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Combating “Mohammedan Indecency”: The Baptism of Muslim Slaves in Spanish Naples, 1563-1667

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image of Journal of Early Modern History

In the century following the Council of Trent, ecclesiastical authorities in Naples embarked on a campaign, the largest of its kind in Italy, to convert the city's Muslim slaves to Christianity. For the Church, the conversions were not only important for the conquest of individual believers, but symbolic occasions that demonstrated on a small scale important themes of Christian ethics and anti-Islamic polemic. At the same time, the number and frequency of the conversions forced secular authorities to confront the problem of the civil status of newly baptized slaves. During the seventeenth century, one of the highest tribunals of the state heard a series of cases that pitted baptized slaves who demanded their freedom against slave owners who saw their religious identity as unimportant.

Affiliations: 1: Northwestern University


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