The forensic examination of the child’s body by the physician Giovanni Mattia Tiberino was published in Trent in 1475, confirming the ritual murder, and it was reprinted in 13 editions published in Rome, Treviso, Mantua, Sant’Orso, Venice, Verona, Naples, Cologne, Augsburg, and Nurenberg. Tiberino also published a complete history of the case, as well as verses, and an epitaph.
Against doubts raised within the Church, the legal opinion of the influential canon lawyer Giovanni Francesco Pavini was also published in Rome in 1478.
At the same time Hinderbach solicited influential writers to publish works in support of the creation of a cult surrounding the little boy: works by Raffaele Zovenzoni, Pomponio Leto, Platina, Felice Feliciano. Verses on the ‘martyrdom’ were written by Giorgio Sommariva and Girolamo Campagnola, Leonardo Montagna, Cimbriaco, Giovanni Calfurnio, Ubertino Posculo.
The campaign was also supported by the anti-Jewish sermons of some Observant Franciscans and Augustinian Hermits, such as Silvestro da Bagnoregio, Proctor General of the Augustinian Hermits.
Opposition and scepticism existed from within the Church, but were overcome by the power of the new medium. Simoncino became the symbol of the city, and so was included to represent it, in Schedel’s famous History of the World of 1493.
The cult was made official in 1588 and Simoncino beatified. It was only in 1965 that the cult was abolished, when an official paper of the Catholic Church – Nostra aetate – finally sanctioned the revocation of the deicide accusation against the Jews, and any form of antisemitism was forbidden.
Was this the first case of fake news in print?