Martyred by the Muslims: John of Cordova

The long history of Islamic religious toleration continues to this day.

The long history of Islamic religious toleration continues to this day.

It took a few dozen more pages of the Martyrs Mirror, but I finally found a good yarn on P. 243 – the beating of John of Cordova in Moorish Spain, 850 C.E.

This story is definitely a surface treatment of what appears to be a more complicated issue. Suddenly, poor, innocent, pious John is jerked into an Islamic court for talking trash about The Prophet (Peace be upon the old bastard). There, he runs off at the mouth again about Jesus and such. The Moors, exercising their usual trigger-happy tolerance for religious dissent, subject the man to over 500 lashes, which is initially thought to kill him.

Let’s stop for a second and be honest here. A person hit with 500 lashes from a scourge is going to be steak tartar. That’s a full five minutes of butt whipping. I smell a little sensationalism here.

Anyway, John miraculously won’t stop breathing. So, his tormentors seat him on a donkey, backwards, and ride him around town. This was apparently a great insult back in the day. If the Internets are to be believed, the practice was still being used hundreds of years later to humiliate henpecked husbands who couldn’t control their mouthy brides.

Again, this story rides off the rails of reason. For the mangled man to straddle a donkey backwards, like he is shown in the Mirror, John would have had to contribute something to the balancing effort. I doubt he would have had that capacity after 500 lashes.

John later died from his injuries in prison, according to the Mirror, which sounds like the most realistic part of this story. But I wonder what caused the trumped up charges against him in the first place? Was it rival merchants who wanted to rub him out? Was he being really obnoxious? Who knows?


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