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La Guardia, Holy Child of

LA GUARDIA, HOLY CHILD OF, subject of a *blood libel who became revered as a saint by the Spanish populace. Six Conversos and two Jews, inhabitants of La Guardia, Tembleque, and Zamora, were tried in connection with this libel in an irregular Inquisition trial which began on Dec. 17, 1490, and was concluded on Nov. 14, 1491, when the accused were burned at the stake in the town of Ávila. The Jews accused were Yuce Franco of Tembleque and Moses Abenamias of Zamora; the Conversos were Alonso, Juan, García, and Lope, all of the Franco family, and Juan de Oraña, all inhabitants of La Guardia, in the province of Toledo. The depositions and confessions extracted under torture reveal that they were accused of two things: the profanation of a Host, which the accused Conversos had purchased and which was found in the bag of Benito García, in order to perform acts of sorcery; and the murder of a Christian child (whose body was never found) on Good Friday and the extraction of his heart for acts of sorcery. The beginnings of the trial have never been clarified, but during the proceedings its motivations became evident. *Torquemada himself had intended to preside over the trial, but possibly under the influence of Abraham *Seneor, whom they at first attempted to involve in the accusation, the trial was transferred from Segovia, where it was to have been held initially, to Ávila.

A special tribunal was thus set up, formed by carefully chosen judges. The judges and the investigators who assisted them resorted to provocatory methods to extract evidence in prison and were even compelled, in order to reconcile the contradictions between the various "statements," to bring together the accused and force them to relate in each other's presence details of the "deed" so that a tale of at least some coherence could be contrived. The judges even sat on a special panel (Consulta-de-fé) in Salamanca, with the participation of the celebrated monk Antonio de la Peña, the associate of Fernando de Santo Domingo in his anti-Jewish activities. There is also no doubt that the Inquisition wanted to prepare public opinion for the expulsion of the Jews from Spain by creating a background of an alleged Jewish-Converso conspiracy to bring about the annihilation of both Christianity and the Inquisition. Even so, the recorded statements of the Conversos are a profound expression of their belief in the Law of Moses, their readiness to die as martyrs, and their contemptuous attitude toward Christianity and its way of life. Torquemada was referred to by one of the accused as the "arch antichrist" (antecristo mayor).

The verdict was made public and circulated throughout Spain, and the worship of the "Holy Child" was rapidly instituted. For fear of riots, the Jews of Ávila felt compelled to request a document of protection (granted on Dec. 9, 1491). With time, details were added to the story until it assumed impressive proportions in works and plays which were presented on the subject. In 1583 Fray Rodrigo de Yepes wrote a book entitled Historia de la muerte y glorioso martirio del Sancto Inocente, que llaman de La Guardia, which during the 17th century served as the basis of a play by Lope de Vega, El Niño Inocente de la Guardia. Lope's play is based on a text in his work Octava parte (1617) which is not entirely reliable. The intention of Lope is purely anti-Jewish. The martyrdom of the Santo Niño is compared to the Passion. Lope leaves no doubt as to his sympathy with the Inquisition and his dislike of those it prosecuted. The tale was newly adapted during the 18th century by Jose de Cañizares under the title La Viva Imagen de Cristo. These works were republished in 1943, during World War II, by Manuel Romero de Castilla under the title Singular suceso en el reinado de los Reyes Católicos, in an attempt to revive the "holy" ideas of the writings of his predecessors.


F. Fita, in: Boletín de la Academia de la Historia, Madrid, 11 (1887), 3–134, 420–3; H.C. Lea, Chapters from the Religious History of Spain (1890), 203ff.; idem, History of the Inquisition in Spain, 1 (1904), 133–5; T. Hope, Torquemada (Eng., 1939), 153–92; Baer, Spain, 2 (1966), 398–423; Suárez Fernández, Documentos, 44. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: Ph. Brunet, Torquemada et les atrocités de l'Inquisition (1976), 199–215; C. Carrete Parrondo, in: Helmantica, 28 (1977), 51–61; Sor. M. Despina, in: El Olivo, 9 (1979), 48–70; W.A. Christian, Local Religion in Sixteenth century Spain (1981), index; S. de Horozco, Relaciones históricas toledanas, Intr. & trans. by J. Weiner (1981), 29–38; F. Díaz-Plaja (ed.), Historia de España en sus documentos, siglo XV (1984), 278–91; L. de Vega, El niño inocente de La Gurdia: A Critical and Annotated Edition, with an Introductory Study by A.J. Farrell (1985); M. Moner, in: La leyenda: antrpología, historia, literatura, (1989), 253–66; E.M. Domínguez de Paz and M.P. Carrascosa, in: Canente, 5b (1989), 25–38; idem, in: Diálogos hispánicos de Amsterdam, 8:2 (1989), 343–57; A. MacKay, in: J. Lowe and P. Swanson (eds.), Essays on Hispanic Themes in Honour of Edward C. Riley (1989), 41–50; S. Haliczer, in: Cultural Encounters (1991), 146–56.