Converso  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Conversos (Spanish and Portuguese for "a convert", from Latin conversus, "converted, turned around") and its feminine form conversa referred to Jews or Muslims or the descendants of Jews or Muslims who converted to Catholicism in Spain and Portugal, particularly during the 14th and 15th centuries. Mass conversions took place under great governmental pressure.

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Conversos were subject to suspicion and harassment from both the community they were leaving and that which they were joining. Both Christians and Jews called them tornadizo (renegade). Jaime I, Alfonso X and Juan I passed laws forbidding the use of this epithet. This was part of a larger pattern of royal protection, as laws were promulgated to protect their property, forbid attempts to reconvert them, and regulate the behavior of the conversos themselves, preventing their cohabitation or even dining with Jews, lest they convert back.

The conversos did not enjoy legal equality. Alfonso VII prohibited the "recently converted" from holding office in Toledo. They had both supporters and bitter opponents within the Christian secular and religious leadership. Conversos could be found in various roles within the Iberian kingdoms, from bishop to royal mistress, showing a degree of general acceptance, yet they became targets of occasional pogroms during times of extreme social tension (as during an epidemic and after an earthquake.) They were subject to the Spanish and Portuguese inquisitions.

While pure blood (so-called limpieza de sangre) would come to be placed at a premium, particularly among the nobility, in a 15th-century defense of conversos, Bishop Lope de Barrientos would list what Roth calls "a veritable 'Who's Who' of Spanish nobility" as having converso members or being of converso descent. He pointed out that given the near-universal conversion of Iberian Jews during Visigothic times, (quoting Roth) "[W]ho among the Christians of Spain could be certain that he is not a descendant of those conversos?"




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Converso" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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