TRENT, city in northern Italy. The presence of some Jews in Trent, most of them emigrants from Germany, is mentioned from the first half of the 14th century. The usury regulations of the Jews of Trent served as a model elsewhere in the Tyrol. In the 15th century Jews in Trent possessed a synagogue, a house for study, and three other houses. The Jewish physician Tobiah practiced among the Christian as well as the Jewish population. In 1475, the fanatical Franciscan, Bernardino da *Feltre, preached there against the Jews in his Lenten sermons, and foretold that their sins would soon be manifested to all.
A few days after this, on Maundy Thursday, a Christian infant named Simon disappeared. Shortly afterward his body was discovered near the house of the head of the Jewish community, and the whole community, men, women, and children were arrested. After 17 of them had been tortured for 15 consecutive days they "confessed" to the crimes of which they had been accused. One of the tortured died in prison, six were burnt at the stake, and two (who had converted to Christianity) were strangled. At this stage Pope *Sixtus IV intervened in the affair and the judicial proceedings were temporarily halted. A papal commissary was sent to Trent to investigate the circumstances of the incident, but was forced to leave when the results of his inquiries led him to contradict the findings of the local "trial." Proceedings were reopened in Trent in face of violent opposition from the commissary, and at the end of the year five more Jews were executed (two of them were converted to Christianity before their deaths). A papal court of inquiry in 1476 justified the libel, and in 1478, as a result of its proceedings, Sixtus published the *Bull Facit nos pietas endorsing the "legality" of the trial. In the meantime four Jewish women of Trent had accepted the Christian faith and the property of the murdered Jews had been confiscated. Jews were henceforth excluded from Trent, and in the 18th century were still not allowed to pass through the town (see Ḥ.J.D. Azulai, Ma'gal Tov, 10–11).
Simon was beatified. The libel had widespread repercussions and served for intense antisemitic propaganda both inside and outside Italy. According to legend, the rabbis of Italy imposed a ban on Jewish settlement in Trent after 1475: this was formally raised when Simon was de-beatified in 1965.
J.E. Scherer, Die Rechtsverhaeltnisse der Juden in den deutsch-oesterreichischen Laendern (1901), 579–611; G. Divina, Storia del Beato-Simone da Trento, 2 vols. (1902); G. Menestrina, Gli ebrei a Trento (1903); V. Manzini, La superstizione omicida e i sacrifici umani con particolare riguardo alle accuse contro gli ebrei (1930), 106, 218; M. Shulvass, Bi-Ẓevat ha-Dorot (1960), 67–75; W.P. Eckert, in: P. Wilpert (ed.), Judentum im Mittelalter (1966), 283–336; Milano, Biblioteca, index.
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.