Department of History
University of California, Irvine
Instructor: Dr. Barbara J. Becker
A letter from the Castellan of Chillon, deputy of the bailiff of Chablis there
to the officials, councillors and citizens of Strassburg
I understand that you want to know about the confessions of the Jews and the proofs brought against them.
Many Jews have been tried after being put to the question [tortured] or, in some cases, making confession without it, and have been condemned to be burned. Some Christians, to whom Jews gave poison for use against Christians, have also been put on the wheel and tortured. For the burning of Jews and the torturing of Christians has gone on in numerous places within the county of Savoy. May God keep you.
The Confession made on the 15 September 1348, in the castle of Chillon, by the Jews of Villeneuve imprisoned there on the charge of poisoning the wells, springs and other places; and putting poison into food in order to destroy and wipe out the entire Christian religion:
I. Balavigny, a Jewish surgeon who lived at Thonon, was arrested at Chillon after being found in the neighborhood. He was briefly put to the question and, when it was over, he confessed, after a long interval, that, about ten weeks earlier, the Rabbi Jacob of Toledo ... sent him, by a Jewish boy, some poison (about the size of an egg) in the form of a powder enclosed in a leather bag, accompanied by a letter, commanding him on pain of excommunication and by the obedience he owed to the Jewish law, to put the poison into the larger public wells of the town -- the ones most commonly used -- in order to poison the people using them; and not to tell anybody at all. The letter also said that rabbis had given orders for the same thing to be done in various other places....
He further confessed that after he put the poison in the spring at Thonon, he expressly forbade his wife and children to use the spring, but without telling them why.
In the presence of many credible witnesses he confessed by the Jewish law and by the five books of Moses that everything he had said was true....
On the next day, Balavigny, voluntarily and without torture, maintained the truth of his confession, repeating it word for word in the presence of many credible witnesses and further confessing, of his own accord, that one day, on his way back from La Tour de Vevey, he had put into a spring below Montreux ... a quantity of poison about the size of a nut, wrapped in a rag.... He told Manssionnus the Jew ... what he had done and warned them not to drink from the spring. He describes the poison as red and black in color....
II. Banditon, a Jew of Villeneuve, was likewise briefly put to the question on 15 September and, when it was over, he confessed, after a long interval, that he had put a quantity of poison, about the size of a large nut ... into the spring of Carutet, to poison people...
III. Mamson, a Jew of Villeneuve, when he was put to the question on 15 September, confessed nothing about these matters, maintaining his total ignorance. But on the next day he voluntarily, of his own volition and without being put to the question at all, confessed in the presence of many people that one day in the fortnight after Pentecost he traveled from Monthey in the company of a Jew called Provenzal, and as they went along Provenzal said to him, "You're going to put the poison which I'll give you into that spring, or it'll be the worse for you." ... So Mamson took a quantity of poison, about the size of a nut, and put it in the well. He believes that all the Jews around Évian held a meeting before Pentecost to discuss the poisoning....
Before their execution, all these Jews confessed by the Jewish law that all these things were true, insisting that no Jew above the age of seven could acquit himself of the charges, because they all knew everything that was going on....
You should know that all the Jews living in Villeneuve have been burned by due legal process, and at August three Christians were flayed for their involvement in the poisoning -- I myself present on that occasion. Many Christians have been similarly arrested for this crime in many other places.... Some of these Christians have been quartered, others flayed and hanged. Certain commissioners have been appointed by the Count to punish the Jews, and I believe that none remains alive.