A Brief History
On November 9, 694, the Seventeenth Council of Toledo opened, a third round ordered by Egica, King of the Visigoths (Spain), a council of Bishops of the Christian Church. Not surprisingly for any such council before the Renaissance, the main topic was just how bad the Jews are and what should be done about them.
A profoundly anti-Jewish King, Egica claimed that he had “heard” that Jews outside of Iberia were plotting to overthrow their Christian masters, and that Jews in Iberia were somehow being contaminated by those plots. Thus, the main point of the council was to order that all Jews have their property seized (for the benefit of the throne or given to the Christian slaves of the Jews) and that all Jews be enslaved immediately, and not be allowed to practice any sort of Jewish faith. The slave owners would be chosen by the King, who would naturally derive favor from those he gifted with slaves. In keeping with the strict holiness of his intentions, the King also strove to establish protections for his wife and kids when he died, as in those days the families of former monarchs often fared poorly.
Egica and his bishops decreed 8 Canons of the Synod from the Council, including:
- The Bishops would fast for 3 days before starting the Council.
- No baptisms during Lent, except for special emergencies.
- Washing of the feet, which had been disappearing, must be reinstated.
- Religious artifacts, ornaments and vessels must not be sold for the profit of the clergy.
- Priests must not hold mass for the dead for people that have not died yet. If a priest should do this, the priest and person talking him into the mass will be ex-communicated.
- All year long, litany with intercessions on behalf of the Church, the King, and the people must be said.
- Old laws respecting the safety of the Royal Family are renewed.
- Jews must be punished for the reasons cited above, and their children must be converted and then married to Christians.
Of course, reading this article and the Canons that came from the council may make you tend to be a bit cynical about the devout nature of the King and the Bishops, and in case you feel cynical, rest assured so does the author. The Seventeenth Council of Toledo seems to be one more example of the rich and powerful Church and Monarchy perverting religion for selfish purposes, a painfully common theme throughout history. Today this sort of collusion between the state religion and the crown is not so prevalent, but we have perhaps replaced it by self serving politicians that create laws protecting themselves and their interests over what is good for the people.
Question for students (and subscribers): Do you think religion has been used by the rich and powerful to keep themselves rich and in charge? Please give examples of why you do or do not think so. Also, feel free to comment on whether or not modern politicians pervert the legislative process for their own benefit in the comments section below this article.
Your readership is much appreciated!
For more information, please see…
Schama, Simon. The Story of the Jews Volume One: Finding the Words 1000 BC-1492 AD. Ecco, 2017.