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Between Christians and Moriscos

, 288 pages

8 halftones, 1 line drawing

March 2006



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Between Christians and Moriscos

Juan de Ribera and Religious Reform in Valencia, 1568–1614

In early modern Spain the monarchy's universal policy to convert all of its subjects to Christianity did not end distinctions among ethnic religious groups, but rather made relations between them more contentious. Old Christians, those whose families had always been Christian, defined themselves in opposition to forcibly baptized Muslims ( moriscos) and Jews ( conversos). Here historian Benjamin Ehlers studies the relations between Christians and moriscos in Valencia by analyzing the ideas and policies of archbishop Juan de Ribera.

Juan de Ribera, a young reformer appointed to the diocese of Valencia in 1568, arrived at his new post to find a congregation deeply divided between Christians and moriscos. He gradually overcame the distrust of his Christian parishioners by intertwining Tridentine themes such as the Eucharist with local devotions and holy figures. Over time Ribera came to identify closely with the interests of his Christian flock, and his hagiographers subsequently celebrated him as a Valencian saint.

Ribera did not engage in a similarly reciprocal exchange with the moriscos; after failing to effect their true conversion through preaching and parish reform, he devised a covert campaign to persuade the king to banish them. His portrayal of the moriscos as traitors and heretics ultimately justified the Expulsion of 1609–1614, which Ribera considered the triumphant culmination of the Reconquest.

Ehler's sophisticated yet accessible study of the pluralist diocese of Valencia is a valuable contribution to the study of Catholic reform, moriscos, Christian-Muslim relations in early modern Spain, and early modern Europe.

Benjamin Ehlers is an assistant professor of history at the University of Georgia.

"A riveting portrait of a Catholic religious authority and the contentious, ambiguous, religious environment in which he moved. The book abounds in primary source material that is deftly evaluated; its argument is clear and persuasive, and sections are brilliantly done. Ehlers offers a history that takes seriously the intellectual and religious world of an elite member of the clergy, and then details the way the archbishop's initiatives worked on the ground, in all directions. "

"Well researched and clearly presented."

"Excellent study."

"Engagingly studies the conflicts in Valencia between local elites and the viceroy and the archbishop, agents of central government."

" Between Christians and Moriscos is a carefully researched and highly readable work that shows with impartiality the complexity of Ribera, whose arguments were much used in the theological justification of the expulsion of the Moriscos."

" Between Christians and Moriscos is a fine and welcome contribution to the history of early modern Spain."

"The book’s greatest strength lies... in the highly original and well-crafted insight it provides."

"Surely, this book is destined to become required reading for all who are interested in early modern history and especially for those who have a special interest in Spain and Catholicism or in the history of Christian-Muslim relations."

"A well-documented, measured, subtle, and dispassionate look at the evolution of one of Spain's longest-tenured and powerful churchmen."

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