It might now be said that, thanks to the patient efforts which the inquisitors themselves have been exerting for close upon a year, the prosecutor is at last furnished with the evidence necessary to support his original charge against Yucé Franco.

To this end he appears before the court on that same October 21, 1491, to present in proof of his denunciation the entire dossier, as taken down by the notary of the tribunal. He begs that Yucé be brought into the audience-chamber to hear the additions which he has to make to the original charge. These additions are the matters lately extracted from Ocaña and Benito Garcia: that Yucé used vituperative words to the child when he was being crucified, and that these vituperations were really aimed at our Lord Jesus Christ and His Holy Catholic Faith; that he struck the boy many times, and that he drew blood from the boy’s arm with a penknife. Wherefore, he begs the inquisitors to abandon the prisoner to the secular arm, as is right and proper.203

He does not, however, add that Yucé’s brother had procured the child, and that Yucé was one of those who brought him to the cave and who summoned the Francos to attend—an omission which shows the credit attached to Ocaña’s statement and its lack of corroboration.

Yucé’s answer is a denial of all that is alleged and added by the Fiscal, the lad protesting that he never did or said anything beyond what he has, himself, confessed.

Guevára, thereupon, petitions the court to permit him to submit his proofs of the matters of which he accuses the prisoner, and the court having accorded him this petition, he puts in as evidence the entire dossier from which we have drawn these pages on the subject.204

Five days later both parties are again before the court, Guevára now petitioning their Reverend Paternities to pass to the publication of witnesses, that the trial may be brought to its conclusion. Dr. Villada announces his readiness to do so, but accords the defendants three days within which to lodge any objection to any of the matter contained in the depositions.

Yucé begs through his advocate that copies be given him of all the depositions of those who were present at the crucifixion, with the name of each hostile witness and a statement of the day, month, year, and place in which anything alleged against him is said to have taken place.

But Guevára immediately objects, urging that in the copies of the depositions to be given defendant, no names shall appear of any of the witnesses who had deponed, and no circumstances shall be included which might enable Yucé to conjecture the names. It seems a purely formal objection; for after the confrontations there have been it appears to serve very little purpose. But some purpose it does serve, because those confrontations after all were limited to Ocaña and Benito, and from the moment that it was not considered necessary to proceed to confrontation with any of the other prisoners it would seem that they had needed no such spur to drive them into depositions hostile to Yucé.

However, the reverend inquisitor replies loftily enough that he will do what justice demands, and he orders the notary to deliver to Yucé copies of all the depositions against him. But from Yucé’s advocate’s plea on October 29—upon the expiry of the three days appointed—it is plain that the particulars claimed have been withheld.

From the fact that the advocate Sanç has drawn up so strong an objection on behalf of his client, it is perfectly clear that even at this date Yucé’s guilt of heresy cannot be considered as established. If that were the case, Sanç, in obedience to the oath imposed upon him when entrusted with the defence, would have been compelled to lay down his brief and withdraw.

Yucé denies all the allegations against him which charge him with having taken any active part in the crucifixion of the boy, and he protests that he is unable properly to defend himself because the copies of the depositions supplied him do not mention time or place of the alleged offences nor yet the names of the witnesses by whom these allegations are made. Upon the assumption, however, that these deponents are Benito Garcia, Juan Franco, and Juan de Ocaña, he proceeds to answer the charges as best he can.

This answer consists of a repudiation of those depositions as inadmissible upon the grounds that they do not agree one with another, and that each refers to a separate circumstance, no two confirming any one particular accusation, and all being contrary to what the same witnesses had stated in confrontation with the defendant, when each had acknowledged that Yucé’s relation of the events was the true one. Hence it is established that on one or the other of these occasions they must have lied, from which it follows that they are perjured and unworthy of faith.

Further, he claims that they may not be admitted as witnesses because they were, themselves, participators in the crime committed. Finally, he declares that their implication of himself is an act of spite and vengeance upon him. It is his full and faithful confession which has placed the inquisitors in possession of the facts of the case and the names of the offenders, and the latter are determined that since they themselves must die, Yucé shall die with them—out of which malice and enmity they have accused him.

Upon these grounds, and insisting that he has told them the utter and complete truth, and that he himself was no more than a witness of the events, and in no way a participator, Yucé bases his defence, and begs that the depositions should cease to weigh against him.205

Guevára’s answer, if it inclines to the grotesque, is quite typical, and is certainly more to the taste of the court.

He denies that the witnesses are inspired by any such animosity as Yucé suggests, and he asserts that they have deponed “with devout zeal of faith, and to deliver their souls from peril.” And amongst these, be it remembered, was Benito Garcia, who conceived that the worst thing he had ever done in his life had been to get himself baptized a Christian, and who continued firm in his resolve to die a Jew at all costs. Only at the very stake itself—as we shall see—did he recant again, that he might earn the mercy of strangulation. Yet Guevára does not hesitate to say—what he must know to be untrue—that these men have confessed “with devout zeal of faith.”

On these grounds Guevára urges that the depositions must be admitted as made in good faith and as proof; and since the said Yucé Franco would not spontaneously confess all that he had done, their Reverend Paternities should put him to the question of torture, as by law prescribed in such circumstances as the present.206

The court agrees with its Fiscal and proceeds to draw up a list of fifteen questions to be put to the accused.207

With this list the inquisitors Villada and Santo Domingo, accompanied by their notary, go down into the prisons of the Inquisition on November 2, and order Yucé Franco to be brought before them.

“Very lovingly and humanely” they admonish him to tell the whole truth of the things known to him that are the business of the Holy Office, and particularly in answer to the questions they have prepared. These questions being summed up amount to the following: Whence was the child that was crucified? Whose child was it? Who brought it to the cave? Who first set on foot this affair?

They promise him that if he makes truthful answer they will use him as mercifully as the law and their consciences permit.

Yucé has cause to mistrust any such promises. His first confession was made three months ago under a promise of pardon, and he has every reason to suppose that it has been the ruin of him.

He says, however, that being in the cave on the occasion when they foregathered there for the enchantment—about fourteen days after the crucifixion—he heard Tazarte inquire whence was the child, and Juan Franco replied before all that it was from a place whence it would never be missed, “as stated in his confession.”

(When last asked this question—at the time of making his confession—he had attributed these words to Tazarte.)

He protests that he can remember no more than he has already confessed.

Their Reverend Paternities deplore his stubbornness. They tell him that since he will not speak the entire truth of what he knows—as they have proof—they must proceed to other measures. They summon Diego Martin, the torturer, and into his hands they deliver the prisoner, with orders to take him to the torture-chamber, strip him naked, and bind him to the escalera—intending, if necessary, to proceed to the water-torture.

This is done, and Yucé is stretched naked and cruelly bound with ropes that bite into his flesh as a foretaste of the garrote by which his torments will commence. The inquisitors enter—possibly after a delay sufficient to allow the mental torture of anticipation to terrorize the patient into a more amenable frame of mind.

Again they admonish him for his own sake to speak what he knows, and they even point out to him that it is his duty as a God-fearing Jew to speak the truth. Again they promise to deal mercifully with him if he will answer their questions fully and truthfully; and lastly they protest that if his blood is shed in the course of what is to follow, or should he suffer any other harm, or mutilation of limb, or even death, the blame must fall entirely upon himself and nowise upon their reverences.

Fully intimidated by this skilful accumulation of terrorizing agents, Yucé implores them to repeat their questions, which he will do his best to answer.

“Whence,” they ask him again, “was the boy who was crucified at La Guardia?”

“Juan Franco,” he replies, “brought him from Toledo.” He adds that Juan Franco announced this before them all, and told them that he had kept the child concealed in La Hos de La Guardia for a day before bringing him to the cave to be crucified.

Photo by Donald Macbeth.

From Limborch’s ‘Historia Inquisitionis.’

What is not to be explained is why Yucé should have waited until he was strapped to the escalera before making this statement. Why did he not make it when the question was asked him at his last examination—if not in his original confession? It cannot be pretended that he was endeavouring to screen Juan Franco, because he has very amply betrayed him in other ways. Is the explanation that under fear of torture he felt the need to invent an answer likely to satisfy the inquisitors? It can hardly be that, because Juan Franco himself is to admit—as we shall see—the truth of this detail. It only remains to be supposed that the lively fear of torture had sharpened the young Jew’s memory. But that again seems hardly satisfactory as an explanation.

“Where,” they ask him next, “is La Hos?”

“It is,” he replies, “a meadow by the River Algodor,” and he goes on to explain that Juan Franco had told them all that he had taken a load of wheat to Toledo to sell, and that, having sold it, he went to an inn, and later on he found the boy in a doorway and coaxed him away with nuégados (a sweetmeat composed of flour, honey, and nuts—nougat). Thus he got him into his cart and brought him to La Guardia.

Yucé doesn’t know who were the child’s parents, nor in what street of Toledo he was taken by Juan Franco, as the latter did not mention those particulars.

“Who were the first to propose the affair? Did the Jews engage the Christians in it, or the Christians engage the Jews?”

He answers that the Francos of La Guardia, fearing the Inquisition, performed an enchantment in the first instance with a consecrated wafer, as he has already confessed (October 11), and then repaired to Tazarte asking him to do something more efficacious, as the sorcery with the wafer had had no result. Tazarte agreed, and bade them procure a Christian boy for the purpose. When Juan Franco brought him, it was decided to cut out his heart, that with this heart and a wafer a stronger enchantment might be performed.

“Why was he done to death by crucifixion rather than in any other way?”

Yucé believes that the crucifixion was preferred in vituperation of Jesus Christ. But again he protests that his own share was no more than he has confessed already.

“What were the particular vituperations used to the child, and by whom?”

His answer to this question incriminates all those who were present at the affair; the vituperations which he tells the inquisitors were employed were rather indecent, and include a scurrilous version of the Incarnation which would, no doubt, be current at the time among Jews and other enemies of Christianity in Spain and elsewhere—a story, it is needless to add, entirely idle and foolish, and rather the obvious thing to be conceived in those days against any historical character who might be detested.

He says that Tazarte was the leader in all the vituperations (which sounds likely enough, as Tazarte was the celebrant), that the others uttered them after him, and he admits that he himself said some of the things which he has mentioned, but he doesn’t enter into particulars.

“For what purpose were the heart and the Host required, and what good purpose was expected to be served by these sorceries?”

He replies that these things were done to the end that the inquisitors or any others who should aim at molesting these Christians concerned should die of rabies.

“What advantage did the Jews look to gain?”

He states that Tazarte had assured them that as a consequence of the enchantment all Christians in the land must either perish or become Jews, so that the Law of Moses should triumph and prevail.

“To whom were the heart and the Host to be delivered for the said enchantment?”

“To Mosé Abenamias at Zamora.”

“Was Abenamias himself to perform the enchantment?”

“No; he was to give orders for its performance to a wizard of Zamora.”

“Does he, or do any of the others, know the said wizard, and what is his name?”

He cannot answer the question, beyond telling them that he had heard Tazarte say that he knew Abenamias and the wizard, and that he had been to school with the latter.

“How many times did they assemble to decide upon the crucifixion?”

He knows that all (with the exception of himself) assembled in the same cave to perform an enchantment with a Host on an occasion previous to that of the boy’s crucifixion. He knows this because he was invited to the gathering; he did not wish to go, and so stayed away, but he was told afterwards by the others what had been done.

“What Christians does he know to have kept the Sabbath, the Passover, and to have performed Jewish rites?”

He says that Benito once came to their house at Tenbleque and spent a Sabbath with them, doing no work, eating adafinas and drinking Caser wine; and that he came upon another occasion and asked them when was the fast of Tisabeaf (the eve of Purim), and that he believes that, being informed of this, he kept that fast.

He can remember no others, excepting one Diego de Ayllon and three of his daughters and a son, all of whom kept the Sabbath and observed the law of Moses in secret; and the widow of one Juan de Origuela, deceased, who sometimes kept Jewish fasts; and Juan Vermejo of Tenbleque, whom he knows once to have kept the great fast.

These names are duly noted on the margin of the notary’s document as matters of importance which need inquiring into.

“Whence was the wafer procured, and how does he know that it was consecrated?”

He answers that when they assembled, a fortnight after the crucifixion, he heard Alonso Franco say that he had taken it from the monstrance in the Church of Romeral, replacing it by an unconsecrated wafer.

“Was this the wafer given to Tazarte with the heart?”

He believes so, but he is not sure, nor does he know what became of it.

“Who brought the other wafer given to Benito, and whence was it obtained?”

Alonso brought it, and said that he had obtained it in the church of La Guardia, and that it was consecrated. But Yucé doesn’t know if anyone gave it to him.208

This confession Yucé ratified two days later, adding now that Juan and Garcia Franco together had brought the boy, and that one had remained at La Hos with him whilst the other had come to La Guardia. Further, he adds that the letter to Abenamias at Zamora bore six signatures—Tazarte’s, Alonso Franco’s, Benito Garcia’s, Yucé Franco’s own, his brother’s, and one other which he can’t recall.209

We have already indicated that a mystery attaches to this letter. What has become of it? We are told that Benito bore it together with the Host. How does it happen that it was not taken together with the Host when he was arrested at the inn at Astorga? Possibly it was. But in that case, and since it bore Yucé’s signature, why is it not included in the dossier, and why can we find no trace of any use having been made of it by the inquisitors? The only plausible explanation—and it may be forthcoming when the dossiers of the other accused are discovered—is that the Host found upon Benito Garcia was not the one sent with the letter by his hand some time in 1487 or 1488.

On November 3 the octogenarian Ça is examined in the torture-chamber, strapped, as was his son, to the escalera. But the mere fear of torture is not sufficient to loosen the tongue of this aged Jew. He resists their questions, and will add nothing to what he has confessed, until the executioner has submitted him to that frightful torment and given him one jar of water. He then affords them, at last, the further information they require, telling them the precise vituperations that were addressed to the crucified boy, and admitting that this was done in mockery of the Passion of Jesus Christ. He says that Tazarte uttered the insults, and that the others—first the Jews, and after them the Christians—repeated them. Further, he confesses that the child was crucified and the sorceries performed that the inquisitors and all Christians should enrage and die.210

On the same day Juan Franco was tied to the escalera, beyond which it was not necessary to proceed with him, for he there satisfied the inquisitors by confessing to the vituperations employed against the crucified boy.211

On the 4th further confirmation of this is obtained from Juan de Ocaña, who confesses to the vituperations, and says that they were first uttered by the Jews, who then compelled the Christians to repeat them. He does not remember the terms used, nor would he ever have known them but for the Jews.212

Benito is next examined, and warned by the inquisitors to answer truthfully, as the truth is already fully known to them. He admits that many vituperations were used; he cites them, and in the main they agree with what has already been deponed.

“Who,” he is asked, “were the first to utter these things?”

He replies that Ça Franco, his sons, and Tazarte (i.e. the Jews) were the first, and that he and the other Christians repeated them afterwards.

Lastly, on November 5, Alonso Franco affords the fullest confirmation to all this that has been confessed by the other accused.213

The trial is now rapidly drawing to a close. On the 7th Yucé is again before the court, and—sinister feature—this time he comes alone. His counsel has vanished, in acknowledgment of the fact that it is no longer tenable with his duty to God that he should continue to defend one of whose “heresy” he is himself convinced. Yucé himself, in view of this, must realize that he is lost, and must abandon his last shred of hope.

Guevára, the prosecutor, is there, and Dr. Villada announces that additional proof is now before the court. He orders copies of the latest depositions, obtained in the torture-chamber, to be delivered to the defendant, and he accords the latter three days within which he must lodge any objection to anything contained in them.

But Yucé does not require so long. He realizes that all is lost, and he forthwith confesses that what has been deponed by the witnesses against him concerning the vituperations he used is true with certain exceptions, and these were the most blasphemous and insulting.

Upon that the fiscal Guevára formally petitions the court to pass sentence. The inquisitor Santo Domingo declares the trial to be at an end, and dismisses both parties, requiring them to come before the court again in three days’ time to hear the sentence.214

Yet, before proceeding to this, on the 14th day of that month of November, the inquisitors ordered all the prisoners (with the exception of Juan Franco) to be introduced together into the audience-chamber. There, in the presence of his co-accused, each was bidden to recite what he had already confessed, this being done with the aim of obtaining a greater unanimity upon details.

Last of all, Juan Franco is brought in, and he now admits that it is true that he brought the boy from Toledo, that they had crucified him as he has confessed, that he himself had opened the boy’s side and taken out his heart, and that his brother Alonso had opened the veins of the child’s arms, etc.—all as confessed—and further that it is true that he and his brother Alfonso had afterwards buried their victim.

He now corroborates Benito’s statement that on the day they stole the child he and Benito went together to Toledo, and that they agreed that one should seek in one quarter of the city whilst the other sought in another. And further, he says that he found the child in the doorway—known as the Puerta del Perdon—of the cathedral, as he has already stated in his confession (which is not before us).215

On the next day Guevára appears before the inquisitors to petition that in view of what has been deponed against the deceased Mosé Franco, Yucé Tazarte, and David Perejon, their Paternities should order it to be recorded ad perpetuam rei memoriam, to enable the execution of the deceased in effigy, the confiscation of their property, and the infamy of their heirs.

That is on November 15. On the 16th the last scene of this protracted trial is played in the market-square of Avila.

There, near the church of St. Peter, the scaffolds have been erected for the Auto de Fé. On one, in their hideous yellow sanbenitos, are grouped the eight prisoners and the three effigies. On the other are the inquisitors, Dr. Pedro de Villada and Frey Antonio de Santo Domingo, with all the personnel of the Holy Office, their notaries, the fiscal Guevára, familiars, and apparitors. Round the scaffolds thronged the greater part of the inhabitants of Avila and many who had come in from the surrounding country districts, whence it is clear that the Auto had been announced some days before. The popular feeling against the Jews runs high, and it is an angry, turbulent mob that witnesses the Auto. Avila, indeed, is in uproar, and no Jew dare show himself abroad without risk of being insulted or assaulted in the street.216

The sentences are read by the notary Antonio Gonçales, commencing with a very full narrative of the crimes of each of the accused, which we need not render here as it is a summary of all that has been gone through and practically a repetition of the matter contained in the “Testimonio.”

They are sentenced all to be abandoned to the secular arm of the Corregidor Don Alvaro de Sant’ Estiban, who, advised some days before, is in attendance with his lieutenants and alguaziles.

The usual exhortation being duly pronounced, they are seized by the men of the Corregidor and led away out of the city to the burning-place. The inquisitors order their notaries to accompany the doomed men, that they may record their final confessions at the stake.

In Yucé’s dossier are included not only his own confession—made at the last moment—but also Benito Garcia’s, Juan de Ocaña’s, and Juan Franco’s, all recorded by the notary Gonçales. Further, this dossier contains a letter written on the morrow of the event by the same notary of the Holy Office to the authorities of La Guardia, accompanying a relation of the crime and the sentences pronounced, for publication in La Guardia, where the offences were committed.

From this we learn that Benito, in spite of his protestations that he would die a Jew betide what might, accepted at the stake the spiritual comforts of the Church, and thus earned the mercy of being strangled before the faggots were fired.217

Similarly Juan de Ocaña and Juan Franco accepted the ministrations of the attendant friars and returned to the Church from which they had secretly seceded. But the Jews—the stalwart old man of over eighty and his son—held staunchly to their faith, and refused to avoid by apostasy any part of the agony prepared them. Wherefore, in a spite that seems almost satanic, their flesh was torn with red-hot pincers before they were consumed over slow fires.

“They refused,” writes the reverend notary, “to call upon God or the Virgin Mary or to make so much as a sign of the Cross. Do not pray for them,” he concludes, impatiently it seems to us, “for they are buried in Hell.”

Finally, the notary begs the authorities of La Guardia not to permit that the place where Juan Franco said that the Holy Child was buried should be ploughed over, but to see that it is left intact. Their Highnesses and the Cardinal of Spain, he adds, may desire to visit it, and he prays that God “may reveal to us the bones of the infant.” It is expedient to mark the spot, he concludes, because, in view of the merits of such a place, he hopes that it may please God that the earth of it will work miracles.

The sentence is sent, it should be added, with order that it shall be read from the pulpit of La Guardia on the following Sunday, and this under pain of excommunication.

In Avila the popular feeling against the Jews as a consequence of this affair was so bitter that their lives were not safe, and it is on record that one was stoned to death in the streets. It became necessary for the Aljama of that city to petition the Sovereigns for protection, and M. Fidel Fita quotes a royal letter commanding such protection to be extended, with threats of rigour against any who should molest them.218

Share on Twitter Share on Facebook