8-MARRANOS

 

When the prelates decided to revamp the image of the revered messiah Apollonius by changing his name and turning him into the son of God, the founding fathers had a problem. The Apollonius lookalike had to be an Essene from Palestine, and that meant he had to be a Jew. How does one build a Roman religion based on the teachings of a Jew? Well, they did it by likening the money-lending Jews of the Temple of Jerusalem to Jews in general. By conjuring up a story where the invented messiah was violently opposed to the Jewish usurers, and where these same usurers were responsible for his horrible death on the cross, it would be one way to turn him into a very acceptable Jew. Furthermore, the faithful would readily accept the idea that Apollonius, their long-departed Greek messiah, had, some 300 years prior, accomplished miracles and was indeed the Son of God as touted by the prelates of the Church of Rome. Whether the results were desired or not, Jews would henceforth bear the Christ-killer stigma. Christians, believing that Jews were responsible for the death of their Christ, wouldn’t be unduly upset to see them tortured, burned at the stake, or despoiled and banned from their homes.

Geographically, France is the hub of Europe, and it naturally became the cornerstone of Christianity when the Church of Rome took over the administration of Gaul and the Western Roman Empire after Constantin’s departure for Byzantium. Clovis, a Frank, was the Church’s first anointed king of divine right, and during his reign, he did his best to persecute and convert the ‘barbarians’ who were by then called Arians.

Once the converting tactics were well under way, the Church of Rome turned its attention to the Jews. In 629 CE, the Pope directed King Dagobert to expulse the Jews from Christian Gaul. Later, in 996 CE, when King Robert the Pious came to power in France, he burned a great number of Jews at the stake. When in 1009 the Muslims burned the alleged Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, the Christians blamed the Jews, and consequently, many French Jews were again tortured and massacred. Later, in 1096, Jews started being systematically despoiled, and burned at the stake or expulsed from the realm. It was the start of the first crusade, and Philip 1st and his noblemen had taken advantage of the situation in order to replenish their coffers. By despoiling the Jews and expulsing them, they were killing two birds with one stone. Philip was not only doing his Christian duty but he had found a way to finance the crusade ordered by Pope Urban II. Over the next centuries, when King Philippe Augustus and others needed money they would let the Jews back in for a fee, and the whole process would start over again. However, in 1394, Charles VI officially declared the definite expulsion of Jews from France, and as many as 100 000 French Jews made their way to Spain.

They chose Spain not only because it was close to France, but it was also because the Muslims were by then in full control of Spain and were more tolerant towards other religious groups. But when the Christians reconquered the Iberian Peninsula in 1478, the Pope ordered an Inquisition as soon as it became feasible. The Jews were again forced to convert to Christianity, and if they refused, they were burned at the stake. Understandably, many Sephardim chose to convert while continuing to practise their religion in secret, and they became known as Marranos. In 1492, they were expelled from Spain and many of them fled to Portugal and Morocco.

In 1536, there was another Inquisition directed at Jews in Portugal. Once more, facing torture and death, many Jews fled. This time, because a world shattering event had just taken place in England, many of the great banking and shipbuilding Jewish families chose to go there. It had to do with Henry VIII after the Pope had refused to annul his marriage. The Pope, who was in the habit of arranging and annulling royal marriages for political and religious reasons, had refused to grant Henry VIII his divorce, and here’s why. King Henry had married a Spaniard, Catherine of Aragon, and since the Church of Rome considered the Kingdom of Spain much more important than the Kingdom of England, it was therefore unwilling to displease the King of Spain. When the Pope refused to grant Henry VIII his request, the latter was so determined to have a son that his present wife could not give him that he declared himself head of the Church in England, separated from Rome, and divorced Catherine.

In the process, England was deprived of the financial services of Rome. At first, Henry sold off all the unprofitable Church property and even had his friends rummage through the unsold properties for possible treasures and valuable materials, but it was a futile move. Most of the revenue derived from these operations ended up in the hands of those doing the demolishing and the selling, and very little revenue reached the state coffers. Not surprisingly, many old aristocratic families are to this day indebted and loyal to the King of England.

With no other option, Henry decided to admit the Jews back into England. The Jews had been expelled from England since 1290, but these were special Jews. The Marranos or Conversos, as they were called, professed to be Christians when in fact they still practised their religion in secret. But Henry overlooked their deceitfulness, for he was in dire financial straits and needed their financial skills. In accepting Jews for their financial skills and Huguenots for their great entrepreneurship, Henry caused a breach in the foundation of the Holy Roman Empire as a financial and political power.

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