the following year, when the Inquisi- 
tion was established in Barcelona and on the island 
of Majorca, two hundred Marranos suffered death 
by fire in these places alone. A Jew of that time, 
Isaac Arama, writes on this subject as follows : "In 
these days the smoke of the martyr's pyre rises un 
ceasingly to heaven in all the Spanish kingdoms 
and the isles. One-third of the Marranos have per- 
ished in the flames, another third wander homeless 
over the earth seeking where they may hide them- 
selves, and the remainder live in perpetual terror 
of a trial." So the tale of victims grew from year 
to year under the eleven tribunals which trans- 
formed the fair land of Spain into a blazing Tophet, 


whose flames soon reached and devoured the Chris- 
tians themselves. 

The pitiless persecution of the new-Christians had 
its origin perhaps even more in the racial hatred 
of the pure-blooded Spaniards towards the children 
of Judah than in religious fanaticism. Persons of 
Jewish descent, whom it was impossible justly to 
accuse of heresy, w^ere included in the accusations 
simply because they held high offices. They were 
not permitted to enjoy any dignity or to exercise any 
influence in the country. The inquisitor-general, 
Torquemada, even laid hands upon two bishops of 
Jewish blood, De Avila and De Aranda, so that, if 
it were impossible to consign them to the flames, he 
might at least expel them from their sees. 



Friendship of Marranos and Jews — Torquemada demands of the 
Rabbis of Toledo the Denunciation of Marranos — Judah Ibn- 
Verga — Jewish Courtiers under Ferdinand and Isabella — Isaac 
Abrabanel: his History and Writings — The Jews of Portugal 
under Alfonso V — The Ibn-Yachya Brothers — Abrabanel's 
Flight from Portugal to Spain — The Jews of Granada : Isaac 
Hamon — Edict of Banishment promulgated by Ferdinand and 
Isabella — Its Consequences — Departure from Spain — Number of 
the Exiles — Decline in the Prosperity of Spain after the Banish- 
ment of the Jews — Transformation of Synagogues and Schools 
into Churches and Monasteries — The Inquisition and the Mar- 
ranos — Deza, the Successor of Torquemada. 

1483 — 1492 C.E. 

The monster of the Inquisition, having poured out 
its wrath on the new-Christians, now stretched its 
arms over the Jews, and deHvered them to a miser- 
able fate. The connection between the Jews and 
the Marranos was too close for the former not to 
be made to participate in the misfortunes of the lat- 
ter. They were in intimate relations with each 
other, were bound to each other by close, brotherly 
ties. The Jews experienced heartfelt pity for their 
unfortunate brethren, so unwillingly wearing the 
mask of Christianity, and strove to keep them in 
touch with the Jewish community. They instructed 
Christian-born Marranos in the rites of Judaism, 
held secret meetings with them for prayer, furnished 
them with religious books and writings, kept them 
informed of the occurrence of fasts and festivals, 
supplied them at Easter with unleavened bread, and 
throughout the year with meat prepared according 
to their own ritual, and circumcised their new-born 
sons. In Seville, in fact in the whole of Andalusia, 
there were countless new-Christians, baptized at the 



time of the furious attack upon the Jews by Ferdi- 
nand Martinez, and later during the persecution of 
1 391, so that it offered a good field for the activity 
of Jews who were endeavoring to bring back turn- 
coat brethren into the ranks of Judaism. One of 
the most active in this work was Judah Ibn-Verga, 
of Seville, Kabbalist and astronomer, who was held 
in high estimation by the governor of Andalusia. The 
king and queen intended to call the Inquisition into 
existence here, and the first step was to separate 
the Jews from Christians, especially new-Christians, 
and to destroy every connecting link between them. 
The cortes of Toledo insisted on the enforcement of 
the stringent regulations — hitherto so frequently 
evaded — for special Jewish (and Moorish) quarters, 
but the strictly executed law of separation, made to 
take effect all over the kingdom, could not sever the 
loving relations existing between Jews and Mar- 
ranos. In spite of all, the closest intercommunion 
was maintained, only more secretly, more circum- 
spectly. The greater the danger of discovery, the 
the greater the charm of meeting, despite the Argus 
eyes of priestly spies and their myrmidons, for mu- 
tual solace and encouragement. These meetings of 
the Jews and Moors, from the secrecy with which 
they were conducted, and the danger attending them, 
wore a romantic aspect. A loving bond of union was 
thus created, which grew closer and stronger for 
every effort to loosen it. 

The fiendish Torquemada strove by every possi- 
ble means to destroy these ties. As soon as he had 
become grand inquisitor, he issued a command that 
Marranos should present themselves for confession, 
ordered the rabbis of Toledo to be convened, and 
exacted from them an oath that they would inform 
against new-Christians who observed Jewish rites 
and ceremonies, and would excommunicate Jews 
who refused to become witnesses against their own 
people. They were threatened with heavy punish- 


ment if they refused to take this oath (1485). What 
a tragical struggle for the rabbis of Toledo ! They 
themselves were to lend a hand to wrench their 
faithful brethren from Judaism, and deliver them 
over to Christianity, or, rather, to the stake ! Surely, 
they could not be brought to this, and preferred 
to suffer punishment ! Judah Ibn-Verga, ordered 
by the inquisitors to deliver over pseudo- Chris- 
tians who secretly clung to Judaism, chose to 
leave his native Seville, and fled to Lisbon, where 
he eventually died a martyr's death. Since the in- 
quisitors could not attain their ends through Jews, 
who, despite all measures, continued their secret 
intercourse with new-Christians, they urged the king 
and queen to issue a mandate for the partial expul- 
sion of the Jews from Andalusia, especially from 

The Castilian and Aragonese Jews might have 
known, from these sad events, that their sojourn 
could not be of long duration ; but they loved Spain 
too dearly to part from her except under compul- 
sion. Besides, the king and queen often protected 
them from unfair treatment. When they removed 
to special Jewish quarters, Ferdinand and Isabella 
were at great pains to shield them from annoyance 
and chicanery. Moreover, under the rule of these 
Catholic sovereigns there were Jewish tithe and tax 
collectors, and, finally, the Jews relied upon the fact 
that they were indispensable to the Christians. The 
sick preferred to seek advice with Jewish physicians, 
the lower classes consulted Jews on legal questions, 
and even asked them to read the letters or docu- 
ments which they received from the clergy. In ad- 
dition to all this, it happened that, at the time 
when Torquemada was casting his snares over the 
Moors and Jews, the celebrated Abrabanel received 
an important post at the court of Castile, and en- 
joyed unlimited confidence. Under his protection 
the Spanish Jews hoped to be able to defy the fury 


of the venomous Dominicans. Abrabanel's favored 
position at court, the geniahty of his character, his 
affection for the Hebrew race, his love of learning, 
and his tried wisdom, brought back the time of 
Samuel Nagrela, and lulled the Jews with false 

Don Isaac ben Judah Abrabanel (born in Lisbon 
1437, died in Venice 1509) worthily closes the list 
of Jewish statesmen in Spain who, beginning with 
Chasdai Ibn-Shaprut, used their names and posi- 
tions to protect the interests of their race. In his 
noble-mindedness, his contemporaries saw proofs of 
Abrabanel' s descent from the royal house of David, 
a distinction on which the Abrabanels prided them- 
selves, and which was generally conceded to them. 
His grandfather, Samuel Abrabanel, who, during 
the persecution of 1391, but probably only for a 
short time, lived as a Christian, was a large-hearted, 
generous man, who supported Jewish learning and 
its votaries. His father, Judah, treasurer to a 
Portuguese prince, was wealthy and benevolent, 
Isaac Abrabanel was precocious, of clear under- 
standing, but sober-minded, without imagination 
and without depth. The realities of life, present 
conditions and events, he grasped with unerring 
tact ; but what was distant, less obvious to ordinary 
perceptions, lay veiled in a mist which he was un- 
able to penetrate or dispel. The origin of Judaism, 
its splendid antiquity, and its conception of God, 
were favorite themes with Abrabanel from his youth 
upward, and when still quite a young man he pub- 
lished a treatise setting forth the providence of God 
and its special relation to Israel. Philosophical 
conceptions were, however, acquired, not innate 
with him ; he had no ability to solve metaphysical 
questions. On the other hand, he was a solid man 
of business, who thoroughly understood finance and 
affairs of state. The reigning king of Portugal, 
Don Alfonso V, an intelligent, genial, amiable ruler, 


was able to appreciate Abrabanel's talents ; he sumi 
moned him to his court, confided to him the con- 
duct of his financial affairs, and consulted him on all 
important state questions. His noble disposition, 
his sincerely devout spirit, his modesty, far removed 
from arrogance, and his unselfish prudence, secured 
for him at court, and far outside its circle, the es- 
teem and affection of Christian grandees. Abra- 
banel stood in friendly intimacy with the powerful, 
but mild and beneficent Duke Ferdinand of Bra- 
ganza, lord of fifty towns, boroughs, castles, and 
fortresses, and able to bring 10,000 foot-soldiers 
and 3,000 cavalry into the field, as also with his bro- 
thers, the Marquis of Montemar, Constable of Por- 
tugal, and the Count of Faro, who lived together in 
fraternal affection. With the learned John Sezira, 
who was held in high consideration at court, and was 
a warm patron of the Jews, he enjoyed close friend- 
ship. Abrabanel thus describes his happy life at the 
court of King Alfonso : 

" Tranquilly I lived in my inherited house in fair Lisbon. God 
had given me blessings, riches and honor. I had built myself stately 
buildings and chambers. My house was the meeting-place of the 
learned and the wise. I was a favorite in the palace of Alfonso, a 
mighty and upright king, under whom the Jews enjoyed freedom and 
prosperity. I was close to him, was his support, and while he lived 
I frequented his palace." 

Alfonso's reign was the end of the golden time 
for the Jews of the Pyrenean Peninsula, Although 
in his time the Portuguese code of laws (Ordena9oens 
de Alfonso V), containing Byzantine elements and 
canonical restrictions for the Jews, was completed, 
it must be remembered that, on the one hand, the 
king, who was a minor, had had no share in framing 
them, and, on the other, the hateful laws were not 
carried out. In his time the Jews in Portugal bore 
no badge, but rode on richly caparisoned horses 
and mules, wore the costume of the country, long 
coats, fine hoods and silken vests, and carried gilded 
swords, so that they could not be distinguished 


from Christians. The greater number of the tax- 
farmers (Rendeiros) in Portugal were Jews. Princes 
of the church even appointed Jewish receivers of 
church taxes, at which the cortes of Lisbon raised 
complaint. The independence of the Jewish popu- 
lation under the chief rabbi and the seven provincial 
rabbis was protected in Alfonso's reign, and in- 
cluded in the code. This code conceded to Jews 
the right to print their public documents in Hebrew, 
instead of in Portuguese as hitherto commanded. 

Abrabanel was not the only Jewish favorite at 
Alfonso's court. Two brothers Ibn-Yachya Negro 
also frequented the court of Lisbon. They were 
sons of a certain Don David, who had recom- 
mended them not to invest their rich inheritance 
in real estate, for he saw that banishment was in 
store for the Portuguese Jews. 

As long as Isaac Abrabanel enjoyed the king's 
favor, he was as a "shield and a wall for his race, 
and delivered the sufferers from their oppressors, 
healed differences, and kept fierce lions at bay," as 
described by his poetical son, Judah Leon. He 
who had a warm heart for all afflicted, and was 
father to the orphan and consoler to the sorrowing, 
felt yet deeper compassion for the unfortunate of 
his own people. When Alfonso conquered the port 
of Arzilla, in Africa, the victors brought with them, 
among many thousand captive Moors, 250 Jews, 
who were sold as slaves throughout the kingdom. 
That Jews and Jewesses should be doomed to the 
miseries of slavery was unendurable to Abrabanel's 
heart. At his summons a committee of twelve rep- 
resentatives of the Lisbon community was formed, 
and collected funds ; then, with a colleague, he trav- 
eled over the whole country and redeemed the 
Jewish slaves, often at a high price. The ransomed 
Jews and Jewesses, adults and children, were clothed, 
lodged, and maintained until they had learned the 
language of the country, and were able to support 


When King Alfonso sent an embassy to Pope 
Sixtus IV to congratulate him upon his accession to 
the throne, and to send him tidings of his victory- 
over the Moors in Africa, Doctor John Sezira was 
one of the ambassadors. One in heart and soul 
with Abrabanel, and friendly to the Jews, he prom- 
ised to speak to the pope in their favor and behalf. 
Abrabanel begged his Italian friend, Yechiel of Pisa, 
to receive John Sezira with a friendly welcome, to 
place himself entirely at his disposal, and convey to 
him, and to the chief ambassador. Lopes de Al- 
meida, how gratified the Italian Jews were to hear 
of King Alfonso's favor to the Jews in his country, 
so that the king and his courtiers might feel flattered. 
Thus Abrabanel did everything in his power for the 
good of his brethren in faith and race. 

In the midst of prosperity, enjoyed with his gra- 
cious and cultured wife and three fine sons, Judah 
Leon, Isaac and Samuel, he was disturbed by the 
turn of affairs in Portugal. His patron, Alfonso V, 
died, and was succeeded by Don Joao II (1481 — 
1495), a man in every way unlike his father — stronger 
of will, less kindly, and full of dissimulation. He 
had been crowned in his father's lifetime, and was 
not rejoiced when Alfonso, believed to be dead, sud- 
denly re-appeared in Portugal. Joao II followed the 
tactics of his unscrupulous contemporary, Louis XI 
of France, in the endeavor to rid himself of the 
Portuguese grandees in order to create an absolute 
monarchy. His first victim was to be Duke Ferdi- 
nand of Braganza, of royal blood, almost as power- 
ful and as highly considered as himself, and better 
beloved. Don Joao II was anxious to clear from his 
path this duke and his brothers, against whom he 
had a personal grudge. While flattering the Duke 
of Braganza, he had a letter set up against him, ac- 
cusing him of a secret, traitorous understanding with 
the Spanish sovereigns, the truth of which has not 
to this day been satisfactorily ascertained. He ar- 


rested him with a Judas kiss, caused him to be tried 
as a traitor to his country, sent him to the block, and 
took possession of his estates and wealth (June, 
1483). His brothers were forced to fly to avoid a 
like fate. Inasmuch as Isaac Abrabanel had lived in 
friendly relations with the Duke of Braganza and 
his brothers, King Joao chose to suspect him of hav- 
ing been implicated in the recent conspiracies. Ene- 
mies of the Jewish statesman did their best to 
strengthen these suspicions. The king sent a com- 
mand for him to appear before him. Not suspect- 
ing any evil, Abrabanel was about to obey, when an 
unknown friend appeared, told him his life was in 
danger, and counseled him to hasty flight. Warned 
by the fate of the Duke of Braganza, Abrabanel fol- 
lowed the advice, and fled to Spain. The king sent 
mounted soldiery after him, but they could not over- 
take him, and he reached the Spanish border in 
safet}\ In a humble but manly letter he declared his 
innocence of the crime, and also the innocence of 
the Duke of Braganza. The suspicious t)Tant gave 
no credence to the letter of defense, but caused 
Abrabanel's property to be confiscated, as also that 
of his son, Judah Leon, who was already following 
the profession of a physician. His wife and chil- 
dren, however, he permitted to remove to Castile. 

In the city of Toledo, where he found refuge, Isaac 
Abrabanel was honorably received by the Jews, 
especially by the cultured. A circle of learned men 
and disciples gathered round the famous, inno- 
cently persecuted Jewish statesman. With the 
rabbi, Isaac Aboab, and with the chief tithe-col- 
lector, Abraham Senior, he formed a close friend- 
ship. The latter, it seems, at once took him into 
partnership in the collection of taxes. Abrabanel's 
conscience pricked him for having neglected the 
study of the Law in following state affairs and mam- 
mon, and he attributed his misfortunes to the just 
punishment of heaven. He at once began to write, 


at the earnest entreaty of his new friends, an expo- 
sition of the books of the earHer prophets, hitherto, 
on account of their apparent simpHcity, neglected 
by commentators. As he had given thought to 
them before, he soon completed the work. Cer- 
tainly, no one was better qualified than Abrabanel 
to expound historical biblical literature. In addition 
to knowledge of languages, he had experience of 
the world, and the insight into political problems 
and complications necessary for unraveling the Isra- 
elitish records. 

He had the advantage over other expositors in 
using the Christian exegetical writings of Jerome, 
Nicholas de Lyra, and the baptized Paul of Burgos, 
and taking from them what was most valuable. 
Abrabanel, therefore, in these commentaries, shed 
light upon many obscure passages. They are con- 
ceived in a scholarly style, arranged systematically, 
and before each book appear a comprehensible 
preface and a table of contents, an arrangement 
copied from Christian commentators, and adroitly 
turned to account by him. Had Abrabanel not been 
so diffuse in style, and not had the habit of intro- 
ducing each Scriptural chapter with superflous ques- 
tions, his dissertations would have been, or, at all 
events, would have deserved to be, more popular. 
Nor should he have gone beyond his province into 
philosophical inquiry. Abrabanel accepted the or- 
thodox point of view of Nachmani and Chasdai, 
merely supplementing them with commonplaces of 
his own. He was not tolerant enough to listen to 
a liberal view of Judaism and its doctrines, and ac- 
cused the works of Albalag and Narboni of heresy, 
classing these inquirers with the unprincipled apos- 
tate, Abner- Alfonso, of Valladolid. He was no better 
pleased with Levi ben Gerson, because he had re- 
sorted to philosophical interpretations in many cases, 
and did not accept miracles unconditionally. Like 
the strictly orthodox Jews of his day, such as Joseph 


Jaabez, he was persuaded that the humiliations and 
persecutions suffered by the Jews of Spain were due 
to their heresy. Yet, did German Jews, wholly un- 
touched by heretical philosophy, suffer less than 
their brethren in Spain ? Only a brief time was 
granted to Abrabanel to pursue his favorite study; 
the author was once more compelled to become a 
statesman. When about to delineate Judaean and 
Israelite monarchs, he was summoned to the court 
of Ferdinand and Isabella to be intrusted with the 
care of their finances. The revenues seem to have 
prospered under his management, and during his 
eight years of office (March, 1484 — March, 1492) 
nothing went wrong with them. He was very use- 
ful to the royal pair by reason of his wisdom and 
prudent counsel. Abrabanel himself relates that he 
grew rich in the king's service, and bought himself 
land and estates, and that from the court and the 
highest grandees he received great consideration 
and honor. He must have been indispensable, see- 
ing that the Catholic sovereigns, under the very 
eyes of the malignant Torquemada, and in spite of 
canonical decrees and all the resolutions repeatedly 
laid down by the cortes forbidding Jews to hold 
office in the government, were compelled to intrust 
this Jewish minister of finance with the mainspring of 
political life ! How many services Abrabanel did for 
his own people during his time of office, grateful 
memory could not preserve by reason of the storm 
of misfortunes which broke upon the Jews later ; 
but in Castile, as he had been in Portugal, he was 
as a wall of protection to them. Lying and fearful 
accusations from their bitter foes, the Dominicans, 
were not wanting. At one time it was said that the 
Jews had shown disrespect to some cross ; at an- 
other, that in the town of La Guardia they had 
stolen and crucified a Christian child. From this 
tissue of lies, Torquemada fabricated a case against 
the Jews, and condemned the supposed criminals to 


the stake. In Valencia they were declared to have 
made a similar attempt, but to have been interrupted 
in the deed (1488 — 1490). That the Castilian Jews 
did not suffer extinction for the succor they afforded 
the unfortunate Marranos, was certainly owing to 

Meantime began the war with Granada, so disas- 
trous for the Moors and Jews, which lasted with in- 
tervals for ten years (1481 — 1491). To this the 
Jews had to contribute. A heavy impost was laid 
upon the community (Alfarda — Strangers' Tax), on 
which the royal treasurer, Villaris, insisted with 
the utmost strictness. The Jews were, so to say, 
made to bring the fagots to their own funeral pyre, 
and the people, adding insult to injury, mocked 
them. In the province of Granada, which by pride 
had brought about its own fall, there were many 
Jews, their numbers having been increased by the 
Marranos who had fled thither to avoid death at the 
stake. Their position was not enviable, for Spanish 
hatred of Jews was strongly implanted there ; but 
their creed was not attacked, and their lives were 
not in constant peril. Isaac Hamon was physician 
in ordinary to one of the last kings of Granada, and 
enjoyed high favor at court. One day a quarrel 
arose in the streets of Granada, and the bystanders 
implored the disputants to leave off in the name of 
their prophet, but in vain. But when they were 
bidden to give over in the name of the royal physi- 
cian, they yielded. This occurrence, which testified 
that Isaac Hamon was held in more respect by the 
populace than the prophet Mahomet, roused certain 
bigoted Mahometans to fall upon the Jews of Gra- 
nada and butcher them. Only those escaped who 
found refuge in the royal castle. The Jewish phy- 
sicians of Granada came to the resolution henceforth 
not to clothe themselves in silken garments, nor ride 
on horseback, in order to avoid exciting the envy of 
the Mahometans. 


After long and bloody strife the beautiful city of 
Granada fell into the hands of the proud Spaniards. 
Frivolous Muley Abu-Abdallah (Boabdil), the last 
king, signed a secret treaty with Ferdinand and Isa- 
bella (25th November, 1491) to give up the town 
and its territory by a certain time. The conditions, 
seeing that independence was lost, were tolerably 
favorable. The Moors were to keep their religious 
freedom, their civil laws, their right to leave the 
country, and above all their manners and customs, 
and were only required to pay the taxes which hith- 
erto they had paid the Moorish king» The rene- 
gades — that is to say. Christians who had adopted 
Islam, or, more properly speaking, the Moorish 
pseudo-Christians — who had fled from the Inquisi- 
tion to Granada, and returned to Islam, were to re- 
main unmolested. The Inquisition was not to claim 
jurisdiction over them. The Jews of the capital of 
Granada, of the Albaicin quarter, the suburbs and 
the Alpujarras, were included in the provisions of 
the treaty. They were to enjoy the same indul- 
gences and the same rights, except that relapsed 
Marranos were to leave the city, only the first month 
after its surrender being the term allowed for emi- 
gration ; those who stayed longer were to be handed 
over to the Inquisition. One noteworthy point, stipu- 
lated by the last Moorish king of Granada, was that 
no Jew should be set over the vanquished Moors as 
officer of justice, tax-gatherer, or commissioner. On 
January 2d, 1492, Ferdinand and Isabella, with their 
court, amid ringing of bells, and great pomp and 
circumstance, made their entry into Granada. The 
Mahometan kingdom of the Peninsula had vanished 
like a dream in an Arabian Nights' legend. The last 
prince, Muley Abu-Abdallah, cast one long sad fare- 
well look, " with a last sigh," over the glory forever 
lost, and retired to the lands assigned to him in the 
Alpujarras, but, unable to overcome his dejection, he 
turned his steps towards Africa. After nearly eight 


hundred years the whole Pyrenean Peninsula again 
became Christian, as it had been in the time of the 
Visigoths. But heaven could not rejoice over this 
conquest, which delivered fresh human sacrifices 
to the lords of hell. The Jews were the first to 
experience the tragical effect of this conquest of 

The war against the Mahometans of Granada, 
originally undertaken to punish attempts at en- 
croachment and breach of faith, assumed the char- 
acter of a crusade against unbelief, of a holy war 
for the exaltation of the cross and the spread of the 
Christian faith. Not only the bigoted queen and 
the unctuous king, but also many Spaniards were 
dragged by this conquest into raging fanaticism. 
Are the unbelieving Mahometans to be vanquished, 
and the still more unbelieving Jews to go free in 
the land ? This question was too pertinent not to 
meet with an answer unfavorable to the Jews. The 
insistence of Torquemada and friends of his own 
way of thinking, that the Jews, who had long been a 
thorn in their flesh, should be expelled, at first met 
with indifference, soon began to receive more at- 
tention from the victors. Then came the considera- 
tion that owing to increased opulence, consequent 
on the booty acquired from the wealthy towns of 
conquered Granada, the Jews were no longer indis- 
pensable. Before the banner of the cross waved 
over Granada, Ferdinand and Isabella had contem- 
plated the expulsion of the Jews. With this end in 
view, they had sent an embassy to Pope Innocent 
VII, stating that they were willing to banish the 
Jews from the country, if he, Christ's representa- 
tive, the avenger of his death, set them the exam- 
ple ; but even this abandoned pope, who had seven 
illegitimate sons and as many daughters, and who, 
soon after his accession to the papal chair, had 
broken a solemn oath, was opposed to the expul- 
sion of the Jews. Meshullam, of Rome, having 


heard of the pope's refusal, with great joy an- 
nounced to the Italian and Neapolitan communities 
that Innocent would not consent to the expulsion. 
The Spanish sovereigns decided on the banishment 
of the Jews without the pope's consent. 

From the enchanted palace of the Alhambra there 
was suddenly issued by the "Catholic Sovereigns " 
a proclamation that, within four months, the Span- 
ish Jews were to leave every portion of Castile, Ara- 
gon, Sicily and Sardinia under pain of death (March 
31, 1492). They were at liberty to take their goods 
and chattels with them, but neither gold, silver, 
money, nor forbidden articles of export — only such 
things as it was permitted to export. This heartless 
cruelty Ferdinand and Isabella sought to vindicate 
before their own subjects and before foreign coun- 
tries. The proclamation did not accuse the Jews of 
extravagant usury, of unduly enriching themselves, 
of sucking the marrow from the bones of the peo- 
ple, of insulting the host, or of crucifying Christian 
children — not one syllable was said of these things. 
But it set forth that the falling away of the new- 
Christians into "Jewish unbelief" was caused by their 
intercourse with Jews. The proclamation continued 
that long since it would have been proper to banish 
the Jews on account of their wily ways; but at first 
the sovereigns had tried clemency and mild means, 
banishing only the Jews of Andalusia, and punish- 
ing only the most guilty, in the hope that these steps 
would suffice. As, however, these had not pre- 
vented the Jews from continuing to pervert the 
new-Christians from the Catholic faith, nothing 
remained but for their majesties to exile those who 
had lured back to heresy the people who had indeed 
fallen away, but had repented and returned to 
holy Mother Church. Therefore had their majesties, 
in council with the princes of the church, grandees, 
and learned men, resolved to banish the Jews from 
their kingdom. No Christian, on pain of confisca- 


tion of his possessions, should, after the expiration 
of a certain term, give succor or shelter to Jews. 
The edict of Ferdinand and Isabella is good testi- 
mony for the Jews of Spain in those days, since no 
accusatioiis could be brought against them but that 
they had remained faithful to their religion, and had 
sought td maintain their Marrano brethren in it. A 
legend relates that their majesties were embittered 
against the Jews, because the Infante had found the 
picture of a crucified Holy Child in an orange which 
a Jewish courtier had given him. 

The long-dreaded blow had fallen. The Spanish 
Jews were to leave the country, round which the 
fibers of their hearts had grown, where lay the 
graves of their forefathers of at least fifteen hundred 
years, and towards whose greatness, wealth, and 
culture they had so largely contributed. The blow 
fell upon them like a thunderbolt. Abrabanel 
thought that he might be able to avert it by his 
influence. He presented himself before the king 
and queen, and offered enormous sums in the name 
of the Jews if the edict were removed. His Chris- 
tian friends, eminent grandees, supported his 
efforts. Ferdinand, who took more interest in 
enriching his coffers than in the Catholic faith, was 
inclined to yield. Then the fanatical grand inquis- 
itor, Torquemada, lifted up his voice. It is related 
that he took upon himself to rush into the presence 
of the king and queen, carrying the crucifix aloft, and 
uttering these winged words: "Judas Iscariot sold 
Christ for thirty pieces of silver ; your highnesses 
are about to sell Him for 300,000 ducats. Here He 
is, take Him, and sell Him!" Then he left the 
hall. These words, or the influence of other eccle- 
siastics, had a strong effect upon Isabella. She 
resolved to abide by the edict, and, of bolder spirit 
than the king, contrived to keep alive his enmity 
against the Jews. Juan de Lucena, a member of 
the royal council of Aragon, as well as minister, 


was equally active in maintaining the edict. At the 
end of April heralds and trumpeters went through 
the whole country, proclaiming that the Jews were 
permitted to remain only till the end of July to set 
their affairs in order ; whoever of them was found 
after that time on Spanish ground would suffer 

Great as was the consternation of the Spanish 
Jews at having to tear themselves from the beloved 
land of their birth and the ashes of their forefathers, 
and go forth to an uncertain future in strange lands, 
among people whose speech they did not under- 
stand, who, perhaps, might be more unfriendly 
towards them than the Spanish Christians, they had 
to bestir themselves and make preparation for their 
exodus. At every step they realized that a yet 
more cruel fate awaited them. Had they been 
able, like the English Jews at the end of the thir- 
teenth century, and the French a century later, to 
take their riches with them, they might have been 
able to provide some sort of miserable existence for 
themselves ; but the Jewish capitalists were not per- 
mitted to take their money with them, they were 
compelled to accept bills of exchange for it. But 
Spain, on account of its dominant knightly and 
ecclesiastical element, had no places of exchange 
like those in Italy, where commercial notes were of 
value. Business on a large scale was in the hands, 
for the most part, of Jews and new-Christians, and 
the latter, from fear, had to keep away from their 
brethren in race. The Jews who owned land were 
forced to part with it at absurd prices, because no 
buyers applied, and they were obliged to beg the 
Christians for even the meanest thing in exchange. 
A contemporary, Andreas Bernaldez, pastor of Los 
Palacios, relates that the most magnificent houses 
and the most beautiful estates of the Jews were sold 
for a trifle. A house was bartered for an ass, and 
a vineyard for a piece of cloth or linen. Thus the 


riches of the Spanish Jews melted away, and could 
not help them in their day of need. In Aragon, 
Catalonia and Valencia, it was even worse with 
them. Torquemada, who on this occasion exceeded 
his former inhumanity, forbade the Christians to 
have any intercourse with them. In these provinces 
Ferdinand sequestrated their possessions, so that 
not only their debts, but also the claims which 
monasteries pretended to have upon them were 
paid. This fiendish plan he devised for the benefit 
of the church. The Jews would thereby be driven 
to despair, and turn to the cross for succor. Tor- 
quemada, therefore, imposed on the Dominicans the 
task of preaching Christianity everywhere, and of 
calling upon the Jews to receive baptism, and thus 
remain in the land. On the other side, the rabbis 
bade the people remain steadfast, accept their trials 
as tests of their firmness, and trust in God, who had 
been with them in so many days of trouble. The 
fiery eloquence of the rabbis was not necessary. 
Each one encouraged his neighbor to remain true 
and steadfast to the Jewish faith. " Let us be 
strong," so they said to each other, " for our religion, 
and for the Law of our fathers before our enemies 
and blasphemers. If they will let us live, we shall 
live ; if they kill us, then shall we die. We will not 
desecrate the covenant of our God ; our heart shall 
not fail us. We will go forth in the name of the 
Lord." If they had submitted to baptism, would 
they not have fallen into the power of the blood- 
stained Inquisition ? The cross had lost its power 
of attraction even for lukewarm Jews, since they had 
seen upon what trivial pretexts members of their 
race were delivered over to the stake. One year 
before the proclamation of banishment was made, 
thirty-two new-Christians in Seville were bound 
living to the stake, sixteen were burned in effigy, 
and 625 sentenced to do penance. The Jews, 
moreover, were not ignorant of the false and deceit- 


ful ways in which Torquemada entrapped his vic- 
tims. Many pseudo-Christians had fled from 
Seville, Cordova and Jaen, to Granada, where they 
had returned to the Jewish faith. After the con- 
quest of the town, Torquemada proclaimed that if 
they came back to Mother Church, "whose arms 
are always open to embrace those who return to 
her with repentance and contrition," they would be 
treated with mildness, and in private, without on- 
lookers, would receive absolution. A few allowed 
themselves to be charmed by this sweet voice, 
betook themselves to Toledo, and were pardoned — 
to a death of fire. Thus it came about that, in 
spite of the preaching of the Dominicans, and not- 
withstanding their indescribably terrible position, 
few Jews passed over to Christianity in the year of 
the expulsion from Spain. Among persons of note, 
only the rich tax-collector and chief rabbi, Abraham 
Senior, his son, and his son-in-law, Meir, a rabbi, 
went over, with the two sons of the latter. It is 
said that they received baptism in desperation, 
because the queen, who did not want to lose her 
clever minister of finance, threatened heavier perse- 
cution of the departing Jews, if these did not submit. 
Great was the rejoicing at court over the baptism 
of Senior and his family. Their majesties them- 
selves and the cardinal stood as sponsors. The 
newly-baptized all took the family name of Coronel, 
and their descendants filled some of the highest 
offices in the state. 

Their common misfortune and suffering devel- 
oped among the Spanish Jews in those last days 
before their exile deep brotherly affection and ex- 
alted sentiments, which, could they have lasted, 
would surely have borne good fruit. The rich, al- 
though their wealth had dwindled, divided it fra- 
ternally with the poor, allowing them to want for 
nothing, so that they should not fall into the hands 
of the church, and also paid the charges of their 


exodus. The aged rabbi, Isaac Aboab, the friend of 
Abrabanel, went with thirty Jews of rank to Portu- 
gal, to negotiate with King Joao II, for the settle- 
ment of the Jews in that country, or for their safe 
passage through it. They succeeded in making tol- 
erably favorable conditions. The pain of leaving 
their passionately loved country could not be over- 
come. The nearer the day of departure came, the 
more were the hearts of the unhappy people wrung. 
The graves of their forefathers were dearer to them 
than all besides, and from these they found part- 
ing hardest. The Jews of the town of Vitoria gave 
to the community the Jewish cemetery and its apper- 
taining grounds in perpetuity, on condition that it 
should never be encroached upon, nor planted over, 
and a deed to this effect was drawn up. The Jews 
of Segovia assembled three days before their exodus 
around the graves of their forefathers, mingling 
their tears with the dust, and melting the hearts of 
the Catholics with their grief. They tore up many 
of the tombstones to bear them away as memorial 
relics, or gave them to the Moors. 

At last the day arrived on which the Spanish Jews 
had to take staff in hand. They had been accorded 
two days respite, that is, were allowed two days 
later than July 31st for setting forth. This date 
fell exactly upon the anniversary of the ninth of Ab, 
which was fraught with memories of the splendor of 
the old days, and had so often found the children of 
Israel wrapped in grief and misery. About 300,000 
left the land which they so deeply loved, but which 
now became a hateful memory to them. They 
wandered partly northwards, to the neighboring 
kingdom of Navarre, partly southwards, with the 
idea of settling in Africa, Italy or Turkey. The 
majority, however, made for Portugal. In order to 
stifle sad thoughts and avoid the melancholy im- 
pression which might have moved some to waver 
and embrace the cross in order to remain in the 


land, some rabbis caused pipers and drummers to 
go before, making lively music, so that for a while 
the wanderers should forget their gnawing grief. 
Spain lost in them the twentieth part of her most 
industrious, painstaking, intelligent inhabitants, its 
middle class, which created trade, and maintained it 
in brisk circulation, like the blood of a living organ- 
ism. For there were among the Spanish Jews not 
merely capitalists, merchants, farmers, physicians 
and men of learning, but also artisans, armor and 
metal workers of all kinds, at all events no idlers 
who slept away their time. With the discovery of 
America, the Jews might have lifted Spain to the 
rank of the wealthiest, the most prosperous and 
enduring of states, which by reason of its unity of 
government might certainly have competed with 
Italy. But Torquemada would not have it so ; he 
preferred to train Spaniards for a blood-stained 
idolatr)', under which, in the sunlight of the Lutheran 
Reformation, pious men were condemned to chains, 
dungeons, or the galleys, if they dared read the 
Bible. The departure of the Jews from Spain soon 
made itself felt in a very marked manner by the 
Christians. Talent, activity, and prosperous civil- 
ization passed with them from the country. The 
smaller towns, which had derived some vitality from 
the presenc£_o£the Jews, were quickly depopulated, 
sank into insignificance, lost their spirit of freedom 
and independence, and became tools for the increas- 
ing despotism ofjhe Spanish kings and the imbecile 
superstition of the priests. The Spanish nobility 
soon complained that their towns and villages had 
fallen into insignificance, had become deserted, and 
they declared that, could they have foreseen the 
consequences, they would have opposed the royal 
commands. Dearth of physicians was sternly felt, 
too. The town of Vitoria and its neighborhood 
was compelled, through the withdrawal of the Jews, 
to secure a physician from a distance, and give him 


a high salary. In many places the people fell vic- 
tims to quacks, boastful bunglers, or to the supersti- 
tion of deceiving or self-deceived dealers in magic. 
In one word, Spain fell into a condition of barbar- 
ism through the banishment of the Jews, and all the 
wealth which the settlement of American colonies 
brought to the mother country only helped to render 
its inhabitants more idle, stupid, and servile. The 
name of the Jews died out of the country in which 
they had played so important a part, and the litera- 
ture of which was so filled with Jewish elements 
that men of intelligence were constantly reminded 
of them. Schools, hospitals, and everything which 
the Jews could not or dared not take away with 
them, the king confiscated. He changed synagogues 
into churches, monasteries or schools, where the 
people were systematically kept ignorant, and 
trained for meanest servility. The beautiful syna- 
gogue of Toledo, which Don Pedro's Jewish states- 
man, Samuel Abulafia, had erected about a century 
and a half before, was transformed into a church (de 
neustra Senora de San Benito), and, with its Moor- 
ish architecture, its exquisite columns, and splendid 
proportions, is to this day a magnificent ornament 
to the city. In the other cities and towns of Spain, 
which live in the chronicles of Jewish history, in 
Seville, Granada, Cordova, in densely-populated 
Lucena, Saragossa and Barcelona, every trace was 
lost of the sons of Jacob, or of the Jewish nobility, 
as the proud Jews of Spain styled themselves. 
Jews, it is true, remained behind, Jews under the 
mask of Christianity, Jewish Christians, or new- 
Christians, who had afforded their departing brethren 
active help. Many of them had taken charge of 
their gold and silver, and kept it till they were able 
to send it on by the hands of trusted persons, or 
had given them bills of exchange on foreign places. 
These negotiations were often of no avail, for when 
the fanatical king and queen heard of them, they 


sent for the treasure left behind, or sought to pre- 
vent the payment of the checks. 

Great as were the obstacles, the Marranos did 
not cool in their zeal for their exiled brethren. 
They pursued those guilty of inhuman brutality to 
the wanderers with bitter hatred, and delivered 
them over to the Inquisition — turning the tool 
against its makers. At the instigation of the Mar- 
ranos, the brother of Don Juan de Lucena, tlie 
powerful minister of Ferdinand, was thrown into the 
prison of the Inquisition, kept there under a strong 
guard, and none of his relatives allowed to see him, 
the minister, whose position exempted him from the 
power of the Inquisition, having counseled the ban- 
ishment of the Jews, and practically assisted in it, 
and his brother having relentlessly confiscated the 
property they had left behind. Torquemada com- 
plained that Don Juan was persecuted by the new- 
Christians on account of his faith. The Marranos, 
now more than ever on their guard, lest they give 
the slightest offense, had to cross themselves assidu- 
ously, count their beads, and mumble paternosters, 
while inwardly they were attached more than ever 
to Judaism. Frequently their feelings outran their 
will, they broke the bonds of silence, and this was 
productive of heavy consequences. Thus a Mar- 
rano in Seville, on seeing an effigy of Christ set up 
in church for adoration, cried out, " Woe to him who 
sees, and must believe such a thing!" Such ex- 
pressions in unguarded moments naturally afforded 
the best opportunity for inquiry, imprisonment, the 
rack and autos-da-fe, not merely for the individual 
caught in the act, but for his relatives, friends, and 
everybody connected with him who had any prop- 
erty. It had, moreover, grown to be a necessity to 
the people, hardened by the frequent sight of the 
death agonies of sacrificial victims, to witness a 
solemn tragedy of human sacrifice now and again. 
It is, therefore, not astonishing, that under the first 


inquisitor-general, Thomas de Torquemada, in the 
course of fourteen years (1485 — 1498) at least two 
thousand Jews were burned as impenitent sinners. 
He was so hated that he lived in constant fear of 
death. Upon his table he kept the horn of a uni- 
corn, to which the superstition of the time ascribed 
the power of nullifying the effect of poison. When 
Torquemada went out, he was attended by a body- 
guard (Familares) of fifty, and two hundred foot-sol- 
diers, to protect him from assault. His successor, the 
second inquisitor-general, Deza, erected still more 
scaffolds ; but it soon came to pass that the men of 
blood butchered each other. Deza before his death 
was accused of being secretly a Jew. When the 
persecutions against the remaining Moors and Mo- 
riscos, and against the followers of the German 
reformer Luther, were added to those of the Mar- 
ranos, Spain, under the wrath of the Holy Inquisi- 
tion, became literally a scene of human slaughter. 
With justice nearly all the European princes, and 
even the parliament of Paris, bitterly blamed the 
perverseness of Ferdinand and Isabella in having 
driven out so useful a class of citizens. The sultan 
Bajasid (Bajazet) exclaimed: "You call Ferdinand 
a wise king, he who has made his country poor and 
enriched ours ! " 



The Exiles from Navarre — Migration to Naples — King Ferdinand I of 
Naples and Abrabanel — Leon Abrabanel — Misfortunes of the 
Jews in Fez, Genoa, Rome, and the Islands of Greece — The 
Sultan Bajazet — Moses Kapsali — Spanish Jews in Portugal — 
The Jewish Astronomers, Abraham Zacuto and Jos6 Vecinho — 
The Jewish Travelers, Abraham de Beya and Joseph Zapateiro — 
Outbreak of the Plague among the Spanish Jews in Portugal — 
Sufferings of the Portuguese Exiles — Judah Chayyat and his 
Fellow-Sufferers — Cruelty of Joao II — Kindly Treatment by 
Manoel changed into Cruelty on his Marriage — Forcible Bap- 
tism of Jewish Children — Levi ben Chabib and Isaac Caro — 
Pope Alexander VI — Manoel's Efforts on Behalf of the Portuguese 
Marranos — Death of Simon Maimi and Abraham Saba. 

1492 — 1498 C.E. 

The Jews of northern Spain, in Catalonia and 
Aragon, who turned their steps to neighboring Na- 
varre, with the idea of seeking shelter there, were 
comparatively fortunate. Here at least was a pros- 
pect of a livelihood, and a possibility of looking 
round for other places of refuge. The Inquisition 
had met with courageous resistance from the rulers 
and the people of Navarre. When some Marranos, 
concerned in the murder of Arbues, the inquisitor, 
fled to this kingdom, and the bloodthirsty heresy- 
mongers demanded that they be given up to the 
executioners, the town of Tudela declared that it 
would not suffer such unrighteous violence to peo- 
ple who had sought its protection, and closed the 
gates against their emissaries. In vain did king Fer- 
dinand, who had an eye upon Navarre, threaten it 
with his anger. The citizens of Tudela remained 
firm. A Navarrese prince, Jacob of Navarre, suf- 
fered for the shelter he gave to a hunted Marrano. 
The inquisitors suddenly arrested, imprisoned and 
sentenced him, as an enemy of the Holy Office, 



to shameful exposure in a church, where his list of 
offenses was publicly read out, and absolution 
promised him only if he submitted to flagellation 
from priestly hands. Several other towns of Na- 
varre gave protection to the fugitives, and about 
12,000 Castilian wanderers took up their quarters in 
Navarre. Count of Lerin probably received the 
greater number of these. But the Jews enjoyed 
only a few years of peace in Navarre; for upon the 
vehement urging of King Ferdinand, who followed 
the fugitives with bitterest enmity and persecution, 
the king of Navarre gave them the choice between 
wandering forth again and baptism. The greater 
number adopted Christianity, because there was 
only a short time for preparation, and no time for 
thinking. In the community of Tudela, so famous 
for steadfast piety, 180 families submitted to bap- 

Also those Castilian Jews were fortunate who, in- 
stead of indulging themselves in the vain hope that 
the edict would be recalled, did not stay until the 
last day, but made their way, before the end of the 
respite, to Italy, Africa, or Turkey. They did not 
lack the means of getting away. The Spanish Jews 
had such widespread repute, and their expulsion 
had made so much stir in Europe, that crowds of 
ships were ready in Spanish seaports to take up the 
wanderers and convey them to all parts, not only 
the ships of the country, but also Italian vessels 
from Genoa and Venice. The ship-owners saw a 
prospect of lucrative business. Many Jews from 
Aragon, Catalonia and Valencia desired to settle in 
Naples, and sent ambassadors to the king, Ferdi- 
nand I, to ask him to receive them. This prince 
was not merely free from prejudice against the 
Jews, but was kindly inclined towards them, out of 
compassion for their misfortunes, and he may have 
promised himself industrial and intellectual advan- 
tage from this immigration of the Spanish Jews. 


Whether it was calculation or generosity, it is 
enough that he bade them welcome, and made his 
realm free to them. Many thousands of them landed 
in the Bay of Naples (24th August, 1492), and were 
kindly received. The native Jewish community 
treated them with true brotherly generosity, de- 
frayed the passage of the poor not able to pay, and 
provided for their immediate necessities. 

Isaac Abrabanel, also, and his whole household, 
went to Naples. Here he lived at first as a private 
individual, and continued the work of writing a com- 
mentary upon the book of Kings, which had been 
interrupted by his state duties. When the king of 
Naples was informed of his presence in the city, he 
invited him to an interview, and intrusted him with 
a post, in all likelihood in the financial department. 
Probably he hoped to make use of Abrabanel's ex- 
perience in the war with which he was threatened by 
the king of France. Whether from his own noble 
impulses, or from esteem for Abrabanel, the king 
of Naples showed the Jews a gentle humanity which 
startlingly contrasted with the cruelty of the Spanish 
king. The unhappy people had to struggle with 
many woes ; when they thought themselves free of 
one, another yet more merciless fell upon them. A 
devastating pestilence, arising out of the sad condi- 
tion to which they had been reduced, or from the 
overcrowding of the ships, followed in the track of 
the wanderers. They brought death with them. 
Scarcely six months had they been settled on Nea- 
politan soil when the pestilence carried numbers 
of them off, and King Ferdinand, who dreaded a 
rising of the populace against the Jews, hinted to 
them that they must bury their corpses by night, 
and in silence. When the pest could no longer be 
concealed, and every day increased in virulence, 
people and courtiers alike entreated him to drive 
them forth. But Ferdinand would not assent 
to this inhuman proceeding; he is said to have 


threatened to abdicate if the Jews were ill-treated. 
He had hospitals erected for them outside the 
town, sent physicians to their aid, and gave them 
means of support. For a whole year he strove, 
with unexampled nobility, to succor the unfortunate 
people, whom banishment and disease had trans- 
formed into living corpses. Those, also, who were 
fortunate enough to reach Pisa found a brotherly 
reception. The sons of Yechiel of Pisa fairly took 
up their abode on the quay, so as to be ready to 
receive the wanderers, provide for their wants, 
shelter them, or help them on their way to some 
other place. After Ferdinand's death, his son, 
Alfonso II, who little resembled him, retained the 
Jewish statesman, Abrabanel, in his service, and, 
after his resignation in favor of his son, took him 
with him to Sicily. Abrabanel to the last remained 
faithful to this prince in his misfortunes (January, 
1494, to June, 1495). 

After the conquest of Naples by the weak-headed 
knight-errant king of France, Charles VIII, the 
members of the Abrabanel family were torn apart 
and scattered. None of them, however, met with 
such signal misfortune as the eldest son, Judah 
Leon Medigo (born 1470, died 1530). He had 
been so well beloved at the Spanish court that they 
were loath to part with him, and would gladly have 
kept him there — of course, as a Christian. To 
attain this end, a command was issued that he be 
not permitted to leave Toledo, or that his one-year- 
old son be taken from him, baptized immediately, 
and that in this manner the father be chained to 
Spain. Judah Abrabanel, however, got wind of 
this plot against his liberty, sent his son, with his 
nurse, "like stolen goods," secretly to the Portu- 
guese coast; but as he himself did not care to seek 
shelter in the country where his father had been 
threatened with death, he turned his face towards 
Naples. His suspicions of the king of Portugal 


were only too speedily justified. No sooner did 
Joao hear that a relative of Abrabanel was within 
his borders than he ordered the child to be kept as 
hostage, and not to be permitted to go forth with the 
other Jews. Little Isaac never saw his parents and 
grandparents again. He was baptized, and brought 
up as a Christian. The agony of the father at the 
living death of his lost child was boundless. It 
gave him no rest or peace to his latest hour, and it 
found vent in a lamentation sad in the extreme. Yet 
what was the grief for one child, compared with the 
woes which overtook the thousands of Jews hunted 
out of Spain ? 

Many of them found their way to the nearest 
African seaport towns, Oran, Algiers and Bugia. 
The inhabitants, who feared that their towns would 
be overcrowded from such a vast influx, shot at the 
Jews as they landed, and killed many of them. An 
eminent Jew at the court of Barbary, however, 
addressed the sultan in behalf of his unhappy 
brethren, and obtained leave for them to land. They 
were not allowed to enter the towns, probably 
because the pestilence had broken out among them, 
too. They could only build themselves wooden 
huts outside the walls. The children collected 
wood, and their elders nailed the boards together 
for temporary dwellings. But they did not long 
enjoy even this miserable shelter, as one day a fire 
broke out in one of the huts, and soon laid the 
whole camp in ashes. 

Those who settled in Fez suffered a still more 
terrible lot. Here also the inhabitants would not 
admit them, fearing that such an influx of human 
beings would raise the price of the necessaries of 
life. They had to encamp in the fields, and live on 
roots and herbs like cattle. On the Sabbath they 
stripped the plants with their teeth, in order not to 
desecrate the holyday by gathering them. Starvation, 
pestilence, and the unfriendliness of the Mahometan 


people vied with each other in inflicting misery upon 
the Jews. In their awful despair, fathers were 
driven to sell their children as slaves to obtain 
bread. Mothers killed their little ones that they 
might not see them perish from the pangs of 
hunger. Avaricious captains took advantage of the 
distress of the parents to entice starving children on 
board their vessels with offers of bread, and, deaf to 
the cries and entreaties of the parents, carried them 
off to distant lands, where they sold them for a good 
price. Later, the ruler of Fez, probably at the rep- 
resentation of the original Jewish inhabitants, pro- 
claimed that Jewish children who had been sold for 
bread, and other necessaries of life, should be set at 

The descriptions by their contemporaries of the 
sufferings of the Jews make one's hair stand on 
end. They were dogged whithersoever they went. 
Those whom plague and starvation had spared, fell 
into the hands of brutalized men. The report got 
about that the Spanish Jews had swallowed the gold 
and silver which they had been forbidden to carry 
away, intending to use it later on. Cannibals, there- 
fore, ripped open their bodies to seek for coin in 
their entrails. The Genoese ship-folk behaved most 
inhumanly to the wanderers who had trusted their 
lives to them. From avarice, or sheer delight in 
the death agonies of the Jews, they flung many of 
them into the sea. One captain offered insult to 
the beautiful daughter of a Jewish wanderer. Her 
name was Paloma (Dove), and to escape shame, the 
mother threw her and her other daughters and 
then herself into the waves. The wretched father 
composed a heartbreaking lamentation for his lost 
dear ones. 

Those who reached the port of Genoa had to 
contend with new miseries. In this thriving town 
there was a law that Jews might not remain there 
for longer than three days. As the ships which 


were to convey the Jews thence required repairing, 
the authorities conceded the permission for them to 
remain, not in the town, but upon the Mole, until 
the vessels were ready for sea. Like ghosts, pale, 
shrunken, hollow-eyed, gaunt, they went on shore, 
and if they had not moved, impelled by instinct to 
get out of their floating prison, they might have 
been taken for so many corpses. The starving 
children went into the churches, and allowed them- 
selves to be baptized for a morsel of bread ; and 
Christians were merciless enough not merely to 
accept such sacrifices, but with the cross in one 
hand, and bread in the other, to go among the Jews 
and tempt them to become converted. Only a 
short time had been granted them on the Mole, but 
a great part of the winter passed before the repairs 
were completed. The longer they remained, the 
more their numbers diminished, through the passing 
over to Christianity of the younger members, and 
many fell victims to plagues of all kinds. Other 
Italian towns would not allow them to land even for 
a short time, partly because it was a year of famine, 
partly because the Jews brought the plague with 

The survivors from Genoa who reached Rome 
underwent still more bitter experiences ; their own 
people leagued against them, refusing to allow them 
to enter, from fear that the influx of new settlers 
would damage their trade. They got togedier 
i,ooo ducats, to present to the notorious monster. 
Pope Alexander VI, as a bribe to refuse to allow 
the Jews to enter. This prince, himself unfeeling 
enough, was so enraged at the heartlessness of 
these men against their own people, that he ordered 
every Roman Jew out of the city. It cost the 
Roman congregation 2,000 ducats to obtain the 
revocation of this edict, and they had to take in the 
refugees besides. 

The Greek islands of Corfu, Candia, and others 


became filled with Spanish Jews ; some had dragged 
themselves thither, others had been sold as slaves 
there. The majority of the Jewish communities 
had great compassion for them, and strove to care 
for them, or at all events to ransom them. They 
made great efforts to collect funds, and sold the 
ornaments of the synagogues, so that their brethren 
might not starve, or be subjected to slavery. Per- 
sians, who happened to be on the island of Corfu, 
bought Spanish refugees, in order to obtain from 
Jews of their own country a high ransom for them. 
Elkanah Kapsali, a representative of the Candian 
community, was indefatigable in his endeavors to 
collect money for the Spanish Jews. The most 
fortunate were those who reached the shores of 
Turkey; for the Turkish Sultan, Bajazet II, showed 
himself to be not only a most humane monarch, 
but also the wisest and most far-seeing. He under- 
stood better than the Christian princes what hidden 
riches the impoverished Spanish Jews brought with 
them, not in their bowels, but in their brains, and 
he wanted to turn these to use for the good of his 
country. Bajazet caused a command to go forth 
through the European provinces of his dominions 
that the harassed and hunted Jews should not be 
rejected, but should be received in the kindest and 
most friendly manner. He threatened with death 
anyone who should illtreat or oppress them. The 
chief rabbi, Moses Kapsali, was untiringly active in 
protecting the unfortunate Jewish Spaniards who had 
come as beggars or slaves to Turkey. He traveled 
about, and levied a tax from the rich native Jews 
"for the liberation of the Spanish captives." He 
did not need to use much pressure ; for the Turkish 
Jews willingly contributed to the assistance of the 
victims of Christian fanaticism. Thus thousands of 
Spanish Jews settled in Turkey, and before a gen- 
eration had passed they had taken the lead among 
the Turkish Jews, and made Turkey a kind of 
Eastern Spain. 


At first the Spanish Jews who went to Portugal 
seemed to have some chance of a happy lot. The 
venerable rabbi, Isaac Aboab, who had gone with 
a deputation of thirty to seek perftiission from King 
Joao either to settle in or pass through Portugal, 
succeeded in obtaining tolerably fair terms. Many 
of the wanderers chose to remain in the neighboring 
kingdom for a while, because they flattered them- 
selves with the hope that their indispensableness 
would make itself evident after their departure, that 
the eyes of the now blinded king and queen of 
Spain would be opened, and they would then re- 
ceive the banished people with open arms. At the 
worst, so thought the refugees, they would have 
time in Portugal to look round, decide which way to 
go, and readily find ships to convey them in safety 
to Africa or to Italy. When the Spanish deputies 
placed the proposition before King JoSo II to re- 
ceive the Jews permanently or temporarily in Por- 
tugal, the king consulted his grandees at Cintra. 
In presenting the matter, he permitted it to be seen 
that he himself was desirous of admitting the exiles 
for a pecuniary consideration. Some of the ad- 
visers, either from pity for the unhappy Jews, or 
from respect for the king, were in favor of granting 
permission ; others, and these the majority, either 
out of hatred for the Jews, or a feeling of honor, 
were against it. The king, however, overruled all 
objections, because he hoped to carry on the con- 
templated war with Africa by means of the money 
acquired from the immigrants. It was at first said 
that the Spanish refugees were to be permitted to 
settle permanently in Portugal. This favor, how- 
ever, the Portuguese Jews themselves looked upon 
with suspicion, because the little state would thus 
hold a disproportionate number of Jews, and the 
wanderers, most of them penniless, would fall a 
heavy burden upon them, so that the king, not of 
an amiable disposition, would end by becoming hos- 


tile to all the Jews in Portugal. The chief men, 
therefore, of the Jewish-Portuguese community met 
in debate, and many gave utterance to the cruel 
view that they themselves would have to take steps 
to prevent the reception of the Spanish exiles. A 
noble old man, Joseph, of the family of Ibn-Yachya, 
spoke warmly for his unfortunate brethren ; but his 
voice was silenced. There was no more talk of 
their settling in Portugal, but only of the permission 
to make a short stay, in order to arrange for their 
journey. The conditions laid down for the Spanish 
Jews were : Each one, rich or poor, with the excep- 
tion of babes, was to pay a stipulated sum (eight 
gold-cruzados, nearly one pound) in four instal- 
ments ; artisans, however, such as metal-workers 
and smiths, who desired to settle in the country, 
only half of this amount. The rest were permitted 
to stay only eight months, but the king undertook 
to furnish ships at a reasonable rate for trans- 
porting them to other lands. Those found in Por- 
tugal after the expiration of this period, or not able 
to show a receipt for the stipulated payment, were 
condemned to servitude. On the promulgation of 
these conditions, a large number of Spanish Jews 
(estimated at 20,000 families, or 200,000 souls) 
passed over the Portuguese borders. The king 
assigned to the wanderers certain towns, where 
they had to pay a tax to the inhabitants. Oporto 
was assigned to the families of the thirty deputies, 
and a synagogue was built for them. Isaac Aboab, 
the renowned teacher of many disciples, who later 
took positions as rabbis in Africa, Egypt and Pales- 
tine, died peacefully in Oporto ; his pupil, famous 
as a geographer and astronomer, Abraham Zacuto, 
pronounced his funeral oration (end of 1492). Only 
a few of his fellow-sufferers were destined to die a 
peaceful death. 

The feverish eagerness for discovering unknown 
lands and entering into trading relations with them, 


which had seized on Portugal, gave practical value 
to two sciences which hitherto had been regarded 
as the hobby or amusement of idlers and dilettanti — 
namely, astronomy and mathematics, the favorite 
pursuits of cultured Jews of the Pyrenean Peninsula. 
If India, the land of gold and spices, upon which 
the minds of the Portuguese were set with burning 
desire, was to be discovered, then coasting journeys, 
so slow and so dangerous, would have to be given 
up, and voyages made thither upon the high seas. 
But the ships ran the risk of losing their way on 
the trackless wastes of the ocean. Venturesome 
mariners, therefore, sought astronomical tables to 
direct their way by the courses of the sun and the 
stars. In this science Spanish Jews had the mastery. 
A Chazan of Toledo, Isaac (Zag) Ibn-Said, had pub- 
lished astronomical tables in the thirteenth century, 
known under the name of Alfonsine Tables, which 
were used with only slight alterations by the scien- 
tific men of Germany, France, England and Italy. 
As Joao II of Portugal now wished to send ships 
to the Atlantic for the discovery of India by way of 
the African sea-coast, he summoned a sort of astro- 
nomical congress for the working out of practical 
astronomical tables. At this congress, together 
with the famous German astronomer, Martin Behaim, 
and the Christian physician of King Rodrigo, there 
sat a Jew, the royal physician, Joseph (Jose) Vecinho, 
or de Viseu. He used as a basis the perpetual 
astronomical calendar, or Tables of the Seven 
Planets, which Abraham Zacuto, known later as a 
chronicler, had drawn up for a bishop of Salamanca, 
to whom he had dedicated it. Joseph Vecinho, 
together with Christian scientists, also improved 
upon the instrument for the measurement of the 
altitude of the stars, the nautical astrolabe, indis- 
pensable to mariners. By its aid Vasco da Gama 
first found it possible to follow the seaway to the 
Cape of Good Hope and India, and thus, perhaps, 


Columbus was enabled to discover a new continent. 
The geographical knowledge and skill of two Jews, 
Rabbi Abraham de Beya and Joseph Zapateiro de 
Lamego, were also turned to account by King Joao 
II, who sent them to Asia to obtain tidings of his 
emissaries to the mythical land of Prester John. 

Although King Joao thus employed learned and 
skillful Jews for his own ends, he had no liking for 
the Jewish race : he was indifferent, or rather inim- 
ical, to them directly they came in the way of his 
bigotry. In the year in which he dispatched Joseph 
Zapateiro and Abraham de Beya to Asia, at the 
instigadon of Pope Innocent VIII he appointed a 
commission of the Inquisition for the Marranos who 
had fled from Spain to Portugal, and, like Ferdi- 
nand and Isabella in Spain, delivered over those 
who had Jewish leanings, either to death by fire or 
to endless imprisonment. Some Marranos having 
taken ship to Africa, and there openly adopted 
Judaism, he prohibited, under penalty of death and 
confiscation, baptized Jews or new-Christians from 
leaving the country by sea. On the breath of this 
heartless monarch hung the life or death of hun- 
dreds of thousands of Jewish exiles. 

Against those unfortunates in Portugal, not only 
evil-minded men, but nature itself, fought. Soon 
after their arrival in Portugal, a cruel pestilence 
began to rage among them, destroying tliousands. 
The Portuguese, who also suffered from the plague, 
believed that the Jews had brought it into the 
country; and, indeed, all that they had suffered, the 
oppressive heat at the time of their going forth, 
want, misery, and all kinds of devastating diseases, 
may have developed it. A considerable number of 
the Spanish refugees died of the plague in Portugal. 
The population on this account murmured against 
the king, complaining that the pestilence had fol- 
lowed in the track of the accursed Jews, and estab- 
lished itself in the country. Don Joao, therefore^ 


had to insist more strenuously than he otherwise 
would have done upon the condition that all who 
had settled in Portugal should leave at the expira- 
tion of the eight months. At first he put ships 
at their disposal, at moderate rates of transpor- 
tation, according to his agreement, and bade the 
captains treat their passengers with humanity, and 
convey them whither they wished to go. But these 
men, inspired by Jew hatred and avarice, once upon 
the seas, troubled themselves but little about the 
king's orders, since they had no need to fear com- 
plaints about their inhumanity. They demanded 
more money than had originally been bargained 
for, and extorted it from the helpless creatures. 
Or, they carried them about upon the waste of 
waters till their stock of provisions was exhausted, 
and then demanded large sums for a fresh supply 
of food, so that at last the unfortunates were driven 
to give their clothes for bread, and were landed 
anywhere in a nearly naked state. Women and 
young girls were insulted and violated in the pres- 
ence of their parents and relatives, and disgrace 
was brought upon the name of Christian. Fre- 
quently these inhuman mariners landed them in 
some desolate spot of the African coasts, and left 
them to perish from hunger and despair, or to fall 
a prey to the Moors, who took them prisoners. 

The sufferings of the exiled Jews who left Por- 
tugal in ships are related by an eye-witness, the 
Kabbalist, Judah ben Jacob Chayyat, of a noble 
and wealthy family. The vessel on which he, his 
wife, and two hundred and fifty other Jews, of both 
sexes and all ages, had embarked, left the harbor 
of Lisbon in winter (beginning of 1493), and lin- 
gered four months upon the waves, because no sea- 
port would take them in for fear of the plague. 
Provisions on board naturally ran short. The ship 
was captured by Biscayan pirates, plundered and 
taken to the Spanish port of Malaga. The Jews 


were not permitted to land, nor to set sail again, 
nor were provisions given them. The priests 
and magistrates of the town desired to incline them 
to the teaching of Christ by the pangs of hunger. 
They succeeded in converting one hundred persons 
with gaunt bodies and hollow eyes. The rest re- 
mained steadfast to their own faith, and fifty of 
them, old men, youths, maidens, children, among 
them Chayyat's wife, died of starvation. Then, at 
last, compassion awoke in the hearts of the Mala- 
gese, and they gave them bread and water. When, 
after two months, the remainder of them received 
permission to sail to the coasts of Africa, they 
encountered bitter sufferings in another form. On 
account of the plague they were not permitted to 
land at any town, and had to depend upon the 
herbs of the field. Chayyat himself was seized, and 
flung by a malicious Mahometan into a horrible dun- 
geon full of snakes and salamanders, in order to 
force him to adopt Islamism; in case of refusal, he 
was threatened with death by stoning. These con- 
tinuous, grinding cruelties did not make him waver 
one instant in his religious convictions. At last he 
was liberated by the Jews of a little town, and carried 
to Fez. There so severe a famine raged that Chay- 
yat was compelled to turn a mill with his hands for a 
piece of bread, not fit for a dog. At night he and 
his companions in misery who had strayed to Fez 
slept upon the ash-heaps of the town. 

Carefully as the Portuguese mariners strove to 
conceal their barbarities to the Jews, their deeds 
soon came to light, and frightened off those who 
remained behind from emigrating by sea. The poor 
creatures, moreover, were unable to raise the neces- 
sary money for their passage and provisions. They, 
therefore, put off going from day to day, comforting 
themselves with the hope that the king would be 
merciful, and allow them to remain in Portugal. 
Don Joao, however, was not a monarch whose heart 


was warmed by kindness and compassion. He main- 
tained that more Jews had come into Portugal than 
had been stipulated for, and insisted, therefore, that 
the agreement be strictly carried out. Those who 
remained after the expiration of eight months were 
made slaves, and sold or given to those of the Por- 
tuguese nobility who cared to take their pick from 

them (1493)- 

King Joao went still further in his cruel dealings 
with the unhappy Spanish Jews. The children of 
from three to ten years of age whose parents had 
become slaves, he ordered to be transported by sea 
to the newly-discovered San Thomas or Lost Islands 
(Ilhas perdidas), there to be reared in the tenets of 
Christianity. The weeping of the mothers, the sob- 
bing of the children, the rage of the fathers, who tore 
their hair in agony, did not move the heartless des- 
pot to recall his command. Mothers entreated to 
be allowed to go with their children, threw them- 
selves at the kinor's feet as he came out of church, 
and implored him to leave them at least the young- 
est. Don Joao had them dragged from his path 
"like bitches who had their whelps torn from them." 
Is it to be wondered at that mothers, with their chil- 
dren in their arms, sprang into the sea to rest united 
in its depths? The Islands of San Thomas, whither 
the little ones were taken, were full of lizards and 
venomous snakes, and inhabited by criminals trans- 
ported thither from Portugal. Most of the children 
perished on the journey, or became the prey of wild 
beasts. Among the survivors it happened that 
brothers and sisters, in ignorance of their relation- 
ship, married each other. Perhaps the king's barbar- 
ity to the Jews must be accounted for by the bitter 
gloom which mastered him at the death of his only 
legitimate son. 

After the death of Joao II, who sank in wretched- 
ness into his grave (end of October, 1495), he was 
succeeded by his cousin Manoel, a great contrast in 


disposition to himself — an intelligent, amiable, gentle- 
minded man, and a lover of learning. There seemed 
some prospect of a better star's rising upon the rem- 
nant of the banished Jews in Portugal. King Ma- 
noel, finding that the Jews had remained in his king- 
dom beyond the allotted time only from fear of many 
forms of death upon the ocean, gave all the slaves 
their freedom. The money which, beside themselves 
with joy, they offered him for this, he refused. It is 
true that his ulterior motive, as Bishop Osorius tells 
us, was to win them over to Christianity by clemency. 
The Jewish mathematician and astronomer, Abraham 
Zacuto, who had remained in Lisbon, having come 
thither from northern Spain, where he had taught 
his favorite science even to Christians, was made 
chief astrologer Zacuto served the king not merely 
in the latter capacity. Although a man of limited 
understanding, unable to rise above the superstition 
of his day, he had sound knowledge of astronomy, 
and published a work upon that science, besides 
preparing his astronomical tables. He also invented 
a correct metal instrument for measuring the altitude 
of the stars, to replace the clumsy and inaccurate 
wooden one used hitherto by mariners. 

Under King Manoel, in whose reign Portugal's 
domains were enlarged by acquisitions in India and 
America, the Jews were able to breathe awhile. It 
appears that soon after ascending the throne he 
issued a command that the accusations against them 
for murdering children should not be recognized by 
courts of justice, since they were malicious, lying in- 
ventions. Nor would he allow the fanatical preach- 
ing friars to utter denunciations against them. 

Very short, however, was the gleam of happiness 
for the Jews under Manoel : the somber bigotry of 
the Spanish court changed it into terrible gloom. 
No sooner had the young king of Portugal mounted 
the throne than their majesties of Spain began to 
entertain the idea of marriage relations with him in 


order to turn an inimical neighbor into a friend and 
ally. They proposed marriage with their younger 
daughter, Joanna, who afterwards became notori- 
ous on account of her jealous disposition and 
her madness. Manoel lent a willing ear to the pro- 
posal of an alliance with the Spanish court, but pre- 
ferred the elder sister, Isabella II, who had been 
married to the Infante of Portugal, and had soon 
after become a widow. Isabella had strong repug- 
nance to a second marriage ; buther confessor knew 
how to overrule her objections, and made her be- 
lieve that if she consented she would have oppor- 
tunity to glorify the Christian faith. The Spanish 
court had marked with chagrin and vexation that 
the Portuguese king had received the Jewish and 
Mahometan refugees, and King Manoel's friendly 
treatment of them was a thorn in their flesh. Fer- 
dinand and Isabella thought that by falling in with 
the Portuguese king's wishes, they would attain their 
end. They, therefore, promised him the hand of 
their eldest daughter upon condition that he join 
with Spain against Charles VII, and send the Jews 
out of Portugal, both the native and the refugee 
Jews. The conditions were very disagreeable to 
King Manoel, who was on good terms with France, 
and reaped great advantage from the wealth, en- 
ergy, intelligence, and knowledge of the Jews. 

He consulted with his lords and council upon this 
question, fraught with such importance for the Jews. 
Opinions upon it were divided. Manoel hesitated 
for some time, because his noble nature shrank from 
such cruelty and faithlessness. The Infanta Isabella 
spoke the deciding word. She entertained fanatical, 
almost personal hatred against the Jews. She be- 
lieved or was persuaded by the priests that the mis- 
fortunes and unhappiness which had befallen King 
Joao In his last days were occasioned by his having 
allowed Jews to enter his kingdom ; and, nour- 
ished as she had been at the breast of supersti- 


tion, she was afraid of ill-luck in her union with 
Manoel if Jews were permitted to remain in Portu- 
gal. What dreary lovelessness in the heart of a 
young woman ! Irreconcilable strife of feelings 
and thoughts was thus raised in the soul of King 
Manoel. Honor, the interest of the state, human- 
ity, forebade his proscribing and expelling the 
Jews ; but the hand of the Spanish Infanta, and the 
Spanish crown were to be secured only by the mis- 
ery of the Jews. Love turned the balance in favor 
of hate. When the king was expecting his bride 
to cross the borders of his kingdom, he received a 
letter from her saying that she would not set foot 
in Portugal until the land was cleansed of the 
*' curse-laden " Jews. 

The marriage contract between Don Manoel and 
the Spanish Infanta, Isabella, then, was sealed with 
the misery of the Jews. It was signed on the 30th 
of November, 1496, and so early as the 24th of the 
following month, the king caused an order to go 
forth that all the Jews and Moors of his kingdom 
must receive baptism, or leave the country within a 
given time, on pain of death. In order to relieve 
his conscience, he showed clemency in carrying his 
edict into effect. He lengthened the term of their 
Sitay until the October of the following year, so that 
they had time for preparation. He further ap- 
pointed three ports, Lisbon, Oporto, and Setubal, 
for their free egress. That he sought to allure the 
Jews to Christianity, by the prospect of honor and ad- 
vancement, was so entirely due to the distorted views 
of the times, that he cannot be held responsible for 
it; as it was, only a few submitted to baptism. 

Precisely Manoel's clement behavior tended to 
the greater misery of the Jews. Having ample time 
to prepare for their departure, and not being forbid- 
den to take gold and silver with them, they thought 
that there was no need to hurrv. Perhaps the king 
would change his mind. They had friends at court 


who were agitating in their favor. Besides, the winter 
months were not a good time to be upon the ocean. 
The majority, therefore, waited until spring. In the 
meantime King Manoel certainly did change his 
mind, but only to increase their fearful misery. He 
was much vexed at finding that so few Jews had 
embraced Christianity. Very unwillingly he saw 
them depart with their wealth and their possessions, 
and sought ways and means to retain them, as 
Christians, of course, in his own kingdom. The 
first step had cost him a struggle, the second was 

He raised the question in council whether the 
Jews could be brought to baptism by force. To the 
honor of the Portuguese clergy it must be said that 
they expressed themselves as opposed to this. The 
bishop of Algarve, Ferdinand Coutinho, cited eccle- 
siastical authorities and papal bulls to the effect 
that Jews n\ight not be compelled to adopt Christi- 
anity, because a free, not a forced, confession was 
required. Manoel, however, was so bent upon 
keeping *.he industrious Jews with him, that he 
openly declared that he did not trouble himself 
about lav;s and authorities, but would act upon his 
own judgment. From Evora he issued (beginning 
of April, 1497) a secret command that all Jewish 
children, boys and girls, up to the age of fourteen, 
should be taken from their parents by force on 
Easter Sunday, and carried to the church fonts to be 
baptized. He was advised by a reprobate convert, 
Levi ben Shem Tob, to take this step. In spite of 
the secrecy of the preparations, several Jews found 
it out, and were about to flee with their children 
from the "stain of baptism." When Manoel heard 
it, he ordered the forced baptism of children to be 
carried out at once. Heartrending scenes ensued 
in the towns where Jews lived when the sheriffs strove 
to carry away the children. Parents strained their 
dear ones to their breasts, the children clung con- 


vulsively to them, and they could be separated only 
by lashes and blows. In their despair over the pos- 
sibility of being thus for ever sundered, many of them 
strangled the children in their embraces, or threw 
them into wells and rivers, and then laid hands upon 
themselves. " I have seen," relates Bishop Coutinho, 
"many dragged to the font by the hair, and the 
fathers clad in mourning, with veiled heads and cries 
of agony, accompanying their children to the altar, 
to protest against the inhuman baptism. I have seen 
still more horrible, indescribable violence done them." 
In the memory of his contemporaries lingered the 
frightful manner in which a noble and cultured Jew, 
Isaac Ibn-Zachin, destroyed himself and his children, 
to avoid their becoming a prey to Christianity. 
Christians were moved to pity by the cries and tears 
of Jewish fathers, mothers and children, and despite 
the king's commands not to assist the Jews, they con- 
cealed many of the unfortunates in their houses, so 
that at least for the moment they might be safe; but 
the stony hearts of King Manoel and his young wife, 
the Spanish Isabella II, remained unmoved by these 
sights of woe. The baptized children, who received 
Christian names, were placed in various towns, and 
reared as Christians. Either in obedience to a 
secret order, or from excessive zeal, the creatures 
of the king not only seized children, but also youths 
and maidens up to the age of twenty, for baptism. 
Many Jews of Portugal probably embraced Chris- 
tianity in order to remain with their children; but 
this did not satisfy the king, who, not from religious 
zeal, but from political motives, had hardened his 
heart. All the Jews of Portugal, it mattered not 
whether with or without conviction, were to become 
Christians and remain in the country. To attain 
this end, he violated a solemn promise more fla- 
grantly than his predecessor. When the time of 
their departure came closer, he ordered the Jews to 
embark from one seaport only, that of Lisbon, 


although, at first, he had allowed them three places. 
Therefore, all who wished to go, had to meet in 
Lisbon — 20,000 souls, it is said, with burning grief 
in their hearts, but prepared to suffer anything to 
remain true to their convictions. The inhuman 
monarch allowed them lodgings in the city, but he 
placed so many hindrances in the way of their em- 
barkation, that time passed by, and the day arrived 
when they were to forfeit life, or at least liberty, if 
found upon Portuguese soil. He had all who re- 
mained behind locked in an enclosed space (os 
Estaos) like oxen in stalls, and informed them that 
they were now his slaves, and that he could do with 
them as he thought fit. He urged them voluntarily 
to confess the Christian faith, in which case they 
should have honor and riches ; otherwise they would 
be forced to baptism w^ithout mercy. When, not- 
withstanding this, many remained firm, he forbade 
bread or water to be given them for three days, in 
order to render them more pliable. This means did 
not succeed any better with the greater number of 
them: they chose to faint with starvation rather 
than belong to a religion which owned such followers 
as their persecutors. Upon this, Manoel proceeded 
to extreme measures. By cords, by their hair and 
beard, they were dragged from their pen to the 
churches. To escape this some sprang from the 
windows, and their limbs were crushed. Others 
broke loose and jumped into wells. Some killed 
themselves in the churches. One father spread his 
tallith over his sons, and killed them and himself. 
Manoel's terrible treatment comes into more glar- 
ing prominence when compared with his behavior to 
the Moors. They, too, had to leave Portugal, but 
no hindrances were placed in their way, because he 
feared that the Mahometan princes in Africa and 
Turkey might retaliate upon the Christians living in 
their domains. The Jews had no earthly protector, 
were weak and helpless, therefore, Manoel, whom 


historians call the Great, permitted himself to 
perpetrate such atrocities. In this fashion many 
native Portuguese and refugee Spanish Jews were 
led to embrace Christianity, which they — as their 
Christian contemporaries relate with shame — had 
openly scorned. Some, at a later period, became 
distinguished Rabbinical authorities, like Levi ben 
Chabib, afterwards rabbi in Jerusalem. Those 
who escaped with their lives and their faith attrib- 
uted it to the gracious and wondrous interposition 
of God. Isaac ben Joseph Caro, who had come 
from Toledo to Portugal, there lost his adult and 
his minor sons ("who were beautiful as prin- 
ces"), yet thanked his Creator for the mercy that in 
spite of peril on the sea he reached Turkey. Abra- 
ham Zacuto, with his son Samuel, also was in dan- 
ger of death, although (or because) he was King 
Manoel's favorite, astrologer and chronicler. Both, 
however, were fortunate enough to pass through 
the bitter ordeal, and escape from Portugal, but 
they were twice imprisoned. They finally settled 
in Tunis. 

The stir which the enforced conversion of the 
Jews caused in Portugal did not immediately sub- 
side. Those who had submitted to baptism through 
fear of death, or out of fove for their children, did 
not give up the hope that by appealing to the papal 
court they might be able to return to their own faith, 
seeing that, as all Europe knew, Pope Alexander 
VI and his college of cardinals, as base as himself, 
would do anything for money. A witticism was 
then going the rounds of every Christian country : 

Vendit Alexander Claves, Altaria, Christum ; 
Emerat ista prius, vendere jure pptest. 

Rome was a market of shame — a hill of Astarte — 
a mart of unwholesomeness — but there the inno 
cent, also, could buy their rights. The Portuguese 
new-Christians now sent a deputation of seven of 

CH. xiL mangel's concessions. 379 

their companions in misery to Pope Alexander, and 
they did not forget to take a purse of gold with them. 
The pope and the so-called holy college showed 
themselves favorably inclined towards them, espe- 
cially Cardinal de Sancta Anastasia took them under 
his patronage. The Spanish ambassador, Garcilaso, 
however, was instructed by their Spanish majesties 
to oppose them. Despite his influence the affairs 
of the Portuguese Jews must have taken a favorable 
turn, for King Manoel decided to make concessions. 
He issued a mild decree (May 30th, 1497), in which 
he granted amnesty to all forcibly baptized Jews, 
and a respite of twenty years, during which they 
were not to be brought before the tribunal of the 
Inquisition for their adherence to Judaism. It was 
said that it was necessary for them first to lay aside 
their Jewish habits, and accustom themselves to 
the ways of the Catholic faith, for which they needed 
time. Further, the decree ordered that, on the 
expiration of this term, a regular examination should 
be made of those accused of Judaizing practices, 
and if the case was decided against them, their 
goods should not be confiscated, as in Spain, but 
given over to their heirs. Finally, the decree 
ordained that those baptized physicians and sur- 
geons who did not understand Latin might make 
use of Hebrew books of reference. Practically this 
allowed the enforced Christians to live in secret, 
without fear of punishment, as Jews, and to retain 
all their books. For, who, in Portugal, in those 
days, could distinguish a book of medicine from 
any other work in the Hebrew language? The 
students of the Talmud could thus follow their 
favorite researches and studies under the mask of 
Catholicism. This amnesty benefited the Portuguese 
Marranos, but not those who had immigrated into 
Portugal, by a clause which Manoel had inserted out 
of deference to the Spanish court, or, more particu- 
larly, to the Spanish Infanta Isabella. For she in- 


sisted that the Marranos who had fled out of Spain 
into Portugal should be delivered over to the Moloch 
of the Inquisition. In the marriage contract be- 
tween the king of Portugal and the fanatical Isabella 
(August, 1497), it was expressly set down that all 
persons of the Hebrew race coming under condem- 
nation of the Inquisition, who sought refuge in 
Portugal, must leave within a month's time. 

Thus many thousand Portuguese Jews became 
pseudo-Christians, but with the firm resolve to seize 
the first opportunity to get away, so that in a free 
country they might openly practice a religion only 
the dearer to them for all they had suffered for it. 
Their souls, as the poet Samuel Usque writes, had 
not been stained by the baptism imposed on them. 
There were some Jews, however, who had refused 
baptism with all their might. Among them was 
Simon Maimi, apparendy the last chief rabbi (Ar- 
rabi mor) in Portugal, a scrupulously pious man ; 
also his wife, his sons-in-law, and some others. They 
were closely imprisoned, because they would not for- 
swear Judaism, nor observe the rites of the church. 
To bring them to conversion, Simon Maimi and his 
fellow sufferers, official rabbis, were most inhumanly 
tortured. They were immured up to the neck in 
their prison, and left for three days in this fearful 
position. When they nevertheless remained firm, 
the walls were torn down ; three had died, among 
them Simon Maimi, whose conversion was most 
important, because his example would have influ- 
enced the others. Two Marranos imperiled their 
lives to secure the corpse of the pious martyr, that 
they might inter it in the Jewish burial-ground, al- 
though it was strictly forbidden to bury the Jewish 
victims of Christian sacrifice otherwise than by the 
executioner's hands. A few Marranos secretly at- 
tended their deeply-lamented saint to his last rest, 
and celebrated a mourning service over his grave. 
Manoel permitted the few remaining Jews to depart 


not long after, probably on the death of Isabella, the 
instigator of all his barbarities to the Jews. She 
died at the birth of the heir to the thrones of Portu- 
gal and Spain, August 24th, 1498, and the Infante 
died two years later. One of the remnant dismissed 
was Abraham Saba, a preacher and Kabbalist author, 
whose two children were baptized by force and taken 
from him. The companions of Simon Maimi and 
his sons-in-law remained in prison a long time, were 
afterwards sent to Arzilla, in Africa, there con- 
demned to work at the trenches on the Sabbath, 
and died at last a martyr's death. 

Eighty years later, Manoel's great-grandson, the 
adventurous king, Sebastian, led the flower of the 
Portuguese people to fresh conquests in Africa. In 
a single battle the power of Portugal was broken, 
her nobility slain, or cast into prison. The captives 
were carried to Fez, and there, in the slave-market, 
offered for sale to the descendants of the barbarously 
treated Portuguese Jews. The unhappy Portuguese 
nobles and knights were, however, glad to be bought 
by Jews, as they well knew the mild and humane 
nature of the followers of the "God of vengeance." 



Widespread Consequences of the Expulsion — The Exiles — Fate of 
the Abrabanel Family — Leon Medigo — Isaac Akrish — The Pre- 
eminence of Jews of Spanish Origin — The North-African States: 
Samuel Alvalensi, Jacob Berab, Simon Duran II — The Jews of 
Algiers, Tripoli and Tunis — Abraham Zacuto, and Moses Alash- 
kar — Egypt : Isaac Shalal, David Ibn-Abi Zimra — The Jews of 
Cairo — Selim I — Cessation of the Office of Nagid — Jerusalem — 
Obadyah di Bertinoro — Safet and Joseph Saragossi — The Jews 
of Turkey — Constantinople — Ehas Mizrachi: the Karaites — The 
Communities of Salonica and Adrianople — The Jews of Greece 
— Elias Kapsali — The Jews of Italy and the Popes: Bonet de 
Lates — The Ghetto in Venice — Samuel Abrabanel and Benvenida 
Abrabanela — Abraham Farissol- -The Jews of Germany and 
their Sorrows — Expulsion of the Jews from Various Towns — The 
Jews of Bohemia — ^Jacob Polak and his School — The Jews of 

1496 — 1525 C.E. 

The expulsion of the Jews from the Pyrenean Pen- 
insula, unwise as it was inhuman, forms in various 
ways a well-marked turning-point in the general 
history of the Jewish race. It involved not only the 
exiles, but the whole Jewish people, in far-reaching 
and mostly disastrous consequences. The glory of 
the Jews was extinguished, their pride humbled, 
their center displaced, the strong pillar against 
which they had hitherto leant broken. The grief 
caused by this sad event was shared by the Jews 
in every country which had news of it. They 
all felt as if the Temple had been destroyed a 
third time, as if the sons of Zion had a third time 
been condemned to exile and misery. Whether 
from fancy or pride, it was supposed that the Span- 
ish (or, more correctly, the Sephardic) Jews were 
the posterity of the noblest tribe, and included 
among them descendants in a direct line from King 


David; hence the Jews looked upon them as a kind 
of Jewish nobility. And now these exalted ones 
had been visited by the severest affliction ! Exile, 
compulsory baptism, death in every hideous form, 
by despair, hunger, pestilence, fire, shipwreck, all 
torments united, had reduced their hundreds of 
thousands to barely the tenth part of that number. 
The remnant wandered about like specters, hunted 
from one country to another, and princes among 
Jews, they were compelled to knock as beggars at 
the doors of their brethren. The thirty millions of 
ducats which, at the lowest computation, the Spanish 
Jews possessed on their expulsion, had melted away 
in their hands, and they were thus left denuded of 
everything in a hostile world, which valued the Jews 
at their money's worth only. At the same period 
many German Jews were driven from cities in the 
East and in the West, but their misery did not equal 
that of the Spanish Jews. They had known neither 
the sweetness of a country that they could call their 
own, nor the comforts of life ; they were more hardy, 
or, at least, accustomed to contempt and harsh treat- 

Half a century after the banishment of the Jews 
from Spain and Portugal, we everywhere meet with 
fugitives: here a group, there a family, or solitary 
stragglers. It was a kind of exodus on a small 
scale, moving eastwards, chiefly to Turkey, as if the 
Jews were to approach their original home. But 
their very wanderings, until they again reached 
secure dwelling-places, and in a measure were set- 
tled, were heartrending through the calamities of 
every description, the humiliations, the contumely, 
sufferings worse than death, that they encountered. 

The ancient family of Abrabanel did not escape 
heavy disasters and constant migrations. The father, 
Isaac Abrabanel, who had occupied a high position 
at the court of the accomplished king, Ferdinand I, 
and of his son Alfonso, at Naples, was forced, on the 


approach of the French, to leave the city, and, with 
his royal patron, to seek refuge in Sicily. The 
French hordes plundered his house of all its valu- 
ables, and destroyed a choice library, his greatest 
treasure. On the death of King Alfonso, Isaac 
Abrabanel, for safety, went to the island of Corfu. 
He remained there only till the French had evacu- 
ated the Neapolitan territory ; then he settled at 
Monopoli (Apulia), where he completed or revised 
many of his writings. The wealth acquired in the 
service of the Portuguese and Spanish courts had 
vanished, his wife and children were separated from 
him and scattered, and he passed his days in sad 
musings, out of which only his study of the Scrip- 
tures and the annals of the Jewish people could 
lift him. His eldest son, Judah Leon Medigo Abra- 
banel, resided at Genoa, where, in spite of his un- 
settled existence and consuming grief for the loss 
of his young son, who had been taken from him, and 
was being brought up in Portugal as a Christian, he 
still cherished ideals. For Leon Abrabanel was 
much more highly accomplished, richer in thought, 
in every way more gifted than his father, and de- 
serves consideration not merely for his father's, but 
for his own sake. Leon Abrabanel practiced medi- 
cine to gain a livelihood (whence his cognomen 
Medigo) ; but his favorite pursuits were astronomy, 
mathematics, and metaphysics. Shortly before the 
death of the gifted and eccentric Pico de Mirandola, 
Leon Medigo became acquainted with him, won his 
friendship, and at his instigation undertook the 
writing of a philosophical work. 

Leon Medigo, in a remarkable manner, entered 
into close connection with acquaintances of his youth, 
with Spanish grandees, and even with King Ferdi- 
nand, who had driven his family and so many hun- 
dred thousands into banishment and death. For he 
became the private physician of the general, Gon- 
salvo de Cordova, the conqueror and viceroy of 


Naples. The heroic, amiable, and lavish De Cordova 
did not share his master's hatred against the Jews. 
In one of his descendants Jewish literature iound 
a devotee. When King Ferdinand, after the con- 
quest of the kingdom of Naples (1504), commanded 
that the Jews be banished thence, as from Spain, 
the general thwarted the execution of the order, 
observing that, on the whole, there were but few 
Jews on Neapolitan territory, since most of the im- 
migrants had either again left it, or had become con- 
verts to Christianity. The banishment of these few 
could only be injurious to the country, since they 
would settle at Venice, which would benefit by their 
industry and riches. Consequently the Jews were 
allowed to remain a while longer on Neapolitan 
territory. But to exterminate the Spanish and 
Portuguese Marranos who had settled there, Ferdi- 
nand established the terrible Inquisition at Bene- 
vento. Leon Medigo for over two years was De 
Cordova's physician (1505 — 1507), and King Ferdi- 
nand saw him when he visited Naples. After the 
king's departure and the ungracious dismissal of the 
viceroy (June, 1507), Leon Abrabanel, having no- 
where found suitable employment, returned to his 
father, then living at Venice, whither he had been 
invited by his second son, Isaac II, who practiced 
medicine first at Reggio (Calabria), then at Venice. 
The youngest son, Samuel, afterwards a generous 
protector of his co-religionists, was the most fortu- 
nate of the family. He dwelt amidst the cool shades 
of the academy of Salonica, to which his father had 
sent him to finish his education in Jewish learning. 
The elder Abrabanel once more entered the political 
arena. At Venice he had the opportunity of set- 
tling a dispute between the court of Lisbon and the 
Venetian Republic concerning the East-Indian colo- 
nies established by the Portuguese, especially con- 
cerning the trade in spices. Some influential sena- 
tors discerned Isaac Abrabanel's correct political and 


financial judgment, and thenceforth consuhed him 
in all important questions of state policy. But suffer- 
ing and travel had broken his strength ; before he 
reached seventy years, he felt the infirmities of old 
age creeping over him. In a letter of reply to Saul 
Cohen Ashkenasi, an inhabitant of Candia, a man 
thirsting for knowledge, the disciple and intellectual 
heir of Elias del Medigo, Abrabanel complains of 
increasing debility and senility. Had he been si- 
lent, his literary productions of that time would have 
betrayed his infirmity. The baited victims of Spanish 
fanaticism would have needed bodies of steel and 
the resisting strength of stone not to succumb to the 
sufferings with which they were overwhelmed. 

We have a striking instance of the restless wan- 
derings of the Jewish exiles in the life of one of the 
sufferers, who, though insignificant, became known 
to fame by his zeal to raise the courage of the un- 
fortunate. To Isaac ben Abraham Akrish, a Span- 
iard, a great traveler and a bookworm (born about 
1489, died after 1575), Jewish literature owes the 
preservation of many a valuable document. Akrish 
said, half in joke, half in earnest, that he must have 
been born in the hour when the planet Jupiter was 
passing through the zodiacal sign of the Fishes, a 
nativity which indicates a wandering life. For, 
though lame in both feet, he spent his whole life in 
traveling from city to city, on land and on sea. 
When a boy, Akrish was banished from Spain, and 
at Naples he underwent all the sufferings which 
seem to have conspired against the exiles. Thus he 
limped from nation to nation, "whose languages he 
did not understand, and who spared neither old men 
nor children," until in Egypt, in the house of an 
exile, he found a few years' rest. Who can follow 
all the wandering exiles, with sore feet, and still 
sorer hearts, until they somewhere found rest, or the 
peace of the grave ? 

But the very enormity of the misery they en- 


dured raised the dignity of the Sephardic Jews to a 
height bordering on pride. That they whom God's 
hand had smitten so heavily, so persistently, and 
who had undergone such unspeakable sorrow, must 
occupy a peculiar position, and belong to the spe- 
cially elect, was the thought or the feeling existing 
more or less clearly in the breasts of the survivors. 
They looked upon their banishment from Spain as 
a third exile, and upon themselves as favorites of 
God, whom, because of His greater love for them, 
He had chastised the more severely. Contrary lo 
expectation, a certain exaltation took possession of 
them, which did not, indeed, cause them to forget, 
but transfigured, their sufferings. As soon as they 
felt even slightly relieved from the burden of their 
boundless calamity, and were able to breathe, they 
rose with elastic force, and carried their heads high 
like princes. They had lost everything except their 
Spanish pride, their distinguished manner. How- 
ever humbled they might be, their pride did not for- 
sake them ; they asserted it wherever their wander- 
ing feet found a resting-place. And to some extent 
they were justified. They had, indeed, since the 
growth of the tendency among Jews towards strict 
orthodoxy and hostility to science, and since their 
exclusion from social circles, receded from the high 
scientific position they had held, and forfeited the 
supremacy they had maintained during many centu- 
ries; yet they far surpassed the Jews of all other 
countries in culture, manners, and also in worth, as 
was shown by their external bearing and their lan- 
guage. Their love for their country was too great 
to allow them to hate the unnatural mother who had 
cast them out. Hence, wherever they went, they 
founded Spanish or Portuguese colonies. They 
carried the Spanish tongue, Spanish dignity and dis- 
tinction to Africa, Syria, and Palestine, Italy and 
Flanders ; wherever fate cast their lot they cher- 
ished and cultivated this Spanish manner so lov- 


ingly, that it has maintained itself to this day in full 
vigor among their descendants. Far from being ab- 
sorbed by the rest of the Jewish population in coun- 
tries which had hospitably received them, they con- 
sidered themselves a privileged race, the flower and 
nobility of the Jewish nation, kept aloof from others, 
looked down upon them with contempt, and not un- 
frequently dictated laws to them. This arose from 
the fact that the Spanish and Portuguese Jews spoke 
the languages of their native countries (which by the 
discoveries and conquests of the sixteenth century 
had become the languages of the world) with purity, 
took part in literature, and associated with Chris- 
tians on equal terms, with manliness, and without 
fear or servility. On this point they contrasted 
with the German Jews, who despised pure and 
beautiful speech, the very thing which constitutes a 
true man, and considered a corrupt jargon and iso- 
lation from the Christian world as proofs of religious 
zeal. The Sephardic Jews attached importance to 
forms of all kinds, to taste in dress, to elegance in 
their synagogues, as well as to the medium for the 
exchange of thought. The Spanish and Portuguese 
rabbis preached in their native tongues, and laid 
great stress on pure pronunciation and euphony. 
Hence their language did not degenerate, at least 
not in the first centuries after their expulsion. " In 
the cities of Salonica, Constantinople, Alexandria, 
Cairo, Venice, and other resorts of commerce, the 
Jews transact their business only in the Spanish 
language. I have known Jews of Salonica who, 
though still young, pronounced Castilian as well as 
myself, and even better." This is the judgment of 
a Christian writer about half a century after their 

The contempt which even Isaac Abrabanel, mild 
and broken though he was, entertained for the bar- 
barous jargon spoken by German Jews is character- 
istic. He was surprised to discover in a letter, sent 


to him by Saul Cohen of Candia, a native of Ger- 
many, a finished Hebrew style and close reasoning, 
and freely expressed his astonishment: "I am sur- 
prised to find so excellent a style among the Ger- 
mans (Jews), which is rare even among their leaders 
and rabbis, however gifted they may be in other 
respects. Their language is full of awkwardness 
and clumsiness, a stammering without judgment." 
This superiority of the Jews of Spanish descent in 
culture, bearing, social manners, and knowledge of 
the world, was appreciated and admired by other 
Jews, especially by German Jews, with whom they 
everywhere came into contact. Hence Spanish 
Jews could presume to play the role of masters, 
and frequently, in spite of their paucity of numbers, 
they dominated a majority speaking other tongues. 
In the century after their expulsion they are almost 
exclusively the leaders ; the names of their spokes- 
men are heard everywhere ; they furnished rabbis, 
authors, thinkers and visionaries, whilst German 
and Italian Jews occupied a humble place. In all 
countries, except Germany and Poland, into which 
they had not penetrated, or only as solitary indi- 
viduals, the Sephardic Jews were the leaders. 

The northern coast of Africa, and the inhabitable 
regions inland, were full of Jews of Spanish descent. 
They had congregated there in great numbers dur- 
ing the century from the persecution of 1391 to 
their total expulsion. From Safi (Assafi), the most 
southwestern town of Morocco, to Tripoli in the 
northeast, there were many communities, of vary- 
ing numbers, speaking the Spanish language. 
Though mostly hated, arbitrarily treated, and often 
compelled by petty barbarian tyrants and the un- 
civilized, degenerate Moorish population to wear a 
disgraceful costume, yet prominent Jews found op- 
portunities to distinguish themselves, to rise to 
hiorh honors and acquire widespread influence. In 
Morocco a rich Jew, learned in history, who had 


rendered important services to the ruler of that 
country, was held in high esteem. At Fez, where 
there existed a community of five thousand Jewish 
families, who monopolized most trades, Samuel 
Alvalensi, a Jew of Spanish descent, was greatly 
beloved by the king, on account of his ability and 
his courage, and so trusted by the populace that it 
accepted him as its leader. In the struggle between 
the two reigning families, the Merinos and the 
Xerifs, he sided with the former, led one thousand 
four hundred Jews and Moors against the followers 
of the latter, and defeated them at Ceuta. A very 
numerous Jewish community of Spanish descent 
occupied the greater portion of Tlem^en.or Trem^en, 
an important town, where the court resided. Here 
Jacob Berab (born 1474, died 1541), fleeing from 
Spain, found a refuge. He was one of the most 
active men among the Spanish emigrants, and the 
most acute rabbi of his age. At the same time, he 
was a crusty, dogmatical and quarrelsome man, who 
had many enemies, but also many admirers. Born 
at Maqueda, near Toledo, Jacob Berab, after pass- 
ing through many dangers, suffering want, hunger 
and thirst, reached Tlem^en, whence he went to 
Fez, the Jewish community of which chose him, a 
needy youth, for their rabbi, on account of his 
learning and sagacity. There he conducted a col- 
lege until the fanatic Spaniards made conquests in 
northern Africa, and disturbed the quiet asylum that 
the Jews had found there. 

The reduced community of Algiers was under 
the direction of Simon Duran II, a descendant of 
the Spanish fugitives of 1391 (born 1439, died after 
1 5 10), a son of Solomon Duran, the rabbi with 
philosophic culture. Like his brother, he was con- 
sidered in his day a high rabbinical authority, and 
the advice of both was sought by many persons. 
Of as noble a disposition as his father, Simon Duran 
was the protector of his co-religionists and the sheet- 


anchor of the Spanish exiles who came within his 
reach, for he shunned neither cost nor danger when 
the reHgion, morals and safety of his compatriots 
were in question. Fifty fugitive Jews, who had suf- 
fered shipwreck, had been cast on the coast of Seville, 
where the fanatical Spaniards, in accordance with 
the edict, put them into prison, and kept them there 
for two years. They were in daily expectation of 
death, but finally they were pardoned — that is to 
say, sold for slaves. As such they reached Algiers 
in a deplorable condition ; but by the exertions of 
Simon Duran they were redeemed for the sum of 
seven hundred ducats, which the small community 
managed to collect. 

Two eminent Spanish Jews, the aged historian 
and astronomer, Abraham Zacuto, and a younger 
man, Moses Alashkar, found a refuge at Tunis. 
Zacuto, who had taught mathematics and astronomy 
to Christian and Mahometan pupils in Spain, and 
whose published writings were widely read and made 
use of, was nevertheless compelled to wander about 
like an outlaw, and had only with difficulty escaped 
death. He seems to have spent some quiet years 
at Tunis, where he completed his more celebrated 
than useful chronicle ("Sefer Yochasin," 1504), 
history it cannot be called. It is an epitome of 
Jewish history, with especial reference to the litera- 
ture of the Jews. It has the merit of having pro- 
moted historical research among Jews, but lacks 
artistic arrangement and completeness. It is a mere 
compilation from works accessible to the writer, 
who has even failed to give a complete sketch of the 
history of his own times, the sufferings of the Span- 
ish and Portuguese Jews. Zacuto's chronicle was a 
child of his old age and misery ; he wrote it with a 
trembling hand, in fear of impending events, and 
without sufficient literary materials. On this ac- 
count it must be judged leniently. 

A contemporary of Zacuto at Tunis was Moses 


ben Isaac Alashkar, as deeply learned a Talmudist 
as his teacher, Samuel Alvalensi. He was a correct 
thinker, and devoid of narrow one-sidedness. He 
plunged into the dark labyrinths of the Kabbala, 
yet, at the same time, raised his eyes to the bright 
heights of philosophy — a mental misalliance possible 
in those days. Alashkar even defended Maimuni 
and his philosophical system against the charge of 
heresy brought by obscurantists. 

Terrified by the perils which the Spanish arms 
foreboded to the Jews of northern Africa, Zacuto 
and Alashkar, with many others, appear to have 
quitted Tunis. They were but too well acquainted 
with the cruelties practiced against Jews by the ultra- 
Catholic Spaniards. The former went to Turkey, 
where he died shortly after his arrival (before 15 15). 
Alashkar fled to Egypt, where his extensive learn- 
ing and wealth secured for him an honorable posi- 

Egypt, especially its capital, Cairo, had become 
the home of many Jewish-Spanish fugitives, who 
had in a short time acquired an influence surpassing 
that of the original Jewish inhabitants. On their 
arrival, all the Jewish communities were, as of old, 
ruled by a Jewish chief justice or prince (Nagid, 
Reis). The office was then held by the noble and 
rich Isaac Cohen Shalal, a man of upright character, 
learned in the Talmud, who employed his wealth 
and the high esteem in which he was held by all, 
even including the Egyptian Mameluke sultan, for 
the benefit of his community and the fugitives who 
settled in their midst. He impartially promoted 
deserving men of the Spanish immigration to offices, 
whereby they gradually obtained paramount influ- 
ence. The Spanish scholar, Samuel Sidillo (or Sid, 
Ibn-Sid), a disciple of the last Toledan rabbi, Isaac 
de Leon, highly venerated in his day on account of 
his piety and his profound rabbinical knowledge, 
found a refuge at Cairo. A Spanish fugitive who 


acquired still higher distinction was David Ibn-Abi 
Zimra (born 1470, died about 1573). A disciple of 
the mystic Joseph Saragossi, he was rich in knowl- 
edge and virtues, as well as in property and dis- 
tinguished descendants, and he soon outshone the 
natives, acquiring the reputation of being the highest 
rabbinical authority in Egypt. Many other Spanish 
rabbinical scholars found rest in Egypt ; to those 
already named, including Jacob Berab and Moses 
Alashkar, we may add Abraham Ibn-Shoshan, all 
eventually becoming official rabbis. 

Political changes in Egypt placed the Spaniards 
at the head of the Jewish communities in that country. 
The land of the Nile, together with Syria and Pales- 
tine, whose conquest was so difficult a task for the 
sultans of Constantinople, finally became the well- 
secured prey of Selim I, who won a splendid victory 
over the Mameluke sultan in a decisive battle not 
far from Aleppo (15 17). His march from Syria to 
Egypt was a triumphal progress. Selim spent the 
summer of that year in remodeling the order of 
things in Egypt, reducing it to a real dependency 
of Turkey, turning it, in fact, into a province, ruled 
by a viceroy, a pasha entirely devoted to him. Abra- 
ham de Castro, a Jew of Spanish descent, was ap- 
pointed by Selim master of the mint for the new 
Turkish coinage, and, by his wealth and influence, 
he acquired great weight among Turkish officials and 
the Egyptian Jews. De Castro was very benevo- 
lent; he annually spent three thousand gold florins 
in alms, and in ever)' way took lively interest in the 
affairs of his co-religionists. 

Selim, or his viceroy, appears to have introduced 
an entirely new order into the management of the 
Eg\'ptian Jews. For ages a chief rabbi and judge 
had ruled all the communities ; the person holding 
the office had possessed a kind of princely power, 
similar to that formerly exercised by the princes of 
the exile in Babylon. The chief rabbi or prince 


(Nagid) nominated the rabbis of the communities, 
had the supreme decision of disputes among Jews, 
confirmed or rejected every new regulation, was 
even authorized to decree corporal punishment for 
offenses and crimes committed by Jews under his 
jurisdiction. From these functions he derived a 
considerable revenue, but all this ceased with the 
Turkish conquest. Every community was thence- 
forth declared independent in the election of its 
head, and allowed to manage its own affairs. The 
last Jewish-Egyptian prince or chief rabbi was de- 
posed from his dignity, and betook himself with his 
riches to Jerusalem, where he became a benefactor 
of its growing community. The office of rabbi of 
Cairo was bestowed on the Spanish immigrant 
David Ibn-Abi Zimra, on account of his upright 
character, learning, benevolent disposition, and 
chiefly, probably, on account of his wealth. His 
authority rose to such a degree that he could ven- 
ture to abolish a very ancient custom, which exces- 
sive conservatism had dragged along from century 
to century, like a dead limb. The Babylonian Jews 
had more than eighteen hundred years before 
adopted the Syrian or Seleucidan chronology 
[Minyan Yavanim, Minyfin Shetaroth) , in memory 
of the victory of the Syrian king Seleucus over the 
other generals of Alexander the Great. The Syrian 
empire and the Seleucidae had perished long ago, 
Syria had by turns become the prey of Romans, 
Byzantines, Mahometans, Mongols and Turks ; 
nevertheless, the Babylonian and Egyptian Jews 
had retained that chronology, employing it not only 
in historical records and secular papers, but also in 
the dating of documents of divorce and similar 
deeds. Whilst the Jews of Palestine and of Europe 
had gradually adopted other chronologies, as "After 
the Destruction of the Temple," or " Since the Crea- 
tion " {cEra muncil), the Babylonian and Egyptian 
Jews so pertinaciously adhered to the Seleucidan 


era as to declare invalid every letter of divorce not 
so dated. Ibn-Abi Zimra abolished this antiquated 
chronology, as far as Egypt was concerned, introduc- 
ing in its stead the already accepted mode of reckon- 
ing from the Creation, and his innovation met with 
no opposition. The ascendency of the immigrant 
Sephardic Jews over the majority of the original 
community (the Mostarabi) was so great and so 
well established, that the former, in spite of the ob- 
jections of the latter, succeeded in the bold attempt 
to abolish an ancient and beautiful custom, intro- 
duced by Maimuni himself. The Mostarabian Jews 
for more than three centuries had been accustomed 
to have the chief prayer said aloud in the synagogue, 
by the reader (Chazan), without themselves partici- 
pating in it. But to the pious immigrants from the 
Peninsula this custom, though promoting decorum 
and devotion, appeared illegal, anti-Talmudic, if not 
heretical, and they zealously set to work to abolish 
it. Terrible sufferings had hardened the hearts of 
the Sephardic Jews, and they were but too ready 
to exercise the utmost severity in religious matters, 
and slavishly to follow the letter. The rabbi, David 
Ibn-Abi Zimra, was their leader. 

During his term of office a great danger hovered 
over the Cairo community. The fourth viceroy of 
Egypt, Achmed Shaitan (Satan), harbored the de- 
sign of severing Egypt from Turkey, and making 
himself its independent master. Having succeeded in 
his first measures, he proposed to the Jewish super- 
intendent of the mint, Abraham de Castro, to have 
his name placed on the coins. De Castro pretended 
compliance, but asked for a written order. Having 
obtained it he secretly left Egypt, and hastened to 
the court of Solyman I, at Constantinople, to inform 
the sultan of the treacherous design of the pasha, 
which was thus frustrated. Achmed vented his rage 
on the Jews, threw some of them, probably De 
Castro's friends and relatives, into prison, and per- 


mitted the Mamelukes to plunder the Jewish quarter 
of Cairo. He then sent for twelve of the most 
eminent Jews, and commanded them within a short 
time to find an exorbitant sum of money, threaten- 
ing them, in case of non-compliance, with a cruel 
death for themselves and their families. For 
greater security he retained them as hostages. 
To the supplications of the Jewish community for 
mercy and delay, the tyrant replied by more terrible 
threats. In their hopelessness the Jews of Cairo 
tnrned in fervent prayer to God. Meanwhile the 
collectors had got together a considerable sum, 
which they offered as a payment on account. But 
as it scarcely amounted to the tenth part of Ach- 
med's demand, his private secretary had the collec- 
tors put in irons, and threatened them, and all the 
members of the community, with certain death on 
that very day, as soon as his master left his bath. 
At the very moment when the secretary uttered 
these words, the pasha was attacked in his bath by 
Mahomet Bey, one of his vizirs, and some other 
conspirators, and severely wounded. Achmed 
Shaitan made good his escape from the palace, 
but was betrayed, overtaken, cast into fetters and 
then beheaded. The imprisoned Jews were set 
free, and their community escaped a great peril. 
The Egyptian Jews for a long period afterwards 
commemorated the day of their deliverance (Adar 
27th or 28th, 1524 — a Cairoan Purim, Furin al- 

By the immigration of Spaniards and Portuguese, 
Jerusalem and other Palestinian cities also obtained 
a great increase of members to their congregations, 
and considerable importance. Here, too, the immi- 
grants in a short time became the social and 
religious leaders. In the very brief period of seven 
years the number of Jewish families in the Holy 
City grew from scarcely seventy to two hundred, 
and again within the space of two decades (1495- 


152 1 ), it rose from two hundred to fifteen hundred. 
The influx of new settlers had largely augmented 
the prosperity of the Jewish inhabitants of Jeru- 
salem. Whilst formerly nearly all the members of 
the community were in a state of destitution, three 
decades afterwards there were only two hundred 
receiving alms. And what is of greater importance, 
morality was greatly benefited by the immigrants. 
Jerusalem was no longer the den of robbers found 
by Obadyah (Obadiah) di Bertinoro (1470 — 1520), 
who had immigrated from Italy. The members 
of the community were no longer harassed to death, 
and driven to despair or voluntary exile by a rapa- 
cious, tyrannical and treacherous faction ; harmony, 
union, a sense of justice, and peace had found an 
abode with them. There was indeed a show of 
excessive piety, but it no longer flagrantly contrasted 
with a revoltingly immoral mode of life. Obadyah 
di Bertinoro, the gentle and amiable Italian preacher, 
had greatly contributed to this improvement of the 
moral tone of Jerusalem; for more than two decades 
he taught the growing community, by precept and 
example, genuine piety, nobility of sentiment and 
relinquishment of barbarian coarseness. After his 
arrival at Jerusalem, he wrote to his friends: "If 
there were in this country one sagacious Jew, who 
knew how to lead a community gently and justly, 
not Jews only, but also Mahometans would willingly 
submit to him, for the latter are not at all hostile to 
the Jews, but full of consideration for strangers. But 
there is not one Jew in this country possessing either 
sense or social virtues ; all are coarse, misanthrop- 
ical and avaricious." Bertinoro did not anticipate 
that he himself would soften that coarseness, improve 
the morals, mitigate that immorality, ennoble that 
baseness. But his genial, amiable manner disarmed 
evil, and healed the sores he had discovered, lamented, 
and pitilessly exposed. Obadyah was the guardian 
angel of the Holy City, he cleansed it from poUu- 


tion, and clothed it with a pure festival garment. 
"Were I to attempt proclaiming his praise," writes 
an Italian pilgrim to Jerusalem, "I should never 
cease. He is the man who is held in the highest 
esteem in the country; everything is done accord- 
ing to his orders, and no one dares gainsay his 
words. From all parts he is sought after and con- 
sulted ; his merits are acknowledged by Egyptians 
and Babylonians, and even Mahometans honor him. 
Withal, he is modest and humble ; his speech is 
gentle ; he is accessible to every one. All praise 
him and say : He is not like an earthly being. When 
he preaches every ear listens intently ; not the least 
sound is heard, his hearers are so silently devout." 
Exiles from the Pyrenean Peninsula supported him 
in his humane work. 

To the intervention of Obadyah di Bertinoro, and 
of those who shared his opinions, probably were 
due the excellent ordinances which the community 
voluntarily imposed on itself, and for remembrance 
graved on a tablet in the synagogue. They were 
directed against the abuses which had crept in by 
degrees. These ordinances included amongst others 
the following decrees : In disputes between Jews, the 
Mahometan authorities are to be applied to only in 
the utmost necessity. The Jewish judge or rabbi is 
not to be allowed to compel wealthy members of the 
community to make advances for communal wants. 
Students of the Talmud and widows shall not con- 
tribute to the communal funds. Jews are not to 
purchase bad coin, and, if they acquire any acciden- 
tally, are not to pass it. The pilgrims to the grave 
of the prophet Samuel are not to drink wine, for 
men and women traveled together, the latter un- 
veiled, and if the men had been excited by wine, 
great mischief might have ensued. 

The Holy City acquired still higher importance 
by the immigration of Isaac Shalal, with his riches, 
experience, and authority. 


Safet in Galilee, the youngest town of Palestine, 
next to Jerusalem acquired the largest Jewish popu- 
lation and considerable importance, which increased 
to such a degree that Safet not only rivaled, but 
excelled the mother-city. At the end of the fifteenth 
and the beginning of the next century it sheltered 
only some three hundred Jewish families, original 
inhabitants (Moriscos), Berbers, and Sephardim. 
It did not at first possess any eminent native ex- 
pounder of the Talmud, who might have become a 
leader. It owed its importance and far-reaching 
influence to the arrival of a Spanish fugitive, under 
whose direction the community' was strengthened. 
Joseph Saragossi became for Safet what Obadyah 
di Bertinoro had been for Jerusalem. Driven from 
Saragossa, he passed through Sicily, Beyrout and 
Sidon, in which latter place he resided for some 
time, and finally reached Safet, where he settled. 
Joseph Saragossi possessed a mild, fascinating 
character, and considered it the task of his life to 
preach peace and restore harmony in private and 
communal life. Even among Mahometans he 
worked in a conciliating and appeasing spirit, and 
on this account he was loved and revered as an 
angel of peace. At one time he wished to leave 
Safet. The inhabitants fairly clung to him, and 
promised him an annual salary of fifty ducats, two 
thirds of which the Mahometan governor of the town 
offered to furnish. Joseph Saragossi transplanted 
the study of the Talmud to Safet, and also that of 
the Kabbala, as he was an ultra-pious mystic. 
Through him the hitherto untainted community be- 
came a nest of Kabbalists. 

In Damascus, the half-Palestinian capital of Syria, 
there also arose, by the side of the ver)' ancient 
Mostarabian community, a Sephardic congregation, 
composed of fugitives, and numbering five hundred 
Jewish families. Within a short time after their 
arrival, the Spaniards built a splendid synagogue at 


Damascus, called Khataib. They speedily increased 
to such a degree as to separate into several congre- 
gations, according to the states from which they had 
originally come. 

The main stream of the Jewish-Spanish emigration 
flowed towards Turkey in Europe ; the greater part 
of the remnant of the three hundred thousand exiles 
found an asylum in that country, where the inhabit- 
ants did not take love as their watchword. The 
sultans Bajazet, Selim I and Solyman I, not only tol- 
erated the fugitive Jews, but gave them a hearty 
welcome, and granted them the liberties enjoyed by 
Armenians and Greeks. A Jewish poet enthusias- 
tically described the freedom of his co-religionists 
in Turkey. "Great Turkey, a wide and spreading 
sea, which our Lord opened with the wand of His 
mercy (as at the exodus from Egypt), that the tide of 
thy present disaster, Jacob, as happened with the 
multitude of the Egyptians, should therein lose and 
exhaust itself. There the gates of freedom and 
equal position for the unhindered practice of Jewish 
worship are ever open, they are never closed against 
thee. There thou canst renew thy inner life, change 
thy condition, strip off, and cast away false and erro- 
neous doctrines, recover thy ancient truths, and 
abandon the practices which, by the violence of the 
nations among whom thou wast a pilgrim, thou wert 
compelled to imitate. In this realm thou art highly 
favored by the Lord, since therein He granteth 
thee boundless liberty to commence thy late re- 

The immigrant Jews at first enjoyed very happy 
days in Turkey, because they were a godsend to 
this comparatively new state. The Turks were 
good soldiers, but bad citizens. The sultans, 
frequently on bad terms with Christian states, could 
place but indifferent trust in the Greeks, Armenians, 
and Christians of other national creeds ; they looked 
upon them as born spies and traitors, But they 


could depend on the fidelity and usefulness of the 
Jews. Hence they were, on the one hand, the busi- 
ness people, and on the other, the citizen class of 
Turkey. They not only carried on the wholesale 
and retail commerce by land and sea, but were the 
handicraftsmen and the artists. The Marranos 
especially who had fled from Spain and Portugal 
manufactured for the warlike Turks new armor and 
firearms, cannons and gunpowder, and taught the 
Turks how to use them. Thus persecuting Chris- 
tianity itself furnished its chief enemies, the Turks, 
with weapons which enabled them to overwhelm 
the former with defeat after defeat, humiliation on 
humiliation. Jewish physicians especially were held 
in high esteem in Turkey ; they were for the most 
part clever disciples of the school of Salamanca, and, 
on account of their skill, higher education, secrecy 
and discretion, were preferred to Christian, and even 
to Mahometan doctors. These Jewish physicians, 
mosdy of Spanish descent, acquired great influence 
with grand sultans, vizirs and pashas. 

Sultan Selim had for his physician in ordinary 
Joseph Hamon, an immigrant probably from Gra- 
nada. Hamon's son and nephew successively held 
the same office. The son, Moses Hamon (born 
1490, died about 1565), physician to the wise sultan 
Solyman, on account of his skill and manly, deter- 
mined character, enjoyed even higher reputation 
and influence than his father. He accompanied the 
sultan in his warlike expeditions, and brought back 
from Persia, whither he had followed Solyman on a 
triumphal progress, a learned man, Jacob Tus or 
Tavs (about 1535), who translated the Pentateuch 
into Persian. This version, accompanied by Chal- 
dean and Arabic translations, was afterwards printed 
at the expense of Hamon, who was justly considered 
a protector of his brethren and a promoter of 

The Jews were also in great request in Turkey 


as linguists and interpreters, they having acquired 
knowledge of many languages through their wan- 
derings among foreign nations. 

The capital, Constantinople, held within its walls 
a very numerous Jewish community, which was daily 
increased by new fugitives from the Peninsula, so 
that it became the largest in Europe, numbering 
probably thirty thousand souls, 't had forty-four 
synagogues, consequently as many separate congre- 
gations. For the Jewish community in the Turkish 
capital and other towns did not form a close cor- 
poration, but was divided into groups and sections, 
according to their native places, each of which was 
anxious to retain its own customs, rites and liturgy, 
and to possess its own synagogue and rabbinical 
college. Hence there w^ere not only Castilian, Ara- 
gonese and Portuguese congregations, but still more 
restricted associations. Cordovan, Toledan, Barcelo- 
nian, Lisbon groups (Kahals), besides German 
Apulian, Messinian and Greek. Every petty congre- 
gation apportioned among its members the contri- 
butions, not only for its worship, officials, the main- 
tenance of the poor, its hospitals and schools, but 
also for the taxes payable to the state. These latter 
at first were trifling: a poll-tax on everyone subject 
to taxation (charaj), and a kind of rabbinical tax 
levied on the congregation, according to the three 
different classes of property, of 200, 100 and 20 
aspers. The family of the physician Hamon alone 
was exempt from taxes. 

At first the native Jews, who formed the majority, 
had complete preponderance over the immigrants. 
The office of chief rabbi, after the death of the 
meritorious but unappreciated Moses Kapsali, was 
held by Elias Mizrachi, probably descended from 
an immigrant Greek family, who under the sultans 
Bajazet, Selim I, and perhaps also under Solyman, 
had a seat in the divan Hke his predecessor, and 
was the official representative of the whole body 


of Turkish Jews. He deservedly held this post 
on account of his rabbinical and secular knowl- 
edge, and upright, impartially just character. 
Elias Mizrachi (born about 1455, died between 
1525 and 1527), a disciple of the German school, 
and a profound Talmudist and strictly pious man, 
was no enemy to science. He not only under- 
stood, but taught mathematics and astronomy, gave 
public lectures thereon, as also on the Talmud, and 
compiled handbooks on these subjects, some of 
which became such favorites as to be translated into 
Latin. In his youth he was a Hotspur, and had a 
feud with the Karaites in Turkey. But in his old 
age he felt more kindly towards them, and employed 
his weighty influence to avert a wrong which the 
ultra-pious were about to inflict on them. A few 
obscurantists, chiefly members of the Apulian con- 
gregation at Constantinople, attempted to interrupt, 
in a violent manner, the neighborly intercourse 
which for half a century had existed bet\veen Rab- 
banites and Karaites. They assembled the mem- 
bers of the congregation, and, with the Sefer Torah 
in their hand, excommunicated all who should 
henceforth instruct Karaites, whether children or 
adults, in the Bible or the Talmud, or even in 
secular sciences, such as mathematics, natural 
history, logic, music, or even the alphabet. Nor 
were Rabbanite servants any longer to take service 
with Karaite families. These fanatics intended to 
raise an insuperable barrier between the followers 
of the Talmud and those of the Bible. But the 
majority of the Constantinople communit}' were 
dissatisfied with this bigoted measure. The tolerant 
Rabbanites of the capital held a meeting to frustrate 
the plan of the zealots. But the latter behaved so 
outrageously and with such violence, bringing a 
fierce rabble provided with cudgels into the syna- 
gogue where the consultation was to be held, that 
the conveners of the meeting had no chance of 


being heard, and the act of excommunication was 
carried by an insolent minority, in defiance of the 
sound arguments and opposition of the majority. 
Then Rabbi EHas Mizrachi openly and vigorously 
opposed this unreasonable, illegal and violent pro- 
ceeding, showing in a learned discourse how unjust 
and opposed to the Talmud was the rejection of 
the Karaites. He impressed on the zealots the fact 
that by their intolerant severity they would bring 
about the decay of the instruction of the young, 
since hitherto emulation to surpass their Karaite 
companions had been a great incentive to Rabbanite 

The Turkish Jews in those days had a kind of 
political representative, an advocate (Kahiya), or 
chamberlain, who had access to the sultan and his 
great dignitaries, and was appointed by the court, 
Shaltiel, otherwise an unknown personage, but said 
to have been of noble character, held the office 
under Solyman. With a population looking con- 
temptuously on unbelievers, with provincial pashas 
ruling arbitrarily, and with fanatical Greek and Bul- 
garian Christians, instances of injustice and violent 
proceedings against the Jews in the Turkish empire 
were not of rare occurrence; on all such occasions 
the Kahiya Shaltiel interposed on behalf of his co- 
religionists, and, by means of money liberally spent 
at court, obtained redress. 

The community next in importance in Turkey was 
that of Salonica (the ancient Thessalonica), which, 
though an unhealthy town, possessed attractions 
for the immigrants of Spain and Provence ; for this 
once Greek settlement offered more leisure for 
peaceful occupation than the noisy capital of Turkey. 
Ten congregations at least were soon formed here, 
the most of Sephardic origin. Eventually they in- 
creased to thirty-six. Salonica, in fact, became a 
Jewish town, with more Jews than Gentiles. A 
Jewish poet, Samuel Usque, calls the town "a mother 


of Judaism, built on the deep foundation of the Lord, 
full of excellent plants and fruitful trees, such as are 
found nowhere else on earth. Their fruit is glorious, 
because it is watered by an abundance of benevo- 
lence. The greatest portion of the persecuted and 
banished sons from Europe and other parts of the 
earth have met therein, and been received with lov- 
ing welcomes, as if it were our venerable mother, 
Jerusalem." Within a short period the Sephardic 
immigrants acquired complete supremacy over their 
co-religionists, even over the original community, 
so that the leading language of Salonica became 
Spanish, which German and Italian Jews had to 
learn, if they wished to maintain intercourse with 
the Spanish immigrants. The son of one of 
the last Jewish-Spanish ministers of finance, Judah 
Benveniste, had settled here. From his paternal 
inheritance he had saved enough to possess a noble 
library ; he was the standard around which his 
heavily-tried brethren could rally. Representatives 
of Talmudic learning were naturally found among 
the sons of the Pyrenean Peninsula only, such as 
the Taytasaks, a family of scholars, and Jacob Ibn- 
Chabib, though even they were not men of the first 
eminence. Spanish immigrants, such as the physi- 
cians Perachyah Cohen, his son Daniel, Aaron Afia 
(Afifius), and Moses Almosnino, also cultivated 
philosophy and astronomy to some extent. But the 
chief study was that of the Kabbala, in which the 
Spaniards, Joseph Taytasak, Samuel Franco, and 
others, distinguished themselves. Salonica in Tur- 
key and Safet in Palestine in time became the chief 
seats of Kabbalistic extravagance. Of less import- 
ance was Adrianople, the former residence of the 
Turkish sultans, though there also, as at Nicopolis, 
communities in which the Sephardic element pre- 
dominated were formed. 

To the towns of Amasia, Broussa, Tria and Tokat 
in Asia Minor, the Spanish fugitives furnished 


inhabitants. Smyrna, which later on had a large 
Jewish population, was then of little importance. 
Greece, however, could show some large communi- 
ties. Calabrese, Apulian, Spanish and Portuguese 
fugitives settled at Arta or Larta, by the side of the 
original inhabitants, Rumelians and Corfuites. They 
seem to have done well here, for we read that the 
Jewish youth were much given to gayety and dancing, 
thereby greatly offending the ultra-pious. Not un- 
important communities existed at Patras, Negropont 
and Thebes. The Thebans were considered very 
learned in Talmudic lore. The rites of the com- 
munity of Corfu were followed by the other Jews of 
Greece. There was an important community at 
Canea, on the island of Candia, belonging to Venice. 
At their head were two famous families, the Del- 
medigos, sons and relatives of the philosopher 
Elias del Medigo, and the Kapsalis, connections of 
the former chief rabbi of Turkey. Judah Del- 
medigo (the son of the teacher of Pico di Mirandola), 
and Elias ben ElkanahKapsali, finished their studies 
under the same rabbi, Judah Menz, of Padua ; never- 
theless, they were not at one in their views. As 
both held the office of rabbi at Canea, there was 
constant friction between them. If the one declared 
anything to be permissible, the other exerted all 
his learning and ingenuity to prove the contrary; 
yet both were worthy men of high principle, and 
both were well versed in general literature. 

Elias Kapsali (born about 1490, died about 1555) 
was a good historian. When the plague devastated 
Candia, and plunged the inhabitants into mourning, 
he composed (in 1523) a history of the Turkish 
dynasty in a very agreeable Hebrew style, in lucid 
and elevated language, free from pompous and bar- 
barous diction. Kapsali merely aimed at relating 
the truth. Interwoven with the Turkish narrative 
was the history of the Jews, showing in gloomy 
colors the tragic fate of the Spanish exiles, as he 


had heard it from their own lips. Though in this 
composition he had the subsidiary intention oi cheer- 
ing the people during the continuance of the plague, 
his work may serve as a sample of a fine Hebrew 
historical style. It has, indeed, found imitators. 
Kapsali forsook the dry diction of the chroniclers, 
and as an historian was far superior to his prede- 
cessor, Abraham Zacuto. Considering that Kapsali 
was a rabbi by profession, and that in consultations 
and the giving of opinions he was bound to make 
use of a corrupt jargon, his work displays much 
versatility and talent. 

Italy at this period swarmed with fugitive Jews. 
Most of those driven from Spain, Portugal and Ger- 
many first touched Italian soil, either to settle there 
under the protection of some tolerant ruler, or to 
travel on to Greece, Turkey, or Palestine. Strangely 
enough, among the masters of Italy the popes were 
most friendly to the Jews: Alexander VI, Julius 
II, Leo X, and Clement VII, were pursuing interests, 
or devoting themselves to hobbies, which left them 
no time to think of torturing Jews. The popes 
and their cardinals considered the canonical laws 
only in so far as they needed them for the extension 
of their power or to fill their money-bags. Totally 
oblivious of the decree of the council of Basle, which 
enacted that Christians were not to consult Jewish 
physicians, the popes and cardinals themselves chose 
Jews as their physicians in ordinary. It appears 
that, owing to the secret warfare, the intrigues and 
the frequent use of poison, which, since Alexander 
VI, had been rife in the curia, where every one 
looked on his companion as an enemy, Jewish phy- 
sicians were in favor, because there was no danger 
of their offering a pope or cardinal a poisoned cup 
instead of a salutary remedy. Alexander VI had 
a Jewish physician, Bonet de Lates, a native of 
Provence, who practiced astrology, prepared an 
astronomical circle, and sent the pope the Latin de- 


scrlptlon thereof with a fulsome dedication. Bonet 
de Lates afterwards became the favorite physician 
in ordinary to Leo X, and influenced his conduct. 
JuHus II had for his physician Simon Zarfati, who 
in other respects also enjoyed his masters confi- 
dence. Cardinals and other high princes of the 
church followed their examples, and generally in- 
trusted their sacred bodies to Jewish doctors, who 
consequently were much sought after in Italy. Fol- 
lowing the example of the popes, the northern 
Italian cities received fugitive Jews, even pseudo- 
Christians re-converted to Judaism, from Spain and 
Germany, and admitted them to all the privileges 
of free intercourse. Even the popes permitted 
Marranos to setde at Ancona, notwithstanding 
their having been baptized. The most important 
communities in Italy were formed, after the an- 
nihilation of the Jews of Naples, by an influx from 
other countries into Roman and Venetian terri- 
tory ; in the latter, Venice and the flourishing city 
of Padua, in the former, Rome and the port of An- 
cona, receiving most of them. Two opposite views 
with regard to Jews swayed the council of the 
egotistical Venetian republic. On the one hand, this 
commercial state did not wish to lose the advantages 
that Jewish connections might bring, though at the 
same time it was loath to foster them, for fear of 
offending the Levantine Jews, their co-religionists in 
Turkey; on the other hand, the Venetian merchants 
were full of trade envy against Jews. Hence the 
latter were caressed or oppressed as the one or 
the other party predominated in the Signoria. 
Venice was the first Italian city wherein Jews resi- 
ded which set apart a special quarter as a Ghetto 
(March, 1516). 

As a rule the immigrant Jews, Spaniards or Ger- 
mans, obtained supremacy in Italy over native 
Jews, both in rabbinical learning and communal 
relations. The Abrabanels played an important 


part in Italy. The head of the family, Isaac Abra- 
banel, indeed, was too much bowed down by age 
and suffering to exercise much influence in any 
direction. He died before Jewish affairs had as- 
sumed a settled condition. His eldest son, Leon 
Medigo, likewise made no impression on his sur- 
roundings ; he was too much of a philosophical 
dreamer and idealist, a poetic soul averse to dealing 
with the things of this world. Only the youngest 
of the three brothers, Samuel Abrabanel (born 1473, 
died about 1 550) left his mark on his contemporaries. 
He was considered the most eminent Jew in Italy, 
and his community venerated him like a prince. 
He alone inherited his father's financial genius, and, 
after his return from the Talmudic college at Salon- 
ica, appears to have availed himself of it, and to 
have been employed in the department of finance 
by the viceroy of Naples, Don Pedro de Toledo. 
At Naples he acquired a considerable fortune, val- 
ued at more than 200,000 zechins. He employed 
his wealth to gratify the disposition hereditary in his 
family to practice noble beneficence. The Jewish 
poet, Samuel Usque, gives an enthusiastic description 
of his heart and mind : " Samuel Abrabanel deserves 
to be called Trismegistus (thrice great) ; he is great 
and wise in the Law, great in nobility, and great in 
riches. With his wealth he is always magnanimous, 
a help in the sorrows of his brethren. He joins in- 
numerable orphans in wedlock, supports the needy, 
and redeems captives, so that he possesses all the 
great qualities which make the prophet," 

To increase his happiness heaven had given him 
a companion in life, the complement of his high 
virtues, whose name, Benvenida Abrabanela, was 
uttered by her contemporaries with devout venera- 
tion. Tender-hearted, deeply religious, wise and 
courageous, she was a pattern of refinement and high 
breeding, qualities more highly esteemed in Italy than 
in any other European country. Don Pedro, the 


powerful Spanish viceroy of Naples, allowed his sec'- 
ond daughter, Leonora, to be on intimate terms with 
Benvenida, that she might learn by her example. 
When this daughter afterwards became Duchess of 
Tuscany, she kept up her acquaintance with the 
Jewish lady, and called her by the honored name of 
mother. This noble pair, Samuel Abrabanel and 
Benvenida, in whom tenderness and worldly wis- 
dom, warm attachment to Judaism and social inter- 
course with non-Jewish circles were combined, were 
at once the pride and the sheet-anchor of the Ital- 
ian Jews, and of all who came under their ben- 
eficent influence. Samuel Abrabanel, though not 
so well versed in the Talmud as his poetic wor- 
shiper represents him to have been, was a friend and 
promoter of Jewish knowledge. To fill the office of 
rabbi at Naples, he sent for David Ibn-Yachya and 
his young, courageous wife, who had fled from 
Portugal (1518) ; and, as the congregation was 
too small to pay his salary, Abrabanel paid it him- 
self. In his house the learned Yachya lectured on 
the Talmud, and probably also on Hebrew grammar. 
He thus formed a center far Jewish science in south- 
ern Italy. Christian men of science also resorted to 
Abrabanel's house. 

The chief seat of Talmudic or rabbinical studies 
was at that time at Padua, where presided not Ital- 
ians butimmigrantGermans. Judah Menz, of May- 
ence, even at his great age of more than a hundred 
years, exercised attractive power over studious dis- 
ciples from Italy, Germany, and Turkey, as though 
from his lips they would learn the wisdom of a time 
about to pass away. To be a pupil of Menz, was 
considered a great honor and distinction. After he 
died, his son, Abraham Menz, undertook the direc- 
tion of the college (1504 — 1526) ; but his authority 
was not undisputed. The native Jews have in no 
direction left names of note. The chronicles men- 
tion some famous Jewish-Italian physicians, who also 


distinguished themselves in other branches, such as 
Abraham deBalmes (1521), of Lecce, physician and 
friend of Cardinal Grimani. De Balmes possessed 
philosophical knowledge, and wrote a work on the 
Hebrew language, which was published with a Latin 
translation by a Christian. Other Jewish physicians 
of the same age were Judah, or Laudadeus de Blanis, 
at Perugia, a worshiper of the Kabbala, and Obad- 
yah, or Servadeus de Sforno (Sfurno, born about 
1470, died 1 550), a physician of Rome and Bologna, 
who, besides medicine, studied biblical and philo- 
sophical subjects, and dedicated some of his Hebrew 
writings with a Latin translation to King Henry II, 
of France. But, as far as we are now able to judge 
of these highly praised compositions, they are medi- 
ocre, and the authors, even in their own times, 
enjoyed but local reputation. It is certain that 
De Balmes and Sforno are far beneath Jacob 
Mantin , who, driven from Tortosa to Italy, there dis- 
tinguished himself as a physician and philosopher, 
leaving a famous name behind him. Mantin (born 
about 1490, died about 1549) was a great linguist; 
beside his native language and Hebrew, he under- 
stood Latin, Italian and Arabic. He was a deeply 
learned physician and philosopher, and translated 
medical and metaphysical works from Hebrew or 
Arabic into Latin. He was held in high esteem as 
physician by a pope and the ambassador of Charles 
V at Venice. But his learning was marred by his 
iniquitous character ; envy and ambition led him to 
commit wicked deeds, to accuse and persecute inno- 
cent persons, even his own co-religionists. 

In those days there lived in Italy a man, who, 
though not distinguished by any brilliant achieve- 
ment, was superior to nearly all his co-religionists 
by a qualification better and rarer than literary 
ability. He was gifted with common sense and a 
fine understanding, which led him not to judge of 
things by appearances, or from a limited point of 


view. Abraham Farissol (born 1451, died about 
1525), a native of Avignon, for reasons unknown, 
perhaps from want, had emigrated to Ferrara. He 
supported himself by copying books, and also, it 
would appear, by officiating as chorister at the syna- 
gogue. Though he was in needy circumstances, and 
confined within narrow surroundings, his perception 
was acute, his horizon wide, and his judgment ma- 
tured. Like most of his learned contemporaries in 
Italy, he commented on the Bible, and his independ- 
ence of thought in the midst of the dense credulity 
of his time constitutes his claim upon pre-eminence. 
He said of himself, "As regards miracles, I belong 
to those of little faith." Farissol was the first Jewish 
author who, instead of studying the starry firma- 
ment, astronomy and astrology (to which Jewish 
authors of the Middle Asjes were but too much in- 
clined), turned his attention to investigate the con- 
figuration and phenomena of our globe. He was 
influenced to undertake these studies by the mar- 
velous discoveries of the southern coasts of Africa 
and India by the Portuguese, and of America by 
the Spaniards. Penetrating mediaeval mist and the 
deceptive illusions of fancy, Farissol saw things as 
they actually are, and deeming it necessary to point 
them out, he scoffed at ignorant men who, in their 
pseudo-learned conceit, considered geography of 
no account. He had to show conclusively that 
the Book of books, the holy record of the Torah, 
attached importance to geographical data, in doing 
which he indicated a new point of view for the 
comprehension of the Bible : it was not to be ex- 
plained by allegories and metaphysical or Kabba- 
listic reveries, but by actual facts and the plain 
meaning of the words. 

Farissol had access to the court of the duke of 
Ferrara, Hercules d'Este I, one of the best princes 
of Italy, who vied with the Medici in the promotion 
of science. The duke took delight in his conver* 


sation, and often invited him to discuss religious 
questions with learned monks. It seemed as if 
frequent religious disputations and intellectual en- 
counters were to be renewed on Italian soil. Faris- 
sol displayed philosophical calm, besides caution, 
and forbearance for the sensibilities of his oppo- 
nents, when touching upon their weak points. At 
the request of the duke of Ferrara, Farissol wrote 
down in Hebrew the substance of his discourses 
with the monks, and reproduced it in Italian, to 
give his opponents an opportunity for refutation. 
But his polemical and apologetic work is of much 
less value than his geographical writings, which he 
completed in his old age, with one foot in the grave. 
They display Farissol's clear mind, common sense 
and extensive learninor, 


The Italian Jews had at least the right of free 
discussion with Christians. But as soon as they 
crossed the Alps into Germany they breathed raw 
air, politically as well as atmospherically. Few 
Sephardic fugitives visited this inhospitable land. 
The German population was as hostile to Jews as 
the Spanish. True, the Germans had no occa- 
sion to envy Jews on account of the position 
and influence of Jewish magnates at royal courts, 
but they grudged them even their miserable 
existence in the Jews' lanes in which they were 
penned up. They had been banished from some 
German districts, from Cologne, Mayence and 
Augsburg, and not a Jew was to be found in all 
Suabia. From other parts they were expelled at 
about the same time as from Spain. Emperor 
Frederick III to his last hour protected those 
outlawed by all the world. He even had a Jew- 
ish physician, a rarity in Germany, the learned 
Jacob ben Yechiel Loans, whom he greatly favored, 
and made a knight. Frederick is said on his death- 
bed to have strongly recommended the Jews to his 
son, enjoining on him to protect them, and not to 


listen to calumnious accusations, whose falsity he 
had fathomed. It appears that Jacob Loans also 
enjoyed the favor of Emperor Maximilian, whose 
lot it was to rule over Germany in very troublous 
times. He transferred this favor to Loans' rela- 
tives, for he appointed a certain Joseph ben Ger- 
shon Loans, of Rosheim, in Alsace, as official repre- 
sentative of all German Jews at the diet. This 
Joseph (Josselman, Joselin) was distinguished neither 
by his rabbinical knowledge, nor his position, nor 
riches ; yet, to a certain extent, he was the official 
representative of German Judaism. His most 
striking qualities were untiring activity, when it was 
necessary to defend his unfortunate co-religionists, 
his love of truth, and fervent clinging to his faith 
and people. Born 1480, died 1555, for half a cent- 
ury he vigorously protected his co-religionists in 
Germany, and became security for them when the 
ruling powers insisted on special bail. The Jews, 
therefore, praised and blessed him as their "Great 

But the very fact that the German Jews needed 
a defender proves that their condition was not 
easy. For Emperor Maximilian was not a man of 
decided character, but was swayed by all kinds of 
influences and insinuations ; nor did he always fol- 
low his father's advice. His conduct towards the 
Jews, therefore, was always wavering ; now he 
granted, or at least promised, them his protection ; 
now he offered his help, if not for their sanguinary 
persecution, at least for their expulsion or humilia- 
tion. At times he lent ear to the lying accusations 
that the Jews reviled the host, and murdered infants, 
falsehoods diligently promulgated by Dominican 
friars, and, since the alleged martyrdom of young 
Simon of Trent, readily believed. Hence, during 
Maximilian's reign, Jews were not only expelled 
from Germany and the adjoining states, but were 
hunted down and tortured ; they were in daily ex- 


pectation of the rack, and of the martyr's death, so 
that a special confession of sins was drawn up for 
such cases, and the innocently accused, summoned 
to apostatize, sealed their confession with death, and 
joyfully sacrificed themselves for the One God. 
When, either with the sanction or by the passive per- 
mission of the emperor, Jews were banished, he felt 
no compunction in confiscating their property and 
turning it into money. 

The emperor did not, indeed, expel the Nurem- 
berg community, but for a pecuniary consideration 
gave the citizens leave to do so. Yet Christians 
presumed to reproach Jews with making money un- 
justly, whereas only the rich did so, and then only on a 
small scale. Immediately after the emperor's acces- 
sion, the townsmen of Nuremberg appealed to him 
to permit the expulsion of the Jews on account of 
"loose conduct." This "loose conduct" was explained 
in the indictment to be the reception of foreign 
co-religionists, whereby the normal number of Jews 
had been excessively increased in the town ; the 
practice of inordinate usury; fraud in recovery of 
debts, whereby honest tradesmen had been impov- 
erished, and finally the harboring of rogues and 
vagabonds. To stir up hatred against them, and 
to confirm the Latin reading (i. e., the educated) 
classes, in the illusion that Jews were blasphem- 
ers, revilers of the host and infanticides, the rich 
citizen, Antonius Koberger, had the venomous anti- 
Jewish Fortalitium fidei of the Spanish Franciscan, 
Alfonso de Spina, reprinted at his own expense. 
After long petitioning, Emperor Maximilian at last 
granted the prayer of Nuremberg, " on account of 
the fidelity with which the town had ever served the 
imperial house," abrogated the privileges enjoyed 
by the Jews, and allowed the town council to fix a 
time for their expulsion, stipulating, however, that 
the houses, lands, synagogues, and even the Jewish 
cemetery should fall to the imperial treasury. He, 


moreover, granted to Nuremberg the privilege of 
being forever exempt from receiving Jews within its 
walls (July 5th, 1498). The town council at first 
allowed four months only for the exodus — and the 
cultured, virtuous and humanity-preaching patrician, 
Willibald Pirkheimer, afterwards so strong a pillar 
of the Humanists, was then a member of the coun- 
cil ! Upon the supplications of the unfortunate 
people, the short reprieve was prolonged by three 
months. But the Jews, summoned to the synagogue 
by the sheriffs, had to swear to leave the town by 
that time. At last, on March loth, 1499, the 
much reduced community left Nuremberg, to which 
it had returned after the Black Death. 

At about the same time the Jews of other German 
towns, Ulm, Nordlingen, Colmar, and Magdeburg, 
were sent into banishment. 

The community of Ratisbon, then the oldest in 
Germany, was to fare still worse ; even then it heard 
the warning voice to prepare for expulsion. Since 
the inhabitants of that imperial city, through the dis- 
putes with the Jews growing out of the false blood- 
accusation, had suffered humiliation and pecuniary 
loss at the hands of Emperor Frederick, the former 
friendly feeling between Jews and Christians had 
given way to bitterness and hatred. Instead of at- 
tributing to the right cause the troubles and misfor- 
tunes which had come upon the town by its attempted 
secession from the empire, the citizens charged the 
Jews with being the authors of their misfortunes, 
and vented their anger on them. The priests, ex- 
asperated by the failure of their plot against the 
Jews, daily stirred up the fanaticism of the populace, 
openly preaching that the Jews must be expelled. 
The millers refused to sell them flour, the bakers, 
bread ( 1 499) , for the clergy had threatened the trades- 
people with excommunication if they supplied them 
with food. On certain days Jews were not ad- 
mitted into the market place, on others they 


were allowed to make their purchases only after 
stated hours, when the Christians had satisfied their 
wants. " Under severe penalties," imposed by the 
senate, Christians were prohibited from making pur- 
chases for Jews ; the former were to " secure the 
glory of God and their own salvation " by being cruel 
to the latter. The town council seriously discussed 
applying to Emperor Maximilian to give his consent 
to the expulsion of the Jews, allowing about 
twenty-four families to remain. For a few years 
more they were permitted to drag on a miserable 
existence. Besides Ratisbon, only two large com- 
munities remained in Germany, viz., at Frankfort- 
on-the-Main and Worms, and even these were 
often threatened with expulsion. 

There were many Jews in Prague, but this town 
was not in Germany proper ; Bohemia was counted 
a private possession of the crown, under the rule of 
Ladislaus, king of Hungary. The Bohemian Jews 
were not too well off under him ; the Jewish quarter 
in Prague was often plundered by the populace. 
The citizens were sincerely anxious to expel the 
Jews from Bohemia. But the latter had their pa- 
trons, especially among the nobility. When, at a 
diet, the question of the expulsion or retention of 
the Jews arose, the decree was passed (August 7th, 
1 501) that the crown of Bohemia was for all time 
to tolerate them. If any one of them offended 
against the law, he only was to be punished ; his 
crime was not to be visited on the whole Jewish 
community. King Ladislaus confirmed this decision 
of the diet, only to break itver}- shortly after, for the 
citizens of Prague were opposed to it, and spared no 
pains to frustrate its fulfillment. They so strongly 
prejudiced the king against the Jews as to induce 
him to decree their expulsion, and to threaten with 
banishment such Christians as should venture to inter- 
cede for them. By what favorable dispensation they 
remained in the country is not known. Though in 


daily expectation of expatriation, they grew recon- 
ciled to having their habitation on the verge of a 
volcano. A descendant of the Italian family of 
printers, Soncinus, named Gershon Cohen, estab- 
lished a Hebrew printing office at Prague (about 
1503), the first in Germany, nearly four decade? 
after the foundation of Hebrew printing offices in 

The Prague community does not seem to have 
excelled in learning ; for some time not a single 
scientific work, not even one on a Talmudic or rab 
binical subject, issued from the press of Gershon 
it merely supplied the needs of the synagogue, 
whilst Italian and Turkish offices spread important 
ancient and contemporary works. We find but 
one rabbinical authority mentioned in those days : 
Jacob Polak (born about 1460, died about 1530), 
the originator of a new method of Talmud study, a 
foreigner, and, with the exception of his namesake 
Jacob Berab, in the East, the most profound and sa- 
gacious Talmudist of his time. Curiously enough, 
the astonishing facility of ingenious disquisition on 
the basis of the Talmud (Pilpul), attributed to Polak, 
which attained its highest perfection in Poland, pro- 
ceeded from a native of Poland. 

After Italy and Turkey, Poland was in those 
days a refuge for hunted and exiled wanderers, 
chiefly for those from Germany. Here, as well as 
in Lithuania, united with Poland under one sov- 
ereign, Jews enjoyed a better position than in the 
neighboring lands beyond the Vistula and the Car- 
pathians, though the monk Capistrano had for a 
while interrupted the good understanding between 
the government and the Jews. 

Kings and the nobility were, to a certain extent, 
dependent on them, and, when other interests did 
not conflict, generally granted them privileges, be- 
cause with their capital and commerce they were 
able to turn the territorial wealth of the country 


into money, and to supply its inhabitants, poor in 
coin, with the necessary funds. The farming of the 
tolls and the distilleries were mostly in the hands of 
Jews. It goes without saying that they also pos- 
sessed land, and carried on trades. Against 500 
Christian there were 3,200 Jewish wholesale dealers 
in Poland, and three times as many artificers, in- 
cluding workers in gold and silver, smiths and 
weavers. The statute of Casimir IV, so favorable 
to Jews, was still in force. For though, constrained 
by the fanatical monk Capistrano, he had abro- 
gated it, yet in view of the advantages that the 
crown of Poland derived from the Jews, he re-en- 
acted the same laws a lew years after. The Jews 
were generally treated as citizens of the state, and 
were not compelled to wear ignominious badges ; 
they were also allowed to carry arms. After the 
death of this politic king, two opponents arose 
against them : on the one hand, the clergy, who 
saw in the favored position of the Polish Jews an of- 
fense to Christianity, and on the other, the German 
merchants, who, long settled in Polish towns, had 
brought with them their guilds and old-fashioned 
prejudices, and hated the Jewish traders and arti- 
ficers from sheer envy. United they succeeded in 
prejudicing the successors of Casimir, his sons John 
Albert and Alexander, against the Jews, so that 
their privileges were abolished, and the Jews them- 
selves confined to particular quarters, or even ban- 
ished altogether from certain towns (1496 — 1505). 
But the next sovereign, Sigismund I (1506 — 1548), 
was favorably disposed towards them, and repeat- 
edly protected them against persecution and expul- 
sion. The strongest supporters, however, of the 
Polish Jews were the Polish nobility, who hated the 
Germans from national and political antipathy, and 
therefore, both from policy and inclination, favored 
the Jews, and used them as their tools against the 
arrogant Germans. And since the nobles held the 


high official posts, the laws against Jews, to the 
vexation of the clergy and the guilds, remained a 
dead letter. Poland, therefore, was an asylum 
much sought after by persecuted Jews. If a Jew 
who had turned Christian, or a Christian, wished 
to become a Jew, he could do so as freely in Poland 
as in Turkey. 

The rabbis were important agents for the crown. 
They had the privilege of collecting the poll-tax 
from the communities and paying it over to the 
state. Therefore, the rabbis of large towns, ap- 
pointed or confirmed by the king, became chiefs in 
the administration of communal affairs, represented 
the Jews before the crown, and bore the title of 
chief rabbi. The rabbis retained the civil jurisdic- 
tion, and were authorized to banish unworthy mem- 
bers, and even to inflict the punishment of death. 
But in Poland, the country which for several centu- 
ries was to become the chief home of the Talmud 
and the nursery of Talmudic students and rabbis, 
which was long enveloped, as it were, in a Tal- 
mudic atmosphere, there were no prominent Tal- 
mudists at the beginning of the sixteenth century ; 
it became the home of the Talmud only after the 
immigration of numerous German scholars. Coming 
from the districts of the Rhine and Main, from Ba- 
varia, Suabia, Bohemia, and Austria, swarms of Jew- 
ish families settled on the banks of the Vistula and 
the Dnieper, having lost their fortunes, but bringing 
with them their most precious possessions, which 
they defended with their lives, and which they could 
not be robbed of, namely, their religious convictions, 
the customs of their fathers, and their Talmudic 
learning. The German rabbinical school, which at 
home had no breathing-space, established itself in 
Poland and Lithuania, in Ruthenia and Volhynia, 
spread in all directions, and, impregnated with Sla- 
vonic elements, transformed itself into a peculiar, a 
Polish school. 


But the Jewish-German fugitives transplanted to 
Poland not only the knowledge of the Talmud, but 
also that of the German language, as then spoken ; 
this they imparted to the native Jews, and it gradu- 
ally superseded the Polish or Ruthenian tongue. 
As the Spanish Jews turned portions of European 
and Asiatic Turkey into a new Spain, the German 
Jews transformed Poland, Lithuania, and the terri- 
tories belonging thereto, into a new Germany. 
For several centuries, therefore, the Jews were di- 
vided into Spanish and German speaking Jews, 
the Italian speaking members being too small in 
number to count, especially as in Italy the Jews 
were compelled to understand either Spanish or 
German. The Jews settled in Poland gradually 
cast off their German awkwardness and simplicity, 
but not the language. They honored it as a pal- 
ladium, as a holy remembrance ; and though in their 
intercourse with Poles they made use of the lan- 
guage of the country, in the family circle, and in 
their schools and prayers, they adhered to German. 
They valued it, next to Hebrew, as a holy language. 
It was a fortunate thing for the Jews that at the 
time when new storms gathered over their heads 
in Germany, they found on her borders a country 
which offered them a hospitable welcome and pro- 
tection. For a tempest burst in Germany, which 
had its first beginnings in the narrow Jewish circle, 
but eventually drew on the Jews the attention of all 
Christendom. An eventful, historical birth, which 
was to change the face of European affairs, lay, so 
to speak, in a Jewish manger. 



Antecedents of the Convert John Pfefferkorn — Pfefferkorn and the 
Dominicans of Cologne — Hoogstraten, Ortuinus Gratius and 
Arnold of Tongern — Victor von Karben — Attacks on the 
Talmud and Confiscation of Copies in Frankfort — Reuchlin's 
Hebrew and Kabbalistic Studies — The Controversy concerning 
the Talmud — Activity on both Sides — Public Excitement — 
Complete Victory of Reuchlin's Efforts in Defense of Jewish 
Literature — Ulrich von Hutten — Luther — Revival of Hebrew 

1500 — 1520 C.E. 

Who could have anticipated that from the German 
nation, everywhere considered heavy and stupid, 
from the land of lawless knights, of daily feuds 
about trifles, of confused political conditions, where 
everyone was both despot and slave, mercilessly op- 
pressing his inferiors, and pitifully cringing to his su- 
periors — who could have anticipated that from this 
people and this country would proceed a movement 
destined to shake European affairs to their center, 
create new political conditions, give the Middle 
Ages their death-blow, and set its seal on the dawn 
of a new historical era ? A reformation of church 
and politics, such as enlightened minds then dreamt 
of, was least expected from Germany. Yet there 
slumbered latent powers in that country, which only 
needed awaking to develop into regenerating forces. 
The Germans still adhered to ancient simplicity 
of life and severity of morals, pedantic, it is true, 
and ludicrous in manifestation ; whilst the leading 
Romance countries, Italy, France and Spain, were 
suffering from over-refinement, surfeit and moral 
corruption. Because the Germans had retained 
their original Teutonic dullness, the clergy could 
not altogether succeed in infecting them with the 


poison of their vicious teaching. Their lower 
clerg\^ compared with that of other European 
countries, was more chaste and modest. The in- 
nate love of family life and genial association, which 
the Germans have in common with Jews, pre- 
served them from that moral depravity to which 
the Romance nations had already succumbed. In 
the educated circles of Italy, especially at the papal 
court, Christianity and its doctrines were sneered 
at ; the political power they conferred alone being 
valued. But in Germany, where there was little 
laughter, except in taverns, Christianity was treated 
as a more serious matter ; it was looked upon as 
an ideal, which had once been alive, and would live 

But these moral germs in the German race were 
so deeply buried that it needed favorable circum- 
stances to bring them to light, and cause them to 
stand forth as historical potencies. However much 
the Germans themselves may ignore it, the Talmud 
had a great share in the awakening of these slum- 
bering forces. We can boldly assert that the war 
for and agfainst the Talmud aroused German con- 
sciousness, and created a public opinion, without 
which the Reformation, like many other efforts, 
would have died in the hour of birth, or, perhaps, 
would never have been born at all. A paltry grain 
of sand caused the fall of an avalanche, which shook 
the earth around. The instrument of this mighty 
change was an ignorant, thoroughly vile creature, 
the scum of the Jewish people, who does not de- 
serve to be mentioned in history or literature, but 
whom Providence seems to have appointed like 
some noisome insect involuntarily to accomplish a 
useful work. 

Joseph Pfefferkom, a native of Moravia, was by 
trade a butcher, and, as may easily be surmised, illit- 
erate. His moral turpitude was even greater than 
his ignorance. He committed a burglary, was caught, 


condemned to imprisonment by Count de Gutten- 
stein, and released only at the urgent prayers of his 
relatives, and on payment of a fine. It appears that 
he hoped to wash away this disgrace with baptismal 
water ; the church was not scrupulous, and received 
even this despicable wretch, when at the age of 
thirty-six he presented himself^ with wife and chil- 
dren, to be received into Christianity (about 1505?). 
He seems to have been baptized at Cologne ; at any 
rate, he was kept and made much of by the ignorant, 
proud and fanatical Dominicans of that city. Cologne 
was an owls' nest of light-shunning swaggerers, who 
endeavored to obscure the dawn of a bright day with 
the dark clouds of superstition, hostile to knowledge. 
At their head was Hochstraten (Hoogstraten), an 
inquisitor or heretic-hunter, a violent, reckless man, 
who literally longed for the smell of burning heretics, 
and in Spain would have been a useful Torquemada. 
His counterpart was Arnold of Tongern (Tungern), 
a Dominican professor of theology. The third in 
the coalition was Ortuin de Graes, of Deventer (who 
Latinized his name to Ortuinus Gratius), the son of 
a clergyman. Ortuin de Graes entertained so vio- 
lent a hatred against Jews that it could not have 
been due solely to religious zeal. He made it his 
special business to stir up the wrath of the Christians 
by anti-Jewish writings. But as he was too ignorant 
to concoct a book or even a pamphlet, he surrounded 
himself with baptized Jews, who had to supply him 
with materials. A Jew, who, during a persecution 
or for some reason, had become a convert to Chris- 
tianity in his fiftieth year, and assumed the name of 
Victor von Karben, though he had but little 
Hebrew and rabbinical learning, was dubbed rabbi, 
in order to give more weight to his attacks on Juda- 
ism and to his confession of Christianity. It is not 
precisely known whether Victor von Karben, who 
sorrowfully stated that on his conversion he left his 
wife, three children, brothers and dear friends, vol- 


untarily or by compulsion reproached the Jews with 
hating Christians and reviling Christianit}'. He 
supplied Ortuinus Gratius with materials for accusa- 
tions against them, their Talmud, their errors and 
abominations, which Ortuinus worked up into a book. 
But Victor von Karben appears, after all, not to have 
been of much service, or he was too old (born 1442, 
died 151 5) to assist in the execution of a deep 
scheme, destined to bring profitable business to the 
Dominicans, the heresy-judges of men and writings. 
But they needed a Jew for this purpose ; their own 
order had not long before got into rather bad odor. 
Pfefferkorn was the very man for them. He lent 
his name to a new anti-Jewish publication, written in 
Latin by Ortuinus Gratius. It was entitled " A 
Mirror for Admonition," inviting the Jews to be con- 
verted to Christianity. This first anti-Jewish book 
with Pfefferkorn' s name dealt gently with the Jews, 
even sought to show the groundlessness of the 
frequent accusations with regard to stealing and 
murdering Christian children. It entreats Christians 
not to banish the Jews, nor to oppress them too 
heavily, since to a certain extent they are human 
beings. But this friendliness was only a mask, 
a feeler put forth to gain firm ground. For the 
Cologne Dominicans aimed at the confiscation of 
the Talmudic writings, as in the days of Saint 
Louis of France, This was distantly pointed to in 
Pfefferkorn's first pamphlet, which endeavored to 
throw suspicion on the Talmud, and adduced three 
reasons to explain the stiff-necked unbelief of 
Jews : their practice of usury, the fact that they were 
not compelled to go to church, and their attachment 
to the Talmud. These obstacles once removed, 
Jews would throng to church in crowds. The pam- 
phlet, therefore, admonished princes and people to 
check the usury of the Jews, to compel them to at- 
tend church and listen to sermons, and to burn the 
Talmud. It admitted that it is not just to infringe 


upon the Jews' claim to their writings, but Christians 
did not hesitate, in certain cases, to do violence to 
Jews, and compared w^ith that the confiscation 
of the Talmudic books was a venial offense. This 
was the sole object of the pamphlet under Pfeffer- 
korn's name. It was generally believed in Germany 
that the Cologne owls expected to do a good stroke 
of business ; if they could induce the ruling powers 
to sequestrate all copies of the Talmud, Domin- 
icans, as inquisitors, would have the disposal of 
them, and the Jews, who could not do without the 
Talmud, would pour their wealth into Dominican 
coffers to have the confiscation annulled. Hence, in 
the succeeding two years, still putting Pfefferkorn 
forward as the author, they published several pam- 
phlets, wherein it was asserted to be a Christian duty 
to expel all Jews, like so many mangy dogs. If the 
princes would not do so, the people were to take 
the matter into their own hands, solicit their rulers 
to deprive the Jews of all their books except the 
Bible, forcibly take from them all pledges, above all, 
see that their children be brought up as Christians, 
and expel the adults as incorrigible rogues. It was 
no sin to do the worst to' Jews, as they were not 
freemen, but body and soul the property of the 
princes. If they refused to listen to the prayer of 
their subjects, the people were to assemble in masses, 
even create a riot, and impetuously demand the ful- 
fillment of the Christian duty of degrading the Jews. 
The masses were to declare themselves champions of 
Christ, and carry out his will. Whoso did an injury 
to Jews was a follower of Christ; whoso favored 
them was worse than they, and would hereafter be 
punished with eternal suffering and hell fire. 

But Pfefferkorn, Ortuinus Gratius and the Cologne 
Dominicans had come too late in the day. Riots 
for the killing of Jews, though they were no less 
hated and despised than in the times of the cru- 
sades and of the Black Death, were no longer the 


fashion. Princes were little disposed to expel the 
Jews, since with them a regular revenue would 
disappear. Zeal for the conversion of Jews had 
considerably cooled down ; in fact, many Chris- 
tians pointed scornfully at baptized Jews, saying 
that they resembled clean linen : as long as it is 
fresh the eye delights in it, after a few days' wear 
it is cast aside as soiled. Thus a converted Jew, 
immediately after his baptism, is cherished by the 
Christians ; when some days have passed he is neg- 
lected, avoided, and finally made sport of 

The German Jews, dreading new dangers from 
Pfefferkorn's zeal, endeavored to thwart him. Jew- 
ish physicians, usually held in high favor at the 
courts of princes, appear to have exerted their in- 
fluence with their patrons to show the falsity of 
Pfefferkorn's accusations, and to render them in- 
effectual. Even Christians manifested their dissat- 
isfaction with the machinations of the baptized Jew, 
and loudly proclaimed PfeiTerkorn to be a worthless 
fellow and a hypocrite, who was not to be believed, 
his object being simply to delude the foolish, and 
fill his own purse. He, therefore, published a new 
pamphlet (March, 1509), which he impudently enti- 
tled " The Enemy of the Jews." This venomous 
libel reiterated all his former accusations, and 
showed how the Jews, by charging interest on in- 
terest, impoverished the Christians. He blackened 
the character of Jewish physicians, saying that they 
were quacks, who endangered the lives of their 
Christian patients. It was, therefore, necessary to 
expel the Jews from Germany, as Emperor Maxi- 
milian had driven them from Austria, Styria and Ca- 
rinthia ; or if allowed to remain, they were to be 
employed in cleansing the streets, sweeping chim- 
neys, removing filth and carrion, and in similar occu- 
pations. But, above all, every copy of the Talmud, 
and all books relating to their religion, the Bible ex- 
cepted, were to be taken from them. In order effec- 


tually to carry out this step, house to house visitation 
was to be made, and the Jews were to be compelled, 
if necessary by torture, to surrender their books. 
Ortuinus Gratius had a hand in the drawing up of 
this pamphlet, too. 

These venomous writings in German and Latin 
were but means and preliminaries to a plan which 
was to realize the hopes of the Dominicans of Co- 
logne, the public burning of the theological books 
of the Jews, or their conversion into a source of 
profit. They urged Emperor Maximilian, who did 
not easily lend himself to the commission of a- deed 
of violence, to deliver the Jews, together with their 
books and purses, to their tender mercies. For this 
purpose they called in the aid of the bigotry of an 
unfortunate princess. 

Kunigunde, the beautiful sister of Maximilian and 
favorite daughter of Emperor Frederick, in her 
youth had been the cause of much affliction to her 
aged sire. Without her father's knowledge she had 
married his declared enemy, the Bavarian duke, 
Albert of Munich. For a long time her deeply of- 
fended father would not allow her name to be men- 
tioned. When her husband died in the prime of 
manhood (1508), his widow, perhaps repenting her 
youthful error, entered a Franciscan convent at 
Munich. She became abbess of the nuns of Sancta 
Clara, and castigated her body. The Dominicans 
hoped to turn to good purpose the gloomy character 
of this princess. They furnished Pfefferkorn with 
letters of introduction to her. With poisoned words 
he was to detail to her the shameful doings of the 
Jews, their blasphemies against Jesus, Mary, the 
apostles and the church in general, and to demon- 
strate to her that the Jewish books which contained 
all these abominations deserved to be destroyed. 
A woman, moreover a superstitious one, whose mind 
has been dulled in convent walls, is easily persuaded. 
Kunigunde readily believed the calumnies against 


the Jews and their religious literature, especially as 
they were uttered by a former Jew, who could not 
but be acquainted with their habits and wickedness, 
and who assured her that after the destruction of the 
Jewish books all Hebrews would gradually be con- 
verted to Christianity. Pfefferkorn easily obtained 
from the bigoted nun what he wanted. She gave 
him a pressing letter to her imperial brother, con- 
juring him to put a stop to Jewish blasphemies against 
Christianity, and to issue a decree that all their writ- 
ings, except the Bible, be taken from the Jews and 
burnt, lest the sins of blasphemy daily committed 
by them fall on his crowned head. Furnished with 
this missive, Pfefferkorn straightway went to Italy, 
to the camp of the emperor. 

The fanatical letter of Kunigunde and the calum- 
nies of Pfefferkorn succeeded in extorting from Maxi- 
milian a mandate, dated August 19th, 1509, giving 
the baptized miscreant full power over Jews. He 
was authorized to examine Hebrew writings any- 
where in the German empire, and to destroy all 
whose contents were hostile to the Bible and the 
Christian faith. The Jews were enjoined, under 
heavy penalties to person and property, to offer no 
resistance, but to submit their books to Pfefferkorn's 
examination. Pfefferkorn, with the emperor's au- 
thority, returned triumphantly to Germany, to open 
his campaign against Jewish books or Jewish purses. 
He began his business, which promised profit, with 
the community at Frankfort, then the most import- 
ant of Germany, where many Talmud scholars, 
consequently many copies of that work, besides 
many rich Jews, were to be found. On Pfeffer- 
korn's demand, the senate assembled all the Jews 
in the synagogue, and communicated to them the 
emperor's order to surrender their books. 

In the presence of clergymen and members of 
the senate, all prayer-books found in the syna- 
gogue were confiscated. It happened to be the eve 


of the Feast of Tabernacles (Friday, September 
28th). By his own authority, or pretending to hold 
it from the emperor, Pfefferkorn forbade the Jews 
to attend the synagogue on the day of the feast ; he 
intended to hold a house to house visitation on that 
day, for he was very anxious to get hold of copies 
of the Talmud. The clergymen present, however, 
were not so inconsiderate as to turn the feast of the 
Jews into mourning, but deferred the search for 
books till the following Monday. How did the 
Jews act? That they dared protest against this 
arbitrary proceeding proves that a new order of 
things had arisen. No longer as formerly in Ger- 
many did they submit, with the dumb submission of 
lambs, to spoliation and death. They appealed to 
the charters of various popes and emperors, granting 
them religious liberty, which included possession of 
their prayer-books and text-books. They demanded 
a delay of the confiscation in order to appeal to the 
emperor and the supreme court of judicature. The 
directors of the community of Frankfort immedi- 
ately sent a deputy to the elector and archbishop of 
Mayence, Uriel von Gemmingen, in whose diocese 
Frankfort was situate, to induce him to forbid the 
clergy to co-operate in this injustice. When Pfef- 
ferkorn began his house to house visitation, the 
Jews protested so energetically that it had to be 
deferred until the senate decided whether or not 
their objection was to be allowed. The decision 
of the sapient senate was unfavorable ; but when 
the confiscation was about to be commenced, a 
letter from the archbishop arrived, prohibiting the 
clergy from lending Pfefferkorn any assistance. This 
frustrated the scheme ; for the senators also with- 
drew from the transaction as soon as they knew that 
the highest ecclesiastical dignitary in Germany sided 
with the Jews. The latter were not idle. For, 
though they did not know that the powerful Do- 
minicans stood behind Pfefferkorn, they suspected 


that persons, hostile to the Jews, used this spiteful 
wretch to stir up persecution against them. They 
at once dispatched a defender of their cause to the 
emperor, and another to the German communities, 
far and near, to appoint a general synod, to be 
summoned for the succeeding month, to consider 
what steps should be taken, and to raise funds. 

Temporarily this unpleasant business seemed to 
take a turn favorable to the Jews. The senate of 
Frankfort remained passive, except in laying an 
embargo on the packets of books belonging to Jew- 
ish booksellers, and forbidding their sale. The 
conduct of the archbishop was what benefited them 
most. Either from a sense of justice — he was gen- 
erally fair in his dealings — from a kindly feeling for 
the Jews, from a dislike of Dominican heretic-hunt- 
ing, or, finally, from jealousy of the emperor's in- 
terference with his functions, in giving so miser- 
able a wretch as Pfefferkorn spiritual jurisdiction in 
his diocese, Uriel von Gemmingen took the part of 
the Jews. He addressed a letter to the emperor 
(October 5th), wherein he gently insinuated that 
he was to blame for having given full powers 
to so ignorant a man as Pfefferkorn, and asserted 
that to his knowledge no blasphemous or anti- 
Christian writings were in the possession of the Jews 
of his diocese, and hinted that if the emperor abso- 
lutely insisted on the examination and confiscation 
of Hebrew literature, he must employ an expert. 
He was so zealous on behalf of the Jews as to write 
to Von Hutten, his agent at the imperial court, to 
assist the Jews in laying their case before the em- 
peror. In the meantime, not to betray his partisan- 
ship, he invited Pfefferkorn to Aschaffenburg, and 
informed him that his mandate from the emperor 
was faulty in form, whereby it became ineffectual, 
for the Jews would dispute its validity. 

At this interview the name of Reuchlin was men- 
tioned for the first time, whether by the archbishop 


or by Pfefferkorn is uncertain. It was suggested to 
request the emperor to appoint Reuchlin and Victor 
von Karben Pfefferkorn' s coadjutors in the exami- 
nation of Jewish books. Pfefferkorn, or the Do 
minican friars themselves, thought it necessary to 
secure the co-operation of a man whose learning, 
character and high position would render their pro- 
ceedings more effective. Reuchlin, the pride of 
Germany, was to be made their associate, so as to 
disarm possible opponents. It was part of their 
scheme, too, to throw discredit, in one way or an- 
other, on the man whom obscurantists looked upon 
with disfavor, and who, to their vexation, first stim- 
ulated German and then European Christians in 
general to study the Hebrew language. But by 
these very artifices Pfefferkorn and his patrons not 
only spoilt their game, but raised a storm, which in 
less than a decade shook the whole edifice of the 
Catholic Church. It was justly said afterwards 
that the semi-Jewish Christian had done more 
injury to Christianity than all the blasphemous 
writings of the Jews could have done. John 
Reuchlin assisted in making the transition from the 
Middle Ages to modern times, and, therefore, his 
name is famous in the annals of the sixteenth cent- 
ury ; but in Jewish history also he deserves honor- 
able mention. 

John Reuchlin, of Pforzheim (born 1455, died 1522), 
or Capnion, as his admirers, the students of the hu- 
maniora, called him, with his younger contemporary, 
Erasmus of Rotterdam, delivered Germany from the 
reproach of barbarism. By their example and in- 
citement they proved that, with regard to knowledge 
of ancient Greek and Latin, a pure style and human- 
istic culture in general, Germans could not only 
rival, but surpass Italians. Besides his astonishing 
learning in classical literature and his elegant diction, 
Reuchlin had a pure, upright character, nobility of 
mind, integrity which was proof against temptation, 


admirable love of truth, and a soft heart. More 
versatile than Erasmus, his younger colleague, in 
preparing for and spreading humanistic and esthetic 
culture in Germany, Reuchlin also devoted him- 
self to the study of Hebrew to acquire mastery of 
the language blessed by God, and thus emulate his 
pattern, the Church Father Jerome. His love for 
Hebrew grew into enthusiasm, when on his second 
journey to Rome he became acquainted at Florence 
with the learned youth, Pico di Mirandola, Italy's 
prodigy, and learned from him what deep, marvel- 
ous secrets lay hidden in the Hebrew sources of the 
Kabbala. After that Reuchlin thirsted for Hebrew 
literature, but could not quench his thirst. He could 
not even obtain a printed copy of the Hebrew Bible. 
Only in his mature age he found opportunities of 
acquiring a more profound knowledge of Hebrew. 
During his stay at Linz, at the court of the aged 
emperor, Frederick III, he made the acquaintance 
of the imperial physician and Jewish knight, Jacob 
Loans; and this Jewish scholar became his teacher 
of Hebrew language and literature. 

Reuchlin devoted every hour that he could snatch 
from his avocations at court to this study, and mas- 
tered it so thoroughly that he was soon able to do 
without a teacher. His genius for languages stood 
him in good stead, and enabled him to overcome 
difficulties. He endeavored to turn to speedy ac- 
count the Hebrew learning acquired with such zeal. 
He wrote a small work, "The Wonderful Word," a 
spirited panegyric of the Hebrew language, its sim- 
plicity, depth and divine character. "The language 
of the Hebrews is simple, uncorrupted. holy, terse 
and vigorous; God confers in it direct with men, and 
men with angels, without interpreters, face to face, 

as one friend converses with another," A 

Jew devoted to the antiquities of his race could not 
have spoken more enthusiastically. The work con- 
sists of a series of discussions between an Epicurean 


philosopher, a Jewish sage (Baruchias), and a Chris- 
tian (Capnion), and its object is to prove that the 
wisdom of all nations, the symbols of pagan religions 
and the forms of their worship are but misconcep- 
tions and travesties of Hebrew truth, mysteriously 
concealed in the words, in the very shapes of the 
letters of the Hebrew tongue. 

Reuchlin may have felt that his knowledge of 
Hebrew still left much to be desired; he, therefore, 
as ambassador of the elector palatine, whom he 
represented at the court of Pope Alexander VI 
(1498 — 1500), continued his study of Hebrew litera- 
ture. Obadiah Sforno, of Cesena, then residing at 
Rome, became Reuchlin's second teacher of Hebrew. 
Thus the German humanist, already a famous man, 
whose Latin discourses were the admiration of 
Italians, sat at the feet of a Jew to perfect himself in 
Hebrew, nor did he disdain to accept instruction 
from a Jew whenever the opportunity offered, so 
highly did he esteem the Hebrew language. 

Being the only Christian in Germany, or we may 
say in all Europe, sufficiently familiar with the sacred 
language, Reuchlin's numerous friends urged him to 
compile a Hebrew grammar, to enable the studi- 
ously inclined to instruct themselves. The first 
Hebrew grammar by a Christian, which Reuchlin 
designated as "a memorial more lasting than brass" 
(finished in March, 1506), was a somewhat poor 
affair. It gave only the essentials of pronunciation 
and etymology, together with a vocabulary, the im- 
perfections of which need not surprise us, as it is the 
work of a beginner. But the grammar produced 
important results: it aroused a taste for Hebrew 
studies in a large circle of scholars, who thenceforth 
zealously devoted themselves to it ; and these studies 
supplied a new factor towards the Lutheran Refor- 
mation. A number of disciples of Reuchlin, such as 
Sebastian Miinster and Widmannstadt, followed in 
his footsteps, and raised the Hebrew language to 
the level of Greek. 


But though Reuchlin went down Into the Jews' 
lane to carry off a hidden treasure, he was at first 
no less intensely prejudiced against the Jewish 
race than his contemporaries. Forgetful of its former 
glory, and blind to the solid kernel, because envel- 
oped in a repulsive shell, Reuchlin looked on the 
Jewish people as utterly barbarous, devoid of all 
artistic taste, superstitious, mean and depraved. He 
solemnly declared that he was far from favoring the 
Jews. Like his pattern, Jerome, he testified to his 
thorough-going hatred of them. At the same time 
as his Hebrew grammar he wrote an epistle, in 
which he traced all the misery of the Jews to their 
blind unbelief, instead of looking for its source in 
Christians' want of charity towards them. Reuch- 
lin, no less than Pfefferkorn, charged the Jews with 
blasphemy against Jesus, Mary, the apostles and 
Christians in general ; but a time came when he 
regretted this indiscreet lucubration of his youth. 
For his heart did not share the prejudices of his 
head. Whenever he met individual Jews, he gave 
them his affection, or at least his esteem ; he prob- 
ably found that they were better than Christians 
represented them to be. His sense of justice did 
not allow him to let wrong be done to them, much 
less to help in doing it. 

When Pfefferkorn and the Cologne Dominicans 
approached Reuchlin, he was at the zenith of his 
life and fame. High and low honored him for his 
rectitude ; Emperor Frederick had ennobled him ; 
Emperor Maximilian appointed him counselor and 
judge of the Suabian League ; the circle of human- 
ists, the order of free spirits within and without 
Germany, loved, worshiped, almost deified him. 
Though hitherto no shadow of heresy had fallen on 
Reuchlin, who was on the best of terms with the 
Dominicans, yet the friends of darkness instinct- 
ively saw in him their secret enemy. His cultiva- 
tion of science and classical literature, his anxiety 


for an elegant Latin style, his enthusiasm for Greek, 
by which all Germany had been infected, and worse 
than all, his introduction of Hebrew, his preference 
for " Hebrew truth," for the Hebrew text over the 
corrupt Latin Vulgate, which the church held as 
canonical and unassailable, were considered by the 
obscurantists as crimes, for which the Inquisition 
could not, indeed, directly prosecute him, but which 
secured him a place in their black book. 

The order given to Pfefferkorn, the secret agent 
of the Dominicans of Cologne, to implicate Reuch- 
lin in the examination of blasphemous Jewish writ- 
ings, as said above, was a cunningly devised trap. On 
his second journey to the imperial camp, Pfeffer- 
korn waited on Reuchlin at his own house, endeav- 
ored to make him a confederate in his venomous 
schemes against the Jews, and showed him the 
imperial mandate. Reuchlin declined the proposal 
somewhat hesitatingly, though he approved of de- 
stroying Jewish libels on Christianity ; but he pointed 
out that the emperor's mandate was faulty in form, 
and that, therefore, the authorities would not will- 
ingly enforce it. Reuchlin is said to have hinted 
that, if invited to do so, he would interest himself in 
the matter. Pfefferkorn, in consequence, applied to 
the emperor for a second mandate, correct in form 
and unassailable. But the Jews had not been idle 
in endeavors to induce the emperor to revoke the 
mandate and restore their books. 

The community of Frankfort had appointed Jona- 
than Levi Zion, a zealous member, to advocate their 
case with the emperor. The community of Ratis- 
bon also had sent an agent to the imperial court. 
Isaac Triest, a man greatly beloved by the persons 
surrounding the emperor, took great pains to frus- 
trate Pfefferkorn's plans. The Jewish advocates 
were supported by influential Christians, inckiding 
the representative of the archbishop and the Mar- 
grave of Baden. They first adduced the charters 

CH. xrv. Maximilian's second mandate. 437 

guaranteeing religious liberty, granted to the Jews 
by emperors and popes, in accordance with which 
even the emperor had no right to interfere with the 
management of their private affairs, or to attack 
their property in the shape of religious books. They 
did not fail to inform the emperor that their ac- 
cuser was a worthless person, a thief and burglar. 
The Jewish advocates thought that they had attained 
their end. The emperor had listened to their petition 
in an audience, and promised them a speedy reply. 
Their friendly reception led them to look for an im- 
mediate settlement of this painful affair ; moreover, 
it was a good omen that Uriel von Gemmingen, 
their protector, was appointed commissary. 

But they did not understand Maximilian's vacillat- 
ing character. As soon as Pfefferkorn appeared 
before him, armed with another autograph letter 
from his sister, wherein the ultra-pious nun conjured 
him not to injure Christianity by the revocation of 
his mandate, the scales were turned against the 
Jews. The emperor was in reality secretly piqued 
that the despised Jews of Frankfort, in contempt of 
his mandate, had refused to give up the books found 
in their houses. 

He thereupon issued a second mandate (Novem- 
ber loth, 1509), wherein he reproached the Jews with 
having offered resistance, and ordered the con- 
fiscation to be continued. But he appointed Arch- 
bishop Uriel as commissioner, and advised him to 
obtain counsel from the universities of Cologne, 
Mayence, Erfurt and Heidelberg, and to associate 
with himself learned men, such as Reuchlin, Victor 
von Karben, and the inquisitor, Hoogstraten, who 
was wholly ignorant of Hebrew. With this mandate 
in his pocket, Pfefferkorn hastened back to the scene 
of his activity, the Rhenish provinces. Archbishop 
Uriel appointed Hermann Hess, chancellor of the 
University of Mayence, his delegate, to direct the 
confiscation of Jewish books. Accompanied by him, 


Pfefiferkorn again repaired to Frankfort, and the 
book-hunt began afresh. Fifteen hundred manu- 
scripts, including those already seized, were taken 
from the Frankfort Jews, and deposited in the town 

Worse than the emperor's vacillating conduct was 
the apathy shown by the large communities of Ger- 
many in the appointment of delegates to a confer- 
ence to discuss and frustrate the malicious plans of 
Pfefferkorn, or rather, of the Dominicans. Smaller 
communities had contributed their share towards the 
expenses occasioned by this serious matter, but the 
larger and richer communities of Rothenburg on the 
Tauber, Weissenburg and Fiirth, on which the Jews 
of Frankfort had counted most, displayed deplor- 
able indifference. But when, in consequence of the 
second mandate, Jewish books were confiscated not 
only at Frankfort but also in other communities, 
more active interest was manifested. First the 
Frankfort senate was influenced in their favor. The 
Jewish booksellers were accustomed to bring their 
bales of books for sale to the spring Fair at Frank- 
fort. Pfefferkorn threatened to confiscate these also, 
but the senate of Frankfort refused to assist in the 
measure, being unwilling to break the laws regulat- 
ing the Fair. The Jewish booksellers, moreover, had 
safe-conducts each from the prince of his own 
country, protecting not only their persons, but also 
their property. The archbishop maintained sullen 
silence, but was inclined to favor the Jews. He did 
not call together the learned men whom the emperor 
had mentioned to examine the Jewish books, and did 
no more than he could help. Many princes, also, 
whose eyes had been opened to the ultimate results 
of this strange confiscation, seem to have made rep- 
resentations to the emperor. Public opinion was 
particularly severe on Pfefferkorn. But he and the 
Dominicans were not idle ; they endeavored to win 
over the emperor and public opinion, and it is re- 

CH. XIV. Maximilian's third mandate. 439 

markable that the enemies of publicity should have 
opened the mouth of that hitherto silent arbitress, 
and rendered her powerful. 

For this purpose there appeared another anti- 
Jewish pamphlet, with Pfefferkorn's name on the 
title-page, entitled, "In Praise and Honor of Em- 
peror Maximilian." It blew clouds of incense into 
the emperor's face, and regretted that the charges 
against the Jews, from indifference and ignorance, 
were so little noticed in Christian circles. It re- 
asserted that the Talmud, the usury of the Jews, and 
their facilities for making money, were the causes of 
their obstinately refusing to become Christians. 
Thus the Cologne Dominicans — always standing be- 
hind Pfefferkorn — by means of public opinion again 
attempted to put moral pressure on Maximilian. 

But this public opinion must have spoken so 
strongly in favor of the Jews, that Maximilian was 
induced to take a step unusual for an emperor, 
namely, in a measure revoke his former commands, 
by directing the senate of Frankfort to restore to 
the Jews their books (May 23d, 15 10), "till the com- 
pletion of our purpose and the inspection of the 
books." Great was the joy of the Jews. They had 
escaped a great danger: not their religious books 
only, so dear to their hearts, but their position in 
the Holy Roman Empire had been at stake, since the 
Dominicans, in case of success, would not have 
stopped at the confiscation of books, but would 
have inflicted new humiliations and persecutions. 

But the Jews triumphed too soon ; the Dominicans 
and their confederate and tool, Pfefferkorn, would 
not so readily surrender the advantages already se- 
cured. A. regrettable occurrence in the Mark of 
Brandenburg supplied fresh energy to their machi- 
nations, and a pretext for formulating an accusation. 
A thief had stolen some sacred emblems from a 
church, and when questioned as to the holy wafer, 
he confessed having sold it to Jews in the Branden 


burg district. Of course, the thief was believed, and 
the bishop of Brandenburg entered on the persecu- 
tion of the Jews with fiery fanaticism. The elector 
of Brandenburg, Joachim I, an ardent heretic-hunter, 
had the accused brought to Berlin. The accusation 
of reviling the host was soon supplemented by the 
charge of infanticide. Joachim had the Jews tor- 
tured, and then ordered thirty to be burnt. With 
firmness, songs of praise on their lips, these martyrs 
of Brandenburg met their fiery deaths (July 19th, 
1 5 10), except two, who, with the fear of the stake 
upon them, submitted to baptism, and suffered the 
seemingly more honorable fate of being beheaded. 
This is the first mention of Jews in Berlin and Bran- 
denburg. The occurrence made a great stir in Ger- 
many, and the Cologne Dominicans employed it to 
induce the emperor to issue a new mandate for the 
confiscation of Jewish books, seeing that to the Tal- 
mud alone could be attributed the alleged hostility 
of the Jews to Christianity. They sheltered them- 
selves behind the same go-between; the bigoted 
nun, the ducal abbess Kunigunde, to whom the dia- 
bolical wickedness of the Jews, as revealed by the 
above occurrence, was presented in most glaring 
colors, was again to influence the emperor. The 
Dominicans suggested to her how detrimental to 
Christianity must be the fact that the host-reviling 
and child-murdering Jews could boast of having had 
their books restored to them by order of the em- 
peror, who thus, to a certain extent, approved of the 
abuse of Christianity which they contained. The 
abbess thereupon fairly assailed her brother, and at 
their interview at Munich besought him on her knees 
to reconsider the matter of the Jewish books. 
Maximilian was perplexed. He was loath to refuse 
his dearly beloved sister what she had so much at 
heart ; on the other hand, he was not highly edified 
by Pfefferkorn's tissue of lies about the Jews. He 
found an expedient to appear just to both parties. 

CH. XIV. reuchlin's opinion. 441 

He issued a new mandate, the fourth in this affair 
(July 6th, 1 5 10), addressed to Archbishop Uriel, 
directing him to resume the inquiry, but in another 
form. The indictment was not to be considered as 
proved, but was to be thoroughly investigated. The 
archbishop of Mayence was to take the opinions of 
the German universities named, and also of Reuch- 
lin, Victor von Karben and Hoogstraten, to whom 
the emperor sent a special summons in official form. 
The final decision as to the character of the Jewish 
writings was to be communicated to him by Pfeffer- 
korn, the originator of the inquiry. The Jews had 
reason to look forward with anxiety to the issue ; 
their weal and woe depended on it. 

It was fortunate for the Jews that the honest, 
truthful Reuchlin, so enthusiastically prepossessed 
for Hebrew and Kabbalistic literature, was asked to 
give his opinion of Jewish literature. The Cologne 
Dominicans, who had proposed him, thereby frus- 
trated their own design, and as a further effect made 
him the enemy of their hostile endeavors. As soon 
as Reuchlin received the emperor's command, he set 
to work to answer the question, "Whether it was 
godly, laudable, and advantageous to Christianity 
to burn the Jewish writings," whereby the Talmud 
especially was meant. H is j udgment was extremely 
favorable to the writings in question, nor did he miss 
the chance of bestowing sundry side blows on the 
vile instigator Pfefferkorn. Jewish literature, the 
mistress of his heart, was to be charged as a culprit, 
and should he fail to defend her with all the powers 
of his mind ? Reuchlin's opinion is conceived in the 
pedantic, heavy, juridical style then prevailing, but 
does not lack ability. He started from the correct 
point of view, that, in answering the question, the 
Jewish writings were not to be treated in the ag- 
gregate as a homogeneous literature, but that, ex- 
cluding the Bible, they were to be divided into six 
classes. The class of exegetic works, such as those 


by R. Solomon (Rashi), Ibn-Ezra, the Kimchis, 
Moses Gerundensis and Levi ben Gershon, far from 
being detrimental to Christianity, he declared to be 
indispensable to Christian theology, the most 
learned Christian commentators of the Old Testa- 
ment having taken the best of their work from the 
Jews, as from fountains whence flow the real truth 
and understanding of the Holy Scriptures. If from 
the voluminous writings of Nicholas de Lyra, the 
best Christian exegetist, all borrowed from Rashi 
were to be excised, the part left, which he himself 
had composed, might be comprised in a few pages. 
He, indeed, considered it a disgrace that many doc- 
tors of divinity, from ignorance of Hebrew and 
Greek, interpreted the Scriptures wrongly. The 
class of Hebrew writings on philosophy, natural 
sciences and the liberal arts were in no way distin- 
guished from what might be found in Greek, Latin, 
or German works. With regard to the Talmud, 
against which the chief accusation was laid, Reuch- 
lin confessed his inability to understand it ; but other 
learned Christians understood no more of it than 
they might learn from its accusers, including Pfeffer- 
korn. He was acquainted with many who con- 
demned the Talmud without understanding it. But 
could one write against mathematics without having 
knowledge thereof? He was, therefore, of opinion 
that the Talmud was not to be burnt, even if it were 
true that it contained libels on the founders of Chris- 
tianity. "If the Talmud were deserving of such 
condemnation, our ancestors of many hundred years 
ago, whose zeal for Christianity was much greater 
than ours, would have burnt it. The baptized Jews, 
Peter Schwarz and Pfefferkorn, the only persons 
who insist on its being burnt, probably wish it for 
private reasons." 

To defend Kabbalistic writings, and save them 
from being burnt, was easy enough. Reuchlin had 
but to point to occurrences at the papal court, 


scarcely two decades ago. The learned and eccen- 
tric Count Pico di Mirandola had aroused enthusi- 
astic admiration for the Kabbala, maintaining that it 
contained the most solid foundation of the chief doc- 
trines of Christianity. Sixtus IV had caused some 
of the Kabbalistic writings to be translated into 
Latin. Reuchlin concluded his opinion by advising 
that their books should not be taken from the Jews, 
nor burnt, but that at every German university two 
professors of Hebrew be appointed for ten years, 
who might also be asked to teach modern, or rab- 
binical Hebrew ; and thus the Jews might be led by 
gentle means and by conviction to embrace Chris- 

Unquestionably, since Jews had been ill-used and 
persecuted by Christians, they had not found so 
friendly an advocate as Reuchlin, who declared him- 
self in their favor in an official document, intended 
for the chancellor of the empire, and the emperor 
himself. Two points on which Reuchlin laid stress 
were especially important to Jews. The first was, 
that the Jews were citizens of the Holy Roman 
Empire, and were entitled to its full privileges and 
protection. This was the first stammering utterance 
of that liberating word of perfect equality, which 
required more than three centuries for its perfect 
enunciation and acknowledgment. The mediaeval 
delusion, that the Jews, by Vespasian and Titus' 
conquest of Jerusalem, had become the bondmen of 
their successors, the Roman and German emperors, 
was hereby partly dispelled. The recognition that 
Jews also had rights, which the emperor and the state, 
the clergy and the laity must respect, was the first faint, 
trembling ray of light after a long, dark night. The 
second point, which Reuchlin emphasized more posi- 
tively, was of equal importance: that the Jews must 
not be considered or treated as heretics. Since they 
stood without the church, and were not bound to hold 
the Christian faith, the ideas of heresy and unbelief — 


those terrifying and lethal anathemas of the Middle 
Ages — did not apply to them. 

Of what use this judgment of Reuchlin was to the 
Jews, we discover by the decision of the faculties 
consulted — faculties to whom the Talmud, of course, 
was a book with seven seals. The Cologne Domin- 
icans in a body, the theological faculty, the inquisi- 
tor Hoogstraten, and the gray-haired convert Victor 
von Karben, all mouthpieces of one mind, did 
not trouble themselves to prove that the Talmud 
was hostile to Christianity ; they assumed it, and, 
therefore, quickly arrived at their decision, that the 
Talmudic writings, and all others, probably of the 
same stamp, were to be seized and burnt. But they 
went further ; Hoogstraten, in particular, had the 
assurance to say that the Jews should be indicted. 
Experts were to extract and arrange heretical pas- 
sages from the Talmud and other Jewish books; 
then the Jews were to be questioned whether or not 
they admitted the perniciousness of books contain- 
ing such doctrines. If they admitted it, they could 
raise no objection to have them committed to the 
flames. If they obstinately persevered in treating 
such passages as portions of their creed, the emperor 
was to surrender them as convicted heretics for 
punishment to the Inquisition. 

The faculty of the university of Mayence delivered 
a similar sentence, but went much further. They 
pronounced not only all Talmudic and rabbinical 
writings to be full of errors and heresy, but that 
even the Scriptures must have been contaminated 
and corrupted by them, especially in articles of faith, 
wherefore these were to be taken from the Jews, 
examined, and if their expectation was realized, the 
Jewish Bibles were to be thrown into the flames. 
This was a cunning device, because the Hebrew 
text of the Bible does not agree with the Latin Vul- 
gate, the work of bunglers, used by the church. It 
was like arraigning an immaculate mother before 


her degenerate daughter, and telling her that if she 
did not adopt the vices of the latter, she did not 
deserve to exist. And it was a clever trick on the 
part of the Dominicans to get rid of the inconven- 
ient Hebrew text, the " Hebrew truth," majestically 
shaking its head at the childish trifling of clerical 
interpretations. Had the theologians of Mayence 
and Cologne succeeded in enforcing their views, 
the Book received on Sinai, the words of the Proph- 
ets, the Psalms, monuments of a time of grace, 
would have been cast upon a blazing pyre, and a 
bastard, the corrupt Latin Vulgate, substituted for 
it. The Dominicans appear to have suspected that 
the plain sense of the words of the Bible would 
bring ruin upon them. Fortunately, the Cologne 
Dominicans themselves defeated their cunningly 
laid plan by an act of villainy. 

Reuchlin had sent his opinion on Jewish literature 
in a sealed packet, and by a sworn messenger, to 
Archbishop Uriel, assuming that, being an official 
secret, it would be opened and read only by the 
archbishop and the emperor. But Pfefferkorn, who 
believed himself to be on the eve of avenging him- 
self on the Jews, had it open in his hand even be- 
fore the emperor had read it. How this occurred 
has never been cleared up. Reuchlin in plain words 
denounced the Cologne priests as unscrupulous 
seal-breakers. We ought almost to be grateful to 
them for having dragged an affair, originally envel- 
oped in official secrecy, into publicity, thereby call- 
ing in another tribunal, and turning the peril of the 
Jews into a peril to the church. They had grown 
desperate over Reuchlin's opinion, because his voice 
had great weight with the emperor and his advisers. 
Therefore, the Dominicans, armed at all points, set 
to work to publish a refutation of Reuchlin's defense 
of the Jews and their books. It was written in 
German to render the cause popular, and incense 
the multitude so as to render it impossible for the 
emperor to listen to Reuchlin. 


t This libel, entitled "Handspiegel," spread abroad 
in thousands of copies, on a man so highly 
placed and honored, a judge of the Suabian 
League, a scholar of eminence, naturally caused 
a great sensation. Since the invention of printing 
it was the first furious attack on a dignitary^ 
and being written in German, every one could un- 
derstand it. Reuchlin's numerous friends were 
indignant at the insolence of a baptized Jew, who 
pretended to be more sound in faith than a born 
Christian in good standing. The Cologne Domini- 
cans had permitted themselves to be guided by their 
envenomed hatred rather than by prudence. Reuch- 
lin was compelled to take steps against such attacks, 
by which his honor was too deeply wounded for 
silence. He hastened to the emperor, and com- 
plained of Pfefferkorn, the rancorous calumniator, 
the ostensible author of the " Handspiegel." The 
emperor, by words and gestures, betrayed his indig- 
nation, and quieted the excited Reuchlin by the 
promise that the matter should be inquired into by 
the bishop of Augsburg. But amidst the press of 
business, in the confusion of Italian quarrels, the 
emperor forgot Reuchlin, the mortification he 
had suffered, and the redress promised him. The 
Frankfort autumn Fair was approaching, at which 
Pfefferkorn intended to offer for sale the remainder 
of the copies, and nothing had been done for or by 

Thus Reuchlin was compelled to make the 
Talmud a personal question, to appeal to public 
opinion, and thereby render the matter one of 
almost universal interest. He prepared a defen- 
sive and offensive reply to the " Handspiegel " for 
the Frankfort Fair. At the end of August, or 
beginning of September, 151 1, his controversial 
pamphlet, entitled 'Augenspiegel" (or Spectacles, 
a pair of spectacles being represented on the title- 
page), which has acquired historical celebrity, made 


its appearance. He designed to reveal to the 
German public the villainy of Pfefferkorn and his 
coadjutors, but unconsciously he revealed the 
defects of the Christianity of his time. It was a 
pamphlet which, we may say without exaggeration, 
was equivalent to a great action. It was directed 
against Pfefferkorn, and by implication against the 
Cologne Dominicans, the patrons and instigators 
of his calumnies. It relates in plain, honest lan- 
guage the progress of the whole affair: how the 
baptized "Jew" had made every effort to prove the 
Talmud dangerous, desiring to have it burnt, and 
had meant to turn Reuchlin to account in the matter. 
He publishes the missives of the emperor and of 
the archbishop addressed to him, and also his 
" Opinion." He reports how Pfefferkorn by dishon- 
est means obtained possession of the "Opinion," 
and misused it to concoct a libel, containing no less 
than thirty-four untruths about him (Reuchlin). 
The tone of the "Augenspiegel " expresses the 
just indignation of a man of honor against a villain 
who has set a trap for him. 

What roused the indignation of Reuchlin most 
was the charge that he had been bribed to write his 
defense of the Talmud. With honest anger he pro- 
tested that at no time during his whole existence 
had he received from Jews, or on their behalf, a 
single penny, or any other reward. No less hurt 
was Reuchlin at the contempt expressed for his He- 
brew scholarship, especially at the accusation that 
he had not himself composed his Hebrew grammar. 
His defense of the Jews is dignified. The scoundrel 
Pfefferkorn had reproached him with having learnt 
Hebrew from Jews, with whom, then, he must 
have had intercourse in defiance of the canon law. 
Thereupon Reuchlin says: "The baptized Jew 
writes that Divine law forbids our holding commun- 
ion with Jews ; this is not true. Every Chris- 
tian may go to law with them, buy of or make pres- 


ents to them. Cases may occur where Christians 
inherit legacies together with Jews. It is allowed 
to converse with and learn from them, as Saint 
Jerome and Nicholas de Lyra did. And lastly, 
a Christian should love a Jew as his neighbor ; all 
this is founded on the law." 

It may be imagined what excitement was created 
by Reuchlin's "Augenspiegel," written in German, 
when it appeared at the Frankfort Fair, the 
meeting-place of hundreds of thousands, at a time 
when there was no public press, and everyone 
readily lent his ear to a scandalous tale. To find 
that so distinguished a man as Reuchlin would set 
an accuser of the Jews in the pillory as a calumni- 
ator and liar, was something so new and surprising 
as to make readers rub their eyes, and ask them- 
selves whether they had not hitherto been dozing. 
The Jews greedily bought a book in which for the 
first time a man of honor entered the lists on their 
behalf, and with powerful voice stigmatized the 
charges against them as calumnies. They rejoiced 
at having found a champion, and thanked God that 
He had not forsaken them in their tribulation. 
Who would find fault with them for laboring in the 
promulgation of Reuchlin's pamphlet ? But by 
preaching against it in their pulpits, and by pro- 
hibiting its sale as far as they could, bigoted priests 
of the stamp of the Cologne Dominicans did most 
to disseminate it. From all directions, in learned 
and unlearned circles, congratulations were sent to 
Reuchlin, with expressions of satisfaction that he 
had so boldly and firmly settled the impudent Pfef- 
ferkorn and his abettors. 

With the publication and circulation of Reuchlin's 
treatise, and his defense of the Talmud, commenced 
a struggle which every day became more serious, 
and at last assumed far greater proportions than the 
subject justified. For the bigots, still in the full 
power of their terrorizing might, did not hesitate to 


take up the challenge. Pfefiferkom's cause was 
also theirs. Yet a man had dared step forward 
boldly, not only to disapprove of the condemnation of 
the Talmud, but also to declare that the persecution 
of the Jews was unchristianlike ; and that they 
ought, on the contrary, to be treated with sympathy 
and love. What audacity ! It aroused in them 
such virtuous indignation that they shot beyond the 
mark, and committed such blunders that they dam- 
aged their cause irreparably. 

Pastor Peter Meyer, of Frankfort-on-the-Main, 
who had not been able to obtain the prohibition of 
the sale of the "Augenspiegel," made the second 
mistake. He announced from the pulpit during ser- 
vice that Pfefferkorn would preach on the eve of 
the next " Feast of our Lady " against Reuchlin's 
Jewish writings, and he exhorted the faithful to at- 
tend in great numbers. Nothing could be more 
fatal than this error. Pfefferkorn with his disagree- 
able, repulsive face, distinctly Jewish features and 
coarse, vulgar look, preach before a Christian con- 
gregation in his Jewish-German jargon ! Each word 
and each movement would provoke his hearers to 
laughter, and drive away even sincere devotion. 
Moreover, was it in accordance with Catholic law 
that a layman, above all a married layman, should 
officiate in the church? Not long before this a 
simple shepherd had been sentenced to be burned 
on account of unsanctioned preaching. To keep 
the letter of the law Pfefferkorn preached on the 
appointed day (September 7th, 151 1), not in the 
church, but before the entrance, to a great crowd of 
people. It must have been ver)'^ droll to see how 
this ill-favored Jew made the sign of the cross over 
believers, and spoke of the Christian faith in the 
Jewish jargon. Pfefferkom's chief desire was to 
make the Jews and their well-wishers detestable, 
and to excite the hatred of his hearers against 


Until now the chief mover of the whole scandal, 
the venomous and malicious master heretic-hunter, 
Jacob Hoogstraten, had kept behind the scenes, but 
had sent his followers to the front one by one : first 
Pfefferkorn, then Ortuinus Gratius and Arnold von 
Tongern. Henceforth he stood in the foreground 
himself, his insolent demeanor seeming to assume 
that priests and laymen must all bow before him, 
and sink under his frown in the dust, and that he 
had the right to tread statutes and customs under 
his feet. To save, by violent measures, the weak- 
ened authority of the order, all Dominicans had to 
make common cause, and apply their energy to 
carry through the condemnation of Reuchlin and 
the Talmud. The conflict spread over a wider area, 
and became an affair of the whole order. 

Authorized by the provincial of his order, Hoog- 
straten, in his capacity as inquisitor, suddenly issued 
(September 15th, 151 3) a summons to Reuchlin to 
appear at Mayence within six days, at eight o'clock 
in the morning, to be examined on the charge of 
heresy and of favoring the Jews. On the appointed 
day Hoogstraten, with a host of Dominicans, ap- 
peared in Mayence ; they were confederates, chosen 
to sit as judges in the commission. Hoogstraten 
opened the session, acting at once as judge and 
accuser. He had prepared an unassailable bill of 
indictment against Reuchlin and the Talmud, and 
taken the precaution to seek allies, so that he 
might not stand alone in this weighty contest. Shortly 
before, he had addressed letters to four universities, 
begging them to express their opinion on Reuchlin's 
book, "Augenspiegel," in accordance with his own 
views, and all had fulfilled his expectations. 

The accusation which he brought forward was, of 
course, that which Pfefferkorn and Arnold von Ton- 
gern had already made. It had for its basis : Reuch- 
lin favors the Jews too much, treats "the insolent 
people " almost as members of the church, and as 


men on an equality with others, while his writings 
savor too much of heresy. Hoogstraten, therefore, 
instructed the court to pronounce sentence upon 
Reuchlin's "Augenspiegel": that it was full of 
heresy and error, too favorable to the unbelieving 
Jews, and insulting to the church, and therefore ought 
to be condemned, suppressed, and destroyed by fire. 
One must not overlook the great difference between 
a German and a Spanish inquisition court. Tor- 
quemada or Ximenes would have made short work 
of it, and condemned the book together with the 
author to the stake. Hoogstraten was not too kind- 
hearted for such a sentence ; but he dared not ven- 
ture so far, because he would have had all Germany, 
the ecclesiastical as well as the temporal rulers 
against him. 

General indignation was aroused at the injustice 
of a trial carried on in violation of all rules. The 
students of the Mayence University, not yet tainted 
by the corruption of theology, their judgment not 
warped by casuistry, and not influenced by foreign 
considerations, loudly proclaimed their displeasure 
at this shameless proceeding of the Inquisition. They 
carried the doctors of jurisprudence with them, and 
this induced other earnest men to interfere. 

To the surprise of the Dominicans, the aged, ven- 
erable Reuchlin appeared in Mayence, accompanied 
by two respected counselors of the Duke of Wur- 
temberg. The chapter now took great trouble to 
effect a reconciliation. But Hoogstraten, who wished 
to see smoke rise from the fagots, would agree to 
nothing, and delayed the negotiations till the 12th 
of October, the time when the final sentence would 
be pronounced. The inquisitor commanded all the 
ecclesiastics in Mayence to announce from the pul- 
pit that everyone. Christian or Jew, if he would 
escape punishment, must give up all copies of the 
"Augenspiegel" to the flames. The people were 
promised thirty days' indulgence, if they assembled 


on the appointed day at the church square to cele- 
brate the auto-da-fe and increase its splendor. On 
the 1 2th of October the place before the church in 
Mayence was thronged with spectators — the curious, 
the sympathetic, and the seekers after indulgence ! 
Decked out like peacocks, the Fathers and Brothers 
of the Dominican order, and the theologians of the 
universities of Cologne, Louvain, and Erfurt, strutted 
along to the tribunal erected for them, and "the 
earth trembled under their feet." Hoogstraten, till 
now the accuser, again took his place among the 
judges. They were about to pronounce the formula 
of the curse, and have the fire kindled, when a mes- 
senger hastily arrived, bringing a letter from Arch- 
bishop Uriel, which turned them speechless. 

Uriel von Gemmingen, like most bishops of his 
time, was more worldly-minded than spiritual, and 
had no canonical fanaticism against Jews. The pre- 
sumptuousness of the Dominicans of Cologne and 
their unjust proceedings against Reuchhn angered 
him, too. Therefore, he issued a proclamation to the 
commissioners selected from his chapter, ordering 
that judgment be delayed for one month until a new 
agreement might be arrived at. If they did not 
consent, this letter deprived them of their privi- 
leges as judges of the inquisitorial court, and every 
thing hitherto decreed was null and void. Utterly 
dumbfounded, the Dominicans listened to the notary's 
reading of the document, which entirely frustrated 
their schemes and machinations. Hoogstraten alone 
boldly dared express his anger at the denial of their 
rights. The other confederates slunk away ashamed, 
followed by the jeers of the street boys, and the cry 
of the men, "O that these Brothers, who wished to 
outrage a just man, might be burnt at the stake." 

If it Is true, as the Dominicans relate, that the 
rabbis of Germany met in a synod in Worms, and 
found In the defeat of the Dominicans who raged 
against Reuchlin a sign of the downfall of the Ro- 

CH. XIV. Leo X. 453 

man (papist) hierarchy, they were certainly endowed 
with prophetic vision. It was also said that Reuchlin 
had secret intercourse with rabbis. 

Reuchlin was by no means so situated as to be 
able to triumph over his enemies and those of the 
Jews. Though subdued for the moment, they were 
certainly not vanquished. He knew their cunning 
and malignity too well to give himself up to inactive 
enjoyment of his victory. He knew that their perse- 
cutions would only be redoubled in the future. 
Therefore, he hastened to announce his appeal to 
the pope, so that silence might be imposed from that 
quarter on his embittered enemies. But Reuchlin 
justly feared that with the vacillation and venality 
of the Vatican his cause would go badly, if the in- 
vestigation were conducted beyond the jurisdiction 
of the pope by the Dominicans of Cologne. There- 
fore, he sent a Hebrew letter to Bonet de Lates, the 
Jewish physician of Pope Leo X, begging him to 
plead for the pope's favor in his cause. 

Leo, of the celebrated family of the Medici, about 
whom his father had said that he was the wisest of 
his sons, had succeeded to the papal chair only a 
few months before. He was an aristocrat, more 
interested in politics than in religion, a Roman pa- 
gan rather than a Catholic priest, looking down with 
contempt from his Olympian heights on theological 
controversy as child's play. He only considered 
how best to steer between the two warring states or 
houses of Hapsburg and Valois, without endanger- 
ing the temporal interest of the Roman Catholic 
hierarchy. With candor that would surprise us to- 
day, the pope ventured to say, "It is well known 
how useful this fable of Christ has been to us and 
ours ! " With him now rested the decision, whether 
Reuchlin's " Augenspiegel " savored of heresy, and 
whether he duly or unduly favored the Jews. Leo, 
whose pontificate fell in a time when theological 
questions threatened to embroil all Europe, perhaps 


knew less of them than his cook. Much, therefore, 
depended on the light in which the conflict between 
Reuchlin and the Dominicans was placed before him. 
For this reason Reuchlin begged the physician Bonet 
de Lates, who had access to the pope and care of 
"the person of his Holiness," to win over Leo X, so 
that the trial might not take place in Cologne or its 
vicinity, where his cause would be lost. ReuchHn 
laid all the circumstances before him: how Pfeffer- 
korn and the Cologne Dominicans had conspired 
against the Jews and the Talmud, and how only his 
extraordinary efforts had saved the Talmud from 
destruction. Had the Dominicans been able to get 
hold of and read this letter, they could have brought 
forward incontestable proof of Reuchlin' s friendli- 
ness towards the Jews, for in it he wrote much that 
he had publicly denied. 

It is natural that Bonet de Lates brought all his 
influence to bear in favor of Reuchlin. And it was 
probably owing to his zeal that Leo so soon (No- 
vember 2ist, 15 1 3) issued instructions to the bish- 
ops of Speyer and Worms on the controversy be- 
tween Reuchlin and Hoogstraten. Leo ordered that 
they be examined separately or together, by the 
bishops or by judges appointed by them, who, with- 
out the intervention of any other tribunal, were to 
pronounce judgment, to be accepted without appeal. 
The bishop of Worms, a Dalburg, with whom 
Reuchlin was on friendly terms, did not care to 
accept the commission. So the young bishop of 
Speyer, George, elector palatine and duke of Ba- 
varia, appointed two judges, who summoned both 
parties to appear within a month before the tribunal 
in Speyer. Reuchlin came punctually, accompanied 
by a procurator and friends. Hoogstraten, on the 
other hand, trusting to the power of the Domini- 
cans, did not present himself, nor send a competent 
representative. The judges commenced the suit, 
not with becoming energy, but with a certain half- 


heartedness, perhaps from fear of the revenge of 
the Dominicans. The trial was spun out over three 
months (January to April, 15 14). 

Only after Reuchlin had written two German pa- 
pers on the matter in dispute and the progress of 
the proceedings, did the bishop deign to notice the 
evidence and pass judgment, which was wholly in 
favor of Reuchlin. He stated that the "Augen- 
spiegel " contained not an iota of heresy or error, 
that it did not unduly favor the Jews, that, there- 
fore, Hoogstraten had slandered the author, and 
silence should be imposed on him in this matter ; 
that the writings might be read and printed by 
everyone, and that Hoogstraten be charged with 
the costs (ill Rhenish gold florins). 

The Dominicans of Cologne gnashed their teeth, 
stormed and raged at the issue of the suit, and used 
every effort to overthrow the judgment of the apos- 
tolic court. At that time, on account of the dis- 
union in Germany, it was very difficult to put into 
execution a judicial decree, and the Dominicans 
were not inclined to lessen the difficulty when the 
sentence was given against themselves. They 
laughed at the bishop of Speyer, calling him a stu- 
pid fellow. The notice of the verdict in Cologne 
was torn down by the bold Pfefferkorn, Hoog- 
straten had unofficially — that is to say, without 
giving notice to the bishop of Speyer, then act- 
ing as apostolic judge — appealed to the pope, al- 
though he had scouted the idea of such an appeal 
before. His hope of winning the suit against 
Reuchlin and securing the condemnation of the 
" Augenspiegel " was founded on the venality of 
the Vatican. "Rome will do anything for money," 
he frankly said; "Reuchlin is poor, and the Domin- 
icans are rich ; justice can be suppressed by money." 
Hoogstraten could also count on the good will of the 
cardinals, who inveighed against free inquiry. At 
all events, they could be depended upon to drag out 


the suit so long that Reuchlln's means would not 
suffice to meet the costs. Besides this, the Domin- 
icans relied on obtaining from the universities, in 
particular the leading one of Paris, the condemna- 
tion of the "Augenspiegel," and using it to exert 
pressure upon the pope. All Dominicans, Thomists 
and obscurantists, both In and outside Germany, 
made common cause to work the downfall of 

This union of the Dominican party had the effect 
of binding together the friends of learning, the ene- 
mies of scholasticism, bigotry and church doctrine — 
in one word, the Humanists — and inducing them 
to take concerted action. Virtually a society of 
Humanists, a Reuchlinist party, was formed in 
western Europe, the members of which silently 
worked for one another and for Reuchlin : " One 
supported the other, and said to his comrade, Be 
brave." "All we who belong to the ranks of learn- 
ing are devoted to Reuchlin no less than soldiers to 
the emperor." It was a formal alliance, which the 
supporters of Reuchlin loyally adhered to. So, in 
consequence of Pfefferkorn's bitter hostility to the 
Jews and the Talmud, two parties were formed in 
Christendom, the Reuchlinists and the Arnoldists, 
who waged fierce conflict with each other. It was a 
struggle of the dark Middle Ages with the dawn of 
a better time. 

Young Germany was working with all its might 
on behalf of Reuchlin and against the bigots : be- 
sides Hermann von Busche, and Crotus Rubianus 
(Johann Jager), there was the fiery Ulrich von Hut- 
ten, the most energetic and virile character of the 
time. In fact, Hutten's energy first found a worthy 
aim in the passionate feud between Reuchlin and 
the Dominicans. Formerly his fencing had con- 
sisted of passes in the empty air ; his knightly 
courage and fiery genius had met only phantom 
adversaries. Now, for the first time, the youth of 


six-and-twenty had a clear perception of the relation 
of things ; he saw a real enemy, to meet whom with 
his knight's sword and the sharper weapon of his 
intellect, in a life and death struggle, would be a 
praiseworthy, glorious undertaking. To destroy 
the Dominicans, priests and bigots, and establish 
the kingdom of intellect and free thought, to deliver 
Germany from the nightmare of ecclesiastical super- 
stition and barbarism, raise it from its abjectness, 
and make it the arbiter of Europe, seemed to him 
the aim to toil for. As soon as Hutten was clearly 
conscious of this, he worked ceaselessly for his 
object, the first step towards its realization being to 
help Reuchlin, the leader in the struggle for human- 
ism, to gain the victory over his mortal foes. A 
cardinal, Egidio de Viterbo, who delighted in the 
Hebrew language and in the Kabbala, openly 
sided with Reuchlin. He wrote to him, "The Law 
(Torah) revealed to man in fire was first saved 
from fire when Abraham escaped the burning fur- 
nace, and now a second time, when Reuchlin 
saved, from the fire, the writings from which the 
Law received light, for had they been destroyed 
eternal darkness would again have set in. So, exert- 
ing ourselves for your cause, we are not defending 
you, but the Law, not the Talmud, but the church," 
It is remarkable that the whole Franciscan order, 
from hatred of the Dominicans, took up Reuchlin's 

In almost every town there were Reuchlinists and 
anti-Reuchlinists, whose mutual hatred brought them 
at times to blows. The motto of one was, "Rescue 
of the * Augenspiegel' and preservation of the 
Talmud," and of the other, " Damnation and de- 
struction to both." Involuntarily the Reuchlinists 
became friends of the Jews, and sought grounds on 
which to defend them. The adherents of the Do- 
minicans became fiercer enemies to the Jews, and 
sought out obscure books to prove their wickedness. 


The report of this contest spread through Europe. 
At first limited to Germany, the controversy soon 
reached both Rome and Paris. Hoogstraten and 
the Dominicans worked with energy to have the 
judgment of Speyer overthrown, in the latter place 
by the greatest university, in the former by the 
papal see, and to have Reuchlin's writings sentenced 
to the flames. In both places they had powerful 
and influential allies, who devotedly and zealously 
worked for their party. 

Reuchlin, although his suit had been lawfully won 
in the apostolic court in Speyer, was forced to take 
steps to counteract the appeal instituted by the 
intrigues of his enemies. And his friends succeeded 
in influencing the pope. Leo X appointed the car- 
dinal and patriarch Dominico Grimani as judge of 
the inquiry. It was well known that this ecclesias- 
tical prince cultivated rabbinical literature, and, as 
patron of the Franciscan order, hated the Domini- 
cans, and took Reuchlin's side. Without doubt 
prominent Jews were working in Rome for Reuch- 
lin, but, like the German Jews, they had the good 
sense to keep in the background, so as not to im- 
peril the cause by stamping it as Jewish. Cardinal 
Grimani issued (June, 15 14) a summons to both 
parties, but in consideration of Reuchlin's advanced 
years permitted him to send a representative, while 
Hoogstraten had to appear in person. Furnished 
with recommendations and a well-filled purse, the 
inquisitor appeared in Rome with undiminished con- 
fidence of obtaining a victory. What could not be 
obtained in Rome for money ? 

Reuchlin had nothing of the kind to offer ; he was 
poor. He had not the magic wand which commands 
the gold of bigoted women, nor the conjurer's for- 
mula over father-confessors, who are apt treasure- 
diggers. But there was no lack of recommenda- 
tions from his friends and well-wishers. Emperor 
Maximilian, who, much to his own regret, had orig- 


inated all this disturbance, by lending ear to Pfeffer- 
korn's stupidities and his sister's hysterical piety, 
often interceded with the pope for Reuchlin. The 
emperor wrote that he believed that the Cologne 
people wished to prolong the controversy illegally 
and through intrigue, in order to crush the excellent, 
inoffensive, learned and orthodox Reuchlin ; that 
what he had written (in favor of the Hebrew 
Scriptures) had been written at the emperor's com- 
mand, with a good object, and for the benefit of 

But the Dominicans defied public opinion, the 
commission appointed by the pope, and the pope. 
They spoke of the pope as of a schoolboy under 
their authority. If he did not give a decision in their 
favor, they threatened to withdraw their allegiance, 
and desert him, even risking a rupture with the 
church. They went so far as to threaten that in case 
Reuchlin proved victorious, they would ally them- 
selves with the Hussites in Bohemia against the 
pope. So blinded was this faction by revengeful 
feelings, that from sheer obstinacy they would un- 
dermine Catholicism. Nor did they spare the 
majesty of the emperor; when they learned that 
Maximilian had interceded for Reuchlin with the 
pope, they heaped abuse on him. 

The Dominicans built their hopes on the verdict 
of Paris, the head of all European universities. If 
this important school of divinity condemned Reuch- 
lin's writings and the Talmud, then even the pope 
would have to submit. Every influence was, there- 
fore, brought to bear to obtain a favorable opinion 
from Paris. In particular, the king of France, Louis 
XII, was worked on by his confessor, Guillaume 
Haquinet Petit, to influence the school of divinity 
in favor of the Dominicans. The political events 
which had set the German emperor and the French 
king at variance were also brought into play. Be- 
cause the emperor of Germany was for Reuchlin, 


the king of France decided for the Dominicans and 
against the Talmud. But this decision was not 
easily obtained, for Reuchlin numbered many warm 
friends in Paris. The consultation was prolonged 
from May to the beginning of August, 15 14. 

Many of the voters spoke in favor of Reuchlin 
and at the same time expressed their indignation at 
the unlawful proceedings ; but they were cried down 
by the fanatics. Many French divines were guided 
by the example of Saint Louis, who, at the instiga- 
tion of the baptized Jew, Nicholas Donin, and by 
command of Pope Gregory IX, had ordered the 
Talmud to be burnt three centuries before. The 
Parisian doctors, therefore, gave sentence that 
Reuchlin's " Augenspiegel," containing heresy, and 
defending with great zeal the Talmudic writings, 
deserved to be condemned to the flames, and the 
author to be forced to recant. 

Great was the joy of the Dominicans, particularly 
those of Cologne, over this judgment. They believed 
their game to be won, and that the pope himself 
would be forced to submit. They did not delay 
in making known to the public this concession, so 
hardly won, by means of another libelous pamphlet. 

The lawsuit, allowed to lag in Rome, was wil- 
fully delayed still more by the Dominicans. The 
commission appointed had a close translation of 
the '* Augenspiegel" prepared by a German in 
Rome, Martin von Gronigen ; but the opposition 
found fault with it. Numerous hindrances blocked 
the progress of the suit, and at this stage cost 
Reuchlin 400 gold florins. The Doniinicans had 
hoped so to impoverish their adversary, the friend 
of the Jews, that he would be incapacitated from 
obtaining justice. The prospect of seeing Reuch- 
lin's cause triumphant at Rome diminished. Reuch- 
lin's friends were, therefore, anxious to create another 
tribunal, and appeal from the badly advised or in- 
timidated pope to public opinion. 


During this tension of minds in small and great 
circles, whilst high and low ecclesiastics, princes and 
citizens, anxiously awaited news as to how the 
Reuchlin lawsuit had ended, or would end in Rome, 
a young Humanist (most likely Crotus Rubianus, in 
Leipsic), wrote a series of letters, which, for wit, 
humor and biting satire, had not been equaled in all 
literature. The "Letters of Obscurantists" {Epis- 
tola Obscurorum Virorum), published in 15 15, 
in a great measure directed against the rascally 
Ortuinus Gratius, laid bare, in the language of the 
unpolished monks, their own baseness and inso- 
lence, their astonishing ignorance, their lust, their 
animosity and vileness, their despicable Latin, and 
still more contemptible morality, the absurdity of 
their logic, their foolish chatter — in short, all their 
intolerable vices were made so evident, and de- 
scribed so clearly, that even the half-educated 
could comprehend. All Reuchlin's enemies, Hoog- 
straten, Arnold von Tongern, Ortuinus Gratius, 
Pfefferkorn, their accomplices, and the Paris Uni- 
versity, were lashed with whips and scorpions, so 
that no spot on them remained sound. This clever 
satire, containing more than Aristophanian scorn, 
made the stronger an impression as the Dominicans, 
the Thomists, the Doctors of Divinity, revealed 
themselves in their own persons, in their miserable 
meanness, placing themselves, metaphorically speak- 
ing, in the pillory. But it was inevitable that, in 
deriding the bigots and the papacy, the whole tyranny 
of the hierarchy and the church should be laid bare. 
For, were not the Dominicans, with their insolent 
ignorance and shameless vices, the product and 
natural effect of the Catholic order and institution ? 
So the satire worked like a corroding acid, entirely 
destroying the already rotting body of the Catholic 

The Jews and the Talmud were the first cause of 
the Reuchlinist quarrel ; naturally, they could not be 


left out of account in the letters of the Obscurantists. 
So it happened that the much despised Jews became 
one of the topics of the day. 

A roar of laughter resounded through western 
Europe at the reading of these satirical letters. 
Everyone in Germany, Italy, France and England 
who understood Latin, was struck with the form and 
tenor of these confessions of Dominicans and scho- 
lastics. Their awkward vulgarity, dense stupidity, 
egregious folly, impurity of word and deed, stood so 
glaringly in contrast with their presumed learning 
and propriety, that the most serious men were moved 
to mirth. It is related that Erasmus, who, at the time 
of reading the letters, suffered from an abscess in 
the throat, laughed so heartily that it broke, and he 
was cured. The merry Comedy of the Fools put 
Reuchlin entirely in the right, and the Dominicans 
were judged by public opinion, no matter how the 
pope might deal with them. All were curious to 
know who could be the author. Some thought it was 
Reuchlin himself, others Erasmus, Hutten, or one of 
the Humanist party. Hutten gave the right answer 
to the question as to the author: "God himself." It 
appeared more and more clearly that so slight a cause 
as the burning of the Talmud had taken a world- 
wide significance, the will of the individual serving 
only to further the interests of all. In Rome and 
Cologne, far-seeing Reuchlinists discerned in it the 
work of Providence. 

Only the German Jews could not indulge in mer- 
riment. The Dominicans had meantime worked in 
anotherway to obtain their object, or at least to have 
revenge on the Jews. Of what avail was it to the 
Jews that some enlightened Christians, having had 
their attention drawn to Judaism, were seized with so 
great a predilection for it that they gave expression 
to their new convictions in writing? Christendom as 
a whole was irrevocably prejudiced against Jewish 
teachings and their adherents. Erasmus rightly said, 


" If it is Christian to hate the Jews, then we are true 
Christians." Therefore, it was easy for their enemies 
to injure them. Pfefferkorn had often pointed out 
that there were in Germany only three great Jewish 
communities, at Ratisbon, Frankfort and Worms, 
and that with their extermination, Judaism in the 
German kingdom would come to an end. 

To bring about the expulsion of the Jews from 
Frankfort and Worms, their enemies had discoverd 
effective means. The young Margrave, Albert von 
Brandenburg, hitherto bishop of Magdeburg, who 
later attained melancholy renown in the history of the 
Reformation, had been elected to the archbishopric 
of Mayence. The enemies of the Jews, acting prob- 
ably on a suggestion from Cologne, induced Arch- 
bishop Albert to issue an invitation to religious and 
secular authorities and to towns, principally Frank- 
fort and Worms, to attend a diet in Frankfort, to 
discuss how the Jews might be banished and never 
be permitted to return. Obeying the invitation 
(January 7th, 15 16), many deputies appeared. The 
program was to this purport: All the estates 
were to unite and take an oath to relinquish the 
privileges and advantages derived from the Jews, to 
banish all Jewish subjects and never, under any pre- 
text, or for any term, permit them to return. This 
resolution was to be laid before the emperor for his 

The Jews of these places saw certain danger hang- 
ing over their heads. If at other times the German 
princes and rulers were disunited and indolent, in 
the persecution of Jews they were always united 
and energetic. Nothing remained for the Jews but 
to send a deputation to Emperor Maximilian, and 
implore him to grant them his favor and support 
them against so malevolent a measure. The emperor 
happily remembered that the Jews, even when ruled 
by various great or petty rulers, were in reality the 
servants of himself and the empire, and that their 


banishment would be an encroachment on his suze- 
rainty. Maximilian hastened, therefore, to send a 
very forcible dispatch to Elector Albert and the 
chapter of Mayence, to the religious and secular 
authorities, and to the towns (January, 1516), ex- 
pressing his displeasure at their conference, and for- 
bidding them to meet again at the appointed time. 
So the Jews were for the moment saved. But the 
archbishop of Mayence, or in his absence the chapter, 
did not give up the pursuit of the desired object. 
The enemies of the Jews, the friends of the Cologne 
Dominicans, still hoped to turn the emperor against 
them. But the hope was vain ; the Jews were not 
banished for the present. 

Reuchlin's lawsuit, although delayed by the 
struggles of the two parties, whose time was taken 
up in plotting against each other's intrigues, made 
slow but perceptible progress. Hoogstraten, see- 
ing that the commission would decide in favor 
of Reuchlin, vehemently demanded a decision by 
council, inasmuch as it was a question, not of law, 
but of faith. Pope Leo, who did not care to be on 
bad terms with either party, in opposition to his own 
repeated command had to yield to a certain extent. 
On the one side Emperor Maximilian and many 
German princes insisted upon having Reuchlin de- 
clared blameless and silencing the Dominicans; on 
the other side the king of France and young Charles 
(at that time duke of Burgundy), the future empe- 
ror of Germany, king of Spain and America, used 
threatening language towards the pope, demanding 
that the matter be taken up seriously, and that 
Reuchlin's book be condemned. Leo, therefore, con- 
sidered it advisable to escape from this critical posi- 
tion. He submitted the matter for final decision to 
a court of inquiry, formed of members of the Lateran 
Council, then in session. Thus the dispute about the 
Talmud became the concern of a general council, 
and was raised to the dignity of a European question. 

CH. XIV. reuchlin's suit in abeyance. 465 

The council committee finally declared in favor 
of Reuchlin. Before Leo X could confirm or reject 
its decision, Hoogstraten and his friends influenced 
him to issue a mandate suspending the suit. This 
temporizing exactly suited Leo's character and his 
position between the excited rival parties. He hated 
excitement, which he would have brought on himself, 
if he had decided in favor of either party. He did 
not wish to offend the Humanists, nor yet the bigots, 
nor the German emperor, nor the king of France, 
nor the ruler of Spain. So the suit was suspended, 
and at any favorable opportunity could be taken up 
again by the Dominicans. Hoogstraten had to 
leave Rome in disgrace and dishonor, but he did not 
give up the hope of winning his cause in the end. 
He was a strong-willed man, who could not be dis- 
couraged by humiliations, and so unprincipled 
that falsehood and misrepresentations came easy 
to him. 

If Pope Leo believed that at his dictation the con- 
flict would cease, he overestimated the authority of 
the papacy, and mistook the parties as well as the 
real issue involved. Feeling ran too high to be 
quieted by a word from those in power. Neither 
party wished for peace, but for war, war to the knife. 
When Hoogstraten returned from Rome, his life was 
in danger. Furious Reuchlinists often conspired 
against him, and sought by polemical leaflets to ex- 
asperate public opinion still more against the Domin- 
icans. Hutten, since his mature judgment had 
taken in the situation at Rome, was most eager to 
bring about the downfall of ecclesiastical domination 
in Germany. 

The secret could be no longer kept, it was given 
out from the hOuse-tops that there was dissension in 
the church. Not their foes, but the provincial of 
the Dominican order, Eberhard von Cleve, and the 
whole chapter, represented in an official letter to the 
pope that the controversy had brought them, the 


Dominicans, into hatred and contempt ; that they 
were held up to the mockery of all, and that 
they — so very undeservedly! — were decried, both 
in speech and writing, as the enemies of bro- 
therly love, peace and harmony ; that their preach- 
ing was despised, their confessional avoided, 
and that everything they undertook was derided, 
and declared to be only the result of pride and 

Meanwhile the contention between Reuchlin and 
the Dominicans, especially Hoogstraten, developed 
in another direction, and affected Judaism at another 
point. The Kabbala formed the background of this 
movement. Out of love for this secret doctrine, 
supposed to offer the key to the deepest knowledge 
of philosophy and Christianity, Reuchlin had wished 
to spare the Talmud, because in his opinion it con- 
tained mystical elements. The youthful Kabbala 
became the patroness of the old Talmud. Reuchlin 
understood but little of Kabbalistic doctrines, bu't 
his eagerness for knowledge and his zeal spurred 
him on to study. Moreover, the attack by his ad- 
versaries upon his orthodoxy, honesty and erudition, 
had made it an affair of honor for him to prove con- 
vincingly that the Kabbala agreed with Christianity. 
But he was unfortunate in the choice of his Hebrew 
models. For a long time he sought a guide, until 
chance brought him to the most confused source of 
information: the foolish writings of the Kabbalist, 
Joseph Jikatilla, of Castile, which the convert Paul 
Riccio had lately translated into Latin. As soon as 
Reuchlin heard of this literary treasure of Joseph 
Jikatilla, he did not rest till he had obtained it, and 
again set about proving that the Kabbala was in 
agreement with Christianity. 

Believing that the Kabbala reveals and confirms 
the highest truths, the mysteries of Christianity, 
Reuchlin composed a work on Kabbalist science, and 
dedicated it to Pope Leo X, giving new emphasis to 


his contention that the Jewish writings, instead of 
being burnt, should be cherished. 

Reuchlin must have counted on the approval of 
the pope, to whom he dedicated the work, for having 
found new support for the tottering faith. He 
hoped that Leo X would at length grant him peace 
and rest by pronouncing judgment in the suit be- 
tween himself and the Dominicans, which, though 
suppressed, was persistently urged by the latter. 
The Christianlike Kabbala was to be his intercessor 
at the Vatican. He did not stand alone in his fool- 
ish fondness for the secret doctrine. Not only the 
cardinals but the pope himself expected to gain 
much for Christianity by proper research into the 

As the interest in the Reuchlin controversy began 
to flag, another movement started in Germany, con- 
tinuing, as the other had begun, to shake the firm 
pillars of the papacy and the Catholic Church, and 
prepare the regeneration of Europe. The discus- 
sion aroused by the Talmud created an intellectual 
medium favorable to the germination and growth of 
Luther's reform movement. Destined soon to be- 
come a force in the world's history, even the Re- 
formation arose from small beginnings, and needed 
most powerful protection not to be nipped in the 
bud. Martin Luther was a strong, straightforward, 
obstinate and passionately excitable character, hold- 
ing with tenacity to his convictions and errors. By ^ 
the opposition which he met, Luther finally came / 
to the conclusion that each individual pope, conse- > 
quently the papacy, was not infallible, and that the 
b^sis of faith was not the pope's will, but the Scrip- 
tural word. 

The death of the old emperor, Maximilian, who 
had been unequal to the task of grappling with the 
theological perplexities called forth by himself, and 
the election of a new emperor, spun out for half a 
year, drew politics into the arena, and gave rise to 


a confusion in which the friends and foes of free 
religious thought and of gloomy orthodox faith were 
not distinguishable. Hutten and the Humanists 
favored Charles V, in whose own country, Spain, 
the Dominicans still had the upper hand, and where 
the flames from the stake were still unextinguished ; 
but he was opposed by the pope. The Reuchlinist 
and the Lutheran cause, as it were, the Talmud and 
the Reformation, were merged into each other. So 
great a change had taken place that the electors 
assembled to elect an emperor declared against the 
obscurantists of Cologne and in favor of Reuchlin. 

Instead of condemning the Talmud, Pope Leo X 
encouraged the printing of the work. Thus, through 
a movement incomprehensible to all its contem- 
poraries, the unexpected took place : Reuchlin was 
justified, and the Talmud was justified, and in a 
measure favored by the pope. Indeed, Daniel 
Bomberg, a rich Christian publisher in Antwerp, in 
the same year brought out a complete edition of 
the Babylonian Talmud in twelve folio volumes, 
the model of all later editions. 

A clever pantomime, which first appeared in 
Latin or French, and was soon translated into Ger- 
man, portrays Reuchlin as the originator of the 
great and growing movement. It represents a 
doctor, on whose back may be read the name of 
Capnion (Reuchlin), throwing a bundle of straight 
and crooked sticks on the stage, and then going 
away. Another figure (Erasmus), having in vain 
endeavored to put the bundle in order, shakes his 
head over the chaos, and disappears. Hutten also 
comes in. Luther appears in monk's dress, and 
with a firebrand kindles the crooked twigs. An- 
other figure, in imperial robes, strikes with its 
sword the spreading fire, only giving it wider play. 
At length comes the pope, who, wishing to ex- 
tinguish the fire, seizes a vessel, and pours the oil 
in it upon the flames, then clasps his hands on 


his head, while the bright flames shoot up never 
again to be stifled. Pfefferkorn and the Talmud 
should not have been missing in this dumb shovv^ 
for they were the fuse that started the conflagra- 

The situation was such that the slightest breath 
made the flames leap up. Luther had gained firm- 
ness and courage at the imperial diet of Worms, 
and by his speech, revealing fearlessness, completed 
the rupture with the papacy. Although urged by 
his own bigotry, besieged by obscurantists and ex- 
horted by princes, Emperor Charles was disposed 
to condemn the reformer to the stake as a heretic, 
yet pardy from consideration for Frederick, elector 
of Saxony, partly from policy, hoping thereby to 
hold the pope in check, he only declared him an 
exile a month later. Meanwhile Luther was already 
on his Patmos, the Wartburg, hidden and protected. 
Whilst in solitude he worked at a German transla- 
tion of the Bible, ultra- reformers overthrew church 
regulations, altered the church services, did away 
with masses and priestly decoration, abolished the 
vows of monks, and introduced the marriage of 
priests — that is to say, the priests publicly acknowl- 
edged their former secret mistresses as their wives. 
The time was ripe for the Reformation, and it took 
firm hold of North Germany, Denmark and Swe- 
den, extending to Prussia, Poland, and, on the other 
hand, to France and even Spain, the country of 
darkest and most bigoted ecclesiasticism and the 
home of persecution. ZwingH, the reformer of 
Switzerland, after much wavering, declared himself 
against the papacy; so, in that country, too, where 
there was more freedom of action than in submis- 
sive Germany, the new church service was intro- 
duced, the marriage of priests permitted, pictures 
and crucifixes destroyed, and monasteries done 
away with. A new order of things had set in ; all- 
powerful Rome stood impotent before the new 


spirit. The enthusiasm of the Anabaptists began to 
arouse pubHc feeling and transform all relations of 

At first, Luther's Reformation affected the Jews 
but slightly. Catholics and innovators in every 
town, especially in Germany, were so occupied with 
fighting each other, that they had no leisure for the 
persecution of Jews ; so there came a pause. Luther, 
whose voice even then was more powerful than that 
of the princes, at first defended them from numerous 
accusations. In his plain-spoken and fervent way, 
he said : 

" This rage (against the Jews) is still defended by some silly theo- 
logians, and advocated by them ; they declare insolently that the 
Jews are the servants of the Christians, and subject to the emperor. 
I beg you to tell me who will join our religion, be he the most ami- 
able and patient of men, when he sees that they are treated so 
cruelly and inimically, and not only in an unchristian way, but even 
brutally. Most of the Passion preachers (in Holy Week) do nothing 
but make the sin committed by Jews against Christ heavier and 
greater, and embitter the hearts of believers against them." 

In one of his works, the title of which, calculated 
to startle their antagonists, ran, "Jesus was born a 
Jew," Luther expressed himself against the indelible 
hatred of the Jews still more sharply ; 

"Those fools, the papists, bishops, sophists and monks, have hith- 
erto so dealt with Jews, that every good Christian would rather have 
been a Jew. And if I had been a Jew, and seen such stupidity and 
such blockheads reign in the Christian Church, I would rather have 
been a pig than a Christian. They have treated the Jews as if they 
were dogs, not men ; they have done nothing but revile them. They 
are blood-relations of our Lord ; therefore, if it were proper to boast 
of flesh and blood, the Jews belong to Christ more than we. I beg, 
therefore, my dear papists, if you become tired of abusing me as a 
heretic, that you begin to revile me as a Jew." 

" Therefore, it is my advice," continued Luther, "that we treat 
them kindly. Now that we drive them by force, treating them de- 
ceitfully and ignominiously, saying that they must have Christian 
blood to wash away the Jewish stain, and I know not what more non- 
sense, — prohibiting them from working amongst us, from living and 
having social intercourse with us, forcing them to be usurers, how 
can we expect them to come to us ? If we would help them, so 
must we exercise, not the law of the pope, but that of Christian love 
— show them a friendly spirit, permit them to Hve and to work, so 
that they may have cause and means to be with us and amongst us." 


These were words which the Jews had not heard 
for a thousand years. They show unmistakable 
traces of Reuchlin's mild intercession in their favor. 
Many hot-headed Jews saw in Luther's opposition 
Jlo the papacy the extinction of Christianity and the 
^Lunph of Judaism. Three learnedjews wenL to 
Luther, and tried to convert him. Enthusiastic feel- 
ings were aroused among the Jews at this unex- 
pected revulsion, especially at the blow dealt the 
papacy and the idolatrous worship of images and 
relics ; the boldest hopes were entertained of the 
speedy dov/nfall of Rome, and the approaching re- 
demption by the Messiah. 

But the Jewish religion gained much more by the 
Reformation than the Jewish race. Despised before, 
it became fashionable, so to say, in the early days 
of the Reformation. Reuchlin had expressed the 
modest wish that at the few German universities a 
professor of the Hebrew language might be ap- 
pointed. Through his zeal for Hebrew (he had 
published, shortly before his death, a work on 
Hebrew accents and prosody), and through the in- 
creasing conviction that without this knowledge the 
Bible must remain a sealed book, princes and uni- 
versities sought teachers, and instituted Hebrew 
professorships not only in Germany and Italy, but 
also in France and Poland. The light, graceful, 
classic muse, which had withdrawn many hearts from 
the church, was more and more neglected, and the 
serious Hebrew mother was sought out instead. 
Young and old did not hesitate to seek Jews from 
whom to learn Hebrew. A friendly connection was 
formed between Jewish masters and Christian pu- 
pils, to the intense vexation of bigots on both sides ; 
and many prejudices died out by these means. The 
principal teacher of the Christians was a grammarian 
of German descent, Elias Levita (born 1468, died 
1549). This poor man, who had to struggle for his 
daily bread, laid the foundation of the knowledge of 


the Hebrew language. The plundering of Padua — 
where, perhaps, he was born — brought him, by way 
of Venice, to Rome, where Cardinal Egidio de Vi- 
terbo, wishing to advance in his grammatical and 
Kabbalistic studies, took him into his house, support- 
ing him and his family for more than ten years. Not 
only this church dignitary, but many other Chris- 
tians of high position sat at Levita's feet. One was 
George de Selve, bishop of Lavour, the French 
ambassador, as learned as h^ was statesmanlike. 
Against the reproach of some bigoted rabbis, Levita 
defended himself by the remark that his Christian 
pupils all were friends of the Jews, and tried to pro- 
mote their welfare. On the inducement of his 
patron, Egidio, he worked at a Hebrew grammar ia 
the Hebrew language, the greater part of which was 
translated into Latin by Reuchlin's pupil, Sebastian 
Miinster. Elias Levita had not a mind of great 
depth, nor did he propound a new theory on the 
structure of the Hebrew language. He rigorously 
adhered to the grammatical system of the Kimchis, 
because he did not know their predecessors. His 
usefulness consisted in his command over the whole 
Scriptural vocabulary, his pedagogic skill, and his 
gift of vivid presentation. Beyond the elements he 
did not go, but they perfectly satisfied the wants of 
the time. Only one deviation did Levita make from 
the beaten track. Against the firm belief of the 
time that the accents and the vowel signs in the 
Hebrew Bible were of ancient origin, having been 
revealed on Mount Sinai, or, at all events, intro- 
duced by Ezra, he maintained that they had not 
been known even at the time of the Talmud, because 
they had been superfluous when Hebrew was a living 
language. It can easily be imagined what a storm 
this opinion raised. It at once upset all preconceived 
notions. The bigots raised a cry against him as 
though he had by his assertion disowned Judaism. 
Elias Levita was, therefore, little liked by his brother 


Jews, and associated more with learned Christians, 
which brought much blame from the over-pious, and 
produced evil consequences for his descendants. 

He was not the only teacher of the Hebrew lan- 
guage and literature to Christians. As before him, 
Obadiah Sforno had given Reuchlin instruction in 
Hebrew^ so at the same time as Levita, Jacob Man- 
tino and Abraham de Balmes were engaged in in- 
structing Christians. 

Throughout Christendom there was a desire to 
know the Hebrew language. The printers reckoned 
on such good sales that in several places in Italy and 
Germany, even where there were no Jews, new and 
old Hebrew grammatical writings were published. 
Everyone wished to know Hebrew and to under- 
stand the Hebrew language and literature. Some 
years before the representatives of the church had 
considered the knowledge of Hebrew superfluous, 
or even a pernicious evil touching on heresy; but 
through the Reformation it became a necessary 
branch of divinity. Luther himself learnt Hebrew 
to be able to penetrate the meaning of the Bible. 

The change of mind was most evident in France. 
The Paris university, the leader of thought, had by 
a majority condemned Reuchlin's " Augenspiegel" 
in favor of the Talmud and Hebrew studies ; scarcely 
six years later there was a professorship and a print- 
ing press for Hebrew, and the confessor of King 
Louis, William Haquinet Petit, though a Dominican, 
the one whose slander had brought about the con- 
demnation of Reuchlin's work, appeared as a patron 
of Hebrew literature. 

At his advice King Francis I invited the bishop of 
Corsica, Augustin Justiniani, a man well read in 
Hebrew literature, to come to France. This young 
king felt, or at least showed, interest in learning and 
also in the study of Hebrew. He invited Elias 
Levita to come to France, and fill the professor- 
ship of Hebrew there, probably at the instigation of 


his admirer, De Selve. One must take into consid- 
eration what this signified at that time. In France 
proper, for more than a century, no Jew had been 
permitted to dwell, nor even to make a passing stay, 
and now a Jew was invited, not merely to reside 
there, but to accept an honorable post and instruct 
Christians. What heresy ! Elias Levita, however, 
declined this flattering proposal ; he would not have 
felt at ease there as the only Jew, and to urge the 
admission of Jews into France was not in conformity 
with his character. Justiniani undertook the task of 
introducing the study of Hebrew into France. 

At the University of Rheims the French students 
made attempts to speak Hebrew. As there were 
not sufficient grammars, Justiniani had the wretched 
Hebrew grammar of Moses Kimchi printed. Yet 
more remarkable is it that in Paris, where three 
hundred years previously the Jewish orthodox party, 
with the help of the Dominicans, had burnt Maimu- 
ni's religious philosophical work, "Guide of the Per- 
plexed," the Dominican Justiniani now caused a La- 
tin translation of the same to be published (1520). 
Naturally, the Christian teachers of the Hebrew 
language remained dependent on their Jewish mas- 
ters ; they could not take a single step without them. 
Paulus Fagius, a reforming priest and disciple of 
Reuchlin, wishing to establish a Hebrew press in 
Isny, called upon Elias Levita to go there. This 
offer was accepted, for Levita was in difficulties, and 
could find no publisher for his Chaldean and Rab- 
binical dictionaries. Paulus Fagius was particularly 
pleased with these works, because they appeared to 
him to offer the key to the Kabbala, so much sought 
for by Christian scholars. 

Through the agitation by Reuchlin and Luther 
the neglected science of the Bible was to a certain 
extent cultivated. Judaism and Christianity are 
both founded on the Sacred Writings, yet they 
were quite strange to the followers of both religions. 


The glorious memorial of a much favored time was 
so shrouded and surrounded with a network of 
senseless explanations, so disfigured by these acces- 
sories, that its full value was completely unknown. 
Because everything was looked for in, and imported 
into, the Holy Scriptures, the true meaning was not 
discovered. To the Christian laity the Bible had 
been inaccessible for a long time, because the papacy, 
with instinctive fear, had forbidden its translation 
into the vernacular. So the faithful knew only frag- 
ments or isolated texts, and, owing to distorted inter- 
pretations, these not always correctly. Even the 
clergy were not familiar therewith, for they were ac- 
quainted only with the Roman Catholic Latin version, 
and in this the fundamental truths of the Bible were 
confused by perversions and errors. It was, there- 
fore, a work of great importance that occupied Luther 
in his solitude on the Wartburg — the translation of 
the Bible, the Old and New Testaments, into German. 
For this purpose Luther had to learn Hebrew, and 
seek information from Jews. To his contempo- 
raries it seemed as if God's Word had for the first 
time been revealed ; this clear voice they had never 
before heard. A breath of fresh air was wafted 
on men, when the ramparts were broken down 
that had so long held its spirit imprisoned. Clas- 
sical antiquity had. improved the taste of a small 
circle. Hebrew antiquity rejuvenated the whole 
generation, once more infusing love of simplicity 
and naturalness. The Bible was soon translated 
into all European languages ; the Catholics them- 
selves were obliged to disregard the papal com- 
mand, and render it into intelligible language for 
the people's use. The Jews also felt the want of 
the Holy Scripture in the vernacular. A translation 
into Spanish was made in Ferrara, by a Marrano, 
Duarte de Pinel, who had escaped from Portugal, 
and called himself Abraham Usque as a Jew. 

The demand for Hebrew Bibles was so great that 


Daniel Bomberg undertook the great work of pub- 
lishing the Old Testament, with the commentaries 
of Rashi, Ibn-Ezra, Kimchi, Gersonides, and others. 
The sale of this rabbinical Bible was so rapid that 
new editions were continually appearing. 



Internal Condition of Judaism — Division in the Communities — The 
Lack of Interest in Poetry — Historical Studies — Leon Medigo's 
"Dialogues of Love" — Supremacy of the Kabbala — Messianic 
Hopes — The Marranos and the Inquisition — Henrique Nunes — 
The Traveler David Reubeni in Rome — Solomon Molcho — His 
Relations with David Reubeni — Joseph Karo and his " Maggid " 
— Clement VII — Molcho in Ancona and Rome — His Favor with 
the Cardinals — Death of Molcho — The Enthusiastic Regard in 
which he was held — Duarte de Paz — Paul III — Charles V and 
the Jews — Emanuel da Costa. 

ISCX) — 1538 C.E. 

It is astonishing, yet not astonishing, that the surg- 
ing movement, the convulsive heaving that shook 
the Christian world from pole to pole in the first 
quarter of the sixteenth century scarcely touched 
the inner life of the Jews. Whilst among Chris- 
tians a radical change took place, in thought, 
customs, studies, and even in language ; whilst 
their ancient customs and usages were rejected 
or put aside in some places, and in others freshened 
up ; in a word, whilst a new era started, everything 
remained unchanged with the Jews. Having had 
no " Middle Ages," they needed no new epoch. 
They needed no regeneration, they had no im- 
moral course of life to redress, no cankering corrup- 
tion to cure, no dam to raise against the insolence 
and rapacity of their spiritual guides. They had 
not so much rubbish to clear away. It must not be 
imagined, however, that within the pale of Judaism 
all was bright. The refining and civilizing thoughts 
of Judaism had not yet gained the upper hand. The 
people were wanting in spiritualit}', their guides 
in clearness of mind. Reliance on justification by 



works and scholastic sophistry were prevalent also 
among Jews. In the synagogue service spirituality 
was missing, and honesty in the world of business. 
The ritual retained all received from olden times, 
and became filled with unintelligible elements, so 
that, on the whole, it acquired an unattractive 
character. Sermons were unknown in German con- 
gregations and their offshoots ; at best, Talmudical 
discourses, utterly unintelligible to the people, espe- 
cially to women, and, therefore, leaving them cold 
and uninterested, were delivered. The Spanish 
and Portuguese preachers spoke in the beautiful 
language of their country, but their sermons were 
so full of pedantry that they were no more easily 
understood by the laity. 

The breaking up of Jewish congregations into 
national groups was also a misfortune. The perse- 
cution of the Jews had thrown into the large towns 
of Italy and Turkey fugitives from the Pyrenees 
and from Germany, who failed to unite themselves 
with the existing congregations, yet did not amal- 
gamate with each other. There were, therefore, 
in many towns, not only Italian, Romanic (Greek), 
Spanish, Portuguese, German, and, now and again, 
Moorish (African) congregations, but of each almost 
as many as there were provinces and towns in each 
country. For example, in Constantinople, Adrlan- 
ople, Salonica, Arta (Larta) in Greece, and many 
other towns, there was a large variety of congrega- 
tions, each of which had its own directors, ritual, 
rabbi, academy, charities, its own prejudices and 
jealousies. In the face of such division, nothing for 
the public benefit or general good could be accom- 
plished. The spiritual leaders, although generally 
moral, and, as a rule, sincerely and fervently reli- 
gious, humbled themselves before the rich members 
of their congregation, witnessing Insolence and mis- 
conduct without daring to reprove them. 

Worse than this splitting up into tiny congrega- 


tions was the faintness, the narrow-mindedness, the 
self-abasement, not merely of German Jews, but of 
the Sephardic exiles. Only when it was necessary 
to die for the faith of their fathers did they show 
themselves heroic and full of courage ; at other times 
their activity was expended on petty concerns. No 
new course was taken, not even at sight of the daily 
changes of the Christian world. The few who 
maintained themselves on the heights of science 
kept to the beaten track, served but to level it still 
more. The ruling idea was to elucidate old thoughts 
and old thinkers, and to write commentaries, yea, 
even super-commentaries. The Talmudists ex- 
plained the Talmud, and the philosophical inquirers 
Maimuni's "Guide." Higher flight of fancy and 
greater spiritual insight were not possible. No 
sound of real poetry came from the lips of those 
nourished on it, not even a thrilling song of lamen- 
tation, putting their grief into words. The only cir- 
cumstance testifying to change of position and times 
was interest in historical research, and that was 
almost entirely confined to the Jews of Pyrenean 
descent. The endless suffering which they had en- 
dured, they wished to preserve for future genera- 
tions. Present misery brought before them the 
sorrows of early ages, and showed them that the 
history of the Jewish race was one long course of 
painful martyrdom. 

Otherwise there was nothing new at this period. 
Freedom of philosophical inquiry was not favored. 
Isaac Abrabanel, the transmitter of the old Spanish 
Hebrew spirit, found in Maimuni's philosophical 
writings many heresies opposed to Judaism, and he 
condemned the free-thinkinor commentators who 
went beyond tradition. A Portuoruese fugitive, 
Joseph Jaabez, laid on philosophy the blame for the 
expulsion of the Jews from Spain and Portugal. 
Free-thinking was the sin which had led Israel 
astray ; thereon must the greatest restriction be laid. 


A fresh spirit breathes in the philosophical work 
of the talented Leon Abrabanel, or Medigo. Its 
title, " Dialogues of Love " (Dialoghi damore), tells 
the reader that it is not tainted with the insipidity of 
commonplace philosophy. No one can better show 
the elasticity of the Jewish mind than this scion 
of the ancient noble family of Abrabanel. Torn 
from a comfortable home, thrown into a strange 
land, leading an unsettled life in Italy, his heart tor- 
tured by gnawing pain for the living death of his 
first-born, who had been snatched from him, Leon 
Medigo had enough intellectual strength to immerse 
himself in the Italian language and literature, and 
reduce his scattered philosophical ideas to perfect 
order. Hardly ten years after his flight from Spain 
he might have passed for a learned Italian, rivaling 
in style the polished writers of the Medici era, and 
even excelling them in extent of learning. With 
the same pen with which he wrote Hebrew verses to 
his son, who was being educated in sham Christian- 
ity in Portugal, admonishing him, "Remain con- 
tinually mindful of Judaism, cherish the Hebrew 
language and literature, and keep ever before thee 
the grief of thy father, the pain of thy mother," he 
wrote his " Dialogues of Love," the outpourings of 
Philo's deep love for Sophia. This ostensible ro- 
mance is the keynote of Leon Medigo's philosophi- 
cal system, which sounds more like a philosophical 
idyll than a logical system. There is more imagina- 
tion than reality, and his reflections are suggestive 
rather than true. Possibly Leon Medigo put his 
deeper thoughts into a work, now lost, entitled the 
" Harmony of Heaven." His " Dialogues of Love" 
throughout was far removed from Judaism. Leon 
Medigo paid high honor to " Hebrew truth," and 
endeavored to uphold the scriptural doctrine of cre- 
ation out of chaos, in opposition to the principles of 
Greek philosophy, but he did not penetrate to the 
true spirit of Judaism. Therefore his work was 


valued by Christians more than by Jews. The Ital- 
ians were proud to see — it was the first time — phil- 
osophical thought laid down in their own enthusi- 
astically beloved language. The work became the 
favorite reading of the educated class, and in the 
space of twenty years went through five editions. 

The Kabbala with its futilities soon took posses- 
sion of minds no longer accustomed to strict logical 
discipline, and in a measure it filled the void. In 
the sixteenth century it first began to have sway 
over men's minds. Its adversaries were dead, or 
indisposed to place themselves in opposition to the 
ideas of the age, only too strongly inclined to mys- 
teries, paradoxes and irrational fancies. Sephardic 
fugitives, Judah Chayyat, Baruch of Benevento, 
Abraham Levi, Meir ben Gabbai, Ibn-Abi Zimra, had 
brought the Kabbala to Italy and Turkey, and with 
extraordinary energy won zealous adherents for it. 
Also, the enthusiasm felt for the Kabbala by Chris- 
tian scholars, such as Egidio de Viterbo, Reuchlin, 
Galatino, and others, reacted upon the Jews. The 
doctrine, they reasoned, must have some deep truth 
in it, if it is so sought for by noble Christians. 
Preacher-Kabbalists expounded the doctrine from 
the pulpit, which had not been done before. On 
questions of ritual the Kabbalist writings were con- 
sulted, often as final authorities. No wonder that 
typical elements of the Zohar crept into the liturgy, 
conferring upon it a mystical character. With 
bold presumption the Kabbalists asserted that 
they alone were in possession of the Mosaic tradi- 
tion, and that the Talmud and the rabbis must give 
place to them. In this way the secret doctrine with 
its tricks and fancies, which had hitherto unsettled 
only some few adepts, became known amongst all 
the Jews, and affected the sober minds of the peo- 
ple. The opposition of the rabbis to this interfer- 
ence in the ritual and religious life was rather weak, 
as they themselves were convinced of the sanctity 


of the Kabbala, and objected to the Innovations only 
in a faint-hearted way. 

The empty Kabbala could not fail to arouse en- 
thusiasm in empty heads. With the Zoharist mys- 
tics, as with the Essenes, the expectation of the 
Messiah was the center of their system. To further 
the kingdom of the Messiah, or the kingdom of 
Heaven, or the kingdom of morality, and to predict, 
by means of letters and numbers, the exact time of 
its advent, was the labor in which they delighted. 
Isaac Abrabanel, although he did not favor the Kab- 
bala, gave this Messianic enthusiasm his counte- 
nance. The accumulated sufferings of the few 
remaining Spanish and Portuguese Jews had broken 
the spirit of many, and robbed them of their hope 
of better times. The hopelessness and despair of 
his people, which, if they spread, would further the 
plans of the church, pained the faithful Isaac Abra- 
banel, and in order to counteract this dangerous 
tendency, he prepared three works, based upon the 
Bible (principally the Book of Daniel) and Agadic 
sayings, which, he believed, proved incontrovertibly 
that Israel would have a glorious future, and that a 
Messiah would unfailingly come. According to his 
reckoning, the advent of the Messiah must of neces- 
sity be in the year 1503, 5263 years after the crea- 
tion of the world, and the end would come with the 
fall of Rome, about twenty-eight years later. 

The support given to Messianic calculations by 
so thoughtful and respected a man as Isaac Abra- 
banel, together with Kabbalistic fancies, seems to 
have encouraged an enthusiast to predict the imme- 
diate realization of Messianic ideals. A German, 
Asher Lammlein (or Lammlin), appeared in Istria, 
near Venice, proclaiming himself a forerunner of 
the Messiah ( 1 502 ) . He announced that if the Jews 
would show great repentance, mortification, contri- 
tion and charity, the Messiah would not fail to come 
in six months. The people's minds, prepared by 


suffering and the Kabballst craze, were susceptible 
to such convulsive expectations. Asher Lammlein 
gained a troop of adherents, who spread his proph- 
ecies. In Italy and Germany he met with sympathy 
and belief. There was much fasting, much praying, 
much distribution of alms. It was called the "year 
of penitence." Everyone prepared himself for the 
beginning of the miracle. They counted so surely 
on redemption and return to Jerusalem that exist- 
ing institutions were wilfully destroyed. The sober 
and thoughtful did not dare check this wild fanati- 
cism. Even Christians are said to have believed in 
Asher Lammlein's Messianic prophecy. But the 
prophet died, or suddenly disappeared, and with him 
the extravagant hopes came to an end. 

But with the termination of the Lammlein "year 
of penitence," the Jews by no means lost their hope 
in the Messiah ; it was necessary to support them 
in their misery. The Kabbalists did not cease 
arousing this hope, ever and anon promising them its 
wonderful realization. Thirty years later a more 
important Messianic movement commenced, which, 
by reason of its extent and the persons implicated 
in it, was most interesting. The Marranos in Spain 
and Portugal played the principal part in it. 

These most unfortunate of all unfortunates, who 
renounced the faith of their people, who in a meas- 
ure estranged themselves from their own hearts, 
who were compelled to observe church rites most 
punctiliously, though they hated them in the depth of 
their souls, yet despite all this were repelled by the 
Inquisition and the hatred of Christians — these con- 
verts suffered, without exaggeration, the tortures of 
hell. The greater portion of them, in spite of all 
their struggles, could not bring themselves to love 
Christianity. How could they feel love for a creed 
whose followers daily required the sacrifice of human 
life, and on the slightest pretext sought victims 
among new-Christians ? Under Deza, the second 


Spanish chief inquisitor, almost greater horrors 
were perpetrated than under Torquemada. He 
and his tools, in particular Diego Rodriguez Lucero, 
a pious hangman in Cordova, had committed so 
many infamies that a good monk, Peter Martyr, pic- 
tured the Inquisition thirty years after its origin in 
glaring colors : "The archbishop of Seville (Deza), 
Lucero, and Juan de la Fuente have dishonored this 
province. Their people acknowledge neither God 
nor justice. They kill, steal, and violate women 
and maidens, to the disgrace of religion. The injury 
and unhappiness which these servants of the Inqui- 
sition have caused in my land are so great and 
widespread that everyone must grieve." Lucero 
(the luminous), called by his confederates, on account 
of his horrible deeds, Tenebrero (the dark one), 
brought destruction on thousands : he was insatiable 
for the blood of Hebrew martyrs. " Give me Jews 
to burn," is said to have been his constant cry. His 
fanaticism degenerated into cannibalistic fury. 

The officers of the Inquisition had their hands 
full in consequence of his cruelty, and an ominous 
disturbance was growing in Cordova. The principal 
people of the place complained of the proceedings of 
the inquisitor Lucero, and applied to the chief inqui- 
sitor to have him removed from office. But Deza was 
at one with him, and so the discontented knights, 
nobles, donnas, priests and nuns, were all accused of 
favoring Jewish heresy. The third chief inquisitor, 
Ximenes de Cisneros, was forbearing towards old 
Christians suspected of Judaizing, but condemned 
not a few converts of Jewish and Moorish descent 
to be burned. It was he who used threatening lan- 
guage against Charles V, when he proposed grant- 
ing the Spanish Marranos freedom of belief for a fee 
of 800,000 gold crowns. He forbade his royal pu- 
pil to tolerate the Jews, as Torquemada had forbid- 
den it to Charles' ancestors. His successors were 
not less orthodox, that is to say, not less inhuman 


Under them the victims were not Jews alone ; Chris- 
tians suffered with them. The reform movement in 
Germany was felt also in Spain. Luther's and Cal- 
vin's onslaught on the papacy, on priestcraft and cere- 
monies was brought over the Pyrenees through the 
connection of Spain and Germany, and owing to the 
nationality of Emperor Charles V. The emperor, 
so troubled with the Reformation in Germany, em- 
powered the Holy Office to proceed against Lutheran 
doctrines in Spain, a most welcome task to the 
bloodthirsty monster. Henceforth, Jews, Mahome- 
tans and Lutheran Christians enjoyed equality ; at 
every auto-da-fe martyrs of the three different reli- 
gions perished together. 

The Marranos in Portugal were differently placed 
from those in Spain. King Manoel, who had by 
force dragged the Jews to the baptismal font, in 
order not to drive them to despair had pledged 
iiis word that for twenty (or twenty-nine) years, 
their faith should not suffer molestation at the 
nands of the Inquisition. Relying on this promise 
the Portuguese Marranos followed Jewish obser- 
vances with less secrecy than those of Spain. In 
Lisbon, where they mostly resided, they had a 
synagogue, in which they assembled, the more regu- 
larly as they outwardly complied with the Roman 
Catholic rites, and, therefore, in their own place of 
worship,, with much contrition, implored forgiveness 
of God for their idolatry. The old instructed the 
young in the Bible and the Talmud, and impressed 
upon them the truths of Judaism, so as to guard 
them against the temptation of unreserved accept- 
ance of Christianity. The Portuguese Marranos 
also had more freedom to emigrate, and left singly 
or in numbers for Barbary or Italy, and thence went 
on to Turkey. To check the emigration of the Mar- 
ranos Manoel had issued an order that a Christian 
could conclude an exchange or barter with a con- 
vert only under pain of forfeiting his possessions, and 


could buy real estate from him only by royal per- 
mission ; moreover, that no Marrano, with wife, 
children and servants, should leave the land without 
a special license from the king. But orders of this 
description were made only to be evaded. Spanish 
Marranos had every reason to envy their fellows in 
Portugal, and spared no trouble to escape beyond 
the frontier of the land where the stake was ready, 
and the fagots lighted for them. Very naturally 
the vindictive Spanish government opposed them, 
and induced Manoel to pass a law that no Spaniard 
could step on Portuguese soil unless he brought a 
certificate that he was not guilty of heresy. 

The Portuguese Marranos, then, would have had 
a tolerable existence if popular hatred of them had 
not been so fierce. This unfriendliness after their 
baptism shows that they were hated less as followers 
of Judaism than as a different race, and an active, 
industrious, superior class. The Christians' dislike 
of them increased when the converts obtained the 
right of pursuing a trade, of collecting church tithes, 
of taking office, or even accepting ecclesiastical dig- 
nities preparatory to entering one of the orders. At 
first they showed their hatred by calling them insult • 
ing names, " cursed convert of a Jew" {jfudceo Mat- 
rano, conversd), till Manoel stopped this by law. 
Bad harvests, which for many years had brought 
famine into Portugal, now resulted in a plague, and 
this added fuel to popular animosity. It was com- 
monly said, " The baptized Jews are grain specula- 
tors ; they make the necessaries of life dear, and 
export grain to foreign countries." The person 
most hated was a Marrano upstart, John Rodrigo 
Mascarenhas, the farmer of taxes, and through him 
all the Marranos incurred hatred. 

This feeling was employed by the crafty Domini- 
cans to gain the expulsion of the favorites of King 
Manoel. They not only preached about the god- 
lessness of the converts, but invented a miracle 


outright to excite the fanaticism of the people. The 
moment was opportune. The plague raged in Por- 
tugal, and swept away thousands daily, while con- 
tinued drought threatened another bad harvest. Of 
these troubles, the Marranos alone were the cause, 
at least so everybody said. The Dominicans loudly 
proclaimed that, in one of their churches, in a mir- 
ror attached to a cross, the Virgin Mary had ap- 
peared in a glow of fire, and other astonishing 
miracles had been seen in it. They were practiced 
in such deceit. Many people flocked to the church 
to behold the marvel. On a Sunday after Easter 
(April 19th, 1506), the church was filled with devo- 
tional gazers, among them Marranos, who were com- 
pelled to attend. 

A Dominican, in a passionate sermon, charged 
the people collected in the church to murder the 
accursed converts, because the king favored them ; 
and two others, John Mocho and Fratre Bernardo, 
walked through the street, bearing crosses, and, 
crying " Heresy, heresy ! " The scum of the popu- 
lace in the turbulent capital was aroused, and, 
together with German, Dutch and French sailors, 
took this opportunity to plunder. Thus nearly 
io,ocx) people went through the town, and killed 
Marranos, men, women and children, wherever they 
found them, in the streets, in the houses, or in 

This, however, by no means ended the massacre ; 
it continued two days longer. A German, who was 
in Lisbon, reported : " On Monday I saw things 
dreadful to say or write if one has not seen them." 
Women with child were flung from the windows and 
caught on spears by those standing underneath, 
and their offspring hurled away. The peasantry 
followed the example of the townspeople. Many 
women and girls were violated in this fanatical 
chase. The number of new-Christians slain is esti- 
mated at between 2,000 and 4,000. 


By this slaughter the fate of the Portuguese 
Marranos was decided. The people were the more 
embittered against them because they had gained 
the favor of the king, and they longed for their ex- 
termination. Their lives hung on the chance of 
the continuance of the king's favor. Manoel de- 
clared by proclamation (March, 1507) that converts 
were to be treated as Christians, and that they 
should be permitted to emigrate ; and by another 
order, that for sixteen years more they should not 
be liable to be arraigned before a tribunal for their 
religious conduct. The Christian population re- 
mained hostile to the converts, from racial antipathy 
and from envy of their industrial success, and Manoel 
himself was compelled to modify his attitude towards 

The condition of the Portuguese Marranos changed 
under Manoel's successor Joao III (1522 — 1557), 
the blockhead who brought about the ruin of his 
country. As Infante he had been the declared 
enemy of the new-Christians. At first he respected 
his father's edict to place converted Jews on a par 
with Christians, and to allow no trial to take place 
regarding their religious" belief within the pre- 
scribed time (1522 — 1524). For this indulgence the 
Marranos had to thank the old counselors of Manoel, 
who remembered the violent mode of their conver- 
sion, and on the other hand appreciated how much 
they had increased the prosperity of the little state. 
For the Marranos were a most useful class on 
account of their energy, their wholesale business, 
their public banks, and their skill as armorers and 
cannon founders. They were the' only ones, too, 
possessed of a knowledge of medicine and physical 
science and all pertaining to it. There were in 
Portugal hardly any but Jewish, that is to say, 
Marrano physicians. When, however, other influ- 
ences were brought to bear on Joao, and he grad- 
ually freed himself from these wise counselors, his 


fanatical detestation of the converts gained the 
upper hand. Queen Catherine, a Spanish Infanta, 
filled with admiration of the religious tribunal 
of her country, and the bloodthirsty Dominicans, 
envious of the power of their order in Spain, besieged 
the king with complaints of the disgraceful and wicked 
conduct of the Marranos towards the Christian 
faith, and urged him to put a stop to the proceed- 
ings of the Marranos by instituting an Inquisition. 
Joao III thereupon commissioned George Themudo 
to inquire into the life of the Marranos in Lisbon, 
their headquarters, and to report to him upon it. 
Themudo was probably not far from the truth when 
he informed the king (July, 1524) that some Mar- 
ranos observed the Sabbath and the Passover, that, 
on the other hand, they joined in Christian rites and 
ceremonies as little as possible, were not present at 
mass and divine service, did not go to confession, 
did not ask that extreme unction be administered 
to the dying, were buried in unconsecrated ground, 
not in a churchyard, that they had no masses said 
for their departed relatives, and committed other 
offenses of a similar character. 

But Joao was not satisfied with Themudo's report ; 
the Marranos were put under an espionage system, 
A convert, an emigrant from Spain, named Hen- 
rique Nunes, who afterwards received from the 
church the honorary title Firme-Fe, w-as chosen by 
the king to spy upon them. In the school of the 
bloodthirsty Lucero he had acquired a fierce hatred 
of the Marranos. and it was his ardent wish to see 
the fagots kindled in Portugal. To him the king 
gave secret instructions to insinuate himself into the 
families of the converts, to associate with them as a 
brother and companion in adversity, to observe them 
and report upon all the information he could gain. 
Blinded by fanaticism and hatred of his own race, 
Nunes did not consider how contemptible a role, 
that of a common spy, was allotted to him. He un- 


dertook the work only too willingly, learned all the 
secrets of the unhappy Marranos in Lisbon, Evora 
and other places, and communicated all that he saw 
and heard in letters to the king. He betrayed with 
a brother's kiss those who showed him the hidden 
corners of their hearts. He informed the king not 
only that he found no Catholic prayer-books in their 
houses, that they had no holy images among their 
ornaments or on their plate, that they did not care 
for rosaries and other things of that kind, but he 
gave the names of the Jewish Marranos, making 
hateful accusations against them. As soon as Joio 
received the desired intelligence, he resolved to in- 
troduce the Inquisition on the Spanish model into 
his country, and secretly sent the trusty Nunes to 
Charles V in Spain to learn something more about 
it. The Marranos had got v^ind of this, and were 
so furious with the treacherous spy, that two of them 
followed him to punish his perfidy with death. 
These were Diego Vaz, of Olivenga, and Andre 
Dias, of Vianna, who were Franciscans, or disguised 
themselves in monks' dress. They reached him 
not far from the Spanish frontier, near Badajoz, and 
killed him with sword and spear. They found let- 
ters on him about the installation of the Inquisition. 
The avengers, or murderers, as the orthodox Chris- 
tians called them, were discovered, brought to trial, 
stretched on the rack to betray their accomplices, 
and finally condemned to the gallows. But the 
traitor Nunes was regarded as a martyr, almost 
canonized, and given the honorary title of " Firme- 
F6" (Firm Believer). 

One would have expected the fanatical king after 
this occurrence to pursue with greater zeal his ob- 
ject of establishing an Inquisition, so as to proceed 
against the Jewish Marranos whose names he had 
obtained from Nunes. The king did, indeed, insti- 
tute a strict inquiry to discover the accomplices of 
the two Marrano monks. Contrary to expectation 


Joao issued no restrictions against the Marranos. 
Also the inquiry about the conspirators for Nunes' 
death seems to have been intentionally protracted 
as much as possible. Documents plainly say that 
the king gave up the plan of establishing the Inqui- 
sition. A chance, the boldness of an adventurer, ap- 
pears in the first instance to have brought about 
this favorable alteration in the mind of the weak, 
vacillating king. 

Coming from the far East, and emerging from 
obscurity, appeared a man of whom it is hard to say 
whether he was an impostor or a foolish fanatic, and 
whether he intended to play the role of a Messianic 
or of a political adventurer, but he caused a great 
stir among Jews, affecting the Marranos in the ex- 
treme West. David, an Oriental by descent, long 
resident in Arabia and Nubia, suddenly appeared 
in Europe in a peculiar character, and by means of 
both fiction and truth started the wildest hopes. 
He declared himself a descendant of the old Hebrew 
tribe of Reuben, which, he alleged, still flourished in 
Arabia in independence, and he claimed to be a 
prince, the brother of a reigning Jewish king. He, 
therefore, called himself David Reubeni. 

Loving travel and adventure, he journeyed much 
in Arabia, Nubia and Egypt, and came finally to 
Italy. The report was that he had been sent by his 
brother, who commanded 300,000 chosen warriors, 
and by the seventy elders of the land of Chaibar, 
to the European princes, especially to the pope, to 
obtain firearms and cannon with which to fight the 
Mahometan people, who hindered the union of the 
Jewish race on both sides of the Red Sea, and to 
assist the brave Jewish army to drive the Turks out 
of the Holy Land. 

David Reubeni's appearance and manner were 
such as to inspire confidence. In both, there was 
something strange, mysterious and eccentric. He 
was of dark complexion and dwarfish in stature, 


and so excessively thin that continuous fasts 
reduced him almost to a skeleton. Possessed of 
courage and intrepidity, he had at the same time a 
harsh manner that admitted of no familiarity. He 
only spoke Hebrew, and that in so corrupt a jargon 
that neither Asiatic Jews nor those of southern 
Europe understood him. He came to Rome (Feb- 
ruary, 1524), and accompanied by a servant and 
an interpreter, rode on a white horse to the Vatican, 
and requested an interview with Cardinal Giulio, in 
the presence of other cardinals. Pope Clement 
also gave him audience, and accepted his creden- 

Clement VII (1523 — 1534), one of the most excel- 
lent popes, an illegitimate scion of the Florentine 
Medicis, was sensible and kind, and earnestly de- 
sired to see Italy freed from the barbarians, that is, 
the Germans. But he reigned at a time when 
Europe had lost its balance. On the one side 
Luther and his Reformation, which gained ground 
daily, threatened to undermine the papacy ; and on 
the other, Charles V's powerful realm, Spain and 
Germany with Burgundy and a part of America, 
almost crushed Italy into servile dependence. If 
Clement quarreled with the emperor, the latter 
favored the Reformation, and set about restraining 
the papal power. If the pope became reconciled to 
him, the liberty of Italy was menaced. Thus, not- 
withstanding his firm character, he was continually 
wavering, and like most of his contemporaries had 
recourse to astrology, in order to learn from the 
stars what was beyond the wisdom of men. 

To Pope Clement VII, David Reubeni seems to 
have handed letters of introduction from Portuguese 
captains or business agents, whom he may have 
met in Arabia or Nubia. These credentials the 
pope sent to the Portuguese court, and when they 
were there declared trustworthy, David was treated 
with the greatest distinction, and received all the 


honors due an ambassador. He rode through 
Rome on a mule, accompanied by ten Jews and 
more than two hundred Christians. The plan of a 
crusade against Turkey, by which the most danger- 
ous enemy of Christianity would be driven out of 
the Holy Land by an Israelitish army, attracted the 
pope, because it promised to restore to him the con- 
trol of military affairs, but its execution was thwarted 
by the complexities of his position. Even the most 
incredulous of the Jews could not conceal from 
themselves the astonishing fact that a Jew was 
treated with respect and politeness by the Vatican, 
and were convinced that there must be at least a 
grain of truth in David's report. . Roman and 
foreign Jews pressed round him who seemed to 
open a hopeful future to them. Senora Benvenida 
Abrabanela, wife of the rich Samuel Abrabanel, 
sent him great sums of money from Naples, a costly 
silk banner embroidered with the Ten Command- 
ments, and many rich garments. He, however, 
played his part in a masterly manner, keeping the 
Jews at a respectful distance. 

At length a formal invitation came from the king 
of Portugal, summoning David Reubeni to his court. 
The latter left Rome, traveling by sea with a Jewish 
flag on his ship. In Almeirin, the residence of king 
Joao III near Santarem, where David arrived, like a 
wealthy prince, with a numerous retinue bearing 
beautifully embroidered banners, he was also treated 
with the greatest honor, and a scheme was discussed 
with him as to how the weapons and cannons could 
be transported from Portugal for the Israelite army 
in Arabia and Nubia. David's appearance in Por- 
tugal seems to have changed the feeling towards 
the Marranos, and Joao was persuaded to give up 
the intended persecution of them. For so great an 
undertaking Joao would need their support, their 
money and their advice. If he wished for an 
alliance with the Hebrew king and people, he must 


not persecute the half-Jews in his own country. So 
his zeal for the establishment of the Inquisition in 
Portugal suddenly cooled. One can imagine the 
astonishment and joy of the Marranos in Portugal, 
when they understood that not only might a Jew be 
admitted into Portugal, but that he was received at 
court, and treated with respect. Thus, then, had 
come the hour of deliverance of which they had so 
long dreamed. Unexpected help had come to 
them, freedom and deliverance from their anguish ; 
they breathed again. Whether or not David Reu- 
beni had declared himself the forerunner of the 
Messiah, did not matter to the Marranos ; they 
believed it, and counted the days to the time when 
he would make them behold the new Jerusalem in 
all its splendor. They pressed round him, kissed 
his hands, and treated him as if he were their king. 
From Portugal the supposed message of salvation 
passed to Spain to the still more unfortunate Mar- 
ranos there, who received it with ecstasies of joy. 
These poor people had fallen into a morbid, eccen- 
tric, irresponsible state of mind. Daily and hourly 
they suffered torments of soul, through having to 
join in religious customs which they abhorred with 
their whole heart. It was no wonder that many of 
them lost their mental balance, and became quite 
mad. In the vicinity of Herrara, a Marrano maiden 
proclaimed herself a prophetess ; fell into trances 
and had visions ; declared that she had seen Moses 
and the angels, and promised to lead her suffering 
companions into the Holy Land. She found many 
believers among the Marranos, and when this was 
discovered, she was burned together with thirty- 
eight adherents. Messianic expectation, that is, 
redemption through a miracle, made the atmosphere 
in which the Marranos breathed and lived. At the 
news of the arrival of an ambassador from a Jewish 
kingdoAi at the Portuguese court, a crowd of Span- 
ish converts fled to Portugal to be near their sup- 


posed redeemer. David, who enjoyed the privilege 
of traveling about in Portugal, appears to have 
behaved very circumspectly : he gave them no 
promises, and did not encourage them openly to 
acknowledge Judaism. He knew well that he was 
walking on the edge of a precipice, and that one 
expression, one act of his directed towards bring- 
ing back new-Christians to Judaism might cost him 
his life. Nevertheless, all eyes were fastened on 
him ; all were aroused and excited by the wonder- 
ful events which would certainly come to pass. 

David Reubeni's appearance and the hopes it 
awakened took strongest hold upon one noble, tal- 
ented, handsome youth ; indeed, the whole course of 
his existence was changed. Diogo Pires (born 
about 1 501, died a martyr, 1532), whose glowing, 
poetic imagination under more favorable circum- 
stances might have accomplished much in the do- 
main of the beautiful, became a tool in the hands of 
the self-proclaimed envoy from Chaibar. Pires, 
who was born a new-Christian, had acquired a good 
education ; he understood and could speak Latin, 
the universal language of the time. He had risen 
to be royal secretary at a high court of justice, and 
was a great favorite at court. With Hebrew and 
rabbinic literature he must have been familiar from 
his earliest youth, and he had been initiated into the 
Kabbala, probably by one of the Marrano teachers. 
At the time when David and his chimerical plans 
made so much stir in Portugal, Diogo Pires was 
completely possessed by wild dreams and visions, 
all of which had a Messianic background. He has- 
tened, therefore, to David, to ascertain whether his 
mission was in accordance with these visionary rev- 
elations. David Reubeni appears to have treated 
him with coldness, and to have told him plainly that 
his military embassy had nothing to do with Messi- 
anic mysticism. But Diogo Pires fancied the cold- 
ness of the alleged envoy to be owing to the circum- 


Stance that he had not accepted the sign of the cov- 
enant, and he forthwith proceeded to undergo the 
dangerous operation of circumcision. The conse- 
quent loss of blood laid him on a sick bed. David 
was highly incensed when Pires told him of this, as 
both of them would be in danger, if it came to the 
king's ears that a Marrano had so emphatically and 
openly declared himself a Jew ; for it would be 
asserted that David had persuaded him to take this 

After circumcision Pires (who took the name of 
Solomon Molcho) had yet more terrible visions, 
owing presumably to his bodily weakness. Their 
import always had reference to the Marranos and 
their redemption by the Messiah. According to his 
own account a strange being (Maggid), who com- 
muned with him from Heaven in a dream, charged 
him to leave Portugal and set out for Turkey. David 
Reubeni also had advised that he should leave Por- 
tugal with all speed, as the act of circumcision might 
involve also David in danger, and frustrate his 
schemes. Leaving Portugal cannot, then, have been 
difficult for Marranos. Diogo Pires (or Solomon 
Molcho) reached Turkey, and hoped for a Messianic 
mission and a martyr's death. 

A great sensation was made there by this enthu- 
siastic, handsome y