Original Diary Entry
When we arrived at the Casa, I was put into the hands of the Prioress, who took me by the hand. She led me into a small room, which had a small bed, for one person, a little table, with a drawer for food, which could be locked. I was left alone, until the Prioress appeared for the first time to visit me, telling me to pray to God that I be illuminated [to convert], and to be contrite. I responded boldly, and with pluck, that I had already been illuminated, and I had no intention of being deceived to desert the religion into which I was born. […] the Prioress brought with her some young woman convert to disturb my peace [and shake my faith]. However, imagining the great damage such company might bring, I made up my mind to carry on alone, should I be allowed it, rather than share the company of that awful class of person.
That same day after pranzo, I was visited by the Vice Regent, who asked me whether I had ever had [sexual] relations with a young Jew in the ghetto. I replied that I was immune and innocent. […] He then took his leave, telling me that I should pray for God’s illumination.
At the 24th hour (About 7:30 p.m.), a neophyte I did not know entered. He looked to me like a stregone [a male witch] […] He then began to preach, accompanied by two other priests […] I, for my part, stood silent and did not respond.
Seeing me like this, he was infuriated and jumped at me, putting his hands on my eyes, saying why didn’t I say something, that I believed in the God of Israel. I, fearing his arrogance, answered in a whisper […] This rasha, […] boasted “I have had the good fortune to convert others, and so I hope to convert you, too.” […] I grew quiet and stopped responding while he continued expounding prophecies […] seeing me so obstinate, [he] began to threaten. […] After about three hours, he left menacingly, along with the two other priests, saying that if I did not make an effort to believe in the God of Israel, I could stay that way [in the Casa] for one hundred years. He turned on his heels and left in bad spirits.
The Prioress reentered as they left and spoke sweetly, asking me what I wished to eat for dinner. I requested two eggs, even though I did not have the strength to drink even water. To keep count of the days, I saved an egg a day. The Prioress then returned with a lamp. It had enough oil to burn for two hours, and I was able to say my devotions. Then finding myself alone without light, I burst out into tears, calling out contritely: “Keep me from you evil doers, for God has heard the sound of my lament.” Then I threw myself on the bed, desperately, without undressing, but I could find neither peace nor rest.
NARRATOR: In this portion, when Anna’s eyes are covered please close your eyes. When the cover is removed, please open your eyes.
Having arrived at the Casa, the Prioress leads you into a room, her hand firm around yours. Having let you in, she leaves. You look around the small room and see a window, a small bed, and little table with a drawer.1 Leaning in, you see that it has a lock.
Footsteps as the Prioress returns
PRIORESS: Pray to God that he should illuminate you. Be contrite, for faith is a gift from God, but to live without it is sin, for which there is no excuse.2
NARRATOR: You reply boldly – you already know the true faith. You will not be tricked into leaving the religion you were born into. She leaves you alone, returning later with a young woman – a convert she says. You refuse the company, preferring to be alone than with her kind.3 Later that same day, the Vice Regent comes to visit you.
Footsteps, the scrape of a chair
VICE REGENT: My child, I must ask you, have you ever had relations with a young Jew in the ghetto?
NARRATOR: At once, you reply that you are an innocent. The man looks at you, smiling slightly.4
VICE REGENT: Dear Child, do not be embarrassed to tell me the truth. This is common. It is found in all girls, including you Jews, and possibly you yourself. Here, you are no different from anybody else.
NARRATOR: You tell him that young men are not allowed in your house, and no-one could claim to have spoken to you unchaperoned, in the house or outside it, or even to have seen you speaking through your windows. Your people are different, young women do not walk the streets alone and unmarried. It should be clear – you tell him – that you had nothing to do with anyone.
VICE REGENT: Pray for God’s illumination.
Hard footsteps as the Vice Regent leaves
NARRATOR: That evening, you receive another visitor. He looks to you like a witch, approaching with two others.
Footsteps as the man approaches
CONVERT: Real freedom is in Christ, Anna.6 You know, I was once a Jew – not only that, but I used to preach every Sabbath in the Ancona synagogue. But then I was illuminated by the true faith, and I left my first Law to become a Catholic, for this is the true faith; and I have come here so that with my help, you, too, can recognize the truth.
NARRATOR: He begins preaching at you- but resolute, you remain silent. Seeing you so stoic, his face turns dark, and he jumps at you. You feel his hands cover your eyes, his fingers hard on your face. His damp breath hits your skin, hot and rapid.
The pounding of feet move closer, the sound of breath in your ear
CONVERT: (This preaching is simultaneous with the above) The Trinity is a mystery known only by divine revelation. Even if we hear Shema yisrael, the mystery is above that. God likes the modest catechumen, unlike the other Jews who presume to know everything because they know Quattro parole ebraiche, four Hebrew words. God reflects himself and produces a perfect image of Himself. The Word, the Idea, and Love. Then wisdom is generated, which took on human nature.
CONVERT: Why don’t you say something – why don’t you say you believe in the God of Israel? Say it!
NARRATOR: You whisper at him to leave you alone; you believe nothing – only what your parents believe. You were born a Jew; you want to die a Jew. Please, you tell him, you don’t need his preaching, leave you be.
CONVERT: I have had the good fortune to convert others, and so I hope to convert you, too.
NARRATOR: You tell him he can preach all he wants, but it’s a waste of his breath. He continues undeterred.
CONVERT: (This preaching is simultaneous with the above) Isa. 48:16: Behold I am your Redeemer, the Holy one, santo of Israel, I the Lord your God; I teach you for your good; I am the guide on the right road. We see the Holy Spirit here. Jews say this interpretation is nonsense, that the one sent is Isaiah himself.7 If I had not seen and touched the truth with my own hands I would not have taken up the true Catholic faith, because of which, I have come here to show you the light, to save your soul, salvare l’Anima.
CONVERT: You won’t answer me – you won’t acknowledge? I will go to the Pope about you! Hear the word of truth!
Preaching continues (see above)
NARRATOR: Three hours pass in this way. He speaks at you, and you keep silent as his breath hits your face and his fingers dig into your forehead. Finally, he removes his hands.8
CONVERT: If you do not make an effort to believe in the God of Israel, you can stay in this house for a hundred years!
Footsteps as he leaves with his fellow priests
NARRATOR: As they leave you, the Prioress enters once more.
PRIORESS: What would you like for dinner Anna?
NARRATOR: You ask for two eggs, though you know you won’t be able to keep them down. They’ll help you keep track of the days anyway.9 Leaving briefly, she returns with a small lamp. Finally by yourself, you pray until the light goes out.
The darkness swallows you, leaving you utterly alone. Your throat thickens, and over the lump that forms you cry, ‘Keep me from you evil doers! God has heard the sound of my lament!’ Covering your face, you throw yourself on your bed and sob.
Footsteps as the Prioress leaves. Soft sounds of crying mingle with the tolling of bells and the singing of a latin hymn above a constant low drone
1We know there was a window, as she can hear a bird during day thirteen.
2Unless quoted by Anna, all preaching is taken from L’ebreo Catecumeno Istruito, as translated by Kenneth Stow.
4Converts were seen as traitors. I chose to have the convert remain silent because there is no indication that she spoke, as Anna quickly decides to be alone.
5This is extrapolated from the cajoling tone of his words.
8I have chosen to have him maintain this tactic, as Anna gives no indication that he stops at any point.