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The Papal Inquisition in Modena, 1598–1638

This book explores two areas of interest: the Papal Inquisition in Modena and the status of Jews in an early modern Italian duchy. Its purpose is to deepen existing insights into the role of the former and thus lead to a better understanding of how an Inquisitorial court assumed jurisdiction over a practising Jewish community in the seventeenth century. The book highlights one specific aspect of the history of the Jews in Italy: the trials of professing Jews before the Papal Inquisition at the beginning of the seventeenth century. Inquisitorial processi against professing Jews provide the earliest known evidence of a branch of the Papal Inquisition taking judicial actions against Jews on an unprecedented scale and attempting systematically to discipline a Jewish community, pursuing this aim for several centuries. The book focuses on Inquisitorial activity during the first 40 years of the history of the tribunal in Modena, from 1598 to 1638, the year of the Jews' enclosure in the ghetto, the period which historians have argued was the most active in the Inquisition's history. It argues that trials of the two groups are different because the ecclesiastical tribunals viewed conversos as heretics but Jews as infidels. The book emphasizes the fundamental disparity in Inquisitorial procedure regarding Jews, as well as the evidence examined, especially in Modena. This was where the Duke uses the detailed testimony to be found in Inquisitorial trial transcripts to analyse Jewish interaction with Christian society in an early modern community.

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A tale of a young Jewess’s flirtation with Christianity
Katherine Aron-Beller

5 The Jew’s balcony: a tale of a Jewess’s flirtation 1 with Christianity Alack, what heinous sin is it in me To be ashamed to be my father’s child! But though I am a daughter to his blood, I am not to his manners, O Lorenzo, If thou keep promise I shall end this strife, Become a Christian and thy loving wife. (Jessica in The Merchant of  Venice by William Shakespeare, Act II, Scene iii) In The Merchant of  Venice, Jessica, the daughter of Shylock the Jew, fell in love with a Christian. With his assistance, she fled her father, her house and her faith. She

in Jews on trial
Katherine Aron-Beller

1 Jews, Papal Inquisitors and the Estense dukes In 1598, the year that Duke Cesare d’Este (1562–1628) lost Ferrara to Papal forces and moved the capital of his duchy to Modena, the Papal Inquisition in Modena was elevated from vicariate to full Inquisitorial status. Despite initial clashes with the Duke, the Inquisition began to prosecute not only heretics and blasphemers, but also professing Jews. Such a policy towards infidels by an organization appointed to enquire into heresy (inquisitio haereticae pravitatis) was unusual. In order to understand this process

in Jews on trial
Open Access (free)
Katherine Aron-Beller

Conclusion This book has highlighted one specific aspect of the history of the Jews in Italy: the trials of professing Jews before the Papal Inquisition at the beginning of the seventeenth century. Inquisitorial processi against professing Jews provide the earliest known evidence of a branch of the Papal Inquisition taking judicial actions against Jews on an unprecedented scale and attempting system­atically to discipline a Jewish community, pursuing this aim for several centuries. Our purpose has been to deepen existing insights into the role of the Papal

in Jews on trial
Open Access (free)
Katherine Aron-Beller

2 Procedure and reaction This chapter studies the procedure adapted by Modenese Inquisitors in their trial proceedings against Jews, and the Jews’ reactions to the expanding jurisdiction of this court. It begins with a comparison of the tribunal’s treatment of Jews with that of other Inquisitorial courts in Italy in the early modern period, and then examines the judicial procedure to reveal what was distinctive about the Holy Office’s prosecution of Jews in contrast to Christians. The Inquisition’s policy of expurgation and removal of prohibited books in the

in Jews on trial
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A locus for fantasy
Katherine Aron-Beller

6 The pingolo : a locus for fantasy 1 I have been here for 30 years and never did I hear anyone say or reflect upon the fact that Jews yelled or shouted in any way, especially at the said times, when they used to be withdrawn and modest. This year they did the worst.2 Like many micro-histories, this chapter, which studies the tension between Jews and Christians during the frequent clash of Passover and Easter, is based on one processo in 1604, which uncovers the boisterous and intrusive actions of a group of Jews in the home of Davide de Norsa, a Jewish banker

in Jews on trial
Open Access (free)
Katherine Aron-Beller

Introduction This book explores two areas of interest: the Papal Inquisition in Modena and the status of Jews in an early modern Italian duchy. Its purpose is to deepen existing insights into the role of the former and thus lead to a better understanding of how an Inquisitorial court assumed jurisdiction over a practising Jewish community in the seventeenth century. In recent years, a significant number of publications and conferences has reflected increasing interest in the history of the Inquisition. However, efforts to identify individual Jews (who had no

in Jews on trial
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Jewish masters and Christian servants
Katherine Aron-Beller

3 The Jewish household: Jewish masters and Christian servants There are more Inquisitorial processi against Jews for hiring Christian servants than for any other breach of ecclesiastical regulations. It was an offence that alarmed Inquisitors, implying intimate contact between a Jewish master and a subordinate Christian behind closed doors, in the private space of a Jewish household, and as such representing an unknown level of promiscuity. When Christian servants entered Jewish households they became exposed to the Jewish family’s daily routine and the real

in Jews on trial
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Verbal offences on the streets of Modena
Katherine Aron-Beller

4 The piazza: verbal offences on the streets of Modena There were twenty-two processi in which Jews were prosecuted for blasphemy, heretical blasphemy and insults in our period. These offences were allegedly committed in public, in a street, shop or piazza where most daily contact between Jews and Christians took place. These processi are considered as legal narratives in the same genre and show the efforts of the Inquisition to control Jewish speech. One should not suggest that these narratives are static – quite the contrary: verbal offences respond to the

in Jews on trial
Open Access (free)
Katherine Aron-Beller

7 Proselytizing at Purim On 23 March 1625, five years before the Great Plague would come with fury to Modena and carry off almost half its population, the Jewish festival of Purim coincided with Palm Sunday. In the latter part of the morning, many poor Jews crowded the palazzo of the 73–year-old Jewish banker Moisè de Modena (‘that old hunchback’, as he was endearingly called by his Christian clients), who lived in Via San Giorgio in Modena, as well as those of other prosperous Jews, in anticipation of receiving il buon Purim, a monetary gift for the Jewish

in Jews on trial