In early modern Spain the monarchy's universal policy to convert
all of its subjects to Christianity did not end distinctions among
ethnic religious groups, but rather made relations between them
more contentious. Old Christians, those whose families had always
been Christian, defined themselves in opposition to forcibly
baptized Muslims (moriscos) and Jews (conversos). Here historian
Benjamin Ehlers studies the relations between Christians and
moriscos in Valencia by analyzing the ideas and policies of
archbishop Juan de Ribera.
Juan de Ribera, a young reformer appointed to the diocese of
Valencia in 1568, arrived at his new post to find a congregation
deeply divided between Christians and moriscos. He gradually
overcame the distrust of his Christian parishioners by intertwining
Tridentine themes such as the Eucharist with local devotions and
holy figures. Over time Ribera came to identify closely with the
interests of his Christian flock, and his hagiographers
subsequently celebrated him as a Valencian saint.
Ribera did not engage in a similarly reciprocal exchange with
the moriscos; after failing to effect their true conversion through
preaching and parish reform, he devised a covert campaign to
persuade the king to banish them. His portrayal of the moriscos as
traitors and heretics ultimately justified the Expulsion of
1609--1614, which Ribera considered the triumphant culmination of
Ehler's sophisticated yet accessible study of the pluralist
diocese of Valencia is a valuable contribution to the study of
Catholic reform, moriscos, Christian-Muslim relations in early
modern Spain, and early modern Europe.
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