Stylized signature of Solomon Molcho.
Source: Manuscript owned by the Alliance Israélite Universelle
|Died||13 December 1532
Cause of death
|Executed (burning at stake)|
Solomon Molcho (Hebrew: שלמה מולכו Shelomo Molkho, originally Diogo Pires, (1500 – 13 December 1532) was a Portuguese mystic and pseudomessiah. A "New Christian" who reverted to Judaism, Molcho declared himself the Messiah, was convicted of apostasy by the Inquisition and was ordered burned at the stake.
Molcho was born a Christian to Marrano parents in Portugal about 1500. His baptismal name probably was Diogo Pires. He held the post of secretary in one of the higher courts of his native country. When the Jewish adventurer David Reubeni came ostensibly on a political mission from Khaibar (Peshawar) to Portugal, Molcho wished to join him, but was rejected. He then circumcised himself, though without thereby gaining Reubeni's favor, and emigrated to Turkey.
Molcho was a believer in dream interpretation who studied the Kabbalah with Joseph Taitazak and became acquainted with Joseph Caro. He then wandered as a preacher through Ottoman Syria, where he achieved a great reputation and announced that the Messianic kingdom would come in 1540. In 1529 Molcho published a portion of his sermons under the title Derashot, or Sefer ha-Mefo'ar. Going to Italy, he was opposed by prominent Jews including Jacob Mantino ben Samuel, who feared that he might mislead other Jews. He succeeded in gaining the favor of Pope Clement VII and of some Judeophile cardinals at Rome. He was said to have predicted a certain flood which inundated Rome and various other places. After his many cabalistic and other strange experiments, Molcho felt justified in proclaiming himself the Messiah, or his precursor.
Travels and execution
In company with David Reubeni, whom he came across in Italy, he went in 1532 to Ratisbon, where the emperor Charles V was holding a diet. On this occasion, Molcho carried a flag with the Hebrew word Maccabi, the four letters מכבי which also signify an abbreviation for Exodus 15:11 "Who among the mighty is like unto God?". The emperor had both Molcho and Reubeni arrested and took them back to Italy. In Mantua an ecclesiastical court sentenced Molcho to death by fire. At the stake, it is claimed the emperor offered to pardon him on condition that he return to the Catholic Church, but Molcho refused, asking for a martyr's death (5th of Tevet 5293 in the Hebrew calendar).
- Yosef Eisen, Miraculous journey: a complete history of the Jewish people from Creation to the present, Targum Press, Southfield, MI, 2004, p216.
- Singer, Isidore; Bloch, Phillipp. "Molko, Solomon" in Jewish Encyclopedia. Funk and Wagnalls, New York. 1901-1906.
- Encyclopædia Britannica
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Molko". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: "Molko, Solomon". Jewish Encyclopedia. 1901–1906.