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[Page 61]

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 Immaculate Virgin.

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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

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¹ History of the Jews in Russia and Poland, by Semen Markovitch Dubnow, 1916.


pit061.jpg [21 KB]
Rynek Trybunalski, in 1663. The Kadosh Matatiahu Calahora was tortured and
martyred there. On the far left, the passage to Plac Czarniecki.



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