James I (2 February 1208 – 27 July 1276) was King of Aragon, Valencia and Majorca, Count of Barcelona and Lord of Montpellier from 1213 to 1276. His long reign saw the expansion of the House of Aragón on all sides: into Valencia to the south, Languedoc to the north, and the Balearic Islands to the east. By a treaty with Louis IX of France, he wrested the county of Barcelona from nominal French suzerainty and integrated it into his crown. His part in the Reconquista was similar in Mediterranean Spain to that of his contemporary Ferdinand III of Castile in Andalusia.
As a legislator and organiser, he occupies a high place among the Spanish kings. James compiled the Llibre del Consulat de Mar, which governed maritime trade and helped establish Catalan supremacy in the western Mediterranean. He was an important figure in the development of Catalan, sponsoring Catalan literature and writing a quasi-autobiographical chronicle of his reign: the Llibre dels fets.
James forced Nachmanides (Rabbi Moses ben Nachman) to participate in a public debate, with the Jewish convert to Christianity, Pablo Christiani. Unlike what usually happened, Nachmanides chose to respond aggressively. His defense of Judaism and refutations of Christianity’s claims served as the basis of many such future disputations through the generations. Because his victory was an insult to the king’s religion, Nachmanides was forced to flee Spain. There were those who wanted the sage killed, but James let him escape; a silent acknowledgement of the strength of the Rabbi’s arguments.
Prayer: In the times of James there was little room for tolerance or mutual understanding.The asymmetries of power put Jewish people at a disadvantage, and Jewish believers in Yeshua had to show their loyalty to the Church by attacking Jews and Judaism. Father, forgive! Help us to show the love of Yeshua not through forced disputations or the might of arms, but through the self-giving love of Yeshua, who humbled himself for our sakes, and chose a humiliating death on the cross to show the powers of this world their powerlessness and his true strength. In Yeshua’s name we pray. Amen.
Richard Harvey, Raymundus Martini – The Life and Times of a Medieval Controversialist.
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