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SANFORD SHEPARD The Present State of the Ritual Crime in Spain The blood libel legend seems to have flourished in Catholic Europe. For this reason, it should come as no surprise to learn that ritual murder accusations were reported quite early in Spain. One of the most famous or infamous cases was that which was alleged to have occurred in the town of La Guardia ca. 1488 with a trial in 1490 and 1491. Some scholars believe that this supposed murder of a Christian infant in La Guardia and the ensuing trial was a contributing cause of the expulsion of Jews from Spain in 1492. The following survey of the blood libel legend in Spain was made by Sanford Shepard, Professor of Spanish and Chairperson of the Humanities Program at Oberlin College. For representative discussions of the La Guardia case, see Isidore Loeb, "Le Saint Enfant de la Guardia," Revue des etudes juives 15 (1887): 203-32; Henry Charles Lea, "El Santo Nino de la Guardia," English Historical Review 4 (1889): 229-50; and Yitzhak Baer, A History of the Jews in Christian Spain (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society ofAmerica, 1966), 2: 398-423. Noteworthy in particular are the conclusions arrived at by Isidore Loeb in his praiseworthy essay: (1) The testimony of the witnesses obtained by torture or the threat of torture are full of contradictions, untruths , and impossible "facts." (2) The judges did not make a single inquiry to discover the truth. (3) They were not able to fix the date of the crime nor were they able to discover either the body or the remains of any Christian infant. The conclusion: The infant of La Guardia never existed! Reprinted from Judaism 17 (19681:68-78. 162 The Present State of the Ritual Crime in Spain Throughout the Middle Ages, Christianity nourished the half-hidden hope that the Jews secretly believed in Jesus. Not only the ignorant masses but also scholars and ecclesiastics were obsessed by the notion, to which they clung with a fierce, irrational passion, that the Jews placed credence in the supernatural character of consecrated wafers, the efficacy of black masses, and mock crucifixions. The accusation leveled against the Jews, that they were mocking Christian sacraments, was not based on rancor alone, but rather on what was held to be their skillful, malevolent manipulation steeped in belief. One might be persuaded to think that Christians doubted the articles of their own faith and sought confirmation of Christian miracles in Jewish sorcery. The allegation that the Jews kidnapped Christian children for the purpose of ritual murder, which recapitulated the crucifixion of Jesus, is widespread in the literature of the Middle Ages and, perhaps, best known to English readers from the Prioress's Tale in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. Much material could be extracted from European literature to illustrate the nature of the accusation and its consequences to the accused . But readers familiar with the Beiliss case from Maurice Samuel's Blood Accusation or Bernard Malamud's The Fixer can supply their own details. A ramification of the blood libel was the accusation repeatedly leveled at Jews that they obtained consecrated hosts and performed acts of desecration on these objects which, according to Christian theology, were equivalent to the person of Jesus. Thus, such an act of desecration was, like the murder of a Christian child, a reenactment of the deicide attributed to the Jews. It seems reasonable in the mid-twentieth century to attribute the accusation of the blood libel to the credulity and superstition of the medieval mind or to find some psychological explanation in the remote regions of the human unconscious . But in Spain today the ritual crime still continues to hold a special place from which it will not be dislodged by the light of reason. The poet Garcia Lorca once remarked that a dead man in Spain is more alive as a dead man than anywhere else in the 163 Sanford Shepard world. The same can be said of certain events of Spanish history . The myth of a unified Roman Catholic Spain continues to be perpetrated, reinterpreted, and accepted by the conservative Spanish intellectuals of today, whose voices are the only ones tolerated by the church-state. Those events of Spanish history which can serve Roman Catholic unity and Roman Catholic ideals are carefully resurrected, cultivated, and disseminated, while other events are distorted or consigned to a dead and unproductive past. Official Spanish history is populated with the dead of five hundred years...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780299131135
Related ISBN
9780299131142
MARC Record
OCLC
835455593
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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