ABSTRACT

Cohesion in late medieval society was built, to a great extent, around Christian values deriving from a radical realism that led to a highly anthropomorphised vision of God. The sufferings of society were interpreted as divine punishment and thus there was a fear of provoking divine wrath, 1 as the sermons by the preachers who travelled the country were wont to remind. 2 Consequently, the tolerance of indissoluble religious groups meant serious and growing difficulties, as it was popularly believed that tolerating them was the same as tolerating God’s enemies. This belief was applied especially to the Jews, 3 because of the popular opinion that they had a deicidal instinct, and that was the reason why they crucified Jesus Christ and consequently all their descendants were stained with the guilt of this action. In 1367 in Vilanova de Cubells (currently Vilanova i la Geltrú) a young man stopped a Jew in the street to mock him by asking a question: “Do you know, Jew, what part did your relatives played with Jesus Christ?”; and he himself add immediately the answer: “They crucified and killed him”. 4 In the same line it was believed that they were obsessed with stabbing God in his sacred forms when they could, 5 as was repeated in some of the various clichés about Jewish cruelty assumed by the population. 6 Their money-lending activity, which was well known among those lower sectors of the population in need of loans, 7 and the stereotypical image of the wealthy Jew 8 contributed equally to an animosity that made cohabitation difficult just when they had became excluded from the main economic and political spheres, leaving them highly vulnerable. 9 In the fourteenth century, the moralist Francesc Eiximenis explained the tale of a thief who had murdered a Jew. The crime was uncovered by chance when the murderer talked more than he should and the corresponding lord had him rolled and hung. The mendicant explained the moral of the tale: God did not want Christians to commit this serious sin, not even when the victim was an infidel like the Jew. Indeed, he emphasised that not even a crime against a Jew went unpunished: “Look at the God’s trial, how he punished this sin committed by the Christians, although he killed an infidel. You can see how God detests this sin, and its maliciousness always calls God against he who has committed it”. 10