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John (Giovanni) of Capistrano

(1386 –1456)

John (Giovanni) of Capistrano was a Franciscan friar and popular preacher, born in Capestrano, Abruzzi province, Italy. He conducted an unremitting campaign against heretics and especially against Jews. In 1427, Capistrano instigated the queen of Naples to abolish the privileges accorded to the Jews in the kingdom, but shortly afterward the decree was rescinded. He may have been responsible for the papal edict of the same year which prohibited the citizens of Venice and Ancona from transporting Jews to Ereẓ Israel in their ships. Capistrano visited Ereẓ Israel in 1439. In 1447, as inquisitor in Sicily, he initiated anti-Jewish restrictions. In 1450 he arranged a disputation between Christians and Jews in Rome. He then offered the pope a ship to deport the remnant of the community overseas. Shortly thereafter Capistrano was sent to northern Europe to preach against heretics. As a result of his activities, the privileges granted to the Jews of Bavaria were abrogated in 1452, and in several places Jews were obliged to wear the Jewish *badge. In 1453 the privileges granted them by the bishop of Wuerzburg were revoked. The Jews were expelled from several villages and debts owed them by Christians were canceled. In Breslau many Jews, forced by torture to admit desecration of the *Host, were burned alive; others committed suicide. Capistrano also attempted to persuade Casimir IV to abolish the privileges accorded to the Jews of Poland. After his defeat by the Teutonic Order, Casimir gave his consent; the decision set off a train of anti-Jewish violence in Poland. Capistrano was canonized in 1690.


Vogelstein-Rieger, index; Dubnow, Hist Russ, 1 (1916), 62; Roth, Italy, 15; Milano, Italia, index.

Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.