Also known as Simedl or Simoncino of Trent.
Child victim of an alleged ritual murder by the Jews of Trent. He was the son of Andreas Unverdosben, a cobbler, or tanner, in Trent, and was born 26 November 1472.
The Disappearance of Simon
The harmonious relations between the Christians and the Jews in Trent had excited the anger of the semidemented Franciscan friar Bernardinus of Feltre, who was a son of a notorious enemy of the Jews. In his Lenten sermons (1475) he endeavored to incite the people against them, but instead provoked displeasure on the part of the Christians. Then he predicted that at the next Jewish Passover a ritual murder would occur. In accordance with this prediction, the child Simon, twenty-eight months old, disappeared on 23 March 1475. Bernardinus of Feltre, Johannes Schweizer (a neighbor of the Jews), and, at last, the excited people themselves declared that the child would be found among the Jews; but a careful search through the Jewish quarter, ordered by Bishop Hinderbach and executed by the podestà of Trent, Johann Sala, proved fruitless.
On the eve of Easter Monday, March 26, some Jews noticed the body of a child in the river, near the house of one of their number named Samuel. Without a moment’s delay three of them, Tobias (a physician), Samuel, and Angelus, hastened to notify the bishop, but were not admitted to his presence. The podestà, however, visited the house of Samuel, took possession of the child’s body, and ordered the arrest of those present – Samuel, Angelus, Tobias, Israel, Bonaventura, Toaff, and a second Bonaventura (the cook). After a medical examination of the body it was stated that death was the result of violence, not of accidental drowning. A baptized Jew, Johann of Feltre, who had been a prisoner for several years for theft, seized the apparent opportunity to shorten the term of his imprisonment by declaring that the Jews use the blood of Christians for ritual purposes at the Passover. On the strength of this allegation all the members of the Jewish community, women and children included, were arrested. The proceedings against them began on March 28. The accused pleaded not guilty, and denounced two men: Johannes Schweizer, who had access to the river flowing by Samuel’s house and who for a long time had been an enemy of the Jews; and the German tailor Enzelin. Johannes Schweizer and his wife were arrested, but proved an alibi as regards the 23d of March, though only for the daytime; they were finally liberated from prison in a “miraculous” manner.
Torture Suffered by the Jews
Then began days and nights of torture for the Jews, in which numerous methods of compelling “confession” were tried. For a long time the sufferers remained steadfast and faithful; but after weeks of torture had weakened the will, they “confessed” in the exact words dictated by their clerical tormentors and assassins. These abominable practises caused Duke Sigmund and others to intercede and stop the proceedings (April 21). But the persecutions were resumed on June 5, and were maintained until the Jew Moses, aged eighty years, after terrible tortures and persistent denials, likewise “confessed.” Toward the end of June (21-23) eight of the wealthiest Jews, after receiving baptism, were put to death, some being burned at the stake and the rest beheaded.
Investigation by the Papal Envoy
But the cruelty of the proceedings had aroused general indignation. Pope Sixtus IV, alarmed for the reputation of the Church, commanded Bishop Hinderbach on Aug. 3 to again suspend proceedings, until the arrival of the papal commissary, Bishop Giambattista dei Sindici of Ventimiglia, who, jointly with the Bishop of Trent, would conduct the investigation. The papal agent had been fully instructed beforehand; after making an investigation, he denied the martyrdom of the child Simon and disputed the occurrence of a miracle at his grave. Sixtus IV. had already anticipated this denial in his encyclical of 10 October 1475. The commissary uncovered the tissue of lies, but when he demanded the immediate release of the Jews he was denounced by the bishop and assailed by the mob, being compelled to withdraw to Roveredo. Thence, fortified by his instructions,he summoned the bishop and the podestà to answer for their conduct. Instead of appearing, Bishop Hinderbach answered by a circular, directed to all churchmen describing the martyrdom of Simon, justifying his own share in the proceedings, and denouncing the work of the Bishop of Ventimiglia as “corruptam inquisitionem.” While the papal commissary was taking Enzelin, the supposed actual murderer, a prisoner to Rome for trial, the Bishop of Trent and the podestà continued their proceedings against the Jews, several of whom they executed (2 December 1475; 13 January 1476; 16 January 1476).
The Bishop of Ventimiglia reported to Rome that, as the result of careful investigations, he found the Jews innocent, that Simon had been killed by Christians with the intention of ruining the Jews, and that Bishop Hinderbach had planned to enrich himself by confiscating the estates of those executed. Sixtus IV. then appointed a commission of six cardinals to investigate the two proceedings. The head of the commission being an intimate friend of Bernardinus of Feltre, the result was a foregone conclusion, especially since the whole Catholic Church would have been involved in the condemnation of the Bishop of Trent. Accordingly, in the decree of 20 June 1478, “Facit nos pietas,” Sixtus IV. declared the proceedings against the Jews in Trent to be “rite et recte factum.” Both Bernardinus of Feltre and Simon of Trent are said to have been canonized by Gregory XIII about a century later, the former as a prophet, and the latter as a martyr.