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Master Tobias da Magdeburg, the physician from Trent, who reached Venice in February 1469 during Friedrich III’s visit, had other information to be supplied to the judges investigating the death of little Simon. His news was disturbing, linking the German Jews, reaching Venice in the Emperor’s train, with the personage of the Candian merchant, David Mavrogonato, and his mysterious dealings.

It seems that Mavrogonato, for the occasion of the imperial visit, had brought with him, perhaps from Cyprus, a large consignment of sugar and blood to be peddled on the Venetian piazza. These were expensive ingredients, indispensable to the preparation of medications and unguents considered of certain effectiveness and of great advantage by the pharmacopoeia of the time, and it is not to be marveled at that the shrewd merchant from Candia intended to offer them for sale at Venice, where all the Jewish physicians, surgeons, herb alchemists, and specialists, both Christians and Jews, had agreed to meet on that occasion, attracted by the prospect of a flattering and profitable imperial recognition.

German Ashkenazi Jews seeking to purchase the blood of Christian children

But, according to Maestro Tobias, those German Jews who turned to Mavrogonato in great numbers -- known by them as the "Jew with the sugar" -- to acquire the precious goods he had for sale, were, in fact, seeking to purchase Christian blood, and, in particular, the blood of Christian children, for use, not only in the preparation of costly and miraculous medications, but in obscure magical and religious rites as well. [1]

David Mavrogonato had no intention of dirtying his hands directly in negotiations of this kind, but used, as a go-between, an unscrupulous local charlatan, a certain Hossar (or Osser, which rendered in the Ashkenazi pronunciation the name Asher, corresponding to the Italian Anselmo). This Jew, from Cologne, was known all over Venice as "the Jew with the beard" [2].

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The name of this Hossar, dedicated to shady dealings between Venice and the cities of the mainland and linked twofold to Mavrogonato, appears in the depositions of another important personality in the Trent trials. Israel, son of Mayer (Meir) of Brandenburg in Saxony, was a young man twenty three years old, itinerant artist by profession, earned his money as a miniaturist, and, in the case in question, a binder of manuscripts and Hebraic and Latin codes. He, too, was arrested in 1475 in Trent under the accusation of complicity in the killing of little Simon. He was to prove a bold and shrewd double-dealer, agreeing in appearance to convert to Christianity and assume the new name of Wolfgang, not just to save himself from a certain and cruel condemnation to death, but above all, camouflaged by conversion, to assist the Jewish women accused and arrested for the crime, obtaining their release or facilitating their escape [3]. Once discovered and unmasked, he was publicly executed in January of 1476. His body, broken on the wheel, was to be left at the place of execution, a spectacle for public mockery and a feast for animals.

Israel Wolfgang had informed the judges at Trent that he had been Salamone da Piove di Sacco’s guest in the spring of 1471, for the Passover dinner, with the participation of the banker’s sons, David Mavrogonato’s business associates, and their respective families.

Use of dried and pulverized blood for ritual purposes

The patron of the house was said to have made use of dried and pulverized blood for ritual purposes, as was the custom among German Jews, dissolving it in the wine and kneading into the unleavened bread. Under these circumstances, Salomon's son, Salamoncino, in the presence of the brother Marcuccio, is said to have informed young Israel that the blood, probably extracted from the veins of a Christian child, had been supplied "by a Jewish merchant, who had brought it from overseas, perhaps from the island of Cyprus", alluding, by means of this periphrasis [circumlocution], to Mavrogonato [4]. What is more, Salamoncino confirmed that the go-between in those sales was, as usual, Hossar, or Asher, whose business it was to sell blood from Venice to the other centers of the Republic in which there were active Jewish communities.

The famous money lender Salomone di Lazzaro "from Germany", active at Crema and Cremona, was also an assiduous client of this itinerant wanderer [5].

Wolfgang knew Hossar personally, and visited Hossar in prison near the Ponte di Paglia in Venice, where he was detained for attempting to sell "alchemical silver", i.e., counterfeit money. The reasons for this strange visit are not

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clear, nor did Wolfgang bother to explain. Perhaps it would not be too far from the truth to think that he intended to supply himself with powdered gold and silver at advantageous prices from the capable and expert dealer which Hossar was reputed to be, for use in miniatures of any codes which he might be commissioned to paint by rich and influential persons. This might explain the presence of the enterprising artist at Piove di Sacco, in Salamone’s house, whose table would otherwise be inaccessible to a young man of low rank and without resources, like him.

Wolfgang had furthermore come into contact with Hossar before, and knew that that alchemist of dubious reputation lived near the Rialto, in the direction of Mestre, and might be about forty years old, dressed in black and wearing a beard of the same color.

At Venice, Hossar was known by boys as "the Jew with the beard". Hossar had a brother, some years older than he, called Big Salamoncino, due to his stature, and perhaps to distinguish him from Salamoncino da Piove, whose presence in the heart of the Jewish community of Venice and at the official ceremonies in the synagogue must have been frequent. According to Wolfgang, who made his depositions before the judges of Trent in November 1475, Hossar-Anselmo, "the Jew with the beard", had died about six months before, perhaps in prison [6].

Hossar-Asher sentenced for selling silver bars covered with a foil of gold

The information supplied by Israel Wolfgang of Brandenburg in his testimony is exactly, and very many ways, surprisingly, confirmed by the archive documents. Hossar-Asher "with the beard" (Anselmus judeus a barba) was in fact tried at Venice on 3 September 1473 on an accusation of selling two bars of false gold, i.e., silver covered with a foil of gold powder, to an artisan in that city, after having extorted a fraudulent official registration from the essayer of Rialto, responsible for the stamping and weighing of gold [7].

Hossar "with the beard" was sentenced to six months in prison and stricken from the registry of bulk gold and silver dealers at Venice [8]. He was also said to have been compelled to compensate the victim of the swindle for the economic harm done, before serving his term of imprisonment.

Strangely, the clauses of the sentence hint at the eventuality of an escape from prison by the Cologne-born Jewish alchemist, or his death in prison [9]. In effect, as reported by Israel Wolfgang to the judges at Trent, Hossar died in the first few months of 1475, and may be that he was still in prison. It is therefore surprising that the Venetian judges should provide in advance for such eventuality, almost as if they knew for a fact that David Mavrogonato’s unscrupulous ex-right arm

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man -- dedicated to mysterious illegal dealings at Venice, where he was known by all, both Jews and Christians -- had powerful friends in the mainland financial centers capable of helping him break jail or of silencing him for good, to prevent him from revealing his embarrassing secrets. Salamoncino da Piove, who was perfectly well aware of the German alchemist's activities, may have known him personally during his stays in Venetian prisons, "near the Ponte di Paglia", of which he was an influential and assiduous inmate.

Just what the artful German herb alchemist [Hossar] was selling on all those frequent trips which took him to the cities of the Veneto region, apart from medicinal blood and quack remedies of miraculous effectiveness and bright and treacherous "silver of alchemy" -- in the manufacture of which he was considered a specialist -- remains unknown. It is, however, certain that, the merchandise to be found in Hossar’s haversack -- according to Salamoncino da Piove – included one particular item, purchased from an itinerant merchant named Abramo, stopping by Trent in 1471 on his way from Saxony to Feltre or Bassano, and that this particular item was considered particularly valuable. According to Wolfgang’s later statements before the Trent judges, Abramo’s clients included the physician, Tobias da Magdeburg.

Abramo’s red leather pouch, with its waxed bottom, in fact, concealed a certain amount of blood, to be put up for sale -– clotted blood -- coagulated and reduced to curdles or powder, as was normal practice, to cause it to harden over time [10].

Jewish Passovers - the grotesque and sacrilegious anti-rituals

According to Maestro Tobias da Magdeburg, many of the Jewish and German merchants who reached Venice in 1469 along with Friedrich III’s baggage train intended to supply themselves with the blood of Christian children for the Passover rite -- blood which Mavrogonato was said to have brought from Candia or Cyprus on that occasion. It does not appear that the Jews of that island had ever been accused of ritual murder at that time. Yet, Jewish Passovers at Candia in the mid-15th century were anything but tranquil affairs, and were often the source of scandal and clamorous indignation.

During Passover week, 1451, the Jews of the ghetto of Candia were accused of crucifying suckling lambs (perhaps due to the impossibility of procuring Christian children)

[NOTE: This is not necessarily Prof. Toaff’s opinion here; he is summarizing the Latin: fortasse quia fideles pueros captare nequiverat],

in contempt of the Christian religion, with a grotesque and sacrilegious anti-ritual. [11]

The suckling lamb placed on the cross - blasphemous reenactment of the passion of Christ [Lamb of God]

The symbolism of the suckling lamb placed on the cross seemed obviously linked, in an intolerable and obscenely blasphemous manner, to the passion of Christ, the Agnus Dei [Lamb of God]. The accusation

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does not appear to have been completely groundless, in view of the ancient Hebraic custom of roasting the Passover lamb skewered on the spit in a vertical position, with the head upwards, to ridicule and deride the crucified Christ; just how widespread this custom was, is difficult to determine from either a chronological or geographical point of view [12].

The Venetian criminal judiciary was immediately informed of the affair by the Duke of Candia, Bernardo Balbi, while the Doge, Francesco Foscari, hastened to appoint Gradenigo, "district mayor in the Levant", who was already on the island, with responsibility for investigating the matter ("to obtain the truth about the crucified lambs in any manner whatever"), identifying the guilty parties, and punishing them with the maximum strictness. Edicts were posted "in the Piazza and in the Giudaica di Candia", promising cash rewards for anyone supplying the inquisitor with information useful to the investigation and threatening severe punishment to "any persons with knowledge of the above mentioned case of the crucified lambs and conceals the same".

The well-known Venetian politician and humanist, Lodovico Foscarini, already podestà [magistrate] of Feltre in 1439, of Vicenza in 1445 and at the time, podestà of Verona, also occupied himself with the thorny mater. In a letter, presumably written between 1451 and the following year, and addressed to Antonio Gradenigo, Foscarini praised the Venetian inquisitor [Gradenigo] warmly for bringing his investigation into the "sacrilegious sacrifice" to a close, zealously and with undoubted success, and for his success in demonstrating the guilt of the Jews of Candia in the crucifixion of the lambs to a certainty [13].

The outcome of the matter came to our attention through a Jewish source which has until now been isinterpreted on this point: the chronicle of Elia Capsali. The Candian rabbi, based on a report on the events written in Hebrew, reported that the investigation into the crucifixion of the lambs was concluded on 26 January 1452, when the Council of the Forty informed Bernardo Balbi, the Duke of Candia, that, as a result of inquisitor Gradenigo’s denunciation, nine notables of the Jewish community had been placed in shackles for their participation in the crime.

To everyone's great surprise, the Jewish defendants were released as "falsely accused"

After a brief period of detention in the prisons of Candia, the prisoners were transferred in chains to Venice, where they were interrogated in expectation of the trial before the Avogaria di Commun. Two of the prisoners died as a result of torture, while the survivor remained in custody awaiting the decisions of the Major Council, which met on 15 July 1452, on Saturday. To everyone's

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great surprise, the Jewish defendants were absolved, notwithstanding Gradenigo’s indignant protests, with 220 votes in favor, 130 against and 80 "not convinced", i.e., abstaining; on 9 August following, the defendants were released and left Venice. They finally landed in Candia after a 13-day voyage and were joyfully and triumphantly received by the entire Jewish community on the island [14].

[The report reads in part:]

"In 1423, Francesco Foscarini was elected Doge of Venice [...] Under his government, almost at the end of his term, in 1451, the Jews of the community of Candia were falsely accused of the so-called 'calumny of the lamb', [15] by a nun named Orsa.

The matter took an ugly turn when Antonio Gradenigo, the inquisitor, visited Venice at the Avogaria di Commun to cause the Jews to be tried, setting forth the particulars of the accusations made against them. On 26 January, Bernardo Balbi, the Duke of Candia, received an order from Venice to arrest nine notables of the Jewish community, after which they were held in prison for thirty five days.

The Duke then ordered their transfer to Venice in a ship captained by Giacomo Aponal di Candia, which docked after a 49-day voyage, during which the prisoners remained in chains, suffering terribly. At Venice, the defendants were thrown in a dark, unwholesome prison, separated from each other, and subjected to cruel and insupportable tortures and torments, which caused the miserable death of two of them "in the sanctification of the name of God", but they confessed nothing.

As a result, the case was presented to the judge of the Great Council [...] and the Jews were therefore absolved, thanks to the Lord’s assistance and His mercy towards them. This happened on Saturday [...] on 15 July 1452 [...] and on 9 August following, these same Jews left Venice, and reached here [Candia] thirteen days later, expressing their praise and gratitude to God the Blessed."

The implacable Antonio Gradenigo appealed against the sentence charging bribery of the magistrates

But the matter was anything but over. The implacable Antonio Gradenigo appealed against the sentence of absolution before the Avogaria di Commun. According to him, the Jews of Candia had bribed some of the magistrates, purchasing their favorable votes with money. Once again, Capsali reported that the allegation had been examined by the Avogaria di Commun in March 1453.

The subsequent investigation led to the arrest of one of the counselors, Girolamo Lambardo, on a charge of corruption and Lambardo’s subsequent condemnation to one year in prison; he was also struck off the role of the Members of the Great Council for five years. The fate of the Jews of Candia were again in the hands of the "Great Council", which met on 16 May 1454 without reaching a decision. The

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meeting was adjourned on 7 June following, when the charges were finally dropped after innumerable rounds of voting, on 13 July [16].

"On a Saturday in the month of Tamuz of the year 5214 [=1454] in the afternoon [...] our Messer Antonio Giustinian’s galley docked here in the port of Candia, bringing us the happy news of our acquittal. May He be Blessed who rewarded us with all well-being, rendering vain the machinations brought against us. The Lord has saved, not only our fathers, but ourselves as well, our children and descendents. In fact, salvation has not only been granted to the Jewish community of Venice, because the Lord has thus liberated our community of the Jews of Candia and the other communities under the dominion of the Serenissima, and under the government of the gentiles generally, from terrible danger [...] This sort of persecution is the work of the perfidious Haman, seeking to exterminate women and children, old persons and notables and sack our property in one single day (Esther 3:13) [17]."

Capsali’s report, richly detailed, finds precise confirmation in the official Venetian documentation, supplementing and clarifying the picture [18]. As early as September 1451, several months prior to conclusion of district mayor Antonio Gradenigo’s inquiry into the crucifixion of the lambs at Crete during the Passover period of that year, Gradenigro appealed to the Greater Counsel that the defendants be transferred to another, more pliable, level of the legal system, such as the Quarantia Criminal [Council of Forty Judges] to ensure a more expeditious conclusion of the matter [19].

Gradenigo’s appeal upon acquittal of the Jews in the court of first instance was preceded by a decision of the Greater Counsel to the effect that, in the interests of expediting the case, the presence of three hundred magistrates should in this case suffice instead of the four hundred judges provided for by law [20].

What is certain is that, at the end of June 1452, twelve Jews from Candia were being held in a cell of the "New Prison" of Venice. Capsali reports that nine (and not twelve) Jewish notables were arrested in Candia; the idea that Candia was simply mistaken seems implausible.

Perhaps the other three Jews from Candia were arrested for other crimes, unrelated to the foul charge of the "crucified lambs" It would not even surprise us to learn that David Mavrogonato, whose adventures as an "intriguer" with limited scruples did not always end happily, was one of them. These Jews at Candia were lodged in the same cell with a Christian,

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probably in jail for another crime, a certain Antonio da Spilimbergo. Spilimbergo was rather unhappy about being the only believer in Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary in the forced company of these vociferous and arrogant Jews, who were as loud-mouthed as they were uncouth, and who did nothing but mutter their incomprehensible prayers and chant from morning to night, in Hebrew, with an unpleasant Ashkenazi inflection.

Their actions, which the poor Antonio, out of ardent Christian zeal, presumed were highly heretical, as well as their strange and repellent garb, drove him practically mad. He therefore file an urgent appeal with the commanding authorities for transfer to the "Carcere Novissima" [new prison], a petition which the authorities immediately granted, in a full understanding of Spilimbergo’s plight [21].

The Jews of Candia repeated this contemptuous ritual every year on the very holy day of Holy Friday

The text of the defendants’ final acquittal, on 7 June 1454, contains important details relating to the case as a whole. The principal defendants turned out to be the physician, Abba di Mosè del Medigo di Candia, who, according to the denunciation of a converted Jew, "crucified a lamb in mockery of Jesus Christ, at night, in his own room, together with other Jews, on the very holy day of Holy Friday (of the year 1451)". Gradenigo's inquiry shows that the Jews of Candia repeated this contemptuous ritual every year, in the days preceding Christian Easter [22].

Girolamo Lambardo was arrested and sentenced for selling his vote to the Jews

Abba del Medigo and the other defendants’ attempts to bribe the judges were not in vain, as attested to by the relevant documents. As we have seen from Elia Capsali’s report in March of 1453, one of the members of the Greater Counsel, the nobleman Girolamo Lambardo, was arrested and sentenced for selling his vote to the Jews. The minutes of the Greater Counsel confirm that an inquiry against Lambardo had in fact been brought and had concluded with the condemnation of the noble counselor for improperly attempting to extort money from Abba [23].

As early as February 1452, the ineffable Candian physician [Abba del Medigo], already under indictment for vilification of the Christian religion, was further accused of attempting to bribe one of the "district mayors in the Levant", Antonio Priuli, one of Gradenigo’s a colleagues, perhaps correctly considered more pliable than the implacable inquisitor of the crucified lambs.

But in fact, in a certain sense, Abba, rather than the author of the design to bribe judges and other high-placed persons involved in the trial, had himself been the naïve victim of a clever swindle. Bonomo di Mosè, a Jewish money lender active at Mestre, owner of the

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bank of San Nicolà at Padua [24], was, out of piety or self-interest, accustomed to visiting Abba frequently in the New Prisons where the latter was incarcerated. During one of these visits, Bonomo, who bragged of high-placed friendships in wealthy Venice, is said to have confessed to the impatient and depressed Candiota [Abba del Medigo] that one of the "district mayors in the Levant", Priuli to be exact, would gladly sell his vote in exchange for a loan of fifty thousand ducats without interest.

Having scraped up the sum, the good Abba promptly delivered it to Bonomo, who misappropriated it, obviously without turning it over to Priuli, who was completely ignorant of the whole scheme. But the whole scheme finally came unraveled and the swindle was discovered.

The money lender from Mestre, responsible for the swindle, was sentenced by the Avogadori to the payment of a fine of one hundred gold ducats and one year in prison, after which he would be banned from Venice and its territory for five years [25]. Abba del Medigo, for his part, was tried for trying to bribe a public official, but was ordered acquitted [26].

The island physician was less fortunate, however, at the end of October of the same year, when his Christian fellow prisoners accused him of serious offenses and blasphemies against the Christian religion. According to the denunciation, Abba, in his cell, was alleged to have unhesitatingly placed his filthy piss-pot right below the crucifix. Soundly rebuked by the other prisoners, the intemperate Candiota was said to have replied with profanity, insulting them and shamelessly ridiculing Jesus the Messiah and the blessed Holy Virgin. His condemnation was inevitable and well-deserved: one year’s additional prison time, in addition to the payment of a fine of one thousand lire to the Avogadori di Commun [27].

But who was this Abba del Medigo – the protagonist, despite himself, in the affair of the crucified lambs? He certainly came from one of the most illustrious Jewish families in Candia, being the son of Mosè "the Old Man", rabbi and head of the community, and related to the famous philosopher Elia del Medigo, a physician like himself. He had married Ritte, otherwise known as Rivkah, with whom he had had three children, Elia, Diamante and Yehudah, called Giuliano in Italian and known as Yudlin among the Ashkenazim of the Veneto community.

The latter had married Sofia, called Shifra in Hebrew, the aunt of the chronicler Elia Capsali. The family lived at Padua, but after the death of Abba, which occurred rather early in 1485, he moved mostly to Soave, where Elia and Yudlin del Medigo had obtained a money lending permit, which was renewed in 1496 [28].

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Murder of first-born - a ritual sacrifice perscribed by the "scriptures"

1 The Lord said to Moses:

2 Consecrate to me all the firstborn; whatever is the first to open the womb among the Israelites, of human beings and animals, is mine. (Gen. 13:1-2)

11 And the LORD said to Moses,

12 "Behold, I have taken the Levites from among the people of Israel instead of every first-born that opens the womb among the people of Israel. The Levites shall be mine,

13 for all the first-born are mine; on the day that I slew all the first-born in the land of Egypt, I consecrated for my own all the first-born in Israel, both of man and of beast; they shall be mine: I am the LORD." (Num. 3:11-13)

Elia Capsali remembered that he had stayed with his aunt Sofia at Padua in the winter of 1508, on his way from Venice, and that he had heard her say "that my relatives (del Medigo) were no longer at Padua, because they had moved to Soave" [29].

We know that Elia, Abba’s first-born, was murdered in Venice under mysterious circumstances in 1505. Implicated in the murder, one as the instigator and the other as an accomplice, were two Jews, from Soncino and Feltre, the latter a resident of Monselice, who were condemned by the Avogadori di Commun to prison, the confiscation of their property and expulsion from the territories of Venice, Padua and the surrounding district [30].

It is probable that Capsali stumbled across a copy of the trial documents relating to the crucifixion of the lambs on the island of Candia, in Padua, among Yudlin's letters, who had died many years before, stating the grounds for the acquittal, and that he used it among his sources.

Out of prudence, or perhaps simply desiring to respect the privacy of the Medigo-Capsali family, although half a century had already passed since these events, Elia preferred to omit any mention of the names of the defendants in the trial for the crucified lambs -- mainly, any mention of Abba del Medigo, father-in-law of his aunt, Sofia, as well as of the assassination of the son of the latter two, Elia, committed at Venice by other Jews only a few years earlier.

Lodovico Foscarini was a friend of Gradenigo, the inquisitor for the crucifixion of the Passover lambs, but he was no friend of the Jews, least of all to Jewish physicians, whom he hated, feared and suspected, and against whom he considered himself engaged in incessant warfare (perpertuum bellum) [31].

Jews, in their Passover ceremonies, solemnly swore on the Torah scrolls to cause serious injury and harm to those faithful in Christ

Foscarini, the patrician of the Veneto region, recalled the manner in which the Jews, in their Passover ceremonies, solemnly swore on the Torah scrolls to cause serious injury and harm to those faithful in Christ and placed the Christians on guard against eating unleavened bread prepared by Jews.

He was also convinced that Jewish physicians were the servants of the Devil and were dedicated to the magical arts and to necromancy, poisoning their Christian patients in body and spirit.

In a letter written in the summer of 1462, Foscarini considered it unacceptable that many governors, particularly, those from Venice, tolerated the cheeky and arrogant presence of Jewish physicians and surgeons, and thus facilitated their presence, and maintaining that presence for reasons of dubious honesty [32].

Foscarini, then Lieutenant of Friulia, had a short time before suffered two years imprisonment, lamenting that, during this period, the Serenissima, profiting from his absence, had signed official agreements with Jewish physicians. [33]

Blasphemous shamelessness of "gowned physician", garnished in gold and adorned with jewels

One scandalous example of blasphemous shamelessness, according to Foscarini, was a "gowned physician", garnished in gold and adorned with

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jewels, who had had the boldness to turn to certain noblewomen in mourning, maliciously deriding their religious belief, and in particular, the sacrament of the Host.

"I pity you, ladies, for your ignorance", the learned Jewish surgeon is alleged to have said on that occasion, in a tone of open mockery, "in believing that your God, the Creator of Heaven and Earth, would offer Himself to be consumed, and thus does not therefore disdain to offer himself up as food to the jaws of obscene ruffians and the filthiest of whores" [34].

In view of the fact that the most famous "gowned Jewish physician" living in Venice in Foscarini’s time was Jehudah messer Leon da Montecchio, who is said to have been granted the honor of the imperial doctoral privilege by Friedrich III during the latter’s stay in Venice in February 1469, and that his quarrelsome nature, accompanied by frequent and intemperate verbal outbursts against both Jews and Christians, his true or presumed adversaries, was common knowledge, identifying the "gowned physician" does not seem very hard to do.

In confirmation of this, reference may perhaps be made to a news item from a Jewish chronicle, archived until a few years ago in manuscript form, and perhaps compiled at Venice by an Ashkenazi Jew around the middle of the Sixteenth century, which seems to be a compilation of local traditions of indubitable antiquity [35].

The presumable chronology of the events to which reference is made dates back beyond the middle of the 15th Century. In Venice, the Jews were prohibited from circumcising their sons in the city [36].

The Jews therefore had to go to nearby Mestre to perform this rite, which was fundamental to their family life. It then that a Jew, "among the most illustrious among those living in Venice", wishing to circumcise his new-born son in the city of the lagoons, thought up an astute expedient which night lead to revocation of the discriminatory law. He turned to an influential Venetian patrician with whom he stood on terms of familiarity and friendship, a gentleman who was, in those days, confined to bed with gout, and requested the gentleman to act as godfather at his sons’ circumcision ceremony.

The Christian nobleman was not only pleased to accept the honorific charge which the honored Jew had thought fit to entrust him with, but, being unable to reach Mestre due to his illness, which kept confined at home, he seems to have decided to cause the child to be circumcised in the main room of his own palace. This was the first case, the precedent-setter, thereafter permitting the Jews of Venice to circumcise their sons in the City of the Lagoons. If the report, as stated, contains a core of truth, it should not be very difficult, in this case as well, to identify

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the Jewish notable as Jehudah messer Leon, the influential imperial physician esteemed by Jews and Christians alike, particularly among the higher classes, to whom a son, David was born in Venice, in approximately 1459 [37].

The Jewish community at Trent had formed relatively recently, and its numbers were always limited. When Maestro Tobias da Magdeburg, physician, surgeon and expert in ophthalmology, decided to establish himself at Trent in 1462, he found that there was no organized Jewish community in the city. In the early years of the century, in 1403, bishop Ulrich III had granted a Jewish money lender named Isacco and his family the right to carry on the money trade at Bolzano and Trent. This may have been the same Isacco whose presence in the city is attested to later, in 1440 [38]. It is nevertheless certain that other Jews came to join him in the first quarter of the century, staying at Trent for longer or shorter periods, such as the same Mosè di Samuele from Trent who, in the summer of 1423, made his last will and testament at Treviso, where had had in the meantime moved with his numerous family [39]. The Jewish community of Trent seemed consolidated by mid-century.

In fact, in 1450, Sigismondo, Count of Tyrol, decided to grant Elia and the other Jewish residents of Trent equality of rights with those of the Christian citizens of Trent [40].

Nevertheless, when Maestro Tobias took up residence in the city, he found only one Jewish family, that of the money lender Samuele (Zanwil) di Seligman, originating from Nuremberg in Bavaria, who had settled in Trent one year before. The privileges accorded to Samuele in the money-lending permit signed upon his entry into the city were renewed by Giovanni Hinderbach in 1469, the year in which Friedrich III officially invested him with the temporal office of the episcopate of Trent, at Venice, in 1469 [41]. In the meantime, a third family had come to reinforce the Jewish community of Trent. Angelo da Verona, from Gavardo in the Bresciano region, who had passed his youth at Conegliano in Friuli [42], also moved to Trent, dealing alongside Samuele of Nuremberg in the local money market [43]. Although he had lived in Italy from birth, Angelo, too, was an Ashkenazi Jew; perhaps he no longer spoke Yiddish as his native language, in contrast to Tobias and Samuele, who had arrived from the German territories only recently, but he certainly understood it and spoke it, although rather badly.

Angelo's parents, in fact, Salamone and Brünnlein (Brunetta), were natives of Bern in the Swiss

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Confederation. The three Jewish families of Trent were anything other than restrained and presented themselves in a manner rather definite as multiple patriarchal nuclei. The married children lived together with the parents, and several generations lived their everyday lives under the same roof: grandfather and grandmother, uncles, aunts and cousins, married women, widows and unmarried girls, servants, scullery maids and teachers, travelers and persons of passage, more or less established and occasional guests, professional beggars and impoverished relatives.

The Jews, whose habitations were contiguous, lived near the commercial center, known as "the Canton", in the western zone of the city, which included the quarters of the Market and San Martino. Their lending banks, which formed one whole with their houses, operated in contact with the shops and taverns of the German immigrants, whose presence in Trent was rather large, amounting to several hundred people [44]. German was spoken along the small canal, which crossed the district carried turbid and muddy water, originating in the Adige.

Alongside the evil-smelling workshops of the Germanic shoemakers and tanners were the banks and dwelling houses of the Jews. One of these, that of Samuele da Nuremberg, was the location of the synagogue.

In fact, Samuele’s family was beyond doubt the most religious, and the most highly cultivated in terms of Hebrew culture. The scrupulous observance of the standards of the Torah had induced the head of the family, in addition to setting aside certain areas as places of worship for the entire community, to draw from water the canal, which passed by the basement of the house, for use in a sort of ritual bath, where the women could easily immerse themselves for their own ablutions of purification after their menstrual period, without having to have recourse to the public baths, where feminine modesty and shame could not always be duly protected [45]. Samuele himself, to great benefit, had studied in the famous Talmudic academies of Bamberg and Nuremberg in the years 1440-1450, and had been the disciple of famous rabbis.

The oldest and most respected among the German Jews of Trent, his uncle Mosè da Franconia, who had reached the respectable age of eighty and was known by everyone in the city as "the Old Man", also found lodings under his roof. Learned and authoritative, even if poorly equipped with purely economic means, he had found stable hospitality, with his family, with the enterprising and wealthy nephew, after having lived previously at Würzburg and Spira, one of the most important centers of Jewish culture in all of Germany. Samuele's household were strict followers of the rules

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relating to kosher food, which, among other things, prescribed the complete separation of meat and dairy products, according to the dictates of the Bible, amplified and codified in the rabbinical interpretation of the halakhah. To the judges in the Simon of Trent murder trial, interested in knowing why he carried two knives in a sheath hanging from his side, both Samuele and Mosè "the Old Man" patiently explained that which, in their eyes, was perfectly obvious. One knife was to cut edible meat, while the other was to be used for dairy products [46]

On the eve of Passover the mutilated body of Simonino, a two-year old child, was found

On 23 March, eve of Passover of 1475, year of the jubilee, the mutilated body of Simonino, a two-year old child, son of the tanner Andrea Lomferdorm, was found in the waters of the ravine by-passing Samuele's cellar. This tragic discovery triggered the inquest which was to lead to the accusation brought against the Jews of Trent as suspects in the child's abduction and murder, to their interrogation in the castle of Buonconsiglio and their condemnation, after confessing under torture to being responsible for this tragic wickedness.

Finally, the condemned were publicly executed, burned at the stake or decapitated, while their property was to suffer bitter confiscation. The transcripts of the Trent trials for the murder of Simon, later beatified, are said, as a result, to constitute the most important and detailed document ever written on the ritual murder accusation, a precious document retaining the words of the Hebrew defendants, in which the words of the accusers and inquisitors did not always succeed in superimposing themselves over, or confusing themselves with, the words of the defendants.

These texts are a glimpse into a different world: the world of the Ashkenazi Judaism of the German territories and northern Italy, in all its sociological, historical and religious particularity. This was a Jewish world, enclosed upon itself, fearful and hostile towards outsiders, often incapable of accepting its own painful experiences and overcoming its own ideological contradictions. It was this world which, moving from the negative and often tragic reality in which they lived, sought an improbable anchorage in the sacred texts which might illuminate a hope of redemption, which for the moment appeared beyond credibility: a Hebraic world discharging its energies in religious rites and antique myths, now re-enlivened with renewed and different meanings and translated into an alienating, harsh and rigorous confessional language, in which internal tensions and unresolved frustrations lay hidden at all times. A world which, having survived the massacres and forced conversions of men, women and children, continued to experience

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those traumatic events in a sterile effort to reverse the meaning of that world, rebalancing it and correcting history.

It was a profoundly religious world in which redemption could not possibly be far off; in which God was to be involved despite Himself, and compelled to keep His promises, sometimes by force.

A world drenched with magical rites and exorcism

It was a world drenched with magical rites and exorcism, within whose mental horizons popular medicine and alchemy, occultism and necromancy were often mixed, finding a position of their own, influencing and reversing the meaning of ordinary religious standards.

The participants in this magical mental horizon included not only the Jews, accused of witchcraft and infanticide, ritual cannibalism and evil spells, but their accusers as well, obsessed with diabolical presences and the continual search for virtuous talismans and stupendous antidotes, capable of curing and preserving the body and soul from the wiles of men and demons.

Giovanni Hinderbach, prince bishop of Trent, the true organizer of the 1475 trials, had grown up in Vienna in the years following the great massacre of the Jews, accused of backing the Hussites (1421) and exposed by that same Duke Albert II to bloody vengeance as partisans of the heretics. [47]

Even before poor Simonino’s child murder, when he had not yet risen to his official fame as "punisher of the Jewish murderers", Hinderbach had already found ways to show his lack of sympathy for them. [48]

In one case, thus, he had not hesitated to express his self-satisfied approval of cannibalism, when the victims were Jews. During the military confrontation between Venice and Trieste in 1465, during which Friedrich III intended to enforce his rights, Hinderbach, who was then acting as imperial ambassador before the government of the Serenissima, sang the praises of the Hapsburg militia, called upon to defend Trieste, for their courage and their demonstrated loyalty to the Emperor. By true right, observed the pious bishop, the German soldiers, in case of necessity, rather than lay down their arms, were to alleviate their hunger by eating the flesh of cats, rats and mice; and even that of local Jews, Jews resident in the city [49].

Friedrich III was, as Burcardo di Andwil informs us, in addition to mathematical sciences, a passionate cultivator of astrology and necromancy, and for this reason is said to have remarked that he liked to surround himself with Jews and Chaldeans, people highly partial to superstitious practices [50]. But Friedrich's faithful servant, Hinderbach, was no less so. Magic and witchcraft in fact exercised an irresistible fascination over

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the humanist bishop, who was a friend of Enea Silvio Piccolomini. Hinderbach assimilated Jews outright with necromanticists, always ready to perform exorcisms and curses in the service of the devil. Demons love blood; and the necromancers who resuscitated cadavers used blood with little parsimony in their divination, mixing it with water taken from fountains and rivers.

Hinderbach had no hesitation in maintaining that the Jews were enchanters and necromancers, "because they kill Christian children and drink and consume their blood, as they did last year at Trent, and in many other places it has been discovered and proven" [51].

The practical Caballah, black magic and necromancy

The practical Caballah, which these Jews followed more or less in secret, was to be assimilated in all respects to black magic and necromancy. It is to be noted that, during the first festival of the sainted child, held at Trent in 1589 with a great confluence of people, a celebrative pamphlet, later published in Rome, was compiled with the title of Ristretto della vita et martirio di S. Simone fanciluuo della citta di Trento. This work maintained, in the wake of Hinderbach, that the child had been killed by the Jews, "followers of the Caballah, vain science under which name magic and necromancy often hide" [52].

From the records of the trial, we know that Brunetto (Brünnlein), widow of Samuele da Nuremberg, who was, in the end, burnt at the stake as guilty of infanticide, persisted in her refusal to confess, notwithstanding the torments to which he was subjected. To Hinderbach, there appeared to be no doubt that the woman was ill and bewitched by Jewish necromancers. For this reason, every suggestive pressure, exercised on the woman to persuade her to speak, had proven useless; from shaving her head and removing her body hair, to ablutions in holy water.

But the remedy was finally found. The holy cure-all, according to the bishop of Trent, constantly in search of miraculous enchantments and narcotic unguents, had proven itself exceptionally effective in the precedent Santa Lucia case, in which the victim was also possessed by demons. Brünetta was placed in a bath of urine, laboriously produced by a "virgin young boy" of Trent, and suddenly, after the extraordinary, if rather evil-smelling ablution, the woman, without further ado, began to sign her confession. [53]


[1] "Et inter ipsos Iudeos fuit dictum [...] quod in civitate Venetarium tunc erat quidam magnus mercator Iudeus de insula Candie, qui portavit magnum quantitatem sanguinis pueri Christiani ad vendendum, et etiam portaverat magnam quantitatem zuccari. Et quod dici audivit a quodam Ioseph Forles, qui venerat post Serenissimum Imperatorem Venetias, quod volevat emere de sanquine a dicto mercatore Hebreo. Et similiter dici audivit a quibusdam aliis, de quidibus non recordatur, quod volebant emere de dicto sanguine, licet ipse non emerit. Dicit tamen quod, crede suo, omnes alii Iudei, qui ibi aderant, emerunt de dicto sanguine" (cfr. A. Esposito and D. Quaglioni, Processi contro gli ebrei di Trento,1475-1478: I: I processi del 1475, Padua, 1990, pp. 328-329). The fact that the blood put up for sale, together with the sugar, by Mavrogonato was of "pueri Cristiani" [Christian boys] appears to be an allusion by Tobias da Magdeburg or German Jews having moved to Venice in the retinue of Friedrich III, with whom he had spoken. There is nothing to cause us to believe, however, that the information supplied by Tobias should, on the whole, be considered "exotic details" (cfr. R. Po-Chia Hsia, Trent 1475. A Ritual Murder Trial, New Haven, Conn., 1992, p. 46), just as the description of the Jew from Candia as a "great merchant in the imperial entourage, who sold sugar and blood" (ibidem). On the sugar manufacturies transplanted from Venice to Crete starting at the beginning of the XIV century and on the curative uses of sugar, particularly widespread in the Jewish medieval medical treatises, see, in particular, S.W. Mintz, Sweetness and Power. The Place of Sugar in Modern History, Baltimore (Md.), 1985.

[2] "Et cum eo (qui vocabatur 'el Judeo dal çuccaro') conversabatur Hossar Iudesu, qui habitat Venetiis et vocatur "el Zudio de la barba", qui est de Colonia et ab omnibus cognoscitur" (cfr. Esposito and Quaglioni, Processi, cit., vol. I, p. 329).

[3] The figure of Israel Wolfgang of Brandenburg is interpreted differently by Po-Chia Hsia (Trent 1475, cit., pp. 91-104: "Oscillating between the different roles demanded of him, Israel was alternatively the wandering Jew, the Christian convert, informant of the apostolic commissioner, and the cooperative prisoner". In my view, a less superficial reading of his depositions permits an understanding of the consistency among the apparent contradictions in his behavior.

[4] "Salamon parvus [= Salamoncinus] dixit sibi Wolfgango quadam die in Plebe Sacchi, in Curia Domus praedicti Salomonis (Martuii), quod Salomon, pater ipsius Salamon parvi, habuerunt dictum sanguinem a quodam Judeo, qui illum detulerat de ultra Mari et, ut credit, de insula Cypri"

(cfr. [Benedetto Bonelli], Dissertanzione apologetica sul martirio del beato Simone da Trento nell'anno MCCCCLXXV dagli ebrei ucciso, Trento, Gianbattista Parone, 1747, p. 64).

The blood referred to was dried and reduced to powder, and it is therefore difficult to believe that it could have been confused with wine, and, in particular, with the Malvasia wine from Candia, in which Mavrogonato seems to have dealt on a large scale. For the hypothesis of the Malvasia wine of Candia exchanged for blood, see D. Nissim, Il legame tra i processi di Trento contro gli ebrei e la tipografia ebraica di Piove di Sacco del 1475, in "Annali dell'Istituto Storico Italo-Germanico in Trento", XXV (1999), pp. 672-673, promptly follwed by D. Carpi, who presents it as obvious

(L’individuo e la collettività. Saggi di storia degli ebri a Padova e nel Veneto nell'eta del Rinascimento, Firenze, 2002, pp. 29, 43).

[5] On Salamone di Lazzaro "de Alemannia" and his money lending activity, cfr. C. Bonetti, Gli ebrei a Cremona, Cremona , Cremona, 1917, p. 9; G.A. Mantovani, La communità ebraica di Crema nel secolo XV e le origini del Monte di Pietà , in "Nuova Rivista Storica", LIX (1975), p. 378; Sh. Simonsohn, The Jews in the Duchy of Milan, Jerusalem, 1982, vol. I, pp. 36-37, 220-221, 246-247 (nos. 48, 464, 524).

[6] Wolfgang's deposition on Hossar-Anselmo "de la barba" is summarized by G. Divina, Storia del beato Simone da Trento , Trent, 1902, vol. II, pp. 18-19.

[7] ASV, Avogaria di Comun, Raspe, 3653 (II), cc. 44v-45r (cc. 149v-150r, according to the modern numbering in pencil at the bottom of the page (3 September 1473).

"Anselmus, iudeus a Barba, contra quem processum fuit et est per antescriptos dominos advocatores in Consilio Xlta, pro eo quod, ad finem defraudandi mercationis et maiorus sui lucri, ausus est in fundo denariorum fundellorum, ubi sollitum est accipi sagium argenti, fundidit aliquantum limare aurri, ita quod videbatur argentum ipsum tenere aurum [...] Sicque cum ipsis fundelis accessit ad sagiatorum folee auri in Rialto, qui sagium fect et fecti bulletinum ipsi iudeo, prout solitum est fieri, quem postea argentum dictus Anselmus vendidit Joanne Antonio partitori, in eiusdem danno et deceptione".

Further along in the same document it states that that the judges had decided to proceed "contra Anselmum iudeum pro istis duobus fundellis argenti fundatis, demonstrantibus tenere aurium et non tenentibus, nisi in locis in quibus solit acceperi sagium per sagiatorem comunis, vinditis Joanni Antonio partitori in euidsem deceptionem et damnum maximum". The victim of the swindle appears with the qualification partitor , i.e., a refiner of precious metals, assigned to the separation of of gold from silver.

It should be noted that at Venice, metal assaying was executed by approved assayers in the Zecca. In the Fifteen Century, four officials, two for gold and two for silver, were assigned to their registration and weighing, and an additional three assayers, who were entitled to operate in Zecca, in the "statione comune" at Rialto (the location selected by Hossar for his fraud), or in their own shop. In this regard, see F.C. Lane and R.C. Mueller, Money and Banking in Medieval and Renassance Venice. Coins and Moneys of Account, Baltimore (Md), 1985, index, s.v. Assay office and Gold, assaying of ; A. Stahl, The Mint of Venice in the Middle Ages , Baltimore (Md), 2000, index, s.v. Assay and Gold Estimator.

[8] "Quod iste Anselmus menses sex in carceribus et perpetuo perivetur possendi exercendi mercaturam auri et argenti grezorum Venetiis".

[9] "[...] quod non incipiat tempus carceriorum, nisi prius cum integritate satisfacerit et restituerit denarios suos Joanni Antonio partitori descripto. Verum si casus mortis ipsius Anselmi occurreret, atu quod de carceribus aufguerit, et tot bona ipsius Anselmi non invenientur, tunc argentum predictum, ad manus Advocatorum perventum, obligatum sit integre satisfactioni infrascipti Joanni Antonio".

[10] Cfr. Esposito and Quaglioni, Processi, cit., vol. I, pp. 327-328. "Dictus Abraham habebat dictum sanguinem in quodam coramine rubeo et erat coagulatus et in frusticulis et erat in totum ad quantitatem unius ovus." Maestro Tobias had bought some of it "quantum est una nucella pro uno rainense". The fact (at any rate already known to anyone possessing a certain familiarity with this type of trade, which was more widespread than one might imagine among both Jews and Christians, in the cities and above all the countryside, where it constituted an indispensable ingredient for the preparation of prodigious medications) emerges from the depositions of the other defendants in the Trent trial that the blood was placed on sale in the form of powder, coagulated or converted into lumps, ("portabat illum sanguinem ad vendendum, et illum tenebat in sinode seu çendado rubeo, et erat ille sanguis coagulatus et pulverizatus"; "et dicit quod sanguis, quem dictus Ursus portabat ad vendendum erat in uno vase [...] quod vas erat instagnatum a parte interiori, in quo vase erat sanguis pulverizatus, et erat tantum de sanguine in dicto vase quantum esset quarta pars unius amphiale val mosse, et dictus vas erat coopertum de quodam coramine albo".

[11] The information is found in Flaminio Cornaro, Creta sacra sive de epis de episcopis utriusque ritus graeci et latini in insula Cretae, Venice, 1755, vol. II, pp. 382-383 ("Non satis quidem habuit perfida Judaeorum natio Creatiae degens Christianos iniquis adeo molestijs divexare, sed ut religioni etiam illuderent, teneros agnos [fortasse quia fideles pueros captare nequiverat] in Jesu-Christi- contumeliam cruci affixerunt, cujus facinoris nuntium cum Venetias delatum esset, Consilium XL virorum ad Criminalia, Cretensi regimini mandavit, ut omni studio in impios, qui adhuc ignoti erant, inquieret"). In this regard, see also H. Noret, Document inédits pour servir à l'histoire de la domination vénitienne en Crète de 1380 à 1485, Paris, p. 425, no. 1. At any rate, the accusation relating to the passion of the lambs at Crete may only with difficulty be classified as an " accusation du meurtre rituel ", as it is perhaps interpreted by Jacoby (cfr. D. Jacoby, Les juifs à Venise du XIVe au milieu du XVI siècle, in H.-G. Beck, M. Manoussacas and A. Pertusi, Venezia centro di mediazione tra Oriente e Occidente, secoli XV-XVI. Aspetti e problemi, Florence, 1977, vol. II, p. 172).

[12] On this custom and its anti-Christian significance, see Y. Tabori, Pesach dorot, Tel Aviv, 1996, pp. 92-105; I.J. Yuval, "Two Nations in Your Womb". Perceptions of Jews and Christians, Tel Aviv, 2000, p. 89 (in Hebrew). Again, at the beginning of the Seventeen Century, the Inquisition ordered the persecution of those Jews from the communities of the plains of the Po of northern Italy who still retained the wickedness to crucify Passover lambs.

The Holy Office recorded that the Jews, although not subject to the jurisdiction of the Inquisition, could be tried by those tribunals in particularly serious cases. One of these was "se beffassero i Christiani, et per disprezzo della passione di Nostro Signore nella Settimana Santa, o in alto tempo crucifigessero agnello, pecora o altra cosa" ["if they ridiculed Christians, or showed contempt for the Passion of Our Lord during the Holy Week, or crucified lambs, sheep or anything else, at any time"] (Breve informazione del modo di trattare le cause del S. Officio per li molto Reverendi Vicarii della Santa Inquisitione, Modena, Giuliano Cassiani, 1608, p. 15).

[13] "'Ex delictis quae tu studiossime contra hebraeorum pernitosissimam credelitatem inquisivisti', Foscarini wrote to Gradenigo, 'unum de sacrilega immolatione, ita universis patefacere decrevi, quod nemo posthac sic tam amens qui dubitet vel tam improbus qui neget nequissimos iudaeos agnos temporibus nostris passim crucifigere'".

And further along, he invited him to persist in his uncompromising struggle "contra iudeos agnum crucifigentes" ["against the lamb-crucifying Jews"]

(cfr g. Gardenal, Ludovico Foscarini e la Medicina, in Unamesimo e Rinascimento a Firenze, Florence, 1983, pp. 251-263 [p. 262]. In this case as well, it seems incorrect to consider, as Gardenal does (perhaps in the belief that "agni", "agnello", was a metaphor referring to Christian children), "questi sacrifici compiuti dagli ebrei nell'isola di Candia" ["these sacrifices committed by the Jews on the island of Crete"] as true and proper ritual homicides. He is followed in this error by Esposito ("Antonio Gradenigo aveva indagato su pretesi sacrifici umani compiuti dagli ebrei nell'isola di Candia").

[14] E. Capsali, Seder Eliyahu Zuta, by A. Schmuellevitz, Sh. Simonsohm and M. Benayahu, Jersulem, 1977, vol. II, pp. 225-226.

[15] In Hebrew, 'alitat ha-taleh, the slander of the lambs. In Biblical Hebrew, Taleh is the suckling lamb, and this is the original reading of the text, which at any rate appears in this form and with reference to this occurrence in another section of Capsali's chronicle (Seder Eliyahu Zuta, cit., vol. I, p. 246). Other, corrupted or incomprehensible readings appear in many manuscripts, such as ha-'lah, understood by M. Benayahu as ha-'orlah, the foreskin. But "the slander of the lambs", without further explanation, makes no sense. At an earlier date, N. Porges (Elie Capsali et sa Chronique de Venise, in "La Revue des Etudes Juives", LXXVII, 1923, pp. 20-40 [p. 24]) had explained the word, considering it a corruption of ha-mazah, leaven, understanding the term in the sense of Host. Therefore, at Candia, in 1452, the Jews are said to have been accused of profanation of the Host. The hypothesis of Porges, who was unaware of the inquiry for the crucifixion of the lambs, is, today, uncritically accepted by others, who arbitrarily add the Candia case in 1452 to the case record of the desecration of the host (cfr. Simonsohn, in Capsali, Seder Eliyahu Zuta, cit., vol, III, p. 77; M. Rubin, Gentile Tales. The Narrative Assault on Late Medieval Jews, New Haven, Conn., 1999, pp. 115-116). Still more recently, there are those who refer to Capsali's text as the "resoconto del processo intentato in 1452 contro nove ebrei di Candia con l'accusa di omicidio rituale" ["report on the trial proceedings brought against nine Jews of Candia on a charge of ritual murder"] (Cfr. G. Corazzol, Sulla Cronaca dei Sovrani di Venezia ["Divre' ha-yamim le-malke' Wenesiy'ah"] di Rabbi Elia Capsali da Candia, in "Studi Veneziani", XLVII, 2004, p. 318).

[16] Capsali, Seder Eliyahu Zuta, cit., vol, II, pp. 226-227. In this regard, see also Porges, Elie Capsali, cit., pp. 24-26.

[17] Capsali, Seder Eliyahu Zuta, cit., vol., II, p. 227.

[18] In this case as well, we are in debt to our friend Reiny Mueller for the invaluable archive information supplied in this regard, and to Dr. Rachele Scuro for the transcription of the documents utilized by myself.

[19] "Cum se Antonius Grandonico et socii sindici intromisit pro suo officio certas causas quibus in isto Maiori Consilio datum est principium et pro non dando tedium isti Maiori Consilio et tenere totam civitatem impeditam pro simili re, vadit pars quod omnes dicte licet melius videbitur et placebit et in illis capre finem, sicut multis vicibus fuit servatum". The proposal was approved by a large majority (ASV, Maggior Consiglio, Deliberazioni, Libro Ursa [reg. 22] [1415-1454], c. 178v. [c. 184v according to the pencil numeration at the bottom], 5 November 1451). One piece of information, perhaps connected with the accusation of the crucifixion of the lambs, dates back to 1448. In March of that year, Antonio Gradenigo had thrown a Jew from Candia, Yospe [Yoseph] di Retimo, into prison, in Venice, under an unknown accusation. Eight months afterwards, the prisoner complained to the officials of the Quarantia, who were visiting the prisons, so that Gredenigo might transfer him from prison to prison to compel him to confess and had not concluded the preliminary investigation and hearing within eight moths, as required by the laws of Venice ("Capita de XL [... in carceribus] reppererint inter ceteros Yoste [recte: Yospe] ebreum de Rethimo, se gravantem ver virum nobilem Antonium Gradenico, sindicum partium Levantis, teneri carceratum iam 8 mensibus contra id quod de iure facere potest, cum sic disponentibus legibus et ordenibus nostris introducto casu suo ad consilium eum expedire teneretur infra tres menses, ultra quem terminum eum minime teneri poterat, subiugitique ipse Yospe quod idem ser Antonius hoc tempore eum multociens permutavit de carcere suo modo, et videns non posse ab eo habere nisi ut mera est rei veritas, non curat ipsum expedire"). In fact, Gradenigo has present Yospe's case before the Senate a good four times without obtaining his condemnation, as he desired. The Senate granted him another one-month postponement in which to conclude the inquiry and bring the Jew to trial, otherwise he would have to be released (ASV, Senato Mar, reg. 3, c. 83v. 27 October 1448). I wish to express my thanks to Dr. Stefano Piasentini for this information. It is however possible that Yospe's imprisonment, desired by Gradenigo, district mayor in the Levant, should be placed in relation with the prohibition against the ownership of real property by the Jews of Retimo outside the Jewish quarter, which was reiterated by the Counsel of Forty of Venice on 11 December 1448. On that occasion, the judiciaries of the Serenissima were investigating the case in which Jews from Retimo had made fictitious sales of their real property (Cfr. D. Jocoby, An agent juif au service de Venise. David Mavrogonato de Candie, in "Thesaurismata. Bolletino dell'Istituto Ellenico di Studi Bizantini et Post-Bizantimi", IX, 1972, pp. 86-87.

[20] "Cum advocatores notri comunis et etiam sindici aliquotiens introducatur ad Maius Consilium aliquos casus et negocia pro officiis suis, quod consilium pro maiori parte male congregatur et bonum sit quod dicta negocia iudicentur et terminentur in numero competenti propter importantium rerum, vadit pars quod quotienscumque advocatores comunis vel sindici habere voluerint Maisu Consilium pro casibus et agendis officiorum suorum debeat dictum consilium esse congregatum ad minimum ad numerum quadrigentorum et eum minori numero non intelligature esse in ordine nec aliquid fieri possit absque dicto numero IIIc vel ab inde supra". The proposal was approved (ASV, Maggior Consiglio, Deliberazioni, Libro Ursi [reg. 22] [1415-1454], c. 182r [c.188r according to the pencil numeration at bottom], 24 June 1452). In the specific case of the legal proceedings against the Jews of Candia (and in particular against Abba del Medigo, as we shall see below) were granted the reduced attendance of three hundred voters. "Quoniam per experientiam visum est quod istud consilium pluries locatum est ad petitionem advocatorum comunis et sindicorum pro facto Abbe medici iudei eet numquam potuit congregari ad numerum ordinatum et per consequens ius et iustitia non potuit habere locum nec dari expeditio dicto, qui dudum fuit et est in carceribus, scilicet vadit pars quod factum dicti iudei entroduci et experiri in Maiori Consilio, cum numero trecentorum et inde supra" (ASV, Maggior Consiglio, Deliberazioni, Libro Ursa [reg. 22] 1415-1454], c. 189r. [c. 195r according to the pencil numeration at the bottom], 5 May 1454.

[21] Antonio da Spilimbergo maintained that those Jews of Candia had reduced him to despair "quia illorum voces et mores [...] patarini tamtum pati non potest" (ASV, Consiglio dei Dieci, mixed, reg. 14, c. 117v., 28 June 1452). I wish to thank my friend Reiny Mueller for this curious information.

[22] "Abas quondam Moisi ebreu absolutus est sed tamen contra quem processum fuit [...] in eo et pro eo quod dum alias viris nobiles ser Laurentius Honorandi et ser Antonius Gradonico, olim sindici ad partes levantis, se reperissent in civitate Candidae et ad eorum aures, ex fama publica, pervenisset quod ebrei ibidem commorantes in vilipendium catolice fidei christianae omni anno crucifigebant unum agnum in sanctissimo die veneris sancti, ipsi sindici super fama publica examinaverunt multos testes. Postea, post recessum suum per regiment Crette, fuit examinata Marina Vergi olim ebrea et effecta tunc christiana, ex qua testificatione inter alios nominatus fuit ipse Abbas in propria domo quadam nocte crucifigisse unum agnum in ignominia Jesu Christi [...] quod procedatur contra Abbatem quondam Moise del Medigo ebreum qui postposito omni timore huius christianissme rei publice, in maximum opproprium fidei catolicae aurus fuit una cum aliquibus aliis perfidis ebreis in civatate nostra Candidae in die veneris sancti renovare misteria passionis domini Jesu Christi et crucifixerunt unum agnum quod etiam ipse Abbas in domo fecit ut est dictum" (ASV, Avogaria di Comun, Raspe, 3650 [II], cc. 9v-10r., 7 June 1454). The decision of the Maggior Consiglio lead to the definitive acquittal of the accused and in so doing reference was made to their release in first instance ("ex quibus scripturis ipse Abbas et ceteri nominati in infrascripta testificatione fuerunt per sindicos placiti, collegati et introducti ad Maius Consilio et in tertio consilio absoluti") and on Gradinego's second appeal, discussed above, on 21 May 1454, "in quo nihil captum fuit".

[23] In two different notes, contained in the decision of the Greater Council, mutilated and undated (but it must date back to Mach 1453), mention is made of the inquiry against Lambardo or Lombardo. The first opens with the words: "Ut veniri possit in lucem si [Hyeronimus Lambardus] habuit tot denarios ab Abbate hebreo".

The second starts in a rather similar manner, but offers further information: "Ut haberi possit veritas istius promissionis facte per Abbatem [e]breum viro nobili ser Hyeronimo Lombardo et denariorum sibi datorum, ipse ser Hyeronimus retinetur ad pecticionem advocatorum comunis et examinetur" (ASV, Maggior Consiglio, Deliberazioni, Libro Ursa [reg. 22] [1415-1454], c. 193 [c. 199r according to the pencil numeration at bottom], March 1453). In a document in the Raspe dated June 1454, relating to the definitive acquittal of Abba del Medigo, mention is made of the "condemnatione facta contra virum nobilem ser Hieronymum Lambardo"

(ASV, Avogaria di Comun, Raspe, 3650, [II], c. 10r).

[24] This is a reference to the "Bonhomo da Mestre", recorded at Padua in 1432 as the person "qui tenet banchum sancti Nicolae" (cfr. A. Ciscato, Gli ebrei in Padua, 1300-1800, Padua, pp. 242-243). In the Paduan documents, it is also stated that Bonomo di Mosè da Ancona, money lender at Mestre

(cfr. D. Carpi, The Jews of Padua During the Renaissance, 1369-1509, doctoral thesis, Jerusalem, 1967, p. 49 [in Hebrew]. His father, who appears in the documents as Moise Rab di Jacob and originated from Nuremberg, lived at Padu in 1460, in the Mastellerie district, in a palace owned by the Capodivacca family of patricians (ASP, Notarile, Paolo Carraro, 1943, c. 452r).

[25] "Bonomus ebreus filius Moisi contra quem processum fuit [...] pro eo quod dum ipse Bonomus aliquotiens iret visitatum Abbam ebreum cerceratum in carcere novo ad requisitionem dominorum auditorum novorum sententiarum veluti sindicorum levantis et quandoque intercessissit nomine dicti Abbe cum viro nobili ser Antonio de Priolis, uno dictorum auditorum quinquaginta ex quo ipse Abbas, repertis ipsis denariis, etiam ipse mutuo eos dedit ipsi Bonomo ebreo, credens ut ipsos mutuo daret ipsis ser Antonio de Priolis, qui Bonomus ipsos denarios pro se retinuit. Cumque post aliquos menses ipse Abba vellet denario suos et hoc diercet ipse ser Antino de Priolis, ipse ser Antonius turbatus ex hac gulositate predictum manifestavit dominis advocatoribus comunis". It was therefore decided "quod procedatur contra Bonumum ebreum filium Moisi qui, posposito omni timore Dei et dominii nobilem ser Antonium de Prioles sindicum levantis et eos pro se retinuit."

The final decision was that "captum fuit quod ipse Bonomus stare debeat uno anno in carceribus et solvat ducatos centum auri et quod sit bannitus per quinque annos de Venetiis et districtu et si in dicto tempore se permiserit reperiri quod stare debeat uno anno in caceribus et solvat ducatos auri et iterum banniatur" (ASV, Avogaria di Comun, Raspe, 3650 [I], c. 28rv., 28 February 1452).

[26] "Abba ebreus cerceratus absolutus, sed tamen contra quem processum fuit per dominos asvocatores comunis et offitium suum et pro eo quod dum esset carceratus, ad instantium virorum nobilium ser Antonii Grandonico et ser Antonii de Priolis auditorum et uti sindicorum levantis, et Bonomus ebreus filius qui ipsum quandoque visitabat in carceribus falso et contra scientiam ipsius ser Antoni sibi dixisset quod prefatus ser Antonius de Priolis rogabat ipsum Abba ut ei mutuaret ducatos quinquaginta; ipse Abbas potius pro subornando quem ad aliud finem dedit ipsi Bonomo ducatos Lta aura, credens quod ipse Bonomo eo daret ipsi ser Antonio sed ipse oes retinuit pro se".

[27] "Abba Moise del Medigo ebreus contra quem processum fuit per dominos advocatores comunis et offitium suum in eo et pro quod, dum esset carceratus per sindicos levantis, inculpatus de crucifixione agni, parvipendens Dominum nostrum et spirito diabolico ductus quodam die accepta zangula de loco suo eam in vilipendium crucifixi posuit sub ymagine Jesu Christi crucifix dumque carcerati redarguerentur eum, cepit dicere quod christiani adorabant picturas et tabulas et quod ibant ad macellum sicut porci; postea cepit dicere quod domina notra virgo Maria fuerat incantatrix et docuerat Jesum talia facere et quod habuerat tres viros et alios filios"

[Approximately: ["Abba Moses del Medigo the Jew, who was tried by the district prosecutors in the course of their duties, when incarcerated by the district mayors in the Levant, under indictment for crucifying lambs in contempt of Our Lord, and led onwards by the spirit of the Devil, on that day he moved his piss-pot from its proper place in contempt for the Crucifix and placed it beneath the image of Jesus Christ Crucified, and when the other jail-birds told him off about it, he started to say that Christians adore pictures and planks, and that they even slaughtered pigs, after which he started to say that our Holy Virgin was a witch and that she taught Jesus to take revenge and she had three husbands and other children"].

The Avogaria requested "quod procedatur contra Abbam ebreum Moisis de Creta qui existens carceratus proper fidem, dictus spiritu diabolico in maximam ignominiam fidei catolice multa turpissima verba dixit contra virginem Mariam et Jesus Christum accipiendo zangulam et eam ponendo ante crucifium".

["that Abba, the Jew from Crete, be tried who, being incarcerated for his faith, led onwards by the spirit of the Devil, and spoke with the greatest ignominy of the Catholic Faith against the Virgin mary and Jesus Christ, taking his piss-pot and placing it beneath the crucifix"]

The sentence established that "captum fuit quod iste Abbas stare debeat uno anno in carceribus et solvat libras mille advocatoribus comunis" ["if he was captured the said Abba should spend one year in jail and pay one thousand pounds to the municipal prosecutor’s office"] (ASV, Avogaria di Comun, Raspe, 3650 (I), c. 49rv., 30 October 1452). On the custom of desecrating crucifixes and other sacred images, placing them in the latrines or using them as eccentric coverings for piss-pots and chamber pots; see C. Cluse, Stories of Breaking and Taking the Cross. A Possible Context for the Oxford Incident of 1268, in "Revue d'Histoire Ecclesiastique", XV (1995), p. 218.

[28] On the figure of Abbadi Mosè del Medigo and his family see, in particular, Carpi, L’individuo e la collettività , cit., pp. 230-233.

[29] Capsali, Seder Eliyahu Zuta, cit., vol. II, p. 253.

[30] ASV, Avogaria di Comun, reg. 3660, cc. 107r-108r.: the trial of Abramo di David da Soncino, the client, and Bonaventura di Abramo da Feltre, the accomplice, guilty of the murder of "Elia greco", son of Abba del Medigo, "prestatore a Soave", was held at Venice at the beginning of the month of December of 1505. It appears that in 1056, Abba's widow, Ritte, was occupied in matters related to the estate of the deceased son (cfr. Carpi, L’individuo e la collettività, cit. p. 232).

The murder of Elia the Greek (but not the identification of Elia the Greek with Elia, son of Abba del Medigo) is mentioned in M. Melchiorre, Gli ebrei a Feltre nel Quattrocento. Una storia rimossa, in G.M. Varanni and R.C. Mueller, Ebrei nella Terraferma veneta del Quattrocento, Florence, 2005, p. 101, no. 73.

[31] Cfr. Jacoby, Les juifs at Venice, cit., p. 172.

[32] Cfr. Gardenal, Ludovico Foscarini e la medicina, cit., pp. 251-263. On the position of the Jewish physician in Renaissance Italy and the frequent disputes in his regard, see, among others, A. Toaff, Il vino et la carne. Una communita ebraica nel Medievo, Bologna, 1989, pp. 265-285; G. Cosmacini, Medicina e mondo ebraico. Dalla Bibbia al secolo dei ghetti, Bari,,2001, pp. 143-211.

[33] See, in this regard, M.J.C. Lowry, Humanism and Anti-Semitism in Renaissance Venice. The Strange Story of "Décor Puellarum", in "La Bibliofilia", LXXXVII (1985), pp. 39-54. in view of the fact Foscarini had been incarcerated in the two-year period of 1460-1461, the city business permits granted by Venice to the Jewish doctors (and first of all to Yehudah messer Leon) should have been signed in that period. Notwithstanding Foscarini's protest, on the request of the Doge Cristoforo Moro, the Cardinal Bessarione, Papal legate, dated 17 December 1463, confirmed that these agreements were respected.

[34] Cfr. Gardenal Ludovico Foscarini e la medicina, cit., p. 260. "Nuperrime quidam Iudeus togatus, auro circumdatus, demissis capillis, severa facie ausus est nobillissiumis matronis in generosa familia lacrimantibus oculis dicere: compatior ignorantiae vestae quia creditis Deum factorem coeli et terrae ses manducandum preabere et non dedignari lenonum impurissimorum et vulgatissimarum meretricium ora."

[35] Cfr. M.A. Shulvass, Racconto delle tribolazioni passate in Italia, in "Hebrew Union College Annual", XXII (1949), pp. 1-21 (17) (in Hebrew). The anonymous chronicle has been republished by I. Sonne, Da Paolo IV a Pio V, Jerusalem, 1954, pp. 183-202 (pp. 200-201) (in Hebrew).

[36] Fra Francesco Suriano, writing before 1483, noted with ill-concealed pride that the Jewish women of Venice, when they gave birth, often did not hesitate to ask the Virgin Mary for help, in a paradoxical, self-interested cult with magical connotations (F. Suriano, Il trattato di Terra Santa e dell'Oriente, by G. Golubuvich, 1900, p. 94-95):

"Li Iudei similiter sono constrecti de reverirla (la Vergine Maria); e secundo che ho udito da obstretricie digne di fede, ne l'alma cita de Venetia e christiane che se sono retrovate alquante volte arcoglier loro fioli nel parto de piu Hebree, le qual testificavono e dicevono che non partuire senza la sua invocazione e recommendazione; et vede che loro mariti spargeano per la camara alquante monede d'argento furlane, le qual hano la sua ymagine. Ricevuta la gratia, e liberata dal parto, scopano e bugliano fori de la fenestra quelle monede, e diceano: "fora Maria, fora Maria!"

["Similarly, the Jews are compelled to revere Her (the Virgin Mary); and according to what I have heard from trustworthy midwives who went to assist several Jewesses in childbirth in the Christian city of Venice, they testified and said that the Jewesses never give birth without Her invocation and recommendation; their husbands toss a few Friulian silver coins around the room, bearing Her image. When they have received Her blessing and are freed from childbirth, they sweep them up and throw them out the window, saying ‘Get out, Mary, Mary get out!’"].

The quotation appears in D. Nissim, Due viaggi in Palestina , in "La Rassegna Mensile di Israel", XL (1974), pp. 256-259 (259). However one wishes to take Franciscan's picturesque account, it seems to be a fact that, towards the end of the Fifteenth century, Jewish women giving birth in Venice were very numerous. It should be noted, without surprise, that such a practice was still widespread among Jewish women two centuries later, as testified to by Giulio Morosini (Derekh Emunah. Via delle fede mostrata agli ebrei , Rome Propaganda Fiede, 1683, pp. 1050-1051).

[37] Cfr. D. Nissim, Un"minian" di ebrei ashkenaziti a Venezia negli anni 1465-1480, in "Italia", XVI (2004), p. 43.

[38] The little information on the origins of the Jewish community in Trent, from the episcopal privilege of 1403 to the money lending agreements and legal disputes of the mid-Fifteen Century, are contained in G. Menestrina, Gli ebrei a Trento, in "Tridentum", VI (1903), pp. 304-316, 348-374, 384-411. This information has been utilized, without addition, by the following authors: C. Andreolli, Una ricognizione delle communita ebraiche nel Trentinto tra XIV e XVII secolo, in "Materiali di lavoro", 1988, nn. 1-4, pp. 151-181; Po-Chia Hsia, Trent 1475, cit., pp. 14-25, as well as D. Rando's recent monograph, Dai margini la memoria. Johannes Hinderbach (1418-1486), Bologna, 2003, pp. 457-491, and S. Luzzi, Stranieri in citta. Presenza tedesca e societa urbana a Trento (secoli XV-XVIII), Bologna, 2003, pp. 180-194. In this regard, see also F. Ghetta, Fra Bernardino Tomitano da Feltre e gli ebrei di Trento nel 1475, in "Civis", suppl. 2 (1986), pp. 129-177.

[39] Mosè di Samuele da Trento and the wife of Dolce di Ezzelino (Anshel Asher) had five children, Samuele, Ezechia, Benedetto known as Barukh, Perentina and Osella (Feige). Moise's testament was ratified at Trent on 10 June 1423 (cfr. M. Davide, Il ruolo economico delle donne nelle communità ebraiche di Trieste e di Treviso nei secoli XIV e XV, in "Zhakhor. Rivista di storia degli ebrei d'Italia", VII, 2004, pp. 193-212 [206-208].

[40] Cfr. Menestrina, Ebrei a Trento, cit., pp. 304-306.

[41] Cfr. ibidem, pp. 307-308

[42] Now Conegliano Veneto.

[43] Angelo da Verona reached Trent in 1407. On that occasion, Hinderbach seized from the money lender, whom he called "hebreum qui venit huc (sc. a Trento), de Brixia sive eius territorio", an illuminated manuscript of the Vitae sanctorum (cfr. "Pro Bibliotheca erigenda". Mostra di manoscritti ed incunabili del vescovo di Trento Iohannes Hinderbach, 1465-1486, Trent, 1989, p. 69.

[44] Cfr. Luzzi, Stranieri in città, pp. 180-185.

[45] "Sarra ivit in canipam ipsius et se lavit in fossato ibi existente [...] quia passa fuerat menstrua Sarra diebus precedentibus, quia est de more Iudeorum quod mulieres Iudee post menstruase lavent." Deposition of Samuele of Nuremberg of 7 June 1475. Sarah was the wife of Maestro Tobias of Magdeburg (cfr. Esposito and Quaglioni, Processi, cit., vol. I, p. 244).

[46] "Ipsi Iudei portant duos cultellos in una vagina, quorum uno utuntur ad incisionem carnium, altero ad lacticinia" ["This Jew carried two knives in a sheate, one to cut meat, the other to cut dairy products"]. Deposition of Samuele of Nuremberg dated 7 June 1475 (cfr. ibidem, p. 246). "Moris est [...] portare duos coltellos in una vagina, quorum uno utuntur ad lacticinia, altero vero ad carnes". Deposition di Mosè "the Old Man" of Würzburg, dated 4 April 1475 (cfr. ibidem, p. 354).

[47] On the extermination of the five hundred Jews of the community of Vienna in 1421, known in the Hebraic sources such as the Gezerah, i.e., "the persecution", see S. Krauss, Die Wiener Geserah vom Jahre 1421, Vienna, 1920; O.H. Stowasser, Zur Geschichte der Wiener Geserah, in "Vierteljahresheft fur Sozial - und Wirtschaftsgeschichte", XVI (1922), pp. 104-118; Sh. Spitzer, Das Wiener Judentum bis zur Vertreibung im Jahre 1421, in "Kairos", II (1977), pp. 134-145.

[48] On Hinderbach's attitude towards the Jews, before and after the events at Trent, see, in particular, I. Rogger and M. Bellabarbia, Il

principe vescovo Johannes Hinderbach (1465-1486) fra tardo Medioevo e Umanesmo, Atti del Convegno promosso dall Biblioteca Communale di Trento (2-6 October 1989), Bologna, 1992; Po-Chia Hsia, Trent 1475, cit., pp. 1-13, and above all, Rando, Dai margini la memoria, cit. Pp. 457-491.

[49] "Hiis diebus apud Tergestum Italiae civitatem a Venetis obsessiam alias fuit, in qua milites ultamontanes equos, asinos, canes, gattos, et sorices comederunt [...] quorum tanta fuit constantia fidei ut, priusquam urbem ob inediam deserere aut dedere (vellent), ita apud se statuerunt humanam prius Iudeorum, qui intus erant, [...] carnem vesci" [Approximately: "In those days, Trent, a city in Italy, was besieged by Venice, and the ultramontane defenders ate horses, donkeys, dogs, cats, and mice [...]; such was their constancy in the faith that, that when they were about to have to give up the city, they decided to nourish themselves on flesh of the Jews who lived there"] (cfr. Rando, Dai margini la memoria, cit. pp. 168-169).

[50] Burcardo di Andwil, Bellum Venetum, Bellum ducis Sigismundi contra Venetos (1487), in Carmina varia, by M. Welber, Rovereto, 1987, p. 105.

[51] Cfr. Rando, Dai margini la memoria, cit. pp. 478-491.

[52] Ristretto della vita e martirio di S. Simone fanciullo della città di Trento, Rome Filipp Neri alle Muratte, 1594, p. 4.

[53] Cfr. Rando, Dai margini la memoria, cit., pp. 483-487.


Revised by the original translators, Feb. 2011

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