Petrus Alphonsi was a Jewish Spanish physician, writer, astronomer, and polemicist, who converted to Christianity in 1106. He is also known just as Alphonsi, and as Peter Alfonsi or Peter Alphonso and was born Moses Sephardi). Born in Islamic Spain, he mostly lived in England and France after his conversion.

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  • Petrus Alphonsi was a Jewish Spanish physician, writer, astronomer, and polemicist, who converted to Christianity in 1106. He is also known just as Alphonsi, and as Peter Alfonsi or Peter Alphonso and was born Moses Sephardi). Born in Islamic Spain, he mostly lived in England and France after his conversion. He was born at an unknown date and place in the 11th century in Spain, and educated in al-Andalus, or Islamic Spain. As he describes himself, he was baptised at Huesca, capital of the Kingdom of Aragon, on St. Peter's Day, 29 June 1106, when he was probably approaching middle age; this is the first clear date we have in his biography. In honor of the saint Peter, and of his royal patron and godfather, the Aragonese King Alfonso I he took the name of Petrus Alfonsi (Alfonso's Peter). By 1116 at the latest he had emigrated to England, where he seems to have remained some years, before moving to northern France. The date of his death is as unclear as that of his birth. He was famous as a writer during his lifetime, and remained so for the rest of the Middle Ages, with over 160 surviving medieval manuscripts containing works of his. The most common are his Dialogi contra Iudaeos (Dialogue Against the Jews), an imaginary conversation between a Jew and a Christian, and Disciplina Clericalis (A Training-school for the Clergy), in fact a collection of Eastern fables. Petrus was born a Jew while living in al-Andalus, and after he rose to prominence, he converted to Christianity. This environment gave him an advantageous knowledge of Christianity, Judaism and Islam that would later prove useful in his polemics. John Tolan mentioned in his book Petrus Alfonsi and His Medieval Readers that "Alfonsi’s texts were received enthusiastically—he became an auctor, an authority to be quoted. His success was due in large part to his ability to bridge several cultures: a Jew from the [Muslim] world of al-Andalus." His knowledge of these different religions is what makes Alfonsi unique and why he is essential to be studied when looking at anti-Judaic polemics. Petrus’ upbringing placed him in an atmosphere that provided a significant impetus to launch him as one of the most important figures in anti-Judaic polemics. According to Tolan, Petrus Alfonsi was reared in a society in turmoil: a place of chaos and political instability, where Judaism was in conflict with science, and Islam and Christianity were becoming a larger influence. His background was conveniently placed in the centre of contention between religions and circumstances that surrounded his upbringing, and provided the framework for polemics that would shape Medieval Judaic perception. (en)
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  • Petrus Alphonsi was a Jewish Spanish physician, writer, astronomer, and polemicist, who converted to Christianity in 1106. He is also known just as Alphonsi, and as Peter Alfonsi or Peter Alphonso and was born Moses Sephardi). Born in Islamic Spain, he mostly lived in England and France after his conversion. (en)
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  • Petrus Alphonsi (en)
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