The extravagant story related by Martinez Moreno, the parish priest of La Guardia, in his little book on the Santo Niño, is derived, as we have said, partly from the “Testimonio” and partly from the “Memoria” by de Vegas; further, it embodies all those legendary, supernatural details with which the popular imagination had embellished the theme.

Either it is one of those deliberate frauds known as “pious,” or else it is the production of an intensely foolish mind. When we consider that the author was a doctor of divinity and an inquisitor himself, we prefer to incline to the former alternative.

This mixture of fact and fiction sets forth how a party of Jews from the townships of Quintana, Tenbleque, and La Guardia, having witnessed an Auto de Fé in Toledo, were so filled with rage and fury, not only against the Holy Tribunal, but against all Christians in general, that they conspired together to encompass a complete annihilation of the Faithful.

Amongst them was one Benito Garcia, a wool-comber of Las Mesuras, who was something of a traveller, and who had learnt upon his travels of a piece of sorcery attempted in France for the destruction of the Christians, which had miscarried owing to a deception practised upon the sorcerers.

The story is worth repeating for the sake of the light it throws upon the credulity of the simple folk of Spain in such matters, a credulity which in remote districts of the peninsula is almost as vigorous to-day as it was in Moreno’s century.

The warlocks, in that earlier instance of which Benito had knowledge, were alleged to be a party of Jews who had fled from Spain on the first institution of the Inquisition in Seville in 1482. They had repaired to France bent upon the destruction of all Christians, to the end that the Children of Israel might become lords of the land, and that the Law of Moses might prevail. For the sorcery to which they proposed to resort they required a consecrated wafer and the heart of a Christian child. These were to be reduced to ashes to the accompaniment of certain incantations, and scattered in the rivers of the country, with the result that all Christians who drank the waters must go mad and die.

Having obtained the wafer, they now approached an impoverished Christian with a large family, and tempted him with money to sell them the heart of one of his numerous children. The Christian, of course, repudiated the monstrous proposal. But his wife, who combined cunning with cupidity, drove with the Jews the bargain to which her husband refused to be a party, and having killed a pig she sold them the heart of the animal under obviously false pretences.

As a consequence, the enchantment which the deluded Jews proceeded to carry out had no such effect as was desired and expected.

Armed with his full knowledge of what had happened, Benito now proposed to his friends that they should have recourse to the same enchantment in Spain, making sure, however, that the heart employed was that of a Christian boy. He promised them that by this means, not only the inquisitors, but all the Christians would be destroyed, and the Israelites would remain undisputed lords of Spain.


Photo by Donald Macbeth.

From Limborch’s “Historia Inquisitionis.”

Amongst those who joined him in the plot was a man named Juan Franco, of a family of carriers of La Guardia. This man went with Benito to Toledo on the Feast of the Assumption, intent upon finding a child for their purpose. They drove there in a cart, which they left outside the city while they went separately about their quest.

Franco found what he sought in one of the doorways of the Cathedral, known as the Puerta del Perdon—the door, adds Moreno, through which the Virgin entered the church when she came from heaven to honour with the chasuble her votary St. Ildefonso. The Jew beheld in this doorway a very beautiful child of three or four years of age, the son of Alonso de Pasamontes. His mother was near at hand, but she was conveniently blind—i.e. conveniently for the development of Moreno’s story, this blindness serving not only the purpose of rendering the child’s undetected abduction easily possible, but also that of affording the martyred infant scope for the first miraculous manifestation of his sanctity.

Juan Franco lured the boy away with the offer of sweetmeats. He regained his cart with his victim, concealed the latter therein, and so returned to La Guardia. There he kept the child closely and safely until Passion Week of the following year, or, rather, until the season of the Passover, when the eleven Jews—six of whom had received Christian baptism—assembled in La Guardia. They took the child by night to a cave in the hills above the river, and there they compelled him to play the protagonist part in a detailed parody of the Passion, scourging him, crowning him with thorns, and finally nailing him to a cross.

On the subject of the scourging, Moreno tells us that the Jews carefully counted the number of lashes, aiming in this, as in all other details, at the greatest historical fidelity. But when the child had borne without murmuring upwards of five thousand strokes, he suddenly began to cry. One of the Jews—finding, we are to suppose, that this weeping required explanation—asked him: “Boy, why are you crying?”

To this the boy replied that he was crying because he had received five lashes more than his Divine Master.

“So that,” says this doctor of divinity quite soberly, “if the lashes received by Christ numbered 5,495, as computed by Lodulfo Cartujano in his ‘In Vita Christi,’ those received by the Holy Child Christoval were 5,500.”162

He mentions here the child’s name as “Christoval,” to which he informs us that it was changed from “Juan,” to the end that the former might more aptly express the manner of his death. There is no doubt that some such consideration weighed when the child was given that suggestive name; but the real reason for it was that no name was known (for the identity of the boy did not transpire), and it was necessary to supply him with one by which he might be worshipped.

When he was crucified, his side was opened by one of the Jews, who began to rummage163 for the child’s heart. He failed to find it, and he was suddenly checked by the child’s question—“What do you seek, Jew? If you seek my heart, you are in error to seek it on that side; seek on the other, and you will find it.”

In the very moment of his death, Moreno tells us, the Santo Niño performed his first miracle. His mother, who had been blind from birth, received the gift of sight in the instant that her child expired.164

This interpolation appears to be entirely Moreno’s own, and it is one of the justifications of our assumption that the work is to be placed in the category of pious frauds. But he is, of course, mistaken, by his own narrative, in announcing this as the first of the child’s miracles. He overlooks the miracle entailed in the capacity to count displayed by a boy of four years of age, and the further miracle of the speech addressed by the crucified infant to the Jew who had opened his side.

Benito Garcia was given the heart, together with a consecrated wafer which had been stolen by the sacristan of the Church of Sta. Maria de La Guardia, and with these he departed to seek out the mage who was to perform the enchantment. It happened, however, that in passing through Astorga, Benito—who was himself a converso—pretending that he was a faithful Catholic, repaired to church, and, kneeling there, the more thoroughly to perform this comedy of devoutness, he pulled out a Prayer Book, between the leaves of which the consecrated wafer had been secreted.

A good Christian kneeling some little way behind him was startled to see a resplendent effluence of light from the book. Naturally he concluded that he was in the presence of a miracle, and that this stranger was some very holy man. Filled with reverent interest, he followed the Jew to the inn where he was lodged, and then went straight to the father inquisitors to inform them of the portent he had witnessed, that they might investigate it.

The inquisitors sent their familiars to find the man, and at sight of them Benito fell into terror, “so that his very face manifested how great was his crime.” He was at once arrested, and taken before the inquisitors for examination. There he immediately confessed the whole affair.

Upon being desired to surrender the heart, he produced the box in which it had been placed, but upon opening the cloth that had been wrapped round it, the heart was discovered to have miraculously vanished.

Yet another miracle mentioned by Moreno is that when the inquisitors opened the grave where it was said that the infant had been buried, they found the place empty, and the Doctor considers that since the child had suffered all the bitterness of the Saviour’s Passion, it was God’s will that he should also know the glories of the Resurrection, and that his body had been assoomed into heaven.

The “Testimonio” from the archives of the parochial church of La Guardia, printed on tablets preserved in the Sanctuary of the Santo Niño, is quoted by Moreno,165 and runs as follows:

“We, Pedro de Tapia, Alonso Doriga and Matheo Vazquez, secretaries of the Council of the Holy and General Inquisition, witness to all who may see this that by certain proceedings taken by the Holy Office in the year 1491, the Most Reverend Frey Tomás de Torquemada being Inquisitor-General in the Kingdoms of Spain, and the inquisitors and judges by him deputed in the City of Avila being the Very Reverend Dr. D. Pedro de Villada, Abbot of San Marcial and San Millan in the Churches of Leon and Burgos, the Licentiate Juan Lopez de Cigales, Canon of the Church of Cuenca, and Frey Fernando de Santo Domingo of the Order of Preachers, inquisitors as is said against heretical pravity, and with power and special commission from the Very Reverend D. Pedro Gonzalez de Mendoza, Cardinal of Santa Cruz, Archbishop of Toledo, Primate of Spain, Grand Chancellor of Castile, and Bishop of Siguenza.

“It transpires that the said inquisitors proceeding against certain Jews and some New-Christians converted from Jews, of the neighbourhood of La Guardia, Quintanar, and Tenbleque, ascertained that amongst other crimes by these committed was that: one of the said Jews and one of the newly-converted being in Toledo and witnessing a burning that was being done by the Holy Office in that city, they were cast down by this execution of justice. The Jew said to the convert that he feared the great harm that might come and did come to them from the Holy Inquisition, and having treated of various matters germane to this subject, the Jew said that if they could obtain the heart of a Christian boy all could be remedied. And so, after his wide practice in this matter, the Jew from the neighbourhood of Quintanar undertook to procure a Christian boy for the said purpose.

“And it was agreed that the said New-Christian should go to Quintanar as soon as bidden by the Jew; and upon this understanding each of the aforesaid left the City of Toledo and returned to his own district.

“A few days later the said Jew summoned the New-Christian to come to him in the village of Tenbleque, where he awaited him in his father’s house. There they foregathered, and agreed upon a day when they should meet at Quintanar, whither the New-Christian now returned, and informed, as he had agreed, a brother of his own, who like himself was also a New-Christian, and he related fully all that had been arranged, his brother being of the same mind.

“The better to execute their accursed project, they arranged a place to which the child should be brought, and what was to be done—that this should be in a cave near La Guardia, on the road to Ocaña, on the right-hand side. And thus to execute the matter, the said New-Christian went to Quintanar on the day arranged together with the said Jew.

“The better to dissemble, he went to a tavern, where presently he was able to communicate with the Jew, and as a result of what passed between them, the New-Christian went out to await him on the road to Villa Palomas in a ravine, where presently he was joined by the said Jew on an ass with the child before him—of the age of three or four years.

“They went on together, and arrived after nightfall at the said cave, whither came, as was arranged, the brother of the New-Christian, and with him other newly-converted Jews, with whom it appears that the aforesaid matter had been treated.

“Being all assembled in the cave, they lighted a candle of yellow wax, and so that the light should not be seen they hung a cloak over the mouth of the cave. They seized the boy, whom the said Jew had taken from the Puerta del Perdon in Toledo—which boy was named Juan, son of Alonso Pasamontes and of Juana La Guindera. The said New-Christians now made a cross out of the timbers of a ladder which had been brought from a mill. They threw a rope round the boy’s neck and they set him on the cross, and with another rope they tied his legs and arms, and they nailed his feet and hands to the cross with nails.

“Being thus placed (puesto), one of the New-Christians from the neighbourhood of La Guardia bled the child, opening the veins of his arms with a knife, and he caught the blood that flowed in a cauldron; and with a rope in which they had tied knots some whipped him, whilst others set a crown of thorns upon his head. They struck him, spat upon him, and used opprobrious words to him, pretending that what they were saying to the said child was addressed to the Person of Christ. And whilst they whipped him, they said: ‘Betrayer, trickster, who, when you preached, preached falsehood against the Law of God and Moses; now you shall pay here for what you said then. You thought to destroy us and to exalt yourself. But we shall destroy you.’ And further: ‘Crucify this betrayer who once announced himself King, who was to destroy our temple....’ etc. etc.166

“After the ill-treatment and vituperation, one of the New-Christians from La Guardia opened the left side of the child with a knife and drew out his heart, upon which he threw some salt; and so the child expired upon the cross. All of which was done in mockery of the Passion of Christ; and some of the New-Christians took the body of the child and buried it in a vineyard near Sta. Maria de Pera.

“A few days later the said Jew and New-Christians met again in the cave and attempted certain enchantments and conjurations with the heart of the child and a consecrated Host obtained through a sacristan who was a New-Christian. This conjuration and experiment they performed with the intention that the inquisitors of heretical pravity and all other Christians should enrage and die raging (rabiendo), and the Law of Jesus Christ our Redeemer should be entirely destroyed and superseded by the Law of Moses.

“When they saw that the said experiment did not operate nor had the result they hoped, they assembled again elsewhere, and having treated of all that they desired to effect, by common consent one of them was sent with the heart of the said child and the consecrated Host to the Aljama of Zamora, which they accounted the principal Aljama in Castile, to the end that certain Jews there, known to be wise men, should with the said heart and Host perform the said experiment and sorcery that the Christians might enrage and die, and thus accomplish what they so ardently desired.

“And for the greater ascertaining of the crime and demonstration of the truth, the said inquisitors having arrested some of the said offenders, New-Christians and Jews, they set the accused face to face, so that in the confession of their crimes there was conformity, and these confessions consisted of what has been here set down. In addition other further steps were taken to verify the places where the crimes were committed and the place where the child was buried; and they took one of the principal accused to the place where the child was buried, and there they found signs and demonstration of the truth of all.167 Some of the said accused, and some already deceased, being prosecuted, they were sentenced and abandoned to the secular arm, all that we have set down being in accordance with the records of the proceedings to which we refer.

“The said ‘Testimonio’ written upon three sheets bearing our rubrics, we the said secretaries deliver by request of the Procurator-General of the village of La Guardia, by order of the Very Illustrious Señores of His Majesty’s Council of the Holy Inquisition in the City of Madrid in the Diocese of Toledo, on the 19th day of September of the year of the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, 1569.

“Alonso de Doriga = Nec auro frangenda fides.
Matheo Vazquez = In cujus fide fœdera consistunt.
Pedro de Tapia.”

This “Testimonio” does not afford us the name of any one of the offenders—presumably that the holy place in which the tablets were exposed should not be desecrated. When it is compared with the account left by Moreno and the discrepancies between the two become apparent, when, further, the extravagances of Moreno’s story are considered, it is not surprising that the conclusion should have been reached that the whole affair was trumped up to forward that campaign against the Jews to which Torquemada was employing his enormous energies.

But the records of the trial of Yucé Franco discovered by Fidel Fita throw a very different light upon the matter. And whilst we know that Torquemada did avail himself to the utmost of this affair of the Santo Niño to encompass the banishment of the Jews from Spain, we must consider all notion that he himself simply invented the story to that end as completely dispelled by the evidence that is now to be examined.

From the records of the trial of Yucé Franco we are to-day not only able very largely to reconstruct the event, but also to present a complete instance of the application of the jurisprudence of the Inquisition. Indeed, had the archives of the Holy Office been ransacked for an entirely typical prosecution, embodying all the features peculiar to that terrible court, no better instance than this could have been forthcoming.

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