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Lazzaro, Angelo da Verona’s servant, recalled that, as an introduction to the contemptuous commemoration of Christ’s Passion, enacted upon the body of the infant Simon, the zealous Samuele da Nuremberg had intended to prepare and incite those present with a mocking sermon ridiculing the Christian faith. In the improvised sermon, Jesus was described as being born of adultery, while Mary, a woman of notoriously easy morals, was said to have been impregnated during her menstrual period, against all the rules of propriety and custom [1].

While the whole theme of Jesus’s adulterous generation was not at all new, this was not because of any claim that the Virgin was impregnated during her menstrual period. In fact, this only appeared in a few versions of the Toledot Yeshu - the so-called "Hebraic counter- Gospels", written in the German-speaking territories between the 15th and 16th centuries. Samuele’s reference to the anti-Christian text containing the accusation that Christ was "a bastard conceived by an impure woman" (mamzer ben ha-niddah) was therefore chronologically somewhat premature and doubtlessly characteristic of the intolerant climate of a certain section of late medieval Ashkenazi Judaism [2]. It is inconceivable to imagine that the naïve Lazzaro da Serravalle should have given free rein to his fantasy by inventing the anti-Christian thematic details contained in Samuele’s sermon. It is even less plausible to imagine that the Trent judges and inquisitors might have been expert connoisseurs of the various texts of the Toledot Yeshu.

A few years later, in 1488, the Jews of the Duchy of Milan, on trial for contempt of the Christian religion, were asked by the judges whether or not they actually referred to Jesus as a bastard and the son of a menstruating woman. In particular, they demanded whether any expressions of this kind, which originated in the texts of the Toledot Yeshu, appeared in a liturgical composition beginning with the words "ani, anì ha-medabber ("It is I, I who speak..."), and in the form of the secondary feasts

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of the German rite [3]. Many of the defendants responded in the affirmative and admitted that, in that prayer, Jesus was indeed referred to as having been "born of a woman having her menstrual period", and "born of a polluted woman, that is, one who was menstruating". In fact, the oldest versions of the Ashkenazi handbook of prayers for ceremonial solemnities contains a commemorative elegy for the martyrs, massacre victims and suicides in sanctification of God’s name, entitled ani, ani ha-medabber, "It is I, I who speak....", attributed to Rabbi Efraim di Isacco da Regensburg, and intended for recital during the Fast of Expiation (Kippur). The elegy contains an explicit reference to Jesus as "conceived of a menstruating woman", in conformity with a motif which was widespread in the German versions of the Toledot Yeshu [4].

Not surprisingly, this line of invective rapidly gained ground in the world of Ashkenazi Judaism, both in Germany and in the more or less recently settled regions of sub-Alpine Italy.

Elena was the widow of Raffaele Fritschke, analogous to the German family name Fridman, rendered into Italian as Freschi or Frigiis [3].

Her husband, a famous physician and rabbi from Austria or Bohemia, had become one of the most influential and esteemed personages of the Jewish community of the German rite of Padua by the end of the 15th century and the early 16th century. His death is thought to have occurred in the city of Venice around 1540. A few years later, Raffaele and Elena’s son, Lazzaro Freschi, later a friend and esteemed colleague of Andreas Vesalius, graduated with brilliant medical credentials from the Studio di Padova, and was invited to occupy the chair of surgery and anatomy in that university, accepting the job and occupying that position from 1537 until 1544. No later than 1547, Maestro Lazzaro Freschi moved to the old ghetto of Venice, together with his mother, and was admitted as a member of the local Ashkenazi community.

A dramatic turning point came a few years later, before the end of 1549, when Lazzaro, physician son of Rabi Raffaele Fritschke, converted to Christianity for reasons unknown. To avoid doing things by half, the Paduan physician also persuaded his mother Elena to visit the baptismal font and embrace the religion of Christ. From that moment on, Lazzaro, now known as Giovanni Battista Freschi Olivi, became a severe critic of his former religion and an open accuser of the Jewish world from which he originated. Thanks to his zealous and indefatigable polemical efforts,

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the Talmud was placed on the Index and finally burnt by the public hangman in the Piazza San Marco on 21 October 1553 by decision of the Council of Ten [6].

But while Giovanni Battista Freschi Olivi gave all outward signs of having enthusiastically embraced the Christian religion, his aged mother Elena, who must have been at least seventy years old, proved herself rather less convinced of the wisdom of the step taken. The virulently anti-Christian religious upbringing which she had received during her year in the Ashkenazi environment had left an indelible imprint and continued to influence her spontaneous mental attitudes, even after her conversion.

In 1555, Elena was brought before the Holy Office of Venice under the accusation of having publicly given vent to blasphemous expressions regarding Christianity. Only the authoritative intervention of her son, who was compelled to plead his mother’s mental infirmity for purposes of defense, sufficed to get her out of trouble [7]. One Sunday in March of that year, Elena, while attending Mass in the Church of San Marcuola, just as the priest was reciting the Credo, had been unable to refrain from mockery, expressing her outrageous contempt with malevolent terms of speech. Jesus, she alleged, was not conceived by the Virgin Mary by the virtue of the Holy Spirit at all, but was the bastard son of a whore.

"Last Sunday (17 March 1555) [...] finding herself at the said Mass (in the Church of San Marcilian) [...] the mother of meser Zuan Baptista, a Hebrew physician having become a Christian, just as the priest was saying the Credo: Et incarnatus est de Spiritu Sancto ex Maria Virgine et homo factus est, said the following, or similar, words: 'You’re lying through your teeth. Jesus was the bastard born of a whore'" [8].

The anti-Christian sentiments expressed through the texts of the Toledot Yeshu and assimilated by the old Paduan Jewish woman thus found an uncontrollable outlet, in church, in an automatic and perhaps involuntary reflex. Poor Elena’s basic personality was still Jewish and Ashkenazi, and would probably remain so forever afterward.

A few years later, two other Ashkenazi Jews were tried by the Inquisition of Venice for insulting the Christian faith, and once again, the accusation turned on the allegation of Jesus’ spurious birth as the son of a menstruating woman. Aron and Asser (Asher, Anselmo) were two aimless and unaccomplished youths having arrived in the ghetto of Venice around 1563, the one from

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Prague and the other from Poland. They later decided to convert to Christianity and enter the Casa dei Catecumeni [Church institution for the conversion of Jews and infidels] to try to make ends meet by means of a self-interested and calculated baptism. But they obviously proved to be rather poorly convinced of the basics of the Christian religion, since they were indicted by the Holy Office for uttering unspeakable insults against Jesus and the Virgin Mary [9]. The two Ashkenazi youths appeared to have been nurtured upon massive doses of the anti-Christian motifs characteristic of the Toledot Yeshu.

"Esso (Asser) began to say that the Lord God was a bastard son of a whore, saying in the Hebrew language that the Lord God was engendered while the Madonna was having her menstrual period, and, what is even more insulting, saying mamzer barbanid [10], which means what I said above [...] He uttered opprobrious words offensive to the Divine Majesty and the glorious Virgin Mary, asserting that Christ was a bastard born by carnal sin when the Madonna Virgin Mary was having her menstrual period" [11].

Almost a century had passed since the Trent trials and the polemical motifs of Samuele da Nuremberg’s sermon over the corpse of little Simon-Jesus, taken from the Toledot Yeshu -- which had now become a classical text -- were still alive and well in the Ashkenazi environment of the valleys of the Loire and the Rhône, the Rhine and Danube, the Elba and the Vistula, and all communities having migrated down from the other side of the Alps to the plains of the Po and the gulf of Venice.

Another outrageous assertion about the Christian religion very widespread among Jews of German origin was based on the Talmudic dictum that Jesus was to suffer punishment in the coming world, condemned to immersion in "boiling excrement" [12].

The Jewish bankers of the Duchy of Milan accused of contempt for the Christian faith in 1488 were asked whether their texts claimed that Jesus was condemned to the pains of Hell and placed in a pot full of excrement. Salomone Galli da Brescello, a Jew from Vigevano, had no difficulty in admitting that he had indeed read that malodorous prophecy in a little notebook which passed through his hands in Rome during the Pontificate of Sixtus IV [13].

Salomone, a Jew from Como, and Isacco da Parma, a resident of Castelnuovo Scrivia, confirmed that they, too, were aware of the Hebraic texts asserting that Jesus, in the future world, was destined to be immersed in a bath of steaming feces ("Jesus the Nazarene [...] he is being punished in excrement, in boiling shit") [14].

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It should be noted in this regard that the Hebraic sources refer to a significant and revealing episode linked to the sanguinary massacre of the Jewish community at Magonza in 1096. On that occasion, David, son of Netanel, the person responsible for the synagogue services (gabbay), is said to have turned to the Crusaders about to kill him cruelly, wishing them the same fate as Jesus, "punished by immersion in boiling excrement" [15]. When it came to anti-Christian polemic, Ashkenzi Jews didn’t beat around the bush, and the tragic events of which they were the victims served as a justification for an uncompromising hatred, verbally insulting and violent in action, at least whenever possible.

On the other hand, the Christians, too, loved the idea of the pious Jew, the scrupulous observers of the Law, immersed up to the neck in baths of excrement, as a well-deserved punishment for their arrogant blindness. Friar Luisi Maria Benetelli of Venice, lecturer in Hebrew at Padua and later at Venice, reported, with ill-concealed satisfaction, a malodorous anecdote of ancient origin describing a Jew, devote observer of the Sabbath, compelled to pass the week-end among the miasmas of a filthy cesspool due to his obtuse religiosity.

"Mr. Salamone, having fallen into the bog of a ditch, so as not to violate the feast day of the Sabbath, rejected the charity of a Christian who offered to pull him out. Sabbath sancta colo, de stercore surgere nolo [I must adhere to the Sabbath, and do not wish to be pulled out of the shit]. The following day, the same good man passed by again, and the Jew beseeched him for assistance in getting out of the ditch, but the Christian excused himself saying, 'Yesterday was your feast day, today is mine', and left him there to enjoy that aromatic stench all Sunday. Sabbatha nostra quidem Salomn celebrabis ibidem" [16].

For many, the synagogue, particularly, during the most significant moments of the liturgy, was the most suitable place to confer solemnity and sacral effectiveness upon anathemas, invective and contempt, often accompanied by the dramatic exhibition of aggressive and mocking gestures. One of the most important days of the Jewish calendar among the Jews of the German territories during the Middle Ages was the feast of Pesach, when they opened the doors of the holy Ark to extract the rolls of the Law. It was then, in the context of prayers for the festivity, that they cursed the Christians in stentorian voices, "uttering imprecations to which one cannot listen" [17]. But the insults and the contempt were also pronounced by the litigious faithful, who had, or

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who considered themselves to have, reciprocally outstanding accounts to settle. In the early 16th century, the rabbi Jechiel Trabot lamented the widespread wickedness of taking advantage of the ceremonies of the synagogue to engage in furious verbal disputes, which sometimes concluded with recourse to fisticuffs. These violent disputes, accompanied by insults and curses, usually occurred "with the Seder open", that is, when the rolls of the Law were exhibited and placed, open, upon the almemor for reading [18].

The [Ahkenazi] Jews possessed a vast range and picturesque catalogue of anathemas against Jesus and the Christians, generally reinforced by appropriate gestures of mockery and contempt, often taking the form of obscene and scurrilous jests. Offensive and obscene gestures, ritualized and sanctified by the holy temple in which they were performed, constituted an effective instrument of communication, directed at their own community, to request and obtain the anticipated and complacent approval, or at least silent complicity. The insults and scurrilous gestures most frequently resorted to [by Jews] during the Middle Ages, right down to the end of the early modern age, include the rhythmic stamping of the feet to create an ear-splitting din intended to drown out any mention of the memory or even the very voice of the adversary; the act of sticking out the tongue and/or making faces, the of spitting in the face, the act of uncovering the buttocks and the gesture of "doing the fig". The latter, considered a particularly insulting gesture of contempt, was performed by displaying the hands with the thumb tightly inserted between the index and middle fingers, a symbolic allusion to the female genital organ during the act of copulation [19].

When, in the weekly readings of the Pentateuch, they reached the fragment relating to the Amalek (Deut. 25: 17-19), considered Israel’s implacable enemy and persecutor par excellence throughout history, the participants in the liturgy of the synagogue stamped their feet violently, accompanied by a deafening noise to drown out any mention of their name. This often occurred during the recitation of the meghillah, the roll of Esther, during the feast of Purim, at every mention of Haman, Assuerus’s cruel minister, inventor of the plan to exterminate the Jewish people in the land of Persia. The hubbub was also renewed when at any mention of Zeresh, Haman’s faithful consort, and his numerous children, in the liturgical text. In this connection, Leon da Modena recalled that "some people, at the mention of Haman’s name, beat on the benches of the synagogue as a sign that they were cursing him", a custom the existence of which was confirmed by the convert Giulio Morosini, who stated that, at Venice, the Jews pounded violently on the flat surfaces of their wooden benches in the synagogue as a sign of execration of

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the hated enemy, "pound on the benches of the synagogue with all their strength as a sign of excommunication, saying in a loud voice, ‘May his name be blotted out’, and ‘May the name of the impious putrefy’" [20].

One of the most widespread prayers of the Jewish ritualistic formulary was doubtlessly the one beginning with the words 'Alenu leshabbeach ("We must praise the Lord"), which was to be recited several times a day and during feasts and solemnities. This text, sometimes called a sort of "Credo of Judaism", not surprisingly contained expressions particularly critical of Jesus and Christianity. Ecclesiastical censure therefore dealt severely with this prayer, erasing all polemical mention of the faith in Christ from the manuscripts and prohibiting any printing of the full text. Yet, nonetheless, during the persecutions of the Middle Ages, it was precisely this prayer which was most frequently shouted at their persecutors by Jews when the time case to sacrifice their lives to God.

In the tradition of the German Jews, when the phrase

"So that they (the Christians) may prostrate themselves and turn their prayers to vanity and nullity, to a God which is not the Savior" it was the custom to perform gestures of reproof and contempt, such as stamping the feet, shaking the head or jumping up and down on the ground [21].

Giulio Morosini reported that, even in his time, when the Jews of Venice recited the liturgical hymn 'Alenu le-shabbeacuh , which he described as "contumelious against Christ and Christians [...] some attest that, when saying these words, they are accustomed to show abomination by spitting" [22].

Insulting and scurrilous gestures and obscene acts, even, and most particularly, if performed within the holy confines of the synagogue, lost their negative connotations and served to underline and stress their passionate hatred and implacable contempt.

The Sabbath right after little Simon’s murder, when the child’s body was placed on the almemor, the Jews of Trent, gathered in the synagogue, abandoned themselves to excessive gestures absolutely without inhibition or restraint. According to the deposition of Angelo da Verona’s servant, Lazzaro, Samuele da Nuremberg, after concluding his fiery anti-Christian sermon against Jesus and His Mother, rushed up to the almemor, and, after "doing the fig", slapped the boy in the face and spat on him. Not to be outdone, Angelo de Verona imitated these outrageous gestures, spitting and slapping the corpse, while Mosè "the Old Man" of Würzburg "did the fig", mockingly showing his teeth, while Maestro Tobias allowed himself to be carried away in the performance of other acts of violence, with no shortage of slapping and spitting.

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This scandalous spectacle was crowned by the other participants, led by Isacco, Angelo’s cook, and Mosè da Bamberg, the traveler, Lazzaro and Israel Wolfgang, the painter, and Israel, Samuele’s son, who, in addition to "doing the fig" like the others, stuck out his tongue and made faces. For their part, Joav da Ansbach, Maestro Tobias’s scullery boy, had no hesitation in performing obscene gestures, and, coarsely raising his caftan, displayed his buttocks [and genitals] shamelessly, a blasphemous act sometimes reserved solely for the passing of holy processions [23]. Joav himself, in his confession, added that he had bitten the child's ear in an attempt to imitate or outdo Samuele da Nurmberg [24]. Anna da Montagana, the latter’s daughter-in-law, confirmed that she had indeed been present at this unedifying scene [25].

Bella, wife of Mayer, son of Mosè of Würzburg, recalled that she had been present at the exhibition of similar insulting gestures, always at Trent, three or four years earlier, on the occasion of another child murder, also committed in Samuele's house. In this case as well, the outrageous ritual had been performed in the synagogue during the hour of prayer [26]. For his part, Israel Wolfgang described the details of the 1467 ritual murder at Regensburg in which he claimed to have participated personally, stating that "the same insulting acts as those at Trent, in Samuele’s house", were performed in Sayer’s stiebel [parlor] in the presence of the child’s body [as in 1467] [27].

Giovanni Hinderbach summarized the Trent defendants’ depositions relating to the scene of the outrageous acts performed in the synagogue in a letter sent to Innsbruck in the fall of 1475, addressed to the orator of the Republic of Venice before Sigismundo, Archduke of Austria, written in a kind of Italian which was unusual for him and somewhat crude:

"The said Jews, or some of them, the said body having been placed on the almemor, said the following, or similar words, in the Hebrew language: 'This be in contempt and shame of our enemies', referring to us Christians. Quite a few others ‘did the fig’ in the eyes of the corpse, while others raised their hands to heaven and stamped their feet on the ground, while others spat in the face of the said body, saying these other words: 'Go to the God of Jesus, your God, and Mary, may she help you; pray to her to free you, and may she rescue you from our hands'" [28].

The bishop of Trent was either suffering from a memory lapse or was committing a more or less intentional error here, because the Jews could not have defied Jesus and the Madonna to come to the assistance of the poor child on that occasion. In fact, in their eyes,

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the boy lying on the almemor and the Crucified Christ were one and the same person. Simon did not exist -- if he had ever existed – and, in his place, they saw the Talui, Jesus the hanged, and the Teluiah, the hanged or crucified woman, as Mary was called in an extemporaneous Hebraic neologism. To them, he was the Christ, and whoever had engendered Him -- the detestable embodiments of Christianity, responsible for their miserable Diaspora, their bloody persecutions and forced conversions. Almost trance-like, they cursed and swore, performed contemptuous and obscene gestures, each one recalling tragic family memories and the many sufferings of those who, in their eyes, had embraced the cross as an offensive weapon.

The indignities heaped upon this innocent, sacrificed child in some ways resembled the Cabalistic rite of the kapparot ("The [Fast of] Expiation"), an established custom among German Jews on the eve of the solemn fast of Kippur. On that occasion, young white free-range roosters were whirled around the head of the sinner to assume the sinner’s transgressions. The roosters were later sacrificed, taking punishment upon themselves on behalf of the guilty-minded transgressors [29].

This ritual was intended to bring about the symbolic transfer of a person’s sins onto an animal, which was then sacrificed, serving a similar function to that of the expiatory goat [scapegoat]. Where the cock assumed the guilt of the entire community, the rooster of the cabbalistic, magical kapparot served as a receptacle for the sins of the individual, erased through the killing of the innocent bird. The custom of the kapparot, widespread among the Ashkenazi Jews of Venice, was vividly described, as usual, by Samuele Nahmias, alias Giulio Morosini.

"All the males and females in the house go out and look for white chickens: the men look for a white rooster, while the women look for a white hen, and then they whirl these chickens around their heads several times, saying these words [...] 'This be in exchange for myself, may this take my place, this be my expiation, may this bird go to its death while I go on living' After the ceremony, they butcher the birds and eat them, and then they give some of the meat to some poor person, in charity, in the belief that if God had condemned any of them to death, he would now have to settle for the rooster or hen in exchange [...]. They all practice this ritual, particularly in the Levant and in Germany" [30].

Once again, at the beginning of the 18th century, the Minorite friar Luigi Maria Benetelli severely censured those Jews of Venice, presumably belonging to the German community, who unperturbedly maintained the custom of the kapparot on the eve of the

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Fast of Expiation. According to him, these Jews intended to transfer the ballast of their own sins onto the white roosters, condemned to be sacrificed, while irreverently imitating the Passion of Christ.

"Many of you, on that day, dress in white and search for a white rooster without a single reddish feather (since red is the color of sin), and, clutching it by the neck and whirling it around your heads three times, pray that the rooster may expiate their sins; they torment the rooster by pulling its neck, they butcher it, throw it violently on the ground, and finally, they roast it; denoting, by means of the first torment, that they themselves deserve to be strangled; by means of the second torment, that they themselves deserve to be killed with a noose; in the third, that they themselves deserve to be stoned; and in the fourth, that they themselves deserve to be burnt for their sins. Not all (and for this reason, I said ‘many’) practice this ceremony even today. To me, it is enough that many of them, although unintentionally, admit, in fact, that the Messiah, which is white for its divinity and red for Humanity, should expiate sin" [31].

Similarly, as with the kapparot, in the case of the Christian child, his crucifixion transforms the child into Jesus and into Christianity, symbolically allowing the community to savor that vengeance against the enemies of Israel which is a necessary, although insufficient, preamble to their final redemption. The crescendo of insults and contemptuous gestures in front of the almemor of the synagogue was not, paradoxically, directed against the innocent boy, but rather, against Jesus, "the hanged one", whom the boy personified. Whether by ‘doing the fig’, spitting on the ground, grinding their teeth or stamping their feet, all the participants in the spectacular representation, alive and charged with tension, repeated the Hebrew wish, ken ikkaretu kol oyevecha, which means, "thus may our enemies be consumed" [32].

The women also had their role to play in the ritual of vilification, and their role was not one of secondary importance. Their enthusiastic participation in the display of verbal and gestural contempt during the functions of the synagogue was well known to everyone and caused no surprise. Rabbi Azriel Diena, in a ritual response sent to the heads of the Jewish community of Modena in the month of November 1534, censured the bad habits of the women, who, in the synagogue, as well as on the Sabbath and during the festivities, "when the solemn moment arrives in which the rolls of the Torah were extracted from the Ark, they rise up, as if they were infuriated, launching a barrage of insults and curses against all those whom they hated" [33]. Beniamin Slonik, rabbi of Grodno in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, in his manual of honest female behavior in the Ashkenazi communities, which was translated into Italian several times, attempted,

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in an effort to teach them to restrain themselves and cool their burning ardor, to explain the predisposition of Jewish women to imprecate and fling endless anathemas. According to the scholarly Lithuanian, the women suddenly restrained themselves "when they curse with kalalot (anathemas), which the women are very accustomed to doing, because they cannot revenge themselves physically due to their lack of strength, and start to curse and swear at all other persons who have displeased them in some way" [34].

Even the Jewish chronicles of the Crusades, which exalted the heroism and readiness for martyrdom of German Jewish women, stressed the manner in which they disdainfully rejected "conversion to the faith of the crucified bastard (talui mamzer)" and, showing praiseworthy courage and surprising temerity, did not hesitate to shout insults and curses at their Christian aggressors" [35].

Bella, the wife of Mayer and daughter-in-law of Mosè of Würzburg, in her deposition dated 6 March 1476, recalled the women’s active participation in the contemptuous ritual allegedly performed in the synagogue of Trent during the child murder committed the year before.

The same Bella, together with Brunetta, Samuele of Nuremberg’s wife, and Anna, his daughter-in-law, Brünnlein, Angelo da Verona’s mother, Anna, Maestro Tobias's first wife, now deceased, all appeared at the threshold of the synagogue during the ceremonies to see the child’s body, which lay stretched out on the almemor. They then enthusiastically joined the ritual of imprecations, spontaneously begun by the men, waving their arms and shaking their heads as a sign of censure and spitting on the ground [36].

These acts were accompanied by the ever-present scurrilous gesture of "doing the fig", which was exalted and almost sanctified by the fact that it was being performed in a place of worship, whether a synagogue or a church. It is not, therefore, surprising that the display of those contemptuous gestures was one of the charges brought by the Holy Office of Venice against the elderly Elena Freschi (Fritschke), survivor of a poorly digested conversion to Christianity. According to the testimony of the Venetian patriarch Donna Paola Marcello, in fact, that Sunday, during Mass in the church of San Marcuola, just as the priest had started reciting the Credo, the arrogant Paduan convert "got very angry and made ugly faces and said bad words, and, among other things, I heard her say: 'You’re lying through your teeth'. And I saw her ‘do the fig’ towards the altar

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where the priest was saying Mass [37]. The clash of religions therefore occurred on several different levels simultaneously, passing from ideological diatribe, with scholarly and religious features, to sneering and curses, accompanied by codified gestures of proven and obvious effectiveness, with obscene and insolent meanings.


[1] "Samuel fecit quandam predicationem et dixit non esse verum quod lesus Christus fuisset ex vergine natus, sed quod eius mater, videlicet beata virgo Maria, fuerat meretrix et adultera et Christus ex adultera natus et quod fuerat exginta tempore quo menstrua patiebatur"

["Samuele declared that it was not true that Jesus Christ was born of a virgin, but that His mother, i.e., the Virgin Mary, was a whore and an adulteress and that Christ was born of an adulteress and that He was conceived while she was having her menstrual period"]

(Archivio di Stato di Trento, Archivio Principesco Arcivescovile, sez.lat., capsa 69, n. 163).

[2] In this regard, see R. Di Segni, Due nuove fonti sulle "Toledot jeshu", in "la rassegna mensile di israel", lv (1989), pp. 131-132. the author stresses that "the importance of the information inferred from the trent trial, which, for the moment, it is the oldest source which explicitly considers jesus to be the son of a menstruating woman" and records "worthy of note" the "german origin of the narrator, which could cause one to assume that the information is of the same origin as well". it seems implicit that riccardo di segni does not consider the tale of samuele of nuremberg’s anti-christian sermon as the fruit of a suggestive pressures of the trent judges upon the accused, but he places it in relationship with the reasons for the anti-christian polemic present in contemporary ashkenazi judaism with peculiar sociocultural characteristics. on the story of jesus the "bastard, son of a menstruating woman" in the toledot yeshu and on its importance, see id., il vangelo del ghetto. le "storie di gesù": leggende e documenti della tradizione medievale ebraica, rome, 1985, pp. 120-123.

[3] the defendants were required to respond in relation to the "verba scripta in dicto libro mazor (recte: machazor, the liturgical form for the feasts) sibi ostensa in capitulo quod incipit: anni, anni amezaber (recte: anì, anìha-medabber), videlicet in lingua latina: io sonno quello che parla" (cfr. a. antoniazzi villa, un processo contro gli ebrei nella milano del 1488, milan, 1986, pp. 132-135).

[4] machazor le-yamim noraim le-fì minhage' bene' ashkenaz ("handbook of solemnities according to the custom of the german jews"). ii: yom kippur, by e.d. goldshmidt, jerusalem, 1970, pp. 555-557.

[5] on the ashkenazi name frishke, fritschke, frits, fritse, fridman, rendered into italian as "freschi" or "de frigiis". see a. beider, a dictionary of ashkenazic given names, bergenfield (n.j.), 2001, p. 315.

[6] on the personage of maestro lazzaro di raffaele freschi, his conversion to christianity and his anti-jewish activity at venice, see s. franco, ricerche su lazzaro ebreo de frigeis, medico insigne ed amico di andre vesal, in "la rassegna mensile di israel", xv (1949), pp. 495-515; f. piovan, nuovi documenti sul medico ebreo lazzaro "de frigeis", collaboratore di andrea vesalio, in "quaderni per la storia dell'università di padova", xxi (1988), pp. 67-74; d. carpi, alcune nuove considerazioni su lazzaro di raphael de frigiis, in "quaderni per la storia dell'università di padova", xxx (1997), pp. 218-225.

[7] the trial of the holy office at elena freschi olivi is transcribed by p.c. loly zorattini, processi del s. uffizio contro ebrei e giudaizzanti. i: 1548-1560, florence, 1980, pp. 51-52, 151-224. on this case, see also b. pullan, the jews of europe and the inquisition of venice (1550- 1670), oxford, 1983, pp. 282-289.

[8] cfr. loly zorattini, processi del s. uffizio contro ebrei e giudaizzanti, cit., voi. i, p. 152.

[9] il processo ad aron e asser dinanzi all'inquisizione di venezia è segnalato e trascritto da p.c. loly zorattini, processi del s. uffizio contro ebrei e giudaizzanti. ii: 1561-1570, florence, 1982, pp. 17-19,31-48. in this regard, see also pullan, the jews of europe and the inquisition of venice, cit., pp. 296-297.

[10] the hebrew expression mamzer barbanid is an obvious corruption of mamzer bar ha-niddah, "bastard son of a menstruating woman", and not as maintained by loly zorattini, "mamzer barchanit" (?), "turncoat bastard, deserter" (cfr. loly zorattini, processi del s. uffizio contro ebrei e giudaizzanti, cit., voi. ii, p. 33).

[11] Cfr. ibidem, pp. 33, 46.

[12] Babylonian Talmud, Ghittin, c. 57a.

[13] "Interrogatus si dicunt lesum Christum damnatum est in inferno et ibi positum est in vase uno pieno excrementre et si habent predicta scripta in libris eorum vel aliis scripturis, respondit et dicit quod semel in civitate Romana et tempore papis Sisti audivit predicta verba et vidit predicta in uno quinterneto et verba ea legit"

["In reply to the question of whether it is said that Jesus Christ is in hell and was placed in a vase full of excrement there and whether such words appeared in their books or other scriptures, he answered and said that he had read the aforementioned words in Rome, in a booklet during the reign of Pope Sixtus"]

(cfr. Antoniazzi Villa, Un processo contro gli ebrei nella Milano del 1488, cit., p. 102).

[14] Salomone da Como stated "quod comprehendere ipsius quod (Iesu) sit iudicatus in excrementre calido" ["that he understood that (Jesus) was being punished in hot excrement"](cfr. ibidem, pp. 112-114).

[15] Cfr. A.M. Haberman, Sefer ghezerot Ashkenaz we-Zarf at ("Book of the Persecutions in Germany and France"), Jerusalem, 1971, p. 36.

[16] Luigi Maria Benetelli, Le saette di Gionata scagliate a favor degli Ebrei, Venice, Antonio Bortoli, 1703, p. 410.

[17] In this regard, see S. Krauss, Imprecation against the Minim in the Synagogue, in "The Jewish Quarterly Review", IX (1897), pp. 515- 517.

[18] In this regard, see Y. Boksenboim in Azriel Diena, Sheelot w-teshuvot. Responsa, by Y. Boksenboim, Tel Aviv, 1977, voI. I, p. 12 note 5, and, more recently, R. Weinstein, Marriage Rituals Italian Style. A Historical Anthropological Perspective on Early Italian Jews, Leyden, 2004, pp. 225-226.

[19] In this regard, see P. Burke, Insulti e bestemmie, in Id., Scene di vita quotidiana nell'Italia moderna, Bari, 1988, pp. 118-138; Id., L'art de l'insulte en Italie au XVIe et XVIIe siècle, in J. Delumeau, Injures et blasphèmes, Paris, 1989, pp. 249-261.

[20] Leon da Modena, Historia de' riti hebraici, Venice, Gio. Calleoni, 1638, pp. 80-81; Giulio Morosini, Derekh Emunah. Via della fede mostrata agli ebrei, Roma, Propaganda Fide, 1683, p. 836. On gestural language in Jewish liturgy, see, recently, U. Ehrlich, The Non-Verbal Language of Jewish Prayer, Jerusalem, 1999 (in Hebrew).

[21] On the expressions and anti-Christian meanings of the hymn 'Alenu le-shabbeach, see, most recently, I.J. Yuval ’s exhaustive treatment in "Two Nations in Your Womb". Perceptions of Jews and Christians, Tel Aviv, 2000, pp. 206-216 (in Hebrew).

[22] Morosini, Derekh Emunah. Via della fede mostrata agli ebrei , cit., pp. 277 -278.

[23] "Samuel stans apud Almemor coepit facere ficas in faciem pueri et illud colaphis caedere et in faciem expuere. Moyses antiquus similiter faciebat ficas, quas dum sic faceret, ostendebat dentes, irridendo et Angelus expuendo in faciem pueri, illud colaphis caedebat. Tobias cum manu sinistra coepit capillos pueri et cum caput eiusdem pueri quateret super Almemor, tenendo capillos per manum cum alia manu pluries colaphizavit faciem pueri, in illamque expuit. Et Israel, filius Samuelis, tenendo os apertum, emittebat linguam et fecit ficas et Ioff, elevatis pannis, ostendit posteriora et pudibunda [displayed his buttocks and genitals], et Isaac, coquus Angeli, similiter fecit ficas et colaphis cecidit puerum. Et Moyses forensis fecit ficas, et Israel pietor similiter fecit ficas et similiter omnes alii Judaei ibi adstantes fecerunt aliquos actus illusorios [...] et Lazarus fecit ficas et semel cum manu aperto percussit faciem pueri et per capillos cepit puerum et eius caput quassavit".

[Approximately: "Samuele, standing near the altar, started to ‘do the fig’ in the boy’s face and then he started to strike him and spit in his face. Moses the Old Man also ‘did the fig’, and, while he was doing it, he showed his teeth, grimacing, and Angelo spat in the boy’s face, then started striking him. Tobias, with his left hand, held the boy by the hair, holding his hair in his left hand, and with the other hand he started to strike the boy in the face, on the altar, over and over again, and to spit in his face. And Israel, Samuele’s son, opened his mouth, stuck out his tongue, ‘did the fig’ and Joff, raising his hem, displayed his buttocks and genitals [at least, if we assume that "pudibunda" = "filled with shame", feminine nominative or ablative singular, is an obvious translation error for "pudenda" = " genitals", neuter accusative plural; otherwise the sentence makes no sense, either grammatically or in context], and Isacco, Angelo’s cook, also ‘did the fig’ and struck the boy.

And Moses did the fig in front of everybody and Israel piously did the same, and so did all the other Jews who were there performed acts of mockery [...] and Lazarus ‘did the fig’ and struck the boy in the face and held the boy by the hair and shook his head violently"] Deposition of Lazzaro da Serravalle dated 20 November 1475

(cfr. [Benedetto Bonelli], Dissertazione apologetica sul martirio del beato Simone da Trento nell'anno MCCCCLXXV dagli ebrei ucciso, Trent, Gianbattista Parone, 1747, p. 119). Peter Burke

(Insulti e bestemmie, cit., p. 127) maintains that the public exhibition of the private parts was a classical gesture of contempt during the passage of Christ in a procession.

[24] "Quo puero sic stante, Samuel cum dentibus momordit aurem dicti corporis et idem Joff cepit aurem praedicti corporis illam stringendo cum dentibus"

[Approximately: "The boy being on the altar, Samuele bit the corpse on the ear with his teeth and Joff did the same, fastening his teeth tightly"]

(cfr. [Bonelli], Dissertazione apologetica, cit., p. 119).

[25] "Die sequenti post festum Paschae (Anna) vidit corpus illius extensum super Almemore et vidit in Synagoga omnes infrascriptos [...] qui colaphis caeciderunt dictum puerum"

["The day after Easter (Anna) saw the body lying on the altar and saw all the above mentioned persons in the synagogue [...] who began to beat the above mentioned boy"]

(cfr. [Bonelli], Dissertazione apologetica, cit., p. 121).

[26] "Modo possunt esse anni tres vel quatuor et nescit dicere praecise quot anni, fuit interfectus alius puer in domo Samuelis, qui quadam die in vigilia tunc Paschae ipsorum Judaeorum de sero fuit portatus per Tobiam in domum Samuelis [...] Et dicit quod postea die sequenti [...] ipsa Bella vidit corpus dicti pueri in Synagoga prius prandium, hora quo celebrantur officia; quo corpore sic stante omnes suprascripti Judaei et etiam alii Judaei advenae, qui tunc se repererunt in Civitate Tridenti, illuserunt contra corpus dicti pueri [...] illudendo et dicendo illamet verba: Tolle, suspensus, Tluyo, suspensa" (cfr. ibidem, pp. 121-122).

[27] "Qui omnes, corpore stante super Almemore, illuserunt in dictum corpus, faciendo quasi easdem illusiones, pro ut factum fuit Tridenti in domo Samuelis"

["Everybody ridiculed the body lying on the altar, making jokes...."

(cfr. ibidem, p. 141).

[28] The text of Hinderbach’s letter is reproduced in F. Ghetta, Fra Bernardino Tomitano da Feltre e gli ebrei di Trento nel 1475, in "Civis", suppl. 2 (1986), pp. 129-177.

[29] The formula recited in the act of whirling the white chickens around the head is as follows: "This is instead of me, it is in my place, this is for my expiation (kapparah); this cock shall go to its death while I will proceed towards a happy life with all Israel. Amen". On the rite of the kapparot in the customs of the Ashkenazi Jews, see Siddur mi-berakhah ("Correct order of benedictions according to the customs of the German Jews"), Venice, Pietro & Lorenzo Bragadin, 1618, cc. 35-36.

[30] Morosini, Derekh Emunah. Via della fede mostrata agli ebrei, cit., p. 665.

[31] Cfr. Benetelli, Le saette di Gionata scagliate a favor degli Ebrei, cit., p. 222.

[32] Angelo da Verona reported that "omnes dicebant infrascripta verba in lingua Hebraica: chen icheressù chol hoyveha, que verba in lingua Latina sonant: così sya consumadi li nostri inimizi" (cfr. A. Esposito e D. Quaglioni, Processi contro gli ebrei di Trento, 1475-1478. I: I processi del 1475, Padova, 1990, p. 290).

[33] Azriel Diena, Sheelot w-teshuvot. Responsa, cit., voI. I, pp. 10-14.

[34] Mizwat nashim melammedah. Precetti da esser imparati dalle donne hebree, composto per Rabbi Biniamin d'Harodono in lingua tedesca, tradotto ora di nuovo dalla detta lingua nella Volgare per Rabbi Giacob Halpron Hebreo a beneficio delle devote matrone & Donne Hebree tementi d'Iddio, Venice, Giacomo Sarzina, 1615, p. 98.

[35] Cfr. Haberman, Sefer ghezerot Ashkenaz we-Zarf at, cit., pp. 34,38-39. For a rather vague discussion of this matter, see S. Goldin, The Ways of Jewish Martyrdom, Lod, 2002, pp. 119-121 (in Hebrew).

[36] "Et dicit se vidisse dictus corpus ut supra, dum ipsa Bella esset super hostio Synagogae, cum qua etiam aderant Bruneta, uxor Samuelis, Anna, ejus nurus, Bruneta, mater Angeli, et Anna, uxor tunc Tobiae, qua mortua est jam duobus annis vel circa. Quae omnes infrascripte mulieres et ipsa Bella illuserunt contra dictum corpus sic jacens super Almemor e, ut supra, faciendo ficas et expuendo in terram, admovendo manus et quatiendo capita sua et dicendo praedicta verba"

["...and all the above mentioned women ridiculed the body lying on the altar, ‘doing the fig’ and spitting on the ground, waving their arms and violently shaking the boy’s head and repeating the above mentioned words"],

(cfr. [Bonelli], Dissertazione apologetica, cit., pp. 121-122).

[37] Cfr. loly Zorattini, Processi del S. Uffizio contro ebrei e giudaizzanti, cit., voI. I, pp. 154-155



Revised by the original translators, Feb. 2011

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