In Part 45, when we discussed the Crusades, we covered the war of the Church against the Muslims in the Middle East. Now we turn to the war of the Church against Muslims in Europe. This war went on for quite some time in fits and starts—from the time the Muslim Moors arrived in Spain in 711. It took a long time for the Christians to vanquish them. The first Muslim stronghold to fall was Toledo in 1085; the last was Granada in 1492. As the Christian re-conquest gained momentum, Jews in these newly re-conquered Christians territories began to suffer from increasingly harsher persecutions. In their blood-thirsty vengeance against the Muslims, the Spanish Christians included the Jews, whom they put in the category of infidels. In 14th century Barcelona, for example, the whole Jewish community was murdered by a rioting mob. First given shelter by some Christians, these Jews were pressured to convert. Those who did not were refused protection. Writes Professor B. Netanyahu in his 1,400-page work,The Origins of the Inquisition, quoting an eyewitness account of the time: “Those of them who refused to accept baptism were immediately slain, and their corpses, stretched in the streets and the squares, offered a horrendous spectacle.” (p. 159) Just how many Jews converted in these forced mass conversions that accompanied the Christian conquest of Spain? Estimates rage between tens of thousands to as many as 600,000. (SeeThe Origins of the Inquisition, p. 1095.) Many of those who converted did so only outwardly, continuing to practice Judaism in secret. In due time, the Christians caught on to these phony conversions and decided to root out the heretics. THE SPANISH INQUISITION The Inquisition we are going to cover now is the Spanish Inquisition, which began officially by papal bull issued by Pope Sixtus IV on November 1, 1478. (We should note, however, that the very first Inquisition actually took place in 1233 under orders from Pope Gregory IX to combat a group of French-Christian heretics called “Albigenses.” This first Inquisition was relatively mild and did not as a rule sentence people to death. Not so the Spanish Inquisition which was directed against Jewish heretics.) Unlike its earlier version, the Spanish Inquisition sought to punish Jews who had converted to Christianity but were not really “sincere” in their conversions. There is a great deal of irony in this. First you tell people they have to convert or die, then, when they do convert, you decide to kill them anyway because their conversions are not “sincere.” There was another reason for the Inquisition, which had little to do with the sincerity of conversions. Once Jews converted to Christianity they had an open access to the playing field, economically and politically. And, of course, they prospered mightily. That engendered a lot of hostility from the Christians – a pattern we have seen in Jewish history ever since the enslavement of the Israelites by the Egyptians. Read More
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