A term that generally referred to the "secret" Jews of Portugal and Spain in the fifteenth century, who converted to Christianity when their religion was outlawed, but who continued to practice their religion in the privacy of their families. The existence of such Jews was amply demonstrated by Jews who migrated and soon afterward reemerged to practice publicly the Jewish faith. The term was also applied to a Jewish secret fraternity that arose in Spain in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. Its members met in the greatest secrecy at inns, and used grips, signs, and passwords (see Freemasons' Magazine 3 : 416).
The term "marranos" (hogs) was used contemptuously at the time to denote Moors and Jews.
"Maranos." Encyclopedia of Occultism and Parapsychology. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 15, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/science/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/maranos
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"Marranos." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 15, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/marranos
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Marranos (mərä´nōs): see Sephardim.
"Marranos." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 15, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/marranos
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Opprobrious name given to those Jews (and, to a lesser degree, Muslims) of spain and Portugal who, after being baptized under duress, practiced Judaism secretly while outwardly professing Catholicism. This crypto-Judaism was considered heretical by the Church, and the Inquisition was introduced to stamp it out. Three tragic centuries passed during which thousands died at the stake or were otherwise penanced before it disappeared. To the theologian, the Marranos posed the problem of the validity of so-called forced baptisms. The term Marrano came into popular use in the early 16th century, derived from the Spanish marrano (pig). The word does not appear in formal writings, in which the Marranos are called New Christians (Nuevos Christianos ) or are simply referred to as converts (conversos).
Early History. A forerunner of Marranism is found in seventh-century Spain under the Visigoth kings, who presented the Jews with the alternative of Baptism or banishment. Many converted but Judaized secretly. The Councils of Toledo (third to 17th), A.D. 589 to 694, legislated that they must be forced to remain Christians. Again, during the First (1096–99) and Second (1147–49) crusades many Jews were baptized under threat of death, but they later lapsed openly.
Marranism, however, as generally understood, dates from 1391 in Spain. During the 14th century the prosperity of Spain's highly integrated Jewry had become a source of scandal to the clergy and envy to the populace. The fanatical anti-Jewish preaching of Archdeacon Ferrand Martinez, whom neither king nor pope could silence, set off a wave of massacres in 1391, which swept over the Jewish communities of Spain. Faced with the option of death or Baptism, many Jews perished, but many more received Baptism. Estimates put the dead at 50,000 and the converts between 100,000 and 200,000. The number of the latter was further swelled by the impassioned preaching of St. vincent ferrer, who, passing from synagogue to synagogue with his followers, baptized about 35,000 Jews.
As things returned to normal, it became evident that not all the New Christians had broken with their former faith. Not all, of course, were insincere. Three categories are distinguishable: (1) the truly convinced, including many of Ferrer's converts; (2) lax Jews, who, having accepted Baptism from mere indifference, though insincere Catholics, could not be accused of Judaizing; (3) the Marranos properly speaking. Forced or frightened into the Church, but inwardly loyal to Judaism, the Marranos began to lead a double existence. Observing the externals of the Church and presenting their children for Baptism (which they "washed off" at home), they practiced Judaism whenever unobserved, abstaining from pork, observing Jewish holydays, circumcizing their children, etc. Throughout the 15th century, as evidences of their Judaizing multiplied, the pulpits rang out against them, and popular resentment rose. Why should these hypocrites, it was reasoned, enjoy high station unmolested, while professing Jews lived miserably because of their faith. Outbreaks, begun in 1449, culminated in the carnage of 1473–74, which fully matched the brutality that had occurred during 1391.
The Inquisition. It was now believed by many that one resort remained to restore order—the inquisition. The Church had always regarded Judaizers as heretics and hence subject to the discipline of the Church, and for several years the religious orders had been calling for the introduction of the Inquisition. It was formally established in 1478 by a bull of Sixtus IV under the auspices of Ferdinand and Isabella. The first auto-da-fÉ (Act of Faith) was held in 1481 in Seville, where 12 Marranos were burned. Thus began the operations of the tribunal that for more than three centuries in all major Spanish cities condemned thousands of Marranos to confiscation, prison, penances, and burnings. In 1492, chiefly because of their ties with the Marranos, all Jews were expelled from Spain. About 100,000 of them crossed into Portugal, where, for a price, they were accepted. King Emanuel I (1495–1521), pressed by the Spanish monarchs to reexpel them but unwilling to forego the economic benefits they represented, literally drove them, along with their children, to the baptismal font.
Thus a new colony of Marranism was founded. The pattern set in Spain recurred: Marrano prosperity, popular resentment, massacres, and the introduction of the Inquisition. Proof of "pure blood" (limpieza ) was required for admission to most professions in the Peninsula until the 18th century. Fugitives from the Iberian tribunals made their way to many European countries, to Turkey, North Africa, and the New World, thus forming a large Marrano diaspora. The Inquisition followed them to many of these places, even to the New World. At the end of the 19th century its task was complete: all Marranos had been exterminated or assimilated, with the surprising exception of numerous survivors discovered in northern Portugal in the 20th century.
Question of Marranos' Baptisms. The official policy of Judaism toward the Anusim (Heb. 'ănûsîm, "the forced") was lenient. Since their conversions were considered unwilling, the conversos were looked upon as Jews. Renowned rabbis, such as Gershom Ben Judah (d.1028) and rashi (d. 1105), set the tradition of reinstating them without punishment or embarrassment. The attitude of the Church was not so simple. Pope Gregory I (590–604) had formulated the classical policy toward the Jews by prohibiting molestation of them or their worship and urging kindness and persuasion alone to convert them—a policy accepted in principle but not always observed in practice.
Baptisms elicited by force were always condemned; but when administered, they were deemed spontaneous and therefore valid and binding. For invalid ministration it was required that the recipient should have openly expressed opposition at the moment of reception, though at times this could mean instant death. The Councils of Toledo in the seventh century were rigorous in this respect. So also was Innocent III, who wrote in 1201: "Whoever is led to Christianity by violence, by fear and torture … receives the imprint of Christianity and can be forced to observe the Christian faith" (Potthast, Bibliotheca historica medii aevi, 1479). Not all popes were of this mind, however. Honorius I (625–638) apparently doubted the validity of such Baptisms and allowed Jews so converted to return to Judaism (Patrologia Latina 80:667–670). St. Thomas demonstrated the necessary role of intention and will in receiving Baptism (ST 3,68.7) and concluded that "since God does not force men to justification, it is clear that whoever approaches Baptism insincerely [ficte ] does not receive its effects" (ST 3, 69.9). Benedict XIV (1740–58) seems also to have been of this opinion, inasmuch as he considered Baptism received without sufficient understanding to be at least doubtfully valid (H. Denzinger, Enchiridion symbolorum 2558–62).
Contemporary theology takes a still dimmer view of Baptisms in which violence or ignorance is involved. More concerned with the subjective requirements of the Sacraments, it concedes a more decisive role to inner dispositions and free consent. In pastoral practice, converts from sects that have lost a clear notion of the supernatural must be rebaptized at least conditionally. The present Code of Canon Law requires for validity that the subject must be "knowing and willing" (sciens et volens ). It is doubtful that the Baptisms of many Marranos would satisfy these standards.
Bibliography: c. roth, A History of the Marranos (New York 1959). f. baer, Die Juden im christlichen Spanien (Berlin 1929). l. poliakov, Histoire de l'antisémitisme, v. 2 De Mahomet aux Marranes (Paris 1961). b. blumenkranz, Juifs et chrétiens dans le Monde Occidental (Paris 1960) 97–158. h. erharter, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, j. hofer and k. rahner, eds. (Freiburg 1957–65) 7:106. e. h. flannery, "The Finaly Case," The Bridge 1 (New York 1955) 292–313.
[e. h. flannery]
"Marranos." New Catholic Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 15, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/marranos
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MARRANOS , a term of opprobrium designating Jews (and, occasionally, Muslims) converted to Christianity (and their descendants), was used in the Iberian world in late medieval and early modern times. The Castilian word marrano (deriving from an Arabic word for "prohibited," or "illicit") means "swine," or "pork" and either expressed the same abhorrence toward converts as the converts had previously felt toward the ritually unclean animal or insinuated suspicions regarding the converts' continued loyalties to Judaism. Usage of the term appears to have been limited to common parlance and satirical literature. In modern times, Jewish historians revived the term to underscore the uniqueness of the "Marrano" phenomenon in Iberian and Jewish history.
More commonly, and more neutrally, the converts and their descendants are designated conversos (converts), cristianos nuevos (Span.), cristãos novos (Port.), or "New Christians." Referring specifically to conversos suspected or found guilty of practicing or adhering to some form of Judaism, Inquisitorial documents employ the term judaizante, meaning "judaizer" (or, in modern variations, the terms secret or crypto-Jew ). In premodern and modern Hebrew sources, the conversos are designated as anusim (forced [converts]). To avoid the confusions of earlier historiography, present historians use converso and New Christian synonymously to refer strictly to the social group of converts and descendants, and reserve judaizer and Marrano as synonyms for those conversos whose retention of some form of Judaism may be demonstrated or suspected.
The "C onverso Problem"
The large and problematical converso population and the concomitant Marrano phenomenon were the outcome of unprecedented, large-scale conversions of Spanish and Portuguese Jews between 1391 and 1497. In 1391 and 1392, social resentment of prospering urban Jewish minorities and religious militancy nurtured by a pugnacious Spanish tradition of spiritual warfare provoked a nationwide chain of pogroms, in the course of which large numbers of Jews fell victim to forced, legally irreversible baptism. The unrelenting persistence of anti-Jewish pressures resulted, in subsequent decades, in a second wave of more or less voluntary conversions, creating an initial population of tens of thousands of conversos of questionable religious sincerity.
Envy of the conversos' social and economic gains, made possible by their liberation from anti-Jewish restrictions, and lingering suspicions of their secret and private loyalty to Judaism, rekindled popular anger and violence against them (which also might have developed into antiroyalist sentiment) and gave birth to a social and religious "converso problem" that was politically threatening in that it potentially harbored antiroyalist sentiment. In 1478 a Castilian Inquisition, whose appointments were controlled by the crown, was established to deal with the problem's religious dimension; that is, to prosecute and punish insincere judaizing individuals and thus protect the purity of Catholic orthodoxy and, at the same time, lay to rest the popular suspicions and the indiscriminate, anti-converso scapegoating that were viewed as a political danger. Addressing the social dimension, "purity of blood" (Span., limpieza de sangre; Port., limpeza de sangue ) statutes—the earliest was adopted (but nullified) in 1449 in Toledo—sought, whenever the circumstances proved opportune, to exclude the New Christians as a group from upper-echelon ecclesiastical, civil, and military positions by virtue of their Jewish or Muslim descent. The statutes became a more widely adopted mode of anti-converso social discrimination after 1555–1556, when, in the midst of a vociferous debate, the archbishop of Toledo, Juan Martínez Silíceo (1486–1557), obtained papal and royal ratification of a limpieza statute excluding New Christians from positions in the cathedral chapter of Toledo.
The remaining Jews of Spain, meanwhile, were implicated in fostering the persistence of Jewish loyalties among the conversos and in subverting the new state-church-city alliance. They were expelled by the Catholic rulers, Isabella of Castile (r. 1474–1504) and Ferdinand of Aragon (r. 1479–1516), from Andalusia, the scene of the first Inquisitorial discoveries of widespread judaizing, in 1483 and from the rest of Castile and Aragon in 1492. Seeking to avoid exile, many Spanish Jews hastily converted or returned converted after a temporary exile and joined the ranks of a not insignificant converso minority of approximately 2–3 percent of the total Spanish population. An estimated 150,000 Jews fled—between 80,000 and 120,000 to neighboring Portugal, where they raised the Jewish population to about 10 percent of the total population, and the rest to North Africa, Italy, and the Ottoman Empire. During 1496 and 1497, Manuel I, king of Portugal (1495–1521), forcibly converted the vast majority of Portuguese Jews, including the new arrivals from Spain, in a move meant to both rid his kingdom of the Jews, in compliance with a condition set forth by the Catholic king whose daughter he was to marry, and retain their services, which were deemed important for the country's (and its colonies') economic development.
In Portugal, too, the "unsatisfactory" (i.e., forced) conversions, as well as the social and economic advances of the conversos, created a proportionally more substantial "converso problem," notwithstanding royal promises not to investigate the conversos' religious life made in the expectation of their eventual total assimilation. Despite vigorous New Christian efforts to stave off its institution, a Portuguese Inquisition on the Spanish model was established in 1536. And, in ensuing years, Portuguese institutions adopted "purity of blood" statutes to turn the tide of upwardly mobile New Christians tainted by suspicions of judaizing (willfully retaining Jewish loyalties and practices) that were seemingly confirmed by Inquisitorial proceedings. As the Spanish and Portuguese colonies attracted larger populations, Inquisitorial tribunals were established in Goa (1560), Lima (1570), Mexico (1571), and in Cartagena, Colombia (1610). Only Brazil was treated differently and remained under the jurisdiction of the Lisbon tribunal, which sent periodic "visitors" (that is, small and occasional commissions of inquiry) to the colony.
The records of the Inquisition, preserved in great abundance, are our primary and often exclusive source of information about the extent and nature of the Marrano phenomenon—that is, the secret and heretical (by definition of the church) retention of Jewish doctrines, rites, and customs by groups and individuals within the larger converso populations. The reliability of these documents is the subject of continual debate. Some historians deny them all validity because they originated from an entirely self-contained and secret organization whose stated aims of religious orthodoxy they dismiss. Most historians accept them as a faithful record of the Inquisitorial proceedings: some without further questioning, others with more or less serious reservations about Inquisitorial (as opposed to accusatorial) procedure. For the Inquisition operated without external checks and balances and, as accuser, judge, and jury, controlled every aspect of the trial, in complete secrecy. Its decisions to prosecute (whom and when), imprison (and for how long), torture (and how often), and sentence (and how harshly) were, wittingly or unwittingly, exposed to—and generally unprotected from—internal infusions of malice, prejudice, bias, error, or misunderstanding. Only a complete statistical and comparative profile of all the Inquisition's tribunals, as is now being assembled, might reveal where and when any such infusion must be suspected and taken into consideration. Inquisitorial procedure may also have influenced the accusations, testimonies, and confessions of witnesses and defendants. Inasmuch as witnesses as well as defendants communicated with the inquisitors, they often had to bridge a social and cultural gap and speak in a voice not quite their own—and they might, therefore, have intentionally or unintentionally misconstrued the realities under discussion. Only a complete reexamination of accusation, testimony, and confession might reveal the manner in which "translation" and misconstruction may have affected the reliability of any given Inquisitorial record.
The Nature of the Marrano Phenomenon
Inquisitorial documents (such as manuals, edicts of faith, testimonies, and confessions) and statistics about the numbers of judaizers are helpful in charting the extent of the phenomenon, but do not afford a rounded picture of its nature. The Inquisition's definition of heresy, moreover, inspired a preoccupation with the external manifestations but rarely with the spiritual content of judaizing and thus deprives us of a significant dimension of the phenomenon. Within these limitations, little more than a catalogue of judaizing practices—constituting a maximum of observance rarely, if ever, attained by any individual Marrano—can be offered. The following summary focuses on the "full-fledged" Marranism of the later sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. When Jews were still present and memories yet alive, the earliest transitional generations of Marranos no doubt practiced a wider range of observances and traditions.
Loyalty to Judaism
Echoing Inquisitorial parlance, the Marranos defined themselves as those who believed salvation could be achieved only through the Law of Moses (by which they meant Judaism). This thoroughly un-Jewish formula clearly reveals the two elements in Marrano religion: a rejection of salvation through Jesus and a loyalty to the Law of Moses. As either one constituted in itself sufficient proof of heresy, the Inquisition never queried deeper to establish which of the two elements weighed heavier.
The Marranos' loyalty to Judaism, encumbered by the need for secrecy, expressed itself in an ever more restricted variety of Jewish observances and traditions, a restriction that was due to the loss of knowledge about Jewish law and, especially, Jewish doctrines, and the virtual absence of sources of Jewish education. Fairly rapid to disappear were circumcision, ritual slaughtering, the covering of the head during prayer, the use of phylacteries, and such festivals as Roʾsh ha-Shanah, Shavuʿot, and Ḥanukkah. Passover and Sukkot survived here and there but were celebrated in attenuated forms.
The Sabbath, fasts, prayers, and certain domestic traditions formed the main staples of Marrano Judaism. These observances and customs not only lend themselves well to concealment but have also been central to the home-based daily rhythm of traditional Judaism. The cleaning of the house, the changing of linen and clothes, the taking of baths, the preparation of food—including the so-called adafina (a stew prepared before the onset of the Sabbath)—and the kindling of lights are mentioned in connection with the Marrano observance of the Sabbath. On the Sabbath itself, Marranos abstained from work as often as the opportunity presented itself and whenever the spirit moved them, that is to say, with a definite measure of irregularity. Some Marranos contented themselves with an abstention from work "in intention" only.
Fasting occupied a particularly prominent place in Marrano religious life. Not only was it easy to conceal, it also mirrored and opposed, to some extent, Christian practice. Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) and the Fast of Esther were the holiest days of the Marrano calendar. As the Marranos had lost count of the Jewish lunar calendar, the dates of these fasts were computed on the basis of a mixed lunar-solar calendar: Yom Kippur was observed on the tenth day after the New Moon in September (or, sometimes, on the tenth of September) and the Fast of Esther on the full moon of February. On Yom Kippur, Marranos customarily extended mutual forgiveness to each other, but only rarely does one encounter a Marrano who went barefoot on that day, as did Jews. Either on the eve of Yom Kippur or on that of the Sabbath, Marrano fathers often blessed their children, even when the children had as yet no knowledge of the Jewish origin of this custom. The Fast of Esther, on the eve of Purim, has minor importance in traditional Judaism. As Purim itself fell into oblivion, Marranos retained and expanded the fast, especially in Portugal, undoubtedly because of the similarity between their situation and that of Queen Esther, who had also been forced to hide her ancestral religion in order to survive in an alien environment.
On the Sabbath and Yom Kippur and other festive or special occasions, Marranos recited—rather than chanted, as in traditional fashion—Jewish prayers. As the original Hebrew prayers were lost and memory of their content dimmed, Marranos resorted to readings of the Psalms of David and vernacular creations of their own to replace the Qiddush, grace after meals, and other prayers. These vernacular prayers—some transcribed verbatim in the Inquisitorial documents—stress the unity, omnipotence, and mercy of Adonai ("my Lord," one of the few Hebrew words to survive among the Marranos), the God of the heavens, creator and ruler of the universe, in conscious opposition to Christian trinitarianism. Several prayers beseech God to deliver the Marranos from their tribulations. A great many of these locally or familially transmitted prayers were still current among the Marranos of twentieth-century Portugal.
Among the domestic traditions recorded, some may be termed culinary or dietary, while others are associated with rites of passage. Whereas ritual slaughtering other than that of an occasional fowl fell into desuetude, the kosher preparation of meat—the draining of blood, the removal of nerves, and the salting of meat—did not. This is, perhaps, the reason that Marranos, not having a chance to prepare meat properly, preferred meals of fish and vegetables when breaking a fast. As much as possible and as desired, again irregularly, Marranos avoided eating meats and seafoods traditionally declared nonkosher—pork, rabbit, octopus, and eel, in particular. And when baking bread, some Marrano women had a habit of throwing three small balls of dough into the fire, in imitation of a ḥallāh -baking custom. In rites-of-passage traditions, there was a great deal of local variety. Jewish names were generally lost, except in a few particularly "noble" Jewish families that retained a memory of their ancestral family name. Otherwise, Marranos adopted Christian first names and surnames. In many places, a festive ceremony called Hadas ("fate"?) took place on the eighth night after a child's birth. The origin and the meaning of this custom are uncertain. Death and burial rites associated with traditional Judaism were quite common. The washing and dressing in shrouds of the corpse and the meals taken during the period of mourning, as well as sundry superstitious acts, are mentioned with relative frequency.
Rejection of Christianity
The Marranos' rejection of Christianity consisted not only of a denial of salvation through the law of Jesus, of their opposition to the Trinity, and of their appropriation of the Paternoster for Marrano purposes. In early years, it sometimes included a ceremony intended to undo baptism. Later, Marranos more commonly were lax in their attendance at the Mass—which, however, was also not infrequently neglected by Christians. Some Marranos used to recite a deprecatory formula denying the efficacy of the sacraments or the veneration of images before entering a church. Others remained silent or mumbled through Christological parts of the liturgy or bent rather than kneeled at the requisite times. Evidence of Marranos' spewing out the Host after Communion is sparse, and accusations of Marranos' desecrating the Host may reflect the preconception of malevolent witnesses more than actual practice.
One final aspect of Marrano religion remains largely in the dark: messianism. Many Marrano prayers reflect a commitment to traditional Jewish messianism, but the degree to which this commitment explains New Christian participation in specific, often Christian messianic movements remains a matter for speculation. In the early years following the expulsion of the Jews, several reports from various parts of Spain speak of visionary experiences by conversos with more or less explicitly messianic overtones, especially around 1500 when three prophetic figures (including a charismatic twelve-year-old named Inés of Herrera) gained a large following almost overnight. Later, the Jewish adventurer David Reubeni's visit to Portugal and reception by the king from 1525 to 1527 stirred converso emotions, perhaps so deeply as to have provoked messianic expectations. And toward the end of the sixteenth century, messianic beliefs surrounding the deceased King Sebastian of Portugal, who had fallen in battle in 1578, again attracted converso attention and may even have been inspired by conversos. The participation of Spanish and Portuguese conversos in messianically inclined popular movements appears undisputed. On the basis of our meager sources, however, it is difficult to gauge whether they responded so eagerly as Marranos who rejected Jesus and retained Jewish messianic hopes, as New Christians prompted by a radical desire to alter the contemporary situation of Inquisitorial repression and socioreligious discrimination, or whether they were swept up by a general enthusiasm that also drew Old Christians (cristianos viejos, or cristãos velhos) into these movements.
The Transmission of Marranism
Originally, the transmission of Marranism was confined to the converso population. After the first generation, as more and more New Christians intermarried with Old Christians, their "partially" New Christian descendants often proved as susceptible to judaizing as did the "pure" New Christians. For reasons that smack of racialist prejudice, the Portuguese Inquisition made a point of carefully noting the exact degree of converso -parentage of its suspects. Only rarely does one encounter a "pure" Old Christian among the Inquisition's judaizer victims.
Most commonly, Marranism was transmitted through the family. In Inquisitorial documents, parents, grandparents, and close relatives figure most prominently as the teachers of the Marrano heresy. In fact, the Inquisition generally dismissed as incomplete any confessions that failed to reveal this familial link. Neither in "pure" nor in "partial" New Christian families was judaizing always continual: sometimes the Marrano tradition skipped a generation and was revived only among the grandchildren. Within the family, women played an important role in fostering the continuity of Marrano traditions. Less exposed to the assimilatory pressures of public life than men were, wives, mothers, grandmothers, and aunts perpetuated the essentially domestic rites and customs of Marranism. They thus maintained a Marrano home within which the male members of the family, exposed to public denigration and suspicion of conversos, found solace, approval, and peace of mind. During certain periods and in certain locales, there were more women accused by the prosecution than men; in addition, the wording of the accusations frequently differed, as the women were assumed to have taken a more active role than the men in judaizing. In the Marrano communities of twentieth-century Portugal, spiritual leadership rested, more often than not, on the shoulders of highly venerated older women. In general, children were not informed of the judaizing meaning of family ceremonies until they were between the ages of ten and fifteen, to protect the family against slips of the juvenile tongue or inopportune revelations before ever-vigilant Inquisitorial authorities.
Another channel of transmission ran through professional associations. In the earliest days, some Marranos refused to do business with other Marranos until the latter had sworn a Jewish oath. Later, such formal arrangements disappeared, yet informally shared and avowed Marranism appears to have infused subsequent commercial associations with highly prized trust and stability. In turn, and up to a point, this trust, based on a common loyalty and kept secret, contributed significantly to the socially created momentum of Marranism. Universities, too, with their colleges and student organizations, their relatively large concentrations of New Christians, and their pervasive preoccupation with purity of blood, proved important centers of judaizing. Especially in medicine, a profession traditionally associated with Jews and generally mistrusted by the religious establishment, Marranos reinforced each other's ancestral loyalties and, where opportune, drew into their orbit wavering conversos, who felt the attraction of New Christian solidarity or were reacting against Old Christian antagonism.
The religious education of the Marranos was extremely limited. For the most part, judaizers had to rely on family traditions of Jewish practices and prayers. Those who wished to deepen their intellectual understanding of Judaism culled information from the Vulgate translation of the Hebrew Bible—including the Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha, which are not part of the rabbinic canon—and the abundant vernacular literature on biblical themes. Marranos also turned anti-Jewish texts to their advantage, for polemic literature and Inquisitorial edicts of faith never tired of denouncing innumerable Jewish practices and ideas, and thus publicized forbidden traditions. Genuinely Jewish literature was occasionally smuggled in from the vernacular Spanish and Portuguese presses established by former conversos in Italy and Holland.
In Spain the initial Inquisitorial hunt for judaizers was begun by district, in stages between 1480 and 1495, depending on the tribunal. Its duration varied widely from jurisdiction to jurisdiction: until about 1510 in most of Old Castile, into the 1520s in Valencia, and into the 1590s in Cuenca. In most of Spain, judging from Inquisitorial documentation, judaizing would appear to have been eradicated within one or two generations after the expulsion and the final wave of conversion, except where it appeared sporadically in isolated regions and in Majorca, where there were dramatic proceedings against several hundred "Xuetas" (probably, "little Jews") from 1675 to 1691. In Portugal, prosecution of judaizers started in 1536 and lasted without major interruptions until the 1760s—that is, across almost ten generations.
The activity of the Portuguese Inquisition is particularly uneven when viewed over time. Dramatic increases in Inquisitorial vigilance occurred between the years 1618 and 1640, between 1660 and 1674, and during the 1720s and 1730s. During the same period, Portuguese judaizers also made their appearance outside of Portugal. Under the union of the Spanish and Portuguese crowns (1580–1640), large numbers of Portuguese New Christians sought economic opportunities or respite from the Portuguese Inquisition, or both, in Spain and its American colonies. The Portuguese rebellion of 1640 rendered these somewhat suspect and increasingly more prosperous immigrants political enemies and provoked retaliation in Spain and its territories in America that lasted into the 1660s. Some Portuguese New Christians nonetheless remained in Spain, and their descendants became the final object of anti-judaizing activity in Spanish Inquisitorial history, from as early as 1630 and up until between 1720 and 1731. Ultimately, the Portuguese Marrano phenomenon survived Inquisitorial repression, and distinct vestiges of judaizing were discovered in Beira Alta and Trás-os-Montes provinces in the twentieth century and have persisted until today.
Some evidence suggests that women were as numerous as men among the judaizer victims of the Inquisitions. During certain periods, such as the first century of the Portuguese Inquisition, women may even have outnumbered men. Two groups stand out as constant and ubiquitous targets of Inquisitorial vigilance: professionals (especially physicians) and merchants of various ilk and size. Almost as numerous are the artisans and public servants, but their incidence varied more, presumably in accordance with local conditions. An occasional cleric is encountered, more apparently before the widespread introduction of limpieza statutes. In the earliest days of the Spanish Inquisition, the Jeronymite order, among others, was discovered to harbor a relatively large number of judaizers who had found in the monastery the perfect shelter for their secret activities.
A number of historical circumstances may account for the greater persistence and larger extension of the Marrano phenomenon in Portugal than in Spain. The coexistence of conversos and Jews in Spain from 1391 until 1492 forged a clear and permanent distinction between sincere and judaizing conversos and undermined converso solidarity. In Portugal, where the entire Jewish community was converted at once, ancestral loyalties remained latent, and so acted as a catalyst of group solidarity. Conversion there was even harder for the Spanish exiles, who by their act of emigration had already expressed a strong attachment to Judaism. The forty years that elapsed between the conversion and the institution of the Portuguese Inquisition, moreover, gave judaizers an opportunity to adjust themselves to the exigencies of secrecy. Finally, as former Spanish exiles, the vast majority of Portuguese New Christians (only a very small minority of whom were the descendants of the 20,000 native Portuguese Jews) constituted a distinct ethnic group whose primordial ties reinforced ancestral religious commitments.
Some of the geographic, chronological, and professional variations in Inquisitorial repression are undoubtedly a reflection of differences in the persistence and preponderance of judaizers. The 1618 Oporto arrests (and others of the same sort), the periodic increases in Portuguese Inquisitorial vigilance, and the anti-Portuguese campaign of the Spanish and American Inquisitions smack of arbitrariness and extrareligious inspiration. In these instances, victimization occurred in an atmosphere of commercial rivalry, xenophobia, political discontent, or economic decline. It is difficult, however, to pinpoint exactly how political or economic tension engendered a widening or deepening of Inquisitorial repression. Historians who accept the reality of the Marrano phenomenon and the reliability of Inquisitorial recording seek—but have not yet found, by reason of the sheer magnitude of such a project—reverberations of extrareligious considerations in the trial records themselves: in increases in spontaneous accusations and extorted denunciations, in a greater readiness (on flimsier evidence) to prosecute, or in a slackening of procedural rigor.
The Marrano phenomenon also extended beyond the Iberian world. Most New Christians who emigrated to non-Iberian Europe or to America returned to Judaism; some immediately, others after several generations, depending on the climate of toleration in the land of settlement. These ex-conversos founded Jewish communities during the sixteenth century in North Africa, Italy, Ottoman Greece and Turkey, and, during the seventeenth century, in southwestern France, Amsterdam, Hamburg, London, the Caribbean, and North America. The reasons behind their emigration are the subject of an interminable scholarly debate. Some conversos migrated in search of economic opportunities, others to reembrace their ancestral Judaism. Most, however, appear to have fled the threat or experience of Inquisitorial persecution. At first, immediately following the institution of the Portuguese Inquisition, this threat gave rise to a general fear, prompting many conversos, including those not directly threatened, to flee the country. Later, the Inquisitorial threat became particularized and was feared primarily by families that had relatives or close associates who had been incarcerated and might be forced, by Inquisitorial pressure or torture, to denounce their judaizing associates.
Interpretations of the Marrano Phenomenon
Theories about the Marranos are almost as numerous as the scholars who have studied the subject. Difficulty arises from the nearly total lack of sources in the Marrano voice and the need, therefore, to rely almost entirely on the documentation of the Inquisition, a not disinterested adversary, for information. Some have seen the Inquisition as an instrument of the seignorial class designed to combat, through incarceration and expropriation, the economic, social, and political advances of a rising and largely converso middle class. Others have viewed the Inquisitorial persecution of the conversos as a continuation of the age-old anti-Jewish struggle of the church inspired by ecclesiastical paranoia. Both views considered the reality of Marranism an Inquisitorial myth and dismissed Inquisitorial documentation as a malicious or misguided fabrication. The conversos, they opined, had completely assimilated into Christian society, give or take an occasional atavistic Jewish custom.
At the other extreme, some historians have been convinced that many conversos consciously attempted to remain Jews to the degree that their enforced clandestinity permitted. The Inquisitorial efforts to stamp out all remaining traces of Judaism were therefore a response to a reality that an intolerant church defined as heretical, and Inquisitorial documentation reveals more or less substantial snippets of a vibrant and tenacious crypto-Judaism. The subsequent resettlement of many Marranos in Jewish communities in more tolerant parts of Europe and America confirms, according to these historians, their unwavering loyalty to Judaism.
Most historians today probably reject both interpretations. No matter what motivation one imputes to the inquisitors, the once secret and immensely detailed archives of the Inquisition are there now for everyone to see, examine, and compare, and the stories they tell are clearly beyond the powers of even the most devious imagination. On the other hand, a simple loyalty to Judaism is inadequate to account for the regional and chronological differences in the manifestations of Marranism, to explain why some and not other Jewish traditions were retained, or to justify the protracted and voluntary lingering of most Marranos in Portugal, Spain, and the colonies.
Historians now generally acknowledge the variety of converso religious commitments spanning a spectrum from the sincere Christian via the indifferent or wavering converso to the sincere judaizer. They accept that the social experiences of the New Christians, such as "purity of blood" discrimination and pressures to assimilate, influenced the conversos' religious commitment so that every New Christian was a potential Marrano who by any one of a number of social accidents or personal idiosyncrasies could become an active judaizer. For them, Marranism was "a potential Judaism, which entry into a Jewish community transformed most often into a real Judaism" (Révah, 1959–1960, p. 55).
Another avenue of approach recognizes Marranism as a popular tradition—that is, as the continuation of a popular Jewish tradition that, even when Judaism was a licit religion in Spain and Portugal, had always differed from the Judaism of the rabbinically educated elite. The domestic centrality of popular religion lodges it primordially in a network of familial and ethnic ties at the same time that its private nature renders it less susceptible to public dynamics. The fortunes of popular religion and of Marranism, therefore, fluctuate with the individual's relation to their family, extended group of families, or ethnic community. This relation, in turn, is shaped by the family or ethnic community's place in society at large. Under the conditions of social discrimination prevailing in Portugal and Spain, the New Christian family or ethnic community experienced differing and intermittent forms of social rejection. At this point, Marranism became the focus of a counterculture, a rejection of the religious principles under which the New Christians were refused their equal place as Christians in Iberian society. The variety of converso commitments to Marranism, therefore, spans a spectrum from a more or less witting retention of popular Jewish traditions to a more or less willful embrace of New Christian counterculture.
Aftermath and Impact
The impact of the converso problem and the Marrano phenomenon on Iberian and Jewish history cannot be denied, however difficult it may be to gauge its profundity precisely. Scholarly estimations, therefore, vary widely, but the following observations have found a certain general acceptance.
Originally founded to inquire into the religious orthodoxy of the conversos, the Spanish and Portuguese Inquisitions usurped the supervision of many other religious affairs, set the strictest limits on religious dissension and innovation, and, in the end, encouraged Iberian Catholicism's drift toward conformism and ritualism. On the other side, the conversos' forced induction into Christianity, their rejection by Iberian society, and their involuntary marginality could not but have complicated New Christian attitudes toward Christianity in particular and toward religion in general. Some conversos vented their misgivings at contemporary Iberian Catholicism or sought satisfaction in more profound religious experiences than were available through the official church. New Christians were particularly numerous among the anticlerical, antiritualistic Erasmian humanists and pietists (e.g., Luis de León, 1527–1591, a poet and writer), some of whom (e.g., the Sevillian cleric Constantino Ponce de la Fuente) were confusedly accused of Lutheranism. Other New Christians were attracted to the urbane, reformist, heterodox mysticism of the alumbrados, who claimed direct, unmediated divine illumination (e.g., the brothers Ortiz), or to the enlightened and militant spirituality of the Jesuits (e.g., Laínez and Polanco, generals of the Jesuit order; possibly Juan de Mariana, a historian; and Baltasar Gracián y Morales, a writer). A few exceptional individuals (e.g., the cleric and reformer John of Ávila, Teresa of Ávila, and, possibly, the priest Miguel de Molinos) formulated their personal, mystical "innovations" in such orthodox terms that they passed even the rigorous examinations of the Inquisition. Other New Christians evaded the complication and retreated into religious indifference or a more or less radical rejection of any and all religions, with or without a public facade of piety and devotion. All in all, the criticism and spiritual quest, as well as the contrasting indifference of many sincerely Christian converses, left an indelible mark on the Christianity of sixteenth-century Spain and Portugal.
Various significant religious developments in seventeenth-century Jewish history, too, have been explained as reverberations of the Marrano phenomenon. Not surprisingly, among several first-generation Marrano refugees who reconverted to Judaism, one encounters an apologetic need to defend Jews and Judaism, as well as a polemic urge to counter the claims of Christianity, that is more common and more strong than that found among traditional Jews. Several of the apologetic works (e.g., those by Menasseh ben Israel, Isaac Cardoso, and Isaac Orobio de Castro) were published in the vernacular, became classics, and have influenced modern perceptions of Jews and Judaism. For reasons of law and self-censorship, the polemic treatises (e.g., by Eliau Montalto, Saul Levi Morteira, Orobio de Castro, and Abraham Gomes Silveyra) circulated in manuscript, in Spanish and Portuguese, among Jews only and have been brought to public attention only recently.
Scholars have also pointed to an unmistakable note of disillusionment with revealed and institutional religion among another group of ex-Marranos. They argue—differing in the weight they give this argument—that some Marranos carried their forceful rejection of Christianity over into a critique of parts or all of the Jewish tradition. Having lost faith in both the Christian and the Jewish traditions, these ex-Marranos joined the growing European community of skeptics; thus, each in a personal way projected a distinctly modern alternative to traditional revealed religion. Uriel da Costa (1585–1640) embraced Epicureanism; Barukh Spinoza pursued and reworked Cartesian philosophy to the point of amor Dei (sive Naturae) intellectualis (an intellectual love of God [or Nature]); and Isaac La Peyrère, according to one theory, envisioned a meta-Judeo-Christian messianism inspired by the manner in which the Marranos had combined and transcended both the Jewish and the Christian traditions.
Finally, ex-Marrano Jews played a leading role in the most important new Jewish movement of the seventeenth century, that of the pseudomessiah Shabbetai Tsevi. They were among the first and most ardent followers as soon as news of Shabbetai's messianic mission reached the European Jewish communities, and some (e.g., Abraham Cardoso) became prominent advocates of the heretical Shabbatean movement, which retained faith in Shabbetai's messiahship even after his apostasy. In the early days of the movement, ex-Marranos saw in Shabbetai Tsevi a confirmation of the Jewish messianic expectations many of them, as Marranos, had nurtured for several generations in the face of insistent Christian denunciations. Shabbetai's claims that he had apostatized for a messianic purpose reminded a few ex-Marranos of their former double life, and their acceptance of these claims helped put their guilt-laden memories in a new and positive light. Distinct echoes of the Marrano experience, therefore, resound in the two most novel Jewish movements of the seventeenth century: skepticism and mystical messianism.
Non-Iberian Parallels to Marranism
Jewish loyalties among converted Jews survived elsewhere and at other times in Jewish history. A certain degree of Marranism attended every instance of a forced conversion of Jews. In most cases, the forcibly converted Jews either fled and returned to Judaism, were eventually assimilated completely into the native population, or were permitted by a subsequent decree to return to Judaism. In a few cases, however, the forcibly converted Jews remained a group apart. Thus, in Italy in the early 1290s, the Jews of Apulia were forcibly converted. Throughout the fourteenth and much of the fifteenth centuries, sources continue to speak of the neofiti (neophytes) or mercanti (merchants), the descendants of these converted Jews, as a group that had not completely abandoned its ancestral Jewish practices.
The other documented cases of Marranism occurred in Persia, whose conversos are referred to as Jedidim. In the middle of the seventeenth century, first the Jews of Isfahan and later those of the rest of Persia were forcibly converted. The converts and their descendants were known as Jadid al-Islam (New Muslim). In 1839 the Jews of Mashhad were forcibly converted and also called Jadid al-Islam. In both cases the Jedidim successfully resisted pressures to intermarry with the rest of the Muslim population. The ultimate fate of the earlier Jedidim is not known. The Mashhad Jedidim, however, maintained themselves as a community through endogamy, religious leadership, and communal observances and instruction. Some settled elsewhere either as Jedidim or as Jews (as in Jerusalem in the 1890s) and so gave rise to an economically important Jadid diaspora; others remained in Persia, where they still formed a distinct Judeo-Muslim group as late as the 1940s.
In sum, Marrano-like survivals of Jewish loyalties among converted Jews appeared where the converted Jews chose to stay in their native land, where the religious and social intolerance that had given rise to the forced conversion persisted unabatedly for many subsequent generations, and where the Jewish, neophyte, or Jadid community constituted a more or less distinct and cohesive socioeconomic group. The extent to which variations in the intensity of Jewish commitments prior to conversion played a role in emergent Marranism cannot be precisely assessed.
Marranos in the Western Hemisphere
In the sixteenth century, Spanish conversos began to arrive in the Western Hemisphere along with the conquistadors. Some were seeking economic opportunities, and all were relieved to be far from the Spanish Inquisition's reach. Among them were judaizers, many of whom were tried by the Inquisitions established in Mexico and Peru during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Some moved north to territories that would later become part of the United States, while others remained in Mexico, Brazil, Peru, and elsewhere.
Many of these crypto-Jews passed on traditions to their children, but as time passed, this transmission became more and more problematic. The majority experienced life as Catholics (some as Protestants), yet some retained a sense of identity as Jews or continued hidden religious observances, such as candle lighting or baking special types of bread. Near the end of the twentieth century (in 1990, to be precise), a great deal of media attention began to be paid to those who are or claim to be their descendants. There is considerable controversy about the nature of their identity, their genuineness, and their motives, and about how to receive them. Quite a few crypto-Judaic societies have been established, especially in the Southwest United States (New Mexico, Texas, Arizona, and Colorado) while in Latin America many individuals have sought out rabbis or chosen to convert; some have even gone to Israel to study, convert, and live as Jews.
Domestic Observances, article on Jewish Practices; Heresy, article on Christian Concepts; Inquisition, The, article on The Inquisition in the Old World; Judaism; Messianism, article on Jewish Messianism; Polemics, article on Jewish-Christian Polemics; Rites of Passage, article on Jewish Rites; Shabbetai Tsevi; Spinoza, Barukh.
The first book-length study of the Marranos was Cecil Roth's A History of the Marranos (Philadelphia, 1932), which is now outdated and not always reliable. Roth summarized the then limited state of knowledge almost entirely on the basis of far from satisfactory secondary literature. Shorter, updated, better informed, and fully annotated is Israel S. Révah's "Les Marranos," Revue des études juives 108 (1959–1960): 2–77. A compilation of Marrano customs appears in David M. Gitlitz's Secrecy and Deceit: The Religion of the Crypto-Jews (Philadelphia, 1996). A comparative history of the conversos appears in Renée Levine Melammed's A Question of Identity: Iberian Conversos in Historical Perspective (New York, 2004).
Marranism in Spain and Portugal
For Spain we possess two substantial overviews: Julio Caro Baroja's Los Judíos en la España moderna y contemporánea, 3 vols. (Madrid, 1962), an uneven, but, when used with discrimination, extremely informative history by a well-known anthropologist; and Antonio Domínguez Ortiz's Los Judeoconversos en España y América (Madrid, 1971), a sober and judicious account by one of Spain's most eminent historians. The early history of the Marranos of Ciudad Real is covered on the basis of all available Inquisitorial documentation in Haim Beinart's Conversos on Trial (Jerusalem, 1981); a more exhaustive and surefooted treatment, especially of the Jewish element in Marranism, than the previous overviews. On the basis of contemporary Hebrew sources, Benzion Netanyahu's The Marranos of Spain from the Late Fourteenth to the Early Sixteenth Century (New York, 1966) argues against the theory of a persistent and vibrant judaizing among the forced converts. The unique role of women is analyzed in Renée Levine Melammed's Heretics or Daughters of Israel: The Crypto-Jewish Women of Castile (New York, 1999).
For Portugal, the classic account of João Lúcio d'Azevedo, História dos cristãos novos portugueses (Lisbon, 1921), focuses more on the political history of the New Christian problem than on the evolution of the Marrano phenomenon. Although primarily a history of the fierce political struggle surrounding the establishment of the Portuguese Inquisition, Alexandre Herculano's History of the Origin and Establishment of the Inquisition in Portugal, translated by John C. Branner (Stanford, Calif., 1926), contains much invaluable information on the early-sixteenth-century history of the Portuguese Marranos. António José Saraiva's Inquisição e cristãos-novos (Oporto, Portugal, 1969) interprets the Inquisition's prosecution of the Portuguese New Christians in terms of a class struggle. The best study of the Marranos in the Spanish and Portuguese colonies is Anita Novinsky's Cristãos novos na Bahia (São Paulo, 1972), which stresses the anti-Catholic, defensive nature of the Marrano phenomenon.
Marranos in a Non-Iberian Context
Surveying the Marranos in a non-Iberian context, Brian Pullan's The Jews of Europe and the Inquisition of Venice, 1550–1670 (Oxford, 1983) offers a new and promising perspective on Marranism in general.
Marranism has been studied successfully in a number of excellent biographies. Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi's From Spanish Court to Italian Ghetto: Isaac Cardoso; A Study in Seventeenth-Century Marranism and Jewish Apologetics (New York, 1971) delivers far more than the title indicates and probes deeply into the intellectual world of a Marrano who returned to Judaism. In Hebrew, Yosef Kaplan's From Christianity to Judaism: The Life and Work of Isaac Orobio de Castro (Jerusalem, 1982) meticulously reconstructs the life of another ex-Marrano. Martin A. Cohen's The Martyr: The Story of a Secret Jew and the Mexican Inquisition in the Sixteenth Century (Philadelphia, 1973) beautifully tells the story of the famous adventurer, Luis Carvajal the Younger.
Works of Related Interest
Edward Glaser's "Invitation to Intolerance: A Study of the Portuguese Sermons Preached at Autos-da-fé," Hebrew Union College Annual 27 (1956): 327–385, offers keen insights into the anti-converso mentality of the inquisitors. Albert A. Sicroff's Les controverses des statuts de "pureté de sang" en Espagne du quinzième au dix-septième siècle (Paris, 1960) gives a detailed outline of the intellectual debate surrounding the "purity of blood" statutes.
Daniel M. Swetschinski (1987)
Renée Levine Melammed (2005)
"Marranos." Encyclopedia of Religion. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 15, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/marranos
"Marranos." Encyclopedia of Religion. . Retrieved August 15, 2019 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/marranos