Inquisition in Piotrkow
The Martyrdom of Matatiahu Calahora
Over Three Centuries Ago
In 1663, Piotrkow became the site of anti-Semitic brutality. The educated
apothecary, Matatiahu Calahora, a native of Italy who had settled in Krakow,
committed the blunder of arguing with a local priest, a member of the Dominican
order, about religious topics. The priest invited Calahora to dispute him in
the cloister, but the Jew declined, promising to explain his views in writing.
A few days later, the priest found on his chair in the church a statement
written in German and containing a violent arraignment of the cult of the
It is not impossible that the statement was composed and placed in the church
by an adherent of the Reformation or the Arian heresy, both of which were then
the object of persecution in Poland. However, the Dominican priest decided that
Calahora was the author, and brought the charge of blasphemy against him.
The court of the Royal Castle cross-examined the defendant under torture,
without being able to obtain a confession. Witnesses testified that Calahora
was not even able to write German; as a native of Italy, he used the Italian
language in his conversations with the priest. In spite of all this evidence,
the unfortunate Calahora was sentenced to be burned at the stake. The alarmed
Jewish community raised a protest, and the case was transferred to the highest
court in Piotrkow. The accused was sent there in chains together with the
plaintiff and the witness. But the arch-Catholic tribunal confirmed the verdict
of the lower court, ordering that the sentence be executed in the following
barbarous sequence: First the lips of the blasphemer were to be cut
off; next his hand, which held the fateful statement, was to be burned; then
the tongue, which had spoken against the Christian religion, was to be removed;
and finally the body was to be burned at the stake, and the ashes of the victim
loaded into a cannon and discharged into the air.
This cannibalistic ceremony was faithfully carried out on December 13, 1663, in
the market-place (Plac Trybunalski) in Piotrkow.¹
¹ History of the Jews in Russia and Poland, by Semen
Markovitch Dubnow, 1916.
|Rynek Trybunalski, in 1663. The Kadosh Matatiahu Calahora was tortured
martyred there. On the far left, the passage to Plac Czarniecki.
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Piotrkow Trybunalski, Poland
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