Multiethnic Sicily: Jews and New-Christians in Messina

Contribute by: dr. Giuseppe Campagna Ph.D., Modern History, Department of Political Sciences, University of Messina.

Acta Judeorum et Neophitorum messanensium. Fonti notarili su ebrei e neofiti nell’Archivio di Stato di Messina (secc. XV-XVI), prefazione di N. Bucaria, Società Messinese di Storia Patria 2022.

The volume collects 875 registers of notaries deeds of Messina and Rometta concerning the Jewish minority and the neophytes, the converted Jews. The documents demonstrate how Jews and Christians lived in Sicily in a very close relationship of mutual interdependence. And the variety of origins of these Jews who became citizens of Messina is surprising, their attending to the most disparate occupations, their distribution in the urban fabric which denotes an uncommon climate of acceptance and tolerance in contemporary Europe. 

All of this perhaps explains the rapid integration of neophytes into Christian society after the expulsion edict of 1492 and the absence of a significant and prolonged phenomenon of Marranism. Witness their surnames, mostly relics of the Genizah era, which deserve a separate study, if only because they survive with minimal spelling variations in Sicilian onomastics.