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.

6-THE RISE OF FRANCE

Shortly before the convening of the Council of Nicaea in 325 CE, Emperor Constantine gave the Lateran Palace estate, the land where the Vatican stands today, to the bishop of Rome. For the western world, this was to be the center of power, religious, political and financial, right up to the City bankers’ takeover in 1688.

Shortly after the Council of Nicaea, the Christian bishops, supported by the Roman emperor, started Christianising the Arian ‘barbarians’ who occupied most of the empire. But the new Trinitarian religion that stated that the bishop of Rome was the representative of God on earth and that his authority had precedence over that of the ‘barbarian’ kings, was vigorously opposed by the latter. The Arian barbarians were followers of Apollonius, a holy man and prophet, and they found the concept of the Holy Trinity, where the son of God had come down on earth in person, totally absurd. They were more in tune with the doctrine that stated that Mother Earth was the ultimate source of power. They were prepared to accept the Roman administration, and even to live in harmony with the Roman civil servants, but they could not accept the archaic Roman religion nor the new Trinitarian religion.

That is why the bishop of Rome and the emperor had to resort to force. When, in 486, at the age of twenty, a certain Clovis, king of the Salian Franks, won the battle of Soissons against Syagrius, the bishops realized that they had found their strong man. In order to convert Clovis to Christianity, they arranged to have him meet Clotilde, a Christian Burgundian. He married her in 493, and once the kingdom of the Salian Franks was allied to the kingdom of the Burgundians and to that of Soissons, Clovis was able to go after the Alamans to the east and the Visigoths to the south.

During the Battle of Tolbiac against the Alamans in 496, the Frankish warriors, Salians and Ripuarians, were far outnumbered by their opponent. Clovis, seeing victory escape him, decided to invoke the God of his wife Clotilde, asking him to intervene. When the Alamans fled, their chief having been killed by a flying ax, the Franks claimed victory, and Clovis converted to Christianity.

On December 25, 498, Clovis was baptized and anointed king by Saint Rémi in Reims. From that moment onwards, the conquered Arians were not unhappy to have Christian Franks as masters, and Clovis adroitly exploited his status as the first king of divine right.

Later in 507, Clovis’ campaign against the Visigoths took on the appearance of a crusade, and the decisive battle took place in the plain of Vouillé, near Poitiers, a battle from which Clovis emerged victorious. Alaric II, king of the Visigoths, perished in the fray, and Clovis not only seized a big slice of the Visigoth kingdom but also managed to get his hands on Alaric’s treasure which was in Toulouse.

When Clovis died in 511, the vanquished Arians had by then accepted the Trinitarian religion, and the Frankish kingdom had become a Christian kingdom. France was an important part of the Holy Roman Empire, for it was not only its geographical centerpiece but it played a major role politically and militarily.

Clovis’ military successes against the Alamans and Visigoths, as well as those of his sons against the Burgundians, were such that Arianism disappeared almost completely from what is today Europe, the only exception being the Lombards in Italy. After Charlemagne defeated the Lombards in 770, Arianism was totally eradicated from the empire. When Charlemagne was crowned King of the Franks in 768, and especially when he was anointed Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire in Rome, in 800, it meant the rule by kings of divine right was entrenched with France leading the way. It remained so for the next thousand years.