Christians and Jews in thirteenth-century Castile: the career and writings of Rodrigo Jiménez de Rada, Archbishop of Toledo (1209-1247)

Christians and Jews in thirteenth-century Castile: the career and writings of Rodrigo Jiménez de Rada, Archbishop of Toledo (1209-1247)

By Lucy K. Pick

PhD Dissertation, University of Toronto, 1995

Abstract: The life of Archbishop Rodrigo Jimenez de Rada offers a window on many of the principal issues of his day. He is best known for his role in the victory over the Almohads at the battle of Las Navas de Tolosa (1212) and for several works of history in which he traces the emergence of Castile, with Toledo as its political and spiritual centre. Rodrigo was also an important figure in the shifting relationship between Christians and the Jews in thirteenth-century Spain. He worked to protect the Jews of Castile from the restrictions imposed on Europe’s Jews by the Fourth Lateran Council (1215) and by the popes. Rodrigo also undertook business transactions using Jews as his agents, causing the clergy of the Toledo cathedral chapter to complain that he was overly friendly with Jews. The Archbishop composed a treatise, the Dialogus libri uitae, to foster conversions from Judaism. The text survives in one manuscript, Salamanca, Bibl. Univ., ms. 2089.

The work attacks Talmudic and Midrashic predictions about the Messiah, and seeks to demonstrate the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies about the coming of Christ, using philosophical arguments, biblical exegesis, and patristic authorities. The text reflects the practical and philosophical stance of the most powerful prelate in Castile at a crucial juncture in Christian-Jewish relations, when the papacy was tightening its restrictive legislation against the Jews and attacking the Talmud. Unlike most treatises against the Jews, which demonstrate little knowledge of contemporary Judaism, Rodrigo’s work displays an awareness of current Jewish concerns and beliefs.

The work has attracted little attention hitherto, and no study or printed text of it exists. Writers of anti-Jewish polemic and prelates who had dealings with Jews were common in the Middle Ages, but it is unusual to possess documents by and about an individual who acted in both capacities. Considering the Dialogus against Don Rodrigo’s day-to-day dealings with the Jews and his treatment of them in his historical works sheds new light on the state of Christian-Jewish relations in thirteenth-century Spain.

Click here to read this thesis  from the Library and Archives Canada

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