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Massacre or Miracle?

Massacre or Miracle?

Valencia, 1391

Chapter:
(p.75) [4] Massacre or Miracle?
Source:
Neighboring Faiths
Author(s):
David Nirenberg
Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226169095.003.0005

Massacres and mass conversion of Jews across Iberia in 1391 began a process that would eventually result in the elimination of the Jews from the Peninsula and produce a revolution in the social/theological understanding of what it meant to be Christian. This chapter explores the specific dynamics of the massacres/conversions in the city of Valencia, a locale for which there is ample documentation, unlike sporadic references in Castilian chronicles. The chapter is both a study of the actual events of the massacre and of its “constitutional” implications, reconstructing the meanings that Valencian Christians attributed to the violence and how they sought to justify it. Those meanings/justifications were above all about the proper foundations of power in a Christian polity. In this sense, the massacres of 1391 constituted, among other things, a constitutional crisis, a moment in which competing Christian visions of sovereignty and subjecthood were posed upon the bodies of the Jews. The constitutional implications of this crisis are not confined to the Middle Ages but are instructive for us today, as so many refugees from secularism—Muslim, Christian, and Jewish—look once more toward theology in their quest for transcendent norms that might ground the values of a polity.

Keywords:   Jews, Judaism, Valencia, 1391, sovereignty, conversion, violence, political theology, interfaith relations

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