I. The Castes
Purity of blood, or the racism arising from such a criterion, was already a form of ethnicism, limited to discrimination based on racial differences (phenotypical, somatic, or, generically, biological). Ethnic identity is characterised by its reference to the past: a common ascendance, common origins. At the same time, it is understood that of all the cultural traits, religion is a privileged ethnic marker, given the frequent link made between the myths of the origins of the group and the myth of creation. In a sense, in mediaeval Castilian society, the religious community an individual was born into, determined that individual's social identity. There were mechanisms, such as the prohibition of proselytism, the condemnation of apostasy, religious endogamy and control of orthodoxy, which protected the integrity of religious groups. In a society based on ethnic-religious groups, conversion to another religion implied an act of faith and, also, a change in ethnic identity (reference). When religion is an important marker -the main marker of the identity of the ethnic group- priests are the guardians of the limits and frontiers of the group (reference).
The ideology of purity of blood went far beyond the measures provided for by canonical and royal law. The states, spurred by an apparently religious zeal, wished to exclude from public offices and ecclesiastical privileges, the descendants of those condemned by the Holy Office "for crimes of heresy and apostasy" up to the second generation in the male line, and up to the first in the female line, as well as imposing certain prohibitions on them such as wearing silk clothing, gold and jewellery, riding horses or owning arms. Not all judeoconversos were unfit but they were all impure, as they descended from Jewish lineage. The impure were not only the heretic, but also those blemished by vile and infamous generation, descending from a bad lineage, thus becoming the paradigm of anti-Christianity and anti-nobility. Thus, purity of blood came to substitute purity of faith and mediaeval anti-Judaism gave place to a new form of racial and social anti-Semitism (reference).
Dominguez Ortiz says that purity of blood seems to be a typically Spanish phenomenon that caused complications in Castilian society unknown to the rest of Europe (reference). In later works, he says that "there is no basis for the racist explanation of the Inquisition" and that the roots are not Spanish, but rather "it was a poisoned fruit, which although not altogether unknown to Spain, was, to a great extent, imported" (reference). "Many illustrious families had mixed with people of Jewish race, because of their social position, their fortune and the beauty of their women. Before the 15 th century, nobody thought this shocking, leaving to one side the fact that written language had not yet learnt to express intimacies of this kind. If Spanish life had developed at a calm and harmonious rhythm, the mix of Christians and Hebrews would not have caused any conflicts, however Spain was, and had been since the 8th century, a common home to three peoples and three beliefs. Those who really gave importance to the purity of blood were the Jews. The Jews, a minority, defended themselves from the dominating Christians, who incited or forced them into conversions whereby the character of their race vanished". Until the 15 th century, Christians had mixed with Jews without considering it to be abominable. "The normality of the situation is evident in the silence with regard to this racial intermingling, which only started to be the subject of comment and fear from the 15th century. If purity of blood was an answer by a judaised Christianity to the Hebrew racial hermetism, another answer was the inclusion of life in an entirely religious framework and the violent rejection of any study or doctrine harmful to theological supremacy" (reference).
Dominguez Ortiz believes that "purity of blood came to be a collective obsession of the Spanish people"; H. Kamel, on the other hand, is certain that it never came to that (reference).
3. Duties of the Board of Governors
The rectors of the Guild of Silversmiths presided over the Chapter, carried out examinations, authorised shops and complied with the pious and charitable dispositions of good governance. They also weighed the gold carats and fixed the value of silver and established the true way and precise order in which precious metals were to be crafted. Finally they exposed any deceitful schemes related to precious metals and made sure that the masters and apprentices were honest people which had to have the characteristics of long standing Christians, free of any impurity of blood, of proper ascendance and of their parents. They finally awarded a price to the best silver master.
The rectors also ensured the law was respected and denounced any breach of law they witnessed. They visited the silversmith workshops and shops to check the weights and to confiscate any faulty pieces.
At times of scarcity of precious metals, they inspect silversmiths and craftsmen to ensure that they did not obtain them by melting coins of legal tender. The worked silver they acquired was not to be melted before three days had passed, to give people the chance to buy it by weight. All pieces were required to carry the marks of the master and the city it originated from.
The creations could not be sold in distant or inaccessible places, so as to ensure they could be easily controlled. Clandestine sale of jewellery was forbidden, as it often came from robberies and acts of sacrilege. The Board of Governors of the Guild also monitored the market to ensure no fake pieces were sold.
In the mid 18th century, an enormous quantity of attractive and very reasonably priced jewels arrived to Spain from abroad. These jewels had been made mechanically, using false precious stones and very low quality of silver. It was then considered necessary to take preventive measures. Laws were therefore issued against the importation of these objects as well as for the surveillance of the harbours and frontiers and the prohibition of selling jewellery to foreigners.
The leaders of the Guild kept the rich ornaments and sacred objects belonging to the congregation in custody, under inventory. The sacred objects were generally made up from donations of the brothers as well as confiscations for not having complied with the legal requirements. In an arc with two keys -one kept by the elder brother and the other by a veedor (guardian)- they kept the marks of all the silversmiths printed in lead, which had to be registered before the Council Scribe; and the archive of the Guild, which had the following books: Book of Decrees, Book of Chapter Minutes, Book of Accounts of the Major-domo, List of the silversmith brothers, List of masters and apprentices, Book of receipts of the brothers, Books of exam drawings, Books of exam and shop licences, Book of deaths and burials, Book of maids of the brotherhood, and Book of Inspection Visits. The guild mayors kept the latter.