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Alfonso de Espina was confessor to King Henry IV of Castille and in 1460 was completing a treatise against the Jews, Moslems and heretics, intitled Fortalitium fidei. [1] To reach his objective, he presented his readers with reports of the crimes committed by the Jews to the detriment of Christians of which he had more or less directly become aware. Naturally, ritual child murders were the main course of his narration.

The Castillan Franciscan recorded that in 1456 a Jewish notable named Maestro Salomone, originating from the territories of the Republic of Genoa and belonging to the illustrious family of physicians, had come to see him in the Minorite Convent at Valladolid, expressing the desire to be baptized. To convince Alfonso of the repugnance which Judaisim now aroused in him, the Jew point precisely to the horrible custom of the ritual murders, of which he had heard speak or of which he had directly participated. [2]

According to him, he had learned from his parents that a famous Jewish physician from Padua, named Simon, have obtained a four-year old child from an unscrupulous Christian mercenary soldier and had sacrificed him in his own dwelling, laying the child across a table and cruelly decapitating him. [3]

Maestro Salamone then reported that he had participated, with his father, in a secret rite, performed at Savonne, with the participation of numerous Jews in the city at that time, culminating in the crucifixion of a two-year old Christian child. The victim’s blood was poured into a recipient, the same recipient normally used to collect the blood during the circumcision of their own children. [4]

Subsequently, he personally, together with other participants in this horrendous rite, claimed to have consumed the blood as the ingredient in their traditional foods during the Jewish Passover.

The body of the sacrificed child was said to have then been thrown into a filthy latrine.

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Logically, it is permissible to express serious doubt as to the truthfulness of this Maestro Salamone da Savona’s testimonies; nor is it impossible that the entire report might have been invented out of whole cloth by the Spanish friar, whose violent hostility towards the whole world of Judaism was no secret to anyone. On the other hand, we cannot but help note the manner in which the supposed scene of these ritual murders was, once again, the Jewish communities of German origin (in this case, those of northern Italy, like Pavia and Savona) [5], instead of the numerous and flourishing Hebraic nuclei of Castille, Aragon and Catalunya, as one might logically have expected from a report originating from the imagination of a friar having lived and worked exclusively within the reality of the Iberian peninsula. If, therefore, we wish to speak of a stereotype, in reference to the phenomenon of ritual child murder, we must necessarily admit that, even from the point of view of a person openly professing his own anti-Jewishness in a general sense, and with no direct knowledge of events in distant lands, the phenomenon seemed exclusively confined to the Ashkenazi Jewish world.

There are no objective records of this long series of ritual homicides, in which the supposed protagonists accused themselves and each other in their confessions, whether voluntarily or under compulsion. We are speaking of the sensational cases at Endingen, in Alsace, where the first ritual child murder trial was held, which has left an ample and detailed documentation, echoes of which, not surprisingly, might be heard in the halls in which the Trent defendants were under investigation. [6]

A man and woman and two decapitated children found

At Endingen, a small village of some several hundred people, under the directorship of Breisach at Riegel in the Breisgau, workers found the remains of a man and woman, together with those of two decapitated children during excavation and repair work to the ossuary of the parochial church of San Pietro, during the Passover period of 1470.

In the local region, it was suddenly remembered that, eight years before, a couple of poor people, with a packhorse and two children of young age, a boy and girl, had taken shelter in the house of the brothers Elia, Aberlino (Avraham) and Mercklin (Mordekahai).

These were the days of Pasach, the Jewish Passover. Many people had noticed them when they entered the dwelling of the Jews, but no one had ever seen them leave. All trace of them seemed to have vanished into thin air.

Karl, margrave of Baden, on mission from the Archduke of Sigismondo, opened an inquiry and immediately ordered the arrest of the Jews suspected of having committed the crime. Even before being subjected to torture, Elia, the older of the brothers, confessed and

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implicated other local Jews as perpetrators or accomplices in the crime, which was said to have been that same evening, soon after the Christian family entered their house. To discharge her own responsibility and save her own life, Elia sustained that she had not participated directly in the murder and therefore had been warned, with threats and curses, against reporting what happened to the old people of the Jewish community of Endingen, out of fear that they would denounce the persons responsible to the authorities.

One of confessed participants of ritual murder describes the details

Aberlino, Elia's brother, hastened to explain to the judges the dynamics of the facts, and thereby avoid torture. The parents were allegedly the first to be killed, but their blood was not drained off because it was useless for ritual purposes. Then it was the children's turn to suffer the same fate, being decapitated, while their blood was gathered in suitable recipients. To cover up the victims’ cries, the Jews involved in the macabre ceremony started to shriek their litanies in loud voices, as if they were in the middle of a religious ceremony. Finally, to throw police authorities off the track if the bodies were found, it was decided to bury them at night in the ossuary of the church of San Pietro.

Aberlino concluded his deposition by expressing his own intention to become a Christian, to expiate his guilt. Mercklin also confirmed the particulars of the confession of his brothers, adding other details. [7] And so did the other accused.

One of these Smolle, (Samuele), was not content simply to confess his participation in the massacre of Endingen, but added other, repugnant details.

One of the confessed testifies of other children he resold to Jews to be sacrificed for blood

He recalled that, ten years before, in 1460, he had purchased the little son of a beggar woman of Spira for money, and had then resold him to a rich Jew from Worms, named Lazzaro. The latter, together with other members of his community, were said to have sacrificed the child to drain off his blood. The victim's body was said to have been buried in the Jewish cemetery of the city. But that was not all.

In 1465, Smolle was said to have kidnapped a five-year old shepherd boy at Worde to take him to Nuremberg, where he is said to have sold him in exchange for a large sum of money. A wealthy local Jew, Mosè of Freyberg, who was thereafter said to have charged the same ineffable Smolle with killing the boy for his own account, is said to have benefited from this precious acquisition. [8]

That was enough to convince the judges, if there had been any need, of the guilt of the accused, and to condemn them to capital punishment.

Emperor Friedrich III tries to intervene in order to protect the Jews

On 4 April 1470, the three brothers, Elia, Aberlino and Mercklin, were dragged by horses' tails to the place of execution, to be

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broken on the wheel and their bodies burnt. When the Emperor Friedrich III, at the request of the Jews, decided to intervene in favor of the condemned men, it was then too late and it only remained for him to rebuke the margrave of Baden, in a letter written one month later, for hastening to have "those accused of the supposed crime put to death, without awaiting Imperial approval. [9]

Blood sold at very high prices to the richest and most influential German Jews

In the meantime, there then opened the inevitable sequel to the Endingen trials, concerning the recipients of the blood collected during the two child murders. From the depositions of the accused, it appeared that the much-esteemed fluid had been sold at very high prices to the richest and most influential German Jews, including Leone da Pforzheim, who had, from 1463, enjoyed the protection of Frederick, elector of the Palatinate. [10]

Confessions of other ritual murders

By order of Karl of Baden, Leo was arrested in his lordly habitation at Pforzheim, together with three other Jews, his guests, who appeared involved in the child murders of Endingen as well as in the affair of the blood. In this case as well, the persons under investigation, with Leo leading the way, hastened to confess, adding significant details relating to the religious ceremonies in which they had intended to use the blood procured by them. The judges saw no solution but to decree the penalty of death for the four Jews of Pforzheim as well.

The accused at Trent were only dimly and indirectly aware of the recent events at Endingen and Pforzheim. Mosè da Ansbach, teacher to Maestro Tobias’s children, reported to the judges that he had heard talk about a ritual murder committed by Jews a few years before in a city in Alsace; that some of the accused had been burnt at the stake, while others had taken refuge in flight. [11]

On the same grounds, Lazzaro, servant to money lender Angelo da Verona, recalled how, while staying at his father's house, at Serravalle del Friuli, a stranger had told them of a ritual murder committed by a few Jews of Pforzheim against a Christian boy three years before. The guilty parties had been incarcerated, and, so that God might save them from certain death and save them from the hands of the Christians, the Hebraic community of the German lands had announced a general fast. [12]

But the eccentric miniaturist, Israel Wolfgang of Brandenburg, was, as usual, the best informed of all. The young Saxon related to the judges everything he knew in this regard, stating that the child murder had indeed been committed at Endingen and that the guilty had been burnt alive at the stake for that act of wickedness, committed to obtain the blood for ritual purposes.

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Israel had obtained this information in 1470 from Mosè of Ulm, the special envoy to whom the Germanic Jewish community had entrusted with the task of traveling to Emperor Frederick III’s palace by horseback to obtain the release from prison of the Jews involved in the affair. [13]

As we know, the imperial intervention failed because it was received too late, after the public executions had already occurred. This same Hinderbach, in a missive sent to Friar Michele Carcano of Milan, remembered that numerous Jews from Endingen and Pforzheim, both men and women, had been found guilty of ritual murder and had been put to death on the order of the Count of Baden a few years before. [14]

One might be tempted to draw a clear line of demarcation between the evidence given by the Trent defendants, for which exact records exist, and the others, for which no historical documentation for these accusations and denunciations has thus far been found.

The latter could be dismissed as fantasies and delirium, produced by atrocious suffering, under torture, by persons devastated by suffering and incapable of reacting, or as the nightmare projections of beliefs held by the judges and suggested by the inquisitors. But such an attempt does not seem logical or convincing, and would, in the last analysis, appear to be completely counterproductive if an attempt be made to confront the problem of ritual child murders and place these crimes in their historical context, establishing their geographical extent and limits.

Thus, precisely those exact records which have come to light, at least where some of the testimonies are concerned, should teach us not to dismiss their reality out of hand, or without persuasive justification, even if they are in fact exaggerations or distortions of events for which the historical documentation has not yet been found. [15]

Moreover, at least one other case places us in the same dilemma; we find it difficult to dismiss detailed testimony confirmed by clear documentary fact. At the beginning of the trial, the Trent inquisitors decided to interrogate a convert -- a "Jew turned Christian", as such converts were then called -- who, in the days of Simon’s tragic death, was being held prisoner at Trent for another crime which had nothing to do with ritual child murder. But as to the child murders, which the Jews were accustomed to commit on Passover eve, Giovanni of Feltre - - that being the name of the convert, the son of Sacheto (Shochat), a Jew from Landshut in Bavaria -- seems to have much to tell.

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Around 1440, at Landshut, to be exact, when he was a child and still a Jew, the recent convert had heard that the Jews of the local community, including his own father, had killed a Christian child to collect the child’s blood for ritual purposes.

Forty five Jews arrested, convicted and burnt publicly

The police authorities arrested forty five Jews, as the result of a raid effected in their district, and later burnt them publicly at the stake. Other Jews, including Shochat, had taken refuge in flight, seeking shelter with their families in the Cisalpine regions of Italy. [16]

Both the child murder at Landshut and the subsequent massacre of the Jews are precisely confirmed by the extant contemporary historical documentation. [17]

So it is not easy to dismiss Giovanni di Feltre’s familiar testimony, although it is considered automatically unreliable on all the particulars not confirmed by the historical documentation or in relation to which we lack sufficient means of verification.

According to his own statement, Israel Wolfgang had directly participated in a spectacular, sensational, and equally horrible, ritual child murder committed at Regensburg in 1467. In the second half of the 15th century, that which was considered the commercial port of the Holy Roman Empire towards south-eastern Europe, located on the banks of the Danube, was the home of a flourishing Jewish community of over five hundred people. [18]

And the young Saxon, according to his own detailed deposition before the Trent judges, had been at Regensburg that year, during the feast days of the Jewish Passover. Wolfgang’s report was lucid and precise down to the smallest particulars.

Rabbi Jossel di Kelheim purchases a a Christian child for ritual murder

In those days, Rabbi Jossel di Kelheim had taken advantage of an opportunity and had purchased a Christian child from a beggar for the price of ten ducats. He took the child to his house, in the Jewish quarter, where he concealed him for two days, in anticipation of the solemn event of the Pesach, the feast of the unleavened bread, when the annual celebrations begin in remembrance of the miraculous escape of the people of Israel from captivity in Egypt would begin.

In the early morning of the first day of the holiday period, Rabbi Jossel very carefully transferred the boy into the narrow confines of the "stiebel" [parlor] of Sayer Straubinger, the small and rustic synagogue located a short distance from his house, where he was accustomed to preside over the collective rites of the community and its daily and festive liturgical meetings.

Awaiting him were at least twenty five Jews, previously informed of the extraordinary event. Israel Wolfgang was one of them, and he remembered the exact names of all the participants in the rite, both those from Regensburg and those from other regions. The transfer of the

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child from Rabbi Jossel’s house to the synagogue, although performed at night, involved some danger, since it might have been noticed by prying eyes. But in view of the fact that the district was inhabited by Jews who locked their doors every night, with the keys entrusted to them by the city authorities, the margin of safety was considered sufficiently broad. [19]

Ritual murder and crucifixion of a child

The boy was undressed in the stiebel and placed on a chest containing the sacred parchments of the synagogue, and was then crucified, circumcised and finally suffocated over the course of a horrifying collective ritual, following a script accurately planned and perfectly well known by all the participants, by Jessel, the rabbi; by Mayr Baumann, the mohel; by Sayer Straubinger, the owner of the chapel; by Samuel Flieshaker, one of Wolfgang’s friends; by Mayr Heller; by the above mentioned Jew referred to as "bonus puer" (Tov 'Elem); by Johoshua, the cantor; and by Isacco, the water-bearer.

Wolfgang himself had taken an active part in the crucifixion of the child, while the blood was collected in a bowl, to be distributed among the Jews participating in the rite or sent to the rich of the community. [20]

The day after, rumor of the ritual infanticide spread in the district and many people rushed to Sayer’s stiebel to see the body of the sacrificed boy, which was placed quite visibly inside the chest. The evening after, at the beginning of the ceremonies of the second day of Pesach, in the central room of the small synagogue, in the confined space of which about thirty of the faithful now crammed themselves, excited and curious, while the little victim was publicly exhibited, and the grisly ritual, which had now become merely commemorative, began afresh. [21]

Finally, the child’s body was buried in the courtyard of the chapel, in a remote corner, surrounded by a wall, accessed through a small door which was usually kept locked. [22]

Israel Wolfgang’s report was too precise in its particulars and accurate in its descriptions to avoid awakening the interest of inquisitors in places other than Trent. His report contained exact names, dates, places, and facts requiring cogent verification.

Perhaps the closest and most significant precedent to Simonino’s martyrdom at Trent was to be sought at Regensburg: in the spectacular story of an unknown synagogue ceremony according to ritual standards following a pre-established order with a mysterious symbolism.

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During the first night of Pesach at Regensburg in 1467, in Sayer’s stiebel, from which the noisy flow of the waters of the Danube was quite audible, might provide a clue to the mystery of what really happened eight years later, during the Pesach period of 1475, at Samuele da Nuremberg’s house, in the small synagogue of the Jews of Trent, located along a small murky canal used by tanners in the German-speaking district.

Perhaps it was only fantasies, fearful fables, nourished by ancestral suspicions, settled stereotypes and crystallized from years back; but the authorities had to be certain that the tale had no basis in truth.

In early 1476, Heinrich, the bishop of Regensburg was passing through Trent on his way back from Rome, when, suddenly, someone handed him a copy of Wolfgang’s deposition before the Trent judges. Notwithstanding circumstances of this kind, it would hardly have been unprecedented, in the 15th century panorama of this city on the Danube, for the Jews of Regensburg to be accused of a good four cases of desecration of the Host and ritual murder in barely six years, from 1470 to 1476 [23]; the good prelate was forcefully impressed and justifiably scandalized when he read the document.

Investigation and arrest of 18 Jews upon request of Heinrich, the bishop of Regensburg

Returning to Germany, Heinrich hasted to advise the authorities of Regensburg to open an immediate inquiry intended to determine whether or not a ritual murder had really occurred in the Jewish quarter during the Passover feast of 1467. [24]

At the end of March of that year, the authorities of Regensburg proceeded with the arrest of the rabbi Jossel di Kelheim and another five influential leaders of the Jewish communities, including Sayer Straubinger, the owner of the stiebel, and Samuele Fleischaker, Wolfgang's friend.

A few days after, seventeen Jews, all accused of participation or complicity in the ritual child murder were placed in irons. The interrogations were carried out under torture, and at least six of the accused issued a complete confession mentioning the names of other persons involved in the wickedness.

Rabbi Jossel was the first to admit to the judges that he had purchased the child from a beggar woman at Regensburg eight years before, and had brought it to the synagogue as a sacrifice during the days of the Jewish Passover; he then withdrew his confession, accusing his inquisitors of extorting it through indescribable torture. Before him, Samuel Fleischaker had also confessed that the Jews had made use of children's blood, mixing it into the dough of the unleavened bread. [25]

Friedrich III personally ordered the city counsel of Regensburg to free the prisoners immediately

The admissions, obtained from the accused by force, appeared overly general and insufficiently detailed to be convincing; the confessions were deemed insufficient factual basis for a ritual murder trial. Thus, on 15 April 1476, Friedrich III personally ordered the

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city counsel of Regensburg to free the prisoners immediately and hand them over to the Imperial authorities. But one week later, a dramatic sensation occurred.

A skeleton found in the cellars of Rabbi Jossel' dwelling

A few workers, engaged in repairs on Rabbi Jossel's dwelling, found a skeleton while excavating and cleaning up the cellars. The skeleton, examined by a commission of physicians and surgeons in the presence of the bishop and other civil authorities, proved to be that of a child, presumably aged between three and six years. [26]

The Jews replied to the accusations by claiming that the bones had been deliberately planted in the rabbi’s cellar by those interested in his condemnation. Notwithstanding the discovery of the new evidence, Friedrich did nothing, and continued unperturbedly to demand the release of the incarcerated Jews, despite the claims of bishop Heinrich, who sustained the validity and plausibility of the defendant’s confessions to the crime; Ludwig, Duke of Regensburg, petitioned the Emperor not to interfere in the internal affairs of the city. [27]

On 8 May 1478, two years after they began, the trials might be said to have concluded with the absolution of the Jews, imposed by the inflexible Imperial will. But the defendant’s release was not obtained cheaply. Frederick demanded eighteen thousand florins from the Jews as payment for his intervention in their favor, while the judiciary of Regensburg declared itself prepared to release only following payment of all procedural expenses, amounting to five thousand florins, plus a fine of eight thousand florins, imposed on the city by the Emperor for holding the trial.

Collection of funds begins among Jews to pay for Frederick's intervention on their behalf

In a plenary meeting announced by the rabbis of the German lands at Nuremberg, presumably in early 1478, an obligatory collection of funds began among the Jewish communities of Germany, accompanied by the creation of suitable committees responsible for coordinating the efforts made to save prisoners.

In Italy, Yoseph Colon, formerly a rabbi at Mantua (until 1475) and now at Pavia, intervened with all his related authority; Colon is said to have died at Pavia a few years later, in 1480, after recommending that the appeal of the spiritual heads of German Judaism receive a rapid, positive and generous response. [28]

Massive propaganda and disinformation campaign starts among the Jews

From the very outset, the affair of the Jews of Regensburg made a profound impression on the Jews of the Ashkenazi communities of northern Italy. In a letter written in Hebrew dated 11 May 1476, the daughter and son-in-law of Crassino (Gherhon) of Novara, one of the richest and most influential Ashkenazi bankers of the Duchy of Milan, both wrote to him,

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probably from Brescia, making explicit reference to the "sensational affair in which, as a result of our sins, members of the holy community of Regensburg have been arrested and confined to prison, where God the pitiful and merciful caused them to exit the darkness and enter the intense light". [29]

In another missive, written in Yiddish by the same Ashkenazi Jews, the son-in-law again complained of the sad fate of the Jews of Regensburg, victims of the blood accusation.

"Alas! We have heard sad news, caused by our innumerable sins, originating from Regensburg. They have arrested all the Jews of the city and slandered them, turning against them the blood accusation of Trent. That God should have pity and not cause us to hear lying accusations of this type anywhere. We wish Him to render us assistance with His love. Amen."

Another message, also in Yiddish, sent by the young Geilin (Gaylein) to his father, the same Crassino of Novara mentioned above, dated mid-May 1476, once again made explicit reference to facts of Regensburg.

"The sad news reached me from Pavia. May God be merciful and help His people and the Jews of Regensburg who have suffered, for our sins, for this infamous slander. Ever since I heard this bad news, I have been unable to sleep. How much you must suffer for certain [...] May God give you strength and health; that is, how I wish your daughter Geilin, unhappy for having heard this unhappy news". [30]

The courier of this letter was Paolo of Novara, the shady priest who, according to him, had been paid by the Jews of the Dukedom of Milan to poison the bishop of Trent. The Jews alluded to him calling him gallech, the cleric, the man with the tonsure. [31]

Seventeen accused prisoners released after paying off Frederick

Another two years went by before the Jews of the Ashkenazi communities on both sides of the Alps succeeded in scraping together the huge sums required to liberate the prisoners at Regensburg. But the seventeen defendants, still incarcerated, were finally removed from their shackles on 4 September 1480, four years and half after their arrest. [32]

Thus concluded a matter which perhaps began at Regensburg, rebounded to Trent, and new returned to Regensburg, leaving many unanswered questions and unresolved doubts, which the payment of another twenty thousand florins

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in gold by the German-speaking Jewish communities was certainly insufficient to dissipate. If the ritual child murder at Regensburg was really a fact, it should be possible to track down the blood, distributed free of charge among the participants, or put up for sale by them immediately afterwards, admitting that it might have reached the Jewish communities of northern Italy. The interrogation of the accused, more or less based on leading questions as to this point, seemed to vindicate the accusation.

The most important clue appeared to point to a certain Rizzardo (Reichard), a Jew from Regensburg who had moved to Brescia with his family in 1464. [33]

The latter, with their two brothers Enselino (Anselmo) and Jacob, were engaged in lending money at interest through a bank they owned at Barvardo, deriving a large proportion of their clientele from the city of Brescia, where Rizzardo lived. Rizzardo of Regensburg had top connections, and enjoyed protection as a member of the influential entourage of Bartolomeo Calleone, Captain of the Serenissima. [34]

In Angelo da Verona’s house, Rizzardo was often mentioned, partly because Lazzaro, who rendered services for the banker, was his nephew, and did not hesitate to spend his holidays and vacations in his uncle’s company. On one of these occasions, a few years before, when Lazzaro found himself at Brescia to be cured of an illness of the eyes, Rizzardo confessed to him that he had bought a certain quantity of blood originating from the Regensburg child murder. In addition, the Brescian Jew allegedly made use of it during the Jewish Passover period, administering it to his wife Osella (Feige), his sons Jossele and Mezla (Mazal), and his servant, Jacobo da Germania. [35]

Angelo da Verona also knew that Rizzardo trafficked in the blood of Regensburg, among other things, and had sent a letter to his brother Enselino, at Gavarda, promising him to supply him with some of the blood. [36]

Isacco, Angelo's cook, confirmed that he had often heard the patron of the house and the young servant, Lazzaro, mention Rizzardo as the person who had received the precious blood of the infant boy sacrificed at Regensburg. [37]

But once again, it was the ineffable Israel Wolfgang to cast light on the entire affair. In the summer of 1474, he had been sent to Brescia as Rizzardo’s guest, who had commissioned him with the execution of the miniatures for a precious Hebraic code owned by Rizzardo. [38]

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On one occasion, Rizzardo bragged to the young painter that he, Rizzardo, had come into possession of the blood of the child killed at Regensburg. He had been given it by his step-father, precisely the same Rabbi Jossel who had been one of the principal defendants in this sensational child murder. It was at this point that the young Wolfgang’s vainglorious nature exploded in all its variegated intensity. Perhaps Rizzardo was unaware that he, Israel Wolfgang, had personally participated in the child murder in Sayer’s stiebel at Regensburg? The Brescian Jew, even if he had been unwilling to believe it, now had to listen to Wolfgang blabbing out the whole story, down to the slightest detail, and congratulate himself upon receiving one of the lucky and fearless perpetrators in his own house. [39]

Confidence by confidence, Rizzardo, too, not to be outdone, reported that he had participated in a ritual homicide organized at Padua in the German synagogue together with the other Jews of the city and the district, four or five years before. [40]

Since the plague was raging at Brescia, Israel Wolfgang was compelled to cut short his stay at Rizzardo’s house and move to nearby Gavardo, as Enselino’s guest, with whom Angelo da Verona had long been in contact during his stay in Brescia. To earn some pocket money, he agreed to bind a breviary owned by the archpriest. In the six months spent in Padua, Wolfgang found further confirmation of the Padua child murder, the murder in which Rizzardo had participated. He was informed of this by Enselino, who had allegedly obtained the same blood, marketed in the Brescia region, by a certain Liebmann of Castelfranco da Treviso. [41]

This was too much, even for the inquisitors of Trent, no matter how eager they might have been for confirmation -- real or imagined -- of their suspicions. The eccentric painter from Brandenburg seemed to be teasing his inquisitors, churning out a continual stream of stories, new at all times, picturesque and astonishing, largely invented or exaggerated, calculated to make an impression on an audience whom he imagined to be highly naive. Instruments of torture may have been, and were, used on the other defendants to loosen their tongues; in the case of the wily Wolfgang, perhaps they might have been of more use in damming up the torrent of incredible revelations which he seemed unable to control. Hurt to the quick, and stung in his vanity, the young painter completely flew off the handle, raised his voice and shouted defiantly at anyone who would listen:

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"By God! I have reported what Rizzardo told me, word for word, and thus I will repeat it, before any Lord or Prince: just take me to the place of execution and decapitate me, or kill me in any other way, but I will not speak otherwise than I have done". [42]

Rizzardo, the Brescian resident from Regensburg, Lazzaro's uncle, servant of Angelo of Verona, had been telling the truth. Or at least, his truth. Or so Wolfgang claimed to have learned that truth during the hot days of the preceding summer, while the plague raged at Brescia.

For his part, Rizzardo da Brescia had a no less famous namesake. The Jew Rizzardo (Reichard) of Mospach was a swindler and good-for nothing, arrested for theft at Regensburg in 1475. To his inquisitors, the latter Rizzardo confessed that he had been baptized several times to obtain money and other benefits from ingenuous Christians to whom he turned, both city people and peasants.

But even the Jews, according to him, had proven the gullible victims of his tricks. The Jews Krautheim, Bamberg and Regensburg had purchased fake Hosts, which he claimed to have purloined from various churches in the area, to be "tortured" by the Jews during their anti-Christian rites. Rizzardo-Reichard -- who lived alternatively as a Jew and alternatively as a Christian -- was married to three women simultaneously, each one of them unaware of the existence of the others.

Starting in 1476, he had spent years wandering back and forth between the villages and cities of Bohemia and Moravia, of the Rhineland and Brandenburg, of Alsace and Württemberg. He had been in Bern, Bamberg and Nuremberg. He admitted to having lived in Italy for a while, in various cities whose names he could no longer remember (was Brescia one of them?).

But he clearly recalled having stayed at Trent, where he was in contact with the Jewish families then accused of the ritual murder of little Simon. [43]

If, as we have seen, one clue seemed to point to Rizzardo and the city of Brescia, a second clue pointed back to Regensburg, leading the authorities to a certain Hoberle (Kobele, Jacob or perhaps Hoverle, Haver), who earned his living selling powdered blood, wandering from one locality to another in the German-speaking lands in search of clients. According to Wolfgang, Hoberle had not participated in the ritual homicide in the stiebel at Regensburg, but certain persons had later proceeded to supply Hoberle with the blood which he [Hoberle] needed. [44]

Mosè da Bamberg, the traveler who happened to be at Trent the night before Simon’s killing, knew Hoberle personally and had followed his movements. He [Mosè da Bamberg] also recalled Hoberle’s features perfectly. He might have been about sixty years old, low in stature, bald, with a white beard. He had an ugly stain on the skin of his head, as if he had had leprosy; for this reason, he wore a type of cloth cap beneath his beret. He usually wore a long loose gray overcoat. [45]

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Before the judges at Trent, Mosè da Bamberg stated that he had met Hoberle for the first time in 1471, in the imperial city of Ulm. A few weeks later, he had seen him again at Padua, in the house of the Jews, and later at Piacenza, where he had stayed as the guest of Abramo, active in the city as money lender. [46]

At Pavia, he lodged in the tavern of Falcone, the "Inn of the Jews", a place of dubious reputation where gambling was practiced and there were frequent brawls. [47]

Falcone (Haqim), son of Yoseph Cohen, had opened the place around 1470, and is said to have managed it for about ten years. [48]

The wife, unsatisfied with her husband's activity, had sought to induce him to abandon that rather uncouth undertaking, but without success. Annoyed, out of spite she had abandoned him and had taken refuge in a convent, threatening to become a Christian. Then, due to a sudden change of mind, she had asked to be reconciled with him and to be able to return to the conjugal domicile. The rabbi Yoseph Colon, questioned on this matter, had authorized Falcone to take her back with him. [49]

In the summer of 1477, when a boy, son of a Christian shoemaker of Pavia, disappeared from his home, Falcone had some serious problems, accused of being the abductor and the executioner during a ritual homicide. A great crowd had gathered around the tavern, seeking to take justice into their own hands, while the guards had had a hard time controlling them and dispersing them. Luckily for him, the child then reappeared, alive and healthy, and the Jewish innkeeper was able to draw a breath of relief. [50]

Mosè da Bamberg knew that the merchant Hoberle, visiting the cities of the Veneto and Lombardy, wherever there were Jews, had sold a certain quantity of blood to Manno da Pavia, the richest Jewish banker in the dominions of the Sforzas. [51]

As we have already seen, this same Manno is said to have been accused, together with other important exponents of the Jewish community of the Duchy of Milan, of hiring the priest Paolo of Trent to poison the Prince Bishop of Trent in 1476, for condemning to death and executing the presumed murderers of the sainted Simon. According to Mosè da Bamberg’s deposition, Manno da Pavia, in turn, sold part of the blood obtained from Hoberle -- for money -- to the family of Madio (Mohar, Meir), a money lender at Tortona; the blood is then supposed to have been used during the Passover celebration. As we have seen, Madio is said to have been implicated in the supposed ritual murder of the sainted Giovannino of Volpedo in 1482, but, to his good fortune,

p. 89]

is said to have been acquitted. Mosè of Bamberg, according to his own statement, had, for almost a year, been in the service of Leone, Madio’s son, and his [Madio’s] sister Sara, who lived in the nearby castle of Serravalle with her son, Mosè, and, with them, had consumed the same powdered blood, obtained at Regensburg, dissolved in wine during the Passover dinner of 1472. [52]

According to Leone, it was said that, during his sumptuous marriage to Sara, held in February of 1470 at Tortona, attended by over one hundred guests from the Ashkenazi communities of northern Italy, some local nobles, displeased at their exclusion from those princely festivities, had, perhaps with excessive enthusiasm, attempted to force open the host’s doors. Unluckily for them, they were ill-received by the Jews who, with weapons in their hands, threw them out of the palace, pursuing them as far as the local the piazza. A case of ill-breeding and poor hospitality which cried out for vengeance. Obviously, Madio da Tortona’s version of the facts and that of the guests differed radically. Taking advantage of the nuptial celebrations, general noise and confusion, the nobles of Tortona reportedly attempted, rather clumsily, if not downright stupidly, to break into the premises of the local bank, for the purpose of stealing money, collateral and other valuables, but were said to have been ingloriously routed. [53]

Distribution of insulting anti-Christian texts containing offensive and insulting expressions about Jesus

Jews in the Duchy of Milan were tried and sentenced for the possession of books, liturgical and study texts containing offensive and insulting expressions about Jesus, the Messiah, the Virgin Mary, the dogmas of the Christian religion and anyone practicing Christianity On at least four occasions during the second half of the 15th century. In 1459, they were convicted, and fined sixteen thousand ducats. [54]

In 1474 and 1480, the fines were increased to thirty two thousand ducats, promptly paid by the Jewish communities of the Duchy. As early as 1476, a large group of rich and influential Lombard Jews, active at Alessandria, Broni, Piacenza, Monza and Piove di Sacco, headed, as usual, by Manno da Pavia, were officially pardoned by Gian Galeazzo Sforza, presumably after paying a conspicuous fine, for insubordination; bad manners, and defaming and offending the Duke’s illustrious father. [55]

The mysteries of this trial -- if any trial was held – remain to be revealed in full.

p. 90]

At any rate an undoubted echo of these events may be found in the predication of the Minorite Friar Antonio da Cremona at Chivasso in December 1471, in which the pious friar invoked the expulsion of the "perfidious and wicked Jewish race", guilty of continuous blasphemy the Holy Faith in Christ in their books and prayers. [56]

But a trial held at Milan in the spring of 1488 was more serious and dangerous than ever. Denounced by a converted Jew, forty of the most influential exponents of the Ashkenazim community in the Dukedom were arrested and transferred to the provincial capital in chains, accused of possessing texts -- particularly, liturgical breviaries -- suspected of containing prayers attacking Jesus as well as anti-Christian invective.

The trial began on 16 March, in the presence of a commission of inquisitors, deputized by Ludovico the Moor, made up of Franciscan and Dominican friars in addition to Ducal officials, and presided over by the vicar of the curia of the archbishop of Milan. The accused, in the long and detailed interrogations, were requested to supply a due explanations for the apparently contemptuous phrases found in their texts regarding Christians and the Christian religion, the Pope and baptized Jews, as well as Christ and Mary.

The sentence, a severe one, was handed down the following 31 May. Nine of the accused were condemned to death; the rest were expelled from the territory of the Duchy, all property owned by all the accused was declared confiscated. Luckily for them, the Jews succeeded in commuting the cruel sentence into a heavy fine of nineteen thousand ducats, to be paid by January 1490. [57]

When the due date rolled around, the full sum had not yet been collected, and only part of the sum had found its way to the coffers of the Sforzas. A few months later, the disillusioned Ludovico the Moor ordered a public bonfire of the seized books.

Mendele (Menachem) Oldendorf, a young German Jew and son of a bankrupt merchant, a certain Herz (Naftali), also known as "Golden", perhaps in remembrance of when he had been rich, no doubt possessed a lively and versatile wit, in addition to an unusual degree of Hebraic culture; he was known for holding brilliant homilies in the synagogue and functioned as a ritual butcher, he was an able writer in the Yiddish language and was a respected copier of Hebraic codes.

In 1474, he traveled from Regensburg to Venice, where he stayed until at least 1483, when he was present at the famous bonfire at the Ducal Palace. In his autobiography, the young Oldendorf described the manner in which he had been informed by trust-worthy persons of bonfires of Jewish texts at Milan and other places in the Duchy of Milan in 1490, regretting that the burnt manuscripts included some which he had copied personally. [58]

p. 91]

"I learned from one of the wise men of Israel [...] that in the year 5248 (=1488) Lord Ludovico the Moor ordering the burning of a great number of Jewish books at Milan, the capital city, as well as in other localities in his territories. I, personally, a copier of codes, saw some of my own texts among the books consigned to the flames. Blessed be God who enabled me to witness the revenge of God’s Law against that same nobleman (Ludovico the Moor), who has been captured and taken into France, where he died [...] Menachem Oldendorf, the German. 5274 (=1514)".

One of the most important defendants in the Milan trial of 1488 was -- and this is not surprising -- Jacob, son of Manno of Pavia, who had died in the meantime. [59].

Before the inquisitors, Jacob was requested, among others, to deny the rumor that the Jews were accustomed to "making images in the form of Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary, and then throwing them in the fire, trampling them under foot or covering them with excrement". [60]

The accusation was not a new one. During Passover in 1493, Joav (Dattilo) and the other Jews, living at Savigliano in Piedmonte, were condemned to the payment of a fine of five hundred gold ducats for a serious act of wickedness.

"[These Jews] kneaded the unleavened bread or mazzot, according to their rite and in outrage to the glorious crucifix [...] and prepared four images of dough in the form of our Lord, Jesus Christ, in mockery of God and the Catholic faith, then burnt these dough dolls in the oven". [61]

At a distance of only a few years from the Trent trials, it is not surprising that the judges should turn to one of the inquisitors, Lazzaro da San Colombano to ask: whether or not the Jews were actually accustomed to abduct Christians for the purpose of committing reprehensible acts against them in contempt for the Christian faith. [62]


[1] On the personality of Alfonso de Espina and his virulently hostile attitude towards Jews and Marranos on the eve of the institution of the court of the Inquisition in Castille, see, in particular, Y. Baer, A History of the Jews in Christian Spain, Philadelphia (Pa.), 1966, vol. II, pp. 283-299).

[2] Alphonsus de Spina, Fortalitum fidei, Nuremberg, Anton Koberger, 10 October 1485, cc. 188-192.

[3] "Magister Symon [...] Medicus non modicum corde gavisus cepit Infantem (Christianum aetatis quattor annorum) et cum eo rediit in Civitatem Papiae, ubi domicilium suum habebat. Et cum ingrederetur domum suam, videns horam qua posset desiderium suae feritatis explere, capto Infante super mensam extendit, et evaginato gladio caput Infantis Christiani crudeliter abscidit".

[4] "Cum etiam essem in Civitate quadam subjecta Januae, quae dicitur Savona, ut viderem sacrificari quemdam Infantem Christianum, Pater meus deduxit me ad domum cujusdam Judaei, ubi fuerant septem vel octo Judeai congregati secretissime et clausus januis diligenissime juramentum fortissimum omnes fecerunt de celando id, quod facere volebant [...] quo peracto, ecce deducitur in medium Infantulus quidam Christianus aetatis fere duorum annorum, et deducto vase illo, in quo consuerverunt recipere sanguinem Infantium circumcisorum, posuerunt predictum Infantem nudum supra praedictum vas, et quatuor Judaei illorum intendebant occisioni sub tali forma et ordine".

[5] Savona, like other centers belonging to the territory of the Republic of Genoa, was the home of small nuclei of Jews in the Fifteenth Century, made up of merchants and money lenders from Germany, the Duchy of Milan and the Republic of Venice. Among these, we stumble upon (even at Savona, the names Manno da Pavia, who, as we have seen, was the most illustrious of the Jewish communities of the Duchy of Milan, and was also active at Venice (cfr. R. Urbani and G.N. Zazzu, The Jews in Genoa, Leyden, 1999, vol. I, pp. 34-37, 43, 47, nos. 71, 73-74, 99, 109).

[6] There is an ample bibliography on the ritual murders and trials of Endingen in 1470. We refer, in particular, to H. Schreiber, Urkundbuch der Stadt Freiburg im Breisgau, Freiburg, 1829, vol. II, pp. 520-525; K. von Amira, Das Endinger Judenspiel, Halle, 1883; I. Kracauer, L'affaire des Juifs d'Endingen de 1470. Pretendu meurtre de Chrétiens par des Juifs, in "La Revue des Etudes Juives", XVII (1888), pp. 236- 245, and more recently R. Po-Chia Hsia, The Myth of Ritual Murder. Jews and Magic in Reformation Germany, New Haven (Conn.) - London, 1988, pp. 14-41.

[7] For the text of the confession of the three brothers, see Amira, Das Endinger Judenspiel, cit., pp. 94-97; Po-Chia Hsia, The Myth of Ritual Murder, cit., pp. 18-22.

[8] Cfr. Kracauer, L'affaire des Juifs d'Endingen de 1470, cit., pp. 237-238; Po-Chia Hsia, The Myth of Ritual Murder, cit., pp. 18-22.

[9] Cfr. Kracauer, L'affaire des Juifs d'Endingen de 1470, cit., pp. 236-245; Po -Chia Hsia, The Myth of Ritual Murder, cit., pp. 34.

[10] The accusation was that "Judei (urbis Endingen) transmiserunt sanguinem ad civitates et loca ubi divites morantur Judei" ["the Jews (of the city of Endingen] distributed the blood as gifts to Jews in the cities and locations where. In this regard and on the confession of Leo di Pforzheim, see, in particular, Kracauer, L'affaire des Juifs d'Endingen de 1470, cit., pp. 237, 241-242.

[11] "Pauci anni sunt, quod puer quidam Christianus fuit interfectus a Judaeis in Helsas (= Alsace), de quo homicidio fuerunt combusti aliqui Judaei et aliqui eorum aufugerunt, prout dici audivit"

["It was only a few years ago, that a Christian boy was killed by the Jews of Alsace, a few Jews being burnt for the murder and others escaped, as I heard say"]

(cfr. [Bonelli], Dissertazione apologetica sul martirio del beato Simone da Trento nell'anno MCCCCLXXV dagli ebrei ucciso, Trent, Gianbattista Parone, 1747, p. 143).

[12] "Dum ipse Lazarus staret cum ejus Patre in Seravalle, quidam Hebreus advena [...] dixit quod puer Christianus fuerat interfectus in Civitate seu terra Fortiae [= Pforzheim], quae est terra Alemaniae, et quod Judaei, qui illum puerum interfecerant, fuerunt capti, et propter hoc fuerat ordinatum inter Judaeos, quod deberent jejunare, ut Deus liberaret eos" (cfr. ibidem). In this regard, see moreover G. Divina, Storia del beato Simone da Trento, Trent, 1902, vol. II, p. 38.

[13] "(Israel Wolfgangus) modo possunt esse quinque vel sex anni, dici audivit, quod quidam puer Christianus interfectus a Judaeis causa habendi sanguinem, et quod sic fit interfectus in quodam loco nominato Hendinga [ = Endingen] Alemaniae, qui Judaie fuerant combusti. Et dicit, quod hoc dici audivit primo a quodam Moyse Judaeo de Ulma, qui Mosès pro liberatione dictorum Judaeorum equitavit ad Serenissium Imperatorum pro dictis Judaeis liberandis"

(cfr. [Bonelli], Dissertazione apologetica, cit., p. 140).

[14] "Ac novissime infra paucos annos in oppido Endingen et Pforzheim sub Marchione Carolo Badan quam plures Judae utriusque sexus, pro simile necatione duorum conjugam christianorum ac duorum filiorum, ultimo supplicio puniti fuerunt".

The text of the letter from Hinderbach to fra Michele is found in [Bonelli], Dissertazione apologetica, cit., pp. 65-66.

[15] The following persons have made excellent, even if not entirely convincing, contributions in this regard: Po-Chia Hsia, who, referring to the testimonies of the Trent defendants on the facts of Endingen and Pforzheim, considers it all a clumsy inquisitorial manipulation intended to confer plausibility on slanderous reports, invented out of whole cloth, using unnatural juxtapositions of evens, known and real.

"And so, the real and the imaginary fused into a seamless whole, the lies [...] told under duress only confirmed the veracity of the historical Endingen trial which became, in turn, the fulcrum of the fictive universe of Jewish violence" (R. Po-Chia Hsia, Trent 1475, A Ritual Murder Trial, New Haven, Conn., 1992, p. 90). Elsewhere, the same author, referring to the detailed deposition of Maestro Tobias on Frederick's visit to Venice in 1469, and on the presence in the city of the "merchant of Candia" (who, as we have seen, should be identified as David Mavrogonato), speaks of a fable with an exotic flavor, imagined by the Jewish physician to placate his tormenters and to put an end to the tortures to which he was being subjected (ibidem, pp. 46-47).

But, as may easily be demonstrated, Tobias' testimony was precise in all its particulars and responded to that which he had actually seen and that which had really happened on that occasion. Miri Rubin, who has examined the German trials for desecration of the Host, although he considers them a slander, cannot help but note that the testimonies often contained elements the acceptability of which was beyond doubt ("the testimony contains true and imagined aspects of Jewish communal life"). Cfr. M. Rubin, Gentile Tales. The Narrative Assault on Late Medieval Jews, New Haven (Conn.), 1999, p. 123.

[16] "Quod modo possunt esse .xv anni vel circa, quod Sachetus de Alemania, pater ipsius testis, tempore eius vite dixit testi quod tunc poterant esse circa quadraginti anni, quod dictus Sachetus existens in civitate Lanchut de Alemania Bassa, et ibi cum familia sua habitaret, aliqui Judei existentes in dicta civitate, circum festa Pasce eorum, interfecerunt quendam puerum (Christianum) masculum, causa habendi sanguinem et utendi illo; et quod fuit manifestum domino illius civitatis qui dominus fecit detinere omnes Judeos qui ibi aderant; exceptis aliquibus qui affugerunt, inter quos fuit pater ipsius testis, qui aufugit et qui vix potuit evadere. Et pro morte cuius pueri sic interfecti dicebat idem pater ipsius testis quadragintaquique Judeos fuisse combustos"

(cfr. A. Esposito and D. Quaglioni, Processi contro gli ebrei di Trento; 1475-1478 ; I: I processi del 1475, Padua, 1990, pp. 124-125). For a careful examination of the deposition of Giovanni da Feltre, see Quaglioni (ibidem, pp. 35-36).

[17] In this regard, see Po-Chia Hsia, Trent 1475, cit., pp. 31-32, 93.

[18] Cfr. M. Toch, The Formation of a Diaspora. The Settlement of Jews in the Medieval German Reich, in "Aschkenasas", VII (1997), no. 1, pp. 55-78.

[19] "Dum ipse Wolfgangus staret in Civitate de Ratibona, cum Samuele Hebraeo, quidam Jossele Hebraeus emit quendam Puerum Christianum a quodam paupere mendicante Christiano, quem sic emit per decem ducatis et quem Puerum idem Jossele emit per dies octo ante Pascha Judaeorum, et illus tenuit in ejus Domo usque ad diem Paschae ipsorum Judaeorum, in qua die Paschae de sero, circa duas vel tres horas noctis, idem Jossele portavit dictum Puerum in quandam Synagogam parvam, in qua erat ipse Wolfgang una cum 25, vel 26 Judaeis, quo Puero sic portato, quidam Mohar Hebraeus accept dictum Puerum et eum spoliavit, deinde illum posuit super quendam capsam" ([Bonelli), Dissertazione apologetica, cit., p. 140). See also Divina, Storia del beato Simone da Trent, cit., vol. II, pp. 38-39, 41-42.

[20] "Et dum Puer sic staret, quatuor vel six ex Judaeis ibi astantibus pupugerunt cum acubus Puerum et ipse Wolfgangus fuit unus ex illis qui popugit [...] dum sanguis exiret, Heberle Judaeis cum quadam scutela stagni vel argenti, colligebat sanguinem" ([Bonelli], Dissertazione apologetica, cit., p. 141). See also Divina, Storia del beato Simone da Trento, cit., pp. 39-40.

[21] "Mane sequenti venerunt plures alii Judaei ad videndum dictum corpus et in quo die sequenti de sero idem corpus fuit sublatum de capsa et portatum in Synagogam praedictam, in quam tunc venerunt circa triginta Judaei" (cfr. [Bonelli], Dissertazione apologetica, cit., p. 141). See also Divina, Storia del beato Simone da Trento, cit., vol. II, pp. 30-40.

[22] "Jossele et Sayer praedicti mandaverunt Jacob et Isac, quod debere auferre corpus de dicta Synagoga et illud portare ad sepeliendum in quandam curiam contiguam dictae Synagogae, quae curia est versus Orientum, et quod illud corpus deberent sepelire in dicta Curia in quodam angulo a meridie, quae curia est circumdata muro et in eam intratur per quoddam ostium, quod tenetur clausum" ([Bonelli], Dissertazione Apologetica, cit., p. 141). See also Divina, Storia del beato Simone da Trento, cit., vol. II, p. 40.

[23] Cfr. Po-Chia Hsia, The Myth of Ritual Murder, cit., pp. 66-72; Rubin, Gentile Tales, cit., pp. 123-128.

[24] Cfr. Divina, Storia del beato Simone da Trento, cit., vol. II, pp. 38-39; Po-Chia Hsia, The Myth of Ritual Murder , cit., pp. 72; Id., Trent 1475, cit., pp. 97-98.

[25] In the vast bibliography on the Regensburg trials of the years 1476-1480, see R. Strauss, Urkunden und Aktenstücke zur Geschichte der Juden in Regensburg, 1453-1738, Munich, 1960, pp. 68-168; Id., Regensburg und Augsburg , Philadelphia (Pa.), 1939; Po-Chia Hsia, The Myth of Ritual Murder, cit., pp. 72-85; W. Treue, Ritualmord und Hostienschändung, Untersuchungen zur Judenfeindschaft in Deutschland im Mittelalter und in der fruhen Neuzeit, Berlin, 1989, pp. 52-58. See also the notes in this regard by W.P. Eckert, Motivi superstiziosi nel processi agli ebrei di Trent, in I.Rogger and M. Bellabarba, Il principe vescovo Johannes Hinderbach (1465-1486) fra tardo Medioevo e Umanesimo, Atti del Convegno promosso della Biblioteca Comunale di Trento (2-6 October 1989), Bologna, 1992, pp. 383-394.

[26] Cfr. Strauss Urkunden und Aktenstücke zur Geschichte der Juden in Regensburg, cit., pp. 73-80.

[27] Cfr. ibidem, pp 82-83, 144-148.

[28] Yoseph Colon, Sheelot w-teshuot, Responsa, Venice, Daniel Bomberg, 1519, resp. no. 5; Id., Responsa and Decisions, by E. Pines, Jerusalem, 1970, p. 282, response no. 104 (in Hebrew).

[29] In Hebrew, Ha-ghedolah ha'awonotenu ha-rabbim ekh she-bene', KK. Re'genshpurkh (= Regensburg) hem tefusim. The letter bears the date 8 Iyyar 5238 (=1478), but this is a transcription error for 5236 (= 1476). The Hebrew document is transcribed with many errors from an lost original and inserted in the records of the trial of the priest Paolo da Novara, in an authenticated copy by the notary Giovanni da Fondo, in the dossier of the Trent trial records, signed and sealed by the podestà Alessandro da Bassano, dated 11 March 1478 (ibidem).

[30] The letters in Yiddish are also preserved in the Trent trial records (AST Archivio Principesco Vescovile, s.l., 69, 68). These will be soon be published in full, with an introduction by myself from the Yiddish language point of view, in one of the coming editions of "Zakhor". The letters, which are the most ancient remaining documents in Yiddish, have been partially indicated and with many inxactitudes (cfr. W. Treue, Trienter Judeprozess. Voraussetzungen-Ablaufe-Auswirkungen, 1475-1588, Hannover Forschungen zur Geschichte der Juden, 1977; pp. 114 ss.; Ch. Turniansky and E. Trimm, Yiddish in Italia. Manuscripts and Printed Books from the 15th to the 17th Century, Milan, 2003, p. 158). The missives, dated the first of May 1476, are drawn up partly in rhymed prose. The recipients are Ellan (Ellin, Ella), and her husband, the banker Crassino (Ghershom) of Novara, while the senders are his/her daughter Geilin, Geilin's husband, Mordekhai Gumprecht, and his brother Yoel.

[31] "Il prete [gallech] mi ha visto quando ho ricevuto le lettere che gli ho portato ["the priest [gallech] saw me when I received the letter which I brought him"] (letter in Yiddish dated 5 May 5236 [= 1476].

[32] Po-Chia Hsia, The Myth of Ritual Murder, cit., pp. 77-82, Eckert, Motivi superstiziosi, cit., pp. 388-389.

[33] The name Rikhard (Reichard), which also appears in the form Reisshart (Rizzardo), is found solely among the Jews of Regensburg in the second half of the Fifteenth Century (cfr. M. Stern, Regensburg in Mittelalter. The israelitische Bevölkerung der deutschen Städte, Berlin, 1934, pp. 48, 55; A. Beider, A Dictionary of Aschkanezic Given Names, Bergenfield, N.J., 2001, p. 406).

[34] Like Rizzardo da Regensburg, who lived at Brescia but had a bank in the district, at Gavardo, where he lived with his two brothers, Enselino and Jacob, another Jewish money lender, Leone di Maestro Seligman, had a dwelling at Brescia, carrying on the money lending activity in the district, at Iseo (cfr. F. Glissenti, Gli ebrei nel Bresciano al tempo delle Dominazione Veneta. Nuove ricerche e studi, Brescia, 1891, pp. 8-14; F. Chiappa, Una colonia ebraica in Palazzolo a metà a del 1400, Brescia, 1964, p. 37).

[35] "Modo possunt essi anni sex vel circa in loco Seravalli, cum Arone eius Patre staret, idem Aron dixit sibi Lazaro, quod fuerat interfectus quidam puer in dicta Civitate Ratisbonae et quod Rizardus frater Aron dixerat sibi Aron, quod habuerat de sanguine illius pueri interfeci Ratisbonae" ["Perhaps about six years ago or thereabouts, in a place called Serravalle, when Aaron was there with his father, Aaron told Lazzarus that a boy had been killed in that city of Regensburg and that Rizzardo’s brother Aaron told him that he had some blood from the boy killed at Regensburg"] [Bonelli], Dissertazione apologetica, cit., p. 143.). See also Divina, Storia del beato Simone da Trento, cit., vol. II, pp. 15, 24-25, 37-38; Po-Chia Hsia, Trent 1475, cit., pp. 91-92.

[36] "Primo anno quo ipse Angelus habitavit in castro Gavardi territorii Brixiae cum Enselino, Rizardus Hebreus, qui habitavit Brixiae, scripsit unas litteras Enselino, in quibus significabat quod ipse Ricardus emeret de sanguine et quod inserviret sibi de eo" ["The first year that Angelo lived in the city of Gavrdo in the territories of Brescia with Enselino, Rizzardo the Jew, who lived at Brescia, wrote Enselino a few letters, in which he said that Ricardo sold blood and that he had used some of it"] (cfr. Esposito and Quaglioni, Processi, cit., vol. I, pp. 294- 295.

[37] "Isac dici audivit ab Angelo quod Rizzardus de Brixia habuerit de sanguine cuiusdam puerii alias interfecit in Civitate Ratisbonae" ["I heard Isaac tell Angelo that Rizzardo had some blood from the other boys killed at Regensburg"] ([Bonelli], Dissertazione apologetica, cit., p. 144). See also Divina, Storia del beato Simone da Trento, cit., vol. II, pp. 36-37.

[38] Cfr. Po-Chia Hsia, Trent 1475, cit., pp. 97-98.

[39] "Rizzardus Hebraeus habuerat de sanguine cujusdam Pueri Christiani interfecti Ratisbonae, jam ab alisquibus annis et quod illum habuerat a Jossele, vitrico ipsius Rizardo; quem sanguinem sibi detulerat Salomon filius cuiusdam soriris Rizardi et quod ipse Wolfgangus dixit eidem Rizardo, quod ipse Wolfgangus interfuerat, quando ille puer fuit interfectus Ratisbonae" ["Rizzardo the Jew had already possesed blood from that Christian boy killed at Regensburg for several years, and that he had received it from Jossele, Rizzardo’s step-father, and that this Wolfgang told Rizzardo, that he, Wolfgang, had been present at Regensburg when the boy was killed"] ([Bonelli], Dissertazione apologetica, cit., p. 141). See also Divina, Storia del beato Simone da Trent, cit., vol. II, 43-45.

[40] "Et tunc Rizardus esset in Civitate Paduae, adjuverat ad interficiendum quendam Puerum Christianum, quem Puerum interfecerat ipse Rizardus, una cum certis aliis Judaeis habitantibus Paduae et in loca circumvicinia [...] et illum interfecerant in eorum scholis, sive Synagogae")

["And when Rizzardo was in the city of Padua, he helped killed the Christian boy, and that the person who killed the boy was this same Rizzardo, with certain other Jews living at Padua or other adjacent localities [...] and that they killed the boy in their school, or synagogue"] [Bonelli],

Dissertazione apologetica, cit., p. 141). It should be noted that at Padua in 1472, a "hostaria da judeai"

[Jewish inn] located at Sant'Urbano, was kept by a certain Rizzardo di Michele, who must not, however, be confused with Rizzardo di Brescia. In fact, the latter was the son of Lazzaro, and practiced medicine and money lending, not tavern-keeping (ASP, Estimo 1418, vol. 92, c. 43, ss: "Rizardus hebreus qm Michele sta a Santo Urban, non a altro nisi la persona e soa mogliere e tri fioli. Et dice far hosteria da zudei in la ditta contra: et paga de fitto da le hostaria a missier Archoan Buzacharin ducati XI"

["Rizzardo the Jew, son of the late Michele, at Santo Urbano has only himself and his wife and three children. And he said that he kept a Jew inn in the same district; and that he rented the inn from a certain Messer Archoan Buzachazin for eleven ducats"]; in this regard, see also C. De Benedetti, author, Hativiwa:il cammino della speranza. Gli ebrei a Padova, 1998, vol. I, p. 16).

In 1472, Rizzardo received a certain sum due to him from the bank owned by Salomon da Piove, represented by the son Marcuccio (ASP, Notarile, vol. 249, c. 59v. 11 March 1472). A son of Rizzardo, Abramo, lived at Padua in 1485 in the Volto dei Negri district (ASP, Notarile, Agostino delle Conchelle, vol. 2056c, c. 23r 4 August 1485).

[41] Cfr. Divina, Storia del beato Simone da Trento, cit. vol. II, pp. 43-45.

[42] "Interrogatus quod dicat veritatem et non mentiatur, (Wolfgangus) audicissime loquendo dixit quod quae supradictum Rixardum dixisse, ipse Wolfgangus narrabit coram quocumque Domino et Principe; dicens etiam, quod per Deum, quando ipse Wolfgangus ducetur ad justitiam, ut decapitetur, vel aliter interficiatur, affirmavit hoc quod supradixit" [quoted in text], ([Bonelli], Dissertazione apologetica, cit., p. 141).

[43] Cfr. Straus, Urkunden und Aktestücke zur Geschichte der Juden in Regensburg, cit., pp. 64-66.

[44] Cfr. ([Bonelli], Disssertazione apologetica, cit., p. 141; Divina, Storia del beato Simone da Trento, cit., vol. II, p. 42.

[45] Cfr. Divina, Storia del beato Simone da Trento, cit., vol. II, pp. 29-30.

[46] This Abramo, a banker at Piacenza, seems to have been active from 1455 until the end of Feburary 1476. Cfr. Sh. Simonsohn, The Jews in the Duchy of Milan, Jerusalem, 1982, vol. I, pp. 183, 653, nn. 391, 1585).

[47] On 7 August 1479, Falcone, "hostero de li hebrei in la città de Pavia" ["inkeeper for the Jews in the city of Pavia"], asked the Duke of Milan for authorization "de tenere zoghi [...] in la casa de la sua habitatione, et che cadauno hebreo gli possa zugare tam de nocte quam de die a suo piacere, libere et impune" ["to run gambling games [...] in his dwelling, and that each Jew may gamble there by night or day, at his pleasure, without punishment"]. The Duke consented, on the condition that gambling with Christians in the tavern would be prohibited (cfr. C. Invernizzi, Gli ebrei a Pavia, in Bollettino della Societa Pavese di Storia Patria", V (1905), p. 211; Simonsohn, The Jews in the Duchy of Milan, cit., vol. II, pp. 773, 789-799, nn. 1870, 1917).

[48] Cfr. Simonsohn, The Jews in the Duchy of Milan, cit., vol. I, pp. 506-507, no. 1200; vol. II, pp. 798-799, no. 1917.

[49] Colon, Sheelot w-teshuvot, cit., resp. no. 160. In support of Colon's authoritative opinion came two other well-known rabbis, Yehuda Minz da Padova and Jacob Mestre di Cremona. On the matter as a whole, see J.R. Marcus, The Jew in the Medieval World. A Source Book (315-1791), New York, 1974, pp. 389-393.

[50] Cfr. Simonsohn, The Jews in the Duchy of Milan, cit., vol. II, p. 702, no. 1701. Our Falcone is not identical with the Jew of the same name who had taken part in the conspiracy hatched in 1476 by the banker Manno da Pavia and other influential Jews from the Duchy of Milan to poison the bishop of Trent in revenge, as the priest Divina seems to believe (Storia del beato Simone da Trento, cit. vol. II, p. 30, no. 1). The personage in question is in fact, explicitly called Falcone da Monza and had a house in that city (ibidem, pp. 161-165). In the spring of 1470, Falcone da Monza was arrested, on the denunciation of a converted Jew, with the accusation, later revealed to be unfounded, of disfiguring an image of the Virgin Mary and throwing it in the flames (cfr. L. Fumi, L'Inquisizione Roman e lo Stato di Milano, in "Archivio Storico Lombardo", XXX (1903), p. 307; Simonsohn, The Jews in the Duchy of Milan, cit., vol. I, pp. 518-519, 526, nn 1266, 1244). A native of Udine, Falcone was active in the money trade at Monza from 1472, while his money lending permit was renewed in 1479. In 1473, he was appointed tax collector for the Jews in the Duchy and on 4 December 1480 he appears among the representatives of the Milanese state, who paid into the ducal strongboxes the huge fine of thirty two thousand ducats, to which he had been sentenced for having kept Hebrew books containing injurious expressions with regards to Jesus and Christianity (cfr. Simonsohn, The Jews of the Duchy of Milan, cit., vol. I, pp. 599, 619, nn. 1440, 1494; vol. II, pp. 781, 849, nn. 1881, 2035).

[51] Cfr. Divina, Storia del beato Simone da Trento, cit., vol. II, p. 29. Manno, who, in 1441, had a stable residence at Padua, where he managed the main bank owned by him, from 1462 also had a house at Mestre, probably in concomitance with the opening of the Venice branch of the Paduan bank (cfr. R. Segre, The Jews in Piedmont, Jerusalem, 1986; vol. I, p. 289, no. 630; Simonsohn, The Jews in the Duchy, cit., vol. I, p. 342, no. 768).

[52] Cfr. Divina, Storia del beato Simone da Trento, cit., vol. II, pp. 27-29.

[53] Cfr. Simonsohn, The Jews in the Duchy of Milan, cit., vol. I, p. 515, no. 1217.

[54] In this regard, see A. Antoniazzi Villa, Fonti notarili per la storia degli ebrei nei domini sforzechi, in "Libri e documenti", VII (1981), no. 3, p. 1-11; Ead., Appunti sulla polemica antiebraica nel Ducato Sforzesco, in "Studi di Storia Medioevale e Diplomatica", VII (1983), pp. 119-128; Ead., Gli ebrei nel milanese dal Medioevo all'espulsione, in F. Della Peruta, Storia illustrata di Milano, Milan, 1989, pp. 941-959.

[55] Cfr. Simonsohn, The Jews in the Duchy of Milan, cit., vol. I, pp. 436-437, no. 1019.

[56] Fra Antonio da Cremona claimed that he put an end to the "toleratam habitationem perfide et scellerate progenei ebrayce, que ultra id quod semper pertinax fuit et est in opbrobrium christiane, legis, semper etiam in suis officiis et orationibus in hoc perfide est obiecta christiane legi, quam ipsam cum operibus eius quotidie et incessantur blasfemat" (cfr. Segre, The Jews in Piedmont, cit., vol. I, p. 330-331).

[57] The trial testimonies have been studied and published by A. Antoniazzi Villa, Un processo contro gli ebrei nella Milano del 1488, Milan, 1986.

[58] Fragments of Mendele Oldendorf of Regensburg’s autobiography have been published by E. Kupfer, in "Di goldene keyt. Periodical for Literature and Social Problems", 58 (1967) pp. 212-223 (in Yiddish). He has stressed its importance as a source for the history of the Jews at Venice and in the Ashkanazi communities of northern Italy in the last part of the Fifteenth century, D. Nissim, Un "minian" de ebrei ashkenaziti a Venezia negli anni 1465-1480, in "Italia", XVI, 2004, p. 45.

[59] In the trial documents, Jacob is referred to as "Jacob ebreus de Papia, filius quondam Manni, habitator in civitate Papie". (Cfr. Antoniazzi Villa, Un processo contro gli ebrei nella Milan del 1488, cit., pp. 90-92.

[60] "Si faciunt aliquam ymaginem ad symilitudinem Iesus Christi et Virginis Marie et ipsam ymaginam proyciunt in igne vel in aliquo, vel ponunt sub pedibus, vel alidquid faceunt in contemptum" (cfr. Ibidem, p. 86; "[...] et ipsam ymaginem proyciunt in igne, vel stercore vel sub pedibus" ["Whether they make images in the likeness of Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary and those these images in the fire or elsewhere, or stamp them underfoot, or otherwise hold them in contempt"] (cfr. Ibidem, p. 88).

[61] "(Judaei} panes azymos seu mazoctos secundum ritum eorum legis confecisse ad instar tamen gloriossimi cruxifficii et eius vilipendium [...] quia fecerunt quatuor imagines de pasta ad imaginem domini nostri Jehesus Christi in obproprium Christi et fidei catholice, comburendo ipsas imagines infra quendam furnam" (cfr. Segre, The Jews in Piedmont, cit., vol. I, pp. 146-147, nos. 326-327). For documentation on other cases in which, in the Middle Ages, the Jews were accused of making, on the eve of the Passover, leavened bread with the image of the crucicifed Christ, and then causing them to be consumed in the heat of the furnace, see D. Nirenberg, Communities of Violence. Persecution of Minorities in the Middle Ages, Princeton (N.J.), 1996, p. 220.

[62] "Si (hebrei) capiunt aliquem christianum et aliquid de ipso in comtemptum fidei christiane faciunt" (cfr. Antoniazzi Villa, Un processo contro gli ebrei nella Milano del 1488, cit.. p. 86).


Revised by the original translators, Feb. 2011

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