Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Trial of the Jews of Trent

PD Image: Trial of the Jews of Trent, manuscript (handwritten on paper) of 1478, from Trent, Germany. Repository: Yeshiva University Museum, 15 West 16th Street, New York, NY 10011, USA. Copy Rights Information: No known copyright restrictions; may be subject to third party rights.

‘Trial of the Jews of Trent’ was consequential to the disappearance of Simon, son of Andreas Unverdosben, a cobbler or tanner in Trent, Germany. According to reports, ‘the harmonious relations between the Christians and the Jews in Trent had excited the anger of the semi demented Franciscan friar Bernardinus of Feltre, who was a son of a notorious enemy of the Jews.’ In his sermons he predicted that at the next Jewish Passover a ritual murder would occur, and Simon, a twenty-eight months old child, disappeared on March 23, 1475.”

On the eve of Easter Monday, March 26, the body of a child was found in the river near the house of Samuel, the head of the community, who along with others hastened to notify the bishop. But Samuel and others were arrested. Rumors were spread by another person that the Jews use the blood of Christians for ritual purposes at the Passover.

On the story, historian Ronnie Po-chia Hsia wrote, "On Easter Sunday 1475, the dead body of a 2-year-old Christian boy named Simon was found in the cellar of a Jewish family's house in Trent, Italy. Town magistrates arrested 18 Jewish men and five Jewish women on the charge of ritual murder - the killing of a Christian child in order to use his blood in Jewish religious rites. In a series of interrogations that involved liberal use of judicial torture, the magistrates obtained the confessions of the Jewish men. Eight were executed in late June, and another committed suicide in jail".

Seventeen Jews were forced to confess under torture, and 15 including Samuel, were burned at the stake. Meanwhile, Simon became the focus of veneration for the local Catholic Church. Bishop, Hinderbach of Trent, tried to have Simon canonized. “Over one hundred miracles were directly attributed to Saint Simon within a year of his disappearance, and his cult spread across Italy, Austria and Germany.” The 'saint' Simon was eventually considered a martyr and a patron of kidnap and torture victims.

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