Some of the most interesting figures of history may be discovered in obscure historical references. For instance, few have heard of Bishop Bodo (c. 814 – 876), but his fascinating story exposes a short but unique time period in medieval history.
While scholars have referred to the era between the late 700s and the late 1400s as La Convivencia, “the co-existence,” it was more a time during which there were intervals of kind rulers, inter-community dialogues and brief periods of peace.
Louis the Pious, Emperor and King of the Franks, was one of the rare Christian kings who not only permitted the Jews to live in his kingdom, but protected them. According to Michael Rudkinson’s History of the Talmud: “in the reign of Louis the Saint–who, as well as his wife, Judith, honored the Jews, so much so as to change for their sake the fair-day from Saturday to Sunday–many Christians came to the synagogues to hear the Rabbis, and the scholars among them, read with pleasure the writings of Philo and Flavius instead of the Gospel…” Not surprisingly, there were many disputations at this time.
In this era of apparent openness, Bishop Bodo, the King’s own deacon, set out on a pilgrimage to Rome and ended up as a Jewish convert (renamed Eli’ezer) in the Muslim city of Saragossa (Spain). Other than his marriage to a Jewess, little is known about Bodo-Eli’ezer’s personal life. It is said that he instigated the Moorish government against the Spanish Christians, but there were many political factors at play. Bodo-Eli’ezer is known to us today primarily because of his famous correspondence with Pablo Alvaro of Cordova, a Jew who had converted to Christianity. In their letters, the two converts each tried to convince the other to revert back to their old faith.
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