Ferrer, Vicente°

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FERRER, VICENTE ° (c. 1350–1419), Dominican friar, canonized by the Catholic Church. Some scholars consider that he was directly responsible for the anti-Jewish persecutions in Spain of 1391. However, it seems that he was on his way to Avignon at the time. In a Lenten sermon delivered in Valencia after the disorders, he condemned the behavior of the rioters. Ferrer advocated conversion to Christianity from conviction and emphasized more than once the Jewish origin of Jesus. Nevertheless his appearances provoked mass demonstrations accompanied by anti-Jewish outbursts. These took place in particular in the first and second decades of the 15th century. The conversion of *Solomon ha-Levi, rabbi of Burgos, and possibly that of Don Samuel *Abrabanel of Seville, are attributable to Ferrer's direct influence.

After the 1391 persecutions, when the problem of *Conversos arose, Ferrer initiated the policy toward the Jews adopted by the antipope Benedict xiii, by Ferdinand i of Aragon for whose choice as king in 1409 Ferrer was responsible, and by the queen mother Catalina, regent of Castile. This policy was embodied in social and communal, economic and legal restrictions in Aragon and Castile. In 1412, Ferrer collaborated with Pablo de Santa María in formulating the laws of Valladolid directed against the Jews. He used his influence to implement a program to evict the Jews from their quarters lest they should have a bad influence on the Christians, i.e., the Conversos, who still lived in their former homes.

Throughout this period, Ferrer went from place to place preaching. As a result of his sermons, the populace more than once refused to sell the Jews food supplies and other necessities. The Jews of Tamarite de Litera complained to Ferdinand i that they were afraid that anti-Jewish riots would occur as a result of Ferrer's sermons, and the king ordered the city officials to protect them (May 25, 1414). The Jews of Aynsa movedout of town when they heard that Ferrer was coming to preach there, and returned only after he had left (1414). Ferdinand compelled the Jews and Moors to listen to Ferrer's sermons and imposed heavy fines upon those who were absent. At the height of the disputation of *Tortosa (November 1413) Ferdinand wrote to Ferrer in Majorca, asking him to go to Tortosa in order to bring about the conversion of the Jews assembled there. From there he was to proceed to Saragossa, where the conversion of numerous Jews was also anticipated. A vessel was placed at the friar's disposal for this purpose. In May 1414 Ferdinand wrote to Ferrer rejoicing over the conversion of 122 Jews in Guadalajara. Ferrer evidently attempted to persuade the Jews to come to the baptismal font by all means except physical force. In 1408 he was in Italy where *Bernardino da Siena heard him preach in Alessandria and was thereby stimulated to imitate him.

Ferrer wrote several theological tracts but his sermons, numbering over 6,000, form his principal work. These he delivered in Catalan and they were then summarized in Latin.


Baer, Spain, index s.v.Vincent Ferrer; J.E. Martínez Ferrando, San Vicente Ferrer y la casa Real de Aragón (1955), incl. bibl.

[Haim Beinart and

Zvi Avneri]