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Vera Y Alarcon, Lope de


VERA Y ALARCON, LOPE DE (1620–1644), Spanish martyr. Vera was born at San Clemente in La Mancha, Spain, to a Christian noble family. At 14 he entered the University of Salamanca, where he excelled in ancient languages, particularly Hebrew. He competed, albeit unsuccessfully, for a university professorship in Hebrew when only 19. The continual reading of the Hebrew Bible led him to follow the Law and he came to consider himself a practitioner of Judaism. When he tried to share his new convictions with a friend – perhaps his brother – he was denounced to the Inquisition and arrested for heresy on June 24, 1639. The trial dragged on for over a year. At the hearing of May 29, 1641, Vera announced that he was intent on becoming a Jew. The Holy Office subjected him to torture, to confrontations with leading churchmen, and to the harassment of his relatives, but could not change his mind. One night in his cell, Vera fashioned a bone knife and circumcised himself, thereafter calling himself Judah the Believer. The tribunal tried to compromise him by means of theological debates, but Vera remained silent even under duress and he was finally permitted to set out his views fully in writing. Having lost all hope of reclaiming Vera's soul, the Inquisition consigned him to the stake at Valladolid on June 25, 1644. Vera's martyrdom made a profound impression on the *Marranos and Jews throughout Europe. Interest in the particulars of the episode was so intense that the document in which Vera propounded his views was smuggled out of the Inquisition palace and deposited in the library of the talmud torah at *Leghorn, Italy, where it remained. The inquisitor Bartholomeo Marques Mirezo noted with a tinge of admiration, "Vera was the Church's greatest heretic"; but 100 years later a Spanish writer explained away Vera's heresy as the result of his probably having had a Marrano nursemaid during infancy.


C. Roth, Personalities and Events in Jewish History (1953), 182–91; L.D. Barnett, in: jqr, 15 (1924–25), 229–39.

[Aaron Lichtenstein]

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