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Between Christian and Jew

Conversion and Inquisition in the Crown of Aragon, 1250-1391

By Paola Tartakoff

Publication Year: 2012

In 1341 in Aragon, a Jewish convert to Christianity was sentenced to death, only to be pulled from the burning stake and into a formal religious interrogation. His confession was as astonishing to his inquisitors as his brush with mortality is to us: the condemned man described a Jewish conspiracy to persuade recent converts to denounce their newfound Christian faith. His claims were corroborated by witnesses and became the catalyst for a series of trials that unfolded over the course of the next twenty months. Between Christian and Jew closely analyzes these events, which Paola Tartakoff considers paradigmatic of inquisitorial proceedings against Jews in the period. The trials also serve as the backbone of her nuanced consideration of Jewish conversion to Christianity—and the unwelcoming Christian response to Jewish conversions—during a period that is usually celebrated as a time of relative interfaith harmony.

The book lays bare the intensity of the mutual hostility between Christians and Jews in medieval Spain. Tartakoff's research reveals that the majority of Jewish converts of the period turned to baptism in order to escape personal difficulties, such as poverty, conflict with other Jews, or unhappy marriages. They often met with a chilly reception from their new Christian brethren, making it difficult to integrate into Christian society. Tartakoff explores Jewish antagonism toward Christians and Christianity by examining the aims and techniques of Jews who sought to re-Judaize apostates as well as the Jewish responses to inquisitorial prosecution during an actual investigation. Prosecutions such as the 1341 trial were understood by papal inquisitors to be in defense of Christianity against perceived Jewish attacks, although Tartakoff shows that Christian fears about Jewish hostility were often exaggerated. Drawing together the accounts of Jews, Jewish converts, and inquisitors, this cultural history offers a broad study of interfaith relations in medieval Iberia.

Published by: University of Pennsylvania Press

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Note on Names, Money, Terminology, and Transliterations

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p. ix-ix

In the pages that follow, I have sought to preserve a sense of the linguistic diversity of the medieval Crown of Aragon. Thus, I have used the Catalan forms of names of people from and towns in Catalonia and Valencia (Pere, for . . .

Map 1

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p. xi-xi

Map 2

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p. xii-xii

Map 3

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p. xiii-xiii

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pp. 1-10

Writing about Muslim converts to Christianity in thirteenth-century Valencia, the great historian of the medieval Mediterranean, Robert I. Burns, noted that converts were “a by-product of the main dispute, a kind of displaced . . .

Part I. Before the Tribunal

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Four Arrests

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pp. 13-15

Fra Sancho de Torralba, an inquisitorial commissary in Aragon and the prior of the Dominican monastery of Calatayud, was reputedly zealous in faith and eager to glorify Jesus Christ.1 On Friday, January 5, 1341, when he learned that . . .

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1.Defending the Faith: Medieval Inquisitors and the Prosecution of Jews and Converts

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pp. 16-32

Pope Gregory IX surely never dreamed, when he appointed the first inquisitors in 1231, that medieval inquisitions would become a nexus of conflict between Christians and Jews. As the head of an increasingly self-conscious and . . .

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2.From Resistance to Surrender: Jewish Responses to Inquisitorial Prosecution

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pp. 33-55

The Jews whom Pere blamed for his misadventures were terrified when they learned that they were suspected of “crimes of heretical depravity.” Jucef de Quatorze fled to Valencia, where he was arrested and put on trial by the . . .

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Four Condemnations

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pp. 56-57

In a draft of his final sentence, fra Bernat de Puigcercós recommended sending Jucef de Quatorze and the Almulis to the stake on the grounds that, as Jews, all three individuals were impenitent, in spite of their promises to abjure. Fra . . .

Part II. At the Font of New Life

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Alatzar and Abadia, Baptized

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pp. 61-62

Two Jewish converts to Christianity—Pere and Abadia—were at the heart of the proceedings against Janto and Jamila Almuli and Jucef de Quatorze. Pere first denounced the Almulis and Jucef de Quatorze to the tribunal of fra . . .

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3.Between Doubt and Desire: Jewish Conversion, Converts, and Christian Society

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pp. 63-80

The medieval Crown of Aragon was home to a wide variety of Jewish converts— men and women, the single and the married, parents and children. Several converts had been wealthy or learned as Jews, such as the physician Vincenç . . .

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4.Homeward Bound: The Fates of Jewish Converts

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pp. 81-95

In the environs of the medieval Crown of Aragon, a handful of Jewish converts fared well after baptism, including several individuals who had been wealthy or learned as Jews. At least two converts rose in the ranks of the . . .

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Two Converts, Repentant

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pp. 96-98

The records of the trials of Janto and Jamila Almuli and Jucef de Quatorze suggest that Pere and Abadia were among the disillusioned and remorseful converts who sought to return to Judaism. According to Salomon Navarro, . . .

Part III. By the Fire

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The Intervention

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pp. 101-105

The records of the trials of the Almulis and Jucef de Quatorze provide direct insight into inquisitorial thought and practice, and they grant valuable glimpses of the experiences of Jewish apostates. They are clouded as a window . . .

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5. Apostasy as Scourge: Jews and the Repudiation of Apostates

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pp. 106-116

In the eyes of medieval Jews, apostasy was a heinous sin. It involved the abandonment of a God, a people, and a promised destiny. Going over to Christianity, moreover, was uniquely egregious. Christianity was not merely, to . . .

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6. Recruiting Repentance: The Re-Judaization of Apostates

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pp. 117-131

In spite of the intensity with which many Jews repudiated apostates, relations between Jews and apostates in the Crown of Aragon were not uniformly antagonistic. Some Jews continued to interact productively with apostates, for . . .

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The Road to the Stake

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pp. 132-133

The records of the trials of the Almulis and Jucef de Quatorze provide three conflicting accounts of Pere’s departure from La Almunia de Doña Godina following the gathering at the Almulis’ home. According to Pere’s first . . .

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pp. 135-140

Inspired by the story of Pere, this book has explored Jewish conversion and the inquisitorial prosecution of Jews and converts in the Crown of Aragon during the century prior to 1391. In so doing, it has highlighted Christian suspicion of . . .

List of Abbreviations

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pp. 141-142


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pp. 143-171


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pp. 173-174


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pp. 175-197


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pp. 199-206

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pp. 207-209

This book could not have been written without the support of many extraordinary people and institutions. Robin Vose first suggested that I explore the inquisitorial trials that form its backbone. Caroline Walker Bynum, Benjamin . . .

E-ISBN-13: 9780812206753
Print-ISBN-13: 9780812244212

Page Count: 264
Publication Year: 2012

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Jews -- Spain -- Aragon -- History -- To 1500.
  • Christian converts from Judaism -- Spain -- Aragon -- History -- To 1500.
  • Judaism -- Relations -- Christianity -- History -- To 1500.
  • Christianity and other religions -- Judaism -- History -- To 1500.
  • Aragon (Spain) -- Ethnic relations.
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