Subscribed Content The Visión Deleitable under the Scrutiny of the Spanish Inquisition

New Insights on Converso Literature

in European Judaism
Author: Harm den Boer1
View More View Less
  • 1 University of Basel
Restricted access

This article deals with a famous work on philosophy written by Alonso de la Torre and its fate in the Western Sephardi diaspora. Torre most probably was a converted Jew; he wrote his book half a century after Spanish Jewry underwent a dramatic transformation due to the terrible massacres of 1390 and 1391 in the major cities of Spain and the ensuing conversions of many persecuted Jews. The intolerance that would ultimately lead to the Edict of Expulsion of the Jews of 1492 – and so to the origin of the Judeo-Spanish speaking communities in North Africa and the Ottoman Empire – profoundly changed Spain's cultural landscape, ending a centuries-long period of mutual cultural interaction. Yet, paradoxically, with the massive influx of the so-called Conversos into Spanish society, Christian culture also underwent changes, absorbing new experiences and influences. The Visión deleitable y sumario de todas las ciencias by Torre is a didactical work on philosophy and religion that had enormous success in Christian Spain, in spite of its large debt to the Guide of the Perplexed by the Jewish sage Maimonides. Reprinted many times in Catholic Spain, this work was also published in Italy and the Dutch Low Countries, in the communities of those Iberian Conversos who returned to Judaism. There has been huge speculation as to how the Visión deleitable was interpreted by both Christian and Jewish readers. Through a hitherto unstudied report by the Spanish Inquisition and an examination of the editions printed in the Western Sephardi diaspora (Ferrara and Amsterdam) I will offer some fresh reflections on the fascinating reception of this text in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.