Conversos, Moriscos, and the Eucharist in Early Modern Spain: Some Reflections on Jewish Exceptionalism

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Abstract

Sacrilegious attitudes toward the Eucharistic host are one of the most commonplace accusations leveled against Jews in premodern Europe. Usually treated in Jewish historiography as an expression of anti-Judaism or antisemitism, they are considered a hallmark of Jewish powerlessness and persecution. In medieval and early modern Spain, however, Jews and conversos (Jewish converts to Christianity and their descendants) were not the only proclaimed enemies of the Eucharist. Reports about avoidance, rejection, criticism, and even ridicule and profanation of the consecrated host were similarly leveled against Muslims and moriscos (Muslim converts to Christianity). This essay seeks to assess the parallels and connections between the two groups through a comparative examination of accusations of sacrilegious behavior towards the host. The first part of the essay analyzes religious art, legal compendia, and inquisitorial trials records from the tribunals of Toledo and Cuenca in order to show some evident homologies between the two groups. The second part of the essay focuses on the analysis of the works of Jaime Bleda and Pedro Aznar y Cardona, two apologists of the expulsion of the moriscos, and draws direct connections between Jewish and morisco sacrilege. By exploring the similarities and differences between accusations against conversos and moriscos, this essay aims to offer a broader reflection on Jewish exceptionalism.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)265-291
Number of pages27
JournalJewish History
Volume35
Issue number3-4
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 2021
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • History

Keywords

  • Christian-Jewish relations
  • Christian-Muslim relations
  • Conversos
  • Eucharistic miracles
  • Iberian Jews
  • Iberian Muslims
  • Inquisition
  • Jewish historiography
  • Moriscos

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