Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Church Giveth and the Church Taketh Away

Trento, as the seat of the Austrian-Hungarian Bishop Princes, was a wealthy city and the church paid for many great works of art, such as altar carvings above and expensive Belgian tapestries below.

About 1475 the head bishop-prince wished to acquire manuscripts held by the Jewish priests who lived in the town. The church helped to propagate a rumor that a Christian child found dead had been tortured and killed by Jews, see the altar carving below, showing a child being strangled and tortured.

The carved door of the church of St Peter and Paul has a likeness of the child and there was an attempt to turn him into a saint. When his remains were exhumed, it was found that he had drowned and was not killed. Presumably, the church successfully acquired the manuscripts and the Jews were driven out of Trento, as so many other places in the late 1400's.