Michel Jonin, From the Purity of Faith to the Purity of Blood. The Orthodox Ambiguities of a Proconverso Plea

This article examines two contradictory discourses about heredity as a reason for exclusion of new Christians in 15th century Castilla, two views which have certainly been regarded as contradictory in too categoric a manner.The Toledan Sentencia-Estatuto (1449), proclaimed against the conversos, bears witness to the emergence of ‘protoracialist’ social discrimination. However, this text, which belongs to the prehistory of the limpieza de sangre legislation of the 16th and 17th centuries, is briefly put into perspective in order to emphasise its essentially pragmatic nature. The myth of pure blood is absent. The Defensorium Unitatis Christianae of convert Alonso de Cartagena, on the other hand, argues for the assimilation of the conversos and strongly condemns the assumptions of the Sentencia-Estatuto in the name of Christian universalism. However, there is another, nega- tive side to this liberal logic: a view entailing absolute rejection conducive to stereotyping of others, and, as a corollary, to the development of the metaphorical notion of inherited contamination.The strained preoccupation with the uniqueness of the Christian community, perceived as absolutely pure, which characterises Christian discourse in later medieval Spain may be responsible for the emergence of a reflex of general suspicion against the ‘other’, identified consequently as naturally different.