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SPINA (ESPINA), ALFONSO DE:

One of the most inveterate enemies of the Jews and of Judaism—to which he never belonged, despite the assertions of Jost and of Amador de los Rios. He was general of the Order of Franciscans, rector of the University of Salamanca, and confessor of King Henry IV. of Castile; and he accompanied the once-powerful minister Alvaro de Luna to the place of execution. The unremitting efforts of Spina were devoted to the utter destruction of the Jewish race, Jews as well as Jewish converts to Christianity, or, as he termed them, "Judios publicos," those who publicly and obstinately clung to their faith, and "Judios ocultos," or secret Jews.

Highly esteemed for his eloquence, Spina continually made the Jews the butt of attacks in his sermons; and in the Latin work entitled "Fortalitium Fidei" (Nuremberg, 1494; Lyons, 1511, 1525), which he wrote in refutation of Judaism and Islam, he collected all the accusations brought against the Jews—those of poisoning the wells, desecrating the host, and murdering of Christian children for ritual purposes: whatever the enemies of the Jews had written or recounted he presented as truth. The entire third book of this work was devoted to them, and served, curiously enough, as a source for Samuel Usque's chronicle ("F. F." = "Fortalitium Fidei"). To inflame the popular hatred Spina accused the Jews of neglecting to cultivate or defend their fields, of appropriating the results of the Christians' labors, and of ingratitude toward Spain, where they fared better than did their coreligionists in any other country. He was especially bitter in his attacks upon the secret Jews, mercilessly demanding that they be burned. "I believe," said he, "that if a real Inquisition were introduced among us, countless numbers of them would be condemned to the stake; for countless numbers combine the adherence to Jewish customs with the observance of the Christian religion."

The idea of the introduction of the Inquisition into Spain originated with Spina. Together with the dignitaries of his order he called upon the chapter of the Order of St. Jerome (Aug 10, 1461) to press this plan for the benefit of the state and the Church, soon gaining the ear of King Henry, who promised to lay the matter before his cabinet.

Bibliography:
  • Jost, Gesch. des Judenthums und Seiner Sekten, iii. 96 (where Spina is declared to have been a Jew);
  • Rios, Hist. iii. 129, 142 et seq. (this author describes Spina as "one of the most learned rabbis of his time");
  • idem, Estudios, p. 435;
  • Wolf, Bibl. Hebr. ii. 1123;
  • Grätz, Gesch. viii. 236.
S. M. K.
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