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Jews in Medieval Christendom

tudes sur
le Judasme Mdival
Fondes par
Georges Vajda

Diriges par
Paul B. Fenton


The titles published in this series are listed at

Jews in Medieval Christendom

Slay Them Not

Edited by

Kristine T. Utterback
Merrall Llewelyn Price

Cover image courtesy of the Royal Library of Denmark.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Jews in medieval Christendom : slay them not / edited by Kristine T. Utterback, Merrall Llewelyn
pages cm. (Etudes sur le Judaisme medieval ; Tome 60)
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN 978-90-04-25043-7 (hardback : alk. paper) ISBN 978-90-04-25044-4 (e-book)
1. JudaismRelationsChristianity. 2. Christianity and other religionsJudaism. 3. Christianity
and antisemitismHistory. 4. JewsHistory701789. 5. Judaism (Christian theology)
History of doctrinesMiddle Ages, 6001500. 6. EuropeChurch history6001500.
I. Utterback, Kristine T., editor of compilation. II. Price, Merrall Llewelyn, 1965, editor of
compilation. III. Utterback, Kristine T., editor of compilation. Jewish resistance to conversion in
the late-medieval Crown of Aragon.

BM535.J498 2013

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Notes on Contributors.................................................................................... vii

Introduction...................................................................................................... 1

An Iconographical Study of the Appearance of Synagoga

in Carolingian Ivories................................................................................ 7
Nancy Bishop

The Zeal of God: The Representation of Anger in the Latin

Crusade Accounts of the 1096 Rhineland Massacres...................... 25
Kate McGrath

Race, Anti-Jewish Polemic, Arnulf of Sez, and the Contested

Papal Election of Anaclet II (A.D. 1130)............................................. 45
Irven M. Resnick

Vitam finivit infelicem: Madness, Conversion, and Adolescent

Suicide among Jews in Late Twelfth-Century England................... 71
Ephraim Shoham-Steiner

Politics, Prophecy and Jews: The Destruction of Jerusalem

in Anglo-Norman Historiography.......................................................... 91
K.M. Kletter

King Henry III and the Jews......................................................................... 117

Robert C. Stacey

Aquinas on the Forced Conversion of Jews: Belief, Will,

and Toleration............................................................................................. 129
Jennifer Hart Weed

Dante and the Jews......................................................................................... 147

Jay Ruud
vi contents

Jewish Resistance to Conversion in the Late-Medieval Crown

of Aragon....................................................................................................... 163
Kristine T. Utterback

Medieval Antisemitism and Excremental Libel..................................... 177

Merrall Llewelyn Price

Between a Rock and a Hard Place: Rulers, Cities, and their Jews
in Austria during the Persecutions of the Fourteenth Century..... 189
Eveline Brugger

Codifying Jews: Jews in Austrian Town Charters of the Thirteenth

and Fourteenth Centuries........................................................................ 201
Birgit Wiedl

Making the Jews in the Hours of Mary de Bohun................................. 223

Carlee A. Bradbury

The Christian-Jewish Debate and the Catalan Atlas............................ 245

Judy Schaaf

Mythologizing the Jewish Other in The Prioresss Tale.................... 275

Barbara Stevenson

Him Jesus, that Jew!Representing Jewishness in the

York Plays...................................................................................................... 287
Miriamne Ara Krummel

Complex Relations between Jews and Christians in Late Medieval

German and Other Literature................................................................. 313
Albrecht Classen

Select Bibliography.......................................................................................... 339

Index.................................................................................................................... 343
Notes on Contributors

The contributors, from three continents, represent multiple career stages,

disciplines, and academic backgrounds.

Nancy Bishop is an art historian currently working as visiting instruc-

tor at Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado. She graduated from the
University of Iowa and focuses on early medieval visual art.

Kate McGrath is an associate professor of history at Central Connecticut

State University. She works primarily on the imputation of anger and
shame in medieval European texts dealing with violence.

Irven M. Resnick holds the Chair of Excellence in Judaic Studies at the

University of Tennessee in Chattanooga. He has published numerous
translations of historical documents dealing with Jews and Judaism in medi-
eval Christendom, including Peter the Venerables Against the Inveterate
Obduracy of the Jews, Fathers of the Church Mediaeval Continuation 14
(Washington D.C.: Catholic University of America Press, 2013). His most
recent monograph is entitled Marks of Distinction: Christian Perceptions
of Jews in the High Middle Ages (Washington D.C.: Catholic University of
America Press, 2012).

Ephraim Shoham-Steiner is a senior lecturer in the Department of Jewish

History at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Beersheva. He is interested in
most medieval Jewish social and religious history. His book: On the Margins
of a Minority: Leprosy Madness and Disability Among the Jews of Medieval
Europe (Detroit: Wayne State University Press) is forthcoming in 2014.

Karen Kletter is an associate professor of history at Methodist University

in North Carolina. She focuses on historiography and intellectual history.

Robert Stacey is Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and Professor
of European history at the University of Washington. He has published
extensively on Jewish history, particularly that of medieval England.

Jennifer Hart Weed is an associate professor of philosophy at the University

of New Brunswick. Her focus is medieval philosophy, particularly that of
Thomas Aquinas.
viii notes on contributors

Jay Ruud is a professor and chair of the Department of English at the

University of Central Arkansas. He has published on Chaucer, Dante,
Julian of Norwich, J.R.R. Tolkien, and medieval antisemitism.

Kristine T. Utterback is an associate professor of religious studies at the

University of Wyoming. Her interests include Jewish-Christian interac-
tions in fourteenth century Aragon and medieval pilgrimage.

Merrall Llewelyn Price is an associate professor of interdisciplinary stud-

ies at Western Kentucky University, and an affiliate faculty member at
Oklahoma State University. She publishes on religion and the medieval
body, and is at work on a Chaucer monograph.

Eveline Brugger is a research fellow at the Institute for Jewish History in

Austria, St. Plten. Apart from her work on editing medieval Jewish docu-
ments, her research interests include urban history, Jewish-Christian rela-
tions, and cultural translation.

Birgit Wiedl is a research fellow at the Institute for Jewish History in

Austria, St. Plten. Apart from her work on editing medieval Jewish docu-
ments, her research interests include urban history, Jewish-Christian rela-
tions, and cultural translation.

Carlee A. Bradbury is an associate professor of art history at Radford

University in Virginia. She is interested in medieval manuscript iconogra-
phy, particularly that of Jews and Judaism.

Judy Schaaf is a professor of English at the University of Massachusetts,

Dartmouth, interested in the delineation of Jewishness in English medi-
eval history, particularly in visual representation.

Barbara Stevenson is a professor emerita of English at Kennesaw State

University. Her research interests include Chaucer and medieval women

Miriamne Ara Krummel is an associate professor of English literature at the

University of Dayton. She is the author of Crafting Jewishness in Medieval
England: Legally Absent, Virtually Present (NY: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011).

Albrecht Classen is Distinguished Professor of German Studies at the

University of Arizona. He has published extensively in multiple areas of
medieval studies with particular focus on the late medieval period.

This collection of academic essays about the interaction of Jews and

Christians in the Christian world during the Middle Ages is framed by
Augustines theory of Jewish witness to the truth of Christianity, a theol-
ogy original in its thinking and far-reaching in its implications. Drawing
heavilyand creativelyon Psalm 59, Augustine argued that the words
of the Psalmslay them not, lest at any time they forget your law; scat-
ter them in your mightconstituted Gods instructions to Christians for
dealing with Jews. One recent Augustine scholar calls this contribution to
subsequent Jewish/Christian relations brilliant and novel,1 and there is
no doubt that it had a significant impact for centuries to come. The essays
collected here examine a variety of attitudes to Jews and Judaism in medi-
eval Christianity, attitudes very much influenced, in one way or another,
by what the father of Reform Judaism Moses Mendelssohn termed the
lovely brainwave of the Bishop of Hippo.2
In the late fourth and early fifth centuries, at a time when church authori-
ties saw heresy as an immediate and pressing threat and as other Christian
thinkers were producing virulent anti-Jewish rhetoric, Augustine of Hippo
formulated a theory that allowed Christians to account for the continued
presence of Jews in their midst and even, while condemning Jewish con-
tumacy, to see this presence as a net positive for Christendom. His theory
of Jewish witness would play a significant role in the ways Christians
interacted with Jews for centuries to come, and it has even been credited
with the continued survival of Judaism in the West. However, the witness
theory proved a double-edged sword; at the same time that it justified the
survival of Judaism as consistent with Gods plan for humanitys salvation,
it could also be used to justify the subjection of Jews under Christianity,
providing a severe circumscription of the conditions under which Jews and
Judaism should be allowed to survive. Eventually, the ambivalence of the
doctrine would prove to allow a latitude in Christian policies toward Jews
which some would come to view as dangerous, while its supercessionary

1 Paula Fredriksen, Augustine and the Jews: A Christian Defense of Jews and Judaism
(New York: Doubleday, 2008), 211.
2Alexander Altman, Moses Mendelssohn: A Biographical Study (Tuscaloosa: University
of Alabama, 1973), 212.
2 introduction

basis limited how valuable it could be to a Judaism that dared to change

and grow.
Augustine did not develop his doctrine in a vacuum. The fourth century
had seen Christianity grow from a persecuted minority sect to the official
religion of empire. Though its actual enemy at that time was less Judaism
than it was the threat posed by paganism, heresy, and schism, the prob-
lem of the appeal of Judaizingthe maintaining or adopting of Jewish
practices by Christian convertsthat had confronted Paul remained real,
and churchmen like John Chrysostom did not hesitate to attack both Jews
and Judaizing in violent and uncompromising rhetoric. For Chrysostom,
Jews are equally godless as pagans, and their impiety has turned them
into ungovernable animals, fit only for slaughter: Although such beasts
are unfit for work, they are fit for killing. And this is what happened to
the Jews: while they were making themselves unfit for work, they grew fit
for slaughter. This is why Christ said: But as for these my enemies, who
did not want me to be king over them, bring them here and slay them.3
Despite the violence of his rhetoric, Chrysostom does not appear to be
calling for the literal death of Jews; he wished merely to stitch shut the
mouths of the Jews4 and to convert them to Christianity.
Augustine, however, took a different approach. Though unflinching in
his attitude toward heretics like the Marcionites and the Arians, Augustine
saw Jews as radically different, and perhaps more importantly, as ulti-
mately useful. Their books and their practices and their exile from their
land could all be seen as testifying to the roots of the New Testament in
the Old, and to the replacement of the old Mosaic Law with the new cov-
enant of grace and salvation in Christ. His earliest teachings on Jews and
Judaism, in Contra Faustum, associate Jews with Cain, who, having mur-
dered his righteous brother, is marked by God so that he will not be killed
but forced to live out his life as a restless wanderer on the earth. Cain is
thus a type for the Jews, who are seen as having killed their righteous
brother Jesus, and whose subjection in foreign lands is a part of their pun-
ishment: And every emperor or king who finds Jews in his realm finds
them with this sign and does not kill them, that is, does not make them
cease to be Jews, who are set apart from the community of other nations

3Adversus Iudeuos I:2, 6. The translation is that of Paul W. Harkins in St. John Chry
sostom: Discourses against Judaizing Christians (Washington: Catholic University Press,
4Ibid., V: 1, 6.
introduction 3

by a certain distinct and proper sign of their own observance.5 Further,

in their complicity in the killing of Jesus, the Jews have brought their own
prophecies to fulfillment, and ironically, these prophecies testify to the
truth of the Christian message. Thus not only is Jewish survival itself a
form of punishment, but one facet of that punishment is that through
their suffering, they become reluctant witnesses for Christianity.
However, it was Augustines later elaboration of the theory of Jewish wit-
ness to Christian truth that would prove both innovative and influential.
His allegorical reading of Psalm 59, Davids cry to God when the enemies
sent by Saul are surrounding him, demonstrates both the existence of and
reason for a divine mandate for the survival of Jews and Judaism. Though
both theologians are speaking of slaughter as a metaphor for the end of
Judaism rather than the death of Jews, the contrast with Chrysostom is
startling. Of the two, Augustines relative tolerance would win out, shap-
ing and perhaps even ameliorating the views and policies of the early and
high medieval church.
Yet, as we have hinted, the invocation of Psalm 59 was not without
ambivalence. Despite its relative tolerance in the context of late antiq-
uity, it is hardly a demonstration of Augustinian esteem for Jews; else-
where Augustine described them as willfully blind, carnal, impious,
stupid, cursed, ungodly, and deicidal, and he clearly believed that their
only hope was conversion. In his exegesis of Psalm 59, he points out that
the divine mandate to slay them not is inadequate without the com-
mand to scatter them, because their exile to every nation of the world
vastly increases their opportunity to witness to the truth of Christianity,
not only with their holy books and rituals, which prove the solid founda-
tion of Christianity, but in the very oppression and enslavement of their
lives, which prove Gods casting off of the chosen people: Look now, who
would not see, who would not recognize on the whole earth, wherever
that people is scattered, how they groan in grief over the kingdom that
they lost and tremble with fear under the countless Christian peoples?
The proof-text invokes the by-now familiar charge of Jewish deicide, and
characterizes Jews as the perpetual enemies of Christians and Christianity.
And while a literal interpretation of Augustines doctrine might well have
saved lives, Augustine himself, for whom the concepts of the literal and

5Augustine, Contra Faustum 12.13. Answer to Faustus, a Manichean, in the Works of

St. Augustine. A Translation for the 21st Century, trans. Roland Teske, ed. Boniface Ramsey
(Hyde Park, NY: New City Press, 2007).
4 introduction

the metaphoric were of profound interest, makes it clear that slay them
not is not an instruction to refrain from literal killing, but to mak[ing]
them cease to be Jews. This is the case not because it would be better for
Jews not to be converted, but because it would be better for Christians
that they were not. Though historians differ on the extent to which the
text is intended to be a juridical injunction on the proper treatment of
Jews in Christendom, it was certainly both a theological argument and a
fairly accurate reflection of the legal status of Judaism in Augustines time
and place.6
Augustine, of course, could not control the uses to which his theory of
witness was put in the centuries to come. It would be used by church-
men like Bernard of Clairvaux to plead against the literal killing of Jews
during the Second Crusade, but also invoked by those who, like Peter
the Venerable, felt that Jews were so despicable that killing was too good
for them. For such people, it was mandated that Jews survive in order to
suffer torment, and it was the obligation of the Christian to ensure that
they did both. In asserting the value of the continued survival of Jews and
Judaism to Christianity, particularly by doing so with Psalm 59, Augustine
inadvertently tied Jewish survival to Jewish relevance for Christianity. As
long as the Jews did not forget your law, they were living reminders of it,
the book carriers and librarians for supercessionary Christianity. However,
once it became clear that Judaism had not frozen in time on the first Good
Friday, instead changing and developing as Christianity had done, the
force of Augustines guidelines was significantly undercut.7
While Augustines theory of witness allowed for considerable latitude
in possible approaches toward the Jews, it proved foundational in the
construction of the medieval idea of the Jew and hisalmost exclusively
hisperceived role within Christendom. Consequently, Augustine is
a presence, explicit or implicit, in each of the seventeen essays in this
collection. Each one provides a snapshot of a particular moment in the
history and culture of medieval Christendoms ongoing relationship with
Jews. They address questions about conversionary violence, about strate-
gies to define and contain Jewishness, about the Christian connections

6See Frederiksen, 374, Jeremy Cohen, Revisiting Augustines Doctrine of Jewish

Witness, Journal of Religion (2009), 56478 (575576), and David Nirenberg, The Birth
of the Pariah: Jews, Christian Dualism, and Social Science, Social Research Vol. 70, No. 1
(Spring 2003), 20136.
7Ibid., 317 ff. See also Kenneth R. Stow, Alienated Minority: The Jews of Medieval Latin
Europe (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1994), 251259.
introduction 5

between literal survival and the survival of Judaism, about the Christian
discovery of post-Biblical Judaism and the growth of antisemitism, about
ideology, theology, and politics, about the quotidian interactions of Jews
and Christians, and about their reflection in both learned and popular
culture. Sometimes controversial. the essays seek to address moments in
medieval history and culturefrom legal, theological, and social clashes
over conversion through historical and literary allegations of Jewish per-
versity to cartographic and manuscript representations of both Biblical
and medieval Jewswhen the post-Augustinian question of how to treat
Jews and Judaism had risen once again to the forefront. They demon-
strate and analyze ways in which medieval writers, artists, and thinkers,
often themselves explicitly invoking Augustine, reinforced, reflected, and/
or subverted the orthodox teaching on the reluctant witnesses in their
The impetus for this volume came from a National Endowment for
the Humanities Summer Institute for College Teachers, entitled Represen
tations of the Other: Jews in Medieval Christendom, held at the Oxford
Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies at Oxford University in the sum-
mer of 2006. The institute, organized and directed by Irven Resnick,
Chair of Excellence in Judaic Studies at the University of Tennessee in
Chattanooga, brought college and university teachers from around the
United States together with outstanding scholars from around the world
to explore Jewish-Christian relations in the Middle Ages. The editors wish
to thank the NEH, the OCHJS, and the contributors to the Institute: Irven
Resnick, Jeremy Cohen, Daniel J. Lasker, Sara Lipton, Miri Rubin, and
Robert Stacey, without whom this volume would not exist. We would also
like to thank Laura Hollengreen for organizing several productive sessions
at the International Medieval Congress at Leeds the following year, and to
Julia Berick, assistant editor and Diana Steele, production editor/project
manager at Brill, for their assistance in bringing this project to fruition.

Kristine T. Utterback
Merrall Llewelyn Price
July, 2013
An Iconographical Study of the Appearance
of Synagoga in Carolingian Ivories

Nancy Bishop

Any casual observer of medieval art would notice the wealth of graceful
women among the figural art of the late Middle Ages, revealing a new
sensitivity to and appreciation of the beauty of an ideal female form that
was virtually unknown in Christian Europe before that time. Amongst
these lovely images is often found a figure who, although usually physi-
cally beautiful, does not fully reflect the sweetness and grace of her sis-
ters. Synagoga, the personification of Judaism, usually appears paired with
the figure of Ecclesia, the Christian Church personified, displaying visual
clues to her perceived role in history. The apposition is clear: Ecclesia per-
sonifies not only the Christian Church/bride of Christ but truth/beauty/
goodness while Synagoga embodies denial/rejection of truth/sin herein
associated with Judaism and anathema to Christendom. Several later
images of Synagoga depict an extremely cruel treatment at the hand of the
Church and Jesus. In the most extreme of those examples, the so-called
living cross, an animated cross possessing hands on its outstretched arms,
thrusts a sword through Synagogas head, effectively illustrating what has
been characterized as a growing animosity toward Jews in Christendom.1
Synagoga, the visual counterpart of Ecclesia, has not always been
depicted thus, blind and abused. The earliest examples of this iconogra-
phy in fact show a different sort of woman and reflect the more moderate
times in which she was created. A search for the roots of these figures
leads to the art of Carolingian Europe and, specifically, the crucifixion
scene, the most common context for the two women, though such scenes
occur rarely in the early centuries, with only a handful of surviving exam-
ples. Because this scene ostensibly illustrates the historical event of the
execution of Jesus as described in the Gospels, it may be the last place

1On the increasing levels of anti-Judaism and the beginnings of antisemitism in the
medieval period, see, for example, Gavin Langmuir, Toward a Definition of Antisemitism
(Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990), Jeremy Cohen, ed., From Witness to
Witchcraft: Jews and Judaism in Medieval Christian Thought (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz,
1996), and Miri Rubin, Gentile Tales: The Narrative Assault on Late Medieval Jews (New
Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1999).
8 nancy bishop

one might expect to see this pair of personifications, imaginary as they

are. Yet from the Carolingian era on, the two women frequently appear
as witnesses of or participants in the biblical passion drama, occupying
the same narrative space as the historical figures. Interestingly, there are
some related examples in early medieval Roman mosaics, notably the
two Ecclesiae of Santa Sabina and that of the apse of Santa Pudenziana.2
Scholars have speculated that a scribe or artist from the city of Metz might
have traveled to Rome and been inspired by those figures, but there is
no record of such movement. Whether there is a relationship or not, the
iconography underwent a sudden and intense revival of usage during
the ninth century in Metz, appearing in many surviving ivory crucifixion
scenes created there.

Early Crucifixions

The few surviving early images of crucifixions in the West were either an
abbreviated and symbolic representation of the subject or an attempt to
illustrate that particular historical event as described in the Gospels. Two
fourth-century examples are one frame of the Passion Ivory in the British
Museum and one of the panels on the doors of Santa Sabina in Rome,
both lacking the figures that were later to become standard: Mary, John,
Longinus, and Stephaton. Both of the fourth-century Christ figures appear
similar in form and style, including the details of nail heads, but only
the ivory carver provided the inscription above Jesuss head identifying the
figure as King of the Jews. The detail, while Biblical, might suggest the
unexpressed thought and this is how you Jews treated your king?

Carolingian Art and Crucifixions

The renovatio of Charlemagne ushered in an era of new and revived ico-

nography in all media, leaving a great wealth of monuments as part of
his legacy. Found in a variety of media, groups of Christological scenes
are usually united by a common theme such as the nativity, the ministry
of Jesus, or post-resurrection events. Artists working in many subject

2The Ecclesia personifications of Santa Sabina are labeled as the church of the gen
tiles and the church of the circumcision. Those of Santa Pudenziana merely appear
unlabeled, standing behind a row of saints and holding martyrs crowns.
study of the appearance of synagoga in carolingian ivories9

areas expanded old iconography, revived some classical imagery, and

invented entirely new forms, creating a virtual explosion in figural art
with such masterpieces as the Utrecht Psalter, the Drogo Sacramentary,
and many other luxury manuscripts and minor arts objects. Some groups
of scenes, such as those found on the Milan ivory, often omit the actual
crucifixion while including events occurring before and after it, such as
the betrayal of Christ by Judas, and Doubting Thomas, one of the post-
resurrection vignettes. This seeming aversion to the crucifixion in this
instance is countered with a singular emphasis on it in many others for
the first time in Western art. Judging by the many surviving examples of
crucifixion scenes, the ninth century sees not only a sudden increase in
their occurrence, but the iconography used also accumulates additional
elements, expanding exponentially as seen in a group of strikingly simi-
lar Carolingian ivories.3 This abundance is noteworthy in that it indicates
both an interest in the crucifixion and a move away from the iconoclastic
aversion to depicting it.
But the complexity of this iconography could also owe as much to a sty-
listic trend as it does to theological concerns. Narrative cycles have moved
from a series of discrete cells or frames into a more organic arrangement
where elements in the scenes such as trees, hills, or buildings serve the
same function as the rigid frame. It is a small step from this organic but
crowded whole to one that includes figures from antiquity such as per-
sonifications of natural elements and ethnic or religious bodies. One type
of arrangement, seen in some extant ivory book covers, features narrative
cycles in framed segments deriving from similar examples in earlier Italian
art. In another arrangement, scenes are still clearly compartmentalized
but not so neatly framed. The complex arrangement of related images
also appears more organic in a sort of continuous narration where various
scenes appear in the frame simultaneously. The next stage in this evolu-
tion is the inclusion of many disparate figures in a single scene, most fre-
quently found in ivory carvings but also in a limited way in manuscripts.
These complex images appear to have been created as a type of visual

3Several iconographically-related ivories survive. In addition to the figures here repro

duced many of them appear as high-resolution color files on the internet: Crucifixion,
London, Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A), Collections 2501867 http://collections. [accessed 16 July 2012]; Crucifixion, London, Victoria and
Albert Museum (V&A), Collections 251:1, 21867
O88285 [accessed 16 July 2012]; Drogo Sacramentary, Paris, Bibliothque Nationale de
France (BnF), Ms Latin 9428 fol. 43v
Mandragore&O=07839402&E=1&I=68038&M=imageseule [accessed 16 July 2012].
10 nancy bishop

creedal statement, driven by a Christological concept rather than illus-

trating an historical event. The arrangement of figures in these usually
appears more organic and less compartmentalized, as though all elements
were part of one large narrative scene.
Other factors such as the cost and rarity of imported ivory may also
have affected the invention of the expanded crucifixion scene, forcing
dense usage of the precious material. With the less expensive parchment,
several illuminations based on one or two ideas often appeared in the
same manuscript. In addition, an image placed on the cover of a book is
singular and, rather than choosing one element to represent, as it were,
the entire text, the artist or patron may have chosen to combine many
into a grand concept piece. While emphasizing the centrality of the cru-
cifixion of Christ in Christian theology, this scene can be seen as a holistic
view of the entire biblical redemption story as interpreted by contem-
porary scholars and theologians. By contrast with the few surviving ear-
lier, simpler crucifixions, these complex scenes provide ample material
for analysis and interpretation complete with a wealth of visual analogs
in Carolingian art. A brief description of the various elements in the
expanded crucifixions will help to clarify the significance of the inclusion
of the personification of Synagoga.
Many of the symbolic elements are usually interpreted as visual state-
ments about the cosmic significance and redemptive nature of the cruci-
fixion. Four of these found in most of the ivories are personifications of
the sun, moon, ocean, and earth (Sol, Luna, Oceanus, and Terra). The sim-
plest explanation is that they are included to represent Christs lordship
and dominion over all of creation, as evoked in the book of Revelation.
Other scholars who have examined Carolingian theological writings sug-
gest that the sun and moon are a reference to the solar eclipse described
in the Bible as having occurred on the afternoon of the crucifixion.4 A
serpent coiled around the base of the cross also appears quite frequently,
symbolizing Christs victory over sin. In some versions the blood of Christ
drips onto its head. Signs of Christs divinity include angels and some-
times the hand of God gesturing from heaven or lowering a victors wreath
(not seen in the Metz group), all shown above Christs head. Additional
elements often include representations of resurrected believers, usually
shown emerging from tombs in the lower half. A similar element is the

4See, for example, Jeanne-Marie Musto, John Scottus Eriugena and the Upper Cover
of the Lindau Gospels, Gesta, 40/1 (2001), 118.
study of the appearance of synagoga in carolingian ivories11

holy sepulcher itself, a sign of the resurrection of Christ, and sometimes

shown as the backdrop for the Easter morning scene where the three
women encounter an angel sitting on the stone that has been rolled away.
In these crucifixions the inscription above Christs head appears for the
first time on a regular basis. Only a few of these items were intended to
represent real elements physically present at the historic event of the cru-
cifixion and yet all found their way to this complex arrangement because
of the meaning they communicate symbolically.

The Metz Crucifixion Ivories

In terms of the overall compositions, however, the ivories discussed here

fall into two main groups, the distinctions reflecting the different stylistic
trends within the Carolingian era to which they have been attributed.5
The Paris I ivory [Fig. 1] and the two at the Victoria and Albert Museum
[Figs. 2 and 3] are clearly of the same type with the inclusion of seated
evangelists at the top of Paris being the most significant variation.
Each arranges the various figures similarly in four registers and sym-
metrically around the central figure of Jesus on the cross in larger scale.
New York [Fig. 4] and Paris II [Fig. 5], dated to later in the ninth cen-
tury, are similar to the earlier group but have done away with Terra and
Oceanus in favor of a depiction of the three women at Christs tomb, the
most commonly-employed visual reference to the resurrection. The cen-
ter and focal point of the composition in every instance is the massive
cross, which appears more monumental, like an oversized cross-shaped
stone slab, than organic and tree-like. This form of cross also serves to fur-
ther remove the scene from the historical event and has itself been associ-
ated with Carolingian theology.6 The crucified body shows an alert Christ,
usually dressed in a perizoma or loincloth, gazing down to his right and
not showing physical pain or agony. In later examples of the expanded
crucifixions, more signs of the suffering Christ appear: facial expression

5The manuscripts for which the ivories were covers are part of the Liuthard Group,
identified as such by Adolph Goldschmidt and named for the scribe whose signature
appears on several manuscripts. See Adolf Goldschmidt, Die Elfenbeinskulpturen aus der
Zeit der karolingischen und schsischen Kaiser (Berlin: 19141926). For ease of reference
the five ivories discussed here will be referred to as Paris I, V&A I, V&A II, New York, and
Paris II.
6Amy L. Vandersall, The Relationship of Sculptors and Painters in the Court School of
Charles the Bald, Gesta, 15, No. 1/2, Essays in Honor of Sumner McKnight Crosby (1976),
12 nancy bishop

Figure 1 (Paris I)
(Paris, BnF, MS Lat. 9383, upper cover)
study of the appearance of synagoga in carolingian ivories13

Figure 2 (V&A I)
(London, Victoria and Albert Museum, Ivory panel, 2501867)
14 nancy bishop

of pain or anguish, ribs and wounds visible, distinct ribs, and the knot of
his perizoma appearing on the left hip.
The figures in the middle register, under Christs arms, are, in a sense,
at center stage in this dramatic scene. We would, of course, expect to
see the Virgin Mary and St. John modeling for the viewer the appropri-
ate reaction of grief as witnesses to the death of Jesus and the solem-
nity felt as they reflect upon their roles as recipients of the atonement.
Longinus and Stephaton bearing spear and vinegar-soaked sponge often
appear as well in the ivories, usually relegated to the next register down.
Other figures could logically include prophets or gospel writers provided
to assist the viewer in understanding the historical context within biblical
texts. Two ivories in the Metz group include the latter, providing a further
visual association with the content of the books for which these were the
As rich as the program of the crucifixion ivories is, the nearest analogs
for the separate elements can be found in manuscript illuminations. The
sacramentary fragment from Metz contains personifications in much sim-
pler arrangements.7
Oceanus and Terra occupy corners of the Maestas while Sol and Luna
as classical busts flank Christs head in the striking crucifixion. These per-
sonifications, rather than being strictly Christian iconography, derive from
classical sources but also relate to passages in Revelation. The cross, here
serving as the T in Te Igitur, rather than being made of wood or any other
material, is simply a field of deep blue as though Jesus is suspended in the
heavens. In a similar manner the crosses of the Metz ivories sit in very low
relief against the background rather than appearing as functional wooden
structures, both emphasizing the idea of a symbolic cross rather than the
physical reality of the apparatus of execution.
The object of this study is the addition of the non-biblical figures of
Ecclesia and Synagoga, which here not only demand our attention but
also move the scene further into the conceptual, symbolic realm. Their
location and proximity to Jesus argue for significance and their implied
meanings help inform our understanding of Carolingian religious thought.
All but one of the ivories discussed here are conclusively attributed to
Metz workshops. In Paris I, Ecclesia with flagged lance stands under

7Paris, Bibliothque nationale de France (BnF), Manuscrits, Latin 1141, http://
imageseule [Accessed 16 July 2012].
study of the appearance of synagoga in carolingian ivories15

Figure 3 (V&A II)

(London, Victoria and Albert Museum, Ivory panel, 2511867)
16 nancy bishop

Figure 4 (New York)

(New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art [Cloisters Collection] and Runion des
Muses Nationaux de France [Palais du Louvre], 1974 [1974.266])
study of the appearance of synagoga in carolingian ivories17

Figure 5 (Paris II)

(Paris, BnF, MS Lat. 9453, upper cover)
18 nancy bishop

Jesuss left arm but is turned away from him as she approaches a seated
figure. This figure wears a large mural crown of bricks. She holds a flagged
lance in her right hand and a circular knife in the left. After Paris I the
iconography of the two women becomes more or less fixed, pared down
to a clear arrangement without further appearance of ambiguous seated
figures. Ecclesia, minus the flagged lance, stands under Christs right arm
holding a chalice to collect the blood and water flowing from his side
wound. Under the right arm Synagogas form reflects a note of ambiguity.
Although her body faces right with her separated feet suggesting move-
ment away from Jesus, her head turns to direct her gaze toward his face.
But his attention is fixed on Ecclesia. Synagogas expression is neutral, not
unlike that of Ecclesia as she grasps a three-flagged lance, the pennants
unfurled toward the right. Another Carolingian manuscript known for lav-
ish and mystical illuminations, the Codex Aureus of St. Emmeram,8 con-
tains an image of blood flowing into a chalice: the vision of the adoration
of the lamb from the book of Revelation. Oceanus and Terra appear in
that illumination also, affirming the cosmic significance of the sacrificial
act of the crucifixion and its association with the eucharistic rite.
The appearance of the iconography of personified Ecclesia and Synagoga
can also be seen as an impulse of the classical world revived in this time
of Carolingian renovatio. They were likely included to clarify the perceived
relationship between the Old and New Testaments, the Concordia veteris
et novi testamenti, the typology of which was one of the driving forces in
art since the early Christian period and an idea that held a strong attrac-
tion for Carolingian artists and authors. The figure of Synagoga is part of
that rhetoric as a symbol representing the Old Testament, the old cov-
enant, the Hebrew people, and their religion: in short the relationship
between God and humankind prior to the birth of Jesus. The juxtapo-
sition of Judaism and Christianity had deep roots. The Pauline epistles
are rich with examples, ideas taken up by the early Church Fathers. The
personifications of Ecclesia and Synagoga visually encapsulate the discus-
sion of covenantal exclusivity based on the very clear model of it in the
Old and New Testaments: that God covenants with only one people at a
time and that at one point in history the identity of that people changed.
The biblical analogies of multiple wives clearly illustrate favoritism of one
and neglect of the other(s), the same trope illustrated by Ecclesia and

8Munich, B.S. Clm. 14000.

study of the appearance of synagoga in carolingian ivories19

Synagoga. One interacts with the crucified Christ while the other looks on,
marginalized and ignored.
It is wise to consider that Synagoga, even at this early point, undoubtedly
represents the Jewish religion in the abstract. Carolingians were largely
concerned with the idea of Judaism in the macrocosm of Christendom
and had little knowledge or concern for the Jews next door or in a neigh-
boring town. Later in the Middle Ages, as anti-Jewish rhetoric intensifies,
her role appears to expand to include the entire gens judaeorum, includ-
ing those in the local community.
Biblical parallels for the pairing of Synagoga and Ecclesia can be found
in both Jewish and Christian scripture, and these associations are made in
contemporary commentaries. The key to understanding the Carolingian
view may well be found in the book of Hosea. That prophet tells of an adul-
terous wife who was to be cast off but who ultimately repents and returns
to her husband, an analogy for Jews made by the author and expanded
on by Jerome and other early commentators.9 In this interpretation, the
Jews, after falling away over the thorny issue of Jesus, would eventually
come around and accept him as their Messiah. It was merely a matter
of time before they did. For this reason, these earliest representations of
the two women depict them in very similar ways: Synagoga is shown as
an unenthusiastic witness to the crucifixion but has not yet removed her-
self from the scene. The New Testament contains several references to
the Church, Ecclesia, as the bride of Christ, a personification created by
Paul to illustrate the mystical union of believers with their God.10 He also
used Hagar and Sarah as symbols of the Hebrew and Christian scriptures.11
Mary and Martha from the Gospels were another pair enlisted for this
purpose, wherein the Jews were associated with the legalist Martha who
chose not to avail herself of Jesuss teaching and, instead, occupied herself
with domestic tasks, an activity interpreted as obedience to the law.12
Augustine wrote that Jews were to be tolerated by Christians rather
than persecuted, because they were necessary as witnesses to the Christian
truth and would come to accept Christ at the end of days.13 Jeremy Cohen
compares this understanding to an analogy of Jews continuing to wait at

9Hosea 2:223. Jerome. Letter CXXIII to Ageruchia, paragraph 13, 33033304. http:// [Accessed 16 July 2012].
10I Corinthians 11:2. Ephesians 5:24.
11 Galatians 4:2226.
12Giles Constable, Three Studies in Medieval Religious and Social Thought (Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 1995), 15.
13Augustine, The City of God XVIII. 46.
20 nancy bishop

a train station for the salvation train that they have already missed, fossil-
ized, as it were, in the Old Testament version of their religion.14 But these
decidedly unfossilized Jews continued to write, think, and develop during
the rise of Rabbinic Judaism and the Talmud. They also moved away from
the Mediterranean and settled in many places in northern Europe, but
lived in virtual segregation, making them easy targets for discrimination,
such as the expulsion from Francia by Dagobert in 629. However it would
appear that in general they lived peacefully and harmoniously with their
neighbors, suggesting that when anti-Judaism developed, it did so not as
a result of the actions of the Jews, but perhaps as a response to more
inchoate fears.
Carolingians, like everyone else, were concerned about their role in
the world, frequently inflating their historical importance and situating
themselves squarely in the center of the master narrative of world his-
tory. In 751 a papal letter compared King Pepin the Short (714768) to
both Moses and David while the Franks were likened to Israel.15 Hrabanus
Maurus (c. 780856) considered Franks the Ecclesia Christi, a corporate
identity distinct from the rest of Europe. Mayke de Jong summarizes his
exegesis as one in which the empire was the ecclesia and vice versa, and
that beyond the boundaries of this Christian polity were the confusion
of heresy, paganism, idolatry, and Judaism.16 The ninth century also saw
a rather protracted written exchange in this part of the world involving
several religious leaders and scholars focusing on the issue of predestina-
tion, among others. The role of the Jew in Gods Divine Plan was part of
the discourse.17
In contrast, Louis the Pious (778840) established policies beneficial to
Jews, including changing the market day in Lyon so it would not fall on
the Jewish Sabbath. During Louis reign Agobard of Lyon grew concerned
about the apparent comfort of Jews in his community and wrote an alarm-
ist letter to the king around 827 in order to alert him to what he perceived

14Jeremy Cohen, NEH Oxford Institute, July 13, 2006. Lecture.

15Mary Garrison, The Franks as the New Israel? Education for an Identity from Pippin
to Charlemagne, in Uses of the Past in the Early Middle Ages, ed. by Yitzhak Hen and
Matthew Innes (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), 114162 (118).
16Mayke De Jong, The Empire as Ecclesia: Hrabanus Maurus and Biblical Historic for
Rulers, in Uses of the Past in the Early Middle Ages, ed. by Yitzhak Hen and Matthew Innes
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), 191226 (225).
17See Godescalc dOrbais. Oeuvres Thologiques et Grammaticales de Godescalc dOrbais,
ed. by D.C. Lambot, O.S.B. (Louvain: Spicilegium Sacrum Lovaniense, 1945), 22021.
study of the appearance of synagoga in carolingian ivories21

as a dangerous situation.18 Near the end of Louis reign was the even more
infamous incident involving the apostasy of Bodo, a chaplain at the impe-
rial court.19 The incident showed that Agobards fears for Christian souls
were not without justification when Bodo committed the unpardonable
sin of apostasy by rejecting Christianity and declaring himself a Jew.
By the middle of the ninth century there was undoubtedly some rising
discomfort among Christians in Metz about the Jews living in their midst
and what has been termed the rising tide of anti-Semitism among the
critics of the court.20 Perhaps sensing that this minority was increasing
in number, Carolingian intellectuals sought to understand how Jews and
their religion related to the concept of Francia as Ecclesia Christi when
they were clearly an Other and excluded from this familial term. This same
discomfort and heightened awareness found new expression in visual art,
particularly in the city of Metz, one of the creative and power centers of
Carolingian culture. It was there that some particularly innovative artists
working in a fertile environment transformed the still-evolving crucifix-
ion iconography to reflect the growing concern with Jews and Judaism.
In this sense these ivories are distinctly contemporary, reflecting current
theological concerns of the Metz patrons.
Jewish/Christian issues had a long history in Metz. The cathedral there,
the original structure of which dates to the fifth century, was dedicated
to St. Stephen whose first century martyrdom at the hand of Jews is
recorded in the book of Acts.21 An historiated initial showing the ston-
ing death of Stephen, one of the oldest examples of this iconography, is
found in the Drogo Sacramentary, the ninth-century Carolingian manu-
script mentioned above.22 In later medieval examples Stephens killers are
frequently identified quite clearly as Jews, allowing this iconography to
become an element in the anti-Jewish arsenal. It is tempting to imagine
how the liturgy for the feast of St. Stephen might have been treated in
Metz on December 26. St. Stephens story could not have been told, either

18Agobard of Lyon, On the Insolence of the Jews to Louis the Pious, Agobardi
Lugdunensis Opera Omnia, Opusculum XI, Corpus Christianorum. Continuatio Mediaevalis
52, ed. by L. Van Acker, trans. by W.L. North, (Turnhout: Brepols, 1981), 19195 http://www [accessed 16 July 2012].
19Bodo and the Jews 838847, The Jew in the Medieval World: A Source Book, 3151791,
ed. by Jacob Rader Marcus (Cincinnati: Hebrew Union College Press, 1938), 4045.
20Allen Cabaniss, Amalarius of Metz (Amsterdam: North-Holland Publishing, 1954),
21 Acts 7:5160.
22Paris, BnF Lat. 9428.
22 nancy bishop

by narration or dramatization, without the horrific scene of the Jews ston-

ing him to death. Assuming an ethos in Metz that was pre-disposed to
concern about Jews, it is not surprising to see this reflected in the new
iconography that emerged during the so-called Carolingian Renaissance.
Two Carolingian manuscripts, the Utrecht Psalter and the Drogo Sacra
mentary, contain so many innovative images that it is virtually impos-
sible to discuss the art of this period without including them.23 Both show
changes that inform the Metzian crucifixion iconography. The Psalter,
produced at the Reims monastery of Hautvilliers, holds three crucifixion
images, an interesting choice for this Old Testament text and a testimony
to the abiding interest in Concordia veteris et novi testamenti.24 One line
drawing, from fol. 67r, shows a man in a tunic standing below the cross
on the right side of Christ, and holding a chalice to catch the blood flow-
ing from his wound.25 This new figure refers to the sacrificial aspect of
the crucifixion event and connects it to the eucharistic feast. This same
symbolic act appears in the Sacramentary of Drogo from Metz but in this
instance the person catching the blood is a fully-clothed woman with the
additional attribute of a flagged lance while her counterpart sitting on
the left of the cross is an old man holding a disk.26 Although neither of
these enigmatic figures has been firmly identified, both have stimulated
considerable discussion by art historians. The woman is widely accepted
as a personification of Ecclesia holding the flagged staff of victory and
collecting the blood from the wound of Christ which she, as the Church,
will consume. She appears a second time approaching the seated figure
on the right. This second figure was identified by Franz Unterkircher as
the prophet Hosea, because of his prophecy that was thought to have
foretold the role of the crucifixion in breaking the bonds of death, and in
this context Hosea can be seen as a proto-Synagoga.27 More than one
source claims that among the turbulent forms at the feet of Mary and
John are arms of the dead reaching out from their graves, illustrating the

23Utrecht Psalter, Utrecht, Bibliotheek der Rijksuniversiteit (RUG), MS 32 fol. 67r; BnF,
Lat. 9428 fol. 43v. At this time the Utrecht Psalter virtual manuscript page on the internet
is not available. The situation should change by late 2013.
24This term refers to the perceived typological parallels between the Old and New
25RUG, MS 32 fol. 67r [Accessed 18 May 2007, no longer
26BnF, Lat. 9428 fol. 43v
imageseule [Accessed 16 July 2012].
27Franz Unterkircher, Zur Ikonographie und Liturgie des Drogo-Sakramentars. Graz:
Akadem. Druck-u, Verlagsanst, 1977.
study of the appearance of synagoga in carolingian ivories23

resurrection of the dead but it is not very clear. If they are, indeed, figures
of the dead rising, they appear again in the ivories as people emerging
from tombs.
Very soon after the Sacramentary of Drogo was believed to have been
completed, in the mid-ninth century, the Metz ivories appeared with both
Ecclesia and Synagoga personified as women. Although there is some dis-
cussion about Ecclesia in the Bible, only in the writings of the Church
Fathers do we see her counterpart, Synagoga, finding specific verbal
expression. The sudden emergence of this rich iconography in the middle
of the ninth century is probably due in part to the appearance of a liter-
ary work written about this time, the Altercation of Ecclesia and Synagoga
by Pseudo-Isidore, an unidentified Carolingian cleric. This work appeared
as one of the imaginary debates that were not uncommon in the Middle
Ages. In it Ecclesia speaks, Synagoga replies, and in this lengthy exchange
the one clarifies for the other why she is being replaced as Gods favorite.
In Ecclesias final speech she invokes the authority of scripture by citing
examples from the Hebrew Bible where Gods blessing and the royal
bloodline passed through the younger of two siblings. She ends by quoting
Hosea 2:23: Vocabo, inquit, non populum meum, populum meum, et non
dilectam, dilectam; I will say to those called Not my people, You are my
people and they will say, You are my God.28 The flagged lance of the ivo-
ries must surely represent the historical role of primacy described in detail
in the text. Although the text is believed to have been written in Reims
or Corbie, the coincidence of the visual and textual at this time strongly
suggests either a presence or knowledge of the Altercatio in Metz.
This new type of expanded crucifixion also carries another sign linking
this event to the Jews and their rejection of Jesus as Messiah. The plaque
over Christs head inscribed as IHS NAZARENUS REX IUDEORUM (Jesus of
Nazareth, King of the Jews) appears on a fairly regular basis only from the
ninth century on. Prior to this the few extant monuments either have no
inscription or just the name Jesus Christ, but an overwhelming majority
of Metz inscriptions mention the Jews.29 The urge to include these letters,
even within extremely small spaces, is another reflection of the aware-
ness of the role of Jews as witnesses to the crucifixion and resurrection
of Jesus and subsequent rejecters of that fundamental Christian doctrine.

28Pseudo-Isidore, De altercatione ecclesiae et synagoga dialogus, in Patrologia Latina,

ed. J. Migne (Paris, 187890), vol. 42, col. 1131ff.
29More than half of extant ninth-century inscriptions read Rex Judaeorum (king of
the Jews). All but one of the Metz ones do.
24 nancy bishop

It is also important to point out that only a few crucifixion images from
this point on had the Ecclesia-Synagoga pairing and of those surviving
from the ninth and tenth centuries, the majority are believed to have been
made in Metz.
The relatively mild ninth-century images of Synagoga reflect the beliefs
of Augustine and others who felt that, although the Jews had not accepted
Christ at their first opportunity, eventually they would come to believe in
his divinity. The early Synagoga appears patient, observant, and is largely
ignored by the other figures. As time went on the attitude of Christians
toward Jews evolved to one in which it was thought that the Jews might
never convert and the degree of vilification for their role in the crucifix-
ion increased, as reflected in visual art by Synagogas appearance and her
iconographical role. In late-Gothic works her blindness to the truth of the
Gospel is shown by a literal blindfold, her loss of primacy by a slipping
crown and broken staff, until eventually she is shown being killed by a
so-called living cross.30
This later victim/scapegoat Synagoga stands in sharp contrast to the
Carolingian images of the ninth century found in the Metz group of ivo-
ries. Though not as honored as the bride of Christ, she can be seen as
a guest who might even be warmly welcomed at the celebration of the
marriage of Christ and Ecclesia. Her gaze toward Jesus in the Carolingian
ivories can be understood as a prelude to a yes, rather than the emphatic
no that would be seen on her face in the years to come.

30Examples can be seen at San Petronio in Bologna and the Muse des Beaux-Arts
in Beaune, among others. For later Synagoga appearances see Leopold Kretzenbacher,
Wortbegrdetes Typologie-Denken auf mittlealterlichen Bildwerken, Bayerishe Akademie
der Wissenschaften, 3 (1983), 358.
The Zeal of God: The Representation of Anger
in the Latin Crusade Accounts of the 1096
Rhineland Massacres

Kate McGrath

In 1096, as the first Crusaders under the leadership of Emicho and others
began their march to the Holy Land, they participated in a series of violent
massacres of Jewish communities throughout the Rhineland.1 As Jonathan
Riley-Smith has outlined, the attack began in early May when the army
associated with Emicho attacked the Jewish inhabitants of Speyer.2 More
attacks by Emichos men followed in Worms and Mainz. The violence
then expanded to include other armies who attacked Jewish communities
in various cities, such as Cologne, Trier, Metz, and even Prague.3 There is
no longer any doubt among modern historians that these attacks were not
perpetuated by hordes of peasants, who were poorly organized and lacked
military discipline, but instead, these attacks had a very clear connection
with the crusading mission that initially inspired the participants.4
The Hebrew accounts of these Rhineland massacres by the participants
of the so-called Peoples Crusade have been extensively analyzed by modern

1 Parts of this chapter are taken or adapted from my doctoral dissertation. For a fuller
treatment, see Kate McGrath, Medieval Anger: Rage and Outrage in Eleventh- and Twelfth-
Century Anglo-Norman and Northern French Historical Narratives (Ph.D. diss., Emory
University, 2007). Parts of it were also presented at the 2004 Midwest Medieval History
Conference and 2005 International Congress for Medieval Studies. I am very grateful to the
participants of those conferences, especially Matthew Gabriele and C. Matthew Phillips,
for their insights into my work, and I am also very grateful to Marina Rustow and Stephen
D. White for their suggestions on early versions of this work for my dissertation.
2Jonathan Riley-Smith, The First Crusade and the Persecution of the Jews, Studies in
Church History 21 (1984): 51. Emicho has been traditionally identified as Count of Leiningen,
though scholars now believe that he is more likely to have been Count of Flonheim.
See Albert of Aachen, Historia Ierosolimitana, ed. and trans. Susan Edgington (Oxford:
Clarendon Press, 2007), 51, n. 66.
3Riley-Smith, The First Crusade, 52.
4Ibid., 56. See also M.D. Coupe, Peter the Hermit: A Reassessment, Nottingham
Medieval Studies 31 (1987): 3745; Robert Chazan, The Anti-Jewish Violence of 1096:
Perpetrators and Dynamics, in Religious Violence Between Christians and Jews: Medieval
Roots, Modern Perspectives, ed. Anna Sapir Abulafia (New York: Palgrave, 2002), 21; and
E.O. Blake and Colin Morris, A Hermit Goes to War: Peter and the Origins of the First
Crusade, in Monks, Hermits and the Ascetic Tradition, ed. W.J. Sheils (New York: Basil
Blackwell, 1985), 79107.
26 kate mcgrath

scholars, who have exposed the sources to the sharpest tools of literary
criticism.5 The same level of analysis has not been as consistently applied
to the Latin accounts of these attacks, perhaps because of their scarcity
in the body of Crusade chronicles.6 After all, they are only treated in any
significant way by a couple of Latin Crusade chroniclers, namely Albert of
Aachen and Ekkehard of Aura.7 In addition, these accounts pale in com-
parison to the rhetorical power of the Hebrew accounts, which work to
memorialize the dead and construct the mourning of the survivors. The
Latin accounts nevertheless provide an important resource for under-
standing the motivations for the events of 1096 and for their role in the
larger history of the First Crusade. Indeed, it is not possible to have a full
understanding of how these events were understood by Christian contem-
poraries of the Crusaders without them.
It is important, moreover, to contextualize the accounts of the mas-
sacres in light of the stated purpose of their texts, namely to tell the story

5Jeremy Cohen, From History to Historiography: The Study of the Persecutions and
Constructions of Their Meaning [Hebrew], in Facing the Cross: The Persecutions of 1096
in History and Historiography [Hebrew], ed. Yom Tov Assis, et al., The Ben-Zion Dunur
Institute for Research in Jewish History (Jerusalem: Hebrew University Magnes Press, 2000,
viii. For more on the Hebrew chronicles, see also Robert Chazan, The Hebrew First-
Crusade Chronicles, Revue des Etudes Juives: Historia Judaica 133 (1974), 235254; Chazan,
God, Humanity and History: The Hebrew First Crusade Narratives (Berkeley: University
of California Press, 2000); Chazan, The Hebrew First Crusade Chronicles: Further
Reflections, American Jewish Studies Review 3 (1978): 7998; Shlomo Eidelberg, The Jews
and the Crusaders: The Hebrew Chronicles of the First and Second Crusades (Hoboken,
NJ: KTAV Publishing House, Inc., 1977); and Anna Sapir Abulafia, The Interrelationship
between the Hebrew Chronicles on the First Crusade, Journal of Semitic Studies 7, no. 2
(1982): 221239.
6One of the clear exceptions to this is Kenneth Stow, who discusses the Christian Latin
sources at length. See Stow, Conversion, Apostasy, and Apprehensiveness: Emicho of
Floheim and the Fear of the Jews in the Twelfth Century, Speculum 76, no. 4 (2001): 911
933. The historiography on the Rhineland massacres is quite extensive. Effective reviews
are offered by Benjamin Kedar in Crusade Historians and the Massacres of 1096, Jewish
History 12, no. 2 (1998): 1131; and Kedar, The Forcible Baptisms of 1096: History and
Historiography, Forschungen zur Reichs-, Papst-und Landesgeschichte: Peter Herde zum 65.
Geburstag von Freunden, Schlern und Kollegen dargebracht, ed. Karl Borchardt und Enno
Bnz (Stuttgart: Anton Hieresmann, 1998), vol. 1, 187200.
7The Rhineland massacres are of course discussed by other Latin sources. The other
sources, however, tend to be histories of particular regions or cities that work the mas
sacres into their local history. This paper will not treat such accounts of the massacres,
as they functioned in very different ways than they do in the Crusade chronicles. A good
treatment of the Gesta Treverorum, which is one such source, is Robert Chazan, Christian
and Jewish Perceptions of 1096: A Case Study of Trier, Jewish History 13, no. 2 (1999): 922.
See also Tuomas Heikkil, Pogroms of the First Crusade in Medieval Local Historiography:
The Death of Archbishop Eberhard of Trier and the Legitimation of the Pogroms, Medieval
History Writing and Crusading Ideology Ed. Tuomas M. S. Lehtonen and Kurt Villads Jensen
(Finland: Finnish Literature Society, 2005), 155162.
the zeal of god 27

of the Crusades. As noted by other scholars, European chroniclers of the

Crusades represented crusading as not simply a holy and just war against
Muslims, but as righteous vengeance for the crucifixion of Jesus.8 To rein-
force this reading, the chroniclers characterized the Turks, on the one
hand, as embodying animal fury and savage violence, and the Crusaders,
on the other, as agents of divine vengeance for the dishonor done to
Eastern Christians and Gods holy city of Jerusalem. It is important to keep
this agenda in mind, as it helps to understand how and why chroniclers
like Albert of Aachen and Ekkehard of Aura incorporated the events of the
1096 Massacres into their narratives. As we shall see, the Latin accounts
suggest that the ultimate defeat of the Peoples Crusade was due to its fail-
ure to maintain focus on the holy mission against pagans. The accounts
ambiguous treatmentand even criticismof the Rhineland Massacres
of the Jews is linked to the question of what constituted righteous anger
and fitting vengeance.
The representation of appropriate and inappropriate displays of anger
in acts of violence is at the core of how these authors characterize the
Crusaders actions. Passages discussing anger can be found in a variety
of eleventh- and twelfth-century Latin texts dating from the period from
ca. 1000 to ca. 1250.9 The frequency with which they occur shows that
medieval ecclesiastical writers found emotional rhetoric a convenient tool
not just for explaining the motivation of the people they wrote about but
also for evaluating their conduct. It is important, then, first to understand
how these texts represent the mission of the Crusades and justified displays

8Riley-Smith, The First Crusade, 5672; and Riley-Smith, Crusading as an Act of

Love, in The Crusades: The Essential Readings, ed. Thomas F. Madden (Wiley-Blackwell,
2002), 3150.
9The history of medieval emotions is a rapidly growing field. For examples of recent
works, see the many contributors to Barbara Rosenwein, ed., Angers Past: The Social Uses
of An Emotion in the Middle Ages (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1998); Gerd Althoff,
Family, Friends, and Followers: Political and Social Bonds in Early Medieval Europe, trans.
Christopher Carroll (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004); Richard Barton,
Gendering Anger: Ira, Furor, and Discourses of Power and Masculinity in the Eleventh
and Twelfth Centuries, in In the Garden of Evil: The Vices and Culture of the Middle Ages,
ed. Richard Newhauser (Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies, 2005), 371392;
Daniel Lord Smail, Hatred as a Social Institution in Late-Medieval Society, Speculum 76
(2001): 90126; Barbara H. Rosenwein, Worrying about Emotions in History, American
Historical Review 107, no. 3 (2002): 821845; Rosenwein, Emotional Communities in the Early
Middle Ages (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2007); and Stephen D. White, La Colre de
Guillaume dOrange, in Entre histoire et pope, Les Guillaume dOrange, IxeXIIIe sicle,
ed. Laurent Mac (Toulouse: Publications de lUniversit de Toulouse-Le Mirail, 2006),
28 kate mcgrath

of anger and violence against Muslims in the Levant so that it is possible

to compare such depictions to their narrations of the 1096 massacres. This
comparison will demonstrate that Albert of Aachens and Ekkehard of
Auras implicit condemnations of the 1096 massacres are related to their
assessment that the Crusaders had hopelessly abandoned their original
mission. In other words, for the Latin chroniclers, these events were the
exception that proved the rule, the example of excessive anger and vio-
lence that brought out the degree to which they depicted the expression
of anger against the Muslims in Jerusalem and elsewhere as honorable.
The rhetoric of anger and vengeance lies at the heart of every medi-
eval Crusade chronicle. It starts at the beginning in the various accounts
of Pope Urban IIs speech at Clermont, the main purpose of which was
to persuade lay nobles to undertake a Crusade out of anger at Gods
enemies.10 It is helpful here to consider the various accounts of Urbans
speech as following a version of a vengeance script.11 Urban begins his
speech by denouncing the Turks for attacking Eastern Christians. The
furious and depraved pagans, he continues, have wounded the body of
Christ by attacking Christians and capturing Jerusalem; in doing so, they
have displayed shameful anger and outrageous violence that injures and
dishonors all Christians. Next, the pope calls upon Western Christians to
take action in response to this shame, which should arouse their anger,
just as it has incited God to righteous anger. In conclusion, the speech
calls for the redirection of Christian anger and violence against the Turks.
Western Christians, Urban insists, must stop their shameful quarrels with
each other and instead redeploy their violence righteously against Christs
enemies in the Holy Land.12 Since this script is replicated by Ekkehard of

10For an excellent discussion of the role of vengeance in Crusade documents, see

Susanna Throop, Vengeance and the Crusades, Crusades 5 (2006): 2138. As she notes,
one of the earliest treatments of this subject is Carl Erdmann, The Origin of the Idea of
Crusade, trans. Marshall Baldwin and Walter Goffart (Princeton: Princeton University
Press, 1977).
11 Chazan, Anti-Jewish Violence of 1096, 3536.
12Daniel Baraz demonstrates that this last aspect reflected cultural changes in social
views of violence and cruelty in the twelfth century. He notes, Procedures such as the
ordeal, which was based on the immanence of divine judgment and its manifest nature,
were discredited and replaced by a system that locates culpability in intentions, not in
outward actions.... These changes brought about a new attitude to violence that enabled
distinction between the more ambiguous concept of violence and an a priori reprehen
sible category of cruelty. This distinction served several purposes. The role of intentions in
the moral appraisal of violence could serve to justify instances of commendable violence,
such as the Crusades. At the same time it was employed for assigning cruelty to arche
typal external invaders, the others of the past and present. Baraz, Violence or Cruelty?
the zeal of god 29

Aura and Albert of Aachen in their defense of the crusading enterprise, it

is worth examining it briefly as it highlights contemporary understandings
of crusading as an act of righteous anger.
In his Historia Hierosolymitana, Robert of Reims presents the popes
speech as beginning with graphic descriptions of alleged Turkish atroci-
ties against Christians; the pope declares that a race from the kingdom
of the Persians, an accursed race, a race utterly alienated from God...has
invaded the lands of those Christians and has depopulated them by the
sword, pillage and fire; it has led a part of the captives into its own coun-
try, and a part it has destroyed by cruel tortures.13 Since Robert clearly
feels that these actions call for vengeance by the French nobles, the
rhetoric that the pope uses then poses a purely rhetorical question: On
whom therefore is the labor of avenging these wrongs and of recovering
this territory incumbent, if not upon you?14 In Roberts account, Urban
also reminds the Clermont audience that because the Christians in the
Holy Land are their relatives in the one, catholic body of Christ, they are
responsible for aiding their kin and restoring Christs honor. As Robert
represents the speech, Urban is implicitly attempting to arouse the anger
of his audience so that it will impel them into taking the honorable action
of reclaiming Christs territory from the Muslims.
Many of the authors who reported Urbans speech heighten the sense
of outrage at the Turks actions by concentrating on the loss of Jerusalem
and the Holy Sepulcher. Guibert of Nogent has Urban say:
[T]he very land and city in which He dwelt and suffered is, by witnesses
of the Scriptures, holy. If this land is spoken of in the sacred writings of
the prophets as the inheritance and the holy temple of God before ever the
Lord walked in it, or was revealed, what sanctity, what reverence has it not
acquired since God in His majesty was there clothed in the flesh, nourished,
grew up, and in bodily form there walked about, or was carried about; and,
to compress in fitting brevity all that might be told in a long series of words,
since there the blood of the Son of God, more holy than heaven and earth,

An Intercultural Perspective, in A Great Effusion of Blood? Interpreting Medieval Violence,

eds. Mark Meyerson, Daniel Thiery, and Oren Falk (Toronto: University of Toronto Press,
2004), 180.
13Edward Peters, The First Crusade: The Chronicle of Fulcher of Chartres and Other
Source Materials (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1971), 27. For more on
Robert the Monks account, see James Cronin, And the Reapers are Angels: A Study of
the Crusade Motivation as Described in the Historia Iherosolimitana of Robert the Monk,
(Ph.D. diss., New York University, 1973).
14Peters, First Crusade, 27.
30 kate mcgrath

was poured forth, and His body, its quivering members dead, rested in the
tomb? What veneration do we think it deserves?15
In short, Guibert scripts Urbans speech in order to highlight the Holy
Sepulcher as the tangible inheritance left by Christ for all Christians and as
the most holy site of his burial, which demands to be venerated properly.
Guibert continues by citing the long-standing importance of Jerusalem in
both the Old and New Testaments. He ultimately concludes by describing
how Urban implicitly incited the crowd to anger: If neither the words of
the Scripture arouse you, nor our admonitions penetrate your minds, at
least let the suffering of those who desired to go to the holy places stir
you up.... Before you engage in His battles believe without question that
Christ will be your standard-bearer and inseparable fore-runner.16 The
account of the speech by Robert of Reims adds, Let the holy sepulcher
of the Lord our Savior, which is possessed by unclean nations, especially
incite you, and the holy places which are now treated with ignominy and
irreverently polluted with their filthiness.17
In addition to inciting the anger of potential Crusaders with these ref-
erences to Jerusalem, many accounts of Urbans speech cite the example
of the audiences Frankish forbearers, especially Charlemagne, who had
waged war against Gods enemies. According to Robert of Reims, Urban
said: Let the deeds of your ancestors move you and incite your minds to
manly achievements; the glory and greatness of King Charles the Great,
and of his son Louis, and of your other kings, who have destroyed the
kingdoms of the pagans, and have extended in these lands the territory
of the holy church.18 For Robert, it is important to show how Urban rep-
resented the Franks as a nation chosen and honored by God: Oh race
of Franks, race from across the mountains, race chosen and beloved by
Godas shines forth in very many of your worksset apart from all
nations by the situation of your country, as well as by your catholic faith

15Ibid., 3334. For more on Guibert of Nogents text, see Heather Blurton, Guibert of
Nogent and the Subject of History, Exemplaria 15, no. 1 (2003): 111131; and R.I. Moore,
Guibert of Nogent and His World, in Studies in Medieval History Presented to R.H.C. Davis,
eds. Henry Mayr-Harting and R.I. Moore (London: Hambledon Press, 1985), 107117.
16Peters, First Crusade, 3637.
17Ibid., 27.
18Ibid., 27. Matthew Gabriele argues convincingly that the association with Charlemagne
is part of the Last Emperor Legend. See the excellent contributions to Gabriele and Jace
Stuckey, The Legend of Charlemagne in the Middle Ages: Power, Faith, and Crusade (New
York: Palgrave, 2008).
the zeal of god 31

and the honor of the holy church.19 Like other accounts of the speech,
Roberts text shows how Urban incited his audience to action: Oh, most
valiant soldiers and descendants of invincible ancestors, be not degener-
ate, but recall the valor of your progenitors.20
The final element of Urbans speech is, of course, the call for violent
and honorable vengeance against the Turks. According to several reports,
Urban said that members of the aristocracy should cease to express anger
and commit acts of violence against other Christians, and instead use
their military prowess against those whom the pope calls enemies of the
Church. Baldric of Dol, for example, writes that Urban first issued this
call to those who heard him: Listen and learn! You, girt about with the
badge of knighthood, are arrogant with great pride; you rage against your
brothers and cut each other in pieces. This is not the soldiery of Christ
which rends asunder the sheep-fold of the Redeemer. The Holy Church
has reserved a soldiery for herself to help her people, but you debase her
wickedly to her hurt.21 In the same account, the pope continues to chas-
tise his listeners, saying, You, the oppressors of children, plunderers of
widows; you, guilty of homicide, of sacrilege, robbers of anothers rights;
you who await the pay of thieves for the shedding of Christian blood, as
vultures smell fetid corpses, so do you sense battles from afar and rush
to them eagerly.22 Next, Urban counsels, If, forsooth, you wish to be
mindful of your souls, either lay down the girdle of such knighthood, or
advance boldly, as knights of Christ, and rush as quickly as you can to
the defense of the Eastern Church.23 Using the same imagery, Roberts
account shows Urban to make a similar point about the need to redi-
rect aristocratic anger and violence from fellow Christians to pagans:
Hence it is that you murder one another, that you wage war, and that
frequently you perish by mutual wounds. Let therefore hatred depart from
among you, let your quarrels end, let wars cease, and let all dissensions
and controversies slumber.24 In this version of the speech, as in others,
the solution is for knights to embark on Crusade: Enter upon the road to
the Holy Sepulcher; wrest that land from the wicked race, and subject it
to yourselves.25

19 Peters, First Crusade, 2627.

20Ibid., 27.
21 Ibid., 31.
22Ibid., 31.
23Ibid., 31.
24Ibid., 28.
25Ibid., 28.
32 kate mcgrath

We see a similar progression in the chronicles of Albert of Aachen and

Ekkehard of Aura. In the opening of his Historia Ierosolimitana, Albert
of Aachen informs his reader that he yearned to go on Crusade, but he
was prevented by unnamed impediments.26 Instead, he chose to write an
account of those who were able to go, so that he could at least be their
companion in spirit.27 He states that he intends to describe their hard-
ship and misfortunes and the way their faith was strengthened, and the
good concord of the strong princes and the rest of the men in the love of
Christ....28 Acting out of this love, Albert continues to describe how they
made the journey to Jerusalem with a strong hand and a lusty army, and
their triumphant legions killed a thousand times a thousand Turks and
Saracens in a bold attack; how they laid open the entrance and approach
to the Holy Sepulchre of our Lord Jesus Christ....29 Albert further legiti-
mizes the Crusaders actions by following this claim with a description of
Peter the Hermit calling on God himself as avenger for alleged mistreat-
ment of the Holy Sepulcher.30
Despite this initial representation of the Crusaders as motivated by faith
and love, Albert devotes the first chapters of his account to the multiple
vices and disgraces of Peter the Hermit and the first Crusaders. According
to Albert, Peter and his followers faced a series of disagreements and hos-
tile encounters with the Hungarians before they even reached the Levant.
These episodes suggest that the lack of organization and, in many cases,
the lack of true zeal on the part of the Crusaders were to blame for these
failures. Albert charges that Duke Nichita, prince of the Bulgars, and Count
Guz plotted to plunder the Crusaders out of greed, forcing the Crusaders
to seize the fortress of Zemun.31 They were then made to move by the
anger of the Hungarian king, and they were attacked by the Pechenegs

26In her edition of his text, Susan Edgington suggests that this might have been because
he was forbidden by his ecclesiastical superiors. Albert of Aachen, xxiv.
27Since I was so inspired, but could not go because of various hindrances...I decided
to comment to if I were a companion in the journey, if not with my body
then with all my heart and soul. Ibid., 3.
28Quapropter de labore et miseriis, de firmata fide, et robustorum principum cetero
rumque hominum conspiratione bone in amore Christi. Ibid., 23.
29...quomodo iter in manu forti et exercitu robusto Ierosolimam fecerint, et mille
milies Turcorum Sarracenorumque legiones audaci assultu triumphantes occiderint; quo
modo introitum et accessum sacri sepulchri Domini nostri Iesu Christi patefecerint....
Ibid., 23. Edgington notes that this passage has a strong resemblance to Exodus 13.
30...ipsum Deum uindicem super uisis iniuriis appellat. Ibid., 45.
31 Ibid., 1417.
the zeal of god 33

(inhabitants of Bulgaria).32 Similar episodes dominate Alberts description

of their movement towards Jerusalem.
Alberts description of the behavior of the priest Gottschalk is per-
haps exemplary of these accounts.33 According to Albert, Gottschalk was
originally inspired by love and desire for the same journey to Jerusalem
because of a sermon of Peters.34 He and his followers had been given safe
passage through Hungary, and King Coloman had even shown them con-
siderable hospitality. Almost immediately, however, Gottschalks follow-
ers became out of control and started acting erratically. Albert writes, the
Bavarians and Swabians, a bold race, and the rest of the soldiers foolishly
drank too much; they violated the proclaimed peace, little by little steal-
ing wine, barley, and other necessities from the Hungarians, finally seizing
sheep and cattle in the fields and killing them; they destroyed those who
stood up to them and wanted to drive them out.35 Albert says that the
Hungarian king was so upset by these outrages that he ordered his men
to battle in vengeance.36 The fighting between the two sides resulted
in much loss of life. In the end, Gottschalk and his men agreed to sur-
render and make peace with the king. After laying down their arms, the
kings officials, however, rushed upon them in a cruel massacre, decapi-
tating them, unarmed and weaponless as they were; they inflicted a most
savage slaughter upon them....37 In other words, Albert implies that as
blameworthy as Gottschalk and his men were towards the Hungarians,
the Hungarians were equally reprehensible towards the Crusaders.
These episodes are important to understanding the description of the
1096 Rhineland massacres for two chief reasons. First, it is noteworthy that
Albert characterizes the participants of the Peoples Crusade as immoder-
ate in their behaviors. They drink too much, steal too much, and fight too
much, especially with inappropriate targets. Instead of showing proper
restraint towards the Hungarians, who were initially supportive of their

32Ibid., 1819.
33Gottschalk is especially appropriate given his role in Ekkehard of Auras account.
See the discussion below.
34...eiusdem uie in Ierusalem amore et desiderio succensus ex Petri.... Ibid.,
35Bawarii uero et Sueui gens animosa et ceteri fatui modum potandi excederent,
pacem indictam uiolant, Vngaris uinum, ordeum, et cetera necessaria paulatim auder
entes, ad ultimum oues et boues per agros rapientes occiderunt, resistentes quoque et
excutere uolentes peremerunt. Ibid., 4447.
36Ibid., 4647.
37...quin pocius crudely strage irruentes in eos inermes ac nudos detruncabant, et
cedem immanissimam in eos exercebant.... Ibid., 4849.
34 kate mcgrath

crusading mission, they violated the peace and provoked the king to wrath
and vengeance. As we will see, Albert will levy similar criticisms against
those who participated in the Rhineland massacres. They drank too much,
fornicated too much, and perhaps targeted inappropriate victims of their
anger. The similarity between these episodes surely suggests that Albert
expected his reader to see a connection between the Crusaders behavior
towards a variety of local communities that they passed on their pilgrim-
age to Jerusalem and their behavior toward the victims of the massacres.
He is implicitly suggesting that these Crusaders lacked the appropriate
devotion of righteous Crusaders.
The second noteworthy aspect of these episodes is the rhetoric of
anger that runs through them. As Albert narrates the events, he often ref-
erences the language of anger and vengeance, and he is evidently com-
fortable with attributing emotions to his subjects. The Hungarian king
was repeatedly outraged by the Crusaders actions, and he responded to
that expression of anger in acts of violence; he ordered his men to battle.
Moreover, Albert makes distinctions between King Colomans displays
of anger. In the case of the fortress of Zemun, Albert implicitly suggests
that the king was justified in his anger over the Crusaders capture of it.38
In the case of Gottschalk and his men, however, Albert is clear that the
Hungarians acted inappropriately in their slaughter of the unarmed
Crusaders. He reinforces this reading by labeling their behavior as cruel
and savage. These distinctions between displays of anger that are either
appropriate or inappropriate, righteous or blameworthy, are essential to
understanding how Albert describes the Rhineland massacres. He will
make the same distinctions, often using the same rhetoric, to suggest
that the anger displayed against the Jews was unjust and blameworthy.
Moreover, he will use these distinctions in order to reinforce his conclu-
sion that these participants had abandoned their holy mission by becom-
ing distracted by worldly desires and questionable actions.
It is after recounting the various failings of these groups of Crusaders
that Albert turns to the Rhineland massacres. He begins by reminding his
reader that the Crusaders had initially set out burning with the fire of
divine love....39 Albert notes, however, that they very quickly lost this
righteous passion as they did not in any way turn from fornication and

38In the next book, Albert has King Coloman again justify his anger at the crusaders for
unjustly commit[ing] these quite intolerable outrages against us. Ibid., 6465.
39...innumerabilis Christianorum diuini igne amoris flagrans.... Ibid., 4849.
the zeal of god 35

unlawful relationships; there was excessive reveling, continual delight

with women and girls who had set out for the very purpose of frivolity, and
boasting most rashly about the opportunity offered by this journey.40 The
sharp contrast between his two depictions of this group is striking. Almost
immediately, Albert tells us, the Crusaders departed from their penitential
mission to avenge Christ and recover Jerusalem by freely engaging in sin-
ful fornication and carousing in the towns they passed through. In fact,
he implies that many were bragging that they were only going on Crusade
because of the opportunities that it offered to have sex with women and
girls. Alberts description of the Crusaders indulging their sexual lusts
prepares his readers for his subsequent account of their frenzied, violent
slaughter of the Jews of Cologne, which he discusses in the next chapter.
Just as they were unable to exercise self-control over their sexual acts with
women, they were unable to exercise self-control over their violent acts
towards the Jews.
Albert begins his narration of the Rhineland massacres with the ambig-
uous statement:
I do not know if it was because of a judgement of God or because of some
delusion in their minds, but the pilgrims rose in a spirit of cruelty against
the Jews who were scattered throughout all the cities, and they inflicted
a most cruel slaughter on them, especially in the kingdom of Lotharingia,
claiming that this was the beginning of their Crusade and service against the
enemies of Christianity.41
He suggests that he is unsure as to what prompted the violence; he main-
tains the possibility that it could have been the Crusaders delusions
errors in their soulor Gods will. He nonetheless implicitly condemns
their actions by emphasizing their cruelty. In the same sentence, he twice
labels the acts cruel, surely suggesting that the Crusaders behavior was
inappropriate and blameworthy. He makes it clear how far they have
strayed from conduct that was permissible for Crusaders.
Albert then elaborates on the massacre by describing what happened
at Cologne. He says the violence started when the Crusaders suddenly

40...sed nequaquam ab illicitis et fornicariis commixtionibus auersis, immoderate erat

commessatio cum mulieribus et puellis, sub eiusdem leuitatis intentione egressis, assidua
delectation, et in omni temeritate sub huius uie occasione gloriatio. Ibid., 4849.
41 Vnde nescio si uel Dei iudicio aut aliquot animi errore spiritu crudelitatis aduersus
Iudeorum surrexerunt populum, per quascumque ciuitates disperses, et crudelissimam in
eos exercuerunt necem, et precipue in regno Lotharingie, asserentes id esse principium
expeditionis sue, et obsequii contra hostes fidei Christiane. Ibid., 5051.
36 kate mcgrath

attacked a small band of Jews[;] they decapitated many and inflicted seri-
ous wounds.42 The violence then escalated, as the citizens of Cologne
overthrew [the Jews] homes and synagogues, dividing a substantial
sum of money among themselves.43 When members of the Jewish
community saw this wanton destruction and cruelty, some of them
attempted to flee by boat during the night to Neuss.44 However, the pil-
grims and Crusaders discovered these men and did not leave a single one
alive, but after they had been punished with the same sort of massacre
they robbed them of all their possessions.45 Alberts rhetoric again marks
these actions as inappropriate; the Crusaders violence is cruel and a
massacre. Moreover, there are clear parallels to these actions and the
actions of King Colomans men in the previous chapter that he had con-
demned. Both parties are labeled as cruel, both actions are massacres, and
both contain similar behavior, decapitating victims and looting spoils. It
is reasonable to conclude that while Albert may be unsure of the impetus
for the Crusaders anger, he nonetheless condemns their actions.
Albert makes a similar condemnation of the violence against the Jews
in Mainz by the Crusaders under the command of Emicho.46 In this case,
the Jews had fled to Archbishop Ruthard for protection. Instead of respect-
ing the bishops home, the Crusaders broke down the doors, killed the
Jewish men resisting, slaughtered the women in just the same way, and
cut down with their swords young children, whatever their age and sex.47
For Albert, this action would have surely been a terrible desecration, pol-
luting the sanctuary of the bishops palace and therefore the cathedral.
Albert also implicitly condemns the Crusaders by characterizing them as
unwilling to make the necessary and honorable distinctions of sex and age

42...qui subito irruentes in modicam manum illorum, plurimos graui uulnere detrun
cauerunt.... Ibid., 5051.
43...domos et synagogas illorum subuerterunt, plurimum pecunie illorum inter se
diuidentes. Ibid., 5051.
44Hac igitur crudelitate uisa, circiter ducenti in silentio noctis Nussiam nauigio fugam
inierunt. Ibid., 5051.
45Quos peregrini et cruce signati comperientes, nec unum quidem reliquerunt uiuum,
sed simili multatos strage rebus omnibus spoliauerunt. Ibid., 5051.
46Kenneth Stow argues that Emicho participated only in this incident at Mainz, and
not in other areas as is commonly assumed. Stow, 911.
47Mulieres partier trucidauerunt, pueros teneros cuiusque etatis et sexus in ore gladii
percusserunt. Albert of Aachen, 5253. It is after these deaths that Albert relates the col
lective suicide of the Jews, an event that has greatly interested scholars. Albert notes that
they took their own lives and those of their families because they preferred it than to be
killed by the weapons of the uncircumcised. See Susan Einbinder, The Troyes Laments:
Jewish Martyrology in Hebrew and Old French, Viator 30 (1999): 201230.
the zeal of god 37

and instead slaughtering everyone indiscriminately. Eleventh- and twelfth-

century ecclesiastical historians often marked inappropriate violence by
emphasizing the deaths of women and children, groups whom, accord-
ing to customary norms, were expected to be protected. In other words,
ecclesiastical historians felt such victims were not supposed to be targets
of anger or retaliation, and such historians emphasized that individuals,
especially lay aristocrats, needed to make distinctions between appropri-
ate and inappropriate targets of violence when displaying their anger.48
To reinforce this, Albert concludes this episode by calling it a very cruel
According to Albert, all of these events, the fights with the Hungarians,
the Crusaders wanton behavior, and the massacres of the Jews, help to
explain the ultimate failure and defeat of the Crusaders by the Hungarians.
The Hungarian king had closed the royal road at Mosony, because he had
finally heard rumors of the slaughters committed by the Crusaders. As
Albert notes, the corpses of those killed were still stinking.50 Emicho and
his allies besieged the fortress, and in their moment of victory, Albert claims
that they irrationally began to panic and flee. Most of them then drowned
in the river as they were making their escape from the Hungarians, who
used the moment to their military advantage.51
In his conclusion to his description of Emicho and his men, Albert
In this the hand of God is believed to have been against the pilgrims, who
had sinned in his eyes by excessive impurities and fornicating unions, and
had punished the exiled Jews (who are admittedly hostile to Christ) with a
great massacre, rather from greed for their money than for divine justice,
since God is a just judge and commands no one to come to the yoke of the
Catholic faith against his will or under compulsion.52
Albert is again ambivalent in his characterization of the Rhineland mas-
sacres. He condemns these events by suggesting that the defeat of the

48Stephen D. White, The Politics of Anger, in Angers Past: The Social Uses of an
Emotion, ed. Barbara Rosenwein (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1998), 139.
49Hac Iudeorum cede tam crudeliter peracta.... Albert of Aachen, 5253.
50Et adhuc fetebant occisorum corpora.... Ibid., 5253.
51 Ibid., 5557.
52Hic manus Domini contra peregrines esse creditor, qui nimiis inmundiciis et forni
cario concubitu in conspectus eius peccauerunt, et exules Iudeos licet Christo contraries,
pecunie auaricia magis quam pro iusticia Dei graui cede mactaurerant, cum iustus iudex
Deus sit, et neminem inuitum aut coactum ad iugum fidei Catholice iubeat uenire. Ibid.,
38 kate mcgrath

Crusaders by the Hungarians was a form of divine punishment, but, at the

same time, he implies that it might be permissible to punish the exiled
Jews, whom he labels as Christs enemies. What Albert objects to is the
scale of the violence, the motivation for the violence, and the attempt to
force baptisms.53 The Crusaders had enacted a large massacre and forcibly
imposed Christianity out of selfish greed.
In addition, Albert connects these actions against the Jews to the
Crusaders sexual sins, demanding a necessary comparison. He implies
that just as the Crusaders were unable to control their actions with
women, so too were they unable to control their actions towards the Jews.
Albert surely relates these two failures together because he sees them as
symptoms of the same problemthe Crusaders had lost their religious
zeal for crusading.54 They had become dangerously off course, and they
had turned their righteous anger against the Muslims into blameworthy
anger against the Jews and Hungarians.
This is not to discount that Jews and Muslims were often conflated in
medieval representations. As Debra Higgs Strickland has demonstrated,
Muslims and Jews (as well as heretics), shared many common archetypes
and stereotypes in medieval art, and this common labeling of both groups
as a common infidel threat could be used to similar destructive ends.55 It
should, however, be emphasized that the representations of Muslims and
Jews were much more complex than simple conflation. As Jeremy Cohen
argues in his analysis of Bernard of Clairvauxs famous protection of Jews
from violence in the Second Crusade, medieval contemporaries made dis-
tinctions in the role of violence against Jews and Muslims in the process of
crusading as a form of sacred pilgrimage.56 This explains Alberts final con-
demnation of the Crusaders: these were the Lords repayment to them,

53Stow argues that the forced baptisms were especially opprobrious to Albert and con
temporaries. See Stow, 926. See also Jean Flori, La premire croisade. LOccident chrtien
contre lIslam (Paris: Editions Complexe, 2001), 4554.
54Stow comments that Albert and Ekkehard characterized Emicho as an anticrusader.
He argues that the Latin chroniclers saw Emichos actions as the overthrow of crusading
virtue. He differs, however, in his argument that Albert and Ekkehard took the greatest
exception to Emichos violation of the law in imposing baptisms on the Rhineland Jews.
Stow, 927. Matthew Gabriele, however, argues that these baptisms may not have been
seen as unlawful to contemporaries, because there surely would have been priests with the
armies who would have been able to perform baptisms and this type of forced baptisms
had been used since the Carolingians. Gabriele, Against the Enemies of Christ, 63.
55Debra Strickland, Saracens, Demons, and Jews: Making Monsters in Medieval Art
(Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2003), especially 95155.
56Jeremy Cohen, Living Letters of the Law: Ideas of the Jew in Medieval Christianity
(Berkely: University of California Press, 1999), 219245.
the zeal of god 39

when wickedness was discovered in the midst of the just in the times of
Moses and Joshua and of the other servants of God, and from him who is
the God of vengeance the rod of his majesty is swift and purifying.57 The
Crusaders behavior and lack of self-control was appropriately punished
by divine vengeance so as to purify the host of Crusaders.
Ekkehard of Auras account of the Rhineland massacres follows a simi-
lar progression and functions in a similar way in the text of his Crusade
chronicle. He begins his chronicle, like Albert, by praising the Crusaders
for their righteous devotion. He informs his audience that his spirit burns
to relate the divine mission to capture Jerusalem.58 He does, however,
caution that some had written falsely about the Crusade, because they
have embrac[ed] the broad path of pleasure rather than the narrow path
of divine servitude and [claim] that it is advisable to seek the things of this
world.59 Ekkehard, then, from the beginning, distinguishes between those
who work for God and those who are fixated on pleasure and desires, the
group he labels as Epicureans. He performs what he sees as divine service
by emphasizing the righteousness of the Crusaders. He says they were
glorious men who...have taken their lives in their hands as they fought
with the zeal of armies for the Lord their God.60 Like many contemporary
chroniclers, Ekkehard justifies his praise by alleging that the savage Turks
had oppressed the Holy Sepulcher, and the Crusaders were aroused by
Urban II to aid Eastern Christians who suffered under the furious attacks
of the Turks.61 In other words, Ekkehard posits that the Crusaders were
righteously enraged at the wicked fury displayed by the Turks.
According to Ekkehard, these glorious Crusaders, however, were
easily led astray from their holy mission. He charges, our enemy
[Satan]...sow[s] tares over the good seed and...raise[s] false prophets

57...que Dominus Deus in caput eorum reddiderit, cum temporibus Moysi et Iosue
et ceterorum seruorum Dei in medio iustorum inuenta est iniquitas, et ab eo qui est Deus
ultionum uirga sue maiestatis correpta et purificata? Albert of Aachen, 5859. In fact,
Albert goes even further by preceding this condemnation with an account of Crusaders
following a she-goat and a goose, which they believed was possessed by the Holy Spirit, to
the Holy Land. Albert labels it another example of their abominable wickedness.
58Gerald M. Straka, The Medieval World and Its Transformations: 8001650, vol. 2 (New
York: McGraw-Hill, 1967), 155. ...fert animus aestuans.... Ekkehard of Aura, Hiersolymita,
in Recueil des Historiens des Croisades: Historiens occidentaux (Paris: Imprimerie nationale,
1895), vol. 5, 11.
59Straka, 156. ...more voluptatum [magis] latam quam artam divinae servitutis viam
amplectentes, appetitum mundi prudentiam.... Ekkehard of Aura, Hierosolymita, 11.
60Straka, 156. ...viros gloriosos, qui...posuerunt animas suas in manibus suis, zelo
zelantes pro Domino Deo exercituum. Ekkehard of Aura, Hierosolymita, 12.
61 Ekkehard of Aura, Hierosolymita, 11.
40 kate mcgrath

under the appearance of religious zeal to infiltrate the army of the Lord
with false brethren and dishonorable women.62 Ekkehard then describes
several of these false prophets: Volkmar, Gottschalk, and Emicho. He
claims that each led their followers into wrong action by pretending to
be a divinely-appointed leader. Volkmar encouraged his men to attack
the Hungarian city of Nitra, which only ended when a cross appeared in
the sky to disperse them. Ekkehard clearly says that God had to perform
a miracle to prevent Volkmars followers from continuing to commit vio-
lent outrages. Gottschalk also attacked the Hungarians and plundered
the areas they passed through. In his Chronica, Ekkehard further charges
that Volkmars and Gottschalks men both gave the Jews in the cities they
encountered the choice of death altogether or the refuge of baptism.63
With these false servants, who behaved in reprehensible ways, Ekkehard
places Emicho and his account of the Rhineland massacres.64
Ekkehard is clear in distinguishing Emicho and the others from what
he calls Christs true army under Godfrey of Lorraine.65 He characterizes
Emicho as a petty tyrant...[who] claimed now to be a second Saul called
to the cause of religion by divine revelation.66 Ekkehard marks Emicho
as a nefarious figure who compelled his army by falsely and duplicitously
claiming to be marked by God. He likens him to Saul, the Hebrew king
who lost his crown and status as Gods chosen servant.67 Saul disobeyed

62Straka, 161. ...inimicus...bono illi semini zizania sua superseminante, pseudo

prophetas suscitare, dominicus exercitibus falsos fratres et inhonestas feminei sexus per
sonas sub specie religionis intermiscere. Ekkehard of Aura, Hierosolymita, 19.
63...aut omnino delebant aut ad baptismatis refugium compellebant....
Ekkehard of Aura, Chronica: Recensio I, in Frutolfs und Ekkehards Chroniken und die
Anonyme Kaiserchronik, ed. Franz-Josef Schmale and Irene Schmale-Ott (Darmstadt:
Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1972), 124. Cited and discussed in Gabriele, Against
the Enemies of Christ, 69, n. 71. It should be noted that in this passage, Ekkehard again
expresses hatred for the Jews, calling them nefandissimas Iudeorum reliquias.
64Straka, 162; falsus Dei servus Ekkehard of Aura, Hierosolymita, 20.
65Straka, 163. verus Christi exercitus Ekkehard of Aura, Hierosolymita, 21.
66Straka, 162. Emicho nomine dudum tyrannica conversatione nimis infamis, tunc
vero velut alter Saulus revelationibus, ut fatebatur, divinis in hujusmodi religionem advo
catus.... Ekkehard of Aura, Hierosolymita, 20.
67Matthew Gabriele makes a compelling argument that Ekkehard means to liken
Emicho to Saul, who becomes Paul, not King Saul. I am, however, in agreement with
Jonathan Riley-Smith and Kenneth Stow that Ekkehard is referencing King Saul. In my
view, Ekkehard surely intended his audience to draw this comparison based upon the
context of his description. He had devoted considerable attention in the previous chapter
to the dangers of false prophets and servants who claim divine sanction but lead people
away. He then groups Emicho with Volkmar and Gottschalk, whom he clearly labels as
a false servant, which connects the previous chapter to these men. Finally, if Ekkehard
intended for his audience to read Emicho as a new Paul, it is reasonable to assume that
the zeal of god 41

God by failing to wait for Samuel and offering the burnt offering him-
self, committing a ritual sin by usurping priestly prerogatives.68 He then
disobeyed God again by sparing the life of Agag when he was ordered to
kill all the Amalekites.69 This prompted God to reject Saul as king and
select David as the new ruler. Saul is described as behaving increasingly
inappropriately, feeling excessive anger and jealousy toward David, which
finally culminates in his seeking to kill David.70 Ekkehards comparison of
Emicho to Saul may stem from the similarities in their abuses. Kenneth
Stow argues that chroniclers saw Emicho and his men as derogating from
the exclusive baptismal privilege of priests in forcing conversion on the
Jews.71 Ekkehard then posits that Emicho, like Saul, had originally laid
claim to divine favor through his dedication to become a Crusader and
undertake a holy mission. Also like Saul, Emicho had lost this through
actions that usurped priestly rites and disobeyed Gods command to kill
the Muslims, and it was transferred to another more worthy candidate,
Godfrey of Lorraine, the leader of Christs true army.
Ekkehard then describes how Emicho and his men occupied them-
selves with massacring or driving into the bosom of the Church that exe-
crable race of Jews wherever they could be founda practice in which
they displayed their Christian zeal.72 Ekkehards account is perhaps even
more ambivalent than Alberts description. He certainly denounces the
Jews as an execrable race, and yet he describes Emichos actions in light
of his behavior as a false servant. In addition, by describing Emicho and
his men as forcing baptisms, Ekkehard indirectly marks their conduct as
unlawful. As Jonathan Riley-Smith points out, forced baptisms were con-
demned by canon law.73 Benjamin Kedar is no doubt correct in his assess-
ment that the condemnation of forced baptisms in canon law was probably

he might have called Emicho Paul and not Saul. Nonetheless, it is not clear exactly which
Biblical figure Ekkehard is referencing here, and there is much room for Gabrieles astute
perspective. See Gabriele, Against the Enemies of Christ, 7172; Stow, 917, n. 19; and
Riley-Smith, The First Crusade and the Idea of Crusading (Philadelphia: University of
Pennsylvania Press, 1991), 34.
68I Samuel 13:815.
69I Samuel 15:111.
70I Samuel 18:130; 19:110.
71 Stow, 912.
72Straka, 162. ...qui nimirum per civitates Rheni, Moeni quoque atque Danubii
deducti, execrabilem Judaeorum quacumque repertam plebem, zelo Christianitatis etiam
in hoc deservientes, aut omnino delere, aut etiam inter ecclesiae satagebant compellere
sinum. Ekkehard of Aura, Hierosolymita, 20.
73Riley-Smith, The First Crusade and the Persecution of the Jews, 61.
42 kate mcgrath

not a major issue for the average Crusader.74 Nonetheless, it would have
surely been in the mind of our ecclesiastical authors and their audiences;
in fact, as Kenneth Stow posits, there was considerable anxiety among
contemporary clerics about the consequences of apostasy for those forc-
ibly baptized.75 Various popes and ecclesiastical councils had prohibited
forced baptisms of the Jews since the Fourth Council of Toledo in 633,
which ruled that concerning the one be forced into belief....
Such men are not saved against their wills, but willingly, so that the pat-
tern of justice may be perfect.76 Such beliefs remained current at least in
eleventh- and twelfth-century Crusade chronicles, as seen in the story of
Bohemond of Tarantos refusal to force Antiochian citizens to convert in
1098.77 In the context of Ekkehards previous denunciation of Emicho and
the Churchs prohibition on forcible conversions of Jews, the Rhineland
massacres appear all the more shameful and unlawful, despite Ekkehards
personal feelings about the Jews.
This reading is reinforced by the subsequent defeat of Emicho and his
army by the Hungarians, which Ekkehard relates in a manner very similar
to Albert. King Coloman of Hungary had heard rumors of the violence and
destruction that followed Emicho and his men, and as a result he refused
to grant them safe conduct along his roads. The Crusaders were forced
to besiege Wiesselburg for six weeks. During their moment of victory,
when the Crusaders had breached the citys walls, Ekkehard charges that
Emicho and his men were punished for their sins by the wondrous will
of almighty God.78 Specifically, God prompted Emichos army to panic
inexplicably and flee, as in Alberts account. Also like Alberts account,

74Kedar, Forcible Baptisms of 1096, 196.

75Stow, 912; 922.
76Cited in Riley-Smith, The First Crusade and the Persecution of the Jews, 62. De
Iudeis autem praecepit sancta synodus, nemini deinceps ad credendum vim inferre. Cui
enim vult deus miseretur, et quem vult indurat. Non enim tales inviti salvandi sunt, sed
volentes ut integra sit forma iustitiae. Sicut enim homo propria arbitrii voluntate serpenti
oboediens periit, sic vocante se gratia dei propriae mentis conversione homo quisque
credendo salvatur. Ergo non vi sed libera arbitrii facultate ut convertantur suadendi
sunt non potius impellendi. Concilium Toletanum quartum in Collectio Hispana Gallica
Augustodunensis (Vat. lat. 1341),
.htm (accessed April 27, 2009).
77Riley-Smith, The First Crusade and the Persecution of the Jews, 6364. I do not
mean to suggest that this was the motivating factor in Bohemonds decision and not politi
cal expediency. However, it does suggest that some ecclesiastical chroniclers viewed it as a
possible rationale for his actions, which means that forced baptisms were conventionally
seen as inappropriate and illicit.
78Straka, 162. miro Dei omnipotentis nutu. Ekkehard of Aura, Hierosolymita, 20.
the zeal of god 43

Ekkehard concludes his discussion of Emicho by positing that this out-

come was Gods just punishment. He comments, This is what happens
to people of our nation who act with the zeal of God but not His wis-
dom, for they had begun to persecute their fellow Christians in a cam-
paign that Christ had provided for the liberation of Christians.79 As in
Alberts chronicle, Ekkehard groups all the actions of the participants in
the Peoples Crusade together to present a clear picture of the dangers of
abandoning the righteous mission of crusading. Instead of following true
religious leaders and exemplary Crusaders like Godfrey, these Crusaders
had been led astray by false prophets and nefarious false servants. In retri-
bution for their massacres of the Hungarians and the Jews, Ekkehard says
that Gods vengeance justly punished the Crusaders.
In his chronicle, Abbot Hugh of Flavigny comments that the Rhineland
massacres occurred with the same fervent spirit, although the act is con-
demned by many and judged as against the religion.80 William of Tyre
likewise contends that Emicho behaved not as befitted his nobility, as he
did not model good behavior nor did he condemn outrages, but instead,
he was a participant in wickedness and an inciter of shame.81 And as we
have seen with Ekkehards and Alberts accounts, it is clear that the Latin
chronicles condemned the 1096 Rhineland massacres in equal measure
with the Hebrew chronicles. The importance of these massacres in the
history of medieval relations between Christians and Jews has prompted
many scholars to examine these episodes in the hope of elucidating the
Crusaders motives and the long-term effects of their actions. A few schol-
ars, most notably Israel Yuval, have gone further to suggest that these
events marked not only an increasing period of anti-Jewish violence but
perhaps also the foundation for the blood libel and ritual murder accusa-

79Straka, 162. Sic nimirum, sic nostrae gentis hominess zelum Dei sed non secun
dum scientiam Dei habentes; quippe qui, in militia quam in liberandis christianis
Christus praeviderat, alios vicissim christianos persequi coeperant. Ekkehard of Aura,
Hierosolymita, 20.
80Quod certe mirum videri potest, quod una die pluribus in locis uno spiritus fervore
exterminatio illa facta est, quamquam a multis inprobetur factum, et religioni adversari
iudicetur. Hugh of Flavigny, Chronicon, in Monumenta Germaniae, Historia, Scriptores
(Hanover: 1848), vol. 8, 474. This passage is cited and discussed in Kedar, Crusade
Historians, 21.
81Cited in Stow, 928. prout eius decebat generositatem, nec morum censor, nec cor
reptor enormitatis, sed maleficiorum particeps, et flagitiorum incentor. William of Tyre,
Recueil des historiens des croisades: historiens occidentaux, (Paris: Imprimerie Royale, 1844),
vol. 1, 6667.
44 kate mcgrath

tions of the twelfth- and thirteenth centuries.82 One obvious limitation in

this argument is that the first accusation of this kind did not take place
until almost fifty years later; a more significant problem is that those
who have taken this position have treated these accounts of the violence
against the Jews and their subsequent collective suicide in isolation from
their narrative contexts.83 As we have seen, the accounts of the massa-
cres of the Jews by members of the Peoples Crusade are situated in the
broader narratives of the First Crusade, in which their function was to
allow ecclesiastical authors to emphasize a grander lesson about the righ-
teousness of Christian vengeance against the Muslims. They criticized
Crusaders for massacring Jews and trying to convert them by force, not
only because they were violating papal and imperial protections of the
Jews, but also because their shameful behavior detracted from the righ-
teous mission of the Crusaders to conquer Jerusalem and claim control
over the Holy Sepulcher.

82Israel Yuval, Two Nations in Your Womb: Perceptions of Jews and Christians in Late
Antiquity and the Middle Ages, trans. Barbara Harshav and Jonathan Chipman (Berkeley:
University of California Press, 2006), especially chapter 4.
83In European Jewry and the First Crusade, Chazan argues that 1096 was not a water
shed in Jewish-Christian relations. He demonstrates that German Jewish communities
experienced demographic and economic growth following these initial attacks. He also
shows that there was no significant violence in the decades following, despite repeated
crusades. See his chapter seven, especially 200204.
Race, Anti-Jewish Polemic, Arnulf of Sez, and the
Contested Papal Election of Anaclet II (A.D. 1130)

Irven M. Resnick

This paper stems from my recently published study that argues that as
Christian fears of the European Jewish minority increased in the Middle
Ages, Christians mapped a sense of Jewish difference onto the Jews body.1
Medieval Christians who, in most instances, never would have encoun-
tered a Jew, sought ways to distinguish Jews not merely according to dif-
ferences in religion, but also through fictive (and perhaps sometimes real)
differences in external appearance. In this way, Christians who feared
contact with the unknown and unseen Jew could rest assured that Youll
know one when you see one. In addition, the claims of art historians
notwithstanding, this effort to map a distinctive Jewish physiognomy or
appearance does not first appear in the thirteenth century, but emerges
in the first half of the twelfth century along with the partisan propaganda
surrounding the contested papal election of A.D. 1130.

Whats In a Name?

One might assume that such physical or physiognomic markers would

be unnecessary because Jews could be recognized by their names alone.
Several studies suggest that at various times and places in the medieval
West, however, personal names were insufficient indicators to differenti-
ate Jews from Christians, even though naming was an important ritual
in both communities. Jewish male infants typically received a name in
association with the ritual of circumcision, while Christian children were
named at baptism.2 In both cases, one can view the process of naming as
attached to a ritual of initiation. At the same time, names are not static

1 See Irven M. Resnick, Marks of Distinction: Christian Perceptions of Jews in the High
Middle Ages (Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press, 2012).
2See Elisheva Baumgarten, Marking the Flesh: Circumcision, Blood, and Inscribing
Identity on the Body in Medieval Jewish Culture, in Micrologus: Natura, Scienze e Societ
Medievali. Nature, Sciences and Medieval Societies, vol. 13: La Pelle Umana; The Human
Skin (Florence: SISMEL, 2005), 31618. For the development of a rabbinic liturgical form
accompanying circumcision that culminated in the babys naming, see also Lawrence
46 irven m. resnick

identifiers. Just as naming initiates one into an existing religious commu-

nity, religious conversion demands a new name to signify the transition
from the old to the new. In the thirteenth-century Dominican Thomas
of Cantimprs collection of exempla, the Miraculorum et exemplorum
memorabilium sui temporis ([A Book] of Miracles or Memorable Tales of
his Age), sometimes known under the title Bonum universale de apibus
(The Common Good [expounded] in Relation to Bees), a young Jewish girl,
Rachel, received a vision of the Virgin who addressed her as Catherine, in
anticipation of her conversion to Christianity. In another instance Thomas
of Cantimpr recalls the conversion of a second Jewish woman, Sara, who
became known as Gertrude after her baptism in Cologne.3
Often, Jews who converted to Christianity adopted the name of their
sponsor. For example, in 1106 the well-known convert Petrus Alfonsi, who
earlier had been known as Moses, assumed the names Petrus because he
was baptized on the feast day of Sts. Peter and Paul, and Alfonsi because
his godfather was the Emperor Alfonso I.4 In 1190 the Jew Benedict of York
was forced to adopt the name William, after his sponsor, Prior William of
the church of St Mary of York.5 One Jewish convert in England, who found
residence in the Domus conversorum (Converts Residence) in London in
the middle of the thirteenth century, adopted the name Robert Grosseteste,
in honor of the famous bishop of Lincoln of that name.6 Another convert,

A. Hoffman, Covenant of Blood: Circumcision and Gender in Rabbinic Judaism (Chicago,

London: University of Chicago Press, 1996), 71.
3Miraculorum et exemplorum memorabilium, bk. 2, c. 29, 21, ed. George Colvenerius
(Douai: Bellerus, 1627), 304. For an excellent study of conversion among Jewish women
in Germany, see Alfred Haverkamp, Baptised Jews in German Lands during the Twelfth
Century, in Jews and Christians in Twelfth-Century Europe, eds. Michael A. Signer and
John Van Engen, Notre Dame Conferences in Medieval Studies, 10 (Notre Dame, Indiana:
University of Notre Dame Press, 2001), 255310.
4For his own account, see the prologue to Alfonsis Dialogus contra Iudaeos, in Der
Dialog des Petrus Alfonsi: seine berlieferung im Druck und in den Handschriften
Textedition, ed. Klaus-Peter Mieth (unpublished doctoral thesis, Freien Universitt Berlin,
1982), 12. For a translation, see my Petrus Alfonsis Dialogue Against the Jews, trans. Irven
M. Resnick, Fathers of the Church, Mediaeval Continuation, 8 (Washington DC: Catholic
University of America Press, 2006), 40.
5The Jews of Angevin England, ed. and trans. Joseph Jacobs (London: David Nutt, 1893),
105. Benedict was baptised as William during the violence of the York massacre in 1190.
When after his baptism he identified himself to the king, however, as Benedict the Jew
from York, he had evidently rejected his new Christian identity.
6See Michael Adler, Jews of Medieval England (London: Jewish Historical Society of
England, 1893; reprint Amersham, England: 1984), 290. Adler studies the Domus converso
rum on 281339. For further study of this institution that was created by Henry III, see also
Robert. C. Stacey, The Conversion of Jews to Christianity in Thirteenth-Century England,
Speculum 67.2 (1992), 26383.
race, anti-jewish polemic, arnulf of sez, and papal election47

the powerful Henry of Winchester, took his name in honor of his patron,
King Henry III (d. 1272).7 Similarly, in early fifteenth-century Spain, Bonafs
de la Caballera of Saragossa converted and took the name Fernando, after
his patron King Fernando I (reigned 14121416).8
In other cases, the reason behind the selection of a new name may be
different or even hidden from us. Herman of Cologne was formerly Judas
(or Judah) ben David ha-Levi.9 One expects that no Christian convert
would wish to be known as Judas. Herman does not tell us how he chose
his new name, but only that as he had changed the order of his former life
in the laver of baptism, so too he changed his name and adopted the name
Herman.10 Perhaps Herman simply chose a name that was well-known in
Cologne. Indeed, many of its archbishops bore the name Herman, most
recently Herman III of Cologne (d. 1099). In another instance, at the
beginning of the thirteenth century the Oxford Jew Joscepin assumed the
name Alberic after his conversion,11 perhaps because at the beginning of
the thirteenth century the Earl of Oxford was Alberic II (or Aubrey) de
Vere. In late fourteenth-century Spain, Solomon ha-Levi became Paul of
Santa Maria. Perhaps this choice simply recalls the transformation of the
apostle Paul, who had been Saul of Tarsus prior to his conversion experi-
ence (cf. Acts 13. 9). Regardless of the reasons that led to choosing a spe-
cific name, conversion signified a transformation that demanded a new
name to signify a new religious identity.
Nonetheless, it seems a mistake to assume that Jews changed their
names following religious conversion because their earlier names were

7Michael Adler, Jews of Medieval England, 285.

8The Tortosa Disputation. Regesta of Documents from the Archivo de la Corona de
Aragn Fernando I 14121416, Sources for the History of the Jews in Spain, 6, compiled by
Gemma Escrib, ed. Yom Tov Assis (Jerusalem: Henk Schussheim Memorial Series, 1998),
9Herman of Cologne, whose conversion (if genuine) occurred c. 112829, identifies
himself as Herman, formerly known as Judas, of the Israelite race, from the Levitical tribe,
from [his] father David and mother Sephora, (Hermannus quondam Iudas dictus, genere
Israelita, tribu Levita, ex patre David et matre Sephora). See Hermannus quondam Iudaeus,
Opusculum de conversione sua, 1, ed. G. Niemeyer, MGH, Quellen zur Geistesgeschichte des
Mittelalters (Weimar: H. Bhlaus Nachfolger, 1963), 70; for a translation and a discussion
of the problems associated with this text, see Karl F. Morrison, Conversion and Text: The
Cases of Augustine of Hippo, Herman-Judah, and Constantine Tsatsos (Charlottesville and
London: University of Virginia Press, 1992), 39113. For a study of Hermans identity, see
Jean-Claude Schmitt, The Conversion of Herman the Jew. Autobiography, History, and Fiction
in the Twelfth Century, trans, Alex J. Novikoff (Philadelphia; University of Pennsylvania
Press, 2010).
10Opusculum de conversione sua, 19, 120.
11 Cecil Roth, The Jews of Medieval Oxford (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1951), 11.
48 irven m. resnick

clearly identified by other people as Jewish names. It may be that the

name change reminded the convert of the new religious identity and its
obligations. For us, the question is not simply whether converts adopted
different nameswe know that they didbut did the customary names
of Jews and Christians identify them to one another as different? The
answer will vary across medieval Europe by region and, to some extent,
by gender as well. For England, Jacobs provides a lengthy list of names of
Jews drawn from the Pipe Rolls in the Records Office. Most of the names
for males are clearly biblical, although sometimes the biblical names are
given a vernacular equivalent: e.g. Chaim may appear as Vives or Vivard,
or Joseph as Josce or Joce. In England Jews also adopted surnames that
typically identify them by place of dwelling or origin, or sometimes by
a descriptive feature (the Fat, the Tall, the Younger, and so on). In
an intriguing digression that may say more about modern than medi-
eval sensibilities, Jacobs adds that Brun is the only descriptive first name
he uncovered, though one would have thought most Jews of that date
were brun!12
Jewish women tended far less often to invoke biblical names.13 Michael
Adler notes that the large majority of English Jewesses were given purely
Norman-French names. This custom was more prevalent in England
than in any other country, the men usually being satisfied with Biblical
names.14 A similar phenomenon may be discovered in France, although
not consistently across every region.15 Simon Seror has compiled an
impressive onomastic list for the Jews of medieval France, and attempts
to identify as Jewish those names that have a Hebrew or Aramaic root,
while identifying those with a Greek or vernacular root as non-Jewish.
Although biblical names predominate for Jewish men in his sample, still
non-Jewish names were quite common, although more common among
the Jews of dOc than dOil, whereas almost all the Jewish women bear
non-Jewish names.16

12The Jews of Angevin England, 370.

13The Jews of Angevin England, 34570.
14Michael Adler, Jews of Medieval England, 20; Cecil Roth, The Jews of Medieval Oxford,
pp. 16972; cf. Simon Seror, Les noms des femmes juives en Angleterre au Moyen Age,
Revue des tudes juives 154 (1995), 295325.
15See Richard W. Emery, The Jews of Perpignan in the Thirteenth Century (New York:
Columbia University Press, 1959), 1214, 200202.
16Simon Seror, Les noms des Juifs de France au Moyen ge (Paris: Editions du centre
national de la recherche scientifique, 1989), xiiixiv.
race, anti-jewish polemic, arnulf of sez, and papal election49

However, the important question remains: would those outside the

Jewish community have been able to identify a Jew simply by his or her
name? Bernhard Blumenkranz insists that in medieval France and England
this would have been quite difficult, because while Jewsespecially
Jewish malesoften bore Old Testament names, so too did prominent
Christians.17 New Testament names would have been a good indicator of
Christian faith, but Old Testament names remained at best an ambiguous
marker. Since Jewish females tended more often to adopt Norman-French
names, their religious identity would have been even more difficult to
establish by virtue of their names alone. Of more importance, as Robert
Stacey has shown, is the fact that Norman-French names and language
employed by Jews in England would have identified them as foreigners
and with a sometimes despised ruling class. Indeed, French was the lan-
guage of the Jewish hearth and home in post-conquest England and seems
to have remained so right up until the expulsion in 1290.18 But while
linguistic difference might point to differences in ethnicity or class, names
employed by Jews in England and France, by and large, were inadequate
to differentiate them clearly from their Christian neighbors. By contrast,
this was not the case in Toledo, for example, in the twelfth and thirteenth
centuries.19 Moreover, by 1313 legislation in Castile required Jewish men to
employ a restricted pool of names, while Jewish women rarely used bibli-
cal names and shared many names with Muslim and Christian women.20
As in so many other aspects of Christian-Jewish relations, Spain seems to
present different sets of evidence. Nonetheless, fourteenth-century legis-
lative efforts to restrict Jews to a set of names that readily identify them
imply that before then confusion and error could occur. Names were often
not, then, generally adequate to differentiate Jews from Christians, even
in much of Spain.

17Bernhard Blumenkranz, Juifs et chrtiens dans le monde occidental, 4301096 (Paris:

Mouton & Co, 1960), especially 610.
18Stacey, Jews and Christians in Twelfth-Century England: Some Dynamics of a
Changing Relationship, in Jews and Christians in Twelfth-Century Europe, eds. Michael
A. Signer and John Van Engen, Notre Dame Conferences in Medieval Studies, 10 (Notre
Dame, Indiana: University of Notre Dame Press, 2001), 341.
19See Nina Melechen, Calling Names: the Identification of Jews in Christian Documents
from Medieval Toledo, in On the Social Origins of Medieval Institutions: Essays in Honor
of Joseph F. OCallaghan, eds. Donald J. Kagay and Theresa M. Vann (Leiden: Brill, 1998),
20Melechen, Calling Names: the Identification of Jews in Christian Documents from
Medieval Toledo, 32.
50 irven m. resnick

Artificial and Natural Markers

The fear that Jews would be mistaken for Christians was explicitly addressed
in Canon 68 from the Fourth Lateran Council (1215), which required Jews
to wear on their outer clothing a badge as a clear artificial marker, since
none existed in nature nor, as we have argued, by convention with any
degree of consistency. On the one hand, that the Church felt the need
to impose upon Jews an external sign suggests that outwardly Jews and
Christians were otherwise indistinguishable. Canon 68 states clearly that
In some provinces a difference in dress distinguishes the Jews or Saracens
from Christians, but in certain others such a confusion has grown up that
they cannot be distinguished by any difference. Thus it happens at times
that through error Christians have relations with the women of Jews or
Saracens, and Jews and Saracens with Christian women.21 The fear that
confusion led to illicit sexual relations provides a motive for imposing a
badge as an external signifier. But of greater interest may be the remark
that such a confusion has grown up that they cannot be distinguished
by any difference. This confusion was not allayed by the very real physi-
cal mark that differentiated Jewish and Muslim males from Christians,
namely circumcision. One supposes that circumcision was, for practical
purposes, a concealed sign, necessitating the imposition of another on the
outer clothing that was evident in public spaces. Moreover, circumcision
is a sign only for males, whereas Canon 68 is applied explicitly to both
males and females. And, finally, circumcision itself remained an unreli-
able marker, because it could also mistakenly identify male converts to
Christianity as Jews or Muslims.
Yet despite the Councils allusion, on the one hand, to a confusion
that stems from an absence of visible difference, on the other hand we
do have some evidence from as early as the twelfth century that suggests
the opposite, viz. that Christians readily identified Jews (and Muslims) as
having a distinctive complexion and physiognomy. Certainly some Jews
in medieval Europe may have displayed a complexional difference, and
as a result the two positions may possibly be reconciled: namely that all

21In nonnullis provinciis a christianis Iudaeos seu Saracenos habitus distinguit diversi
tas sed in quibusdam sic quaedam inolevit confusio ut nulla differentia discernantur. Unde
contingit interdum quod per errorem christiani Iudaeorum seu Saracenorum et Iudaei seu
Saraceni christianorum mulieribus commisceantur. Canon 68, Fourth Lateran Council,
in Conciliorum Oecumenicorum Decreta, eds. J. Alberigo, J.A. Dossetti, P.P. Joannou,
C. Leonardi, P. Prodi, with H. Jedin, 3rd ed. (Bologna: Istituto per le scienze religiose, 1973),
race, anti-jewish polemic, arnulf of sez, and papal election51

Jewish males and females (at least those that were beyond puberty) must
wear a badge on their outer clothing to avoid confusion, while Christians
may have been able to identify some Jews from natural indicators rooted
in complexion or physiognomy. But the evidence we have that Christians
attributed a different complexion to Jews does not suggest such a fine dis-
tinction, but seems to imply a universal characteristic. This may suggest
that because Jews had a different religion and different customs, they had
to be represented in medieval Christian culture with a different appear-
ance. It seems that medieval iconography and manuscript illuminations
from the thirteenth century, in which Jews increasingly would be depicted
(or caricatured) with dark skin tones, bulbous eyes, hooked noses, and a
malevolent countenance, construct a reality that has been shaped more
by theological expectations than by empirical observation. This conclu-
sion is largely supported by the work of medieval art historians like Ruth
Mellinkoff.22 My goal here, however, is not to revisit the work of medieval
art historians who have studied illuminations and manuscript illustrations,
but instead to discover from medieval texts what we can learn about how
some Christians perceived the Jews body or outward appearance.

The Contested Papal Election of 1130

The most intriguing early evidence stems from the contested papal elec-
tion in February 1130 following the death of Pope Honorius II. After the
popes death, two candidates were elected to the papal throne. One was
Gregory, cardinal deacon of St. Angelo, who took the name Innocent II
(d. 1143). The other was Peter II Pierleoni, who took the name Anaclet II
(d. 1138). Pierleoni had been educated in Paris and took the vows of a
Benedictine monk at Cluny before returning to Rome to become, first,
cardinal deacon of SS. Cosma and Damiano and, later, cardinal priest of
St. Calixtus. Despite the fact that subsequently Anaclet II would be identi-
fied as an anti-pope, at the time of his election Peter II Pierleoni had the

22Ruth Mellinkoff remarks that From at least the thirteenth century, artists distorted
noses, eyes, and mouths to produce Jewish caricatures. Typical distortions associated with
Jewsenlarged eyes, hooked noses, enlarged mouths and fleshy lipsbecame so com
mon that the only differences we see are usually differences of degree. Outcasts: Signs
of Otherness in Northern European Art of the Late Middle Ages, 2 vols (Berkeley, L.A., and
Oxford: University of California Press, 1993) I, 12728. In the same way, Mellinkoff adds,
medieval artists often depicted Jews with red hair and ruddy skin while, at the same time,
frequently assimilating to them the darker complexion of blacks.
52 irven m. resnick

support of the majority of the cardinals of the sacred college as well as

the support of the Roman clergy and people. His election appears to have
been more regular than that of his rival, Pope Innocent II.23
Since the middle of the eleventh century, contested papal elections
had become increasingly common, involving imperial and ecclesiastical
politics, Reform ideology, and Roman family rivalries. After the death of
Calixtus II (d. 1124), the election of Pope Honorius II was suspect because
Honorius was able to ascend the papal throne only after the newly-elected
Celestine II had been forced to step down by a campaign of intimida-
tion. When Honorius II died, the disputed election of 1130, however, intro-
duced a new element to papal politics. In a negative campaign more
familiar to the modern era, several of Innocent IIs supporters attacked
Anaclet II (Peter II Pierleoni) as a Jewish pope, and whipped up popular
Pierleonis alleged Jewishness was based on the fact that the members
of his family were relatively new Christians. His Jewish great-grandfa-
ther, Baruch (d. 1051), who had married a Christian woman of the house of
Frangipani, converted to Christianity c. A.D. 1030 and Latinized his name
as Benedictus Christianus.24 His son was named in honor of his baptis-
mal patron, Pope Leo IX (r. 10491054). By 1059 Benedicts son Leo had
become one of the most distinguished men of Rome, and in 1061 he was
a leading supporter of Pope Alexander II against the anti-Pope Cadalous.25
Although his father had converted to Christianity c. 1030, there is some
evidence to suggest that Leo had been circumcised as an infant. In a let-
ter to Emperor Henry IV (r. 10841105) from the partisan Bishop Benzo
of Alba (d. 1085), Benzo refers dismissively to Leo as Leo Judaeus. Benzo,
a supporter of the imperial party and of the anti-Pope Cadalous, attacked
the enemies of the Church and Empire by invoking Prov. 30.2122By
three things the earth is disturbed, and the fourth it cannot bear. The
fourth it cannot bear refers to the Normans; the three by which the

23Cf. Ferdinand Gregorovius, History of the City of Rome in the Middle Ages, trans. Annie
Hamilton, vol. 4.2 (London: Geo. Bell and Sons, 1896), 420. Herbert Bloch describes the
election of both Innocent II and Anaclet II as uncanonical, but admits that Anaclet was
elected by the majority of electors and by those with greater learning and authority. See
his The Schism of Anacletus II and the Glanfeuil Forgeries of Peter the Deacon of Monte
Cassino, Traditio 8 (1952), 162.
24See H. Dittmann, Anaklet II, Papst, in Lexikon des Mittelalters, 10 vols (Stuttgart:
Metzler, [1977]1999), I, col. 568.
25Cadalous (d. 1072) assumed the name Honorius II, challenged Pope Alexander II,
and was excommunicated in 1063.
race, anti-jewish polemic, arnulf of sez, and papal election53

earth is disturbed he identified as Leo the Jew, Alexander II (Anselm [of

Lucca] the Pharisee), and the cuckoo Dohech the Idumean.26 Elsewhere
Demetrius Zema identifies the cuckoo Dohech as Hildebrand, who was
later elevated to the papacy as Gregory VII (d. 1085).27 Benzo sometimes
nicknames Hildebrand Folleprandellus28 or Prandellus and he condemns
him as a new little Antichrist (novus antichristellus) that took counsel
with Leo, who had arisen originally from the Jewish community (origi-
naliter procedenti de Iudaica congregatione).29 One possible interpretation
is that Leo, a Christian, is tainted by his fathers Jewish origins. For several
reasons, I think this interpretation fails to reconcile adequately the discor-
dant information. We do not know the date of Leos birth and although it
seems unlikely that Leo could have lived as a Jew with his convert father
until he was baptized, nonetheless, if Leo received baptism only between
A.D. 10491054 during the papacy of Leo IX, and yet Leo was already an
important man in Rome in 1059, the conclusion seems inescapable that
Leo must have passed his early years as a Jew before his baptism. One
problem with this inference is that we know that Baruch/Benedict mar-
ried a Christian woman, which was perhaps a motive for his conversion.
If this Christian woman were Leos mother, it seems inconceivable that
Leo could have been circumcised as an infant. But if this marriage were
a second marriage for Baruch, then we can perhaps make some sense of
the situation. Leo could have been circumcised as an infant and then gone
to live with his convert-father and Christian stepmother. Assuming the
existence of a Jewish mother, he would still have been regarded by rab-
binic and Church authorities as a member of the Jewish community until
his own conversion. In this reconstruction, Leo is in reality one who had
arisen originally from the Jewish community and not merely a Christian
son tainted by his fathers prior Jewish identity. According to this inter-
pretation, we can view Leo quite literally as having once been a Jew, Leo
Judaeus, while Benzo satisfies his polemical purpose too by refusing him
the title adopted by Herman of Cologne in the next century that identified
Herman as formerly (quondam) a Jew. If this interpretation is correct, then

26Benzo of Alba, Ad Heinricum 2.4, MGH, Scriptores rerum Germanicarum in usum

Scholarum Separatim Editi, 65 (Hanover, 1996), 208.
27Demetrius B. Zema, The Houses of Tuscany and of Pierleone in the Crisis of Rome
in the Eleventh Century, Traditio 2 (1944), 172.
28Ad Heinricum 7.2, 582.
29Ad Heinricum 2.4, 204.
54 irven m. resnick

his grandson, the future Anaclet II, is drawn one generation closer to his
Jewish background.
Leo died sometime before 1072,30 and his position in the family was
taken up by his son Peter I, from whom the family derived the name
Pierleoni (Petrus LeonisPeter, [son] of Leo). Peter I had no fewer than
nine sons, and led the family for another 60 years until his death between
11241130. Peter I became a powerful supporter of Pope Gregory VII and
the Gregorian Reform movement.31 The Pierleoni family remained the
chief support in Rome of the Reform party well into the twelfth cen-
tury, and Peter I Pierleonis entombment in a rich marble sarcopha-
gus in the cloisters of St. Paul-Outside-the Walls is an indication of the
familys importance.
The Frangipani family had helped orchestrate both the election of
Pope Honorius II in 1124 and the election of Innocent II in 1130. Peter I
Pierleonis son and Leos grandson, Peter II, struggled to secure the papal
throne as Anaclet II. Precisely because the election of Anaclet II was more
regular than that of Innocent II, Innocents supporters, who were espe-
cially numerous in France and included such luminaries as St. Bernard
of Clairvaux and the Cluniac abbot Peter the Venerable,32 were driven to
wage a dirty tricks campaign to discredit Peters person and character.

30M. Thumser, Pierleoni, in Lexikon des Mittelalters, 10 vols (Stuttgart: Metzler, [1977]
1999), VI, col. 2136. A.D. 1063 is accepted as the year of Leos death by both Demetrius B.
Zema, The Houses of Tuscany and of Pierleone in the Crisis of Rome in the Eleventh
Century, 170, and Herbert Bloch, The Schism of Anacletus II and the Glanfeuil Forgeries
of Peter the Deacon of Monte Cassino, 163.
31 Mary Stolls The Jewish Pope: Ideology and Politics in the Papal Schism of 1130 (Leiden:
E.J. Brill, 1987) has convincingly overturned the thesis that it was because Anaclet was
a representative of the older Gregorian ideology that the cardinals divided their sup
port between him and Innocent II, with the latter viewed as a putative representative
of a new religiosity promoted by St. Bernard of Clairvaux. The explanation that relies on
opposition between a Gregorian ideology and a new religiosity can be found not only in
Stanley Chodorows Ecclesiastical Politics and the Ending of the Investiture Contest: the
Papal Election of 1119 and the Negotiations of Mouzon, Speculum 46.4 (1971), 613640,
but also earlier in Hayden White, Pontius of Cluny, the Curia Romana and the End of
Gregorianism in Rome, Church History 27.3 (1958), 195219, and Herbert Bloch, The
Schism of Anacletus II and the Glanfeuil Forgeries of Peter the Deacon of Monte Cassino,
Traditio 8 (1952), 159259.
32Knight has argued that Peter tended to avoid the personal invective that character
ized Innocents supporters attacks on Anacletat least until Anaclet was dead. In De
Miraculis (composed between A.D. 11351142) Peter refers to the schism retrospectively
and describes Anaclet, with a pun on his name, as that lions whelp that raged against the
church, the Antichrist and chief of all schismatics (see De Miraculis 16, 127, 1923, in CC
CM 83, ed. D. Bouthillier, Turnhout, 1988). See Gillian Knight, Politics and Pastoral Care:
race, anti-jewish polemic, arnulf of sez, and papal election55

One of Peter II Pierleonis most vicious enemies was Manfred, Bishop of

Mantua, who, in a letter to King Lothar, was also one of the first to attack
the anti-popes Jewishness:
Now then how much more do Jewish perfidy and Leonine rabies and Peters
heresy rage against the Church and against an innocent, just, chaste, civi-
lized man, elected and consecrated according to the Catholic rite, Innocent
by name, when they struggle with their [supporters] to destroy and to per-
vert all goods [...] and let him, that iniquitous Peter, the Son of Perdition,33
with his [supporters], either repent through you or perish through you [...]
Who, although he may be a monk, a priest, and a cardinal, does not cease
to couple with whores, married women, nuns, his own sister, even those
related to him by blood, in every way he could have them, just like a dog.34
Arnulf (d. 1184), archdeacon of Sez and Bishop of Lisieux after 1141, was a
second powerful enemy.35 Arnulfs earliest education was at the cathedral
school of Sez. It is likely that he continued his education at Chartres,
perhaps from 11211127. About 1133 Arnulf appears as the clerk of Geoffrey
of Lves, Bishop of Chartres. In Italy, where he had gone to study law,
Arnulf composed between 11331134 his vitriolic Invectiva in Girardum

Papal Schism in some Letters of Peter the Venerable, Revue Bndictine 109, 34 (1999),
33For the Son of Perdition cf. 2 Thess. 2.3. The Son of Perdition was sometimes imag
ined to be a forerunner to the Antichrist, as John the Baptist was the one who prepared
the way for the advent of Jesus.
34Nunc igitur quanto magis iudaica perfidia et Leonina rabies et Petri haeresis in
ecclesiam furiunt et virum innocentem, iustum, castum, bene morigeratum, catholice
electum et consecratum, Innocentium nomine, cum suis perdere et omnia bona moliun
tur subvertere [...] et ille iniquus Petrus, perditionis filius, cum suis aut per vos paeniteat
aut per vos pereat [....] Qui licet monacus, presbyter, cardinalis esset, scorta, coniuga
tas, monachas, sororem propriam, etiam consanguineas ad instar canis, quomodo habere
potuit, non deficit. Johann Matthias Watterich, Pontificum Romanorum qui fuerunt inde
ab exeunte saeculo IX usque ad finem saeculi XIII vitae ab aequalibus conscriptae, quas ex
Archivi pontifici, bibliothecae Vaticanae aliarumque codicibus adiectis suis cuique et annali-
bus et documentis gravioribus. Vol. 2: Paschalis II-Coelestinus III (10991198) (Leipzig: 1862),
n. 1, 27576.
35For Arnulfs biography and career see Carolyn Poling Schriber, The Dilemma of
Arnulf of Lisieux: New Ideas versus Old Ideals (Bloomington: Indiana University Press,
1990). Arnulfs extensive letter collection offers a good window onto politics at the middle
of the twelfth century. For the Latin text, see Frank Barlow, The Letters of Arnulf of Lisieux,
Camden Third Series, vol. 61 (London: Royal Historical Society, 1939). More recently,
Carolyn Poling Schriber has translated Arnulfs letters (and suggested a different arrange
ment for the collection) in The Letter Collections of Arnulf of Lisieux, trans. Carolyn Poling
Schriber, Texts and Studies in Religion, vol. 72 (Lewiston, NY: The Edwin Mellen Press,
56 irven m. resnick

Engolismensem episcopum,36 in support of the papal claim of Innocent II.

Arnulf dedicated this to his patron, Geoffrey of Lves, who was himself
engaged in the conflict and opposed Gerard, Bishop of Angoulme, who
supported Anaclet II. The invective gained the attention of St. Bernard and
Peter the Venerable, who later favored Arnulfs efforts to obtain higher
office. Sometime before 1139the date is uncertainit seems that Arnulf
continued his studies in Paris, where he developed a friendly relationship
with the Augustinian monastery of St. Victor, to which he retired at the
end of his long life. By 1139 he had finished his schooling and came to serve
Stephen of Blois (d. 1154), who sought from the papacy recognition as
King of England and Duke of Normandy. Arnulf represented him success-
fully before Innocent II as an ambassador at the Lateran council of 1139.37
After his uncle John died in 1141, Arnulf was elected bishop of Lisieux.
In his invective against the Bishop Gerard of Angoulme, Arnulf reiter-
ated many of the same complaints listed above by Manfred of Mantua
and expanded on Anaclets alleged incestuous relations with his sister,
It is reportedbut it is too wicked to saythat he defiled his sister Tropea
in bestial incest, and that in an abominable portent they bore sons from her,
[and] he who was a father to his nephews became an uncle to his sons, and
thus so confused the law of nature that he made them related and brothers
to one another as well as to him. No longer merely a Jew but worse than
a Jew!38
Arnulf attributes Anaclets perfidy and error to his familys avarice and
its struggle to achieve wealth and standing in Rome, which he treats
as enduring Jewish characteristics that can hardly be expunged. Arnulf
claims that the Pierleoni family had long groomed Peter II for high ecclesi-

36Arnulfs Invectiva in Girardum Engolismensem episcopum is found in MGH, Libelli

de lite, vol. 3, ed. J. Dieterich (Hanover: Hahn, 1897), 85107, and in MGH, SS, vol. 12
(Hanover: Hahn, 1856; Kraus Reprint, 1963).
37Arnulfs advocacy on behalf of Stephen of Blois was marked by the same sort of
poisonous invective directed against Matilda, daughter of Henry I, as he had employed
earlier against Anaclet. Arnulf dismissed her mother as a nun that her father had violated
and characterized Matilda as the product of an incestuous union. See John of Salisburys
Mmoires of the Papal Court, ed. and trans. Marjorie Chibnall (London: Nelson, 1956;
repr. 1962, 1965), 8385; cf. Mary Stroll, The Jewish Pope, 12930.
38Sororem Tropeamsed nec dici fas estbestiali polluisse narratur incestu et ex ea
abominabili prodigio eosdem sustulisse filios, quos nepotes, nepotum pater, filiorum fac
tus avunculus, sic naturae iura confudit, ut eosdem sibi invicem fratres faceret et cognatos.
Iam nec Iudeus quidem, sed etiam Iudeo deterior! Invectiva in Girardum Engolismensem
episcopum, 3, 95.
race, anti-jewish polemic, arnulf of sez, and papal election57

astical office. Peters education in France was intended to make him more
acceptable to the powerful French church, with a view toward ultimately
obtaining the apostolic see.39 With the monastic habit that he received at
Cluny, Peter II concealed his true nature, like a wolf in sheeps clothing.40
His wicked habits, Arnulf insists, were hidden so well that he was later
raised to the rank of cardinal. But his true character was revealed when, as
a papal legate, he enriched himself through illicit exactions that despoiled
churches and monasteries. His gluttony satisfied itself in twice-daily ban-
quets procured at monumental expense.41 Arnulf proclaims that it is this
abundant rich food that stirred Peters aberrant sexual desires, leading
him to violate his own sister. Even worse, Arnulf remarks, Peter brought
out for public display a young girl with a monks tonsure and clothed in a
monks habit, who accommodated various sexual acts and displayed the
face of a man but in the rest of the body displayed the parts of a woman.42
Peter was himself said to have participated in nightly sexual congress with
this apparent hermaphrodite, who enabled him to enjoy the pleasures of
both sexes, lest he become too easily bored. His gluttony and sexual mis-
deeds, Arnulf remarks, clearly demonstrate that Peter failed to follow the
example of Christ, who would have us restrain the demands of the flesh.
As a result, his character rendered him unfit to assume the papal throne.
Invoking the language of St. Paul from 2 Cor. 6.15, Arnulf cries out: There
is no concord between Christ and Belial, no connection between light
and darkness.43
The biblical Belial was often invoked by early medieval Christian writers
to refer specifically to Jews, Muslims, or Christian heretics.44 In the second

39Porro ipsum a cunabulis, ab ipsius nutricis uberibus apostolatui presaga parentum

destinavit ambitio atque post prima litterarum rudimenta docendum delegavit in Galliam,
ut illius regni benevolentiam ipsi morum linguaeque conformatio vendicaret. Invectiva in
Girardum Engolismensem episcopum, 3, 93.
40Post haec habitum quoque monachatus excepit, ut vitia mentis ovino velaret
amictu. Invectiva in Girardum Engolismensem episcopum, 3, 93.
41 Invectiva in Girardum Engolismensem episcopum, 3, 95.
42circumducebatur puella, cui in fraudem videntium adolescentis speciem vestis et
tonsura conferret, quae singulos estus toleraret, singulos solaretur affectus, eo gratior
et quasi quodam novitatis affectata miraculo, quod dum virum facie, reliquis mulierem
partibus exhibet, uterque sexus ipsi in eodem corpore videbatur exponi. Invectiva in
Girardum Engolismensem episcopum, 3, 95.
43Nulla enim conventio Christi ad Belial, nulla lucis ad tenebras communicatio.
Invectiva in Girardum Engolismensem episcopum, 3, 96.
44In the Hebrew Bible, Belial characterizes people who lie, deceive, conspire, or behave
in a dissolute fashion. In the pseudepigrapha, however, Belial designates the Prince of Evil
or Satan. See Belial, Encyclopedia Judaica vol. 4, 42728. For Belial as a designation for
58 irven m. resnick

half of the eleventh century Belial was also frequently invoked in a gen-
eral way by the monastic reformer and Cardinal Bishop of Ostia, St. Peter
Damian, to condemn simoniacs and dissolute monks (much as later
Anaclet II would himself condemn some of his former monastic brethren
at Cluny as Belial and Sons of Hagar, for failing to support his claim to
the papal throne).45 Damian also attacked bishops who gave themselves
over to the pleasures of the flesh, reminding them that as a result of their
dissolute sexual habits they follow not Christ but Antichrist, and that just
as light cannot consort with darkness, so too neither can Christ associate
with Belial.46 But more specifically Damian employed this text against the
anti-Pope Cadalous in a propaganda campaign only slightly less noxious
than Arnulfs campaign against Anaclet II. Moreover, Damian often linked
Pauls contention in 2 Cor. 6.15 that There is no concord between Christ
and Belial with 2 Thess. 2.34, which speaks of the Son of Perdition
and Man of Sin that raises himself up in the temple of God, and as a
result Damian identified Cadalous both with Belial and with the Son of
Perdition, the forerunner or minion of Antichrist.47
Just as Damian condemned the anti-Pope Cadalous as Belial and
Antichrist, so too does Arnulf of Sez condemn the anti-Pope Anaclet II.
Prior to his elevation to the papal throne, his dissolute and unnatural
sexual proclivities mark him as Belial, an enemy of Christ, and identify
him with Antichrist. Above, Manfred of Mantua had already identified
Peter II Pierleoni as the Son of Perdition while commenting that Peter
does not cease to couple with whores, married women, nuns, his own
sister, even those related to him by blood, in every way he could have
them, just like a dog. Arnulf insists that all the world, except the support-
ers whose loyalty he purchased, recognized Anaclet to be the Antichrist.
Thus, in addition to the usual complaint of simonythat is, that the
Pierleoni bought the outcome of the papal electionArnulf insists that
a Pierleoni plot to obtain the papal throne for Anaclet II reflects a Jewish
ambition for world domination and increased the faith, that arose among
the Jews, that dominion over the entire world began with possession of

Muslims, see Scott G. Bruce, An Abbot Between Two Cultures: Maiolus of Cluny Considers
the Muslims of La Garde-Freinet, Early Medieval Europe 15.4 (2007), 42932.
45See Anaclets letter to Cluny at PL 179: 695.
46Damian, Epistola 61.11, in Die Briefe des Petrus Damiani, ed. Kurt Reindel, MGH, Die
Briefe der deutschen Kaiserzeit, 4 vols. (Munich, 19831993), II, 214.
47See his Epistolae 99.4 and 120.13, in Die Briefe des Petrus Damiani, III, 99, 390.
race, anti-jewish polemic, arnulf of sez, and papal election59

the Roman see.48 In him, Arnulf adds, the power and prestige of the
Roman church have collapsed. He is the Son of Perdition, the Man of Sin,
the perfidious adversary of the human race,49 and either as the Antichrist
himself or as the one that prepares the way for Antichrist,50 Anaclet has
usurped the papal throne to lead the children of the New Israel astray.
The essential difference between Damians campaign against Cadalous
and Arnulfs campaign against Anaclet II, however, is the latters injection
of an anti-Jewish polemic. In itself, this might appear easily explicable.
Given that the Pierleoni had converted to Christianity in recent memory,
Arnulf may simply have added anti-Jewish sentiment as an effective tool
from his polemical arsenal. But this in itself does not explain the specific
form this polemic assumed. For not only did Arnulf attack Anaclet II for
displaying Jewish flaws in the realm of religious belief and morality, he
also attributed to Anaclet II denigrating physical or racial characteristics
that he identified as somehow Jewish.51 It is not only his immoral and
wicked habits, Arnulf insists, that disqualify Anaclet II as a true pope.
Equally important is the fact that his was a family of new Christians still
rooted in the material of its Jewish soil, enriched by usury, conspiring
with the enemy of the human race to corrupt the purity of the Roman
people. Despite the fact that approximately eighty years had passed since
the baptism of his grandfather, Leo, Peter II Pierleoni is said to display a
Jewish appearance. Thus, somewhat disingenuously Arnulf adds:
And so it is pleasing to pass over the ancient origin of his birth and [his]
similarly ignoble race, and I do not think that the Jewish name from which
he himself drew not only material for the flesh but even certain first fruits
of native error ought to be set before us. He is himself sufficient and copious
material and I do not think that there is or has been anyone worse than him
in his household. Although his grandfather collected inestimable wealth
from multiple usurious transactions, he condemned the circumcision that

48Augebat fidem, quod ex Iudeis ortus, quod totius mundi dominium Romanae sedis
auspicabatur obtentu. Invectiva in Girardum Engolismensem episcopum, 3, 93.
49ille humani generis perfidus adversator. Invectiva in Girardum Engolismensem epis
copum, 4, 97.
50homo peccati, perditionis filius, revelatur [...] quoniam vel ipse antichristus est, vel
in ipso nobis antichristi tempora preparantur. Invectiva in Girardum Engolismensem epis
copum, 4, p. 98. Cf. Invectiva in Girardum Engolismensem episcopum, 7, 103, where Arnulf
claims Anaclet is more properly named Antichrist: Petrum scilicet Leonis Anacleti nom
ine (sed verius antichristi!) papam esse.
51 Cf. Aryeh Grabos, Le Schisme de 1130 et la France, Revue de histoire cclsiastique
76 (1981), 593612. Grabos suggests that this propaganda injected an early form of racial
antisemitism to medieval polemics.
60 irven m. resnick

he had received with the water of baptism. He was ashamed of his power-
lessness rather than of his error, lest perpetual darkness condemn his race
that is confounded by the opprobrium of infidelity. Therefore, once he had
received the sacraments of the faith, he was grafted on as a new citizen
of the city [and] made a Roman in dignity. Since the queen bestows race
and form for money, and since a series of good issues bestowed upon him
numerous progeny, he tied to himself all the nobles of the city by marriage,
one after another, already conspiring with the enemy of the human race, so
that as if by an old yeast the entire dough of Roman purity would be cor-
rupted.52 From this mixture of various races, then, Gerard, there arose this
Peter of yours, who displays a Jewish image on [his] face and repays perfidy
for a sacred promise and goodwill.53
Later Arnulf depicts Gerard as an owl (bubo) that is blinded by the light of
day, whose obstinate heart will not permit him to hear the truth, namely
that that faithless company you follow is the Pierleoni family that is
not yet cleansed inwardly of the yeast of Jewish corruption.54 Arnulfs
metaphor is well-chosen. According to the twelfth-century Book of Beasts
Owls are symbolical to the Jews, who repulse our Saviour when he comes
to redeem them [...(because)] They value darkness more than light.55

52Cf. 1 Cor. 5.67.

53Libet igitur preterire antiquam nativitatis originem et ignobilem similem prosa
piam, nec Iudaicum nomen arbitror opponendum, de quibus ipse non solum materiam
carnis, sed etiam quasdam primitias ingeniti contraxit erroris. Ipse enim sufficiens est et
copiosa materia, neque quicquam domui eius ipso turpius vel esse vel fuisse coniecto.
Cuius avus, cum inestimabilem pecuniam multiplici corrogasset usura, susceptam cir
cumcisionem baptismatis unda dampnavit. Pudebat eum impotentiae suae potius quam
erroris, ne genus eius infidelitatis opprobrio confusum perpetua dampnaret obscuritas.
Susceptis itaque fidei sacramentis, urbi novus civis insitus est factus dignitate Romanus.
Cumque ipsi numerosam progeniem series successionis afferet, dum genus et formam
regina pecunia donat, alternis matrimoniis omnes sibi nobiles civitatis ascivit, machinante
iam humani generis hoste, ut quasi quodam veteri fermento tota Romanae sinceritatis
conspersio corrumperetur. Ex hac itaque diversorum generum mixtura, Girarde, Petrus
iste tuus exortus est, qui et Iudaicam facie representet imaginem et perfidiam voto referat
et affectu. Invectiva in Girardum Engolismensem episcopum, 3, 9293. Leo was Petrus II
Pierleonis grandfather. The identity of the queen who bestowed Roman dignities for
money remains uncertain. Perhaps Agnes is meant, wife of Emperor Henry III, who was
crowned in Rome at Christmas, A.D. 1046. After Henrys death, from 105662 Agnes was
regent for the young Henry IV.
54Infidelis universitas illa, quam sequeris, familia Petri Leonis est, nondum fermento
iudaicae corruptionis penitus expiata. Invectiva in Girardum Engolismensem episcopum,
8, 107.
55The Book of Beasts, Being a Translation from a Latin Bestiary of the Twelfth Century,
ed. T.H. White (New York: Dover Publications, 1984), 134; cf. Physiologus, trans. Michael J.
Curley (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1979), 11.
race, anti-jewish polemic, arnulf of sez, and papal election61

In ecclesiastical art or ornaments the owl often symbolized the Jews.56 In

the same way, Jews were frequently condemned for a stubborn or obsti-
nate heart that would not permit them to acknowledge Jesus as the Christ.
The implication seems to be that simply by following one not yet cleansed
inwardly of the yeast of Jewish corruption Gerard has been infected by
the Jews blindness and obduracy.
Arnulf also casts doubt upon the sincerity of the Christian faith of Leo,
Anaclets grandfather, and suggests that it was to obtain worldly standing
that Leo converted from Judaism, because he was ashamed of his pow-
erlessness rather than of his error. His grandson, Peter II, now Anaclet II,
is the product of a marriage arranged with the old Roman nobility, but
rather than naturalizing Peter as a Christian, instead he is a mixture of
races, and by an old yeast the entire dough of Roman purity is corrupted.
And, lest anyone miss the point, in a letter to King Lothar of Germany
(d. 1137), Holy Roman Emperor after 1133, the cardinal bishops who sup-
ported Innocent II and opposed Anaclet II pointed out that Anaclet had
assumed the papal insignia at that very sixth hour when the Jews had
crucified Christ.57 Such behavior suggested that Anaclet II is himself
the Antichrist, and medieval tradition had coalesced to indicate that
Antichrist will be a hidden or concealed Jew, a crypto-Jew, one who lacks
the physical mark of circumcision by which Jews differentiate themselves.
So too Arnulf alleged that Anaclet II is a concealed Jew, although one
whose Jewishness is visible on his face for those who know how to rec-
ognize it. He comes from that very race from which Antichrist will arise
and, drawing upon the perfidy of his Jewish origins, he conspires with the
aid of his grandfathers wealth first to obtain the Roman See and then
to rule the entire world. It is almost certainly Arnulfs description that
led the late nineteenth-century Church historian, Philip Schaff, to remark
that Anacletus betrayed his Semitic origin in his physiognomy, and was
inferior to Innocent in moral character.58

56See Mariko Miyazaki, Misericord Owls and Medieval Anti-semitism, in The Mark
of the Beast: The Medieval Bestiary in Art, Life, and Literature, ed. Debra Hassig (New York
and London: Garland Publishing, Inc., 1999), 2350.
57Petrus Leonis hora sexta, qua Judaea Christum crucifixit et tenebrarum caligo mun
dum involvit, cum suis conspiratoribus atque consanguineis aliisque manifesto pretio con
ductis ecclesiam sancti Martii (l. Marci), turribus fratrum propinquam, festinanter adiit,
cappam rubeam indecenter induit fictitiaque Pontificatus insignia arripuit. Watterich,
Pontificum Romanorum II, 182.
58Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, 4.25 (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research
Systems, Inc., 1997), 217.
62 irven m. resnick

Even St. Bernard of Clairvaux became involved in the negative cam-

paign against Anaclet II. In a letter to King Lothar Bernard also insisted
that it is an insult to Christ that the offspring of a Jew has occupied the
chair of Peter.59 In addition, Bernard condemned Anaclet by comparing
him to the lion of the Apocalypse,60 perhaps to recall the lion of the
tribe of Judah (Rev. 5.5). It is remarkable that Anaclets Jewish origins
indeed, not his own, but his grandfathersaroused no antipathy while
a monk at Cluny or later as a cardinal, but once he was elevated to the
papacy it became the basis for a series of attacks. Of interest to us, how-
ever, is Arnulfs claim that Anaclet II displays a Jewish image on [his]
face. What can this mean, if not that already during the first half of the
twelfth century the notion that Jews had distinctive features or complex-
ion could be invoked without requiring further explanation?
We also have one other piece of evidence from this same controversy.
At the Council of Rheims in 1119, at which Pope Callixtus II excommu-
nicated Emperor Henry V, Anaclets brother Gratian, who had been a
hostage during negotiations, was released to Calixtus II. According to the
contemporary historian Orderic Vitalis (d. c. 1142), at the council,
The Archbishop of Cologne [...] also freely surrendered a son of Peter
Leonis, whom he held as a hostage. Announcing this as if it were a great
triumph and exceptional pleasure, the envoy pointed out with his finger
a dark-haired, pale youth, more like a Jew or a Saracen than a Christian,
dressed in splendid garments, but physically deformed. At the sight of him
seated beside the Pope the French and many others laughed scornfully, and
called down shame and swift destruction on his head, out of hatred for his
father whom they knew as an infamous usurer.61

59constat Judaicam sobolem sedem Petri in Christi occupasse injuriam. Sancti

Bernardi Opera genuina, Epist. 139.1, ed. Monks of St. Benedict, 8 vols (Lyons and Paris:
Perisse Frres, 1854), I, 125.
60Bernard of Clairvaux, Epist. 125, no.1, PL 182: 270AB.
61 Coloniensis archiepiscopus [...] filium quoque Petri Leonis, quem obsidem habebat
ob amoris specimen gratis reddidit. Haec dicens, quasi ob insigne tripudium laetiamque
mirabilem, digito monstravit nigrum et pallidum adolescentem, magis Judaeo vel Agareno
quam christiano similem, vestibus quidem optimis indutum, sed corpore deformen. Quem
Franci, aliique plures papae adsistentem intuentes, deriserunt, eique dedecus pernici
emque citam imprecati sunt, propter odium patris ipsius quem nequissimum foenera
torem nouerunt. The Ecclesiastical History of Oderic Vitalis, 12.21, ed. and trans. Marjorie
Chibnall, 6 vols. (Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1978), VI, 6668. The italics are mine. Note
that Yerushalmi cites this passage incorrectly as a reference to Peter II Pierleoni rather
than Gratian. See Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi, Assimilation and Racial Anti-Semitism: the
Iberian and the German Models, Leo Baeck Memorial Lecture, 26 (1982), 6.
race, anti-jewish polemic, arnulf of sez, and papal election63

Marjorie Chibnalls elegant translation obscures one point: the Latin text
does not describe Gratian as a dark-haired, pale youth but rather simply
as a youth that is darkor even blackand pallid (nigrum et pallidum
adolescentem). Chibnalls translation fits better a passage from a late thir-
teenth-century text falsely attributed to Albertus Magnus, which remarks
that with respect to their innate complexion, offspring are accustomed
to be like their parents, and vice versa. But we see that in many cases the
race of Jews has black hair.62 While a pale complexion may often pro-
duce dark or black hair, the passage in Orderic Vitalis seems more likely
to refer to skin tone or complexion. More than a century later, Matthew
Paris also evoked a contrast between the bearded, dark-skinned Saracen
and the French.63 Similarly, in illuminations accompanying William of
Tyres famous Crusader chronicle, the History of Deeds Done Beyond the
Sea, Muslims are most frequently represented with black skin and black
faces.64 I suspect that Chibnall supplied dark-haired in order to avoid the
seeming contradiction between dark and pallid, although no such contra-
diction existed for medieval humoral theory.65
In sum, in this highly charged polemical atmosphere, Anaclet II was
charged with displaying a Jewish image on [his] face; Gratian was deni-
grated for having a dark complexion, more like a Jew or a Saracen than
a Christian; and the entire Pierleoni family was derided for not having
been completely cleansed of the Jewish yeast of corruption. In part,
the Jewish traits that marked these new Christians were vices: avarice,
ambition, and a lust for power. But in part and despite (or because of)
their persistent support for the Reform party, they were also identified

62Secundum complexionem innatam soboles solent assimilari parentibus, et e contra;

sed videmus, quod genus Judaeorum ut in pluribus habet nigros capillos. Ps. Albertus
Magnus, Quaestiones super Evangelium, q. 19.2.5. The text is found in Albertus Magnus,
Opera omnia, ed. Auguste Borgnet, 38 vols. (Paris: L. Vivs, 189099) XXXVII, 1362. For a
discussion of this text and its treatment of physiognomy, see my Ps. Albert the Great on
the Physiognomy of Jesus and Mary, Medieval Studies 64 (2002), 217240.
63See The Illustrated Chronicles of Matthew Paris: Observations of Thirteenth-Century
Life, ed. and trans. Richard Vaughn (Phoenix Mill, UK: Alan Sutton Publishing, 1993), 176.
Muslim chroniclers, similarly, remarked upon the fact that the pale-skinned Franks shaved
their beards. See the account of al-Qazwini (d. 1283) in Carole Hillenbrand, The Crusades:
Islamic Perspectives (New York; Routledge, 1999), 272.
64Svetlana Luchitskaya, Muslims in Christian Imagery of the Thirteenth Century: The
Visual Code of Otherness, Al-Masq 12 (2000), 46.
65That is, pallor indicated a lack of natural heat in complexion, whereas blackness
could stem from a predominance of melancholy or black bile. In fact a melancholy com
plexion is itself a cold and dry complexion, and one frequently finds both black or dark/
dusky and pallor together in descriptions of such a complexion.
64 irven m. resnick

with certain physical characteristics: a Jewish facial appearance speci-

fied by a dark but pallid complexion. Evidently these Jewish moral and
physical characteristics could not be completely washed away even by
Christian baptism.
Interestingly, in his defense of Innocent II Arnulf appeals not only to
his moral character, which he regards as clearly superior to that of his
rival, but also to his physical appearance. He exhorts Gerard to compare
the features of Innocent II and Anaclet II, remarking:
If his [Innocents] race is investigated, reckoned from his birth, he will be
observed to be a faithful Christian born from among faithful Christians; if
[one investigates] the counsel of his parents in his education and instruc-
tion, [he will be observed to be] one that dwells in the house of the Lord
all the days of his life (cf. Ps. 22.5; 26.6) and perceives the will of the Lord;
if [one investigates] the quality of his person, to describe first his physical
appearance, he is a man of modest stature, and neither does a rather short
stature render [him] abject nor does enormous size render [him] mon-
strous. A robust simplicity appears in his eyes and his countenance, and a
shyness, which indicates the chastity of his soul, appears on his face. That
face is so resplendent with dignity that it imparts a certain reverence to any-
one gazing upon him. Also, among the other gifts of its munificence, divine
power has bestowed upon him a special grace so that all those that see him
he reconciles with a gentle kindness and love for him that is borne from
his appearance alone. Moreover, supernal bounty has inspired his eyes with
something divine, that is, that is full of grace, worthy of veneration, that in
general is considered congruent with honor. [His] voice is smooth, but not
so much so that it is rendered too weak, and not so that it lacks an inclina-
tion to sweetness and the authority of strength. [He has] a constant liveli-
ness upon his face, a frequent laugh during a discussions digression, yet
nonetheless an appearance so pleasing that it can only increase not lessen
the dignity of [his] face and words. This attracts those gazing upon him all
the more, since in him it seems to be the beginning of his eternal joy, whose
first fruits I think that he received in his body.66

66Si genus eius, recensita nativitate, disquiritur, fidelis natus ex fidelibus advertetur;
si parentum in ipsius educatione vel doctrina consilium, ut habitaret in domo Domini
omnibus diebus vitae suae et videret voluntatem Domini; si personae qualitas, ut prius
habitudo corporea describatur, vir staturae mediocris, quae nec abiectum brevitas nec
immanem reddat immensae quantitatis excessus. Apparet in oculis eius et vultu robusta
simplicitas, et quae castitatem animi probet, verecundia faciei. Quae profecto facies tanta
dignitate resplendet, ut et ipsi quandam reverentiam ingerat intuenti. Ei quoque hanc
inter cetera munificentiae suae dona specialem gratiam vis divina largita est, ut omnes
se videntes mansueta sibi benignitate conciliet et dilectionem solo nanciscatur aspectu.
Ipsius etenim oculis divinum quiddam superna bonitas inspiravit, quod plenum gratiae,
quod reverentia dignum, quod honori congruum generaliter arbitretur. Vox blanda, sed
non in nimiam tamen resoluta molliciem, ut et suavitatis favor et magnitudinis non desit
race, anti-jewish polemic, arnulf of sez, and papal election65

In contrast to Anaclet in whose flesh the first fruits of native error appeared,
in Innocents body, born from faithful Christian parents, there appear the
first fruits of eternal joy. He is neither too short nor too tall. His eyes are
portals to a chaste soul. His voice is pleasing but not lacking authority.
His face is lively and given to laughter or humor, yet at the same time
his is a dignified appearance. He is not physically deformed, like Gratian,
Anaclets brother, nor dark like a Jew or a Saracen.
This papal schism ended when Anaclet II died in Rome in 1138. Outside
his Invectiva in Girardum Engolismensem episcopum, Arnulf seems not to
mention Anaclet again, although he referred to him obliquely in a let-
ter addressed to Pope Alexander III in 1159 at a time when he faced the
anti-Pope Victor IV. There Arnulf encourages Alexander III by recalling
the strength of Innocent II, who opposed that heretic [Anaclet II] who
exalted in the nobility of his birth, the accumulation of riches, his sin-
ful rhetoric, his knowledge of the world, and even his popularity among
worldly men.67 Strangely, he makes no more mention of Anaclets Jewish
According to Orderic Vitalis, Anaclets body was hidden in Rome by
his brothers, so that no one knows where he is buried.68 Later traditions
expand on the nature of his death. One is found in the exempla of the thir-
teenth-century Dominican, Stephen of Bourbon (d. 1261). Stephen com-
posed his seven-part book of exempla to benefit preachers like himself,
drawing upon classical authors, the Church Fathers, and upon contem-
porary events. According to Stephens narrative, at the time of the schism
Bernard of Clairvaux went to Italy to try to restore unity to the Church.
A certain holy man, who was ill and near death, begged Bernard to visit
him so that he could leave this world strengthened by Bernards prayers.
Since Bernard could not come to him due to the urgent negotiations to
resolve the papal schism, he told the holy man that if he wanted to leave
this world with more confidence, he should pray and petition the Blessed
Virgin to bring the schism to an end.

auctoritas. Continua vultus alacritas, risus in sermonis excursu sepissimus, tanta tamen
habitus honestate, ut verborum vultusque possit augere, non minuere dignitatem. Quod
quidem eo magis allicit intuentes, quoniam id in ipso quoddam illius eternae iocundi
tatis videtur initium, cuius eum in ipso corpore quasdam existimo primitias accepisse.
Invectiva in Girardum Engolismensem episcopum, 4, 96.
67The Letter Collections of Arnulf of Lisieux, 1.19, trans. Carolyn Poling Schriber, 50 (cor
responds to Epist. 24 in Barlows The Letters of Arnulf of Lisieux, 31).
68The Ecclesiastical History of Oderic Vitalis, 13.35, VI, 508.
66 irven m. resnick

Once he had done this, it seemed to the other holy man [to whom Bernard
wrote] that a council was gathered in a great church, and there placed in
the middle was a high throne. Seated on thrones too were abbots, cardinals,
archbishops, bishops, and many other magnates, and on the high throne was
Petrus Leonis, called Pope Anaclet. A certain very beautiful lady appeared
there, before whom there appeared an elderly man, cloaked from behind
with a sack, and he leaned his staff on one of the columns of the church.
The aforementioned lady said to him: Why have you come so late, elder
lord? And, descending from the altar, she took the staff of the elder man
and, spinning it around, she struck the throat of Petrus Leonis with its point,
saying Why have you presumed to sit on the chair [or: in the See] that my
son granted to the apostle Peter and to his canonically elected successors?
Having said this, the vision disappeared. Petrus Leonis, however, died from
a swelling in the throat, and peace was restored to a church that was united
once again.69
The tale is clearly meant to demonstrate that divine judgment, using the
Virgin as its instrument, took Anaclets life. The real mystery here is: who
is the elderly man carrying a staff and a sack? It is very tempting to see
in this pilgrim the already well-known figure of Cartaphilus, a servant of
Pontius Pilate who was later baptized with the name Joseph, who became
the prototype for the wandering Jew.70 If this is the case, then Mary uses
the staff of the one who, according to legend, had struck and mocked Jesus
before the crucifixion, for which he is punished to wander the earth cease-
lessly until the Second Coming. Perhaps the staff pointing at Anaclets
throat is intended to identify him as a Jew who has mocked or insulted
Jesus by occupying the See of Peter.
One wonders just how long the Pierleoni could be expected to display
these so-called Jewish characteristics. Were they perceived truly as racial

69Quo de facto, cuidam alteri visum est sancto quod in quadam magna ecclesia con
gregabatur concilium, et in medio collocabatur cathedra excelsa, et in sedilibus sedebant
cardinales, abbates, archepiscopi, episcopi et multitudo aliorum magnorum, et in magna
cathedra Petrus Leonis, papa Anacletus dictus. Venit ibi quedam domina speciosissima,
ante quam venit quidam senior indutus sacco postremus, et cambuscam [reading cam
buca for cambusca] suam ad columpnam ecclesie appodiavit. Cui dixit dicta domina:
Cur ita tarde venisti, domine senior? Et de altari descendens, accepit cambuscam dicti
senioris; et girans eam, percussit cuspide ejus guttur dicti Petri Leonis, dicens: Cur sedere
presumpsisti in sede quam filius meus concessit Petro apostolo et successoribus electis
canonice? Et hoc dicto, visio disparuit. Petrus autem Leonis. gutture inflato, mortuus est,
et Ecclesia in unum redacta, pace sibi reddita. Etienne de Bourbon, Anecdotes Historiques,
Lgendes et Apologues tirs du recueil indit dtienne de Bourbon, 2.6, no. 138, ed. A. Lecoy
de la Marche (Paris: Librairie Renouard, 1877), 11819.
70The story of Cartophilus, later baptized with the name Joseph, and condemned to
wander the earth until the Second Coming, can be found under the year 1228 A.D. in Roger
of Wendovers Flowers of History, trans. J.A. Giles, 2 vols (Felinbach: Llanerch, 1994), II.2,
race, anti-jewish polemic, arnulf of sez, and papal election67

characteristics that would endure forever because they somehow expressed

an essential nature? Or, were they perceived to be a divine punishment,
to endure unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me,71
much as conversos in Spain later would have to demonstrate an absence
of Jewish blood going back four generations? Moreover, why did these
become problematic traits only when Anaclet II ascended the throne of
St. Peter? We have numerous examples of other Jewish converts in high
episcopal office.72 Was it simply the case that, because Innocent IIs elec-
tion was the more irregular, that support for Anaclet II could be under-
mined only by associating him with the Jews and Antichrist? Or was this
negative campaign somehow a reflection of new fears in twelfth century
such that, as Bernard of Clairvaux insisted, it is an insult to Christ that
the offspring of a Jew has occupied the chair of Peter?
Why were physical attributes added to moral flaws as distinguishing
Jewish features? Certainly, the later Jewish medieval myth that a convert
to Christianity who was in reality a crypto-Jew would obtain the papal
throne expressed potent, quasi-messianic longings in a medieval Jewish
world yearning for deliverance.73 Nonetheless, the fears expressed at
Anaclets election of a Jewish conspiracy to steal the papacy seem to pre-
cede, not to follow, Christian awareness of this Jewish messianic tradition.
What, then, elicited this anti-Jewish campaign against Anaclet II?

The Dark-Complexioned Jew

We cannot answer all of these questions. We can propose, however, that

Arnulfs invective assumes that there are enduring Jewish moral and
physical traits that persist beyond baptism. Curiously, perhaps the most
persuasive evidence to confirm that in the twelfth and thirteenth century
Christians had begun to identify Jews in this way will be found in Jewish
sources. The famous Jewish biblical exegete Rashi (d. 1105) understood
the image of the suffering servant in Isaiah 53 to refer to the people of

71 Ex. 20.5; Ex. 34.7; Num. 14.18; Deut. 5.9.

72Both Pablo of Santo Maria and his son, Alonso, became Archbishop of Burgos, and
they are not isolated examples. Other converts occupied high positions in the papal court.
One example from early fifteenth-century Spain is Pablo of Santa Marias friend Joshua
Halorque (or ha-Lorki), the popes physician, who as a Christian convert took the name
Jernimo de Santa Fe and became the architect of the Tortosa disputation (14131414).
73For the early modern workings of the myth, see Joseph Sherman, The Jewish Pope:
Myth, Diaspora and Yiddish Literature, Studies in Yiddish 4 (Oxford: European Humanities
Center, 2003). As Sherman notes, however, the seventeenth-century Yiddish versions that
form his subject are based on older, Hebrew materials.
68 irven m. resnick

Israel, the Jews, who suffer in exile for the sins of the other nations. The
more abject Israels debasement, the greater will be the nations eventual
astonishment and recognition of their own sin. One sign of this debase-
ment is a claim that Rashi willingly embraces, viz. that the [Jews] form
is darker than that of other men, as we see with our own eyes.74 Their
darker complexion is viewed as a consequent of exile and therefore several
decades before the election of Anaclet II, Rashi had already assimilated a
view that Jews are darker in complexion than others, although he invested
this with a positive theological significance. In the thirteenth century, we
find another example from the Nizzahon Vetus or Old Book of Polemic, an
encyclopedic collection of anti-Christian arguments employed by Franco-
German Jews. In this collection one encounters the following argument
that reflects upon our inquiry into perceptions of a Jewish complexion:
The heretics ask: Why are most Gentiles fair-skinned and handsome while
most Jews are dark and ugly? Answer them that this is similar to a fruit:
when it begins to grow it is white but when it ripens it becomes black, as
is the case with sloes and plums. On the other hand, any fruit which is red
at the beginning becomes lighter as it ripens, as is the case with apples and
apricots. This, then, is testimony that Jews are pure of menstrual blood so
that there is no initial redness. Gentiles, however, are not careful about men-
struant women and have sexual relations during menstruation; thus, there is
redness at the outset, and so the fruit that comes out, i.e., the children, are
light. One can respond further by noting that Gentiles are incontinent and
have sexual relations during the day, at a time when they see the faces on
attractive pictures; therefore, they give birth to children who look like those
pictures, as it is written, And the sheep conceived when they came to drink
before the rods.75 [Gen. 30.3839]
This rich narrative responds to a question posed by a heretic, i.e., an
apostate Jew, concerning the skin color of Jews and Gentiles. Gentiles,
he alleges, are fair-skinned and handsome while most Jews are dark and
ugly. Why should this be the case? Note that the Jewish respondent does
not challenge the premise, but only tries to interpret the allegation in
a way that is favorable to Jews. His reply avows that there are certain
fruits whose flesh is white when they are immature, but which darkens as

74Fifty-Third Chapter of Isaiah According to the Jewish Interpreters, trans S.R. Driver and
A.D. Neubauer, 2 vols. (New York: KTAV, 1969), 1:37 (Hebrew), 2:37 (English), according to
the translation in Alexandra Cuffel, Gendering Disgust in Medieval Religious Polemic (Notre
Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2007), 189.
75The Jewish-Christian Debate in the High Middle Ages: A critical edition of the Nizzahon
vetus, cap. 238, ed. David Berger (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society of America,
1979), 224.
race, anti-jewish polemic, arnulf of sez, and papal election69

they ripen. These fruits represent the Jews, who, mature in their faith and
religious customs, were white in some sense at the outset but gradually
became darker, like ripe fruit. In contrast, Gentiles are compared to those
fruits whose flesh is reddish when still immature, and which grows whiter
as they ripen. Their subsequent whiteness is interpreted as a pejorative
sign that reveals a deeper truth about sexual conduct. Because Jews avoid
sexual relations with a menstruant, in them there is no initial redness,
whereas Gentiles are not careful about menstruant women and have sex-
ual relations. Since their children take their origin from impure blood,
they are tainted with a redness that gradually whitens, leaving them fair-
skinned. Consequently, Gentiles may appear fair-skinned and handsome,
while Jews are dark and ugly, but their appearances mask a deeper truth:
that Jews are faithful to Gods law, and Gentiles are not.
In another Jewish polemical text entitled Sefer ha-Nizzahon, likely writ-
ten in Prague about 1400 by Rabbi Yom-Tov Lipmann Mhlhausen, the
author responds to Christian claims that Jews are dark and ugly in appear-
ance because they have rejected God. Once again, Mhlhausen does not
deny that Jews may be dark-complexioned and ugly now, but instead he
insists that Jews will experience an extreme makeover when in the mes-
sianic age we will all be better looking than anybody else.76 This trans-
formation, postponed to the messianic age, presupposes that a change
in external appearance will faithfully reflect a change in Israels internal
moral and religious condition that helps to precipitate the appearance of
the messiah.
In sum, then, we have conflicting but sufficient evidence, I think, to con-
clude that there was some strong sense among both Jews and Christians
from as early as the twelfth century that Jews either were physically dif-
ferent or that they ought to be so because of their different faith and cus-
toms. Christian polemics stigmatized even Christians that were several
generations removed from Jewish roots with claims that a dark and ugly
Jewish complexion was still visible on their countenances, while Jewish
sources from as early as the twelfth century easily accepted such portraits,
but interpreted them in a manner favorable to Jews and unfavorable to
Christians. Such conflicting use of physical imagery continued well into
the modern era and was employed in the early sixteenth century by the

76Sefer ha-Nizzahon, par. 239, quoted by Ora Limor and Israel Jacob Yuval, in Skepticism
and Conversion: Jews, Christians, and Doubters in Sefer ha-Nizzahon, in Hebraica Veritas:
Christian Hebraists and the Study of Judaism in Early Modern Europe, eds. Allison P. Coudert
and Jeffrey S. Shoulson (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004), 169.
70 irven m. resnick

radical Protestant reformer, Sebastian Mnster (d. 1552), in a short Latin

and Hebrew dialogue with a Jew that he composed as a conversionary
tract.77 In the dialogue, a Christian meets a Jew on the road and greets
him in Hebrew. When the Jew asked how he knew him to be a Jew, the
Christian replied I knew that you are a Jew from the appearance of your
face. So indeed you Jews have a certain peculiar facial appearance, differ-
ent in form and shape from the rest of mortals, which fact has often led
me to wonder. In fact you are black and ugly, and barely white at all in the
manner of other men.78 The Jew responds, It is surprising, if we are ugly,
why do you Christians desire our women so much; they must appear to
be more beautiful than yours.79 Surprisingly, Mnster admits that Jewish
women are quite desirable, but the admission only serves to emphasize
the monstrousness of ugly, deformed Jewish men having intercourse with
It is therefore clear that physical imagery played a significant role in
polemics between Jews and Christians. From at least the early twelfth cen-
tury, Christians derided the Jews and even some converts from Judaism
as dark-complexioned, ugly, and deformed, and these characteristics
were understood to be external signs of a spiritual depravity. For their
part, Jews, a weak minority in Christendom, assimilated such depictions,
but attempted to impose a different valuation on them. If Jews are dark-
complexioned, it is a function of their redemptive role as the suffering ser-
vant, or because they faithfully observe the Mosaic Law and do not have
intercourse with menstruants, but in the messianic age a shining beauty
will be restored to them. Did they really look different from Christians?
We cannot provide a conclusive proof here, but my sense is that the attri-
bution of physical difference satisfied a felt need that Jews should look
different from their Christian neighbors, and empirical reality was con-
structed to reflect this theological necessity.

77Messias Christianorum et Iudaeorum. Hebraice et Latine (Basel: Heinrich Petrus,

78Messias sig. A5v: Christianus [...] ex forma autem facie tue cognovi te esse Iudeum.
Si quidem est vobis Iudeis peculiaris quaedam faciei imago diversa a reliquorum morta
lium forma a [et?] figura, quae res saepe in admirationem me duxit. Estis enim vos nigri
et deformes, et minime albicantes more reliquorum hominum. Cited in Ronnie Po-chia
Hsia, Witchcraft, Magic, and the Jews in Germany, in From Witness to Witchcraft: Jews
and Judaism in Medieval Christian Thought, ed. Jeremy Cohen, Wolfenbtteler Mittelalter-
Studien, 11 (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag, 1996), 428 (428, n. 32).
79Judaeus: Mirum est, si deformes sumus, cur vos Christiani adeo amatis mulieres nos
tras, illaque pulchriores vobis vestris appareant. Messias sig. A5v, Cited in Ronnie Po-chia
Hsia, Witchcraft, Magic, and the Jews in Germany, 428, n. 33.
Vitam finivit infelicem: Madness, Conversion,
and Adolescent Suicide among Jews
in late Twelfth-Century England

Ephraim Shoham-Steiner*

When the words: suicide, religious identity and medieval Jewry are put
together in one sentence, let alone an essay title, medievalists tend almost
immediately to invoke certain images: those of the anti-Jewish riots that
took place in the Rhineland in the spring of 1096 or the events of March
1190 in Cliffords Tower, York. These scenes and events will affect our dis-
cussion but they will not be at the center of inquiry. Rather than look at
those who supposedly died a heroic martyrs death, this article focuses
on those individuals that harbored religious doubt and considered con-
version. We should bear in mind that the Jewish communities in medieval
Europe lived as religious minorities under Christendom, having a complex
relationship with their surroundings, defined by Jonathan Elukin in the
phrase used for the title of his book: living together, living apart.1 The
two cases that will be discussed below deal with how this deliberation
eventually led to suicide. The Jewish martyrs and the role their image
played in twelfth-century Jewish mentality will indeed be discussed, but
will remain in the background.
The act of suicide has always puzzled mankind. Taking ones own life
was and is still commonly associated with madness, mental disorders, and
acute depression. In pre-modern times the act of suicide was also linked
to demonic possession and diabolical works. In the realm of Judaism we
find discussions about suicide as early as the Bible, as well as homiletic
writing in the Talmudic period. Jewish legal (Halakhic) sources have dis-
cussed the act of suicide and its implications on the victim and his family,
especially with regard to Hilkhot Avelutthe Jewish rites of burial and
mourning. According to Jewish law issues of life and death are ascribed
to the Lord himself, or to an authorized legal tribunal. An individual may
not make a decision to terminate his own life except in specific cases
where one would be forced to commit one of the three cardinal Jewish

*This article is supported by the I-CORE Program of the Planning and Budgeting
Committee of the Israeli Committee for Higher Education and The Israel Science
Foundation (ISF) grant No. 1754.
1J. Elukin, Living Together Living Apart: Rethinking Jewish-Christian Relations in the
Middle Ages (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2007).
72 ephraim shoham-steiner

sins (idolatry, adultery, or manslaughter), in which case one is expected

to favor death over transgression.2
Even in such extreme cases the Jewish code of law requires that one
should be passive rather than active in bringing about ones own death.
Suicide victims were categorized as evil (reshaim) for transgressing and
violating the sanctity of life. The discussion in Talmudic sources raises the
question of whether the suicidal individual is indeed evil in his decision
to take his own life. Understanding the act of suicide as a result of tem-
porary insanity does appear in the Talmud, thus casting the victim into a
differentand slightly more compassionatecategory, in which he was
treated as a sick individual. The repercussions for the victims family were
also taken into consideration in the Talmudic discussion, which probes
the question of whether to deprive the victim of the proper rites of an
honorable burial.
In an article published a few years ago, William C. Jordan outlined the
parameters for a new research agenda.3 Jordan drew scholarly attention
to a connection between conversion and adolescence, a connection he
claimed his research subjects, the medieval public, had noticed as well.
Crossing religious boundaries and conversion in adolescence, or shortly
after, is strongly associated with the tribulations of this phase in human
life. In many cases, even if the actual act of conversion will happen some
years later, the seeds are planted during these formative years. Jordan used
a powerful example to illustrate his argument: a close reading and analy-
sis of a text like the Opusculum de conversione sua written by Hermanus
quondam Judaeus or Herman-Judah of Kln. As a result of Aviad Kleinbergs
argument regarding the authenticity of this text and its author, it is safe to
say that Hermans change of heart occurred in his adolescent years only
to materialize in his young adulthood.4

2See Simha Goldin, The Ways of Jewish Martyrdom, trans. Yigal Levin, trans. ed. C.
Michael Copeland (Turnhout: Brepols Publishing, 2008).
3W.C. Jordan, Adolescence and Conversion in the Middle Ages: A Research Agenda,
M.A. Signer & J. Van Engen (eds.), Jews and Christians in Twelfth-Century Europe, Notre
Dame Conferences in Medieval Studies no. 10 (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame
Press, 2001), 7793.
4On this text and its authenticity see A. Kleinberg, Hermanus Judaeuss Opusculum:
In a defense of its authenticity, Revue des tudes Juives 151 (1992), 337353. Hermans
text has been discussed quite extensively in the past two decades; see J. Cohen, The
Mentality of the Medieval Jewish Apostate: Peter Alfonsi, Hermann of Cologne, and Pablo
Christiani, T.M. Endelman (ed.), Jewish Apostasy in the Modern World (New York: Holmes
and Meier, 1987), 2047, K. Morrison, Conversion and Text: The Cases of Augustine of
Hippo, Herman-Judah, and Constantine Tsatsos (Charlottesville, VA: The University Press
of Virginia, 1992), 39113, J.C. Schmidt, The Conversion of Herman the Jew: Autobiography,
vitam finivit infelicem 73

Adolescence is characterized by radical physical changes associated

with puberty and achieving sexual maturity. Modern psycho-biology
links these changes to extensive hormonal activity, causing emotional
and personal changes accompanied by a growing awareness of the self
and the projected self image. At times adolescence is accompanied by
an identity crisis linked to the process of defining the self vis-a-vis others
(the nuclear family, the immediate social circles, and broader circles such
as the respective adolescent peer community). Adolescents also tend to
wrestle with ideological issues rather intensely. Having said this, it is not
surprising that adolescent behavior is sometimes characterized by others,
especially the adult community, as impulsive and incoherent. Dramatic
changes of mood and what seems to adults at times to be a constant
attempt to challenge the adult world, world views, beliefs and behavioral
code are typical of these years in the human life cycle. In some cases this
will become outward defiance towards values thought of as sacred in the
adult social mindset. Some adolescents challenge the social boundaries,
others cross them defiantly. In the two cases I wish to examine closely
here the boundaries in question are not mere group boundaries but rather
socio-religious boundaries reinforced by strict taboo. This article will fol-
low Jordans suggested method of close textual reading, implementing it
on two texts, while adding another variant into his suggested equation
of adolescents self-identity and the issue of religious conversion: that of
Suicide, a psychological phenomenon powerfully resonating in the
social sphere, has troubled humans for many centuries. Family members,
friends and the respective communities of suicide victims are usually left
stunned and overwhelmed by this act. Suicide leaves many puzzled and
many burning questions unresolved. Much like suicide, the phenomenon
of religious conversion also received a variety of harsh responses, espe-
cially in the medieval world. The reactions we find to religious conversion
in medieval literary culture are very powerful, riddled with a heavy use of
derogatory language. In many cases we find similar language and moral
judgments exercised with regard to suicide. Both actions are time and
again associated with madness and deranged behavior.
The protagonists in the two stories discussed below are two young
Jewish men that belonged to the minority Jewish community in late
twelfth-century England. Their actions had powerful social ramifications

History, and Fiction in the Twelfth Century, trans. Alex J. Novikoff (Philadelphia: University
of Philadelphia Press, 2010).
74 ephraim shoham-steiner

on their immediate surroundings, within their immediate community as

well as outside it. Both stories are set against the background of the Jewish-
Christian debate and religious competition as well as the possibility of
Jewish conversion. In the first case that will be discussed, such a possibility
is expressed explicitly, while the other is open to interpretation. However,
even in the second story, where matters are not all clear, the potential
conversion of the main protagonist seems to lurk behind the scenes.
The first story stems from a Jewish legal source in medieval Hebrew
bringing forth the suicide story as an anecdote to illustrate a legal ruling
regarding the rites of mourning over a victim of suicide. The second story
appears in a miracle tale penned in Latin from a collection of miracula
attributed to a local English saint and was designed to prove the retribu-
tive powers of the saint and how she took her revenge on someone who
allegedly mocked her healing abilities and scorned those who believed
in them.

The Case of Yom Tov ben Moshe of London

The case of Yom Tov ben Moshes suicide appears in a Jewish legal
(Halakhic) compendium attributed to Rabbi Meir of Rothenburg (d.1293).5
The collection was probably put together following Rabbi Meirs death in
the late thirteenth or early fourteenth century in Germany. Rabbi Meir
was a Jewish supra-communal leader and dignitary, author of hundreds
of responsa whose writings had a profound effect on his European Jewish
contemporaries, as well as a longlasting effect that resonates among obser-
vant Jews to the present. Rabbi Meir had put together a handbook of reli-
gious customs that dealt with death, burial, and the rites of mourning and
commemoration. In this handbook one can find a discussion regarding
how to ritually react to an act of suicide. Drawing on previous literature,
Rabbi Meir rebukes suicide as an evil act and rules that someone who has

5On Rabbi Meirs life story see I.A. Agus, Rabbi Meir of Rothenburg: His Life and His
Works as Sources for the Religious, Legal, and Social History of the Jews of Germany in
the Thirteenth Century 2 Vols, (Philadelphia: Dropsie College for Hebrew and Cognate
Learning, 1947). More recently: I.J. Yuval, Meir ben Baruch aus Rothenburg (um 1200
1293), Suprimus magister, ed. M. Treml & W. Weigand, Geschichte und Kultur der Juden in
Bayern: Lebenslufe, Series: Verffentlichungen zur bayerischen Geschichte und Kultur Band
1718 (Munich: K.G. Saur Verlag, 1988), 2124; S. Emmanuel, Unpublished Responsa of
R. Meir of Rothenburg as a Source for Jewish History, C. Cluse (ed.), The Jews of Europe in
the Middle Ages (Tenth to Fifteenth Centuries), Proceedings of the International Symposium
held at Speyer, 2025 October 2002 (Turnhout: Brepols, 2004), 283295.
vitam finivit infelicem 75

committed premeditated suicide should be treated differently than other

deceased family members and friends.6 Premeditated suicide is care-
fully defined, requiring a clear statement of intention by the protagonist,
immediately followed by the lethal act and witnessed by at least two other
lucid adults. These requirements narrowed down premeditated suicide
in effect to becoming almost legally impossible according to the religious
legal system of Halakhah. R. Meir does however reaffirm that once defined
as premeditated suicide there should be a clear distinction between the
funeral and mourning rituals honoring the dead, and the rites performed
for the sake of the deceaseds family. To illustrate this point Rabbi Meir
invokes the story of Yom-Tov.7
And there was a case in England. There was a young scholar of rich descent
who was learning in a Talmudic academy [Yeshiva] and his name was Rabbi
Yom-Tov, may his righteous name be of blessed memory. On the eve of the
Jewish festival of Weeks [Shavuotthe equivalent of Pentecost] he took his
belt and hanged himself. His father, Rabbi Moshe the Pious [Hasid], did
not even leave his chamber nor shed a tear or even interrupt his study as if
no harm had come to him for he said that his son had harmed himself.
...However we saw that our Lord the Rabbi [the aforementioned Rabbi
Moshe b. Yom-Tov of London] said neither yes nor no.8 And servants and
other heartless and mindless men were involved in the preparations of the
body for burial and we did not touch his body. Only a few of the learned
joined the servants in taking the body on a cart to the city of London to the
cemetery. The Rabbi and the entire Yeshiva followed his coffin [= participated
in the funeral]. On that night he [= the deceased] appeared to me9 in a dream
and I saw him and he looked very beautiful, even more beautiful then he
looked while alive and he appeared to many on that night and he said that
he came to a great light [Or Gadol] and that he is safe and secure in the

6Rabbi Meir relies primarily on the rulings of the Talmudic external tractate known as
Tractate Semahot- (literally: Rejoicing, a euphemistic nickname for the tractate originally
known as the Larger Tractate on MourningEvel Rabbti). For a fine summary in English
discussing the issues highlighted in Semahot with regard to suicide, see A. Murray, Suicide
in the Middle AgesVolume I: The Curse of Self Murder (Oxford: Oxford University Press,
1998), 518523.
7Rabbi Meir of Rothenburg, Hilkhot Semachot, Hashalem A & Y Landa, eds. (Jerusalem,
1976), 103105 89. This version is based on MS BNF Heb. 1408 folio 31 88.
8This sentence testifies that the community of learners assembled at the academy was
left perplexed due to Rabbi Moshes non-decisive behavior.
9The reference is to Rabbi Meir of England (Rabbi Meir me Angletter) whose com
pendium on the rituals of burial and mourning (which did not survive) served as one of
Rabbi Meir of Rothenburgs sources for his own compendium on the subject as well as his
source for the story of Yom-Tovs suicide.
76 ephraim shoham-steiner

The Rabbi, may he be of blessed and righteous memory, also saw what
he saw. And on the eighth of Sivan [after observing the two day festival of
Shavuot] we rode to London and made a great eulogy in his memory.
But that young man was a pious and god fearing man, in all these congre-
gations [=in England] I have not seen any one like him, and he was sincerely
honest and I saw in him all the essence of sanctity and purity.10 Later on
it became apparent that he had sentenced himself harshly, and there was
also some demonic spirit within him. If a man does this [=sanctifying Gods
name in a martyrological/suicidal fashion] to satisfy his own pleasures and
in order just to have his sinful transgressions atoned swiftly and he does not
do this for the true love of his creator you should know that I [=God] will
claim it from him. And he (the deceased Yom-Tov) also used to say that
a demon would torment him by showing him the shape of a crucifix and
that he [=the demon] exhorted pressure on him to go and to worship idols
[=convert to Christianity]. However it is far better for a man in such a case
to succumb to the torments of physical repentance with self inflicted torture
and mortification in this world [baolam hazah11] and then worship the holy
one blessed be he with all his heart and might. One should thus engage in
procreation, and his offspring will be righteous and wondrous and his life
will rejuvenate like those of Job or others like him. The Talmudic sage Yossi
ben Yoezers nephew had also judged himself severely and hanged himself.
He was also a scholar and he died. At the moment of death a heavenly voice
declared that he has a portion in the after-life.12
The text is highly informative and describes in relative detail the occur-
rences of the act of suicide as well as the communitys initial and subse-
quent reaction to the case. In light of the above a few observations about
the events are appropriate:

(1) It is clear that the turning point in the story is the collective dream.
Up until the collective dream, shared by Yom Tovs peers as well as his
father, (the head of the yeshiva) the reaction was governed by the assump-
tion that Yom Tov had brought about his own death. Although from a
purely legal point of view it could be seen not as an act of premeditated
suicide, the fathers behavior, understood as a dictum by the academys
students, forbade treating Yom Tov with the rites reserved to a deceased

10I have placed this sentence in quotation marks since it seems to be part of the
eulogy delivered in the London cemetery in the second funeral. I wish to thank my for-
mer student Hadas Fishman-Peretz for her insightful reading of the text that brought this
matter to my attention.
11These words contrast this world with the after life, in Hebrew: haolam haba
literally meaning the world to come.
12 The translation of the text is my own.
vitam finivit infelicem 77

scholar of Torah. Thus, the father made no changes in his own schedule
and didnt even interrupt his learning to make the funeral arrangements.
It should be noted that Torah scholars and even novices in scholarship
were held in very high esteem within the medieval Jewish community.
Although the obligation to attend to the funeral preparations normally
rested on the shoulders of the first of kin (in this case the father), when
dealing with a scholar the entire community was considered first of kin
and the deceased was seen as an obligatory deceased [met mitzvah].13 It
is as early as the rulings of the Tosefta (the extra-Mishnaic pre-Talmudic
Palestinian Halakhic authoritative text) in the second century that we hear
that A sage who died[]all are deemed his relations [hacham shmet
hacol kerovav].14 Thus congregants were expected to drop all other occu-
pations, including the highly valued acts of learning and prayer and as a
sign of dignity attend both the pre-funeral arrangements as well as the
funeral itself. In Yom Tovs case we hear the exact opposite. Not only did
the father (Yom Tovs actual first of kin) remain in his chamber, he used
his authority to prevent other members of the Talmudic academy from
partaking in the funeral arrangements. These arrangements that were
usually carried out by the recently departed kin and peers and considered
a great honor were in this case taken care of by people the texts refers to
as heartless and mindless men. This reference could either mean regular
non-scholarly professional undertakers or non-Jewish servants. If that is
the case, Yom Tov was exposed to an extremely derogatory and almost
publicly humiliating treatment prior to the collective change of heart his
community experienced in the wake of the dream.
(2) The nature of the evidence regarding the attitude towards Yom
Tovs death should also concern us. Oddly enough according to strict legal
guidelines, followed also by Rabbi Meir in his compendium, the physical
evidence of this case would have acquitted Yom Tov of being labeled as
evil and guilty of premeditated suicide. Yom Tov was found dead, hang-
ing by his own belt, probably in his private chambers or elsewhere in the

13Encyclopedia Judaica translates this term as: unclaimed corpse. I prefer my transla
tion with regard to this case.
14The text reads: A sage who died[]all are deemed his relations, all tear their gar
ments and all bare their shoulders and all lament and all receive a mourners meal on his
account. For the Hebrew original see Tosephta (Based on the Erfurt and Vienna Codices),
ed. M.S. Zukermandel & S. Liebermann (Wahrmann Books Jerusalem 1970), Tractate Moed
Katan 2:17 231. For the English translations see: The Tosefta: Translated from the Hebrew
IVI, ed. J. Neusner (New York: Ktav Publishing House, 1981), Vol. 2: Tractate Moed Katan
2:17, 3056.
78 ephraim shoham-steiner

house or the academy. His actual act of suicide was not witnessed by oth-
ers (or at least our text does not explicitly mention such a testimony). The
father as well as the community could have assumed, without too much
legal squabble, that Yom Tov might have actually repented a split second
ante-mortem. This would have provided enough legal leeway to regard his
death as an accident and not premeditated suicide. The community, fol-
lowing the supra-legal pietistic guidelines set by Yom Tovs father, Rabbi
Moshe, mentioned in the text as Hasid (lit. meaning pious and labelling
him as a follower of the pietistic meta-halakhic tradition) initially treated
his death as premeditated suicide all the same. This judgment can be
defined as typical of a Jewish pietistic approach, discussed at length by
Ivan Marcus in his seminal study Piety and Society.15 By way of paradox
it is the supernatural evidence presented in the collective dream that
should have placed Yom Tov, following his own statement in the dream,
that he had judged himself harshly [dan atzmo behumrah] as a premedi-
tated suicide case. But instead, it is precisely the supernatural evidence
that gains Yom Tov his religious acquittal and subsequent social reha-
bilitation. It is only after the dream and the postponed eulogy that we
hear that Yom Tov was a troubled soul tormented by demonsa fact that
would have also promoted an acquittal. Demonic possession and visions
of a demonic nature would have rendered Yom Tov as mentally unstable,
thus depriving him from any legal responsibility for his actions, causing
his death to be regarded as an act of temporary or permanent insanity.
This change has to do with the third observation regarding this story.
(3) The third observation rests upon the language concerning the
dream vision and the imagery it invokes. A close examination of the
original Hebrew phrasing reveals it alludes to a code that was familiar to
twelfth-century European Jewsthe language of medieval Jewish mar-
tyrdom constructed in the twelfth century. Speaking of the deceased as
appearing postmortem as more beautiful than his beauty in actual life
and as arriving at a great light in the afterlife invokes this imagery in a
very powerful way.16 Once Yom Tovs act is cast in this literary mould and

15I.G. Marcus, Piety and Society: The Jewish Pietists of Medieval Germany (Leiden:
Brill, 1981). On the ripple effect that pietistic thinkers like Rabbi Jehudah the Pious of
Regensburg had on the overall Ashkenazi Jewish community, see the Jewish Quarterly
Review 96(1) (2006) dedicated entirely to this book. Even if we adopt the view of those
who oppose Marcus, there are issues in which the pietistic ideas had a profound effect on
larger circles within the Jewish community.
16Furthermore, other twelfth-century texts Jewish texts like the story of the 1096
Rhineland martyrs as well as the famous tale of Rabbi Amnon of Mainzs martyrdom
vitam finivit infelicem 79

put in a martyrological context, it shifts from a case of premeditated sui-

cide regarded by the pious father as evil and sinful to the realm of Jewish
defiance of Christianity and its symbols, and advocates Jewish martyrdom.
In twelfth-century Jewish eyes this identification with the acts of self-sac-
rifice is typical of some of the Jewish reactions to the riots of the First
Crusade (1096) and thereafter puts Yom Tovs story in a fundamentally
different context. It is clear from the text that Yom Tov was a troubled
young soul. He was tormented by thoughts about his religious self-identity
and according to both his postmortem dream statement, as well as ante-
mortem evidence from his peers (surfacing in the text only in the after-
math of the suicidal act and placed suspiciously at the end of the text),
we hear he had thoughts about conversion. These thoughts are described
by a demon pushing him to worship idols and confronting him with the
sign of a crucifix. Yom Tov, tormented by his deliberations and possibly
externally pressed to make a decision regarding his standing point, could
take this no longer.
(4) The date of the suicide mentioned in the text, the eve of the Jewish
festival of Weeks (Shavuot), is also of some importance. In medieval
England new converts to Christianity were publicly presented on the
Pentecost Sunday also known as Whitsunday. The name Whitsunday
refers to the white robes worn by the new converts parading publicly to
the baptismal font.17 It seems that in order to avoid being drawn even fur-
ther to Christianity, the young manhaunted by his heretical thoughts
ended his deliberations before he could be exposed. At first his act was
not understood by his community but once the rumors of his delibera-
tions become public the guilt-ridden community rehabilitates the young
manidentifying his act as martyrdom and not as premeditated suicide

employ similar language and imagery. It should be noted that these texts were well known
to twelfth-century English Jewry due to cultural and intellectual exchange as well as a net
work of family ties between English and Rhineland Jewries in the twelfth and thirteenth
centuries. Yom Tovs own family could easily trace its origins to a prominent Jewish fam
ily in eleventh-century Mainz in the Rhine valley, unlike other English Jews who were
imported to Britain from the Norman town of Roan by William the Conqueror. On the
story of Amnon of Maintz that in many ways is also a story of suicide and self mortification,
see Ivan G. Marcus, A Pious Community in Doubt: Jewish Martyrdom among Northern
European Jewry and the Story of Rabbi Amnon of Mainz, ed. Z. Ben-Yosef Ginor, Essays
in Hebrew Literature In Honor of Avraham Holtz (New York: Jewish Theological Seminary
of America, 2003), 2146.
17Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, 3rd. Edition eds. F.L. Cross and E.A.
Livingstone (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997), 1738. In the year 1200 the Jewish fes
tival of Week (Shavuot) and the Christian Pentecost were celebrated on the same day,
giving our story a possible date.
80 ephraim shoham-steiner

or an act of madness. This rehabilitation is marked by the return to Yom

Tovs fresh burial place in the London Jewish cemetery (probably the one
used until the 1290 expulsion in the area of Cripplegate) and the public
eulogy he received. This component was missing from his original funeral
service due to the identification of his act as premeditated suicide. It is
noteworthy, however, that the rehabilitation is critiqued in the text where
the author explicitly prefers physical mortification and torment of the
body and subsequent marriage as a remedy for heretical thoughts over
acts of suicide.18
(5) Yom Tovs rehabilitation posed an educational problem; his reha-
bilitation meant that the act of suicide in case of heretical deliberations
was an acceptable solution and even possible role model for other ado-
lescents to follow.19 Our author, aware of this puzzle, stresses therefore
that although Yom Tovs act is a pious and righteous one, there are other
avenues one can follow if overcome by a need to repent for troubling
thoughts of conversion.
Weve seen that the tribulations and religious crisis of an adolescent
boy, possibly enhanced by sexual tensions, (the remark on the need to
engage in protraction is rather suggestive and points in this direction)

18Suggesting marriage in this context is of special importance. It may hint at the fact
that these are indeed the deliberations of an adolescent youngster living in a conservative
social framework with very little opportunity for sexual outlet. It reflects the social con
vention that inner tensions, similar to those experienced by Yom Tov, may have enhanced
or intensified the sexual turmoil of adolescent life. Indeed, the aforementioned Herman
Judah of Kln testified in his autobiography that when his family felt that his close con
tacts with Christians were resulting in thoughts of conversion and an ever growing affinity
to Christianity they had made matrimonial arrangements for him as a means of both social
control and an attempt to set the religious identity issues off his immediate agenda. These
actions were partially successful, Herman said his affection to his newly-betrothed wife
and the attractions of married life had indeed eased his religious tensions and delibera
tions for a period of two years. See K. Morrison, Conversion and Text.
19Recent research, culminating with Jeremy Cohens Sanctifying the Name of God pub
lished in 2004, has raised considerable doubt, or for the very least some puzzling thoughts,
about what was considered for many years the sole sentiment towards the 1096 martyrs
absolute reverence and seeing their actions as an educational role model. Today we hear
more about the muffled and covert critique of these actions of the 1096 martyrs and oth
ers who followed suit. It is perhaps the realization that this role model sheds some bad
light on the survivors of the riots whose descendants have written the chronicles and the
religious poems praising the actions of the martyrs that brought about these voices as
well. Furthermore, some of the actions of the martyrs are at the very least halakhically
questionable. Legal criticism was raised especially vis--vis the slaying of children during
the acts of martyrdom that does not halakhically comply with the Talmudic requirements
demanding passive martyrdom. These themes are discussed more today and appear to
have been present in the twelfth-century discourse as well in both an explicit and even
more so in an implicit manner.
vitam finivit infelicem 81

drove him to suicide as a means of solving his religious identity crisis.

The community, at first puzzled, resolved its own issue with the troubling
case by identifying Yom Tovs attraction to Christianity as madness or
demonic possession. Once in that realm the community as well as his
family and peers could identify him as a troubled soul and reinterpret the
act as one of religious passion and martyrdom and not as a regular case
of suicide. Yom Tov is said to have resisted a religious temptation (in a
similar manner to the way one is encouraged in traditional societies to
overcome sexual temptations); although criticizing his behavior and sug-
gesting alternatives (physical mortification of the body), our author sees
his memory as rehabilitated, and he is reincorporated into Jewish society
and thought of as a martyr.20

The Case of Deus-eum-crescat or Gedaliyah ben Moshe of Wallingford,

and the Relics of Frideswide of Oxford

The second suicide story, unlike the first, is told from a critical and a far
less favorable point of view to the Jewish protagonist and his commu-
nity. The author in this case was Philip, the prior of the chapter of canons
entrusted with relics of Frideswide of Oxford whose miracula he had col-
lected and penned in proximity to the translation of her relics around the
year 1188. At the time Frideswide was not a canonized saint, though much
revered in Oxfordshire; she was only canonized in the later Middle Ages.
The story Phillip recorded was designed to prove the retributive powers
of the saint and how she took her revenge on someone who allegedly
mocked her memory and thaumaturgical abilities and scorned those who
believed in them.
Nor should we pass in silence the revenge which the Lord took on a certain
Jew, called Deus-eum-crescat, [= Gedaliyah] (Jews used to call him in this
fashion for prayers, instead of a proper name). He was the son of Moses of
Wallingford, a man himself less detestable than many other Jews. [The boy],
agitated by an evil spirit, began to insult the devotion of the Christian folk,
mocking the divine virtue with blasphemous words, closing and opening
his hands in a derisive way, halting and then walking firmly on his feet,

20On Jewish temptations to convert being colored as sexual temptation with a foreign
woman and even an incestuous relationship with a sister religion, see: Y.J. Yuval, The
Historians Silence and the Authors Imagination: Rabbi Amnon of Mainz and Ester Mina
of Worms, Alpayim 15 (1997), 132141 (Hebrew).
82 ephraim shoham-steiner

pretending to perform miracles like our Frideswide, claiming gifts and obla-
tions from the people.
And indeed both the miserable people [= the Jews] as well as the crowd
of the believers, cursed him, a deed whose effects well describe later on.
Sitting by his fathers table, he began redoubling his blasphemy and refus-
ing to stop, even after he was admonished by his father, continued saying
that Frideswide was unable to do anything, not even making him fear her.
The father, with the utmost indignation, put a curse on him, telling him
that whatever was to be his destiny at the end of one hundred years would
meet him instantly.
At his voice the blasphemous youth became silent, not long afterwards
he fell in an apathetic mood (accidia), and as it were went out of his mind,
became depressed and suffered a total mental collapse: for Gods providence
procured this effect, that a man who had used his mind shamefully should
be handed over to the agents of Satan. Later the young man was invited to
dinner by his father, but he refused, being afflicted by a hatred of life, and
thinking about ways to accelerate his own death.
When the quiet of night replaced the labours of the day, at the dead of
night, when all was silent, the wretch rose from his bed and went into his
fathers kitchen, and in order to have nothing interrupt the dreadful design
he had in mind, sealed the inside of the door with wax. For a noose, he
used the girdle he wore round his waist, casting it round both a beam and
his neck, like the traitor Judas, and this way he finished his own unhappy
life..... At dawn when the father missed his son, he looked for him high and
low without success; he then finally broke down the kitchen door and found
him hanged. Deeply shaken by what he had seen, he called his colleagues
together secretly, urging them not to let this occurrence become public, and
least of all to allow the Christians to know it. And so, just as their forefathers
sought in vain to suppress the glorious news of Our Lords resurrection, so
that impious race tried to conceal that stroke of divine retribution. In vain,
for human wit cannot conceal those things that Gods wisdom and power
make manifest.
The fame of this situation went through the whole city, bringing joy to
the faithful and confusion to the infidels.... Then, since the hateful body
was brought to London, as usual, in order to get buried, a big crowd of dogs
joined the funeral howling, as is their custom, giving a suitable setting to the
blasphemers funeral.
Then, as it was witnessed by very trustworthy people, in the middle of
the way the cart wheel broke down, the dead body fell on the ground, and
because of its weight, or maybe because of the force of the fall, the neck
through which the blasphemous words were uttered, broke in the fall, and
for a good reason: because the injustice went through the fat [of the neck]
to the thoughts of the heart....21

21This is an allusion to the standard commentary on Psalm 73:3.

vitam finivit infelicem 83

Because the Jew had upset the Lord with his blasphemy and obnoxious
speech he was taken from the living with a miserable death he had brought
upon himself. And indeed he deserves a double serving of evil. For he is
reserved for the day of oblivion and on that day of final judgment he will be
brought to justice along with those who repel the wisdom of the Lord [= the
Jews] that have so much hatred towards the Lord.22
Here again as in Yom Tovs case we have a story of an adolescent Jewish
male who commits suicide following issues of religious self-identity and
a personal relationship he has with the Christian faith and practices. It
seems that although at first sight Gedaliyahs behavior in the story is clear
outright defiance against the Christian faith and its symbols, as in the first
case here too the young protagonist was wrestling internally with his rela-
tionship towards Christianity. Gedaliyahs behavior is clearly troubled and
as in Yom Tovs case we are dealing with a troubled adolescent or as Philip
phrased it in the text, someone who had been delivered to the agents of
Satan. The young Gedaliyahs behavior, as well as the occurrences in the
story, leave us with some puzzling issues and unresolved matters: what
was a Jewish youngster doing among the crowd of those assembled to wor-
ship St. Frideswides relics? Furthermore even once exposed, Gedaliyah
is subjected only to verbal violence (he is cursed by the crowd); there is no
account in the text of acts of physical violence which would fit his rather
outrageous and courageously foolish deed. Can it be that the troubled
young man was both drawn to the cult of Frideswide only to scorn it later
with an outward act of defiance?
In his innovative monograph Reckless Rites, Elliot Horowitz captioned
this relationship with a phrase from Joseph Conrads Heart of Darkness
the fascination with the abomination.23 Indeed it should be noted that
acts of Jewish defiant behavior toward symbols of Christianity were not
altogether unknown in medieval England nor in medieval Christian
Europe. One famous incident took place some eighty years after our

22 This is my revised translation based on J. Jacobs, The Jews in Angevin England:

Documents and Records, from Latin and Hebrew sources, Printed and Manuscript For the
First Time Collected and Translated by Joseph Jacobs English History by Contemporary
Writers (London: D. Nutt, 1893), 6870. I wish to thank Dr. Rachel Gellert for aiding me
with this translation. The Latin original appears in: Acta Sanctorum, Oct. 8 (1853), 5767.
This text was discussed by Adolf Neubauer over a century ago: A. Neubauer, Notes on
the Jews of Oxford, Oxford Historical Society 16 Collectanea 2nd ser. pt.4 (Oxford 1890),
277318, specifically 2824.
23E. Horowitz, Reckless Rites: Purim and the Legacy of Jewish Violence: Jews, Christians,
and Muslims from the Ancient to the Modern World (Princeton: Princeton University Press,
2006), 185.
84 ephraim shoham-steiner

case on St. Edwards Day (March 18th according to the Oxford University
calendar) at Oxford in 1268, when a Jew publicly attacked a cross and
broke it.24
Horowitz points out that previous Jewish scholarship was reluctant to
admit such behavior, and at times even suggested the perpetrators were
insane or behaved unintentionally. More recent scholarship, however,
beginning with the late Jacob Katz in the 1960s, had suggested that these
incidents could have indeed been actual premeditated occurrences aimed
at defiantly expressing Jewish outrage with the symbols of idolatry and an
oppressing faith.25 The case currently under discussion, though similar, is
somewhat different and slightly more complex. First of all, it is not Jewish
apologetic historiography that deems the defiant Jew insane but rather the
contemporary Christian chronicler. Moreover, unlike a cross or an icon
understood by all Jews as signs of idolatry, not all Jews had always identi-
fied the saints, their cults, and their relics as outright manifestations of
idolatry. This issue, although clear to the Jewish learned elite, was a mat-
ter of a long-muffled debate within Jewish circles between the twelfth and
thirteenth centuries.26 In several occurrences we hear that among popular
Jewish circles the cult of saints was not seen as equal to the crucifix or the
figure of Jesus, both unanimously identified by Jews as idols. The saints
relics Gedaliyah had mocked were well known in Oxfordshire for possess-
ing healing powers, Frideswidess vita speaks explicitly of healing from
blindness.27 Is it possible that Gedaliyah, clearly a troubled young lad, was
seeking the thaumaturgical aid of the saint only to be disappointed and

24On this incident see: C. Cluse, Stories of Breaking and Taking the Cross: A Possible
Context for the Oxford Incident of 1268, Revue dHistoire Ecclesiastique 90 (1995), 438
439, as well as E. Horowitz, Medieval Jews Face the Cross, ed. Y.T. Assis et al. Facing the
Cross: The Persecutions of 1096 in History and Historiography (Jerusalem: Magnes Press,
2000), 118140. esp. 136140 (Hebrew).
25C. Roth, The Jews of Medieval Oxford, Oxford Historical Society New Series 9 (Oxford;
Clarendon Press, 1951), 152; J. Katz, Exclusiveness and Tolerance: Jewish Gentile Relations
in Medieval and Modern Times (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1961), 2223; Horowitz,
Reckless Rites, 149155.
26I have written about this matter in For a prayer in that place would be most wel
come: Jews, Holy Shrines and MiraclesA New Approach, Viator 37 (2006), 369395,
and recently in A Lame Jew, a Demon and a Healing Saint: Magical Healing by Christian
Saints at Shrines amongst Jews of Medieval GermanyParticipation, Polemics and Shared
Cultures, Harvard Theological Review 103: 1 (2010), 11129.
27Ronald Finucane has also made scholarly use of this miracle collection. See R.
Finucane, The Rescue of the Innocents: Endangered Children in Medieval Miracles (New
York: St. Martins Press, 1997).
vitam finivit infelicem 85

eventually to express his disappointment in a blasphemous manner? Why

else would Philip have granted him the temporary insanity trapdoor
escape from been accused of blasphemy and subsequent corporal pun-
ishment? Apart from these questions just raised there are other questions
to be asked. The text concludes with a rather lengthy moral reckoning
by Philip with Gedaliyahs punishment and the way it should be under-
stood. There is almost a tangible sense of disappointment in the text with
regard to Gedaliyah. Philip speaks of how he deserves a double serving
of evil and that he will be judged in the dies irae along with the Jewish
non-believers. This of course conjures the question of whether there was
even a hypothetical possibility otherwise; was Philip perhaps expecting a
different outcome since Gedaliyah was a Jewor wasnt he? This notion
is further strengthened by Philips choice of the figure of Judas Iscariot
as the prototype figure to parallel Gedaliyahs suicide.
The association of the Jews with Judas Iscariot is not unfamiliar, on the
contrary. As Alexander Murray in his seminal study on Suicide in the
Middle Ages has shown it is exactly at this period (late twelfth and early
thirteenth century) that Judass Jewish features became more clear and
visible both in literary forms as well as in the arts.28 Murray points to
the following three factors as the reasons for this change: the evangeli-
cal awakening of the late twelfth and early thirteenth century, namely
the growing consciousness toward the Gospel and its leading arch-villain
Judas, the connection between Judas money and money-mindedness, and
the growing tendency among western Europeans to define themselves
more articulately as Christians, associated with a sharper hostility towards
non-Christians in their midst, especially Jews.
Up until this period it was much more commonplace to associate the
Jews especially with Judass greed, with his willingness to accept the thirty
pieces of silver, and with the Jews part in orchestrating the betrayal and
subsequent arrest of Jesus. Our text does relate to Judass treachery, stat-
ing that Gedaliyah took his life in a way similar to that of the traitor Judas
(in hoc Judae proditori similes) namely by hanging himself rather then
by falling on his sword like King Saul (1 Sam 31:25) or drowning him-
self in a river. But if we examine Gedaliyahs figure in the story carefully
we find that he is represented as a Jew associated with a different aspect
of Judas, a very common one, but at the same time very uncommon to

28A. Murray, Suicide in the Middle Ages: Vol. 1: The Violent Against Themselves (Oxford:
Oxford University Press, 1998), 326331.
86 ephraim shoham-steiner

Jews in generalthe portrayal of a Jew as Judas desperatus, Judas that

had despaired of hope. This aspect of Judas character is the one that had
realized his sin but for his lack of belief in Christs caritas, forgiveness, and
mercy designed his own death and set about performing it. The portrayal
of Gedaliyah in the story as Judas desperatus inevitably raises the question:
can it be that Gedaliyah was seen as a potential convert to Christianity, a
follower of Jesus and the Christian faith, whose acts of outward defiance
came as a surprise to the Christian community, signifying betrayal?
If we adopt this interpretation it would explain a few of the above-
mentioned oddities, for instance: Gedaliyahs undisturbed presence
among those assembled in the cultic events that were associated with
St. Frideswide, a very unlikely place indeed for a young local Jew even
though some, like Robert Stacey, have suggested that the church was
located in the Oxford Jewry.
We may therefore suggest that in a similar manner to Yom Tovs sui-
cide Gedaliyahs suicide was also a byproduct of a potential conversion,
or at least an attraction to Christianity, gone sour. We may even speculate
that Philip had written down his version of the events in order to sup-
ply his version of events of Gedaliyahs attack on the saint and eventual
suicide. These events were, as he himself testifies, recent occurrences and
well-known around town. By deeming Gedaliyah mad and blasphemous,
Philip could easily disassociate himself from Gedaliyah even if before the
event he had somehow been in touch with him. Following this interpre-
tation we may conjecture that while in the presence of the saints relics
Gedaliyah had a sudden change of heart, and what might have began as
an attempt to come in contact with the relics as with the Christian faith in
general had changed. Gadaliyas behavior revealed his changing attitude
and the expected conversion or interest he had in Christianity turned
into defiance.29
By now, after Gedaliyahs act of outward defiance toward the relics of
Frideswide all parties involved, Jews and Christians alike, were left puz-
zled. Gedaliyah himself was most likely confused. He might have made it
away from the Christian crowd with only insult but some form of retri-
bution was sure to come. Furthermore, by now his mysterious presence
among the Christians celebrating the relics of St. Frideswide demanded an
explanation. Thus, upon returning home Gedaliyah repeated his outward

29Consulting with Hebrew University anthropologist and psychologist Prof. Yorm Bilu,
I understood that the mental distance between the two is a very short one.
vitam finivit infelicem 87

defiance involving foul language against the saint in what seems to me

an attempt to explain his presence among the Christians celebrating the
cult of Frideswides relics. To his dismay his father did not see his slander
against Christianity and the local saint in a favorable manner, as Gedaliyah
might have expectedquite the opposite. The father, left baffled by his
sons remarks and realizing the potential hazard this language harbors,
rebukes the sons actions and slander, and, probably in fear of similar
actions repeating themselves, he curses the youngster.
It is at this point that the burden became too heavy for Gedaliyah. He
probably thought his father would play along or at the very least under-
stand what he was doing near the saints adherents. Gedaliyah, perhaps
too, in his own way wished to invoke the image of the Jewish martyrs
with their outward defiance towards the symbols of Christianity.30 But
his act either did not seem convincing to his father or was too outspo-
ken and fearlesseven outright mad. Entering the realm of speculation
and returning to the issues of adolescence it seems that the confronta-
tion between Gedaliyah and his father might be the textual tip of a long
behavioral iceberg of conflict and previous clashes. In any case the father
did not reciprocate, and contrary to Gedaliyahs expectations he was rep-
rimanded for his behavior and cursed rather then praised. Gedaliyah sub-
sequently retreated inward and the events leading to his suicide began
to unfold.
It seems that Gedaliyah may have decided to kill himself in order to
prove to himself and to his coreligionists that he was after all not a poten-
tial convert, as some may have thought or suspected, but a true Jew or,
even better, the ultimate Jewa martyr.
Due to the nature of the text we hear very little about the inner Jewish
reactions to Gedaliyahs untimely death. This stands in contrast to the rela-
tively detailed report about the posthumous reactions to Yom Tovs death.
There is however the remark made by Philip about the dogs accompanying

30Some of these Jews, and especially those who Christians had reason to believe would
convert, are recorded in Hebrew Chronicles as outwardly defying the sacred symbols of
Christianity in the process of their martyrdom. See for example the story of Kalonimus of
Bachrach at the Stahlbeck fortress during the riots of the Second Crusade (11467). See
Ephraim ben Yaakov of Bonn, The Book of Memories: Penitential Prayers and Lamentations
ed. A.M. Haberman (Jerusalem: Bialuk Institute Publishing, 1970) (Hebrew). On the lan
guage and symbols employed by the Jewish chroniclers of the First Crusade see I.J.Yuval,
Language and Symbols of the Hebrew Chronicles of the Crusades, Ed. Y.T. Assis et al.,
Facing the Cross: The Persecutions of 1096 in History and Historiography (Jerusalem: Magnes
Press, 2000), 101117 (Hebrew).
88 ephraim shoham-steiner

the funeral with their howling and the corpse falling from the cart en route
to the cemetery in London. The remark about the dogs could be a true fact
that Philip was merely commenting on and using in an edifying way to
make another moralistic point to his readers. It is not unlikely, however,
that due to the relatively long journey with Gedaliyahs corpse on a cart
all the way from Oxford to London, the smell of the decaying body could
have attracted dogs to follow the funeral procession, howling and bark-
ing as Cecil Roth has hinted.31 Nevertheless the association of Jews and
canines is of a deep symbolic nature.32 Jews were well aware of this asso-
ciation and its negative appeal; they even tried to use this same imagery
in a non-pejorative approach in The Book of Questions [Sefer Qushiyot], a
Franco-German Jewish work from the thirteenth century, an intriguing
yet rather enigmatic collection of remarks on ritual, beliefs, pseudo-sci-
ence, and customs organized in the format of a question-answer session.
In a sober and subtle remark on this association found in this work the
anonymous author refers to this notion in the following remark:
128: You might ask why do the gentiles (umot Haolam) call us Jews dogs?
The answer is for it is written: [Deut. 14:1] Ye are the children [banim] of
the lord your God. The word banim in gematria [the numerical value of the
Hebrew characters] is the same as the word dogs [klavim] (both numerical
value sums up to 102].33
The Jewish preferred appropriating the Christian slander and turning it
upside down, using it as a polemical remark to show the loyalty and close
relationship between the Jews and God in a similar way to the manner in
which the Dominican Friars related their popular etymology as Domini-
Canes. In light of the symbolic nature of the reference dogs, could Philip
have referred not to actual dogs howling at the funeral but to the Jews
(symbolized in his eyes as dogs) mourning and crying in Gedaliyahs
funeral, granting him, in a manner similar to Yom Tov, a public eulogy,
thus unintentionally testifying to his public rehabilitation? We can only

31C. Roth, The History of the Jews in England (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1964), 13 and n. 1.
32 On this see the recent work by K. Stow, Jewish Dogs: An Image and its Interpreters
(Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press, 2006). Interestingly enough one of the earliest
remarks in medieval Europe is a much quoted remark involving Jews and dogs from the
English anti-Jewish polemist Gilbert Crispin from the late eleventh century. See Jacobs,
The Jews of Angevin England, 712.
33The collection appears in two fourteenth-century Hebrew manuscripts: Ms.
Cambridge 858 as well as in the Ms. Darmstadt Stadtsbibliothek 25 See: Y.Y. Stahl (ed.),
Sefer Qushiyot (Jerusalem, 2007), 100 (Hebrew).
vitam finivit infelicem 89

Gedaliyah was clearly a troubled young man; it may even be safe to say
quite unstable. It seems that in a way his suicide provided a solution for
all parties involved. For Philip the prior, the author of the text, Gedaliyahs
untimely death was a demonstration of the retributive nature of the saint,
who had failed to do so instantaneously when her relics were mocked and
ridiculed by him in the presence of her adherents. For the Jews, including
Gedaliyahs family, his death, as tragic as it may have been, ended a situa-
tion that might have put the entire Jewish community of Oxford, and the
family in particular, in grave danger. Just how grave the danger and how
high the anxiety can be seen from the fact that both Jewish bystanders as
well as Gedaliyahs father cursed the boy for his actions. The fathers curse
is of a horrible nature and it is no wonder Gedaliyah took it to heart.34
For Gedaliyah himself the suicide provided an avenue to act in a marty-
rological fashion and gain a rehabilitation and possible indulgence for his
thoughts and acts.
To conclude: our discussion has revolved around a few themes: adoles-
cence, religious identity, conversion, and suicide. We have seen two cases
of Jewish adolescent suicide from late twelfth-century England. Both
cases involved troubled youngsters who had an unresolved relationship
with the Christian faith and at some point both were thought of as mad
by those around them. In both cases conversion or thoughts of convert-
ing from Judaism to Christianity were in the background. By examining
these cases side by side and comparing their similarities and differences,
I think we can arrive at a much more informed understanding of what
drove these individuals to their death as well as how their actions were
understood by their surroundings within a wider social context. Behind
the scenes of these cases are two closely related but at times contradict-
ing concepts: the ethos of martyrdom and the burden of religious doubt.
Martyrdom was ever present in the collective memory of twelfth-century
Jews, especially in the wake of the 1096 Crusader riots and subsequent
events like the first blood libel accusation in Norwich 1144 and the events
of the Second Crusade 11467, as well as in the oral and written Jewish
culture of the time. The second concept, religious doubt, is also present

34Moses of Wallingfords enigmatic choice of words when reprimanding his son sup
plies us with an insight into the levels of anger as well as terror his sons action had caused.
I believe that the peculiarity of the fathers curse whatever was to be his destiny at the
end of one hundred years would meet him instantly only attests to its authenticity. As
in Yom Tovs case non-Jewish household aides and employees that are later referred to in
Gedaliyahs story as well were the ones that gave away the nature of the conversation that
took place in close quarters.
90 ephraim shoham-steiner

in both stories as in the accounts about martyrdom written in the twelfth

century as recently shown in the works of Jeremy Cohen, Israel Yuval,
Elliot Horowitz and others.35 Religious doubt lurked behind the faade
of the steadfast statement praising the ideology of Jewish martyrdom just
mentioned. While the sources that tell the two stories leave us with many
missing details, Karl Morrison and Jeremy Cohen have pointed out that
with regard to twelfth-century narrative writing in general this silence
shouldnt deter us from trying to decipher its meaning and role in the
texts.36 By putting these two cases in the context of the tribulations of
adolescence, the inner struggle with self-identity (in these cases religious
self-identity) and the fact that adolescent behavior is extremely unpre-
dictable and at times defiant, we can find the middle ground to help us
reconcile how both martyrdom on the one hand and religious doubt on
the other live side by side in the stories we discussed. Martyrological ide-
ology serves first as a catalyst for suicidal behavior among troubled ado-
lescents tormented by religious doubt. Later, the same ideology serves as
a means for the community to eventually understand and socially process
the suicidal act and rehabilitate the postmortem memory of these youths,
making their deaths meaningful within their community and enabling the
community to accept these cases and other like them without turning the
troubled individuals into role models on the one hand or disgracing them
on the other.

35J. Cohen, Between Martyrdom and Apostasy: Doubt and Self Definition in Twelfth-
Century Ashkenaz, Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies 29 (1999), 431471;
J. Cohen, Sanctifying the Name of God: Jewish Martyrs and Jewish Memories of the First
Crusade (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004); A. Gross, Struggling with
Tradition: Reservation about Active Martyrdom in the Middle Ages (Leiden: Brill, 2004); I.J.
Yuval, Two Nations in Your Womb: Perceptions of Jews and Christians in Late Antiquity and
the Middle Ages (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2006), 92203; D. Malkiel, Jews
and Apostates in Medieval Europe: Boundaries Real and Imagined, Past and Present 194
(2007), 334 and more recently D. Malkiel, Reconstructing Ashkenaz: The Human Face of
Franco-German Jewry 10001250 (Stanford, CA: University Press, 2009), 114147.
36Cohen, Sanctifying the Name of God, 5155.
Politics, Prophecy and Jews:
The Destruction of Jerusalem in
Anglo-Norman Historiography

K.M. Kletter

It has occasionally been the practice among historians and other scholars
to comment ruefully on their subject in general when they start a discus-
sion of some particular aspect of the history of Jewish-Christian relations
and representations of Jews in the Middle Ages. Sometimes the commen-
tary includes an invocation of or allusion to the great Jewish historian
Salo Barons admonition against characterizing medieval Jewish history as
uninterrupted tragedy, endless persecution, and unremitting catastrophe.1
More often than not it seems as if the ruefulness is a proactively defensive
measure. It is designed to deflect accusations of indulgence in lachrymose
exercises. It broadcasts a reasonable indifference to the broadly-drawn
and gloomy schemes of causality put forward by earlier generations of
scholars, who navely linked myths about, attitudes towards or acts against
Jews on the part of some elements of the majority population in, say, the
twelfth century to the horrors perpetrated against Jews, among others, in
the twentieth century.2
I came across a reference to Barons warning recently as I read through
Jonathan Elukins Living Together, Living Apart: Rethinking Jewish-Christian
Relations in the Middle Ages.3 In this valuable study, Elukin focuses on the
everyday tolerance of most medieval Christian communities to a Jewish
presence in their midst. He stresses the extent to which outbreaks of anti-
Jewish violence in the Middle Ages were far from the norm, and, by and
large, local in terms of both their causes and their manifestations. He
focuses his readers attention on the resilience of Jewish communities

1Salo Baron, Ghetto and Emancipation, Menorah Journal 14 (1928), 51526.

2For an excellent and brief if somewhat unnecessarily scathing discussion of the
historians and schools of history that have propagated these views of Jewish-Christian
relations in the Middle Ages, see David Nirenberg, Communities of Violence: Persecutions
of Minorities in the Middle Ages (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1996), 310. See
also William Chester Jordan, Jewish Studies and the Medieval Historian, Exemplaria 12.1
(2000), 720, especially 1520.
3The full citation is Jonathan Elukin, Living Together, Living Apart: Rethinking Jewish-
Christian Relations in the Middle Ages (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2007).
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within medieval Europe. He contextualizes acts of anti-Jewish violence,

placing them within the larger matrix of violence in medieval society. On
these grounds, he challenges the tendency to find patterns of intensifica-
tion in anti-Jewish feeling in Western Europe throughout the medieval
period and into the modern that reveal an inexorable movement towards
expulsions, massacres, and, eventually, genocide.
No reasonable modern person can doubt the validity of Elukins central
point, and he is certainly not alone in questioning nor the first to dispute
what for a long time was viewed as the prevailing narrative of Jewish-
Christian relations. In the last four decades scholars from a variety of
sub-disciplines have questioned the conjectures of earlier historians who
posited the creation of patterns of anti-Jewish attitudes and behavior in
Western Europe in the Middle Ages that played a formative role in later
relations between Jewish and Christian communities and prefigured mid-
twentieth century genocide. More than that, these historians have worked
to reveal the historical realities behind the tensions in the relationship
between Jewish and Christian communities on the local level that some-
times led to outbreaks of violence.4 Yet, illuminating as these studies are,
they have left those concerned with the intellectual and, especially, the
historiographical contexts of Jewish-Christian relations in the Middle Ages
faced with a difficult issue, an issue that is made no easier by the necessity
of striking defensive postures. Anti-Jewish violence can only be one index
of the relationship between Christian and Jewish communities. As Elukin
himself acknowledges, in his work he is very deliberately addressing only
the issues of the inconsistency and extraordinary nature of anti-Jewish
violence in the Middle Ages (living together), and not the remarkable con-
sistency throughout the Middle Ages of anti-Jewish sentiment and percep-
tions (living apart).
In this essay, I want to turn away from the notion of enduring patterns
of anti-Judaism that modern historians have sensibly rejected. Instead I

4Examples of such studies include: Gavin Langmuirs early work on the legal status
of Jews in France, collected in the volume Toward A Definition of Antisemitism (Berkeley,
Los Angeles, London: University of California Press, 1990); Robert Chazan, Medieval Jewry
in Northern France: A Political and Social History (Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins
University Press, 1973); Robert Staceys many studies of Englands Jewish community in
the context of English political history, for example, 12401260: A Watershed in English-
Jewish Relations Bulletin of the Institute of Historical Research 61 (1988): 13550; William
Jordan, The French Monarchy and the Jews from Philip Augustus to the Last Capetians
(Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1989). David Nirenbergs Communities of
Violence: Persecutions of Minorities in the Middle Ages is a study of anti-Jewish violence
within the larger context of piety and ritual violence in medieval Spain. See also Jordan,
Jewish Studies and the Medieval Historian, passim.
politics, prophecy and jews 93

want to consider the patterns that medieval historians saw in the unfold-
ing of events involving Jewish communities in their own times. I will do
this by tracing the ways in which two Anglo-Norman historians retold or
alluded to the story of the destruction of Jewish Jerusalem by the Roman
army in 70 CE.
The story of the end of Jewish Jerusalem came to be a central element
in Christian theological history. It supplied a chronological framework for
a basic Christian assumption about the relationship between Jewish and
Christian history, specifically the idea that the fall of Jerusalem marked the
transfer of the status of the Chosen People from the Jews to the Christians.
The siege and fall concluded events set in motion by the Jewish failure
to accept Jesus as the Messiah, and fulfilled prophecies in the Hebrew
Bible and the New Testament. The story was first narrated in The Jewish
War by an eyewitness to the events, the Jewish historian and apologist
Josephus. It was also accessible to medieval readers in the form of sum-
maries and adaptations.
It might be said that, with the exception of various books of the New
Testament, no early work derived or assembled originally from Jewish
sources more powerfully or comprehensively influenced Christian per-
ceptions of Jews or helped define Christian conceptions of the intercon-
nection between the Christian, Jewish, and Roman pasts than Josephus
tale of the siege and fall of Jerusalem. But I would argue that a new set of
interpretative patterns was laid over this defining event during the course
of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, a set of patterns that made it pos-
sible for the story of Jewish Jerusalems obliteration to be used to question
the traditional status of Jews in Christendom and to rationalize violence
or punitive legal measures against this immigrant religious minority with
close ties to the English crown.
The works I will consider here are not formulaic works of anti-Jewish
invective. Although they express some anti-Jewish sentiments, they
include no accusations of ritual murder or other standard charges
against Jews. They were not produced solely to address twelfth-century
English worries about the relative good fortune of the English Jewish
community, who became prosperous through a well-organized system of
money-lending and whose prosperity was safeguarded for a time by char-
ters of protection offered them by the English throne.5 Yet a consideration

5John D. Hosler, Henry II, William of Newburgh, and the Development of English
Anti-Judaism, in Christian Attitudes Toward the Jews in the Middle Ages: A Casebook, ed.
Michael Frasseto (New York: Routledge, 2007), 169171.
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of these works reveals a system of historical analysis that seems to have

been central to the project of rethinking earlier doctrines of the toler-
ance of Jews, within a Christian state. These histories throw into relief the
complex nature of the intellectual and historiographical elements and
force us to focus on the political and moral issues that arose when Jews
acquired power and money.

Christian Reception of the Works of Josephus

The history of the reception of the story of the fall of Jerusalem into
Christian tradition is complex, but necessary to an understanding of
the range of uses to which the story was put. The earliest version of the
destruction of Jerusalem, Josephus Jewish War, was composed under the
patronage of the Flavian generals and emperors who oversaw the con-
quest of Jerusalem. Like Josephus other surviving works, it was preserved
almost solely within Christian historical tradition, in Greek and in Latin
translations. The passage known as the Testimonium Flavianum, a brief
report of the life of Jesus contained in the eighteenth book of Josephus
Antiquities of the Jews, has often been considered the principle reason for
continued Christian interest in and use of Josephan histories. However,
the earliest references to Josephus works by Christian authors are to his
apologetic work, Against Apion, and to particular and horrific scenes from
the Jewish War, especially the episode of a Jewish woman roasting and
eating her own child during the famine that was one result of Roman
besiegement of the city.6 Of course, Christian readers in Late Antiquity
and the Middle Ages also used Josephan historical works as exegetical
aids. Josephus special authority, derived from his status as a member of
a priestly family, and his apparently vast knowledge of ancient history, as
demonstrated in both Against Apion and the Antiquities, made his works
vital to historical and literal exegesis. Interest in Against Apion diminished
as Christianity gained cultural and intellectual weight, but the Antiquities
and the Jewish War continued to be copied and read. References to these
works and marginal comments in the manuscripts themselves reveal
particular interest in elements of the latter work, in macabre descriptions

6H. Chapman, Myth for the World: Early Christian Reception of Infanticide and
Cannibalism in Josephus, Bellum Judaicum 6.199219, SBL 2000 Seminar Papers, 372378;
Merrall Llewelyn Price, Imperialism and the Monstrous Mother: Cannibalism at the Siege
of Jerusalem, in Domestic Violence in Medieval Texts, eds E. Salisbury, G. Donavin, M. Price
(Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2002): 272298.
politics, prophecy and jews 95

of the events within the walls of Jerusalem during the siege, in the signs
and omens that preceded the destruction, as well as in the political
restructuring of Jerusalem with the advent of Roman rule.
The received versions of the Latin Josephus were translated between
the fourth and the sixth centuries, during a vital and transformative phase
in Christian theology and histororiography, when a great deal of Greek
and Jewish material was transferred to the West. The translation of the
Jewish War was wrongly but understandably attributed to Rufinus of
Aquileia. In addition to the Rufinian translation of the Jewish War, there
also circulated in medieval Europe another Latin version, one that seems
to have been completed in roughly 370.7 This fourth-century rework-
ing of the Jewish War, usually referred to as de excidio Hierosolymitana,
was attributed in the Middle Ages to the second-century Greek apologist
Hegesippus and is also often said to have been written or translated by
St. Ambrose, but it was closely tied to Josephus and often regarded as one
of his authentic works.8 Heinz Schreckenberg has referred to this work as
the first translation of the Jewish War, but it would hardly be considered
a translation by modern standards.9 The author followed the outline of
Josephus account of the events of the Jewish rebellion, but also wandered
well beyond it, elaborating on Josephus account as well as incorporat-
ing material from Latin Christian and classical authors.10 The Pseudo-
Hegesippian rendering of the Jewish War is a narrative of divine revenge.
In addition, as Stephen Wright has pointed out, this version of the fall of
Jerusalem compresses the Josephan version in such a way that it concen-
trates more attention on the early episodes which illustrate Israels rise to
power during the Biblical period.11 The political-theological dimension of
the destruction of Jerusalem was promoted by other influential summaries
of the fall of Jerusalem, for example in Eusebius of Caesereas Ecclesiastical
History. Eusebius saw the end of Jewish autonomy in Palestine as a neces-
sary precondition for the coming of Christ.

7Schreckenberg, Die Flavius-Josephus-Tradition, 5658; Bell, Josephus and Pseudo-

Hegesippus, 349350.
8Eva Matthews Sanford, Propaganda and Censorship in the Transmission of Josephus,
Transactions and Proceedings of the American Philological Association 66 (1935), 136.
9Schreckenberg, Die Flavius-Josephus-Tradition, 56.
10There are two critical editions of this work: C.F. Weber and J. Caesar, Hegesippus qui
dicitur sive Egesippus De bello judaico ope codicis Cassellani recognitus (Marburg: Elwert,
1864) and V. Ussani, Hegesippi qui dicitur Historiae libri v, CSEL 66, part 1 (Vienna: Hoelder-
Pichler-Empsky, 1932).
11Stephen Wright, The Vengeance of our Lord: Medieval Dramatizations of the Destruction
of Jerusalem (Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, 1989), 22.
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The story was taken up as a theme not only by Christian exegetes and
historians, but also by homilists. For example, early homiletic uses of this
tale, beginning with Melito of Sardis in the second century and devel-
oped, most influentially, in the work of Gregory I in the late sixth cen-
tury, emphasized the sufferings of the conquered population of Jerusalem
and drew analogies between the besieged Jews and the Christian soul in
a state of turmoil. So, although Christian tradition most often presented
this story as one about the deserved annihilation of a community whose
chief sins were the rejection, denial, and murder of Christsins that
were, in their most essential form, Jewishit was nevertheless not a story
whose moral was inevitably, always, and only applicable to the sins and
the status of the Jews in Christendom.12
The interpretations of the siege and fall of Jerusalem have, then, from
the earliest period in which they came into Christian tradition, been open
to a reading in terms of allegorical meditations on sin, inner turmoil, and
self-destruction, readings that seem compatible with some of the more
gruesome and unfathomable elements of the story as Josephus told it,
such as the episode of the Jewish mother in besieged Jerusalem who
cooked and ate her own child or the scenes of homicide, familicide and
suicide among the Sicarii, the Jewish extremists at Masada.
Recent studies of late medieval vernacular versions of this story, par-
ticularly studies of the fourteenth-century alliterative poem The Siege of
Jerusalem, have noted that the subject and signifier of the tale, the Jews
of first-century Jerusalem, could possibly be read in some contexts as rep-
resentative of a number of other marginalized groups in the Middle Ages.
Scholarly works have posited that heretics (Lollards) and Saracens might
also have been represented by the besieged Jewish denizens of Jerusalem
and so functioned as Other Others or alternatives to the Jews in the story.13
The many layers of interpretation lead to a certain amount of subsequent
moral complexity in the possibilities of provisional final meanings, but at
the core of all of these potential meanings was a scheme for understanding

12Stephen Wright, The Vengeance of our Lord, 2428.

13See, for example, Ralph Hanna, Contextualizing the Siege of Jerusalem, Yearbook
of Langland Studies 6 (1992): 10921; Mary Hamel, The Siege of Jerusalem as a Crusading
Poem, in Journeys Toward God: Pilgrimage and Crusade, ed. Barbara N. Sargent-Bauer
(Kalamazoo: Western Michigan University Press, 1992): 17794; Christine Chism, The
Siege of Jerusalem: Liquidating Assets, Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies 28
(1998): 30940; see also the numerous studies by Elisa Narin van Court, including The
Siege of Jerusalem and Augustinian Historians: Writing about Jews in Fourteenth-Century
England, The Chaucer Review 29 (1995): 227248.
politics, prophecy and jews 97

and measuring the political consequences of sin as it was exemplified in

the Roman triumph over Jewish rebels in the city of Jerusalem. Thus, the
greatest legacy of the story was to serve as an exemplum illustrating the
extent to which spiritual blindness, sin, or perceived animosity to the cen-
tral Christian tenets and cosmic values make one justifiably the object of
Gods vengeance, a vengeance which is often foretold in prophecy and
inevitably fulfilled by military defeat of some kind, sometimes with atten-
dant and graphically-described horrors.14

The Destruction of Jerusalem in the High Middle Ages

New patterns of thought regarding the significance of Jewish Jerusalems

destruction must be considered in a broader context than their appear-
ance in a transitional period both in terms of Jewish immigration into
England and in the construction of representations of Jews. The shift
in the use of the story of Jewish Jerusalems destruction is not a simple
measure or indicator of increasing hostility against the Jews of England,
though it is clear that the prosperity of Englands Jews and the ways in
which that prosperity was perceived played a role in anti-Jewish feeling
and violence. This is certainly true of the series of attacks on Jewish com-
munities that accompanied the ascension of Richard I to the throne of
England and the gathering of forces for the Third Crusade. These attacks
are described in great detail by the northern English historian William of
Newburgh, whose Historia Rerum Anglicarum includes a complex analysis
of the infamous events at Cliffords Tower in York, where a portion of the
Jewish community was massacred while others made the decision to mur-
der their fellow Jews and commit suicide rather than fall into the hands
of a Christian mob.15
Shifts in the uses of this story were also driven by renewed interest in
the text of the Hebrew Bible, the emergence of techniques in historiog-
raphy, which were informed by mounting interest in ancient history, in
Roman and patristic textual and analytical approaches, in new interests
in political theory, and in the scholastic principles that were central to the

14See especially the section titled Heilungserzhlungen und das thema der Vindicta
Salvatoris in Heinz Schreckenberg, Rezeptionsgeschichtliche und Textkritische Untersuchungen
zu Flavius Josephus (Leiden: Brill, 1977), 5368.
15R.B. Dobson, The Jews of Medieval York and the Massacre of March 1190 (York:
St. Anthonys Press, 1974).
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intellectual transformation of the twelfth century. Manuscripts of classi-

cal and especially Roman histories, political works, rhetorical handbooks,
and patristic exegetical works all became more accessible in the flurry
of manuscript copying in the late eleventh and early twelfth centuries.
In England, some have associated increased manuscript production with
the Norman Conquest, though the phenomenon is evident in continen-
tal trends in manuscript production as well.16 Thus numerous changes,
including both intellectual and material changes, must factor into any
attempt to map out some of the ways in which the understanding of this
event by historians writing in the High Middle Ages, in this case Anglo-
Norman historians, was used to define Jewish characteristics and link spe-
cific aspects of the Jewish past and present.
As R.W. Southern pointed out, a central characteristic of high medieval
historiography, derived in part from contemporary scholastic theological
approaches, was the cultivation of methods of organizing historical events
so as to elucidate their meaning, especially their relevance to the present.
Southern calls this bringing order into thought by a stricter application
of the methods and interpretations of the past and by giving clear and
logical arrangements to the results.17 Both Southern and Suzanne Yeager,
who has written extensively on the fourteenth-century alliterative poem
The Siege of Jerusalem and its sources, have suggested that the exemplary
practitioner of this method of historical analysis was the Calabrian abbot
and scholar Joachim of Fiore.18 As Yeager notes, Joachim used his exe-
getical method of concordia, drawing correspondences between events in
the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament, to understand contemporary
events. Joachim looked for the divine plan specifically in historical pat-
terns that could be linked to biblical material and ancient history.19
In the milieu of twelfth-century interests in ancient history, the
Josephan work that was the ultimate source for the story could be seen as
introducing a framework for understanding the Christian past and present

16Teresa Webber, The Patristic Content of English Book Collections in the Eleventh
Century: Towards a Continental Perspective, in Of the Making of Books: Medieval
Manuscripts, their Scribes, and Readers: Essays Presented to M. B. Parkes, eds., P.R. Robinson,
and Rivkah Zim (Aldershot: Scolar Press, 1997), 191205.
17R.W. Southern, Aspects of the European Tradition of Historical Writing: 3. History as
Prophecy. Transactions of the Royal Historical Society 5th ser. 22 (1972), 175.
18Southern, History as Prophecy, 173; Suzanne Yeager, The Siege of Jerusalem and
Biblical Exegesis: Writing about Romans in Fourteenth-Century England, The Chaucer
Review 39 (2004): 70102.
19Yeager, The Siege of Jerusalem and Biblical Exegesis, 823.
politics, prophecy and jews 99

in a context that was both Jewish and Roman. The story is, after all, one
that pits the two recognized antecedents of Christian tradition, the Jew
and the Roman, against one another.

Stories, Signs and Retroactive Baptism

By the end of the twelfth century, versions of this tale had permeated
every level of Christian life. Churchmen and scholars might encounter the
story in an historical-exegetical context in the Latin translations of the
works of Josephus themselves, in earlier biblical commentary, including
biblical glosses that represented typological understandings of the story
dating back to the works of the church fathers, or in Christian retellings
presented in one of the other great Latin universal historical works of
antiquity, like Eusebius Ecclesiastical History (the story is only briefly ref-
erenced in Orosius) and in the early medieval works that they inspired,
such as the history of Freculph of Lisieux. The tale also could be found in
more focused histories or literary works, like the above-mentioned Pseudo-
Hegesippus or the Vindicta Salvatoris, produced in the eighth century.20
The story of the destruction of Jerusalem also had a place in popular
literature, in hagiographical and legendary forms in both Latin and ver-
nacular versions, including the Gospel of Nicodemus, St. Veronica legends,
Anglo-Saxon translations of the Vindicta Salvatoris, the mid-twelfth cen-
tury Middle High German Kaiserchronik, and the twelfth-century French
versions of the Vengeance of Our Lord legends and their offspring.21 The
fall of Jerusalem was also commemorated in Christian liturgy.22 Visual

20On the later development of this, see T. Gross Diaz, Whats a Good Soldier to Do?:
Scholarship and Revelation in the Postills on the Psalms, in Nicholas of Lyra, The Senses
of Scripture eds, Philip D.W. Krey and Lesley Smith (Leiden, 2000), 124; Nicholas of Lyra,
PostillaPsalm 2: Principes iudeorum a totum populis per Tytum et Vespasianum occisus
et captivatur...narrat Josephus. Nich. Of Lyra, (Strassburg, 1492), 12.
21Bonnie Millar, The Siege of Jerusalem in its Physical, Literary and Historical Contexts
(Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2000), 4260; H. Schreckenberg, Rezeptionsgeschichtliche und
Textkritische Untersuchungen zu Flavius Josephus, 58; La Vengeance de Nostre-Seigneur: The
Old and Middle French Prose Versions, ed. Alvin E. Ford. 2 vols. Studies and Texts 63, 115
(Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, 19841993). [The first volume discusses
and edits families A and B of the French tradition; the second volume completes the study
by discussing and editing families C to I.] La Vengeance de Nostre Seigneur: The Oldest
Version of the Twelfth-Century Poem, ed. Loyal A.T. Gryting, Contributions in Modern
Philology (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1952).
22Amnon Linder, Jews and Judaism in the Eyes of Christian Thinkers of the Middle
Ages: The Destruction of Jerusalem in Medieval Christian Liturgy, in From Witness to
Witchcraft, ed. Jeremy Cohen (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag, 1996): 113123.
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representations of scenes from the fall and allusions to it can be found

in manuscripts and in sculpture, for example, the Bury St. Edmunds or
Cloister Cross, dating approximately from the same period as the suicide
and massacre of the Jewish community of York in 1190. The Cross includes
among its anti-Jewish program of decoration and Latin inscriptions, one
running directly down the front, reminding the viewer that the Synagogue
fell because of Jewish rejection of Christ.23
The Bury St. Edmunds example sheds light on an important and original
aspect of the way in which Anglo-Norman historiography referred to and
adapted the meaning of Jewish Jerusalems downfall for contemporaries,
though, of course, this aspect drew on received tradition. Synagogue rather
than Temple fell. What does this imply? Christian tradition did not mourn
the loss of the Temple, for that would not be consonant with the spirit with
which one should greet the fulfillment of Jesus prophecy in Luke (21:529).
In historical-theological terms, the meaning of Jesus prophecy in Luke
was disclosed in its fulfillment explicitly through the destruction of the
cultic center of Judaism and the destruction of the Jewish community of
Jerusalem, the death of many, the dispersal of the survivors, for their sins.24
It was a profoundly personal act against the Jews as a people. Yet it was also
a political event. Not only the Temple, but Synagogue as a representation of
Jewish political and spiritual hegemony, was destroyed. Thus, references to
the historical destruction of Jewish Jerusalem could serve as an important
component of the rhetorical rationalization for anti-Jewish activity of many
kinds, including violence, in which Jewish power, economic or political, was
overturned. The details of the story might help give meaning, shape and
historical resonance to such acts. So, for example, by the mid-thirteenth
century, when (in 1255) Henry III allocated to Richard of Cornwall the right
to collect taxes against the Jews of England, the English historian Matthew
Paris could comfortably label Henrys actions as those of a second Titus and
Vespasian, who turned over to Richard the right to disembowel those who
the King had skinned.25

23For a full discussion of the provenance of the Cross and its anti-Jewish program
see Thomas P. Hoving and James R. Rorimer, The Bury St. Edmunds Cross, Metropolitan
Museum of Art Bulletin N.S. 22 (1964), 317340; Karl F. Morrison, History as a Visual Art in
the Twelfth-Century Renaissance (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1990), 3845.
24R.W. Southern, History as Prophecy, 159161.
25Quoted in Karl Morrison, History as Visual Art in the Twelfth Century Renaissance, 35;
See also Stacey, 12401260: a Watershed in Anglo-Jewish Relations? 138140.
politics, prophecy and jews 101

Here it may be instructive to turn to the details and contexts of two

incidents in which William of Newburgh, a canon of an Augustinian priory
in Yorkshire writing before 1201, references the story of the end of Jewish
hegemony in Judea. As noted, William of Newburgh is famous for, among
other things, having recounted the suicide and murder of a large portion
of the Jewish community at York in relatively balanced tones. The descrip-
tion of the York massacre is set in the fourth book of his history, a book
that deals at some length with the deteriorating relationship between the
Jews and Christians of England at the end of the reign of Henry II.
The opening paragraphs of the book set the scene and tone, as William
lumbers through an explanation of the uncanniness of the day of Richards
coronation being the day referred to by some as Aegyptiacus (Egyptian),
because, as it turns out, that will be the day that England turns into a kind
of Egypt for the Jews, one in which their lives will be made much harder.
With Henrys IIs death, the undue influence and privileged status of Jews
in relation to the court and crown of England come to an end. The next
few chapters in the book describe the anti-Jewish riots that erupted in
a number of cities and towns throughout England, in connection with
the rituals and celebrations attendant upon Richard Is ascension to the
throne in London in September of 1189.26 The discussion of the change in
status of Englands Jews ends with the story of the besieged Jews of York,
who resolve, after a speech by one of their leading members, to kill them-
selves rather than surrender to the mob outside the royal castle to which
they had fled, seeking protection. William describes the mob as consisting
of opportunistic locals, many of whom were the dupes of wealthy debt-
ors of the Jews, and prospective Crusaders associated with the gathering
of forces for the Third Crusade but also as conspirators, joined to one
another by oaths (coniurati). The York massacre is not an isolated epi-
sode within the story. It is the culmination of the violence set in motion
in part by the Christian communitys sudden embrace of lawlessness, in
part by their greed, and in part by the natural and understandable out-
rage that accompanied the specter of Jewish prosperity and good fortune.
Furthermore, the fate of the Jews was foretold not only in the prophetic
choice of the day for Richards coronation, but also by celestial omens,
such as an unnaturally white sky in which appeared a Christian banner
and the figure of the crucified Christ above the city of Dunstable before the

26William of Newburgh. Historia rerum Anglicarum, ed. Richard Howlett, Rolls Series
82 4 volumes (London, 18841885) (Historia), 1.4. 293307.
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attacks on the Jewish community of Lynn.27 Signs and omens of the com-
ing destruction were, in a Christian context, critical details of the story of
the destruction of Jerusalem as well. William not only shapes the story so
that it echoes the siege and fall of Jerusalem and the events at Masada, but
ends the story by referring his readers to the works of Josephus. If Exodus
is an eccentric place to begin Jewish history, the same cannot be said of
ending it with an event whose basic structure is comparable, in terms of
the real event and in terms of the way that William shapes his account, to
that of the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE. This is the climax of Jewish
history in England according to Williams vision of its cosmic and moral
significance, just as, in Jeromes translation of Eusebius Chronica, the col-
umn that lists events in Jewish history comes to an abrupt end with the
destruction of the Temple.
Williams ability to reference the events at Masada that followed the
siege and fall of Jerusalem illustrates his method: the two events had more
in common than the basic plot, the self-destruction of embattled Jewish
communities in the face of impending military disaster after a dramatic
speech by a leader of the community. They were also linked as narratives
by prophecy and typology, by the rhetorical forces governing the composi-
tion of prose and the use of literary models, by the practice in the Middle
Ages of applying biblical history to the comprehension of contemporary
events, as well as by the literary and ethical obligations medieval Christian
historians often felt they had to draw moral conclusions about events, to
discern the possible motivations of the divine mind and will behind the
workings of history, and to shape and guide the formation of the opinions
of their readers.
For William, appending the Masada story helped to characterize eter-
nal patterns of Jewish behavior: an apparent enthusiasm for suicide in
tough times. Further, William saw the attack, violent and horrific as it was,
as a way in which the natural order of Jews and Christians was restored
to one in which Jews were rightly economically and socially clearly at a
disadvantage, as prescribed by Augustinian injunctions on tolerance. Like
the inscription on the Bury St. Edmunds cross, Williams reference to the
historical fall of Jerusalem provides an illustration of how to bring equi-
librium and restore or at least suggest proper order to Christian societies
through the judicious and historically pertinent use of violence. There is,

27William of Newburgh, Historia, 1.4. 3078.

politics, prophecy and jews 103

in fact, a clear tension in William of Newburghs narrative in response to

the York massacre, almost as if, interspersed within the chronology and
details given by William, a debate about the cause and justice of the attack
on the York community existed in Williams time. Williams assessment is
that the attack was immoral and misguided in terms of the motivations of
the attackers. Yet, though it was wrong on a local scale, it was just or even
inevitable on a cosmic one.
A thorough reading of Williams historical works suggests that Williams
disapproval of the Christian attackers of the York Jews grew out of his par-
ticular interest in the role of sin in the world and in historical explanation.
William consistently saw or represented sins and the actions of sinners
as the root cause of political change and upheaval and military defeat
throughout world history. Basically, he defined this elucidation of sin as
the central work of good history. His standards are put forward in the pro-
logue to his history in his discussion of the British historian Gildas, whose
work is a mixed bag. Bede liked him, apparently, and included an excerpt
in his own history. However, William understands why few people read
Gildas: he writes poorly and his Latin is unpolished and full of mistakes.
Yet the completeness and truthfulness of his account is unquestionable.28
How does William know this? Because Gildas does not spare the human
subjects of his history. He includes the good, but his interests are in focus-
ing his readers attention on evil deeds and denouncing them definitively.
This is Williams standard for good historical writing: it is historical writ-
ing that is critical of its human subjects, that brings to the surface their
inevitable and inevitably prolific wickedness and demonstrates the ways in
which that wickedness drives causality, bringing logic and order to under-
standing the relevance of events of the past to contemporary events.
As we might expect, then, when William turns in the third book of his
history to survey the past of the city of Jerusalem, his purpose is to explain
the inevitable role that the sins of its inhabitants have played in the citys
political instability. The land, according to Williams subtitle, devours its
inhabitants and, at the same time, casts them out, a phrase that echoes
numerous biblical verses (see especially Lamentations 2:2). The pattern is
revealed as each successive occupying group is done in by its own iniquity.

28William of Newburgh, Historia, 1.1. 18: Habuit autem gens Britonum ante nostrum
Bedam proprium historiographum Gildam, quod et Beda testatur, quaedam ejus verba
suis literis inserens: sicut ipse probavi, cum ante annos aliquot in ejusdem Gildae librum
legendum incidissem.
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William begins with the Hebrew Bible and the Babylonian Captivity and
proceeds to the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus and Vespasian for Jewish
crimes. Constantine re-established the City as sacred and the Hagarenes,
the Muslim descendants of Ishmael, defeated the Christians who stained
the land with their sins. Finally, in his own time, the land that was won by
Christian Crusaders to fulfill prophecies in Genesis was lost because of the
corruption of these Crusaders, the sons of Japheth.29 All of these events
are related to one another by their underlying cause, sin and corruption
of the natural order, and their remedies, Gods vengeance.
The standard historical-exegetical view of the siege of Jerusalem was
that it was an instance of divine retribution. William makes clear that at
York as well, there was a greater force at work, one that, whatever their
personal motives might be, compelled the attackers to behave as they did.
We see this supernatural influence at work in the fact that the fate of the
Jews was foretold not only in the prophetic choice of the day for Richards
coronation but also in the celestial omens previously mentioned. As noted,
from Late Antiquity throughout the Middle Ages, Christian exegetes and
historians saw the destruction of Jewish Jerusalem as fulfilling not only
the prophecies of Jesus as recorded in Luke and Matthew regarding the
destruction of the Temple, but also prophecies in Lamentations, Isaiah,
Hosea, and elsewhere. For example, Origen in his Homily on Psalm 73
references Josephus account of the fall of Jerusalem to explain the con-
cept of wickedness and its punishments.30 Elsewhere, in his Commentary
on the Book of Lamentations, Origen notes correspondences between
Josephus account of the siege and the text of Lamentations, especially
comparing the stories of cannibalism in both narratives.31 The Glossa

29William, Historia, 1.
30Wataru Mizugaki, Origen and Josephus, in Josephus, Judaism, and Christianity, eds.
Louis H. Feldman and Gohei Hata (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1987), 325337.
31Ibid. This may be the ultimate source of commentaries found in the Glossa Ordina on
Lamentations IX and X: From IX: sed he merito Lamentationes lamentationum vocantur
et sic genus pretendunt ad speciem, ut aliquando species ad genus extendatur. Sic terrene
Ierusalem et populi excidium deploratur, ut presentis ecclesie dampna defleantur. Sic gene
ralitas novi populi et veteris, qui a fide corruentes captivantur, ut uniuscuiusque anime,
que templum fuit Spritus sancti, ruina plangatur. Sic ad presentem captivitatem, sub qua
fit hec prophetia, lamentations intendunt, ut, que facta est sub Tito et Vespasiano, penitus
non omittant. From X. Quomodo sedet sola civitas: Subversionem misere civitatis et rui
nam scelesti populi non solum sub Caldeis accidisse verum sub Tito et Vespasiano plenius
complendam pronuntiat... The gloss goes on to connect this section of Lamentations
with the prophecies in Luke. See Alexander Andre, Glossa ordinaria in Lamentationes
Ieremie prophete: prothemata et liber I; a critical edition with an introduction and a transla
politics, prophecy and jews 105

Ordinaria continued these traditions in part by preserving the explana-

tions and interpretations of earlier scholars who made typological con-
nections between prophecy and the words of Josephus describing the end
of Jewish Jerusalem, for example in the section on Lamentations compiled
by Gilbert the Universal from the Commentary of Paschius Radbertus.32
William, a biblical commentator as well as an historian, also drew on and
expanded the words of earlier exegetes, as well as the work of contempo-
rary historians, notably Richard of Howden.33 Yet William also retains the
pathos of Josephus account, a pathos that was maintained in Christian
excerpting and adapting of the Josephan account, including accounts that
emphasized the destruction as deserved, for example, those of Eusebius,
Pseudo-Hegesippus, Bede, and later historians such as the Carolingian
Freculph of Lisieux. These were authorities William would have found
difficult to ignore, and whose works became more accessible as ecclesi-
astical libraries throughout England were established and enlarged and a
standard collection of exegetical and historical texts was defined.34
Like William of Newburgh, John of Salisbury, church administrator, clas-
sical scholar, and historian, questioned the status of Jews within English
society. John expressed his anxiety about Jewish influence on the crown,
and particularly Henry II, in a section of his Policraticus, a compilation or
florilegium of exempla that reveals Johns expansive reading of ancient
and biblical sources. He describes Jews as the exemplary evil courtiers,
flatterers, agents interested only in their own success, who, without bear-
ing arms of any kind, were capable of undermining the state.35 However,
Johns most pointed inquiry into the potential status of Jews in a Christian
state is located in the second book of the Policraticus.36 Here he uses the
fall of Jerusalem to illustrate his point.

tion (Acta Universitatis Stockholmiensis, Studia Latina Stockholmiensia; 52, Dissertation,

Stockholm University, Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell International, 2005), 168169.
32Andre, Glossa ordinaria in Lamentationes, 5.
33Rupert of Deutz, Minor Prophets, PL 168: 10611.
34Neil Ker, English Manuscripts in the Century after the Norman Conquest (Oxford:
Oxford UniversityPress, 1960)
35John of Salisbury, Frivolities of Courtiers and Footprints of Philosophers, ed. and trans.
John B. Pike (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1938), 3. 13, 19899.
36In Geschichte als Topik, Peter von Moos placed the production of the Policraticus in
the context of particularly English twelfth-century interests in story-telling and the pro
duction of florilegia and exemplum collections, but emphasizes that it is far less disinter
ested than a standard compilation, its purpose not being the production of anecdotes.
Peter von Moos, Geschichte als Topik (Hildesheim: Georg Olms Verlag, 1988), 137.
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In his essay Social Bodies and the Non-Christian Other in the Twelfth
Century, Cary Nederman examines the ways in which two twelfth-cen-
tury works, John of Salisburys Policraticus and Peter of Celles School of
the Cloister, address the changing definition of community and society.37
In this study, Nederman proposes the development in the twelfth century
of holistic ideas of social order that seems to promise, at least in theory,
a new notion of political organization that could accommodate religious
difference. Nederman frames this essay in part as a response to questions
raised by Anna Abulafias study of the intellectual roots of high medieval
anti-Jewish sentiment and the exclusionary impulses present in twelfth-
century renaissance humanism, Christians and Jews in the Twelfth-Century
Renaissance. In this work, Abulafia traces elements within anti-Jewish
polemical literature to concepts and ideas important to and originating
in twelfth-century humanism.38 Abulafias argument is convincing, yet,
to some extent, is made problematic by her own sources. It could be
argued that there are many difficulties inherent in attempting to establish
a comprehensive intellectual context for Christian images of Jews using
evidence from anti-Jewish polemical works. These works cannot by them-
selves offer a balanced view of the intellectual traditions of the twelfth
and thirteenth centuries. Neither can they, by their nature, offer any sort
of integral representation of Christian attitudes towards Jews or Judaism
and may, in fact, mask some of the complexities affecting the relationship
between Jews and Christians at this time.
In the portion of his discussion devoted to John of Salisbury, Nederman
focuses on both the twelfth-century humanist assumptions of compre-
hensiveness and the organic nature of Johns vision of the body politic
presented in Books Five and Six of the Policraticus. John constructs an
extended analogical strategy for understanding both the human body and
the body politic as a set of interrelated organic components. Nederman
suggests that the chief characteristic of Johns body politic, the charac-
teristic that defines its inclusive nature, is a social function or spirit that
amounts to a faith of some kind, as well as a devotion to justice. Faith
and a recognition of the necessity of justice are put forward as a loose set

37Cary Nederman, Social Bodies and the Non-Christian Other in the Twelfth Century:
John of Salisbury and Peter of Celle, in Meeting the Foreign in the Middle Ages, ed. Albrecht
Classen (London: Routledge, 2002): 192201.
38Anna Abulafia, Christians and Jews in the Twelfth-Century Renaissance (London and
New York: Routledge, 1995).
politics, prophecy and jews 107

of requirements for acceptance and inclusion in the body politic, a set of

requirements that could be seen, in opposition to what Abulafia suggests,
as militating against strict religious conformity.39
The first six books of the Policraticus, including all of those whose con-
tents are addressed here, were probably composed between the middle of
1157 and late 1158, while John was at Canterbury.40 Within the second book,
chapters four through ten deal with the fall of Jerusalem. John, despite his
repeated summoning of the name Josephus, derived his entire account
from the Rufinian translation of Eusebius Ecclesiastical History. Eusebius
account of the fall of Jerusalem is lifted quite literally from passages of
Josephus Jewish War, so it preserves the pathos and drama of Josephus
own account. In the Policraticus, Eusebius is the source, but Josephus
is, as it were, the brand name. John did not simply copy out the story
directly from the works of Eusebius, rather heor his sourcecopied
a set of whole sections, somewhat rearranged. For example, in the Latin
translation of Eusebius Ecclesiastical History, the Testimonium Flavianum
occurs in the first book while the account of the destruction of Jerusalem
is in book three.41 However, in the Policraticus, the Testimonium is sub-
sumed under the destruction of Jerusalem story. The mention of Jesus is
Josephus bona fidesit gives extra authority to the account and needed
to be placed next to the key fact, supposedly derived from Josephus, that
Jerusalem fell amid scenes of cosmic horror resulting directly from divine
Eusebius own history frequently refers the reader back to Josephus, and
John includes these references, implying that all passages that deal with
Jewish Jerusalem come directly from Josephus. Only once does he suggest
to the reader that his source is anything other than Josephus. In chapter
eight, which tells the story of the Christians of Jerusalem, who flee the
city by divine ordination before its fall, John notes that the information
comes from Eusebius History. It is interesting that John chose a source
other than Josephus for his account, because, he composed this while he
was at Canterbury, where he certainly had access to at least one manu-
script of Josephus Jewish War. Canterburys luxurious double manuscript

39Nederman, Social Bodies and the Non-Christian Other in the Twelfth Century,
40Cary Nederman, John of Salisbury (Tempe: Arizona State University, Arizona Center
for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, 2005), 27.
41The Ecclesiastical History is arranged chronologically, so it makes sense to have the
Josephan mention of Jesus in the section that covers the era of Jesus life.
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set of Josephus Antiquities and Jewish War was identified by Teresa

Webber as a manuscript wholly in the Christ Church style of script, a
style that dominated in books produced at Canterbury between the 1090s
and the 1120s.42
The second book of the Policraticus is one in which John considers
questions about the nature of omens, oracles, and signs and the extent
to which they may be regarded as unnatural or supernatural phenomena.
For example, how should one judge signs and omens, especially those that
involve the natural world, such as the behavior of certain kinds of animals,
or those that occur on a cosmic scale, such as those that have to do with
the sun, moon, and stars? The answer is by understanding that they indi-
cate the will and intent of God, though it is also helpful to have the kind
of natural scientific knowledge that can lead to understanding the signs
as signs. The basic point that John makes, drawing on a wide variety of
sources, scriptural, patristic, and ancient, is that there is no haphazard-
ness to such signs as God controls all. However, there is an element of
haphazardness in human understanding of signs. John means to battle
superstitious views of natural events here, but also to clarify the difference
between meaningless and meaningful signs.43 The tale of the destruction
of Jerusalem illustrates exactly the distinction between a superstitious and
unlearned consideration of the significance of omens of the kind that was
in fashion in historical works of Johns own day, and those signs recorded
in ancient and biblical writings that learned and critical analysis revealed
to be true omens in that they had some political use. This exemplum is
the first John uses to define useful political omens. As noted, the fall of
Jerusalem was preceded by multiple and dramatic signs, omens, and ora-
cles sent by God to warn the Jews of Jerusalem, who ignored or were inca-
pable of seeing them. This blindness to the signs of impending destruction
was not a characteristic shared by the Christian community of Jerusalem,
as John notes, referencing Eusebius. The Christians of Jerusalem, espe-
cially James, also known as the brother of Jesus, along with other apostles,
sensed the impending punishment in the form of the siege and tried to
convince the Jews to repent and convert, but without success. Eventually,

42Teresa Webber, Script and Manuscript Production at Christ Church, Canterbury

after the Norman Conquest, in Canterbury and the Norman Conquest: Churches, Saints
and Scholars, 10661109, eds. R. Eales and R. Sharpe (London: Hambledon Press, 1995),
14558, esp. 150151, 157.
43Roger Ray, Rhetorical Scepticism and Verisimilar Narratives, in Classical Rhetoric and
Medieval Historiography, ed. Ernst Breisach (Kalamazoo: Medieval Institute Publications,
(1985), 7072.
politics, prophecy and jews 109

compelled by Gods own hand, the Christian community left Jerusalem

and went to a town called Pella across the Jordan.
The signs that foretold the siege and destruction were varied. They
include twelve successive nights of lunar eclipses right before the siege,
a calf brought to be sacrificed at the temple giving birth, on the altar, to
a lamb, and voices and sounds of strange movements that the priests of
the temple heard on Pentacost, voices saying to themselves: Let us leave
here, let us leave this abode. This last sign, perhaps because Jerome men-
tions it numerous times, seems to have exerted a particular fascination for
Christian readers, though not nearly as much as the story of Marys can-
nibalism, which is, of course, also included in Johns account. The story is
shaped not just as an illustration of how one should really pay attention to
signs and omens, but also serves another part of Johns discussion within
this book. The signs were Gods attempt to offer the Jews the chance to
exercise their free will, repent, and convert, the free will that John explains
always exists even in the face of Gods foreknowledge of events.44
But Jews are incapable of heeding the warnings, because they are inad-
equate in terms of faith. John explains in the first chapter of the second
book that Omens are only as effective as the faith of the person who
benefits from them permits. Some kinds of people, the unfaithful, the
reprobate and the weak-willed find it difficult to take things seriously,
and mistake the deadly for something trifling. With this John brands the
Jews with the label faithless (perfidious).45 And the grounds on which
this faithlessness is established is the inability of the Jewish people to
comprehend and obey the real prophecies and revelations foretelling the
destruction of Jerusalem. Here John has explored a cosmic mechanism
that helps to delineate the boundaries of the body politic and validates
his own method.
Read in the light of Nedermans discussion of Johns vision of political
unity, both Johns placement of the story of Jewish Jerusalems destruc-
tion within the Policraticus and the way that he uses the story work to
exclude Jews from the body politic on the basis of their lack of faith. In
fact, it might be said that John takes care through this story to justify the
exclusion of Jews from society on the basis of his schemas of the interpre-
tations of omens in relation to faith. I should add that Johns story also
incorporates compassion and pathos and extravagant acknowledgements

44John of Salisbury, Frivolities of Courtiers, 6584.

45John of Salisbury, Frivolities of Courtiers, 77.
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of Jewish suffering, but that that apparent compassion has multiple func-
tions and may, at any rate, be derived from Johns sources and modelsas
it might be in other versions of the story.
Nedermans suggestions about John of Salisburys vision of political
tolerance help maintain an illusion of a fluctuating subject and a move-
able moral application for the tale of the fall of Jerusalem. Others besides
Jews do not see signs. But these are individual examples. Johns exemplary
tyrant, Julius Caesar, was such a person, in part because he lacked faith
and the necessary belief in the significance of signs and refused to see the
significance of omens. Yet, even Caesar might avert catastrophe, as when,
as John tells it, Caesar accidentally turned aside an omen and forestalled
disaster in an African campaign.46 However, Caesar also refused to rec-
ognize the signs of his impending assassination in his wife Calpurnias
But the example of Caesar does not create a paradigm for all pagans or
all Romans, because in a number of ways, the Romans received the revela-
tion of the coming of Christ and the revelation of the necessity of avenging
Christ against the Jews. The Romans were redeemed, literally, and in an
entirely Eusebian way, by the rise of Christianity under their watch. John
notes that there is written evidence that a revelation was made to many
Roman citizens concerning the mystery of the Incarnation. In addition,
John tells us of miraculous signs that explained to Vespasian the ways
in which he was to take vengeance against the Jews. And John appends to
the story accounts of Vespasians ability to effect miraculous cures.47
It would be going too far to say that John is systematic in his iden-
tification of those who are divinely inspired, though there seems to be
something vaguely teleological about his choiceshe inevitably chooses
the winners. However, clearly John believed he could find no better
vehicle than the story of the fall of Jerusalem for calling attention to the
importance of certain kinds of omens in interpreting, moralizing histori-
cal events and understanding their political relevance. The story and its
lurid details work to rationalize his decision to dedicate an entire book of
this work to a discussion of the significance of signs and omens, because
enshrined in the history of the transmission of this story in particular
and an important part of its reception and interpretationis the aspect

46John of Salisbury, Frivolities of Courtiers, 57.

47John of Salisbury, Frivolities of Courtiers, 83.
politics, prophecy and jews 111

of the ominous atmosphere, which points toward the true meaning, its
cosmic meaning, the fate of the Jews after the crucifixion, the ascendancy
of Christians as the new chosen and the superiority of Christian interpre-
tation. The destruction is a pivotal point in the entire second book. On
it, at least partially, rests the legitimacy and the justification for a discus-
sion on signs and the explanation of the position of Jews in society. Jews
have been shown to be incapable of having faith. They are not unique in
their faithlessness, yet they uniquely deserve exclusion. The story offers
a monitoring mechanism, a way to evaluate in historical terms the role
that the Jews, lacking in faith and revelation, can play in any society. The
potential for culturally useful Jews may be there, exemplified in Josephus
himself, but the limits of the body politic are set according to the ability
and faith to see and comprehend and act on what specific kinds of omens
are telling one. Since the signs and omens are divinely apportioned, then
so is this ominous method for delineating fully human society so as to
exclude some non-Christians and, particularly and in the most exemplary
way, the Jews.
This story makes a particular point about Jews. What John seems to
be doing with this story is offering a reading of Jewish-Christian rela-
tions that completely sidesteps the question of tolerance long instituted
through Augustinian tradition, by putting forward a completely different
scheme for judging the Jew in Christian society, a scheme that is both
scientific and political.48 Had John wanted to say something about toler-
ance, he could have. He might, for example, have used as his central case
study a historia in which people were faithful and still lost ground geopo-
litically, but, his scheme, like that of William of Newburgh, assumes that
God is always on the winning side. Nor is Johns version of the story jux-
taposed with any kind of injunction to tolerate a Jewish presence. Rather,
this presentation of the story seems to have the very opposite function:
to show the necessity of excluding Jews according to the Jew Josephus
own words, reshaped and recontextualized and reclassified, of course,
by Eusebius and Pseudo-Hegesippus and juxtaposed with other exempla
drawn from ancient history.
It might be said that William also questions the place of the Jews in
Christian society. Though the primary focus of the section of the fourth

48On other ways the Jews outlived their Augustinian usefulness, see Jeremy Cohen,
Living Letters of the Law (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999) and Cohen, The
Friars and the Jews (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1982).
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book of his Historia is the reaction of Englands Christian population

to Jewish control of economy and the extent to which this control was
allowed by the crown, embedded within this narrative is an interroga-
tion of Jewish status in a Christian state within the context of problematic
Jewish conversion. Thus one of the pivotal events of the account is the
coerced conversion and then recanting of Benedict, one of the London
Jews who is discovered to be attending, against the proclamation of
Richard I, a coronation celebration. William highlights more than one sit-
uation in which Jews either are compelled to convert or offer to convert as
a means of saving themselves. Three times within the first eleven chapters
of the fourth book, William gives an account of endangered Jews agreeing
or offering to be baptized. The case of Benedict, in the first chapter, sets
the tone for all other mentions of conversion, and opens the question
as to whether Jewish conversion can be sincere. The new convert was
brought before King Richard the day after his forced baptism for question-
ing. William reports:
That Benedict, however, who, as I have said, had received Christian baptism
under compulsion, yet not giving credence in his heart to that which was
right, but only beating the airaerem verberensby the empty confession
of his lips [First Corinthians 9.26], being brought the next day to the king,
and interrogated by him whether he was a Christian, replied that he had
been compelled by the Christians to be baptized, but in his heart he had
always been a Jew; and he would rather die as such, since he could not pos-
sibly live now, for he was treading close upon death by reason of the blows
he had received the day before. Being, therefore, cast out from the presence
of the sovereign, the Christian apostate was restored to the Jews; and being
made the child of hell two-foldfilium gehennae duplo[Matthew 23.15]
more than before, he died after a few days, having been made a Christian
only for this, that he might die an apostate.49
With this, William, echoing Paul, notably a passage in which Pauls Jewishness
is emphasized, registers his disappointment with Benedicts decision and
fate. Benedict was no model, no example, and no inspiration for the other
Jews, unlike Paul. To paraphrase Paul, he did not become a Christian in
order to win Jews; he saved no one; he ran aimlessly; he fought only the air;
and his conversion was imaginary. How could it have been otherwise? His
feigned baptism and then repudiation turned him, echoing Matthew 23,
into a filium gehennae duplo, a twofold son of hell. One could read this as
a statement on the position in which Benedicts retracted confession has

49William of Newburgh, Historia, 1.4, 299300.

politics, prophecy and jews 113

left him: he is a Jew and an apostate. In Matthew it is the Pharisees who,

in making a convert, create a filium gehennae, yet here the phrase seems to
apply to the forced conversion, which implies that the Christian mob who
forced baptism on an unwilling Jew is playing the role of the Pharisees.
The two biblical allusions seem to function to point out the sinfulness
both of Benedict and of his unethical baptizers.
Two more times the question of Jewish conversion under duress arises.
William relates that at the opening of the York attacks, some Jews ran to
the royal castle for protection. Those Jews who did not manage to escape
to the castle or remained behind to guard their houses and possessions
were caught by the plunderers of the Jewish quarter and offered a choice
of baptism or death. William reports that some converted, but not sin-
cerely; others refused baptism and were murdered on the spot. Finally,
the morning after the suicide of a number of the York Jews within the
walls of the royal castle, the surviving Jews stand on the battlements of the
castle and proclaim that their experience and their very survival has con-
vinced them to become Christians. Some, though not all, of the remaining
mob, promise to spare them on these grounds, but the Jews are killed as
they exit the castle. William reports that they beg for baptism as they die.
Williams comment here is one that modern readers of this history find
suggests Williams sympathy. Yet, it is difficult to read it this way in the
context of the whole book. Regarding the murdered Jews, William suggests
that they were baptized by their own blood if they were sincere in their
conversion, but by now in Williams story, it is clear that such conversion
must be considered problematic.50 William does not excuse the murder-
ers. He denounces their cruelty whether the wishes of the Jews to convert
were genuine or not. But did William mean to cast doubt on all conver-
sion, or just on forced conversion, whose insincerity doubly damned the
convert? The language of double damnation suggests that there are two
modes of conversion: one, an ideal case, where the conversion is sincere,
which plays no role in a story of violence and iniquity, and the other, the
false conversion natural to and even a product of a sinful world.
When William wanted to be, he was clear enough about the applica-
tion of specific biblical texts to an understanding and evaluation of the
events of 1189 to 1190. We see this when William offers as a rationale
for his own harsh judgment of the laborers, youths, peasants, Crusaders,
and the Premonstratensian hermit who participated in the attacks at

50William of Newburgh, Historia, 1.4, 320.

114 k.m. kletter

York that they betrayed the injunction of Psalm 58:12: Slay them not,
lest my people forget: scatter them by thy power, the standard proof
text, from St. Augustines Commentary on Psalms, for tolerating a limited
and controlled Jewish presence within Christendom. Yet, even here, as
M.J. Kennedy noted, William did not present his readers with a straight-
forward statement on either Jews or Christians, for he juxtaposes the
mention of the ignored Augustinian command with a comment on the
blinded understandings of the Christians who believed that in their
murderousness they were acting in the service of God. Here he takes a
characteristic usually attributed to Jews, blindness, which could refer
to Augustines Homilies or the well-known image of the blindfolded
Synagoga, and applies it to Christians who ignore the true meaning of a
biblical passage.51 As noted, the destruction of Jewish Jerusalem and the
murder or dispersal of its population was an event that made manifest
the passing on of the status of the Chosen People from the Jews to the
Christians, a direct result of Jewish denial of Jesus. In Williams England of
the 1180s, Jews have also rejected Jesus, both implicitly, by their very exis-
tence as Jews in England, and explicitly, by their false conversions. They
have also forfeited their right to tolerance by deviating from the accepted
terms for their tolerance.


For the Anglo-Norman historians I have discussed here, who chronicled

the interaction between Jewish and Christian communities in the Middle
Ages or considered the place of Jews within a Christian society, Jewish
history had to be lachrymose. In fact, they seem to have had a unique con-
sciousness of their duty as Christian historians both to represent Jewish
life and history as inevitably tragic in a specific way and to highlight the
ways in which the tragic nature of that history and the underlining causal-
ity of tragedy revealed the power of cosmic destiny and the will of God
against a deicidal people. More than that, there was the need to enforce
the cultural norm of the Jew as exemplary and deserving sufferer. This
cultural norm, which was elaborated independently within Christian his-
toriography, was propelled in part by the necessity of having an historical

51M.J. Kennedy, Faith in the One God Flowed over You from the Jews, the Sons of the
Patriarchs and the Prophets: William of Newburghs Writings on Anti-Jewish Violence,
Anglo-Norman Studies 25 (2002), 147.
politics, prophecy and jews 115

baseline for identifying and describing sin and its impact in a variety of
historical and political contexts. Nowhere within this paper do I mean to
suggest that these historians were not cognizant of the complex politi-
cal realities of their own times. Yet these medieval historians would also
certainly have reacted with puzzlement and strenuously objected to the
reprimands of modern historians. For them, one of the central purposes
of telling and retelling the story of the destruction of Jewish Jerusalem was
to explore and demonstrate correspondences between a highly significant
event of the past and contemporary and local political situations. Thus
some of the very schemes of causality adopted by medieval recorders of
history embrace many of the very principles modern historians of medi-
eval Jewish-Christian relations enthusiastically repudiate.
Modern historians may wish to steer clear of discerning causation in
patterns, but medieval writers of history did see patterns in the unfold-
ing of history, both Jewish and Christian, and in the relationship between
Jews and Christians, as I believe the use of this story illustrates. They saw
local manifestations of anti-Jewish activities as precisely those moments
when the cosmic and the regional met, siphoning the vast plan of God
into their specific local context. Medieval historians did not write about
Jewish-Christian relations with Auschwitz in mind. Further, their notion
of Gods plan did not only apply to the relationship between God and
his wayward former chosen people. They saw value in comparative his-
tory, which offered the ability to measure the moral dimensions of specific
events and acts across centuries and eras. I maintain that, as scholars,
we can recognize the patterns that our medieval antecedents saw and try
to avoid being medieval ourselves. We do not have to burden the pasts
understanding of the past with the horrors of more recent history. We
can maintain critical distance and learn to distrust our own desire for
schemes of causality, but be sympathetic to the same proclivity in medi-
eval historians.
King Henry III and the Jews

Robert C. Stacey

It may seem odd to mark the 800th anniversary of the birth of King Henry III
by discussing that kings attitudes toward his Jewish subjects.1 The Jewish
population was a tiny minority in thirteenth-century England. At its peak,
around 1240, it numbered no more than 5000 men, women and children
in a Christian population of some five million people, and may well have
been smaller. By 1272, after thirty years of ruinous royal taxation, civil war,
mob violence, and judicial murder, the Jewish population of England had
been cut almost in half. By 1290, when the entire Jewish community was
expelled from England, its numbers had been halved again. In 1290, fewer
than two thousand Jews lived in England, a disproportionate number of
whom were children, women, and the elderly.2 And even of this small
remnant, scores and possibly hundreds more were murdered by pirates
or drowned en route by the sailors contracted to transport them across
the Channel to France.3
To be sure, both their wealth and their religion made Jews more visible
in mid thirteenth-century English society than their numbers alone would
suggest that they should have been; but there is still no reason to think
that King Henry III devoted any sustained attention to Jews, or to the
impact of his governments policies upon them. As Nicholas Vincent has

1An earlier version of this paper was delivered at Kings College, University of London,
at a conference commemorating the 800th anniversary of the birth of King Henry III in
1207. I am grateful to the participants for their comments, and to Professor David Carpenter
for organizing this truly memorable event.
2On the Jewish population of thirteenth-century England, see V. David Lipman,
The Anatomy of Medieval Anglo-Jewry, Transactions of the Jewish Historical Society of
England, 21 (1968), 6477 (6465). The disproportionate number of women, children
and the elderly was the result of the murder of at least 269 Jewish men, most heads
of households, in the coin-clipping trials of 127980. On these events, see Zefira Entin
Rokah, Money and the Hangman in Late Thirteenth-Century England: Jews, Christians
and Coinage Offences Alleged and Real, Part I, Jewish Historical Studies, 31 (198890),
83109 (9698); Part II, ibid., 32 (199092), 159218.
3Richard Huscroft, Expulsion: Englands Jewish Solution (Stroud: Tempus, 2006), 15657
collects the principal published references to these events. Unpublished judicial records con
firm them: see, for examples, TNA E 143/3/2 no. 18; JUST 1/376 mm 29, 77.
118 robert c. stacey

written, King Henry III was neither a devious nor a calculating man.4 It
would be wrong, therefore, to think that Henry III set out in any conscious
or deliberate way to destroy his Jewish subjects. Inadvertence, however, is
not exculpation. Policies have consequences, whether or not those con-
sequences are intended or foreseen by policymakers. And there can be
no doubt that the consequences of Henry IIIs Jewish policies were disas-
trous, not only for Jews but also for the kings ability to rule his realm.
The outlines of those policies are now well known, and can be briefly
summarized.5 Between 1240 and 1255, Henrys government derived
approximately ten percent of its ordinary annual revenues from the
direct taxation of the English Jewish community, even though Jews, as
we have seen, represented no more than one-tenth of one percent of the
total English population.6 Jews, in other words, paid taxation at a rate one
hundred times greater than if they had contributed to the kings coffers in
proportion to their numbers. By 1255, these huge taxes had drained away
most of the capital upon which Jewish moneylending depended. With so
little money left in Jewish hands to lend, Jews had little prospect of recov-
ering their losses through new loans, even after 1255, when the burden
of taxation eased. Whatever prospects for recovery Jews might have had
were further dimmed by the disorders of 125867, and then by a series of
legislative measures between 1269 and 1275 that first restricted, and then
banned outright, any further lending at interest by Jews. Inadvertently or
not, Henry III thus presided over the effective bankrupting of the English
Jewish community and a permanent reduction in its financial value to
the crown.7
But the damage done by the kings exorbitant Jewish taxes extended
beyond their impact on Jews capacity to make new loans or to pay
future taxes. To pay King Henrys taxes, Jewish lenders not only had
to hand over their working capital. They also had to sell many of their

4Nicholas Vincent, The Holy Blood: King Henry III and the Westminster Blood Relic
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001), 7.
5Huscroft, Expulsion, 82111 is a useful survey. For the calculations on which the fig
ures that follow are based, see Robert C. Stacey, 12401260: A Watershed in Anglo-Jewish
Relations?, Historical Research 61 (1988), 13550.
6This presumes an average annual ordinary royal income of 30,000 for 15 years,
yielding a total income of 450,000, and total Jewish taxation actually paid to the king of
45,000 (ca. 67,000 marks). Both figures may be low, but the ratio between them is likely
to be accurate. For crown revenues during these years, see Robert C. Stacey, Politics, Policy
and Finance under Henry III, 12161245 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1987); for total Jewish
taxation during the same period, see Stacey, 12401260.
7This paragraph and the next summarize the argument of Stacey, 12401260, passim.
king henry iii and the jews 119

existing loans to other lenders, often for mere pennies on the pound.
The purchasers of these loans were usually Christians, often royal court-
iers or members of the kings own family, who bought them in order to
acquire possession of the lands that the Christian borrowers had pledged
as security for their loans. One such purchaser of Jewish loans, the kings
chancellor Walter de Merton, used the lands he acquired in this way to
found the Oxford college that still bears his name. But there were many
other purchasers who acted out of less high-minded motives, including
Henrys queen, Eleanor of Provence, and his Lusignan half-brothers. And
to the Christian debtors who lost their property through such means,
the motives of their expropriators mattered little anyway. The whiff of
corruption that clung to the court as a result of such transactions under-
mined confidence in the fairness of King Henrys rule and helped to
spark a series of rebellions against him between 1258 and 1267 in which
hundreds of Jews were killed and much Jewish property was destroyed.
The Jews of medieval England, then, had little reason to remember
King Henry III fondly, and so far as we can tell, they did not. No Jewish
mourners were recorded at his funeral, as there had been when St. Hugh
of Avalon, Bishop of Lincoln, died in 1202.8 Nor were there any references
by Jewish chroniclers to the good old days under Henry III, even when
Jewish days in England darkened further, and ultimately came to an end,
under Edward I. To the extent that we can judge them, Jewish attitudes
toward King Henry III can be summed up by an old Jewish joke that tells
about the funeral of a man universally loathed by the community. When
asked by the rabbi to remember the mans good points, the result was a
long silence, until finally an elderly man stood up and declared: His father
was worse.
So indeed he may have been; as I have suggested elsewhere, King Johns
extortionate approach to extracting revenues from and through his Jewish
subjects laid the foundations for many of the disasters that would befall the
Jewish community of England under his son.9 But King Henry III was bad
enough. The consequences of Henrys Jewish policies were disastrous
for the Jews, for the king, and for the realm. Twenty years of sustained
historical investigation has made this much clear. What is less clear is the

8Magna Vita Sancti Hugonis: The Life of St Hugh of Lincoln, ed. Decima L. Douie and
Hugh Farmer, 2 vols (London: Thomas Nelson and Sons, 1961), II: 228.
9Robert C. Stacey, The English Jews under Henry III, in Jews in Medieval Britain:
Historical, Literary and Archaeological Perspectives, ed. Patricia Skinner (Woodbridge:
Boydell, 2003), 4154 (4245).
120 robert c. stacey

extent to which the Jewish policies of Henrys government reflected the

kings own attitudes and beliefs with respect to Jews and Judaism. This is
the question I want to consider in this essay.
There are really two questions here: first, what were Henrys own atti-
tudes and beliefs with respect to Jews and Judaism? And second, to what
extent was Henry himself responsible for his governments Jewish poli-
cies? This essay focuses on the first of these questions: what were Henrys
own attitudes and beliefs about Jews? The second question is no less
important or interesting, not least because it is a question we would never
think to ask about King Louis IX of France or the Emperor Frederick II
of Germany, both of whom are routinely credited by historians as the
authors of their governments Jewish policies.10 Henry III, however, was a
man notoriously influenced by a series of powerful ministers, and he also
had a reasonably well-developed bureaucracy whose officials took many
routine decisions on their own. We must, then, on another occasion, ask
the question: Who made Jewish policy under Henry III? To answer that
question, however, we first need to know what Henry himself thought
about Jews and Judaism, and so it is to that issue that I now turn.
Two distinctive elements in the kings attitudes toward Jews and
Judaism stand out: his personal commitment to the cause of Jewish con-
version to Christianity, and his credulous embrace of the ritual crucifix-
ion chargethe claim, that is, that contemporary Jews kidnapped and
crucified Christian children as a way of expressing their contempt for
Christianity. Neither should be taken for granted as the predictable atti-
tude of a thirteenth-century king. Prior to the thirteenth century, efforts
to convert Jews to Christianity had not been a priority for either church
or state.11 Henry III was a member of the first generation of European
kings to see such conversions as even conceivably a part of their royal
responsibilities. And no other thirteenth-century king, including St. Louis
of France, took this responsibility as seriously as did Henry III.12

10William C. Jordan, Louis IX and the Challenge of the Crusade: A Study in Rulership
(Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1979), 15457; idem., The French Monarchy and the
Jews: From Philip Augustus to the Last Capetians (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania
Press, 1989), 14250; David Abulafia, Frederick II: A Medieval Emperor (London and New
York: Penguin, 1988), 14344, 256.
11David Berger, Mission to the Jews and Jewish-Christian Contacts in the Polemical
Literature of the High Middle Ages, American Historical Review 91 (1986), 57691; Robert C.
Stacey, The Conversion of Jews to Christianity in Thirteenth-Century England, Speculum
67 (1992), 26383.
12A point made also by Lauren Fogle, The Domus Conversorum: The Personal Interest
of Henry III, Jewish Historical Studies 41 (2007), 17.
king henry iii and the jews 121

The most famous expression of Henrys concern for Jewish conver-

sion was his foundation, in January 1232, of the Domus Conversorum, a
house for Jewish converts in London, where Jews who had converted to
Christianity could live in a quasi-monastic environment, supported by
a weekly stipend, while learning the fundamentals of their new faith.13
Henry founded the Domus on land formerly occupied by one of the main
London synagogues, which he confiscated for this purpose.14 The siteon
Chancery Lane, where the former Public Record Office, now the Kings
College Library, is locatedhad two advantages. It cost the king noth-
ing to acquire the land, since he simply expropriated it from the Jews of
London, and it also ensured that the converts house would be located
on the geographical fringes of the London Jewry, where it could act as a
beachhead for further missionary inroads into the Jewish community.
Nor was the Domus Conversorum an isolated example of the kings
interest in using Jewish resources to construct an infrastructure for mis-
sionizing in Jewish neighborhoods. In May 1231, he confiscated part of the
Jewish burial ground in Oxford and granted it to the hospital of St. John
the Baptist. The king himself attended the dedication of the site, which
is now part of Magdalen College.15 In December 1243, he confiscated
another London synagogue and gave it to the hospital of St. Anthony as
a chapel. Dedicated to the Virgin Mary, this chapel came to be known as
St. Mary in Jewry.16 The kings continuing personal interest in the chapel is
emphasized by subsequent grants of timber for its reconstruction, of 20
from Jewish tallage receipts to repair it and to construct an image of the
Virgin (with an attractive canopy) to be placed in it, and his maintenance,
at his own cost, of a chaplain there with an annual stipend of 3.17 In
September 1272, just a few months before he died, King Henry confiscated

13Stacey, Conversion of Jews, 27375.

14For the site, see Vincent, Jews and Poitevins, 125; for the foundation charter and
its extraordinary emphasis on the Virgin, see William Dugdale, Monasticon Anglicanum,
6 vols (London: T. G. March, 1849), VI, part 2, 683.
15Nicholas Vincent, Peter des Roches (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996),
289, citing A Cartulary of the Hospital of St John the Baptist, ed. H.E. Salter, 3 vols (Oxford:
Oxford Historical Society 66, 6869 for 191417), III, xivxviii.
16Close Rolls of the Reign of Henry III, 124247 (London: His Majestys Stationary Office,
1916), 142; Close Rolls of the Reign of Henry III, 124751 (London: His Majestys Stationary
Office, 1922), 202, 381; Close Rolls of the Reign of Henry III, 125456 (London: His Majestys
Stationary Office, 1931), 36970; Calendar of Charter Rolls I: Henry III 122657 (London:
His Majestys Stationary Office, 1903), 166; The London Eyre of 1244, ed. Helena M. Chew,
London Record Society 6 (Chatham: W & J Mackay, 1970), no. 276.
17Close Rolls 124751, 202, 381. The chaplains stipend can be traced across the pub
lished Liberate Rolls.
122 robert c. stacey

yet another London synagogue and gave it to the Friars of the Sack. The
Friars had built their church on Jewish lands that they had purchased a
few years before from Queen Eleanor of Provence.18 Their new church
thus abutted a synagogue; and as a result, their worship was being inter-
rupted by the continuum ululatum of their Jewish neighbors.19
Henry was also a generous benefactor to the Franciscan and the
Dominican friars, many of whose houses in England were located in or
on the fringes of Jewish neighborhoods. Here too we should probably
see the kings missionary impulses, together with those of the mendicant
orders themselves, as a factor in their decision to locate within Jewish
neighborhoods. King Henry assisted the construction of a number of
these friaries with gifts of timber and lead. But he also provided building
sites and houses, as he did in 1234, when he confiscated a Jewish house
in Cambridge and assigned it to the newly-arrived Franciscans.20
But Henrys commitment to Jewish conversion went well beyond build-
ing churches and friaries in Jewish neighborhoods. He was also intensely
interested in the conversion of individual Jews. In August 1234, he declared
his intention to come personally to the Domus to learn why Alexander the
convert and his family had been expelled from the House of Converts; in
the meantime, he ordered that the family continue to receive the same
stipends its members had received while residing in the Domus.21 A few
months before, he had been personally present at the baptism of the con-
vert Philip of Reading.22 In 1252, he acted as godfather to the convert Henry
of Winchester, raising him personally from the baptismal font and then
knighting him.23 The king may also have acted as godfather to a number of
other converts who chose Henry as their baptismal name, but records of
these baptisms are lacking. Other converts bore the names of prominent
people around Henrys court: John of Darlington (the kings confessor),

18Joe Hillaby, London: The Thirteenth-Century Jewry Revisited, Jewish Historical

Studies, 32 (1993), 89158 (101). The land on which the Friars built their church had previ
ously belonged to Cresse son of Master Moses of London. Between 1267 and 1271, the Friars
purchased it and several other adjacent Jewish properties from Queen Eleanor, who had
acquired them through her dealings in Jewish bonds.
19Close Rolls of the Reign of Henry III, 126872 (London: His Majestys Stationary Office,
1938), 522.
20Close Rolls 123741, 61.
21Close Rolls 123134, 503.
22Close Rolls 123134, 415.
23Stacey, Conversion of Jews, 27678, with important corrections in Paul A. Brand,
Jews and the Law in England, 127590, English Historical Review, 115 (2000), 113858.
king henry iii and the jews 123

John Mansel (the kings secretary), John de Plessy (an important baron
and royal counselor), and Robert Grosseteste (bishop of Lincoln) all had
converts named after them. Here too we should probably see the kings
own hand behind the choice of name.24 Several converts served the king
as crossbowman; one in particular, Roger the Convert, was said to have
been so constantly in attendance upon the king that the king would not
permit Roger to depart from him, in the language of one royal writ.25
Henry also supported a large number of converts financiallycertainly
those residing in the Domus, but also many who lived outside it. In addi-
tion to their weekly stipends, he also provided robes for each convert
every year.26 When the number of converts began to exceed the financial
capacity of the Domus to support them, Henry pressed religious houses
around the country to accept converts as corrody holdersfirst on a small
scale in 1246 and 1247, and then, in much greater numbers, in 1255, when
the king sent repeated letters to more than a hundred different religious
houses on behalf of some 150 converts.27
The kings personal interest in convert issues is also reflected in a num-
ber of extraordinary legal decisions that arose from cases involving conver-
sions. In 1234, the king intervened personally in a dower case brought by
a Jewish woman against the estate of her deceased convert husband, pro-
hibiting the Justices of the Jews from hearing the womans case because,
the king declared, the woman ought to have converted to Christianity
along with her husband.28 In 1246, however, the king enforced a dower
claim by a convert woman against her Jewish husband, whom she had left
to convert to Christianity,29 while in 1249, the king ordered a Jewish father

24This is clearest with respect to the convert John of Darlington, a Jew of Lincoln who
converted in prison while awaiting execution for the alleged ritual crucifixion of Hugh
of Lincoln and was subsequently freed by the king at the request of his namesake, John
of Darlington: Calendar of Patent Rolls, 124758 (London: His Majestys Stationary Office,
1908), 457.
25Close Rolls of the Reign of Henry III, 125659 (London: His Majestys Stationary Office,
1932), 165; on Roger and his son John the Convert, both of whom served in the kings mili
tary household, see Stacey, Conversion of Jews, 276.
26Close Rolls 124247, 141, 1467, 487; Calendar of Liberate Rolls, 124551 (London: His
Majestys Stationary Office, 1937), 101; Close Rolls 125659, 51.
27Joan Greatrex, Monastic Charity for Jewish Converts: The Requisition of Corrodies
by Henry III, in Christianity and Judaism, ed. Diana Wood, Studies in Church History 29
(Oxford: Blackwell, 1992), 13343 (13637).
28Close Rolls 123134, 555.
29Liberate Rolls 124551, 70.
124 robert c. stacey

to restore to his convert daughter and her convert husband the dowry he
had given her upon her marriage.30
Henrys commitment to Jewish conversion, both personal and finan-
cial, far exceeded that of any other thirteenth-century king. Although
other aspects of the kings Jewish policy during the 1230s may well have
been modeled on Capetian example, as Nicholas Vincent has suggested,
the Domus was unprecedented.31 So too was the extent of the kings con-
tinuing personal role in supporting and encouraging Jewish converts.
On Jewish conversion, even St. Louis appears to have modeled himself
on King Henry, and not the other way around.32 How then ought we to
explain King Henrys unprecedented enthusiasm for Jewish conversion?
The answer, I would suggest, lies in the intensity of King Henrys Marian
piety, which is in turn closely connected to his focus on the passion of
Christ, epitomized in his acquisition of the Westminster blood relic in
1247. Professor Vincent has written an excellent recent article discussing
Henrys devotion to the Virgin Mary.33 To his arguments I would add only
the observation that the kings missionary efforts with respect to Jews also
had a specifically Marian focus. The Domus itself was dedicated to Mary;
so too was the chapel of St. Mary in Jewry, another royal foundation.
Reading had no Jewish community; it is likely, therefore, that the convert
Philip of Reading, whose baptism Henry attended, was so called because
Henry chose to have him baptized in the church of Reading Abbey, a royal
foundation dedicated to the Virgin Mary that contained an extensive col-
lection of Marian relics.34

30Close Rolls 124751, 194.

31The claim that there was an earlier house of converts in Bristol, founded around
1154 by Robert fitz Harding, was first advanced by Michael Adler, The Jews of Bristol in
pre-Expulsion Days, Transactions of the Jewish Historical Society of England 12 (London:
Spottiswoode, Ballantyne and Co., 1931), 11786 (1245), and has been revived by a number
of recent scholars, including Fogle, The Domus Conversorum, 6, who suggests that Henry
III might have visited this house as a child when he was crowned in Bristol, in 1216, and
that this visit might have inspired Henrys later foundation of the House of Converts in
London. No such house for converted Jews ever existed in Bristol, however; the sugges
tion that it did rests on a misunderstanding that began in the fourteenth century and was
accepted by the great sixteenth-century antiquary John Leland. See Nicholas Orme, The
Guild of Kalendars, Bristol, Transactions of the Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological
Society, 96 (1978), 3249 (3334).
32Fogle, Domus Conversorum, 45.
33Nicholas Vincent, King Henry III and the Blessed Virgin Mary, in The Church and
Mary, ed. R.N. Swanson. Studies in Church History, 39 (Woodbridge: Boydell, 2004),
34Vincent, 12829 and n. 15 on Reading Abbeys Marian associations. Similar con
nections between Marian piety and the conversion of non-Christians can be found in
Castile, where Alfonso X regularly rededicated mosques to the Virgin: for discussion,
king henry iii and the jews 125

The kings intense devotional focus on the Virgin may also be the key to
his avid embrace of the ritual crucifixion charge, most famously of course
in the 1255 child murder case involving little St. Hugh of Lincoln. 1255 was
not, however, the first time Henry had involved himself in allegations that
Jews assaulted and murdered Christian children for religious motives. In
1234, the king, accompanied by Archbishop Edmund Rich and a number
of other bishops and barons, had presided personally over an early stage
in a legal case in which a group of Norwich Jews was accused of having
kidnapped and circumcised a Christian boy. The court referred the case for
ecclesiastical inquiry, and although the case eventually ended with several
Jews being hanged, there is no evidence that the king himself took any
further part in it. In 1235, however, while passing through Norwich, King
Henry personally heard the complaints of a number of Norwich citizens
who had been punished by the sheriff for their involvement in attacks on
Jews and Jewish houses. It seems likely, as David Lipman has suggested,
that these attacks were prompted by the kidnapping and circumcision
allegations of the previous year.35
Strictly speaking, this was not a ritual crucifixion case. But the chroni-
cler Matthew Paris constructed it as one in his retelling of the episode,
and there are hints, not least in the way the accused Jewish perpetra-
tors were executed in London, to suggest that others too came to see the
episode as evidence of a failed attempt at a ritual crucifixion.36 In 1244,
the body of another potential victim of ritual crucifixion was found in
the churchyard of St. Pauls in London. Converts were brought from the
Domus Conversorum, who determined that the wounds on the childs
body spelled out in Hebrew letters Jewish responsibility for the childs
death. The child was thereupon buried, with considerable ceremony, in
the cathedral church as a martyr. King Henry, however, did not involve
himself in this case; perhaps as a result, no martyrs cult grew up around
the body of the murdered child.37

see Amy G. Remensnyder, The Colonization of Sacred Architecture: The Virgin Mary,
Mosques, and Temples in Medieval Spain and Early Sixteenth-Century Mexico, in
Monks and Nuns, Saints and Outcasts: Religious Expression and Social Meaning in the
Middle Ages, ed. Sharon Farmer and Barbara Rosenwein (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University
Press, 2000), 189219; idem., Marian Monarchy in Thirteenth-Century Castile, in
The Experience of Power in Medieval Europe, 9501350, ed. Robert F. Berkhofer III,
Allan Cooper, and Adam J. Kosto. (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2005), 25370 (267).
35V.D. Lipman, The Jews of Medieval Norwich (Cambridge: Heffer and Sons, 1967),
36Matthew Paris, Chronica Majora, ed. Henry R. Luard, 7 vols, Rolls Series 57 (London:
Longman and Co., 187284), IV: 30.
37Chronica Majora, IV: 37778.
126 robert c. stacey

In 1255, however, Henry did involve himself in a highly personal and

visible way in the events that followed the death of little Hugh of Lincoln.
Several of the chronicle accounts portray Hughs distraught mother seeking
out King Henry in Scotland, throwing herself at the kings feet, and demand-
ing justice for her son, which the king immediately provided.38 Others have
the king hearing of the case only after he arrived in Lincoln on other busi-
ness. But all agree that when Henry came to Lincoln and heard Copin of
Lincolns confession to the heinous crime, he immediately disowned the
plea bargain Copin had struck with the royal steward, John of Lexington,
and ordered Copins immediate, grisly, and public execution in Lincoln.
The chroniclers are also unanimous in reporting that Henry was the driv-
ing force in prosecuting the case thereafter. Ultimately, some ninety Jews
were arrested, of whom nineteen were executed after Christmas: Copin in
Lincoln, and eighteen others in London, who were dragged and hanged
after Christmas. The remaining seventy-one Jews were also condemned
to death by the king and his great men meeting over Easter at Reading,
but these Jews were ultimately freed through the intervention of the
Dominicans, the Franciscans, or Richard of Cornwall (the sources differ).
Royal support was thus essential for establishing the cult of little St. Hugh;
nor did it end after 1255. During the 1290s, Henrys son King Edward I con-
structed a shrine for the martyrs grave in the south aisle of the Angel Choir
at Lincoln Cathedral, with the royal arms prominently displayed upon it.39
It is worth reminding ourselves that although Henry III was not the only
high medieval king to believe in such ritual crucifixion charges, royal sup-
port for such cults was still highly unusual. With the exception of Philip
Augustus of France, no twelfth-century kings embraced such charges or
their resulting cults.40 In 1236, Frederick II investigated a charge of ritual

38Gavin Langmuir, The Knights Tale of Young Hugh of Lincoln, Speculum 47 (1972),
45982, reprinted in Langmuirs volume of collected essays, Toward a Definition of
Antisemitism (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990), is the most thorough modern
study, but there is still much of interest in Joseph Jacobs, Little St. Hugh of Lincoln,
Jewish Ideals and Other Essays (New York, 1896), 192224. The Anglo-Norman ballad that
recounts the incident, Hughes de Lincoln, ed. Francisque Michel (Paris, 1834), is an unjustly
neglected source for these events. It appears to have been composed very soon after the
discovery of Hughs body, by someone with a detailed local knowledge of Lincoln.
39D. Stocker, The Shrine of Little St. Hugh, in Medieval Art and Architecture at Lincoln
Cathedral (Oxford, 1992), 10917.
40On Philip Augustus, see Jordan, The French Monarchy and the Jews, 1719; Kenneth
R. Stow, Jewish Dogs: An Image and its Interpreters (Stanford: Stanford University Press,
2006), 7598.
king henry iii and the jews 127

murder and cannibalism, but dismissed it as baseless.41 Even Louis IX

took no particular interest in charges of Jewish ritual murder. Nor did the
papacy endorse such charges, or recognize the claims to sanctity of any
of their alleged child victims, until the end of the fifteenth century. Why,
then, was Henry III such an enthusiast?
The answer, as I have suggested already, must lie in the kings extra
ordinary and quite personal devotion to the Virgin Mary, to the passion
of Christ, and to the mass. From the twelfth century on, Marian piety in
Western Europe was intimately linked to the blood of Christ, and hence
to his passion.42 The blood Jesus shed on the cross was explicitly Marys
blood, just as his flesh was specifically Marys flesh. Through the eucha-
rist, medieval Christians participated in the broken body of Christ on the
Cross. But they also celebrated Mary, who functioned as a symbol of the
bodily wholeness and integrity of the Church, and hence as the symbolic
counterweight to the broken body of Christ on the cross.43 Marys bodily
integrity, epitomized by her perpetual virginity and her bodily assumption
into heaven, were seen as proofs of the Churchs triumph over the Jews
who had crucified her son, and who continued to crucify him through
their assaults on innocent Christian children like St. Hugh. Devotion to the
Virgin Mary thus became a central theme in tales of religiously-motivated
Jewish murder and ritual crucifixion from the thirteenth century on, most
famously of course in the tale told by Chaucers Prioress. Devotion to the
Virgin thus leads us straight back to the crucifixion of Christ on the cross,
and hence to the mass as late medieval Christians understood it.
Henrys focus on the passion of Christ is well known; so too is his devo-
tion to the mass and now, thanks to Professor Vincent, to the Virgin Mary
also. Henrys belief in the veracity of ritual crucifixion charges, and his
personal commitment to the conversion of Jews to Christianity, were fun-
damental elements in this deeply-held devotional nexus. As such, they
were central to his understanding of the world and so to his understand-
ing of his responsibilities as a Christian king. With fateful results, they
were no less central to his attitudes toward Jews.

41Gavin Langmuir, Ritual Cannibalism, in Toward a Definition of Antisemitism,

42See now Caroline Walker Bynum, Wonderful Blood: Theology and Practice in Late
Medieval Northern Germany and Beyond (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press,
43R.C. Stacey, From Ritual Crucifixion to Host Desecration: Jews and the Body of
Christ, Jewish History 12 (1998), 1128; Denise Despres, Immaculate Flesh and the Social
Body: Mary and the Jews, ibid., 4769; Remensnyder, Marian Monarchy, 265.
Aquinas on the Forced Conversion of Jews:
Belief, Will, and Toleration

Jennifer Hart Weed

Forced Conversions in the Middle Ages

There are numerous historical accounts of the forced conversion of Jews

in the high Middle Ages. One such narrative, of an event occurring in York
in 1190, is offered by Richard of Hoveden (fl. 11741201), as follows:
While the king [Richard I] was seated at table, the chief men of the Jews
came to offer presents to him, but as they had been forbidden the day
before to come to the kings court on the day of the coronation, the com
mon people, with scornful eye and insatiable heart, rushed upon the Jews
and stripped them, and then scourging them, cast them forth out of the
kings hall. Among these was Benedict, a Jew of York, who, after having been
so maltreated and wounded by the Christians that his life was despaired
of, was baptized by William, prior of the church of Saint Mary at York, in
the church of the Innocents, and was named William, and thus escaped the
peril of death and the hands of the persecutors.1
Notwithstanding Richards account, the Fourth Council of Toledo of 633 CE
repudiated the practice of the forced conversion of Jews to Christianity,
and this canon was included in the Decretum of Gratian:
Jews are not to be forced into the faith, although even if they accept it
unwillingly, they must be forced to retain it. Whence in the Fourth Toledan
Council it was enacted: Just as Jews are not to be forced into the faith, so
too, once converted, they are not permitted to leave it. Concerning the Jews
the Sacred Council orders that no one henceforth force them to believe.
The Lord shows mercy as He chooses, but also makes men stubborn as He
chooses. For those who are unwilling are not saved, only those who are
willing, so that justice remains perfect. For just as man, heeding the serpent,
perished through the exercise of his own will, so too, called by the grace of
God, one should be saved in faith by the conversion of his own spirit. Thus,

1Roger of Hoveden, The Annals, comprising The History of England and of Other
Countries of Europe from AD 732 to AD 1201. Trans. Henry T. Riley, 2 vols. (New York: AMS,
1968), vol. 2, 117. I would like to thank Merrall Price and Kristine Utterback for drawing
Benedicts forced conversion to my attention.
130 jennifer hart weed

in order that they be converted by the free exercise of the will and not by
force, they are to be persuaded but not impelled.2
Unfortunately, as evidenced by the pressures exacted on Benedict of
York, coerced or forced conversions were still occurring in the twelfth
century. In the thirteenth century, the acts of persuasion described in
the canon of Toledo sometimes included the unsavoury practice of com
pelling Jews to hear evangelistic sermons, whenever a preacher desired to
offer one in public.3 This practice was institutionalized by papal letter in
1245, the same year in which Thomas Aquinas (12251274) arrived at the
University of Paris for the first time.4 Three years earlier, in 1242, Hebrew
books were burned in Paris after having been turned over to Dominican
and Franciscan friars for their perusal and evaluation, under the order of
King Louis IX.5
In 1269, Louis IX ordered the attendance of all Jews at evangelistic
sermons preached by Pablo Christiani, a Dominican and former Jew.6 At
that time, Aquinas was teaching at the University of Paris and writing his
famous Summa theologiae, which includes much of his discussion of forced
conversion.7 Pablo Christiani preached to assemblies of Jews at both the
royal court in Paris and at the court of the Dominicans, so it would seem
that Aquinas must have been aware of this practice and the edict behind
it.8 Indeed, it is difficult to imagine that Aquinas would have been igno
rant of the sponsorship of these practices by the King of France, who also
provided the Dominicans in Paris with much of their livelihood.9

2Iudei non sunt cogendi ad fidem, quam tamen si inuiti susceperint, cogendi sunt reti
nere. Unde in Tolletano Concilio IV. [c. 56] statutem est: Sicut non sunt Iudei ad fidem
cogendi, ita nec conuersis ab ea recedere permittitur. De Iudeis autem precepit sancta
sinodus, nemini deinceps uim ad credendum inferre. Cui enim uult Deus miseretur,
et quem uult indurat. Non enim tales inuiti saluandi sunt, sed uolentes, ut integra sit
forma iusticiae. Sicut enim homo propria arbitrii uoluntate serpenti obediens periit, sic
uocante se gratia Dei propriae mentis conuersione quisque credendo saluatur. Ergo non
ui, sed libera arbitrii facultate ut conuertantur suadendi sunt, non potius inpellendi. Ed.
Emil Friedberg, Corpus iuris canonici. (Lipsiae: ex officina Bernhardi Tauchniz, 1879). The
English translation is by Robert Chazan, Church, State, and Jew in the Middle Ages (West
Orange, NJ: Behrman House, 1980), 2021. Authors note: The translators of Aquinas Latin
text have added quotation marks where appropriate, although quotation marks do not
appear in the original.
3Robert Chazan, Daggers of Faith (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1989),
3848. Innocent IV was Pope in 1245.
4Ibid., 3839.
5Chazan 1980, 234235.
6Chazan 1989, 4445.
7Ibid., and James A. Weisheipl, O.P., Friar Thomas DAquino: His Life, Thought, and
Work. (New York: Doubleday & Co., Inc., 1974), 221.
8Chazan 1989, 44.
9Weisheipl, 59.
aquinas on the forced conversion of jews 131

Against the backdrop of this troubled history, Aquinas asks the question
whether any unbeliever including Jews ought to be compelled to faith and
his answer is a resounding No. He opposes the forced conversion of Jews
on the basis of his view of human nature, his theological account of salva
tion, and his commitment to natural justice. Specifically, Aquinas claims
that conversion involves belief, which in turn depends on the human will
to some degree. A conversion cannot be forced without inhibiting the
ability of the will to act freely, thus nullifying the belief requirement for
conversion. Furthermore, Aquinas argues that Gods salvific work is never
coercive. In this article, I will outline Aquinass account of conversion in
order to show how this account entails an opposition to forced conver
sion. I will conclude by arguing that passages in which Aquinas argues
that converted Jews must keep to their conversion must be read within
the context of his treatment of conversion as a whole, and thus they do
not undermine his stated opposition to forced conversions.

Forced Baptisms and Forced Conversions

On the topic of the forced conversions of unbelievers Aquinas writes:

Among unbelievers there are some who have never received the faith, such
as the heathens and the Jews: and these are by no means to be compelled to
the faith, in order that they may believe, because to believe depends on the
will [...] even if they [the Christians] were to conquer them, and take them
prisoners, they should still leave them free to believe, if they will.10
In this passage, Aquinas distances himself from those who would view polit
ical authority as legitimizing forced conversions. Innocent III (11611216),
for example, held the view that Jewish converts to Christianity could return
to Judaism only if they had objected strongly and vociferously during their
baptism, while those who remained silent must maintain their Christianity.11

10Respondeo dicendum quod infidelium quidam sunt qui nunquam susceperent fidem,
sicut gentiles et Iudaei. Et tales nullo modo sunt ad fidem compellendi, ut ipsi credant,
quia credere voluntatis est [....] quia si etiam eos vicissent et captivos haberent, in eorem
libertate relinqueret an credere vellent. St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologiae. IaIIae. 10.
8. Thomae Aquinatis Opera Omnia. (Rome: Editio Leonina Manualis, 1882). All Latin texts
of Aquinas will be taken from this edition except where noted. The English translation is
found in Summa theologiae. Trans. Fathers of the English Dominican Province. (New York:
Benziger Bros., 1948). All English translations of this text will be taken from this edition.
11Steven C. Boguslawski, OP., Thomas Aquinas on the Jews: Insights into his Commentary
on Romans 911. (New York: Paulist Press, 2008), 4344. See Solomon Grayzel, The Church
and the Jews in the XIIIth Century, vol. 1 (New York: Hermon, 1966), 103, 261, 15.
132 jennifer hart weed

Presumably, he would have viewed Benedict of York as falling into the latter
category. In contrast, Aquinas states that the Jews are by no means (in nullo
modo) to be compelled to Christianity.12
According to Aquinas, belief is to think with assent.13 For Aquinas,
assent is associated with the will.14 Thus, there is a voluntary aspect to his
concept of belief, at least when it comes to Christian faith and he empha
sizes the fact that unbelievers are to be left free to believe, even if they
are under the political authority of Christians.15 This means that Aquinas
does not view political authority as a justification for asserting control
over a persons religious beliefs. It is worth emphasizing that Aquinas
committed himself to such a view in writing despite the actions of King
Louis IX, who was a patron of the Dominicans.
One suggested way of getting around the canon that condemns forced
conversions would be to baptize a child from a non-Christian family; since
a child doesnt have a will of his or her own, that will cannot be said to
be forced. Then the religious authorities would be justified in demanding
that the newly-baptized child maintain his or her Christianity. Aquinas
was not taken in by such sophistry, and in fact specifically condemns the
The children of unbelievers either have the use of reason or they have not.
If they have, then they already begin to control their own actions, in things
that are of Divine or natural law. And therefore of their own accord, and
against the will of their parents, they can receive Baptism, just as they can
contract marriage. Consequently such can lawfully be advised and per
suaded to be baptized. If, however, they have not yet the use of free-will,
according to the natural law they are under the care of their parents as long
as they cannot look after themselves. For which reason we say that even
the children of the ancients were saved through the faith of their parents.
Wherefore it would be contrary to natural justice if such children were bap
tized against their parents will; just as it would be if one having the use of
reason were baptized against his will. Moreover under the circumstances it

12John Y.B. Hood holds the view that Aquinas kept his misgivings about Church policy
to himself. However, Aquinass statement that Jews should in no way be compelled to the
faith seems to be a clear exception to this trend, particularly when the statement is viewed
against the backdrop of Innocent IIIs teachings. See John Y.B. Hood, Aquinas and the Jews.
(Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1995), 98.
13Summa theologiae, IIaIIae. 2. 1.
14Ibid., ad 3.
15Of course, this freedom does not extend to those who have been converted already.
Converts are expected to keep to their conversion, according to Aquinas. But I think the
further discussion of what Aquinas thinks the true nature of conversion is will make clear
the fact that any forced conversion is not an actual conversion.
aquinas on the forced conversion of jews 133

would be dangerous to baptize the children of unbelievers; for they would

be liable to lapse into unbelief, by reason of their natural affection for their
parents. Therefore it is not the custom of the Church to baptize the children
of unbelievers against their parents will.16
In Aquinass theological context, baptism was the first sacramental step
in a persons conversion to Christianity, although it is not the first cause
of conversion, as I shall explain in a subsequent section. In keeping with
his initial repudiation of forced conversions, Aquinas also repudiates the
forced baptism of unbelievers of any age and contrasts such practices with
licit baptisms. He argues that those persons who are old enough to have
the use of reason can be baptized against the will of their parents, pro
vided that the decision to be baptized is in accordance with their own
will (propria voluntate). So Aquinas appears to think that there are at
least two requirements for a licit conversion: first, the prospective con
vert must have the use of reason, and second, the prospective convert
must be seeking conversion as an act of his or her own free will.17 This
second requirement is in keeping with Aquinas remarks that unbelievers
must be left free to believe. He also appeals to natural justice (ius natu
rale) in this passage, which governs the interactions among all human
beings, and not just Christians.18 Natural justice is thus a higher authority

16Pueri infidelium filii aut habent usum rationis, aut non habent. Si autem habent, iam,
quantum ad ea quae sunt iuris divini vel naturalis, incipiunt suae potestatis esse. Et ideo
propria voluntate, invitis parentibus, possunt Baptismum suscipere, sicut et matrimonium
contrahere. Et ideo tales licite moneri possunt et induci ad suscipiendum Baptismum. Si
vero nondum habent usum liberi arbitrii, secundum ius naturale sunt sub cura parentum,
quandiu ipsi sibi providere non possunt. Unde etiam et de pueris antiquorum dicitur quod
salvabantur in fide parentum. Et ideo contra iustitiam naturalem esset si tales pueri, invitis
parentibus, baptizarentur, sicut etiam si aliquis habens usum rationis baptizaretur invitus.
Esset etiam periculosum taliter filios infidelium baptizare, quia de facili ad infidelitatem
redirent, propter naturalem affectum ad parentes. Et ideo non habet hoc Ecclesiae consue
tudo, quod filii infidelium, invitis parentibus, baptizentur. Summa theologiae, IIIa. 68. 10.
17When Aquinas invokes the use of reason, he has in mind the ability of a human being
to exercise his or her rational capability. Such an exercise could include self-reflection,
the ability to deliberate about a course of action, the ability to make moral choices, etc. The
ability to deliberate about a course of action and then to act in accordance with that
deliberation involves the use of both the intellect and the free will of a human being,
according to Aquinas. Following Aristotle, Aquinas does not think that minor children, the
developmentally handicapped, or the mentally ill have the use of reason.
18Summa theologiae, IIaIIae. 10. 12. ad 3. Aquinas invokes the concept of natural
justice as governing the ways in which a political authority can govern the Jews in his
so-called letter to the Duchess of Brabant. See Sancti Thomae de Aquino Epistola ad ducis
sam Brabantiae. However, recent scholarship suggests the true recipient was Countess
Margaret of Flanders. See Leonard Boyle, Thomas Aquinas and the Duchess of Brabant,
in Facing History: A Different Thomas Aquinas (Louvain: FIDEM, 2000), 105121.
134 jennifer hart weed

than even the political and ecclesiastical authorities since it governs all
human interactions. According to natural justice, children belong to their
parents and thus minor children whose parents are unwilling to have
them baptized should not be baptized. Similarly, human beings who have
attained the use of reason and who do not want to be baptized should
not be baptized against their will, which would rule out Benedict of
Yorks baptism.
Elsewhere in his writings, Aquinas argues that justice is violated when
one works against another persons will.19 A forced baptism or a forced
conversion would be unjust because it would violate another persons
will, thus failing to render something that was due to that person, i.e.,
the ability to act in accordance with his or her own will.20 Furthermore,
Aquinas thinks that the commission of an injustice against another person
is a mortal sin.21 Consequently, one should avoid the practices of forced
baptisms and forced conversions, for fear of committing a grave injustice
and a mortal sin.

The Human Will: Coercion and Fear

Despite Aquinass insistence that a prospective convert be seeking con

version as an act of his or her own will, it is not immediately clear what
he means by this requirement. In other writings, Aquinas discusses the
nature of the human will in some detail, contrasting cases in which the
will operates freely with cases in which it does not. In incidents involving
violence, fear, or coercion, Aquinas argues that the human will does not
operate freely:
On the part of the agent, a thing must be, when someone is forced by some
agent, so that he is not able to do the contrary. This is called necessity of
coercion. Now this necessity of coercion is altogether repugnant to the will.
For we call that violent which is against the inclination of a thing. But the
very movement of the will is an inclination to something. Therefore, as a
thing is called natural because it is according to the inclination of nature,
so a thing is called voluntary because it is according to the inclination of
the will. Therefore, just as it is impossible for a thing to be at the same time

19Summa theologiae, IIaIIae. 61. 3.

20Boguslawski takes a similar view. See Boguslawski, 4244.
21Summa theologiae, IIaIIae. 94. 4.
aquinas on the forced conversion of jews 135

violent and natural, so it is impossible for a thing to be absolutely coerced

or violent, and voluntary.22
In the case of coercion, then, someone forces another person to do some
thing against his or her own inclination.23 Consequently, whatever the
coerced person does under the necessity of coercion is done involuntarily.
As Aquinas explains, an essential part of a voluntary action is that the
action be performed in accordance with the inclination of the will of the
agent. A forced conversion, then, looks like a case of coercion, in which a
Jewish person is forced by some external agent to convert to Christianity,
against his or her own inclination. Thus, such a forced conversion would
be involuntary and it would violate natural justice, since the conversion
occurred against the nature of the will of the convert. This is at least one
reason why Aquinas believes that forced conversions are illegitimate;
the prospective convert must be left free to believe or not and in no way
should an unbeliever be compelled to the faith.
Aquinas also discusses cases in which an agent is moved to act because
of fear. Those actions are done involuntarily because fear, also, is repug
nant to the will.24 So a conversion that is brought about under the threat
of punishment or death would also be an involuntary conversion. In fact,
the case of Benedict of York, who despaired of his life, appears to be a case
in which conversion is brought about because of fear.
As a further clarification, Aquinas contrasts exterior principles that
work with the concurrence of an agents will or without the concurrence
of an agents will:
For an act to be violent it is not enough that its principle be extrinsic, but we
must add, without the concurrence of him that suffers violence. This does
not happen when the will is moved by an exterior principle: for it is the will

22Ex agente autem hoc alicui convenit, sicut cum aliquis cogitur ab aliquo agente, ita
quod non possit contrarium agere. Et haec vocatur necessitas coactionis. Haec igitur coac
tionis necessitas omnino repugnat voluntati. Nam hoc dicimus esse violentum, quod est
contra inclinationem rei. Ipse autem motus voluntatis est inclinatio quaedam in aliquid.
Et ideo sicut dicitur aliquid naturale quia est secundum inclinationem naturale, ita dicitur
aliquid voluntarium quia est secundum inclinationem voluntatis. Sicut ergo impossibile
est quod aliquid simil sit violentum et naturale; ita impossibile est quod aliquid simpliciter
sit coactum sive violentem, et voluntarium. Ibid., Ia. 82. 1.
23Aquinas does not believe that infant baptism is coercive provided that the will of the
parents intends the baptism. See Summa theologiae IIIa. 68. 9. ad 13.
24Summa theologiae, IaIIae. 6. 6.
136 jennifer hart weed

that wills, though moved by another. But this movement would be violent,
if it were counter to the movement of the will.25
And again, Aquinas writes:
It is essential to the voluntary act that its principle be within the agent: but
it is not necessary that this inward principle be the first principle unmoved
by another. Wherefore though the voluntary act has an inward proximate
principle, nevertheless, its first principle is from without. Thus, too, the
first principle of the natural movement is from without, that, to wit, which
moves nature.26
Therefore, an agent could be moved to act by an external principle as the
first principle of movement, and the agent could act voluntarily, provided
that the agents will concurred with the external principle. Even though
a course of action might be suggested by someone or something else, in
order for the action to be voluntary the decision to act must be up to the
agent in consonance with his or her own inclination. If the agents will
did not concur with the external principle, then the act produced would
not be voluntary.
As an illustration, consider a story in which the aforementioned Pablo
Christiani preaches a sermon to an assembly of people that includes both
Christians and Jews. And let us suppose further that a Jewish woman
named Sarah approaches Christiani after the sermon seeking to convert
to Christianity. In order for this conversion to be voluntary, it must be
Sarahs decision to convert to Christianity because she desires to do so
and not because she wishes to curry favor with someone else or to avoid
punishment or censure. Moreover, if she were forced to attend, this could
amount to an implicit coercion to convert. It is true that being forced to
listen to a sermon is not the same thing as being forced to convert; the
listener might retain the freedom to reject the sermon and its ideas and
to refrain from converting. However, if the forced attendance is coupled
with a fear of what might happen if one refrains from converting, then a

25Hoc non sufficit ad rationem violenti, quod principium sit extra, sed oportet addere
quod nil conferat vim patiens. Quod non contingit, dum voluntas ab exteriori movetur,
nam ipsa est quae vult, ab alio tamen mota. Esset autem motus iste violentus, si esset
contrarius motui voluntatis. Ibid., IaIIae. 9. 4. ad 2.
26De ratione voluntarii est quod principium eius sit intra, sed non oportet quod hoc
principium intrinsecum sit primum principium non motum ab alio. Unde motus volunta
rius etsi habeat principium proximum intrinsecum, tamen principium est ab extra. Sicut
et primum principium motus naturalis est ab extra, quod scilicet movet naturam. Ibid.,
IaIIae. 9. 4. ad 1. See also Aquinass Super Epistolam B. Pauli ad Romanos lectura. cap. 9,
l. 3, 777 ff.
aquinas on the forced conversion of jews 137

subsequent conversion would not be voluntary.27 In judging whether or

not a conversion was voluntary, Aquinas would want to know if the deci
sion to convert was really made by the prospective convert, or whether
that decision had been made by other individuals who were substituting
their judgment for the judgment of the convert.28
Even though one might think of Pablo Christianis sermon as being an
external first principle of the move towards conversion, the conversion
would be voluntary only if Sarahs will concurred with the call to con
version. So it might be the case that Sarah would never have considered
conversion apart from Christianis sermon, and that the sermon was the
first principle of the movement of Sarahs will toward conversion, but if
her will concurs with the call to conversion, (absent the conditions of
fear and coercion mentioned previously), then according to Aquinas, her
conversion would be voluntary. This story illustrates what Aquinas writes
elsewhere about the dual pre-requisites for faith:
Two things are requisite for faith. First, that the things which are of faith
should be proposed to man: this is necessary in order that man believe
anything explicitly. The second thing requisite for faith is the assent of
the believer to the things which are proposed to him [...] faith, as regards
the assent which is the chief act of faith, is from God moving inwardly
by grace).29
Aquinas would not be opposed to missionary work, provided that the mis
sionary and those sending him understood that the hearers of his sermons
must be left free to believe or not, absent threats or even positive induce
ments. In fact, Aquinas emphasizes the fact that not all hearers of the
Gospel believe the Gospel since the words of a preacher are insufficient
to cause faith absent the inner working of grace.30 Although Aquinas does
not mention forced sermonizing specifically, it seems to be a reasonable
inference from his views that forced sermonizing could be coercive in

27On the varieties of interpretation of forced sermonizing, see Chazan 1989, 39 ff.
28Summa theologiae, Ia. 82. 1.
29Ad fidem duo requiruntur. Quorum unum est ut homini credibilia proponantur,
quod requiritur ad hoc quod homo aliquid explicite credat. Aliud autem quod ad fidem
requiritur est assensus credentis ad ea quae proponuntur [....] fides quantum ad assen
sum, qui est principalis actus fidei, est a Deo interius movente per gratiam. Ibid., IIaIIae.
6. 1. See also ad Romanos lectura. cap. 10, l. 2, 830831.
30Ad Romanos lectura. cap. 10, l. 2, 842.
138 jennifer hart weed

some cases if the will of the prospective convert did not concur with the
call to conversion and the rites of conversion proceeded anyway.31

The Problem of Grace

Traditionally, Christianity has held that salvation is brought about

through the grace of God and that human beings cannot save themselves.
St. Augustine, for example, writes extensively on this topic, opposing the
heretical teaching of Pelagius, who argued that humans could in some
way contribute to their own salvation.32 Aquinas claims to agree with
Augustine, writing, To believe does indeed depend on the will of the
believer: but mans will needs to be prepared by God with grace, in order
that he may be raised to those things which are above his nature.33
In distancing himself from the Pelagians, however, it appears that
Aquinas has created a larger problem for himself. In rejecting Pelagianism
and identifying Gods grace as bringing about salvation, Aquinas has
undone what he said about belief being a matter of the will, and con
sequently, he has undone his argument against forced conversions and
forced baptisms. Perhaps it is the case that all conversions to Christianity
are forced conversions in which God does the coercing. This objection did
not escape Aquinass consideration. In response, he argues that God does
not act coercively with respect to salvation:
Mans preparation for grace is from God, as Mover, and from the free-will,
as moved. Hence the preparation may be looked at in two ways: first, as it
is from free-will, and thus there is no necessity that it should obtain grace,
since the gift of grace exceeds every preparation of human power. But it
may be considered, secondly, as it is from God the Mover, and thus it has
a necessitynot indeed of coercion, but of infallibilityas regards what is
ordained to by God, since Gods intention cannot fail.34

31I have not found a passage in which Aquinas mentions explicitly the practice of
forced sermonizing.
32See, for example, St. Augustines On the Proceedings of Pelagius.
33Credere quidem in voluntate credentium consistit, sed oportet quod voluntas homi
nis praeparetur a Deo per gratiam ad hoc quod elevetur in ea quae sunt supra naturam.
Summa theologiae, IIaIIae. 6. 1. ad 3. Aquinas also distinguishes himself from the Pelagians
in ad Romanos lectura cap. 3, l. 3, 302.
34Praeparatio ad hominis gratiam est a Deo sicut a movente, a libero autem arbitrio
sicut a moto. Potest igitur praeparatio dupliciter considerari. Uno quidem modo, secundum
quod est a libero arbitrio. Et secundum hoc, nullam necessitatem habet ad gratiae conse
cutionem, quia donum gratiae excedit omnem praeparationem virtutis humanae. Alio
modo potest considerari secundum quod est a Deo movente. Et tunc habet necessitatem
aquinas on the forced conversion of jews 139

Thus, God provides grace to an agent who has use of her free will and who
moves her own free will; he does not use the necessity of coercion inasmuch
as the convert must consent to Gods grace by a movement of her will:
God does not justify us without ourselves, because whilst we are being
justified we consent to Gods justification by a movement of our free-will.
Nevertheless, this movement is not the cause of grace, but the effect; hence
the whole operation pertains to grace.35
Even though salvation is brought about by grace, it nevertheless involves
some movement of the free will of the convert. God would not do violence
to the will of a prospective convert:
God moves everything in its own manner [....] Hence he moves man to jus
tice according to the condition of his human nature. But it is mans proper
nature to have free-will. Hence in him who has the use of reason Gods motion
to justice does not take place without a movement of the free-will. But He so
infuses the gift of justifying grace that at the same time He moves the free-will
to accept the gift of grace, in such as are capable of being moved thus.36
Aquinas affirms that God moves human beings according to their proper
nature, which is that of an agent with a free will, and that Gods motion
to justify a human being in salvation does not take place without a move
ment of that free will. How this is to be brought about without lapsing
into either Pelagianism on the one hand or determinism on the other is a
contentious issue, although there have been recent attempts to show that
Aquinas avoids both problems.37 Without resolving this question here, it
will be sufficient for my purposes to note that Aquinas believes both that
God does not give grace to those who are not capable of being moved to
accept it, and that it is up to individual humans to decide if they will allow
themselves to be moved to accept it or not.38 Thus, God gives grace as a

ad id ad quod ordinatur a Deo, non quidem coactionis, sed infallibilitas, quia intentio Dei
deficere non potest. Ibid., IaIIae. 112. 3.
35Deus non sine nobis nos iustificat, quia per motum liberi arbitrii, dum iustificamur,
Dei iustitiae consentimus. Ille tamen motus non est causa gratiae, sed effectus. Unde tota
operatio pertinet ad gratiam. Ibid., IaIIae. 111. 2. ad 2.
36Deus autem movet omnia secundum modum uniuscuiusque [....] Unde et homines
ad iustitiam movet secundum conditionem naturae humanae. Homo autem secundum
propriam naturam habet quod sit liberi arbitrii. Et ideo in eo qui habet usum liberi arbi
trii, non fit motio a Deo ad iustitiam absque motu liberi arbitrii; sed ita infundit donum
gratiae iustificantis, quod etiam simul cum hoc movet liberum arbitrium ad donum gratiae
acceptandum, in his qui sunt huius motionis capaces. Ibid., IaIIae. 113. 3.
37For an interesting discussion of this problem, see Eleonore Stump, Aquinas (London:
Routledge Publishers, 2003), 361384.
38This line of interpretation is explored by Stump, 2003.
140 jennifer hart weed

gift to those who are not actively resisting him, i.e., to those who allow
themselves to be moved to accept his gift, and therefore, his gift of grace
is not coercive.
If it is the case that not even God forces a person to convert, which
seems to be the position that Aquinas is defending, then how could a
Christian expect forced conversions to be authentic? No one can bring
about a conversion except God because only God can give the necessary
grace to the prospective convert. Even God exercises justice such that
Quando dat unicuique quod ei debetur secundum rationem suae natu
rae et conditionisHe gives each thing what is due to it by its nature
and condition.39 In the case of a human being, justice requires that the
free will is not violated, especially with respect to conversion. Therefore,
it is a reasonable inference from Aquinass view that a forced conversion
will not be efficacious in the absence of a movement of the free will of the
agent; conversion requires grace and God will not give salvific grace with
out a movement of the free will. God will not coerce a person to salvation,
no matter what his followers say or do. Indeed, this claim is compatible
with the teaching of the Decretum, which states explicitly that the unwill
ing are not saved.40

Sacramental Magic?

Notwithstanding the strength of the inferences from Aquinass claims,

it is still the case that Aquinas believes in the efficacy of the sacra
ments, especially that of baptism. And so even if his account of salva
tion requires a movement of the will in the convert, such a movement
would be irrelevant given the efficacy of the sacraments in transmitting
grace to their recipients. A Jew could be baptized and confirmed forc
ibly, as Innocent III observed, and thus be converted. It would appear that
Aquinass understanding of the sacraments undermines his repudiation of
forced conversions.
There is an adage that states, Being in a cookie jar doesnt make you
a cookie. While this adage is not medieval, it is helpful in understanding
Aquinass view of the sacraments. Aquinas believes that the sacraments
are vehicles of grace and that they are efficacious, but it is not the case
that Aquinas believes that the sacraments bring about their effects like

39Summa theologiae, Ia. 21. 1. ad 3.

40See footnote 14 above.
aquinas on the forced conversion of jews 141

a magical cookie jar. He states, Ex parte baptizati requiritur voluntas,

sive intentio, suscipiendi sacramentumOn the part of the one bap
tized, it is necessary for him to have the will or intention of receiving the
sacrament.41 So the justification received in baptism can only be brought
about in willing recipients.42 Unlike those who believed that a baptism of
a silent but unwilling person was sufficient to convert the individual to
Christianity, Aquinas argues that unwilling recipients of baptism do not
receive salvation:
Just as the sacrament of Baptism is not to be conferred on a man who is
unwilling to give up his other sins, so neither should it be given to one who
is unwilling to renounce his unbelief. Yet each receives the sacrament if it
be conferred on him, though not unto salvation.43
Moreover, Aquinas argues that it is better to defer the baptism of adult
converts in order that they might be both instructed in the faith and
tested as regards to their intention:
Baptism should not be conferred on adults as soon as they are converted,
but it should be deferred until some fixed time. First, as a safeguard to the
Church, lest she be deceived through baptizing those who come to her
under false pretences [....] And those who approach Baptism are put to this
test, when their faith and morals are subjected to proof for a space of time.
Secondly, this is needful as being useful for those who are baptized; for they
require a certain space of time in order to be fully instructed in the faith.44
It is also noteworthy that Aquinas describes the deferral of the baptism
of one who has been converted, which undermines the assumption that
baptism is always and only contemporaneous with conversion. Returning
to the predicament of Benedict of York, Aquinas would have rejected the
call for an immediate baptism of Benedict and the assumption that such
a baptism would have been sufficient to bring Benedict into Christianity.
Benedict should not have been baptized until he had been thoroughly

41Summa theologiae, IIIa. 68. 7.

42Ibid., ad 1.
43Sicut sacramentum Baptismi non est conferendum ei qui non vult ab aliis peccatis
recedere, ita nec etiam ei qui non vult infidelitatem desere. Uterque tamen suscipit sacra
mentum si ei conferatur, licet non ad Salute. Ibid., IIIa. 68. 8. ad 4.
44Et ideo adultis non statim cum convertuntur, est sacra mentum Baptismi conferen
dum, sed oportet differre usque ad aliquod certum tempus. Primo quidem, propter caute
lam Ecclesiae, ne decipiatur, ficte accedentibus conferens [....] Quae quidem probation
sumitur de accedentibus ad Baptismum, quando per aliquod spatium eorem fides et mores
examinantur. Secundo, hoc est necessarium ad utilitatem eorum qui baptizantur, quia
aliqui temporis spatio indigent ad hoc quod plene instruantur de fide. Ibid., IIIa. 68. 3.
142 jennifer hart weed

instructed in the tenets of Christianity and his faith had been tested,
which likely would have relieved him of the pressure he was under from
the baptism-hungry mob.
Aquinass understanding of the sacraments presupposes his views on
grace and salvation; the sacraments cannot bring about something with
out Gods involvement:
But the instrumental cause works not by the power of its form, but only by
the motion whereby it is moved by the principal agent: so that the effect is
not likened to the instrument but to the principal agent: for instance, the
couch is not like the axe, but like the art which is in the craftsmans mind.
And it is thus that the sacraments of the New Law cause grace: for they are
instituted by God to be employed for the purpose of conferring grace.45
Aquinas argues that human beings are saved through faith in Christ, while
the sacraments are signs protestantia fidem qua homo iustificaturin
protestation of the faith whereby man is justified.46 Consequently, the
grace that is found in the sacraments comes from God for a specific pur
pose, presupposing the existence of faith in the adult convert, or in the
willing parents of the child who is being baptized. The sacraments are
supposed to be offered in the community of faith, and not in isolation, as
a way of becoming united with Christ.47 It would not make sense to think
of using the sacraments as a way of bringing about a conversion under
duress, for the sacraments are only sacraments insofar as God causes the
grace that is in them.48 If the sacraments can be used to exact a forced
conversion, then God would be acting coercively in that case, for it is
his grace that is operative in the sacrament. This is precisely the kind of
divine coercion that Aquinas is at pains to rule out:
God does not justify us without ourselves, because whilst we are being
justified we consent to Gods justification by a movement of our free-will.
Nevertheless, this movement is not the cause of grace, but the effect; hence
the whole operation pertains to grace.49

45Causa vero instrumentalis non agit per virtutem suae formae, sed solum per motum
quo movetur a principali agente. Unde effectus non assimilatur instrumento, sed princi
pali agente, sicut lectus non assimilatur securi, sed arti quae est in mente artificis. Et hoc
modo sacramenta novae legis gratiam causant, adhibentur enim ex divina ordinatione ad
gratiam in eis causandam. Summa theologiae, III. 62. 1.
46Ibid., III. 61. 4.
47Liam G. Walsh, O.P., Sacraments, in The Theology of Thomas Aquinas, ed. by Rik van
Nieuwenhove and others (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2005), 332.
48Summa theologiae, III. 62. 1.
49Deus non sine nobis nos iustificat, quia per motum liberi arbitrii, dum iustificamur,
Dei iustitiae consentimus. Ille tamen motus non est causa gratiae, sed effectus. Unde tota
operatio pertinet ad gratiam. Ibid., IaIIae. 111. 2. ad 2.
aquinas on the forced conversion of jews 143

Even through the use of sacraments, God does not coerce a conversion
and without his gift of grace, conversion cannot be brought about. In
fact, the idea of a forced conversion would be incoherent from Aquinass
perspective, since conversion presupposes the freedom of the will of the
prospective convert. Aquinas states explicitly that it is the person who
subjects himself (subiiciunt) to Christs sacraments who obtains grace.50
Once again, it is the will of the convert experiencing the sacrament that
is at issue here.51 A coerced baptism is not a case in which the convert
submits himself; it is the person doing the coercing who is substituting
his or her will for the will of the convert.
Aquinass previous discussion of forced baptisms shows that he does
not think that there is something magical about the sacraments. A per
son who undergoes baptism unwillingly does not magically become a
Christian, accepting the Christian faith and entering into the Christian
community. Forced baptisms violate natural justice. Thus, a forced partic
ipation in the sacraments would not bring about the desired effect, which
is the conversion of an unbeliever. Just because Benedict was baptized, it
does not make him a Christian.

The Inuiti: a Willing Omission?

As I have explained it thus far, it looks as if Aquinass repudiation of forced

conversion is both clear and reasonable and that it is in stark contrast to
the views of some of his Christian contemporaries. But perhaps this pic
ture is too optimistic. Recall that the Decretum states that Jews are not to
be forced into the faith, although even if they accept it unwillingly, they
must be forced to retain it. Whence in the Fourth Toledan Council it was
enacted: Just as Jews are not to be forced into the faith, so too, once con
verted, they are not permitted to leave it.52 Thus, even though prospec
tive converts are to be left free to believe, those who have been forced to
convert are not allowed to return to Judaism. And it looks as if Aquinas
agrees with this view, because he cites the Decretum, stating, Iudaei, si

50ad Romanos lectura. cap. 6, l. 3, 498.

51In the case of a child being brought forward for baptism by Christian parents, it
would be the parents who are substituting their wills for the will of the child and so sub
mitting to the sacrament. As mentioned previously, Aquinas does not think that this is a
case of forced baptism.
52Iudei non sunt cogendi ad fidem, quam tamen si inuiti susceperint, cogendi sunt
retinere. Unde in Tolletano Concilio IV. [c. 56] statutem est: Sicut non sunt Iudei ad fidem
cogendi, ita nec conuersis ab ea recedere permittitur. See footnote 2 above. The emphasis
is mine.
144 jennifer hart weed

nullo modo susceperent fidem, non sunt cogendi ad fidem. Si autem sus
ceperunt fidem, oportet ut fidem necessitate cogantur retinereJews
who have in no way received the faith, ought not by no means to be com
pelled to the faith; if, however, they have received it, they ought to be
compelled to keep it.53
In my view one must not be too hasty to conclude that Aquinas
accepts the canon in its original form for at least four reasons. First,
Aquinass account of licit conversions requires both a movement of the
free will of the convert and the work of salvific grace in the convert.
Since God does not coerce conversion, his work of salvific grace would
be absent in a forced conversion. Forced conversions are not efficacious,
since they lack the grace necessary to effect a conversion. Thus, it would
be impossible for a forced convert to become a Christian in any amount
or to any degree, and so he or she would not meet the condition that
must be met in order to justify compelling him or her to continue being
a Christian.
Second, the same canon that states that unwilling converts should
keep to their conversion also states that the unwilling are not saved.
Therefore, the canon teaches both that the unwilling do not receive the
faith and that the unwilling should retain the faith, which implies that
the unwilling receive the faith. It is an obvious contradiction to claim
both that the unwilling receive the faith, (i.e., become a Christian), and
that they do not receive the faith. Given Aquinass philosophical acumen,
it is unlikely that such a contradiction would have escaped his notice.
Since it is clear that he believes that the unwilling do not receive the
faith, it is unlikely that he would have also believed that the unwilling
should retain the faith.
Third, Aquinass identification of forced baptisms as acts of injustice
commits him to the view that such practices are sinful, since he thinks
that the commission of an injustice against another person is a mor
tal sin.54 Moreover, Aquinas argues that the human will cannot make
an unjust action just solely by decreeing that action to be lawful.55 He
argues that human beings are not required to obey unjust laws but that
they should obey God instead.56 Consequently, even the Decretum cannot
make a forced baptism or a forced conversion lawful or just when such

53Summa theologiae, IIaIIae. 10. 8. ad 2.

54Ibid., IIaIIae. 94. 4.
55Ibid., IIaIIae. 57. 2. ad 2.
56Ibid., IaIIae. 96. 4.
aquinas on the forced conversion of jews 145

practices clearly violate natural justice, and thus an individual would be

justified in failing to obey the canon that states that unwilling converts
should be forced to maintain their conversion.
Fourth, Aquinass citation of the canon leaves out the crucial term inuiti
(unwilling). Indeed, I was unable to find this term in any of Aquinass
discussions of licit conversions, although it is used in his condemnation
of the practice of baptizing the children of unwilling Jewish parents.57 In
contrast, Aquinas makes reference to licit (lawful) conversions as involv
ing Jewish converts who are of sound mind and have the use of their
own free will.58 So although it is possible that Aquinass omission of inuiti
was unintentional, his omission of this term in any of his discussions of
licit conversions is striking, especially when viewed alongside his lengthy
descriptions of salvation through grace. Aquinas does not state that an
unwilling convert should keep to her conversion, but only that those who
have received the faith should keep to their conversion.
For these reasons, it is reasonable to conclude that Aquinas does not
believe that forced converts should be compelled to keep to their conver
sion, since he would view forced conversions as something other than an
actual conversion. A forced convert cannot be expected to retain the faith
he or she does not have and so when Aquinas writes that Jews who have
received the faith must be compelled to keep the faith he is referring to
those Jews who have undergone an actual conversion.59 Returning to the
predicament of Benedict of York, Aquinas would argue that Benedict was
not left free to believe while he was being maltreated and wounded and
thus any decision to receive baptism that Benedict made was tainted by
coercion. Benedict did not submit himself to the sacrament; his submis
sion was exacted by those coercing him. Consequently, Benedict should
not be prevented from returning to Judaism. In fact, one might add that
Benedict never left Judaism in the first place, since an actual conversion
never took place.

57See footnote 14 above.

58St. Thomas Aquinas, Contra doctrinam retrahentium a religione, c. 13.
59Of course, the compulsion of licit converts to keep to their conversion is also prob
lematic. For a further treatment of this problem, see Aquinass distinction between Jews
and apostates in ST IIaIIae. 10 and IIaIIae. 11. In my view, his views on the treatment of
apostates do not lessen the praiseworthiness of his repudiation of forced conversions.
146 jennifer hart weed


Aquinass repudiation of forced conversions is fascinating not only

because of its historical context in troubled France, but also because of
its presumed effect, (i.e., the freedom to believe and not to believe, the
toleration of unbelievers by political and ecclesiastical authorities, etc.).60
The brevity with which Aquinas addresses forced conversions and forced
baptisms, and the speed with which he moves on to other topics, perhaps
shows us that he believed that the arguments against forced conversions
were clear and conclusive. However, given the historical context in which
Aquinas found himself, it also seems clear that his views were not taken
to be conclusive by his contemporaries.
If Aquinass account of licit conversions is correct, then it is clear that
the individual or institution that forces conversions adds nothing to their
numbers. Even worse, the individual who forces conversions is commit
ting a mortal sin and operating out of a false theological view of salvation.
For since God does not coerce salvation, if the prospective convert does
not consent to his or her own conversion through a movement of will,
then true or actual conversion will not be brought about. God does not
coerce, even if his proponents sometimes do.
Aquinass repudiation shows us that forced conversions are not only
morally reprehensible, they are theologically misguided. In a histori
cal context in which forced sermonizing was institutionalized in order
to increase the numbers of Christians and perhaps, to further the truth,
Aquinass repudiation provides a cautionary note: one must be careful of
the truth with which one is entrusted, lest it turn into falsity.61

60Far from being a supersessionist, Aquinas maintained that the Jews had a continu
ous and important role to play in theological history. For a sustained treatment of this
point, see Boguslawski.
61This paper was completed while I was a Visiting Fellow in the Institute for Medieval
Studies at the University of Leeds, at the invitation of Director Richard Morris. I would
like to thank the Institute, its faculty, staff and students for their generous hospital
ity during my visit. In particular, Eva Frojmovic made many helpful suggestions about
historical sources on the vexed relationship between Jews and Christians in the twelfth
and thirteenth centuries. I would also like to thank the participants in my session at the
International Medieval Congress in July, 2007 and at the Medieval Conference at Durham
University in July, 2007 for their comments on an earlier version of this paper. Finally, I
would like to thank Eleonore Stump, Sverre Barge, Ronald Weed, John McKinnell, and
Gorge Hasselhoff for generously discussing the theological and philosophical implica
tions of forced conversions with me.
Dante and the Jews

Jay Ruud

The first reaction of many to the title Dante and the Jews may well be
an incredulous Who and the what? For truth be told, the fact is there
simply are no post-biblical Jews in Dante. There are, to be sure, a fairly
good number of Old Testament Jews, like Abraham and Sarah, Rachel
and Joshuaenough, in fact, to fill half of the seating capacity of the
Mystic Rose in the Empyrean Heaven (Paradiso 32. 2224). In addition,
there are a few New Testament Jews as well, but, with the exception of
those who became Christians, these are only those absolutely necessary
to tell the Christian storyCaiaphas and Judas in hell, John the Baptist in
heaven. Beyond this, not a single individual post-biblical Jew appears in
the Comedy. This is no doubt the reason why, in nearly seven centuries of
commentary and scholarship dealing with the Divine Comedy, there had
been no assessments of Dantes attitude toward Jews, or his treatment of
Jews in his works.
Quite recently, however, some critics have suggested that there may in
fact be profound significance in Dantes silence regarding the Jews. Sylvia
Tomasch in 1998 and Catherine S. Cox in 2005 (apparently unaware of
Tomaschs previous article) have both considered the implications of the
absence of Jewish figures in Dante, and both have regarded this absence
in a highly negative light, interpreting a number of other aspects of the
Comedy as oblique and disapproving references to Jews.1 While their
arguments are intricate and carefully constructed, they seem to me to be
ultimately contrived and I find them unconvincing. I intend to deal with
these two arguments at more length below, but I think a better place to
begin this study is with a summary of what Dante does have to say about
Jews, both biblical and post-biblical.
Dante, like most medieval Christians, distinguishes very clearly between
Old Testament Jews and Jews born after the birth of Jesus. Old Testament

1See Catherine S. Cox, The Judaic Other in Dante, the Gawain Poet, and Chaucer
(Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2005) and Sylvia Tomasch, Judecca, Dantes
Satan, and the Dis-placed Jew, in Text and Territory: Geographical Imagination in the
European Middle Ages, ed. by Sylvia Tomasch and Sealy Gilles (Philadelphia: University of
Pennsylvania Press, 1998), 24766.
148 jay ruud

Jews are for him the root and heirs of the promised salvation through
Christ. Thus in purgatory he uses the story of Mordecai and Haman as an
exemplum of the evils of wrath (Purgatorio 17. 2530) and that of Daniel
as an exemplum of the virtue of temperance (Purgatorio 22. 146). He
includes Joshua and Judas Maccabeus among the great warriors of God in
the Paradiso (18. 3740), and names David and Hezekiah among the just
rulers in the brow of the eagle in Paradiso 20. 3751. In the Empyrean
heaven, as mentioned above, the Jews of the Old Testament make up
half of the Mystic Rosethe collection of Gods saved. And their half is
complete. While this may suggest that no more Jews are to be saved, it is
important to remember that the Old Testament half of the Rose is com-
posed of those who believed in the Christ to come. This does not preclude
Jews making up part of the other half, but they would need to believe in
the Christ who has come.
Dante is also quite orthodox in using Old Testament Jews typologi-
cally, again following conventional medieval interpretation. In Purgatorio
33. 13, where seven nymphs mourn the loss of the chariot representing
the destruction of the Church by Frances King Philip IV, they mourn by
chanting the words of Psalm 79, Deus venerunt gentes (O God, the nations
have come), which is a lament for the Babylonian destruction of the
Temple in Jerusalema conventional allegorical figure. Later, in Paradiso
23. 133135, Dante praises the souls who have found rest in paradise after
shunning the treasures of Babylon, suggesting through conventional alle-
gorical associations that the soul in this world is like the Old Testament
exiles in Babylon awaiting their return to their true home.
The Jews of the New Testament and later, however, do not fare so well
in Dantes text. Like most of his contemporaries, he blames Jesuss death
on the Jews: cha Dio e a Giudei piacque una morte (God and the Jews
[were] both pleased by this one death)i.e., the death of Jesus, Dante
has Justinian say in Paradiso 7. 47.2 Caiaphas and Annas, who argued that
Jesus must die for the sake of the Jewish nation, are the chief sinners of
Inferno 23 (ll. 115123), the circle of the hypocrites. And the Jews who mar-
tyred Saint Stephen are presented as an evil example contrasting with the
saints meekness in Purgatorio 15. 106115. Most importantly, both Statius
in purgatory (21. 8284) and Justinian in paradise (6. 9193) consider the

2Citations of Dante in my text are to Charles S. Singleton, trans., the Divine Comedy,
3 vols., Bolingen Series 80 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1975). The translations
are from Mark Musa, ed. and trans. The Portable Dante (New York: Penguin, 1995).
dante and the jews 149

destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 C.E. as Gods just punish-

ment of the Jewsthrough his chosen instrument, Romefor their cru-
cifixion of Jesus.
Significantly, unlike some of his contemporaries, Dante never speaks
of punishing contemporary Jews for the sin of their ancestorsthat
punishment seems to have occurred once and for all at the Roman siege
of Jerusalem.3 Indeed, the emaciated gluttons in Purgatorio 23. 2830
remind the pilgrim Dante of the starving Jews at the Roman siege, during
which, according to the historian Josephus, a Jewish woman named Mary
resorted to cannibalizing her own child (in an ironic parody of the Virgin
and of Christ as eucharistic presence).
This last story, though taken from a Jewish historian, is reminiscent of
the blood libel that underscores a number of contemporary Christian
tales of Jews. Of these, however, Dante makes no mention. In fact, his
references to contemporary Jews are virtually non-existent. Certainly
when he speaks of them at all, it is (as with the Muslims) as a religious

3Dantes attitude on this subject seems influenced more by the earlier, more tolerant
views of Paul and Augustine than by those of his older contemporary, Thomas Aquinas.
Paul had asserted that once the Gentiles had been converted, then all Israel will be saved
(Romans 11. 26, NRSV). Augustine believed that Jews were not yet lost, and should live in
Christian communities as embodiments of the literal sense of the Torah: Saint Augustine,
Tractatus adverse Judaeos (In Answer to the Jews), in Treatises on Marriage and Other
Subjects, ed. by Roy J. Deferrari, trans. by Charles T. Wilcox and others (Washington, D.C.:
Catholic University of America Press, 1969), 387414 (407). Saint Anselm asserted that
the Jews killed Jesus out of ignorance: Saint Anselm Cur Deus Homo, in St. Anselm: Basic
Writings, trans. by S.N. Deane, intro. by Charles Hartshorne, 2nd ed. (Chicago and La Salle,
Ill.: Open Court, 1962), 191301 (278). On this basis Abelard exonerated the Jews, claiming
that only evil intention can make an act sinful: Peter Abelard, Ethics, ed. by D.E. Luscombe
(Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1971), 5457. On the other hand, in 1090 Anselm of
Laon claimed that the Jews knowingly committed deicide, a belief that came to domi
nate Christian attitudes by the mid-thirteenth century: see R.I. Moore, Anti-Semitism and
the Birth of Europe, in Christianity and Judaism, ed. by Diana Wood, Studies in Church
History 29 (Oxford: Ecclesiastical History Society, 1992), 3357 (40). Thomas Aquinas
asserted that the Jews merely affected ignorance, and ideo Judi peccaverunt, non solum
tanquam hominis Christi, sed etiam tanquam Dei crucifixore (thus did the Jews sin, in
crucifying Christ not only as man, but also as God): Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologi,
Blackfriars edition, 61 vols. (New York: McGraw Hill; and London: Eyre and Spottiswode,
19641981), 3. 47. 5. Meanwhile Thomas of Monmouth, with his Life of Saint William of
Norwich (ca. 1173), helped popularize the notion of Jews killing Christian children in grue
some parody of the crucifixion. The malice and malevolence of Jews in these latter assess
ments, which became the typical point of view in Christendom, opened them up to the
blood libels and to accusations of associating with demons that abounded in Christian
rhetoric of the later Middle Ages. For a broader history of these developments, see Gavin
I. Langmuir, History, Religion, and Antisemitism (Berkeley: University of California Press,
1990), 28897 and Jeremy Cohen, Living Letters of the Law: Ideas of the Jew in Medieval
Christianity (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999), 339388.
150 jay ruud

and ethnic Other: for example, the Jews and Muslims are groups that
Pope Boniface (the New Pharisee) should be fighting in order to regain
Jerusalem, according to Guido Montefeltro in Inferno 27. 8587. Like
Muslims, Tartars, and pagan poets, the Jews assert that some part of
human beings is immortal, Dante says in Convivio 2. And in his eleventh
Latin epistle, Dante says that the Jews (and Muslims as well) marvel at
Christendom because it has taken so long to select a new pope.
Dante makes specific reference to Jews in one other place in the Comedy:
in Paradiso 5. 7681, Beatrice tells those Christians who may be consid-
ering taking religious vows to use great care in their decision. Avete il
novo e l vecchio Testamento, / e l pastor de la Chiesa che vi guida (You
have the Testaments, the Old and New; as guide you have the Shepherd
and the church), she tells such Christians, and those guides should be
sufficient (ll. 7678). However, she continues, Se mala cupidigia altro vi
grida, / uomini siate, e non pecore matte, / s chel Giudeo di voi tra voi
non rida! (If evil greed incites you otherwise, / be men, not senseless
sheep, lest any Jew / among you point his finger out of scorn (ll. 7981).
Certainly Dante is implying here that Christians have more complete and
better moral guides than Jews, and therefore should act in a morally supe-
rior way. He may also be implying that Jews, famous as moneylenders and
usurers, may often be accused of greed, and could turn such accusations
back on Christians who behave in such a manner.
Catherine Cox focuses part of her argument on these lines, asserting
that Dantes laughing Jew...foregrounds and problematizes issues of
Judeo-Christian contiguity and subjectivity in context.4 It is possible that
Dantes image of the derisive Jew owes something to the controversies
over the Talmud that began a generation before Dantes birth.5 These con-
troversies focused in part on the derisive blasphemies against the Church

4Cox, The Judaic Other, 45.

5Condemnations of the Talmud were based on two objections: first, if the Jews were not
the Jews to whom Paul referred in his letters, then the Augustinian tolerance of their pres
ence in Christendom as reminders of the letter of the Law was no longer valid; secondly, the
Talmud purportedly blasphemed against Christianity, against Jesus and the Virgin Mary,
and thus must be destroyed. For further history, see Langmuir, History, 29596; Cohen,
Living Letters of the Law, 31929 and 36263; and Robert Chazan, Medieval Stereotypes
and Modern Antisemitism (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997), 10209. In the
Italy of Dantes own lifetime, the converted Jew Manuforte of Trani, in cooperation with
the Inquisition, obtained a royal order from Charles I of Naples that allowed Manuforte
in the company of ecclesiastical officials to search Jewish households and confiscate any
copies of the Talmud that they found: see Joshua Starr, The Mass Conversion of Jews in
Southern Italy (12901293), Speculum 21:2 (April 1946), 203211.
dante and the jews 151

reputed to be contained in the Talmud. The Babylonian Talmud had

become an important part of European Judaism by the eleventh century,
though Christians seem to have been ignorant of its existence for the most
part until 1236, when the embittered former Jew Nicholas Donin presented
Pope Gregory IX with a list of 35 allegations against the Talmud, citing
specific anti-Christian passages.6 Pope Gregory ordered that copies of the
Talmud be confiscated during Lent in 1240, and ecclesiastical authorities
found versions of the Talmud that, as they understood it, treated Jesus
and his mother with derision and scorn, calling Mary a harlot and Jesus
a bastard born of adultery. French King Louis IX responded to these find-
ings by publicly burning copies of the Talmud in Paris in 1242.7
Burnings of the Talmud continued through the Middle Agesin
France again in 1258 and on a number of occasions in the fourteenth
century. One of the motives for these burnings was Christians convic-
tion that the Talmud constituted a Jewish heresy. For medieval Christians,
the true Jewish faith was that represented in the New Testament. Any
deviation from that first-century Judaism was heretical, a turning from the
true interpretation of the Old Testament as a prefiguring of the New. The
Talmud was evidence of such a deviation. But as Jeremy Cohen points out,
in later medieval burnings popes and inquisitors alike focused primarily
on blasphemies, errors, curses, and liesthat is, the authorities main
concern was the sardonic Jewish laughter at the expense of Christianity.8
Dante must certainly have been aware of these controversies, and
resented the laughter of the Jew as depicted in these lines. This does not,
however, constitute a wholesale damnation of all Jews. Coxs other evi-
dence, the main tenets of her argument, seems more tenuous.
Cox says herself, remarking on the absence of Jews in the Comedy, that
[a]ttempting to determine the significance of any such absence necessar-
ily entails a measure of speculation, and goes on to speculate that Jews
are figuratively and antithetically present in Dantes text.9 Much of her
argument focuses on the figure of Medusa in Inferno 9, whose carnal pet-
rifaction of those that see her Cox relates to the spiritual blindness and
literalism that medieval Christians believed characteristic of Judaism.10
She also reads Judecca as Dantes eternal resting place for the Jews. The

6Langmuir, History, 29596.

7Cohen, Living Letters of the Law, 31920.
8Cohen, Living Letters of the Law, 330.
9Cox, The Judaic Other, 3536.
10Cox, The Judaic Other, 43.
152 jay ruud

frozen centre of his hell, named for Judas Iscariot, the chief representa-
tive of New Testament Jews, and the silent inhabitants of this deepest
circle areappropriately for the Jewsfrozen in the ice as in life they
were effectively entrapped by their own blindness and rigidity, as their
unwillingness to accept Christian Truth.11
It is impossible to do justice to Coxs complex argument in such a brief
space, but as I have indicated, her speculations seem based chiefly on a
somewhat subjective reading of certain images in the Comedy (Medusa,
the frozen bodies of Judecca), rather than any direct evidence of Dantean
attitudes toward Judaism. The same may be said for Tomaschs study.
Like Cox, Tomasch spends much of her time focused on Judecca. While
acknowledging that the circle is named for Judas, Tomasch points out
that Judecca was also the medieval Italian name for the Jewish ghetto.12
While that is certainly the case, it may be anachronistic to assume that
Dante had such a meaning in mind, for as Tomasch says, Dante here sets
into play an imaginative program of segregation before that program was
actualized in public policy.13 Rather than assume Dantes uncanny pre-
science, we might simply see the name of this circle as coincidentally the
same as the name for the ghetto.
Tomasch considers the absence of Jews in Dantes work evidence of
the poets repression of Jewish referentiality, and argues that the figure
of Satan, imprisoned as he is in the Jewish Judecca, is a reflection of
Dantes incompletely repressed vision of the Jew.14 In particular, Tomasch
asserts that Satans eternal mastication of Judas, Cassius, and Brutus, the
devouring of his own children, is an infernal reversal of the Jewish seder.
Tomasch notes that Satans feast has traditionally been seen as a parody
of the eucharist, but goes further by asserting that, since Dantes journey
allegorically recalls the Israelites exodus, then the meal is also a parody of
the seder, as the seder prefigures the eucharist. The satanic meal evokes
the literalism of the contemporary Jewstheir inability to see the spiritual
message behind the literal word of the Law, a failing commonly attributed
to Jews by medieval Christians.15
One may well ask why Satan must necessarily represent the Jews. It is
true that Dantes older contemporary, the Dominican Raymond Martin

11Cox, The Judaic Other, 44.

12Tomasch, Judecca, Dantes Satan, and the Dis-placed Jew, 248.
13Tomasch, Judecca, Dantes Satan, and the Dis-placed Jew, 252.
14Tomasch, Judecca, Dantes Satan, and the Dis-placed Jew, 248.
15Tomasch, Judecca, Dantes Satan, and the Dis-placed Jew, 259.
dante and the jews 153

(author of the infamous Pugio fidei) had suggested a close relationship

between Jews and the devil, asking in his Capistrum Iudaeorum, what do
you think the devil can accomplish through the Jews, who are so numer-
ous, almost all educated and most adept at trickery, so well endowed from
the good life and the usuries allowed them by Christians?16 But nowhere
does Dante make any direct statement implying that he may agree with
such an assessment. Certainly Satans chewing on Judas and the other sin-
ners, even if it does recall the seder, does not make him representative of
contemporary Jewry, just as the meals parody of the eucharist does not
make it representative of contemporary Christianity. Tomasch suggests
that Dantes failure to mention the devils genitalia in his description of
the hazardous climb down Satans body indicates that in fact the devil has
no genitalia. According to Tomasch, the devils dephallicised body evokes
the circumcised penis, a synechdochal symbol of the Jews.17 It need
hardly be pointed out that circumcision is not quite the same as com-
bined castration and penectomy, but aside from that, Dantes failure to
mention Satans penis may simply be an aesthetic choice: he doesnt men-
tion Satans anus either, although (like the farting demons of Inferno 21)
he may be assumed to have one.
I do not intend to trivialise Tomaschs argument, but I would suggest
that, like Coxs, it is highly speculative and subjective, based on no hard
evidenceas of necessity it must be, dealing as it does with an absence. I
would propose to take Tomasch at her word when she says that it is time
to attend to what Dante leaves out of his poem as well as to what he puts

16quid putas diabolum posse facere per Iudaeos, qui sunt tam multi, qui omnes fere
litterati, et ad fallendum doctissimi, qui propter percam vitam, et usuras, quas a Christianis
accipiunt, tam ditati. Raymond Martin, Capistrum Iudaeorum, ed. by Adolfo Robles Sierra,
2 vols (Wrzburg, Germany: Echter Verlag, 199093), II, 26. Trans. in Cohen, Living Letters
of the Law, 348. Concerns over the existence of the Talmud inspired thirteenth-century
Christians to a new, more aggressive missionary zeal. Martin, a Dominican friar and author
of Pugio fidei adversus Mauros et Iudaeos (Dagger of the Faith against the Muslims and
the Jews), asserted the heresy of the oral Torah, the straying of contemporary Judaism
from its true origins in biblical times, and ultimately the association of the Jews with the
devil: see Cohen, Living Letters of the Law, 352. In Dantes Italy, the aggressive tactics of
the Dominicans resulted in mass forced conversions in Naples and Sicily during the reigns
of the Angevin monarchs, Charles I and Charles II: see Starr, The Mass Conversion of
Jews, 203211. On Christian missionizing in general, see Robert Chazan, Daggers of Faith:
Thirteenth-Century Christian Missionizing and Jewish Response (Berkeley: University of
California Press, 1989).
17Tomasch, Judecca, Dantes Satan, and the Dis-placed Jew, 258.
154 jay ruud

in.18 And by that I mean to look closely at specifically what Dante chose
not to include in his Comedy.
In the first place, Dante elects not to include any Jews in Limbo, a likely
place to find righteous Jews of the post-biblical period. Of course, Dante
subscribes to the medieval Christian tenet that Old Testament Jews were
in Limbo, along with unbaptised children, until Jesus harrowed hell and
brought them into paradise subsequent to his crucifixion. But at the risk
of some controversy, Dante expands the traditional notion of Limbo: here,
after all, are pagan writers and philosophers, from Homer to Aristotle.
More controversial still was Dantes decision to also name certain Muslim
notables, particularly the philosophers Avicenna and Averroes, and the
Saracen warrior Saladin (Inferno 4. 127144). Dante may be expected to
have known the name of the great Jewish philosopher Maimonides from
his study of Thomas Aquinas, and he may well have heard of the highly
regarded Jewish scholar Moses Nachmanides, upholder of the Jewish point
of view against the Dominican friar (and Jewish convert) Paul Christiani
at the famous Barcelona Disputation of 1263.18 Neither appears in Limbo.
If the chief requirement for damnation to Limbo is lack of baptism, why
are Jews missing from this circle of pagans and Muslims?
Dante was certainly aware of the forced conversions of Jews taking place
in southern Italy in the last decades of the thirteenth century. In Naples,
under the Angevin kings Charles I and Charles II, the Dominicans led a
campaign against Judaism that involved the wearing of a yellow badge,
confiscation of the Talmud, and a prohibition against building new syna-
gogues. At the same time, new converts were rewarded with tax-exempt
status for life.19 Contemporary estimates for the 1290s suggest that some
8,000 Jews in Charles IIs kingdom converted to Christianity.20 Historian
Joshua Starr remarks that The expulsion of the Jews from Maine and
Anjou by Charles II [in 1288], still fresh in the minds of the Italian Jews
in 1290, may also have contributed to the feeling that submission would
be best.21 A good number of those who did not convert fled north, many
to Mantua,22 and it appears that by 1300 most Jewish communities had
disappeared from the Kingdom of Naples.23 What Dante thought of these

18Tomasch, Judecca, Dantes Satan, and the Dis-placed Jew, 264.

19Starr, The Mass Conversion of Jews, 20405.
20Starr, The Mass Conversion of Jews, 20708.
21Starr, The Mass Conversion of Jews, 208.
22Starr, The Mass Conversion of Jews, 210.
23Starr, The Mass Conversion of Jews, 206.
dante and the jews 155

conversions is impossible to tell. Like other medieval Christians he prob-

ably thought that Jews were better off baptised than not. But if he consid-
ered these forced mass conversions a good thing, he passed over a chance
to comment on the unbaptised Jews in his depiction of Limbo.
If we look deeper into hell, we find that no Jews are named in circle
six, the circle of heretics just inside the walls of Dis. The pilgrim meets the
Florentine Epicurians Farinata degli Uberti and Cavalcante dei Cavalcanti
in canto 10, but no Jews are present. Having missed them in Limbo, one
might expect to meet the majority of late medieval Jews among the her-
etics. In the earlier Middle Ages, Christians had followed the teaching
of St. Augustine, who held that post-biblical Jews, who out of ignorance
and spiritual blindness had rejected the salvation of Christ foretold in
their own scriptures, should be allowed to live within Christian society
as instructive exempla embodying the literal interpretation of the Old
Testament. This attitude prevailed well into the twelfth century, when
Bernard of Clairvaux called Jews in Christendom living letters of the
law.24 When in the early thirteenth century Christians became aware of
the Talmud, they realised that the Judaism of their own times was not the
same as biblical Judaism. As a result, the Church could no longer accept
Augustines earlier construction of the hermeneutic Jew. The Talmudic
Jew was, in factbecause he had strayed from the truth of his own true
faith as Christians conceived of ita heretic.25 If, like many of his con-
temporaries Dante saw contemporary Jews this way, he might have been
expected to place them at this point of hell. He does not.
Nor does Dante place any Jews among the blasphemers of circle seven.
Medieval Christians certainly considered the comments purportedly made
concerning Jesus and his mother in the Talmud to be blasphemies of the
worst sort, but no Talmudic Jews appear beside the giant figure of Capaneus
in Inferno 14. Surely Dante was aware of various slanders against contem-
porary Jews that had begun circulating in the thirteenth centurystories
that depicted Jews as procuring sacred ecclesiastical vessels and desecrat-
ing them in the vilest imaginable ways, or, even more seriously, profaning
the host itself. Jews were depicted in contemporary legends as inflicting
physical pain on the body of Christ contained within the host wafer in a
reenactment of the crucifixion. As Robert Chazan notes, This allegation
then becomes most curious for it presupposes Jewish acceptance of the

24See Cohen, Living Letters of the Law, 388 and passim.

25Cohen, Living Letters of the Law, 36263.
156 jay ruud

doctrine of transubstantiation, a doctrine that the Jews of medieval west-

ern Christendom saw as one of the most perverse deficiencies of Christian
faith.26 It is unlikely that Dante would have recognised this irony, but he
does not seem to have deemed the stories important enough to repeat,
and places no Jews among the blasphemers.
Nor, more surprisingly, does he place Jews in the inmost ring of the
seventh circle, the hell of the usurers. As in more modern times, much
late medieval anti-Jewish sentiment was fueled by Christian resentment
over the economic power amassed by Jews through the practice of mon-
eylending, a practice from which Christians were discouraged because of
the biblical injunctions against usury. As Robert Chazan has shown, the
close association between Jews and moneylending begins to appear as a
given in Christian conceptions of Jews by the mid-twelfth century.27 In his
Dialogue of a Philosopher with a Jew and a Christian, Peter Abelard pres-
ents the Jew as saying:
Confined and constricted in this way as if the whole world had conspired
against us alone, it is a wonder that we are allowed to live. We are allowed
to possess neither fields nor vineyards nor any landed estates because
there is no one who can protect them for us from open or occult attack.
Consequently, the principal gain that is left for us is that we sustain our
miserable lives here by lending money at interest to strangers: but this just
makes us most hateful to them who think they are being oppressed by it.28
At the same time, as Chazan points out, in his letters urging the protection
of Jews against popular antagonism during the Second Crusade, St. Bernard
makes gratuitous reference to Christian usurers who jew worse than the
Jews themselves (peius judaizare), suggesting that, for Bernard, usury was
synonymous with Jews.29
Although monarchs and lords tended to encourage Jewish business
enterprises in the developing money economy of the twelfth century, reac-
tions from other clerics tended to be more in line with Bernards views

26Chazan, Medieval Stereotypes, 72.

27Chazan, Medieval Stereotypes, 2425.
28nec agros nec vineas aut terrenas aliquas possessions habere conceditur, quia non
est, qui eas nobis ab intestatione manifesta vel occulta protegere posit. Unde nobis pre
cipue superset lucrum, ut alienigenis fenerantes hinc miseram sustentemus vitam, quod
nos quidem maxime ipsis efficit invidiosos, qui se in hoc plurimum arbitrantur gravatos.
Peter Abelard, Dialogus inter Philosophum, Iudaeum et Christianum, ed. by Rudolf Thomas
(Stuttgart: Friedrich Fromman Verlag, 1970), 51. The translation is from Peter Abelard,
Dialogue of a Philosopher with a Jew and a Christian, trans. by. P.J. Payer (Toronto: University
of Toronto Press, 1979), 33.
29Chazan, Medieval Stereotypes, 25.
dante and the jews 157

than with Abelards. Langmuir cites a letter from Peter the Venerable to
the French King Louis VII written in 1146. Calling the Jews blasphemous
and impious, Peter asserts that:
it is not by honest agriculture, by military service, or by any kind of hon-
est and useful office that they fill their barns with produce, their cellars
with wine...and their chests with gold and silver; but rather by that which
they deceitfully take from Christians, by that which they furtively buy from
thieves, do they acquire precious things at cheap price.30
So concerned was the Church about the deleterious effects of Jewish
usury on society that the practice became a concern of the Fourth Lateran
Council. We know from a 1205 letter to the French king that Innocent III
was concerned about Jews charging high interest rates and obtaining
Christian property (particularly ecclesiastical goods) through loan defaults.
One of the edicts subsequently issued by the Lateran Council distinctly
limited interest rates that Jews could charge Christians on loans.
Clerical animosity toward Jewish usury did not stop there, however. In
the thirteenth century it often took the form of urging rulers to withdraw
support from these moneylending activities. Jeremy Cohen cites Thomas
Aquinas who, in a letter addressed to the countess of Brabant, argued that
rulers should try to arrange for the return of usurious Jewish profits to
the Christians from whom they had been collected, and also called on
rulers to try to persuade Jews to find more constructive ways to make a
living.31 Coupled with the new Christian awareness of the Talmud, these
kinds of pleas eventually undermined royal and baronial protection of
Jews, culminating ultimately in expulsions of Jews from royal territories in
England and France in the last decades of the thirteenth century. In these
edicts, Chazan explains, the legal rationale was generally malfeasance in

30Non enim de simplici agri cultura, non de legali militia, non de quolibet honesto et
utili officio horrea sua frugibus, cellaria uino, marsupia nummis, archas auro siue argento
cumulant, quantum de his quae ut dixi Christicolis dolose subtrahunt, de his quae furtim
a furibus empta, uili praecio res carissimas comparant. Peter the Venerable, Letter 130,
in The Letters of Peter the Venerable, ed. by Giles Constable, 2 vols. (Cambridge, Mass.:
Harvard University Press, 1967), I, 329. Cited and translated in Gavin I. Langmuir, Toward
a Definition of Antisemitism (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990), 201.
31Cohen, Living Letters of the Law, 36566.
32See Chazan, Medieval Stereotypes, 124. In the twelfth century, the need for large-
scale funding to fuel an expanding economy in northern Europe drew many Ashkenazic
Jews into the money trade. At first they were protected in this endeavor by monarchs and
regional lords, who often needed large scale funding fast, and thus depended on the Jews
for loans. Moneylending ultimately became the chief occupation of Ashkenazic Jews: see
158 jay ruud

With all of this background, it should be quite surprising to find the sin-
ners identified in canto 17 of the Inferno, in the round of the usurers, are
members of the Gianfigliazzi and Ubriachi families of Florence and the
Scrovegni family of PaduaItalian Christians all. It is true that Jews had
begun to migrate into northern Italy only in the twelfth and thirteenth
centuries, so that Jewish moneylending did not reach its peak there until
the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, and that, as Botticini notes, Jews
did not begin lending money in Florence until after 1437.33 One might
argue that Dantes goal is to name individuals easily recognisable to his
readers, so that he could not have named any Florentine Jewish usurers.
But it is impossible for Dante not to have known what was by his day the
pan-European reputation of Jews as usurers. For him to ignore that repu-
tation and pointedly avoid mentioning Jews in this circle of the Inferno
looks like a conscious decision.
Concomitant with the rising resentment over Jewish usury beginning
in the twelfth century was the widespread accusation that became known
as the blood libel. Arising out of the gruesome death of young William
of Norwich in 1144, for which local Jews were blamed, this accusation first
found voice in Thomas of Monmouths 1173 Life of St. William. Thomas
asserted that the sacrifice of a Christian child in a ritual parody of their
murder of Jesus was a key tenet of the Jewish faith. That accusation quickly
spread throughout Europe.34
In contrast with its rigorous opposition to Jewish usury, the Church
was adamant in its condemnation of this blood libel. In July 1247, Pope
Innocent IV explicitly denied the validity of such claims, commanding
Nor shall anyone accuse them of using human blood in their religious
rites, since in the Old Testament they are instructed not to use blood of

Chazan, Medieval Stereotypes, 22. But the Churchs opposition to the practice in the early
thirteenth century created a different atmosphere, ultimately breaking the partnership
between the Jews and their royal protectors. While Jews continued to ply the moneylend
ing trade, they were much more restricted after the mid-thirteenth century. In Dantes
Italy, Jews began migrating north in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, establishing
themselves in the moneylending trade by the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, though
their activities here were restricted by charters called condotte: see Maristella Botticini, A
Tale of Benevolent Governments: Private Credit Markets, Public Finance, and the Role
of Jewish Lenders in Medieval and Renaissance Italy, The Journal of Economic History 60:1
(March 2000), 16489.
33Botticini, A Tale of Benevolent Governments, 16667.
34See Chazan, Medieval Stereotypes, 67.
dante and the jews 159

any kind, let alone human blood.35 Perhaps even more important for
Dante, the emperor Frederick II had condemned the blood libel as well.
After looking into allegations of the ritual use of Christian blood by the
Jews of Fulda in 1235, Frederick decreed that no one, whether cleric or
layman, proud or humble, whether under the pretext of preaching or oth-
erwise, judges, lawyers, citizens, or others, shall attack the aforesaid Jews
individually or as a group as a result of the aforesaid charge. Nor shall
anyone cause them notoriety or harm in this regard.36
Finally, then, Dante names no contemporary Jews among those impris-
oned in the lower depths of hell, where the violently malicious are frozen.
If he had wanted to bring to account Jews who had allegedly engaged in
the ritual sacrifice of Christian children for their own Satanic rituals, this
surely would have been the circle to put them. To be sure, Judas is here,
and the deepest pit is named for him. It is possible, as Cox and Tomasch
imply, that the figures frozen completely within the ice of that circle are to
a large extent made up of Jews, rigid and blind as Cox would have it.37 But
Dante never says so. Nor is there any unequivocal evidence to suggest that
he intends the readers to interpret these entrapped figures in this way.
Ultimately, if we can conclude anything about Dantes attitudes toward
the Jews by examining the text of his work, that conclusion must be
based on what he does not say. Unlike many theologians of his day, he
does not consider Jews worth mentioning among heretics or blasphem-
ers. Despite popular prejudice, Dante also chooses not to include Jews
among the usurers of circle seven, nor among the malicious traitors of
circle nine. One might argue that Dante simply was unfamiliar with Jews
on a personal basis, and that the majority of sinners in hell are individuals
Dante knew, chiefly from Florence. Since, as noted earlier, Jews were not
lending money in Florence until the fifteenth century, this is a possible
explanation. On the other hand, Dante is not likely to have known many
Muslims personally either, yet he does include some well-known Muslim
figures in Limbo. Besides, Dante was certainly aware of the forced conver-
sions occurring in the Kingdom of Naples in his own lifetime, and was

35nec etiam aliquis eis obiciat, quod in ritu suo humano utantur sanguine, cum tamen
in veteri testamento preceptum sit eis, u de humano sanguine taceamus, quod quolibet
sanguine non utantur. The Church and the Jews in the XIIIth Century, ed. and trans. by
Solomon Grayzel (Philadelphia: The Dropsie College for Hebrew and Cognate Learning,
1933), 27475.
36Quoted. and trans. in Chazan, Medieval Stereotypes, 113.
37Cox, The Judaic Other, 44.
160 jay ruud

likely aware of other anti-Jewish activities, such as Giordano da Rivaltos

preaching in Florence against Jewish ritual sacrifices of Christian children
in November 1304.38 His failure to mention any contemporary Jews must
be seen as a conscious decision.
There is one final allusion to the Jews that may suggest something more
concrete concerning Dantes attitude toward Judaism. In Purgatorio 22.
6772, Statius tells Virgil that he had converted to Christianity through
reading Virgils poetry, particularly the Fourth Eclogue, in which Virgil had
purportedly foreseen the birth of Jesus (at least as medieval Christians
read the lines). But through his own spiritual blindness, Virgil did not
recognize the significance of his own words, and thus Statius says of him
that he was like one who walks in the dark, holding a light behind him
for others to follow. This appears to be a direct allusion to a sermon of
St. Augustines in De symbolo ad catechumenos, 4, where St. Augustine
describes the Jews as ferentes in manibus lucernam Legis, ut aliis viam
demonstretis, et vobis tenebras ingeratis (carrying in your hands the lan-
tern...of the Law, that you might show the way to others, while you lead
yourselves into the shadows).39 Cox, considering this passage, concludes
that Within the fictive parameters of the Commedia, then, Virgil assumes
the christological role of Jew, effectively bearing witness to Dantes own
spiritual as well as literary achievement, a figural association that aligns
Virgil with the patristic hermeneutic Jew trope.40
Whether one agrees with that assessment or not, it seems quite certain
that, just as Virgil is Dantes beloved and respected guide through hell and
purgatory before the Christian pilgrim must finally transcend the pagan
poets reach, so the Jews are the admired precursors of the Christians, who
must ultimately transcend the reach of the Law by entering the realm
of grace. By this analogy, Dantes views are certainly supersessionisthe

38David Abulafia, Monarchs and Minorities in the Christian Western Mediterranean

around 1300: Lucera and Its Analogues (unpublished paper presented at the conference
Christendom and Its Discontents, Los Angeles, California. UCLA, January 1991), cited in
Tomasch, Judecca, Dantes Satan, and the Dis-placed Jew. 265, n. 11.
39Saint Augustine, De symbolo catechumenos sermo alius IV, caput 4, in Patrologia
Latina, edited by J.P. Migne, 217 vols. (Petit-Montrouge: J.P. Migne, 18441865; repr. [elec
tronic resource] Cambridge: Chadwyck-Healy, 199395), vol. XL (1865), col. 664. Quoted
and trans. in Dante, Purgatorio, ed. and trans. by Robert M. Durling, introduction and notes
by Ronald L. Martinez and Robert M. Durling (Oxford and New York: Oxford University
Press, 2003), 376. See also Giuseppe Mazzotta, Dantes Literary Typology, MLN 87:1
(January 1972), 119 (16).
40Cox, The Judaic Other, 71.
dante and the jews 161

could hardly be a medieval Christian and not hold such a viewbut no

more anti-Jewish than anti-classical.
As Cox argues, if Virgils fate parallels that of the Jews, then like Virgil
they are denied salvation, and like him must be condemned eternally
to Limbo for failure to recognize the truth of their own scriptures.41 But
if that is indeed the case, then why has Dante failed to show us or to
mention any Jews in Limbo? There are none in Limbo, there are none in
hell, there are none in purgatory, there are none in paradise. If this is, as
I would contend, a deliberate rather than an accidental omission, what
are we to make of it? It appears that Dante simply did not know what
to do with the Jews. Like St. Augustine, he recognised the place of con-
temporary Jews in salvation history, and he stops short of depicting them
as consigned to hell, even to Limbo with Virgil. His attitude toward con-
temporary Jews seems to be one that (uncharacteristically) acknowledges
his own uncertainty about what God may have in mind for the Jews, and
refrains from presuming to guess Gods mind.
However, if I may be permitted to engage in some speculation of my
own, I would like to end this paper by presuming to guess Dantes mind.
Every reader remembers the pilgrim Dantes chagrin when in the earthly
paradise he turns to find Virgil gone (Purgatorio 30. 4954). It is gener-
ally assumed that Virgil, denied entry into heaven, had departed to spend
eternity in Limbo. But Dante himself never says that this is what hap-
pened, just as he never describes the fate of the Jews whose situation
parallels Virgils.
Later, in canto 19 of the Paradiso, the pilgrim Dante asks the giant
eagle of the sphere of Jupiter about the fate of the just man born on the
banks of the Indus. He may well be thinking of Virgils fate as he poses
the question: ov questa giustizia che l condanna? / ov la colpa sua,
se ei non crede? (What is this justice that condemns his soul? / What
is his guilt if he does not believe?) (Paradiso 19. 7778). The eagle gives
Dante no answer, other than to stress the impossibility of a human beings
understanding the infinite mind of God. In the next canto, however, the
pilgrim is shown the worthiest souls making up the eye of the eagle,
among whom are two Old Testament Jews (Kings David and Hezekiah),
the pagan Roman emperor Trajan, and the pagan Trojan Ripheus. The
frustrated pilgrim bursts out with Che cose son queste? (How can this
be?) (Paradiso 20. 82).

41Cox, The Judaic Other, 56.

162 jay ruud

But the point seems to be that Gods grace is inscrutable: it is not sub-
ject to human boundaries and need not satisfy human understanding.
God has willed the salvation of Trajan and Ripheus, and so they are saved.
If God wills the salvation of Virgil, perhaps he has not descended back
into Limbo. And if the possibility of Virgils salvation is not ruled out, then
neither is that of the Jews who, like him, carried their lanterns behind to
show the way. Since as a mortal man he cannot know Gods mind, Dante
never presumes to show us the fate of the Jews. Let us therefore follow his
lead and leave their fate, as he did, untold.
Jewish Resistance to Conversion in
the Late-Medieval Crown of Aragon

Kristine T. Utterback

Throughout the first millennium of Christianity, Christians had at times

tried to bring Jews to see the truth of Christianity and to convince them
that Jesus was the Messiah that Jewish writings described. As the first
millennium became the second and Western Europe grew more power-
ful, the desire to convert Jews grew stronger. When reason and persua-
sion failed in Christian conversionary endeavors, increasing pressure and
coercion were applied. Until about the mid-thirteenth century, Christian
conversionary thought had largely held that Jews would convert when the
superiority of Christianity was rationally explained to them. When Jews
did not flock to the baptismal font after hearing these rational arguments,
something Christians interpreted as an obvious demonstration of willful
Jewish blindness and obstinacy, stronger methods became acceptable,
and the resulting pressure on Jews to convert led to more coerced and
forced conversions.
For their part, Jews did not sit idly by waiting for their own destruc-
tion and eventual conversion, either individually or collectively. Like the
Christians trying to convert them, they employed their own strategies, in
this case, strategies of resistance, to maintain their Jewish communities
and, when possible, to win the converts to Christianity back to Judaism.
This essay will discuss three tactics that Jews in the Kingdom of Aragon
employed to respond to Christian encroachment during the century from
about 1250 to 1350: using polemical arguments to keep Jews from convert-
ing; using Jewish status as the kings servi, his serfs and royal property, to
keep royal support and mitigate ecclesiastical pressures; and rejudaizing,
that is, causing converts to revert to Judaism after they had converted to
The growing desire of European Christians for Jewish conversion played
out in different ways in different areas. At the end of the thirteenth century
and the beginning of the fourteenth, several European monarchs, most
notably King Edward III of England in 1290 and King Philip IV of France
in 1306, had expelled Jews who refused to convert to Christianity from
their kingdoms. Jews on the Iberian Peninsula were in a somewhat differ-
ent position. There, Jews, Christians, and Muslims had made their homes
164 kristine t. utterback

for centuries in a relationship often called convivencia (living together), a

term coined by the Spanish historian Amrico Castro.1 While these rela-
tionships should not be romanticized into some Golden Age of peace and
harmony, the three groups did manage to accommodate one another and
live together from the eighth until the middle of the thirteenth century.
Whether Muslims or Christians controlled the Iberian lands, however,
Jews always remained the outsiders, never the rulers themselves, so they
could never feel entirely at ease, whoever ruled. Although individual Jews
sometimes rose to great heights of power and Jews were generally a tol-
erated minority, tensions frequently arose among the three groups, and
Jews consistently found themselves in the weakest position. By the end of
the fourteenth century, convivencia by and large had come to an end, as
the Christians from elsewhere who assumed authority over this unfamiliar
situation as a result of the reconquista either did not know the dynamics
of convivencia or no longer saw it as necessary. This situation continued
in Aragon until the pogroms of 1391, after which Jewish society collapsed
and Jews converted in ever larger numbers, until their final expulsion in
In the following discussion of Aragonese resistance tactics, many of the
examples, both of rejudaizing and polemic, come from the processus, the
proceedings, of a trial conducted in 1342 by Bernat de Puigcercos, inquisi-
tor into heretical depravity for the Kingdom of Aragon, against three Jews,
Janto and Jamila Almuli of La Almunia de Godoa and Jucef de Quatorze
of Calatayud, in Aragon.2 These three Jews stood accused of rejudaizing
two men, Abadia, who been executed after he had rejudaized, and Pedro,
formerly called Alatzar, who had been rescued from death by the inquisi-
tor and some other Dominicans and who had turned states evidence
against the three Jews on trial. Since theoretically Christian courts would
have had no jurisdiction over Jews, and since there is no doubt that the
three on trial were Jews, it was their actions in rejudaizing the two con-
verts, who after baptism would have fallen under Christian authority, that

1 Amrico Castro, The Spaniards, trans. Williard F. King and Selma Margaretten,
(Berkeley: University of Californian Press, 1971), 584, cited in Thomas F. Glick, Convivencia:
An Introductory Note, in Vivian B. Mann, Thomas F. Glick, Jerrilynn D. Dodds, ed.,
Convivencia: Jews, Muslims, and Christians in Medieval Spain (New York: George Braziller
in Association with The Jewish Museum, 1992), 12.
2Barcelona, Archivo Capitular de la Catedral, MS 126 (ACA 126). This manuscript pres
ents many serious difficulties, including that of jurisdiction noted above. That difficulty
does not change the contents of the manuscript, and I will use its content for various
jewish resistance to conversion 165

brought them before the inquisition. It is impossible to know how com-

mon the practice of trying Jews before inquisitors was, but that intriguing
question lies outside this study.
According to the trial record, Abadia and Alatzar/Pedro had both con-
verted to Christianity, relapsed to Judaism and, out of remorse for their
terrible sin in converting, turned themselves over to civil authorities to
be burned at the stake. Neither Abadia, who had died, nor Alatzar/Pedro,
who turned witness against the three Jews, faced charges for reverting to
Judaism after their baptism. Rather, those who had caused them to revert
were the ones on trial, and Petrus appeared as the star witness for the
prosecution. The records of these three trials survive together in a unique
manuscript housed in the Chapter Archive of the Barcelona Cathedral.
Other examples of resistance come from published sources, especially the
accounts of the Barcelona Disputation of 1263.3
When using polemical writings, Jews could employ at least two differ-
ent types. A form we might call popular could be used to prevent ordi-
nary Jews from yielding to conversionary pressures. A more scholarly
type of polemic could be used in arguments against Christian opponents
to proclaim the validity of Judaism and to prove that its writings did not
demonstrate the Messiahship of Jesus, as Christians claimed. Of course
the two types could and did overlap, but they can indicate different sorts
of polemics to a modern audience, even though medieval writers did not
distinguish them in this manner.
Popular polemical writings argued that Christianity was not only infe-
rior to Judaism but actually a false religion. Jewish polemicists explained
that Christians operated under many false assumptions. Strict monothe-
ists, Jews would not accept that God could be a Trinity. Neither could
they believe that God would become human, either through the human
process of sexual reproduction, or through the utterly implausible mecha-
nism of a virgin birth.4 Jewish writers often used their own stories to illus-
trate the flaws in the Christian accounts.
The 1342 trial record provided examples of such popular polemic,
giving the words Janto Almuli supposedly spoke to rejudaize Pedro. In
Pedros first one of two confessions, he recounted the words that Janto had
told him to use when he turned himself over to the local secular (albeit

3Hyam Maccoby, ed. and trans. Judaism on Trial: Jewish-Christian Disputations in the
Middle Ages (London: the Littman Library of Jewish Civilization, 1982, 1996), 97149.
4Daniel Lasker, The Jewish Critique of Christianity Under Islam in the Middle Ages,
Proceedings of the American Academy for Jewish Research, 57 (1991), 128131.
166 kristine t. utterback

Christian) authorities to be burned. Janto supposedly began: Oh, you

poor wretch! How could you have done something so evil? You have cast
off the Law of Moses, which is the law of the one and true God, and have
taken up the vain, dead law that yields death not life to those following
it! Janto went on to tell Pedro: Thus since everyone following that law is
condemned and lost forever, I advise you to deny it and return to the true
and holy Law of Moses, without which you cannot be saved.5 After he
had turned himself over, if the civil authorities did not want to burn him
at the stake, Pedro should tell them that the Christians believed a vain
thing, since they accepted that God became human through Saint Mary.
The man Jesus Christ, whom they call God, Janto went on, is no god but
rather a bastard. Janto assured Pedro that making such statements would
suffice to get him burned, as they had previously for Abadia. Janto was
nearly correct in Pedros case as well, since Pedro claimed to have actu-
ally been on the pyre for burning when Puigcercos and other Dominicans
rescued him in return for his testimony against the three.6
Stories of the supposedly illegitimate birth of Jesus had circulated
among Jews for centuries. For instance, the Toledoth Yeshu, which told
a similar story to the one above, had existed at least since the seventh
century.7 From the Barcelona manuscript, it appears that a version of the
story also circulated in mid-fourteenth century Aragon. In this rejuda-
izing trial, Miriam Navarro, one of the chief witnesses against the three
Jews, recounted one version in her testimony to the inquisitor, Bernat
de Puigcercos. She claimed that those accused of rejudaizing Pedro had
told him a story of Jesus birth and childhood that claimed that Jesus was
not born of a virgin but was instead a product of adultery. As Miriam
recounted the story, during one of the great Jewish feasts, Marys hus-
band Joseph had gone to the temple at night to hear matins [sic]. As he
left, with his wife remaining inside, he had locked the door and hidden
the key in a space next to the door. Another Jew saw him hide the key,
so after Joseph had gone to the temple, this second Jew retrieved the key

5ACA 126, fol. 48r. O infelix homo! Quomodo potuisti tantum malum perpetrare,
dimittere legem Moysi que ist lex unius dei et veri, et accipere legem vanam legem mor
tuam que non prestat vitam set mortem perpetuam servantibus eam? Ita quod omnes in
ea viventes dampnantur et perduntur, et sic consulo quod eam abneges, et legem Moysi
veram et sanctam resumas, sine qua salvari non potes.
6ACA 126, fol. 42v.
7Morris Goldstein, Jesus in the Jewish Tradition (New York: MacMillan Co., 1950),
jewish resistance to conversion 167

and used it to enter the house, where he lay with Mary and impregnated
her with a son, Jesus.
One day, when Jesus was about four or five years old, he was playing
hoops with some other boys in front of the door of the Temple, where two
lions guarded its entrance. These lions were there to prevent the theft of
the Holy Name of God (Semmhamaforas). Anyone who learned the Holy
Name would have very great miraculous powers, so if someone illicitly
discovered that Name while in the Temple, when the thief left, the lions
would roar so ferociously that the thief would forget the Holy Name that
he had learned. While the boys were playing in front of the temple, Jesus
hoop rolled into it. When he went inside to retrieve it, he happened to
look up and saw the Holy Name of God in gold letters on the lintel of
the temple. Once he had learned the name, he wrote it on his hand with
a mixture of dust and spit, so that he would not forget it when the lions
roared at him. Later he wrote the name on a tiny piece of parchment,
which he folded and put inside a slit he had made for it in the skin of
his thigh. In this way he was able to work great wonders, which caused
people to follow him and to believe in him as the Son of God. Finally the
doctors of law and high priests had had enough of Jesus lies and sen-
tenced him to death.8

8ACA 126, fol. 50r51r. Et addiit dictus Jucefus et dixit, quod ille Jhesus quem Christiani
credunt et adorant non erat deus, nec est deus, immo fuit unus spurius maledictus, quem
mater sua in adulterio concepit talem per modum quod in una magna festivitate judeo-
rum, Josep Maritus Marie de nocte// [45v] ivit ad audiendum matutinum ad templum,
et clusit hostium domus post se, et posuit clavem hostii in quodam foramine juxta por-
tam ipsa uxore intus remanente. Et quidam alius judeus qui observabat eum, et vidit ubi
clavem posuerat post recessum dicti Josep in templum, Judeus ille accepta clave aparuit
hostium, et intravit domum et concubuit cum Maria uxore dicti Josep, et impregnavit eam
de uno filio, qui natus ex ea creavit. In etatem quatuor vel quinque annorum, et una die
cum ludorientes cum aliis pueris ad troche ante hostium Tempili, ubi erant duo leones,
unus hinc et alius inde in introitu Templi, qui fuerint ibi positi ut si aliquis vellet intrare
Templum terreretur a leonibus supradictis, ut possent legere nomen Semhammeforas
quid est nomen dei, et est tante virtutis quod primus qui illud legeret faceret mirabilia
magna solus, et cum esset in dicto ludo cum aliis pueris trocus dicti pueri cecidit infra
grados Templi, et puer predictus cum iret post trochum suum, volens ipsum recuperare
elevavit occulos, et vidit scriptum in superliminari templi, litteris aureis, Semhammeforas
nomen dei supradictum, et retinuit et cum puluere et sputo scripsit predictum nomen
in manu sua, nec propter terrorem leonum dimisit quia legeret nomen dei supradictum
et retineret, et postea scripsit in pergameno subtili et valde tenuo, et plicavit, et elevavit
corium de tibia dextera et posuit ibi, et suittorium? et incluset ibi predictum nomen. Et
ex tunc virtute istius nominis faciebat mirabilia et miracula multa, ita, quod equitabat
super radium solius et sustentabatur ab eo, et de terra [46r] faciebat passares vinos, et
sanabat omnes infirmes quacumque detinerentur infirmitate, et postquam crevit et venit
ad etatem perfectam fuit ita subtilis ingeniosus et gratus, et cum miraculis que faciebat
168 kristine t. utterback

Jews would have used stories such as the one just recounted to keep
other Jews from converting to Christianity, or as in this case to encourage
them to revert to Judaism. The inquisitions record of the story, along with
other portions of the testimony, clearly present problems of accuracy, but
they can illustrate the type of story told, even through the filter of inquisi-
tors recording the testimony in an language unknown to the witnesses.
Faced with strong pressures to become Christians, such teachings about
the flawed nature of Christianity and its founder could help Jews stand
fast in their own beliefs. The stories showed Jews the illegitimacy of the
claims about Jesus, both as to his birth and to his supposed divinity.
Educated Jews might use more academic and sophisticated polemi-
cal arguments in discussions with Christians, but they had relatively few
opportunities to engage in real, open debates, especially after conversion
ary pressures on them became very intense. Although Christians did hold
so-called debates or disputations with Jews, by the mid-thirteenth century
the Jews were at significant and intentional disadvantage. Jacob Marcus
explained: Disputations occurred frequently, too frequently for the Jews,
who entered with no alacrity into such discussions in which the oppo-
nents were also the judges.9 The famous disputation held before King
James I in Barcelona on 2023 July 1263 provides a perfect example of
the situation described by Marcus of Jews forced to defend their religion
against Christian arguments on grossly unequal terms. In that encounter
Jewish Rabbi Moses ben Nahman (Nachmanides) of Gerona disputed with
the convert from Judaism and Dominican Friar Pablo Christiani, formerly
Saul of Montpellier. Nachmanides was highly constrained in what he
could say, but Christiani could say virtually anything he wished. He often
used the post-biblical texts of the Talmud to convince the listening king
that the Jews own books demonstrated that the Messiah had come in
the person of Jesus.10 He eventually forced Nachmanides into a rhetorical
corner, making him deny the necessity of believing all parts of Talmudic
literature, a position he had seemed to hold previously in a very different
context during the debates in Jewish circles over Maimonides rationalist

corda gentium ad se convertebat, et tanquam dei filium se adorari faciebat, et per istum
modum decipiebat mundum. Et finaliter tanquam falsarium, et reprobum doctores legis
et summi sacerdotes ipsum ad mortem condempnarunt.
9Cited in Goldstein, 167.
10Robert Chazan, Barcelona and Beyond: The Disputation of 1263 and Its Aftermath
(Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992), 12.
11 Maccoby, 148.
jewish resistance to conversion 169

Given the conditions under which he had operated, Nachmanides, or

more importantly Judaism, could not have come out victorious, no mat-
ter what he had done or said. Arguably no Jew could have made better
arguments than the skillful orator and deeply learned Nachmanides. In
the disputation, the truth of Christianitys tenets had been stipulated, and
they were not debatable. Given this stricture and the presence of the king
himself in his audience, Nachmanides would have needed to choose his
words very carefully in order to avoid charges of blasphemy. The Latin
account reported that Nachmanides was so soundly routed in his argu-
ments that he fled Barcelona by night, without completing the debate.12
In Nachmanides account, published later in Hebrew for the Jewish
reading public and an example of what I have termed scholarly polemic,
the author described a dignified exit granted by the king, with the disputa-
tion to be resumed at a later date, not an all-out flight, and Nachmanides
presented his own performance in the disputation in a very positive light.13
He related how he had countered all Christian arguments put forth against
him. In reality this was not very probable given the circumstances of the
disputation, with possible charges of blasphemy always before him, but it
could serve as a useful polemical tool for a Jewish audience seeking reas-
surance and strength to resist the intensifying conversionary pressures
facing them. Such a tool could support educated and uneducated alike,
since one need not understand nuanced arguments to realize that, at least
according to this account, Nachmanides had acquitted himself nobly and
defended Judaism admirably before the king himself.
The disputation did not end Nachmanides interactions with his royal
overlords, as his arguments and later his writings brought him continu-
ing troubles. In 1265 he was brought before a royal court to be censured
for his published account of the debate just described, and in 1266 the
work elicited a papal complaint and the demand for a heavy punishment.
Nachmanides emigrated to Palestine in 1267 and spent the remainder of
his life there.14 Despite Nachmanides personal difficulties arising from the
disputation, however, from a broader Jewish perspective the disputation
had some positive, or at least useful, outcomes. By observing Christianis
techniques and arguments, Jews could see the newly-developing conver-
sionary techniques that the Dominicans intended to use, so they could

12Maccoby, 150.
13Maccoby, 146.
14Maccoby, 7980.
170 kristine t. utterback

begin to prepare their defenses. A strong performance by a brilliant rabbi

could have given heart to those who wavered, strengthening Jewish unity
and resolve. In addition, no mass Jewish conversions took place imme-
diately following 1263, so Nachmanides could claim at least a degree of
The Jews also experienced far less positive outcomes in the immediate
aftermath of the Disputation of 1263, although they do not seem to have
been destructive for Jews as a whole in Aragon. In August of that year,
King James issued three orders relating to the missionizing of Jews. The
first document, from 26 August, required both Jews and Muslims to pres-
ent themselves for sermonizing when Dominican preachers preached,
often in synagogues in the case of Jews, with the possibility of fines if they
did not do so. The second document, from 29 August, indicated the kings
support of the friars missionary activities among the Jews.
The third document, dated 30 August, represented a shift in the royal
stance and it demonstrates a Jewish attempt to secure the kings assistance
against conversionary measures increasingly forced on them. Directed
toward the kings officials, the 30 August document specified that Jews
could not be forced to leave their own quarter (the aljama) in order to
hear the missionizing sermons. It further stated that if any of the friars
wanted to enter the Jewish quarter or a synagogue to preach to them, the
Jews must hear him, if they wished [emphasis added.] He reiterated the
point when he said that Jews could not be forced out of their quarters to
hear conversionist sermons, nor [may they be caused] forcibly to hear
such a sermon in any location. This final document removed the force
from the forced sermons, and, according to Robert Chazan, indicated suc-
cessful lobbying on the part of the Jews.16 James I repeated his 30 August
directive in 1268, claiming he did not want his Jews subjected to danger
and harassments.17
The kings ambivalence about missionary efforts aimed at the Jews
came in part from Jews status as royal property, his servi, and it reflects
the reality of ongoing power struggles between royal and ecclesiastical
interests. A later attempt by Calatayud Jews to secure the kings protec-
tion probably relates to, and it may even explain the presence of, one of
the defendants in the 1342 case. In 1325, a man named Jucef de Quatortze,

15Chazan, 4547.
16Chazan, 8385.
17Yom Tov Assis, The Golden Age of Aragonese Jewry: Community and Society in the
Crown of Aragon, 12131327 (London: The Littman Library of Jewish Civilization, 1997), 52.
jewish resistance to conversion 171

the name of one of the 1342 defendants, served as an emissary from the
town of Calatayud to the King of Aragon, requesting an end to the intense
investigations conducted by the inquisitor Guillem de Costa.18 King
James II responded with a letter to the deputy head of the inquisition in
Aragon, in which he accused Guillem de Costa of using unfair and un-
Christian methods. He also demanded that the inquisitor act, judge, and
punish only according to ecclesiastical law.19 Whether or not the same
individual was involved, it shows the Jews calling on the king for protec-
tion, and receiving it.
Aragonese kings, like other European rulers, had granted Jews their
own laws and courts. This allowed them to handle religious matters and
most issues pertaining to their daily lives within their communities. Jews
remained the kings property, however: his servi. Although frequently Jews
lived as if they were free citizens of Aragon, in fact they were neither free
nor citizens, and they literally lived or died based on royal good will. The
king gained much from Jews, both in service and taxes, and he gener-
ally defended them against incursions by ecclesiastical officials, both to
keep those taxes and services available to him and to prevent ecclesiasti-
cal encroachment on his royal powers. The Jews could sometimes use the
kings self-interest to protect themselves, so they played on those interests
when they could, as in the two examples just cited.
Without denying Jewish influences, the king may have had an addi-
tional reason to relax his statutes about conversionary sermons, and this
had to do with public order. The first statute from August 1263 allowed
Dominican preachers or Jewish converts to Christianity, along with other
Christians, to enter synagogues and preach conversionary sermons, but
the degree of success of such endeavors is highly questionable. Few if any
documented cases of resultant conversions survive, and riots or at least
attacks on the preachers did occur, threatening domestic order. Later
legislation allowed only two other Christians to accompany the Christian
preacher, in an effort to reduce violence while still allowing the preach-
ers access to potential converts.20 Such forays by Christians into Jewish
neighborhoods and houses of worship posed problems for those charged

18Barcelona, Archivo de la Corona de Aragn, Communia Regesta, Jaime II, Caja 133,
no. 7, cited in Miguel Angel Motis Dolader, The Expulsion of the Jews from Calatayud,
14921500: Documents and Regesta (Jerusalem: The Henk Schussheim Memorial Series,
1990), 89.
19Assis, 62.
20J. Lee Schneidman, The Rise of the Aragonese-Catalan Empire, 12001350. 2 Vol. (New
York: New York University Press, 1970), II: 428.
172 kristine t. utterback

with keeping the peace of a city, since those attending synagogue services
not only often refused to listen to the preachers, but they sometimes even
attacked them. While the state might want to foster conversion, and cer-
tainly wanted to prevent reversion, it still needed to protect converts from
the outrage of remaining Jews, and sending converts along to preach to
remaining Jews could have provided a perfect opportunity for disaster.21
The state also had a responsibility and a desire to preserve order, so con-
version plans that disrupted the peace did not suit the monarchs. Jews
could have used, and probably did use, the kings desire for order to
protect themselves from perilous situations. The king also had his own
power struggles with the Church and its growing attempts at control, so
he generally tried to protect his own rights by protecting the Jews rights.22
The very fact that a Christian inquisitor was able to put Jews on trial, in
addition to the complaint of harassment made earlier by Jews of the same
region, suggest that Aragonese kings were in a weakening position in the
struggle with ecclesiastical encroachment.
The third tactic, rejudaizing,23 offered benefits for Jews, but it also
placed them in a precarious position by bringing Jews, not just converts,
into conflict with inquisitors. Baptism was a sacrament, and Christian
theology held that a sacrament placed an indelible mark on ones soul
(character indelibilis) that could never be removed.24Once the waters of
baptism had poured over someone, that person became a Christian and
would remain so forever. Legal niceties aside, in practical terms it did not
matter whether or not the person had converted willingly or under coer-
cion. Jews naturally saw the situation differently and wanted the converts
to return to Judaism, especially those who had converted under duress.
Sometimes Jews seem to have exerted substantial pressure on converts
to relapse, and Christian authorities worried about the problem of Jews
rejudaizing converts. Inquisitor Bernard Gui (d. 1325) devoted an entire
section of his Practica inquisitionis heretice pravitatis to questions about

21Schneidman, II: 428.

22Assis, 5960.
23I am using the term rejudaizing to indicate Jews who tried to convince former Jews
who had converted to Christianity to return to Judaism. This is the term used in the manu
script itself, in its Latinate form. Later discussions about the Spanish Inquisition use dif
ferent terminology, but after 1492 no Jews remained in Spain. Using rejudaizing instead of
judaizing will emphasize the two different phenomena.
24Sacrament, The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, 3rd Edition. F.L. Cross
and E.A. Livingston, ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997), 1435.
jewish resistance to conversion 173

rejudaizing.25 Christians found this practice particularly horrific, since it

seemed to them that a soul saved through baptism had fallen into Satans
hands again. It played into Christian fears that Jews who encouraged
others to revert were agents of Antichrist working to destroy Christians.26
To the Jews, the baptized individual remained a Jew, albeit an apos-
tate one, and if he had been forcibly converted, perhaps not even that.
Therefore they found it perfectly reasonable to try to convince those who
had converted to Christianity to come back to Judaism. If they had con-
verted voluntarily, they had certainly transgressed Jewish law in their con-
version, and their sins required atonement, but converts still remained
Jews. As rabbinic scholar Rashi (Solomon be Isaac, 10401105) had said,
Even though he sins, he remains a Jew.27 Since Jews had the right to
enforce their own religious laws, to them, in bringing someone back to
Judaism they simply enforced their own laws. Unfortunately for the Jews,
however, when they brought a baptized Jew back to the Jewish commu-
nity, their actions brought them into contact with Christian inquisitions,
since the baptized Jew/Christian now fell under Christian law. In the 1342
trial discussed here, inquisitors tried Jews for rejudaizing. Pedros relapse
could have brought him to trial himself, but this case deals not with his
reversion, but with the three Jews who had caused him to revert.
As the processus recounts the case, conflicting authority between Jews
and Christians seems to be at the heart of the issue. The three Jews were
on trial by Christian inquisitors, something not normally allowed, since
inquisitors could only try Christians, and no one suggested that Janto
and Jamila Almuli or Jucef de Quatortze were or ever had been anything
but Jews. The three were accused of rejudaizing Pedro and Abadia, true
enough, which had brought them before Puigcercos, but they had done
something even more serious. According to the trial record, recorded by
Christians, once the accused Jews had convinced Abadia and Pedro to
renounce Christianity and return to the true Law of Moses, they had fur-
ther convinced them to hand themselves over to the civil authorities to
be burned at the stake, because of their great sin in leaving Judaism in the

25Bernard Gui, The Conduct of the Inquisition of Heretical Depravity: Chapter V:

Concerning the Perfidy of the Jews, in Walter L. Wakefield, and Austin P. Evans. Heresies
of the High Middle Ages: Selected Sources Translated and Annotated. Records of Medieval
Civilization Series. (New York: Columbia University Press, [1969, 1991]), pp. 439444.
26Jeffrey Burton Russell, Dissent and Order in the Middle Ages: The Search for Legitimate
Authority (New York: Twayne, 1992), 62.
27Yerushalmi, Yosef Hayim, The Inquisition and the Jews of France in the Time of
Bernard Gui. Harvard Theological Review, (July 1970), 366.
174 kristine t. utterback

first place. In that way they would find salvation and spend eternity with
God. It is hard to imagine any medieval Jew thinking in such terms, which
sound decidedly Christian and probably show a Christian understanding
or misunderstanding of rejudaizing rather than a Jewish viewpoint.
I contend, however, that despite what the Christian authorities wrote,
Pedro and Abadia, the two men condemned to death by the inquisition,
did not voluntarily seek their own deaths out of remorse for converting
to Christianity. Their reversion to Judaism, perhaps with some atonement
required, would have restored them to the Jewish community, clearly a
desirable outcome for a community that saw itself threatened by Christian
encroachment, such as the one in Calatayud. It therefore stands to reason
that the Jewish court did not sentence them for their apostasy in leaving
Judaism in the first place. Rather, they may have merited a death penalty
from a Jewish court for working against Jewish interests and for being
malshin, usually translated as informers. Jewish courts like the one in
Calatayud enforced their own laws and tried to protect the Jewish com-
munity from degradation and eventual destruction. These Jews held char-
ters from at least two kings, James I in 1229 and James II in 1305, giving
them the power to impose the death penalty for capital crimes, and I pro-
pose that this is what they did in this case.28
So from a Jewish standpoint this was not a case of rejudaizing at all, but
a matter of protecting the Jewish community in Calatayud. The processus
does not supply the details, which would not have interested Christians,
but it seems plausible that Abadia and Pedro had threatened the Jewish
community so severely that a Jewish court sentenced them to death, a
sentence that civil authorities would have carried out. The same officials
would have carried out capital sentences for Christian courts, too, an
irony perhaps lost on the inquisitors.29
The sentencing of the two Jews to death by the Jewish court could have
served as an example to other Jews who might think of converting and
informing on their former community. Like polemic, the execution of
their sentences would have strengthened the community and given them
courage (or perhaps fear) to carry on in their Jewish religion. It would have
demonstrated Jewish authority and the ability to continue as Jews, what-
ever Christians might want the Jewish community to believe. To a mod-
ern reader, one who knows the subsequent history of Jews in the Iberian

28Assis, 39.
29Assis, 77.
jewish resistance to conversion 175

Peninsula, with their forced conversion or expulsion in 1492, the imposi-

tion of the death penalty by the Jewish court might seem like a very high-
stakes gamble on the part of Jewish leaders. At the time they imposed the
sentence, however, they could have viewed it as a strong, legal response
that they could reasonably expect would receive royal support, based on
their previous experiences. They may well not have realized that the tide
of pressure for Jewish conversion had grown so strong and that reversion
to Judaism would cause such horror among Christians.
As for the Jews on trial by the inquisition for rejudaizing, despite
attempts to defend themselves, all three were convicted of the charges.
Janto and Jamila Almuli were sentenced to life imprisonment. Jucef de
Quatorze was found to have come before the inquisition before on an
entirely different matter. His second appearance before the inquisition
made him a relapsed heretic. Despite the fact that the records for the ear-
lier trial did not give Jucefs conviction and sentence, due to the confused
state of the records, the judges assumed that he had received mercy on
the first charges. He did not do so in the charges detailed in this register;
Jucef de Quatorze was sentenced to death.30 The register stops after the
reading of the sentences, so there is no way to tell if they were actually
carried out.
Unlike the Barcelona Disputation of 1263, which survives in both
Jewish and Christian accounts, these trials of three Jews for rejudaizing
survive only in a Christian account. The processus tells an extremely pecu-
liar story, but the Christians involved probably neither understood nor
wanted to understand what was happening in the Jewish communities
of Calatayud and La Almunia de la Godoa. They saw only the horror of
rejudaizing, not Jewish attempts to survive as Jews.
Jewish actions, whether polemical, political or legal, represent attempts
to maintain community by strengthening Jewish resolve, blunting ecclesi-
astical power against Jews through sustained royal support, and bringing
back Christian converts to Judaism. They ultimately failed, and in 1492 the
remaining Jews were given the choice of conversion or expulsion, but in
the century from about 12501350, Jews kept up strong efforts to mitigate
conversionary tactics. Although the Disputation of 1263 and its aftermath
demonstrated changing Christian tactics and suggested that conver-
sionary pressure would increase, Jews continued to use techniques that
had worked in the past, adapting them as they could. Eventually those

30ACA 126, fol. 86r.

176 kristine t. utterback

techniques proved insufficient, but in that crucial century, Jews neither

believed nor had any particular reason to believe that they would fail.
Jews had often faced persecution before in Aragon, and they could not
realize that they faced a more determined Christian foe in the power that
the church wielded through a better administered and more theologically
organized bureaucracy. This change led to a stronger tendency of people
throughout Christendom, including those in Aragon, to see the Jews as a
threat to Christian unity and to desire their conversion or expulsion.
Despite ongoing attempts by Christians in the late thirteenth and
early fourteenth centuries to cause Jews to convert to Christianity and
then to remain within the Christian fold, Jews did not merely wait to be
persuaded, coerced, or forced to abandon Judaism and become Christian.
They took actions to counter Christian conversionary efforts, to protect
their communities from this threat to their survival, and to buttress their
position with the King of Aragon, trying to use their status as his servi,
not to mention as his trusted advisors and physicians, to keep his pro-
tection. They employed anti-Christian polemic, written for Jews to keep
them from converting, and they attempted to rejudaize those individuals
who had become Christians and/or punish those who had turned against
their community.
These actions do not indicate a group of people in a desperate effort to
survive as much as they show Jews working to maintain and strengthen
their communities in a hostile environment. Jews had lived as outsid-
ers throughout much of their history, so they had no reason to suppose
that they would not survive yet again. We can hardly fault them from
todays vantage point for failing to recognize that the Christian society
around them had become hostile enough toward Jews in their midst
that they were ready to go to extreme lengths to remove these outsid-
ers. For their part, Jews used every tactic they could muster, including
polemics, royal influence and rejudaizing, in order to resist conversion to
Medieval Antisemitism and Excremental Libel

Merrall Llewelyn Price

In 1999, the Brooklyn Museum of Art displayed a collage by Chris Ofili

called The Holy Virgin Mary. While the artists use of vulval decoupage
from pornographic magazines to represent fluttering putti excited some
comment, what really concerned his critics was Ofilis use of shellacked
elephant dung as a medium for his meditation on the Virgin. Rudy
Giuliani, then mayor of New York, perhaps encouraged by media reports
that Ofilis work consisted of an image of the Virgin Mary smeared with
feces, responded by suspending museum funding: You dont have a right
to government subsidy for desecrating somebody elses religion, he said.1
Precisely which other religion the Roman Catholic Rudy Giuliani felt that
the equally Roman Catholic Chris Ofili may have practiced is not stated,
but, based on the historical evidence, perhaps he assumed that Ofili was
a medieval Jew.
I raise this tongue-in-cheek suggestion because Giulianis two main
assumptionsfirst, that the proximity of waste products to holy image
necessarily means that the latter is being profaned by the former, and
second, that someone combining the two must necessarily belong to a dif-
ferent faithecho some of the allegations made by medieval Christians
against medieval Jews. Among the bizarre claims that orbit medieval
Jewry are a number that link Jews and bodily waste, sometimes with the
third element of money, and often in terms that suggest that, given the
chance, Jews maliciously and habitually contaminate the holy things of
Christianity with feces and other bodily wastes. I will look at some of these
accusations in detail, but in general they range from veiled to open alle-
gations that Jews make a habit of contaminatingspitting on, urinating
on, excreting on, and dumping into private and public latrinescrosses,
icons, hosts, the bodies of murdered child saints, and other Christian holy
objects and substances, particularly icons of the Virgin Mary.
Some of the most frequent stories of Jews contaminating holy objects
are of cross desecration, usually by saliva, perhaps a reminder that Jesus

1Kimmelman, Michael. A Startling New Lesson in the Power of Imagery. New York
Times 8 Feb. 2006, E1.
178 merrall llewelyn price

was said to have been spat upon by his Jewish accusers, and that Jewish
spittle features as one of the instruments of the Passion. During the Second
Crusade, a Mainz Jew named Kalonymos of Bacharach, when told to con-
vert or die, is alleged to have spat on the cross, thus making his choice
clear, and a Jewish maiden from Wurzberg is said to have done the same.2
Though most of these stories are Christian narratives intended to invoke
outrage on behalf of Jesus, accounts of Jews spitting on crosses are not
exclusively Christian in origin, suggesting that, while these accounts may
be no more historically reliable, the idea of physical repudiation of the vis-
ible symbol of the majority religion had a certain dangerous appeal.3 More
limited to Christian accounts are stories of Jews urinating on crosses: in
1096 two Jews of Trier, under compulsion to convert, are recorded to have
thrust a rod at a crucifix brought before them, resulting in their death.
This is rather opaque, and perhaps means simply that they responded to
the crucifix with a rude genital display; Eliot Horowitz, however, while
agreeing that rod stands for penis, and arguing for the incident as a
physical pitting of the sign of circumcision against the sign of the cross,
concludes that the expression means that they urinated on it.4 Two more
accounts of cross desecration stem from thirteenth-century Oxford; in
one, recorded in the chronicles of Matthew Paris, an English deacon falls
in love with a Jewish woman and converts, ritualistically but not very
plausibly urinating on a cross and throwing a communion wafer into the
filth, from which is it miraculously preserved by angelic hands,5 and in a
fourteenth-century university source certain Oxford Jews are said to have
seized a cross and trampled it into the dirt during a 1268 Ascension Day
procession to the church of St. Frideswide.6 Whether or not Jews really

2Shlomo Eidelberg, The Jews and the Crusaders: The Hebrew Chronicles of the First and
Second Crusades (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1977), 125, 127.
3See Jacob Katz, Exclusiveness and Tolerance: Studies in Jewish-Gentile Relations in
Medieval and Modern Times (Oxford: Oxford University Press), 1961.
4Elliott Horowitz, Reckless Rites: Purim and the Legacy of Jewish Violence (Princeton:
Princeton University Press, 2006). During the First Crusade and its aftermath, the internal
sign which the Jew bore on his lower body seems to have been consciously pitted against
the external sign (of the cross) which the crusader wore on his upper body, to which the
Hebrew chroniclers referred by the same word (ot) used in the Bible (Gen 9: 12, 17) for the
sign of circumcision. 166.
5Henry R. Luard, Matthaeus Parisiensis Chronica Maiora (London HM Stationary Office
1880). Discussed in The Collected Papers of Frederic William Maitland, ed. H.A.L. Fisher
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1911): 385406: Maitland, for the sake of propri
ety, clarifies the act only in a Latin footnote: et minxit super crucem.
6Discussed at length in Christoph Cluse, Breaking and Taking the Cross, Revue
dHistoire Ecclsiastique 90 (1995), 396442. Notice that both stories have become con
flated and confused, until the first, at least, has become hopelessly unreliable.
medieval antisemitism and excremental libel 179

chose this method of expressing their aversion to Christianity, there was

certainly a concern among Jews that they might be so accused; mindful
of the possibility of desecration accusations, the thirteenth-century Sefer
Hasidim warns Jews under Christendom not to relieve themselves disdain-
fully or carelessly, in order to avoid accidentally bringing upon themselves
accusations of desecration.7
Much more difficult to believe are the myriad accusations that Jews
take holy things of Christianity and privately defile them for their own
satisfaction. In a letter to Louis, king of the Franks, the twelfth-century
Benedictine Peter the Venerable speaks of the horror of candelabra, cen-
sers, crosses, and chalices being stolen from churches and sold cheaply
to Jews, who then hold them captive and abuse them: they use those
heavenly vessels for their evil uses, to the disgrace of Christ and ourselves,
things too horrifying to consider and detestable to mention.8 These uses
we should not be considering must be either sexual or scatological, and
the latter seems rather more likely. Despite Peters complaints about Jews
buying holy items from thieves, they were more likely to come into the
possession of valuable Christian objects through the placing of these items
as security for loans, as Peters own personal experience of this should
have told him. Such pledges, and fear of being discovered with them,
probably underlie the twelfth-century report of a Parisian Jew casting a
sack of valuable Christian objects into his privy in order to avoid having
them being discovered in his possession, though the length to which he
goes does not prevent God from showing Christians where the objects
lie, the whole incident allegedly helping to contribute to the expulsion of
Jews from the domains of Philip Augustus in 1182.9
Fear of discovery with incriminating evidence rather than the desire to
add excremental insult to injury might also lie behind some of the accusa-
tions that Jews dumped hosts into wells, privies, and cesspits after attack-
ing them in order to test or mock the real presence; a repeating trope in
these tales is the miraculous indestructibility of the hosts and the inability

7Ivan Marcus, A Jewish-Christian Symbiosis: The Culture of Early Ashkenaz, in

Cultures of the Jews: A New History, ed. David Biale (New York; Schocken, 2002), 480. This
is also discussed by Horowitz, 166.
8Letters of Peter the Venerable, 2 vols. (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1967).
However, it should be noted that Jews might also be considered contaminating merely by
definition: a tenth-century letter from the Doge of Venice to Emperor Henry I identified
even the touch of Jews as contaminating to the cross, as any Jew who does not convert is
to be forbidden to touch the sign of the cross with his polluted hands (Horowitz, 159).
9Marcus, 480.
180 merrall llewelyn price

of the experimenters to destroy the evidence by burning or cutting them.10

But the proliferation of the privies in such tales, and sometimes even their
persistence (a dungheap is one of several competing places the abused
and bleeding host is said to be found in the Pulkau desecration accusation
in 1338)11 suggests something else is going on here.
Latrines appear to be intrinsic to narratives of Jews debasing the holy
things of Christianity, at least as far back as the Irish monk Adamnan of
Iona in the seventh century. In De Locis Sanctis, he attributes to the ship-
wrecked Arculf a story of a Jew in Constantinople who, inspired by the
devil, seizes a picture of the Virgin Mary and casts it into a nearby privy,
following this insult by evacuating his bowels onto the image. Despite the
egregiousness of the offense, there is no unpleasant fate in store for this
Jew; the text merely records that his end is unknown. The picture, though,
is rescued by a zealous Christian who searches for it, cleans it carefully,
and sets it in a place of honor in his house, whereupon it begins to exude
miraculous oil.12 This tale, classified as part of the Toledo-Saturday group
of Marian miracles, was later incorporated into major miracle collections
in Latin, Anglo-Norman, French, Galician-Portuguese, Norse, Coptic, and
Middle English.13 Among the most influential of these is that of John of
Garland in the thirteenth century, which, while still uncertain about the
Jews end, hazards the guess that he may have been taken off by evil spir-
its, while in a fifteenth-century Coptic analog a malicious Jew stabs the
image of the Virgin and her son before throwing it into a well or pit. The
miraculous bloodstains on his clothes are noticed by a Christian, who
accuses him of murder, and drags him before a magistrate who insists
that the image be recovered: ...[T]hey brought the picture up out of the
well dripping with the blood that was running from the wounds of our
Lady and her Son. And they took the picture back into the church where
it had been with great honour and praising and rejoicing, and they burned
the Jew alive. And they pay great honour to that picture to this day, and

10Miri Rubin, Gentile Tales: The Narrative Assault on Late Medieval Jews (New Haven:
Yale University Press, 1999).
11 Mitchell B. Merback, Fount of Mercy, City of Blood: Cultic Anti-Judaism and the
Pulkau Passion Altarpiece, Art Bulletin 87, no. 4 (2005), and discussed also by Rubin, 65.
12Adamnans De Locis Sanctis, ed. Dennis Meehan (Dublin; the Dublin Institute for
Advanced Studies, 1958), 118ff.
13See here Evelyn Faye Wilson, The Stella Maris of John of Garland; Edited, together with
a Study of Certain Collections of Mary Legends made in Northern France in the Twelfth and
Thirteenth Centuries (Cambridge, Mass., Mediaeval Academy of America, 1946), and Peter
Schafer, Mirror of His Beauty: Feminine Images of God from the Bible to the Early Kabbalah
(Princeton; Princeton University Press, 2004).
medieval antisemitism and excremental libel 181

they call it the Worker of Miracles.14 I read this tale as both invoking
and denying the latrine function of the well or pit; the image is brought
up dripping, but with holy blood rather than contaminating feces, and
as a result, the image can be returned to its place in the church, sanctified
rather than polluted by the experience. As the narrative has developed
from the seventh to the fifteenth centuries, the attitude toward the Jew has
become much more adversarial; rather than having him disappear safely
from the narrative, or merely allowing for the possibility of supernatural
vengeance, in the fifteenth-century version, the Jewish body, stained as
much by the contaminated blood of his own ancestry and religion as by
holy blood on his clothes, must be utterly immolated.
A similar allegation is recorded by Matthew Paris in the story of the his-
torical personage Abraham of Berkhamsted, who allegedly kept a statue of
the Virgin Mary in his privy so that he could dishonor it daily and nightly;
when his wife defied him by secretly cleaning the statue, he strangled her
and was promptly arrested and condemned to life imprisonment, only
being freed as a result of the undue influence of his patron, Richard of
Cornwall.15 Such a tale, implausible though it may be, focuses on alleged
Jewish propensity maliciously to contaminate the most pure with the
most profane, drawing attention to their attachment to the filthiness of
sin, and could instructively be contrasted with the ethereal spirituality
and unsullied flesh of the Virgin Mary.
Perhaps the largest role for privies in Jewish calumniation narratives
is as the disposal place for the bodies of Christian children supposedly

14The Virgin Mary and Her Bleeding Picture, Brit. Mus. MS. Orient. No 652. Fol. 102a,
No, 79. E.A. Wallis Budge, One Hundred and Ten Miracles of Our Lady Mary: Translated
from Ethiopic Manuscripts (London: Humphrey Milford, Publisher to the Oxford University
Press, 1933).
15Luard, 114ff. While Abrahams imprisonment is a matter of record, Gavin Langmuir
points out that Paris is likely indulging in a scatological libel here: Abraham was released
on pledge before his trial and was finally condemned to lose his chattels but freed on
the condition that he avoid the kings presence for a yearhardly the penalty we would
expect for murder or striking blasphemy. Langmuir, Toward a Definition of Antisemitism
(Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990), 242. Paris is presumably the source for the
very similar story in DBlossiers Toveys Anglia Judaica, cited in Michelsen: Thus we read
in Toovey that a rich Jew named Abraham, the owner of a house and office in Wallingford,
had in his possession an image of the Holy Virgin, which he most filthily defiled by cover
ing it with excrement, and which he likewise blasphemed. He commanded his beautiful
wife Flora to do the same, but she was grieved at it, by reason of her sex and cleansed the
image by wiping off the filth. When the Jew noticed this he strangled his wife. The Jew was
sentenced to perpetual imprisonment, but pardoned upon payment of 700 marks. This
happened in the reign of Henry III. H. Michelsen, The Jew in Early English Literature (New
York: Hermon Press, 1972, first published in 1924), 14344.
182 merrall llewelyn price

murdered in Jewish rituals of revenge on Christianity, as in Chaucers

Prioresss Tale. Indeed, the role of what Carleton Brown calls the jakes
as the place where the childs body is secreted in these tales is one of the
criteria he uses to divide the analogs of the tale into variants, although he
does caution his readers not to read too much into this, saying diplomati-
cally, Medieval customs being what they were, this detail might make its
appearance in stories which had no direct connection.16 However, the
medieval linking of ritual murders and latrines was so firmly established
that disposal of the bodies there was expected, as Gavin Langmuir has
pointed out; even sympathetic twentieth-century historians like Cecil
Roth and Joseph Jacobs described the body of Hugh of Lincoln as being
found in a privy, despite all accounts but one indicating that he was found
in a well of drinking water.17 This connection begins with the very earliest
ritual murder allegation, the death of William of Norwich in 1144. While
Williams body was found in a wood, his biographer Thomas of Monmouth
describes the imagined discussion of the Jews regarding how to dispose
of the boys body, in which they are dissuaded from dumping him into
their privy only for fear of discovery in the event of their being rousted
from their houses, a comment perhaps reflecting the instability of life in
English Jewish communities in their first few decades outside London.18 A
privy also plays a large part in the late twelfth-century story of little Adam
of Bristol, who is tortured and murdered by a Jew named Samuel and
buried in the Jews outhouse; the angelic presence that stands guard over
his body also has the effect of rendering Samuels privy unusable, and he
is driven to find a way to get rid of the boys body. To do so, he eventually
turns to an Irish priest whom he hopes will be ignorant enough to mistake
Samuel for a Christian, despite his clear textual markings as a Jew.19
Perhaps the most comprehensive use of the privy motif, however, is
Chaucers, which does not simply follow his sources in having the childs
body dumped into the Jews latrine, but which builds the Prioresss char-
acter and tale around this scatological juxtaposition. He offers us a woman
characterized most comprehensively by her aversion to contamination,

16Carleton Brown, The Prioresss Tale, in Sources and Analogues of Chaucers Canter
bury Tales, eds. W.F. Bryan and Germaine Dempster (Chicago: University of Chicago Press,
1941), 457.
17Langmuir, 247.
18Thomas of Monmouth, The Life and Miracles of St. William of Norwich, ed. A. Jessop
and M.R. James (Cambridge, 1895), 24.
19Robert Stacey, Adam of Bristol and Tales of Ritual Crucifixion in Medieval England,
Thirteenth Century England 11, ed. B. Weiler et al (2007), 115.
medieval antisemitism and excremental libel 183

who scrubs at her lips after eating and who takes pains to ensure that no
crumb or drip falls from her fingers or from her mouth. She is an exemplar
of remarkable personal hygiene and decorum in an unsanitary world, but
nevertheless, she tells a remarkably dirty tale in which the child and the
Jews are in turn associated with excrement, symbolically and literally.20
The Jews, we are told, exist in this city only For foule usure and lucre
of vileynye, / Hateful to Crist and to his compaignye.21 This marks the
beginning of a chain of associations between Jews, money, excrement,
and contamination so powerful that it will endanger even the saintly
Christian chorister. When his murdered body is dropped, to the Prioresss
evident horror and fascination, through the hole of the Jewish latrine, his
saintly body is linked with foul feces, but even before that, she tells us
that he passes daily through the oddly embodied Jewerye, which, we are
told is free and open at eyther ende (l.494); at one such ende lies the
Christian school, in which can be found Children an heep, ycomen of
Christen blood.22 Thus the Prioresss child moves regularly through the
contaminated and alimentary body of the Jewry to join a fecal heap of
undifferentiated children at the far end; Jewishness can transform even
the holy into the excremental. The pollution of the childs body by the
sewage in the privy is washed away when the holy water is cast on the
body, reaffirming the childs initial baptismal entry into grace as well as
washing away the Jewish feces. Here we see an absolute literalizing of the
belief in the contaminating effects of Judaism.
Despite the efforts of the Jews to contaminate the child, his little
body remains sweete. The odor of sanctity clings to the remains of these
children despite both the expectation of bodily decay and their immersion

20I discuss this in more detail elsewhere. See my Sadism and Sentimentality: Absorbing
Antisemitism in Chaucers Prioress. The Chaucer Review, Volume 43, Number 2, (2008),
21 VII: 49192. All citations of CT refer to The Riverside Chaucer, ed. Larry D. Benson,
3rd edn. (Boston, 1987).
22L. 497. The phrase ycomen of Cristen blood is interesting on several levels. In terms
of the Prioresss psychosexual development, it points to another infantile conception the
ory described by Freud in On The Sexual Theories of Children: that babies are conceived
through the mingling of blood On the Sexual Theories of Children, in Three Essays on
the Theory of Sexuality, eds. J. Strachey & A. Richards(New York: Penguin, 1953). However,
given that we have just been told that the school consists of Cristen folk, the emphasis on
Cristen blood perhaps implies a racial component to Jewish identity, suggesting that con
version to Christianity is not enough, and never will be. This is particularly salient, given
that so many analogs of the tale end in mass conversion rather than death. The phrase also
gestures to the blood theater later in the tale, in which the spilling of the blood of the Jews
is both enabled and sanctified by the Cristen blood of the eucharist.
184 merrall llewelyn price

in bodily waste, as it did to the body of the original alleged ritual mur-
der victim, William of Norwich, from whose disinterred remains such a
fragrant perfume filled the nostrils of the bystanders as if there had been
growing there a great mass of sweet-smelling herbs and flowers.23 The
martyrs are incorrupt and fragrant, whole and holy. In contrast, the bodies
of Jews, however frequently bathed, are intrinsically flawed, malformed,
feminized, and said to emit a noxious smellthe fetor Judaicus, a bodily
stench so pervasive that Jews are immune to noticing it, but which can
only be relieved by a particular kind of bathing, that of baptism. The thir-
teenth-century Caesarius of Heisterbach records the story of a converted
and baptized Jewish maiden whose father and other relatives appeared at
the convent to visit her: the maiden, who...knew nothing of his coming,
began to perceive a very evil odour, so that she said openly, I do not know
whence it comes, but an odour as of Jews is troubling me. When the
abbess indicates that her family has arrived, she says: That explains the
odour I perceived; I will not see them; and refuses to leave the convent.24
In this tale, then, Jewish bodies are disgustingly bodily, stinking of waste
and decay; such is the purifying power of baptism that it not only removes
the Jewish odor, but sensitizes the nostrils of converts.
If the water of baptism purifies, however, it is in danger of being
reversed by its opposite, stench and ordure; Caesarius also records the
story of a Jewish mother who volunteers to undo her daughters baptism:
The girl, wishing to find out what her mother meant by this, asked how
she would do it. I would draw you, said the Jewess, three times through
the opening of the latrine, and thus the virtue of your baptism would be
left behind. When the daughter heard this, she cursed her mother, spat
at her, and fled away.25 Here Jews and Judaism are explicitly associated

23Thomas of Monmouth, 37. See also the analog to the Prioresss Tale, in Cantigas
de Santa Maria: They all said, What a fragrance surrounds him! (Songs of Holy Mary of
Alfonso X, The Wise: A Translation of the Cantigas de Santa Maria, tr. Kathleen Kulp-Hill,
MRTS Vol. 173 [Tempe: Arizona State University, 2000], 12.
24Caesarius of Heisterbach, The Dialogue on Miracles, trs. H. Von E. Scott and C.C.
Swinton Bland (London: Routledge, 1929), Book 2, chapter 25, 10708.
25Of a girl who was baptized at Linz. A few days afterwards, her infidel mother met
her and urged her to come back to Judiasm (sic). I cannot, she replied, for I have already
been made a Christian. Then said the mother, I can easily undo your baptism. The girl,
wishing to find out what her mother meant by this, asked how she would do it. I would
draw you, said the Jewess, three times through the opening of the latrine, and thus the
virtue of your baptism would be left behind. When the daughter heard this, she cursed
her mother, spat at her, and fled away (Ibid., Book 2; chapter 26, 110).
medieval antisemitism and excremental libel 185

with excrement, and seen as being able to threaten Christian identity with
a secret scatological ceremony with the power to reverse baptism.
A connected story linking Jews to excrement is that of the Jew of
Tewkesbury, preserved in Ranulph Higdens Polychronicon, and one or two
roughly contemporary early fourteenth-century English and continental
texts. It is the purportedly historical account of a Jew who, one Saturday
in 1258, falls into a latrine but, as the day is the Jewish Sabbath, refuses
offers to pull him out, because the action would break the Sabbath. When
Richard de Clare, count of Gloucester, hears about this, he refuses to allow
the Jew to pull himself out on the following day either, citing respect for
the Christian Sabbath, and so the Jew dies in the latrine. The expectation
of the humor of the grim little story depends on the perceived appro-
priateness of the Jews death;26 his refusal to free himself from a filthy
latrine on his Sabbath is interpreted as a sign not of admirable piety but of
grotesquely misplaced priorities that suggest a cultural affinity for excre-
ment, and Richard de Clares refusal to allow him to escape on Sunday
effectively serves him double measure.27
This series of chronicles and exempla point to a repeating medieval
Christian sense of the cultural and theological appropriateness of asso-
ciating Jews with the waste products of the body. The practice of what
Alexandra Cuffel calls a polemic of filth as a means of vilifying ones
religious opponent is not exclusive to Christianity, but a common ges-
ture of abjection;28 indeed, scatological language deriding Christianity is
also common to Jewish polemical material. The Talmud describes Jesus as
boiling in an excremental hell,29 and a common Jewish objection to the
incarnation in debate literature was the alarming proximity of the fetal
Christ to Marys bowels: there is nothing in this world as disgusting as a
womans stomach, which is full of feces and urine, which emits discharge

26There is little doubt that, despite its placement as an exemplum in Higden, the anec
dote is meant to be humorous, at least in its original form; see Anthony Bale, Framing
Antisemitic Exempla: Locating the Jew of Tewkesbury, Mediaevalia 20 (2001), 1947.
27Had he been a Christian, of course, even one who respected the Sabbath, he would
have been able to cite the apparent inspiration for the story, the words of Jesus on the
acceptability of removing animals from pits on the Sabbath, which conclude How much
then is a man better than a sheep? Matt 12:1112; Luke 14: 5.
28Alexandra Cuffel, Filthy Words/Filthy Bodies: Gendering Disgust in Twelfth- and
Thirteenth-Century Jewish-Christian Polemic. Ph.D. Diss., New York University, 2002.
29Robert Chazan, European Jewry and the First Crusade (Berkeley and Los Angeles:
University of California Press, 1987), 262.
186 merrall llewelyn price

and menstrual blood and serves as the receptacle for mans semen.30 But
interestingly, there is no Jewish text that accuses Christians of scatological
or other bodily defilement: the traffic on this is entirely one-way. A related
story in Caesarius, though not featuring Jews, seems revealing: corn has
been so plentiful in Cologne that a baker woman is heard to say of the
dough, Let us put this filth in the oven. As a punishment, her statement
is miraculously made literal, and excellent dough was changed by her
cooking into filth, which she notices only upon drawing the loaves from
the oven, realizing that they are loaves in appearance only but not in
substance. Caesarius himself sees a piece of one of the loaves, in which
on careful examination we found nothing but filth glued together.31 This
bread transformation miracle with its eucharistic language, found in a
collection that focuses in large part upon Marian and eucharistic exem-
pla, is a sketchy gesture toward acknowledging one of the more difficult
truths of Christianitythat a god that is swallowed in the form of bread
risks also the continued process of human digestion. As Piero Camporesi
observes in words reminiscent of medieval Jewish objections to the incar-
nation, the descent of the body of Christ into...the wet and foul-smelling
guts is followed by theologians with a worried gaze and with thoughtful
anxiety.32 A god in the bowels is certainly not holy, in the sense of sepa-
rate, but intimately entwined with the human, and perhaps not a god at
all, as fifteenth-century Lollard Margery Baxter worried in her rejection of
divinity that could be consumed and then emitted from the rectum into
dirty stinking privies.33
Among the accomplishments the firm association between Jews and
excrement and their alleged use of the latter to contaminate holy Christian
objects achieves is the reassuring certainty that, despite the implications
of swallowing, digesting, and excreting God, it is Jews who link Christ
and feces, certainly not Christians. This perhaps helps to account for the
odd claim in a 1205 letter of Innocent III that Jewish families forced their
Christian wet-nurses to express their milk into the latrine for three days
after having received communion, a claim that again puts Jews into the
position of befouling the sacred objects of Christianity, but which also

30David Berger, The Jewish-Christian Debate in the High Middle Ages (Philadelphia:
Jewish Publication Society of America, 1979), 68.
31Caesarius, Vol. II, 187.
32Piero Camporesi, The Fear of Hell: Images of Damnation and Salvation in Early Modern
Europe (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1991), 166.
33emittunt per posteriora in sepibus turpiter fetentibus. N. Tanner, ed. Heresy Trials in
the Diocese Of Norwich, 142831 (London: Offices of the Royal Historical Society, 1977), 45.
medieval antisemitism and excremental libel 187

rather depends on a fantasy of Jewish acceptance that the eucharist is

a powerful substanceperhaps even one with the power to convert or
contaminate their babies.34 At the same time, the linking of Jews with
bodily waste demonstrates a fear of bodily defilement, perhaps the same
one manifested elsewhere in the allegations that Jews poisoned wells in
Christian communities. Jews were seen as polluting not because they
were particularly uncleanritual hygiene practices suggest a level of per-
sonal cleanliness likely superior to that of most medieval Christiansbut
because they represented a threat to the Christian social body, the corpus
ecclesia mysticum, vulnerable to the polluting contact of outsiders.
Since the Rudy Giuliani himself is the product of a society that identi-
fies excrement, even the inoffensive excrement of herbivores, as offensive
and contaminating, it is not surprising that the former mayors response
to the Ofili collage should remind us that we still consider cleanliness to
be next to godliness, and that sinfulness can by identified by its proxim-
ity to the disgusting. Associating a despised nation, race, gender, class,
or religion with unpleasant bodily effluvia is a clear act of abjection, an
effort to distinguish between a clean and fragrant us and a contami-
nated and stinking them. But the frequent medieval Christian associa-
tion of Jews with excrement is more than just another antisemitic trope;
it is also a means of dealing with the threat represented by all competing
theological worldviews. The actions of the Jews in these stories represent
not just Judaism but any resistance to Christian orthodoxy, and the sto-
ries function to reinforce problematic medieval doctrine, ranging from the
incarnation itself through the question of Marys virginity to the difficult
problem of the real presence in the eucharist.

34Solomon Grayzel, The Church and the Jews in the Thirteenth Century, rev. ed. (New
York: Hermon Press, 1966), 115.
Between a Rock and a Hard Place: Rulers, Cities, and
Their Jews in Austria during the Persecutions of the
Fourteenth Century*

Eveline Brugger

The legal status of Jews in medieval Austria had been defined in the thir
teenth century, at a time when the number of Jewish inhabitants and Jewish
settlements was growing; a long struggle for the actual rule over the Jews
between the Austrian duke and the emperor eventually ended in favor of
the duke. The Austrian dukes granted their Jews protection and privileges
in exchange for considerable taxation and ducal control of Jewish business.1
This arrangement worked smoothly during the thirteenth century, which
was mostly a time of peace and prosperity for the Austrian Jewry. However,
their dependency on ducal protection left them in a very precarious situa
tion during the fourteenth century, which brought about a steady deterio
ration of the overall status of the Austrian Jews.2
The first persecution of Jews in Austria that went beyond an attack
against a single person or family occurred in 1294, in the small Lower
Austrian town of Laa an der Thaya. The source from which we learn
about this event, an annalistic note written in the Cistercian monastery
of Zwettl, established a literary tradition that then occurred repeatedly in
the Austrian historiography of the fourteenth century: Also in the town
of Laa, Jews had stolen the body of the Lord, and when they were appre
hended burying it in a stable, a few were punished by death, and the

*Research for this article was funded by the Austrian Science Fund (FWF), P 21236
1For a detailed discussion of this development, see the article by Birgit Wiedl in this
2For the general development of Jewish life in the duchy of Austria during the four
teenth century, see Eveline Brugger, Von der Ansiedlung bis zur VertreibungJuden in
sterreich im Mittelalter, in Geschichte der Juden in sterreich, by Eveline Brugger and
others (Wien: Ueberreuter, 2006), 123228, here 16980, Germania Judaica III 13501519,
Vol. 3 (Gebietsartikel, Einleitungsartikel, Indices), Ayre Maimon, Mordechai Breuer, and
Yacov Guggenheim, ed. (Tbingen: J.C.B. Mohr, 2003), 197785.
190 eveline brugger

others fled from the town. In the place where the body of the Lord had
been found, however, a chapel was built.3
Following the events in Laa in 1294, alleged host desecration became the
most frequent reason for outbreaks of anti-Jewish violence in late medi
eval Austria,4 as opposed to other territories in the south of the Empire
where accusations of ritual murder were more common.5 Several such
persecutions followed the one in Laa in quick succession during the first
years of the fourteenth century. As in the case of Laa, they were carried
out by the citizenry of the towns where the Jews lived, and were not insti
gated or legitimised by any higher authority, secular or ecclesiastical. Such
an action against a group who was under the protection of the duke and
so closely linked to him that it technically belonged to his treasure6 was a
direct challenge to the dukes authority that he could not tolerate.7

3Item in L civitate iudei furati fuerunt corpus Domini, et in stabulo illud sepelientes dep
rehensi, aliquot morte multati sunt et reliqui a civitate fugerunt. In loco autem ubi corpus
Domini inventum fuit, capella constructa est. Eveline Brugger and Birgit Wiedl, Regesten
zur Geschichte der Juden in Osterreich im Mittelalter. Vol. 1: Von den Anfngen bis 1338
(Innsbruck-Wien-Bozen: StudienVerlag, 2005) [online:
laufend/mittelalterliche_judenurkunden/index.php?lang=EN], 89, nr. 82.
4Gavin Langmuir, Toward a Definition of Antisemitism (Berkeley-Los Angeles-Oxford:
University of California Press, 1990), 12033; Friedrich Lotter, Hostienfrevelvorwurf und
Blutwunderflschung bei den Judenverfolgungen von 1298 (Rintfleisch) und 13361338
(Armleder), in Flschungen im Mittelalter 5: Fingierte Briefe. Frmmigkeit und Flschung.
Realienflschungen (MGH Schriften 33/5, Hannover: Hahnsche Buchhandlung, 1988),
53383, here 53648, Miri Rubin, Corpus Christi: The Eucharist in Late Medieval Culture
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991).
5Rainer Erb, Zur Erforschung der europischen Ritualmordbeschuldigungen in Die
Legende vom Ritualmord. Zur Geschichte der Blutbeschuldigung gegen Juden, Rainer Erb,
ed. (Berlin: Metropol-Verlag, 1993), 916; Langmuir, Antisemitism, 26381; Michael Toch,
Die Juden im mittelalterlichen Reich (Enzyklopdie deutscher Geschichte 44) (Mnchen:
Oldenbourg, 2003), 11315.
6Friedrich Battenberg, Des Kaisers Kammerknechte. Gedanken zur rechtlich-sozialen
Situation der Juden in Sptmittelalter und Frher Neuzeit, Historische Zeitschrift 245
(1987), 54599, here 56970; Brugger, Ansiedlung, 13637; Alexander Patschowksy, Das
Rechtsverhltnis der Juden zum deutschen Knig (9.-14. Jahrhundert). Ein europischer
Vergleich, Zeitschrift der Savigny-Stiftung fr Rechtsgeschichte, Germanistische Abteilung
110 (1993), 33171, here 34445; Toch, Juden im mittelalterlichen Reich, 4849.
7For the political role which his rule over the Austrian Jews played for the duke at
the time see Eveline Brugger, Minem herren dem hertzogen sein juden: Die Beziehung der
Habsburger zu ihren Juden im sterreich des 14. Jahrhunderts, in 25. sterreichischer
Historikertag, St. Plten 2008 (St. Plten: Verlag des Instituts fr Niedersterreichische
Landeskunde, 2010), 74249, here 74243; Eveline Brugger, Do musten da hin zue den
iuden varndie Rolle(n) jdischer Geldgeber im sptmittelalterlichen sterreich, in
Ein Themazwei Perspektiven. Juden und Christen in Mittelalter und Frhneuzeit, Eveline
Brugger and Birgit Wiedl, ed. (Innsbruck-Wien-Bozen: StudienVerlag, 2007), 12238, here
12326; Klaus Lohrmann, Judenrecht und Judenpolitik im mittelalterlichen sterreich (Wien-
Kln: Bhlau, 1990), 11422.
between a rock and a hard place 191

In 1305, an alleged host desecration in the small town of Korneuburg

(near Vienna) led to the tumultuous murder of ten Jews, most likely the
entire Jewish population of the town, by the citizens.8 Since the blood
stained host wafer that had been found on the threshold of a Jews house
was soon said to work miracles, the bishop of Passau ordered a thorough
investigation of the case. The Cistercian Ambrose of Heiligenkreuz, whom
the bishop of Passau had put in charge of the investigation, complained
bitterly about the way the Habsburg Duke Rudolf III interfered with the
ongoing interrogation of witnesses.9 In his theological treatise Tractatus de
hostia mirificata, which was based on the events of Korneuburg although it
was written several years later,10 Ambrose emphasized that the duke tried
to speed up the proceedings and kept the citizens from testifying about
the alleged miracles caused by the desecrated host wafer. However, there
is no evidence that Duke Rudolf punished the citizens of Korneuburg who
had murdered his Jews, probably because he didnt want to risk a direct
confrontation with the ecclesiastical authorities involved.11

8From the ample literature on the 1305 persecution of Korneuburg see Germania
Judaica II Von 1238 bis zur Mitte des 14. Jahrhunderts, Zvi Avneri, ed. (Tbingen: J.C.B. Mohr
1968), II/1, 450, II/2, 894; Miri Rubin, Gentile Tales. The Narrative Assault on Late Medieval
Jews (New Haven-London: Yale University Press, 1999), 5765; Winfried Stelzer, Am
Beispiel Korneuburg: Der angebliche Hostienfrevel sterreichischer Juden von 1305 und
seine Quellen, in sterreich im Mittelalter. Bausteine zu einer revidierten Gesamtdarstellung
(Studien und Forschungen aus dem Niedersterreichischen Institut fr Landeskunde 26),
Willibald Rosner, ed. (St. Plten: Selbstverlag des Niedersterreichischen Instituts fr
Landeskunde, 1999) 30948, here 31314, 32840; Brugger, Ansiedlung, 21116; and Birgit
Wiedl, The Host on the Doorstep: Perpetrators, Victims, and Bystanders in an Alleged Host
Desecration in Fourteenth-Century Austria, in Crime and Punishment in the Middle Ages
and Early Modern Times. Fundamentals of Medieval and Early Modern Culture 7, Albrecht
Classen and Connie L. Scarborough, ed (Berlin-Boston: Walter de Gruyter, 2012), 30147.
9Brugger, Studien und Forschungen aus dem Niedersterreichischen Institut fr
Landeskunde 38), Anton Eggendorfer and Willibald Rosner, ed. (St. Plten: Selbstverlag
des Niedersterreichischen Instituts fr Landeskunde, 2004), 4849. The notarial account
of the interrogation has been preserved in its entirety, and although the questions which
the twenty-one witnesses had to answer were mostly focussed on the question whether
the host wafer had been consecrated and the alleged miracles, several of the witnesses
also gave detailed information on the murder of the Jews. For the most recent edition see
Brugger, Wiedl, Regesten 1, 12542, nr. 133.
10Stelzer, Korneuburg, 33739.
11 For the most recent edition of the passages from Ambroses treatise concerning the
actions of the duke see Brugger, Wiedl, Regesten 1, 144, nr. 135. From the treatise, we also
learn that a local priest later confessed that he had staged the whole incident by putting an
(unconsecrated) bloodstained wafer on the threshold of the Jewish house. In spite of this
confession, the miraculous host of Korneuburg remained a center of pilgrimage well into
the early modern period. Brugger, Ansiedlung, 21415, Stelzer; Korneuburg, 337.
192 eveline brugger

A year later, in 1306, a similar persecution in the Lower Austrian town

of St. Plten (also caused by an alleged host desecration) provoked a com
pletely different reaction from Rudolf III. St. Plten was not under ducal
rule, but under the rule of the bishop of Passau, who had failed to protect
the Jews against the wrath of the citizens. Rudolf III saw this as a chance
to interfere on behalf of his Jews in a town that was, technically, not
under his jurisdiction, thus emphasising that all the Jews, wherever they
lived on Austrian territory, belonged to him, and expanding his authority
at the expense of the bishop of Passau. Rudolf resorted to drastic measures
to enforce his authority: according to monastic sources, he threatened to
destroy the city and rebuild it on ducal land if the citizens didnt pay a
fine of 3500 pounds.12 From the dukes point of view, this makes sense:
the death of his Jews had been a financial loss to him, and the citizens
had to make up for that loss financially.
The implications of the fact that the Jews played a mostly financial role
for the duke were, of course, not lost on the citizens, who tried to use the
Jews in their cities as a bargaining chip when they were struggling with
the duke over legal or financial matters. If the duke had reason to pander
to the citizens demands, the Jews often ended up on the losing side. The
most frequent example was a prohibition against Jews working in certain
crafts or holding offices. The inclusion of such prohibitions into a munici
pal charter was usually the result of the dukes need to acquiesce to the
citizens wishes, often because there were several contenders for the rule
over the city in question.13
Power struggles between the Austrian duke and the citizenry became
particularly important for the Jews during times of persecution. Usually,
the actual protection that the duke was able to grant at such times was
extremely limited, since he did not have the means to intervene very
quickly or simply because it was all over by the time he even learned of
the event. During the local, more or less spontaneous persecutions that
sprung up in the first decades of the fourteenth century, the only thing the
duke could do in these cases was to punish the offenders afterwards. The
willingness of the Austrian dukes to protect the Jews and to implement
such punishments earned them harsh criticism from the clergy; Duke

12For the annalistic accounts of the persecution see Brugger, Wiedl, Regesten 1, 15455,
nr. 145; 155, nr. 146. In March 1307, the convent of St. Plten had to sell three vineyards to
co-finance the citys payments to the duke (Brugger, Wiedl, Regesten 1, 160, nr. 152). See
also Lohrmann, Judenrecht, 11820; Brugger, Ansiedlung, 216.
13See the article by Birgit Wiedl in this volume.
between a rock and a hard place 193

Rudolf III was reproachfully dubbed fautor Judeorum (patron of the Jews)
by the aforementioned Ambrose von Heiligenkreuz,14 an epithet that was
later also used for Rudolfs younger brother Duke Albrecht II.15
The situation was somewhat different during the first big wave of per
secutions that hit the duchy of Austria in 1338. For the first time in the
history of Jewish settlement in Austria, an outbreak of anti-Jewish vio
lence went beyond the local scope. The cause was once more an alleged
host desecration: on 27 April 1338, a bloodstained host wafer was found
in front of a house in Pulkau (Lower Austria) which belonged to the Jew
Merchlin, who had been living in Pulkau for at least a decade at this
point.16 This discovery not only led to the murder of the Jewish popula
tion of the town, but also triggered a persecution that spread to other
places in Lower Austria and in the neighbouring countries of Bohemia
and Moravia. Almost parallel to the catastrophic Armleder persecutions
that heavily affected the Jewish communities in Southern Germany from
13361338,17 the Pulkau persecution marks the first time in Austria that a
local incident caused wide-spread violence against the Jewish population,
affecting about 30 towns overall.18 This persecution drastically showed

14In the same text, a narrative about Jews in Vienna stealing a host wafer, which was
probably written after Rudolf s death in 1307, Ambrose accused the duke of protecting his
most beloved Jews in order to profit from their usury. Brugger, Wiedl, Regesten 1, 15657,
nr. 147; Lohrmann, Wiener Juden, 15051; Lotter, Hostienfrevelvorwurf, 56061; Stelzer,
Korneuburg, 33233.
15Brugger, Ansiedlung, 173, 219; Johann Egid Scherer, Die Rechtsverhltnisse der
Juden in den deutsch-sterreichischen Lndern. Mit einer Einleitung ber die Principien
der Judengesetzgebung in Europa whrend des Mittelalters (Beitrge zur Geschichte des
Judenrechtes im Mittelalter 1) (Leipzig: Duncker & Humblot, 1901), 370.
16Merchlin der Jud ze Pulka, mentioned in a German charter in 1329, is most likely
identical with Marquardus iudeus, in front of whose house the bleeding host was found in
1338. Brugger, Wiedl, Regesten 1, 25758, nr. 303; 33435, nr. 436.
17Lotter, Hostienfrevelvorwurf, 57679. Although the chronological coincidence with
the Armleder persecutions that heavily affected many Jewish communities in Southern
Germany is striking, there seems to be no immediate connection between them and the
Pulkau persecutions. The authorities suppression of the Armleder riots was not moti
vated by a concern for the Jews, but by the need to put a stop to a movement that was
perceived as a dangerous social uprising, even if it sometimes led to the same kind of
criticism that the dukes of Austria had to face for protecting their Jews. Frantiek Graus,
PestGeilerJudenmorde. Das 14. Jahrhundert als Krisenzeit (Verffentlichungen des
Max-Planck-Instituts fr Geschichte 86) (Gttingen: Vanderhoeck & Ruprecht, 21987),
29596; Jrg R. Mller, Erez gezerahLand of Persecution: Pogroms against the Jews
in the regnum Teutonicum from c. 1280 to 1350, in The Jews of Europe in the Middle Ages
(Tenth to Fifteenth Centuries) Christoph Cluse, ed. (Turnhout: Brepols, 2004), 245260,
here 25456.
18The Hebrew Martyrology from the Nrnberg Memorial book lists Austrian, Bohemian,
Moravian, and Carinthian towns and villages; see Siegmund Salfeld, Das Martyrologium
194 eveline brugger

the limits of the protection the authorities were able to give the Jews.
Jewish settlement seems to have come to an end in some small towns
and concentrated on the communities in bigger cities that were better
However, the citizens of those bigger cities saw a chance to use the
danger the Jews were in to their own advantage. In Vienna, the citizenry
forced the Viennese Jewish community to agree to a severe reduction of
interest rates on Jewish loans for citizens of Vienna in return for protec
tion. The privilege that Duke Frederick II had granted the Austrian Jews in
1244 had allowed them an interest rate of eight pence per pound per week,
even though interest rates had begun to decline since then.20 In June 1338,
the leaders of the Jewish community issued a charter in Hebrew in which

des Nrnberger Memorbuches (Quellen zur Geschichte der Juden in Deutschland vol. 3)
(Berlin: Verlag Leonhard Simion, 1898), 68, 24041, and Brugger, Wiedl, Regesten 1, 34849,
nr. 455. The ecclesiastical historiography of the time has much information on the topic;
see Brugger, Wiedl, Regesten 1, 33335, nrr. 43436 and 43451, nrr. 44856. Generally
Manfred Anselgruber and Herbert Puschnik, Dies trug sich zu anno 1338. Pulkau zur Zeit
der Glaubenswirren (Pulkau s.a.); Miri Rubin, Gentile Tales: The Narrative Assault on Late
Medieval Jews (New Haven-London: Yale University Press, 1999), 6568 (with several factual
errors concerning the general history of the region); GJ II/2, 641, 66566, 694; Lohrmann,
Judenrecht, 145, 15556, Mitchell B. Merback, Pilgrimage & Pogrom: Violence, Memory,
and Visual Culture at the Host-Miracle Shrines of Germany and Austria (Chicago-London:
University of Chicago Press, 2012), 6980. The number of Jewish victims is unknown; how
ever, since most Jewish settlements in smaller towns only consisted of a few families at
most, Miri Rubins estimate that 150 Jews were killed in Pulkau alone (Rubin, Gentile Tales,
65, 68) seems highly unlikely.
19Brugger, Ansiedlung, 174. The Continuatio Novimontensis, another monastic
account of the events, states explicitly that the Jews were killed exceptis his, qui in civita
tibus, sicut in Winna et in Nova Civitate sitis in Austria, a ducibus et baronibus sunt protecti
(except those who, in cities like Vienna and Wiener Neustadt situated in Austria, were
protected by the dukes and the nobles); see Brugger, Wiedl, Regesten 1, 344, nr. 449.
20Jewish business charters indicate that in most cases, this maximum rate was only
charged as default interest if the debtor failed to pay his debts at the due date. The actual
interest rate was camouflaged by giving only the total amount of the due sum, not the
amount of the original loan. Still, the enormous interest rate of eight pence per pound
per week, which equals a yearly interest rate of 173.3 percent, was frequently used to
denounce Jewish usurynot only by medieval authors, but also by modern anti-Semites.
Michael Toch, Jdische Geldleihe im Mittelalter, in Geschichte und Kultur der Juden in
Bayern, ed. by Manfred Treml and Josef Kirmeier (Mnchen-New York-London-Paris: K.G.
Saur, 1988), 8594, here 8990; Michael Toch, Geld und Kredit in einer sptmittelalter
lichen Landschaft. Zu einem unbeachteten Schuldenregister aus Niederbayern (1329
1332), Deutsches Archiv 38 (1982), 499550, here 51415; Hans-Jrg Gilomen, Wucher
und Wirtschaft im Mittelalter, Historische Zeitschrift 250 (1990), 265301, here 294;
Klaus Lohrmann, Die Wiener Juden im Mittelalter (Berlin-Wien: Philo, 2000), 68; Markus
Wenninger, Juden und Christen als Geldgeber im hohen und spten Mittelalter, in Die
Juden in ihrer mittelalterlichen Umwelt, Alfred Ebenbauer and Klaus Zatloukal, ed. (Wien-
Kln-Weimar: Bhlau, 1991), 28099, here 28384.
between a rock and a hard place 195

they lowered the maximum interest rate for loans given to Viennese citi
zens to three pence per pound per week. The text of the charter states
that the Jews had voluntarily granted the reduction of interest rates to
show their gratitude for the help they had received from the citizens in
a time of danger, yet one of the rabbis who signed it added the epithet
the most ashamed to his name, thus clearly expressing his unhappiness.21
Dukes Albrecht II and Otto had to agree to the reduction in order to keep
the Viennese Jews safe, although every measure that hurt their Jewish sub
jects economically meant financial losses for the dukes as well.22
There are no sources indicating that the dukes punished the citizens
of the towns where Jews had been attacked, probably because they were
taken by surprise by the scale of the persecutions and afraid of provoking
further outbreaks of violence. Duke Albrecht seems to have tried to get
help from the church: Pope Benedict XII, whom the duke had informed of
the events, promised to charge the bishop of Passau with an investigation
which, if the Jews should be found innocent of host desecration, would
lead to the punishment of those Christians who had killed the Jews and
plundered their houses.23 Even though the investigation seems to have
been carried out, there are no records of any punishment dealt out by
Church authorities.24 Like Korneuburg, Pulkau became a pilgrimage site,25

21 The Hebrew charter was sewn onto the ducal confirmation; besides, the city of Vienna
copied the Hebrew text (and a German translation) into the Eisenbuch, a chartulary for
important municipal documents. Brugger, Wiedl, Regesten 1, 33638, nr. 439; Lohrmann,
Wiener Juden, 7175.
22Brugger, Wiedl, Regesten 1, 338; nr. 440; Lohrmann, Judenrecht, 15556, 17879.
Although both the Jewish and the ducal charters were directed at the citizens of Vienna
only, the interest rate of 8 pence subsequently disappeared almost completely. This
is, however, part of a bigger development that was limited neither to Jewish loans nor
to Austria, since interest rates were generally declining during the fourteenth century.
Wenninger, Juden und Christen als Geldgeber, 290.
23The text of Albrechts letter to the pope is unknown; only Benedicts answer to
Albrecht and his mandate to the bishop of Passau were preserved in the papal register.
Brugger, Wiedl, Regesten 1, 33941, nrr. 44243; Heinz Schreckenberg, Die christlichen
Adversus-Judaeos-Texte und ihr literarisches und historisches Umfeld (13.20. Jahrhundert)
(Europische Hochschulschriften, Reihe XXIII Theologie 497) (Frankfurt a. M.-Berlin-
Bern-New York-Paris-Wien: Peter Lang, 1994), 37374, Shlomo Simonsohn, The Apostolic
See and the Jews. Vol. 1: Documents 4921404, Studies and Texts vol. 94 (Toronto: Pontifical
Institute of Medieval Studies, 1988), 37174, nr. 35455.
24The theological treatise that was written on the matter by Frederick, canon of
Bamberg Cathedral, indicates that he was involved in the investigation. Anselgruber,
Puschnik, Pulkau, 5365; Brugger, Wiedl, Regesten 1, 4950, nr. 456; Merback, Pilgrimage
& Pogrom, 76; Rubin, Gentile Tales, 67.
25Anselgruber, Puschnik, Pulkau, 6567. The Holy Blood Church in Pulkau still houses
a sixteenth-century winged altarpiece decorated with panels depicting the Jewish host
196 eveline brugger

even though the correspondence between the duke and the pope had
mentioned the fact that the miraculous bleeding host of Korneuburg had
been a fake, and the bishop of Passau had his own doubts about the verac
ity of the Pulkau host.26 Although the dukes were keen on protecting their
Jews, they still did nothing to stop the veneration of host wafers allegedly
desecrated by Jews; Duke Otto even founded an Augustinian monastery in
Korneuburg in 1338 and endowed it with a plot of land which had once
belonged to the Jews.27
Still, Duke Albrecht II seems to have taken the lesson learned from the
events of 1338 to heart, because he was able to protect the Austrian Jews
a decade later, when the Black Plague was used as a pretext for huge and
wide-spread persecutions in many territories of the Holy Roman Empire.
It is important to point out that the big persecutions during the time of
the plague, especially during the later stages in 1349, were not carried out
spontaneously by fearful or traumatised groups of citizens, but mostly were
initiated and organised by municipal authorities or, in several cases, even
by the ruler of the territory in question.28 The Austrian Jews, however, sur
vived these critical times almost completely unscathed because of strong
and efficient ducal protection. There is one single exception, a persecu
tion of Jews in the autumn of 1349 that was carried out by the citizens of
Krems, where one of the biggest and most important Jewish communities
in Austria was situated. Monastic annals report that the usual accusations
of bringing about the plague by poisoning the wells were raised against
the Jews of Krems, which caused the citizens to burn most of the Jews in
their houses on St. Michaels Day (29 September 1349). Duke Albrecht II,
who was dubbed with the aforementioned epithet fautor Iudeorum, on
this occasion punished the citizens heavily, both by sending troops to
arrest those who had attacked the Jews (several of the arrested citizens
were later executed or died in prison) and by collecting hefty fines.29

desecration, although the panels are no longer on public display. For photographs, see
Rubin, Gentile Tales, 15051, Merback, Pilgrimage & Pogrom, plates 79.
26The bishop of Passau gave order to place another, consecrated host wafer behind
the miraculous Pulkau host to prevent idolatry. Brugger, Wiedl, Regesten 1, 34748, nr.
453; Rubin, Gentile Tales, 66. There is mention of a priest faking the bleeding host in John
of Winterthurs chronicle; see Brugger, Wiedl, Regesten 1, 34647, nr. 452. It is, however,
not fully clear whether the author was referring to Pulkau or to the Korneuburg case.
Wolfgang Stefan Koller, Die Korneuburger Bluthostie. Historische Quellen und Wirkung
(unpublished masters thesis, University of Vienna, 1991), 2022.
27Brugger, Wiedl, Regesten 1, 343, nr. 447.
28Mller, Erez geserah, 25657; Toch, Juden im mittelalterlichen Reich, 6263.
29Eveline Brugger and Birgit Wiedl, Regesten zur Geschichte der Juden in sterreich im
Mittelalter. Vol. 2: 13391365 (Innsbruck-Wien-Bozen: StudienVerlag, 2010) [online: http://
between a rock and a hard place 197

Even the inhabitants of the neighbouring town of Mautern, which was

under the rule of the bishop of Passau, were fined for participating in
the persecutionin spite of the bishops intervention on behalf of his
subjects.30 In a way reminiscent of Rudolf IIIs actions against St. Plten
in 1306, Albrecht II was able to use his position as the legal protector of
the Austrian Jews in order to intervene in a town that was technically not
under his rule. Overall, Albrechts swift and brutal reaction may have set
an example that helped to hold citizens and/or municipal authorities who
might have been interested in getting rid of their Jews in check, thus keep
ing the other Jewish communities in the duchy of Austria safe.
The same was not the case in other territories that are part of todays
Austria, where the Jewish inhabitants were affected by the wave of per
secutions that often even preceded the actual outbreak of the plague.
There are records about persecutions in the territories of the archbishop
of Salzburg in 1349, although we know very little about them; the same is
true for the vast possessions of the bishop of Bamberg in Carinthia.31 In
the west of todays Austria, the territories around Lake Constance, which
were divided into many small dominions under different rulers, were most
heavily affected. Responsibility for the Jewish communities around Lake
Constance was divided between the emperor, to whom they paid a part
of their taxes, and the cities the Jews lived in, which also got their share
in taxation. There was no territorial authority interested in protecting the
Jews as there was in the duchy of Austria, which explains the extreme
impact of the plague persecutions in these parts.32 Little is known about
the impact the plague had on the Jews in the country of Tyrol, but there
are indications of plague-related persecutions there as well.33],
9798, nr. 64647; Anton Kerschbaumer, Geschichte der Stadt Krems (Krems: Faber, 1885),
30Hannelore Hruschka, Die Geschichte der Juden in Krems von den Anfngen
bis 1938 (unpublished doctoral thesis, University of Vienna, 1978), 11012; Scherer,
Rechtsverhltnisse, 370.
31Wilhelm Wadl, Geschichte der Juden in Krnten im Mittelalter. Mit einem Ausblick
bis zum Jahre 1867 (Das Krntner Landesarchiv, vol. 9) (Klagenfurt: Verlag des Krntner
Landesarchivs, 2009), 166, 17374; Markus Wenninger, Zur Geschichte der Juden in
Salzburg, in Geschichte Salzburgs Stadt und Land, vol. 1/2: Mittelalter, Heinz Dopsch and
Hans Spatzenegger ed. (Salzburg: Pustet, 1983), 74756, here 748.
32Karl-Heinz Burmeister, Geschichte der Juden in Stadt und Herrschaft Feldkirch
(Schriftenreihe der Rheticus-Gesellschaft, Vol. 1) (Feldkirch: Rheticus-Gesellschaft, 1993),
9; Karl-Heinz Burmeister, Die Juden in Vorarlberg im Mittelalter, in Aron Tnzer, Die
Geschichte der Juden in Hohenems (repr. Bregenz: Verlagsbuchhandlung H. Lingenhle &
Co., 1982), 80724, here 81620.
33Klaus Brandsttter, Jdisches Leben in Tirol im Mittelalter, in Jdisches Leben im
historischen Tirol, vol. 1: Vom Mittelalter bis 1805, ed. by Thomas Albrich (Innsbruck-Wien:
198 eveline brugger

Throughout the Habsburg countries, the citizenry began to participate

more actively in the protection of their Jews in the second half of the
fourteenth century. The municipal authorities main interests were finan
cial matters that concerned the city and the question of jurisdiction over
the Jews.34 There were fewer persecutions of Jews in the second half of
the century than there had been in the first half. There is an interest
ing, if somewhat questionable, record of a persecution in the Habsburg
territories of Styria and Carinthia in 1397, which is said to have caused
many Jews to flee to Vienna. According to the source, the Austrian duke
prevented an outbreak of anti-Jewish violence in the city of Vienna in
exchange for a promise by the Jewish refugees to pay him 16.000 marks
for their protection. Also ist Osterreich der Juden verhaissen und gesegnent
land (thus Austria is the promised and blessed land of the Jews), the
source concludes somewhat indignantly. In the course of the same per
secution, which was mostly carried out by members of the nobility who
wanted to kill the Jews in order to get rid of their own debts, the Styrian
cities of Graz, Radkersburg, and Pettau allegedly refused to surrender their
Jews to those who wanted to kill them.35 In the same year, Jews in the
duchy of Austria were granted a new privilege by Dukes Leopold IV and
Wilhelm that renewed their old rights and freed them from extraordinary
taxation.36 This measure, together with a mention that the privilege had
been granted to compensate the Jews for the damage they had suffered,
is a strong indication that the persecution of 1397 actually happened, and
even if the aforementioned report is likely exaggerated, it is nevertheless
a very characteristic example of the Jews being caught between different

Haymonverlag, 2013), pp. 11134, here pp. 3234, Gretl Kfler, Zur Geschichte der Juden
in Tirol, Das Fenster 25 (1979/80), 253037, here 253031; Salfeld, Martyrologium, 8283,
28283 (mention of Innsbruck, the Tyrolean capital, as a blood city in 1349), Scherer,
Rechtsverhltnisse, 576.
34Birgit Wiedl, Jews and the City. Parameters of Jewish Urban Life in Late Medieval
Austria, in Urban Space in the Middle Ages and the Early Modern Age. Fundamentals of
Medieval and Early Modern Culture 4, Albrecht Classen, ed. (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter,
2009), 73308, here 29193.
35Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Deutsche Chroniken VI, Joseph Seemller, ed.
(Hannover: Hahn, 1909), 238; Stephan Laux, Dem Knig eine ergetzlikhait, Die Vertreibung
der Juden aus der Steiermark (1496/97), in Jdisches Leben in der Steiermark. Margi
nalisierung, Auslschung, Annherung, Gerald Lamprecht (Innsbruck-Wien-Mnchen-
Bozen: StudienVerlag, 2004), 3357, here 36; Artur Rosenberg, Beitrge zur Geschichte
der Juden in Steiermark (Quellen und Forschungen zur Geschichte der Juden in Deutsch-
sterreich, Vol. 6) (Wien-Leipzig: Verlag Wilhelm Braumller, 1914), 56; Scherer,
Rechtsverhltnisse, 46869.
36Lohrmann, Judenrecht, 23334.
between a rock and a hard place 199

In spite of the decrease in the number of persecutions, the protec

tion the Jews got from the rulers themselves was getting weaker during
the second half of the fourteenth century. The economic importance of
Jewish moneylenders was dwindling. A significant change in the social
standing of the customers of Jewish moneylenders and pawnbrokers can
be observed, especially in cities: the municipal elites relied less and less
on the services of Jewish financiers, while the percentage of small loans
taken up by craftsmen and lower-class citizens went up.37 Parallel to this
development, the importance of the Christian credit business increased
steadily, thus creating growing competition for the Jewish moneylenders
and diminishing their importance.38 This development caused more and
more rulers throughout the Empire to consider the option of resolving
their financial problems by seizing Jewish property. In Austria, Dukes
Albrecht III and Leopold III started to extort money from rich Jewish
businessmen in the 1370s by holding them captive until they paid huge
sums as ransom. Sometimes, they would single out a particularly wealthy
Jewish financier, like the Viennese banker David Steuss, who is reported
to have paid the enormous sum of 50.000 pounds in 1383 to regain his
The growing number of so-called Ttbriefe (killing letters), ducal
decrees through which the duke annulled the debts of persons or institu
tions he wished to favor without any compensation to the Jewish money
lender in question, also indicates clearly that ducal protection of Jewish
business was deteriorating.40 Sometimes, these killing letters were issued
because a Jew fled from the Austrian territoryJews needed the permis
sion of the duke to move to another rulers territorybut they were also
issued for Jews who were still in Austria and who suffered financial losses
to the benefit of a party whom the duke wished or needed to favor.41 Duke
Rudolf IV (13581365), who placed great importance on stressing his sole
right to rule over the Austrian Jews (up to the point of including it into
his famous falsification of imperial privileges for Austria in the so-called

37Hans-Jrg Gilomen, Juden in den sptmittelalterlichen Stdten des Reichs: Normen

FaktenHypothesen. Kleine Schriften des Arye Maimon-Instituts, 11 (Trier: Eigenverlag
des Instituts, 2009), 28.
38Brugger, Rolle(n) jdischer Geldgeber, 133; Toch, Jdische Geldleihe, 8990;
Wenninger, Juden und Christen als Geldgeber, 28889; Wiedl, Jews and the City, 301.
39Brugger, Ansiedlung, 220; Lohrmann, Judenrecht, 21617.
40Brugger, Adel und Juden, 108; Lohrmann, Judenrecht, 17173.
41 Brugger, Ansiedlung, 145; Lohrmann, Judenrecht, 217220.
200 eveline brugger

Privilegium maius),42 was especially quick to use them, although he often

chose to take over outstanding Jewish debts instead of simply annulling
Therefore, while the legal position of the Jews in Austrian towns and
cities had not become that much weaker during the fourteenth century,
their actual situation was much more precarious at the end of the cen
tury than it had been at the beginning. Consequently, the beginning of
the fifteenth century marks a period when rulers decided more and more
frequently that the Jews were no longer necessary for them at all, and that
they could profit financially from confiscating the property of Jewish vic
tims of persecutions.44 The fifteenth century became the period of perse
cutions that were now instigated and carried out by the rulers themselves
(albeit occasionally in collaboration with the affected cities), eventually
leading to the expulsion of the remaining Jews.45

42Urkundenbuch zur Geschichte der Babenberger in sterreich, vol. 4/1, Heinrich

Fichtenau, Erich Zllner, and Heide Dienst, ed. (Wien: Verlag Adolf Holzhausens
Nachfolger, 1968), 15157, nr. 804; Lohrmann, Judenrecht, 20910.
43On the most prominent Jewish victims of this policy, Mosche of Maribor and Hslein
of Friesach, see Eveline Brugger, Loans of the Father: Business Succession in Families
of Jewish Moneylenders in Late Medieval Austria, in Generations in Towns. Succession
and Success in Pre-Industrial Urban Societies, Finn-Einar Eliassen and Katalin Szende, ed.
(Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2009), 11229, here 11921.
44On the topic of Jewish expulsions in the Empire in general see Markus Wenninger,
Man bedarf keiner Juden mehr. Ursachen und Hintergrnde ihrer Vertreibung aus den
deutschen Reichsstdten im 15. Jahrhundert (Wien-Kln-Graz: Bhlau, 1981). For the
Austrian territories see Brugger, Ansiedlung, 22127.
45For the duchy of Austria, the year 1421 marks the end of medieval Jewish settlement.
During the years 1420/21, the Austrian Jews were hit by the most catastrophic medieval
persecution in the territory of todays Austria. Duke Albrecht V had hundreds of Austrian
Jews captured and killed while others reportedly committed suicide to escape forced bap
tism; the survivors were driven from the country. The Jewish martyrs were commemo
rated in the Vienna Gesera, a Yiddish account of the events. See Artur Goldmann, Das
Judenbuch der Scheffstrasse zu Wien (13891420). (Quellen und Forschungen zur Geschichte
der Juden in Deutsch-sterreich, Vol. 1) (Wien-Leipzig: Wilhelm Braumller 1908), 12532;
GJ III/3, 198688; Martha Keil, Bet haKnesset, Judenschul. Die mittelalterliche Synagoge
als Gotteshaus, Amtsraum und Brennpunkt sozialen Lebens, in Wiener Jahrbuch fr
jdische Geschichte 4 (1999/2000), 7189, here 7374.
Codifying Jews: Jews in Austrian Town Charters of the
Thirteenth and Fourteenth Centuries*

Birgit Wiedl

Jewish settlement took place rather late in the region of todays Austria,
compared to other parts of the German-speaking area, namely the cit-
ies along the Rhine.1 Until the late twelfth century, Jews appear only as
merchants who are passing through the country.2 Although the number
of Jews dwelling in the countryside should not be underestimated, it was
the (few) urban centers that attracted the majority of Jewish settlers. Full-
fledged Jewish communities developed from the early thirteenth cen-
tury onwards mainly in the cities in the eastern part of todays Austria;
however, the positioning of the Jewish inhabitants within the Christian
surroundings, particularly with regard to their legal standing, was to be
defined in a lengthy process that had only just begun. This was partly due
to the equally late development of the Austrian cities and their peculiari-
ties in terms of rulership.
Unlike many of their neighboring cities in todays Germany, medieval
Austrian towns never managed to liberate themselves from the strong
grip of their rulers. Despite the existence of urban centers in the early
Middle Ages, it was not until the early thirteenth century that Austrian

* Research for this article was funded by the Austrian Science Fund (FWF), P 21237
1From the vast literature on the three main Jewish communities (Kehillot Shum: Speyer,
Worms, Mainz), see the summary by Rainer Barzen, Jewish Regional Organization in the
Rhineland: the Kehillot Shum around 1300, in The Jews of Europe in the Middle Ages (Tenth
to Fifteenth Centuries): Proceedings of the International Symposium Held at Speyer, 2025
October 2002, Christoph Cluse, ed. (Turnhout: Brepols, 2004), 23343.
2The article appeared in a slightly altered version in German,; see Birgit Wiedl, Juden
in sterreichischen Stadtrechten des Mittelalters in sterreichisches Archiv fr Recht &
Religion 57.2 (2010), 25773. The first mention of Jews on todays Austrian territory is
the Raffelstettener Zollordnung, a toll regulation from between 903906 that referred to
iudei et ceteri mercatores, Jews and other merchants; see Eveline Brugger and Birgit Wiedl,
Regesten zur Geschichte der Juden in sterreich im Mittelalter. Vol. 1: Von den Anfngen bis
1338 (Innsbruck: StudienVerlag, 2005), 15, nr. 1 (the whole book is downloadable as a pdf-
file at:
php?lang=EN, last accessed: 2 July, 2012). See also Eveline Brugger, Von der Ansiedlung bis
zur VertreibungJuden in sterreich im Mittelalter in Geschichte der Juden in sterreich,
Eveline Brugger et al., ed. (Vienna: Ueberreuter, 2006), 123228 (12324).
202 birgit wiedl

towns were officially granted town privileges3 which, although addressing

the constitution of a city council, show a clear dominance of economic
issues.4 Furthermore, the Austrian duke who issued these early charters
strengthened his position by keeping firm control over the composition
of the city councils; later on, the rulers in the territories of todays Austria
would prefer to hand over the control of administrative offices than to
relinquish control of legislation. Even in Vienna, which had rapidly gained
in importance from the mid-twelfth century on due to the interest the
ruling Babenberg family had taken in the city,5 and although the flourish-
ing of the city was based on the swift rise of individual members of the
citizenry, this entailed only a reluctant expansion of legal liberties in com-
parison to the liberties enjoyed by other cities in the German-speaking
area at that time.
This applies even more to the many smaller towns within the realms of
what makes up todays Austria, which were under the authority of a great
variety of rulers. Despite the ongoing consolidation of territories during
the late Middle Ages, many regions remained scattered in terms of rule.
Especially in the duchies of Styria and Carinthia, a considerable number
of towns were under the rule of a sovereign that was different from the
one governing the surrounding areafor example, the enclaves of the
Archbishops of Salzburg in Friesach (Carinthia) and Pettau (Lower Styria,
todays Ptuj/Slovenia), St. Plten in Lower Austria, which was not only in
the diocese but also under the secular rule of the Bishops of Passau, or the
Carinthian towns of Wolfsberg and Villach under the rule of the Bishops
of Bamberg,6 to name but a few.7

3Enns in 1212, Vienna in 1221. Die Rechtsquellen der Stadt Wien, ed. by Peter Csendes.
Fontes Rerum Austriacarum III: Fontes Iuris 9 (Vienna: Bhlau, 1986), 3039.
4Ferdinand Opll, Geschichte Wiens im Mittelaltervom frhen 13. bis zum Ende des
14. Jahrhunderts in Wien: Geschichte einer Stadt, Vol. 1: Von den Anfngen bis zur Ersten
Trkenbelagerung 1529, Peter Csendes and Ferdinand Opll, ed. (Vienna: Bhlau, 2001),
95144 (10102).
5Ferdinand Opll, Wiennach Kln eine der bedeutendsten Stdte des Regnum
Theutonicum. Ein Stdtevergleich, in Mitteleuropisches Stdtewesen in Mittelalter und
Frhneuzeit, Wilhelm Janssen and Margret Wensky, ed. (Cologne: Bhlau, 1999) 6390
(see 8081 for therather briefcomparison of the two Jewish quarters of Vienna and
Cologne); Opll, Geschichte Wiens im Mittelalter, 9698.
6Irmtraud Koller-Neumann, Die Lehen des Bistums Bamberg in Krnten bis 1400. Das
Krntner Landesarchiv 7 (Klagenfurt: Verlag des Krntner Landesarchivs, 1982).
7For more detailed insight into the sovereignties in Carinthia and their relationships
with the Jews, see Wilhelm Wadl, Geschichte der Juden in Krnten im Mittelalter. Mit einem
Ausblick bis zum Jahre 1867, 3rd Ed. Das Krntner Landesarchiv 9 (Klagenfurt: Verlag des
codifying jews 203

However, neither the most important towns nor towns outside the
geographical boundaries of the mainland and thus remote from the
center of authority managed truly to liberate themselves from the grip of
their respective rulers. Therefore, the legal position of Jews8 in Austrian
towns was first and foremost defined and assigned by the ruler.9 Legal
provisions dealing with Jews and their living conditions in Austrian towns
appeared in three different types of documents, all of which were issued
by the ruler even if some of these were merely confirming an already
existing common law.
Town charters sometimes included regulations concerning the Jews
that lived within the boundaries of the town, whereas general privileges
for the Jews (following the model of the all-encompassing imperial claim)10
applied to all Jews living under the governance of the respective ruler,
be they urban or rural dwellers.11 The third type of document consists of
a single exception, an imperial privilege for the Jews of Vienna12 which
had been granted to them due to the ongoing power struggle between

Krntner Landesarchivs 2009), 15874 (Bishops of Bamberg), 175225 (Archbishops of

Salzburg), 22628 (Bishops of Gurk), 22934 (Counts of Goricia).
8Still essential is Herbert Fischer (later Ayre Maimon), Die verfassungsrechtli
che Stellung der Juden in den deutschen Stdten whrend des dreizehnten Jahrhunderts.
Untersuchungen zur Deutschen Staats- und Rechtsgeschichte 140 (Breslau: M.&H. Marcus,
1931). Further see Michael Toch, Die Juden im mittelalterlichen Reich, 2nd Ed. Enzyklopdie
deutscher Geschichte 44 (Munich: Oldenbourg, 2003), 10607; Alfred Haverkamp, Die
Juden im Erzstift Trier, in Die Juden in ihrer mittelalterlichen Umwelt, Alfred Ebenbauer
and Klaus Zatloukal, ed. (Vienna: Bhlau, 1991), 6789; Klaus Lohrmann, Judenrecht und
Judenpolitik im mittelalterlichen sterreich (Vienna: Bhlau, 1990), 14666. For a general
summary of Jews and towns, see Alfred Haverkamp, Jews and Urban Life: Bonds and
Relationships in Jews of Europe, 5569.
9For a more differentiated view on imperial/regal rights and their relation to the
imperial cities, see Germania Judaica [further: GJ], Vol. III: 13501519, part 3: Gebietsartikel,
Einleitungsartikel, Indices, Ayre Maimon, Mordechai Breuer, and Yacov Guggenheim ed.
(Tbingen: J.C.B. Mohr, 2003), 2167.
10Generally, the legal relationship between the rulers within the Holy Roman Empire
and their Jews remained a more personal than territorial one in comparison to other
groups; see GJ III/3, 2171.
11 See the summary for ecclesiastical and secular legislation on Austrian territory by
Eveline Brugger and Birgit Wiedl, ...und ander frume leute genuch, paide christen
und juden. Quellen zur christlich-jdischen Interaktion im Sptmittelalter am Beispiel
sterreichs, in Rume und Wege. Jdische Geschichte im Alten Reich 13001800, Rolf
Kieling et al., ed. Colloquia Augustana 25 (Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 2007), 285306
12For the most recent edition, see Brugger and Wiedl, Regesten 1, 3132, nr. 20.
204 birgit wiedl

Emperor Frederick II and his competitor of the same name, the Austrian
duke and last male descendant of the Babenberg family, Frederick II.13
The aforementioned power struggle between the two Fredericks sheds
light on both the political potential and the usage that was made of towns
and Jews by the emperor and the regional ruler. In a remarkably auton-
omous act,14 the city of Vienna sided with the emperor; and in return,
Emperor Frederick II granted the city a rather wide-ranging privilege while
taking up residence in Vienna for a few months in 1237, putting the city
under his direct rule.15 The privilege imposed a ban against Jews holding
offices,16 a regulation stemming from ecclesiastical legislation.17 Although
vast activity of Jews in public offices was rather unlikely,18 the ban seemed

13An outline of the conflict between emperor and duke (though taking the side of
the duke a bit too obviously) can be found in Karl Lechner, Die Babenberger. Markgrafen
und Herzoge von sterreich, 6th Ed. Verffentlichungen des Instituts fr sterreichische
Geschichtsforschung 23 (Vienna: Bhlau, 1996), 27580; with regard to the city of Vienna,
see Opll, Geschichte Wiens im Mittelalter, 10305.
14Opll, Geschichte Wiens im Mittelalter, 10304.
15Most recent edition by Csendes, Rechtsquellen Wien, 3943, nr. 5 (Latin), 4347, nr.
6 (German).
16With respect to this paragraph, see Brugger and Wiedl, Regesten 1, 2829, nr. 17.
Whether the wording of the regulation was indeed dictated by the citizenry, and whether
the included theological reasoning really can be seen as a justification of the emperor
towards the Jews is at least questionable; see 1000 Jahre sterreichisches Judentum, Klaus
Lohrmann, ed., Studia Judaica Austriaca 9 (Eisenstadt: Edition Roetzer, 1982), 290, nr. 10.
17The prohibition goes back to canon 69 of the Fourth Lateran Council which in turn
referred to canon 14 of the Third Concilium Toletanum of 589. It is, however, the only
regulation from the Lateran IV that had made its way into secular legislation. From the
vast literature on the topic see Heinz Schreckenberg, Die christlichen Adversus-Judaeos-
Texte (11.-13. Jahrhundert): Mit einer Ikonographie des Judenthemas bis zum 4. Laterankonzil,
2nd Ed. Europische Hochschulschriften: Series XXIII Theologie 335 (Frankfurt a.M.: Peter
Lang, 1991), 42324.
18In the territory of todays Austria, only three Jews can be proven as having held
offices: the brothers Lublin and Nekelo appear as comites camere (tax farmers) of the
Austrian Duke Pemysl Otakar in 1257 (Brugger and Wiedl, Regesten 1, 5051, nr. 38). Their
main area of activity, however, was the Kingdom of Hungary, their father Henel being a
tax farmer of King Bela IV; see Nora Berend, At the Gate of Christendom. Jews, Muslims
and Pagans in Medieval Hungary, c. 1000c. 1300 (Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press, 2001), 127, and Tibor Horvth and Lajos Huszr, Kamaragrfok a kzpkorban in
Numizmatikai Kzlny 54/55 (1955/56), 2133 (22). In 1283, the Jew Isak from the Salzburg
town of Friesach in Carinthia is mentioned participating in the collecting and turning in
of tithes (in the course of the execution of the articles of the Second Council of Lyon).
Although it is not possible to define his position clearly from the scarce mentions, his close
contact to the Vizedomamt of Friesach (the representative of the Archbishop of Salzburg in
Friesach) is obvious; see Wadl, Juden Krnten, 18283; GJ, vol. II: Von 1238 bis zur Mitte des
14. Jahrhunderts, part 1: AachenLuzern, Zvi Avneri, ed. (Tbingen: J.C.B. Mohr 1968), 265;
Adolf Altmann, Geschichte der Juden in Stadt und Land Salzburg von den frhesten Zeiten
bis auf die Gegenwart. (Reprint of the 1913 edition and continued until 1988 by Gnter
Fellner and Helga Embacher), (Salzburg: Otto Mller Verlag, 1990), 58.
codifying jews 205

to be of considerable importance to the towns since it was not only recon-

firmed for Vienna in 124719 (by Emperor Frederick II) and 127820 (by King
Rudolf I) but was also included in the privilege for the (then Styrian) town
of Wiener Neustadt, which allegedly predates the Viennese charter but is
in fact a forgery from the last third of the thirteenth century.21
The citizenry of Vienna, however, was not the only group that was of
interest to the emperor. In August 1238, Emperor Frederick II granted the
Jews of Vienna a privilege22 by which he not only put the Viennese Jews
under his and the empires protection but also, and arguably primarily,
emphasised the imperial claim to the Jews23 by basing the text of the
charter on the general imperial privilege for the Jews of the Holy Roman
Empire from 1236.24 By issuing the 1238 diploma, Emperor Frederick
explicitly stressed his entitlement to the Viennese Jews as part of his trea-
sure (servi camere nostre), counteracting the already ongoing acquisition
of these rights by the Austrian duke.25
Due to the political developments of the following years, however, the
imperial lordship over the Austrian Jews weakened, as it was the case in
many parts of the Holy Roman Empire in the course of the transition of
imperial rights to the regional rulers, the right to the Jews ( Judenregal)

19 Brugger and Wiedl, Regesten 1, 40, nr. 29.

20Brugger and Wiedl, Regesten 1, 76, nr. 60.
21 For the most recent edition of the paragraphs concerning Jews, see Brugger and
Wiedl, Regesten 1, 2223, nr. 9. For the whole complex of the Wiener Neustdter forger
ies, see Peter Csendes, Die Wiener Neustdter Stadtrechtsflschungen, in Flschungen im
Mittelalter 3: Diplomatische Flschungen (1) Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Schriften,
33/3 (Hanover: Hahnsche Buchhandlung, 1988), 63752 (64647).
22Most recent edition by Brugger and Wiedl, Regesten 1, 3132, nr. 20. See Peter Csendes,
Studien zum Urkundenwesen Friedrichs II., Mitteilungen des Instituts fr sterreichische
Geschichtsforschung 88 (1980) 113130 (126).
23For the vast, and mostly older, literature on that topic, see the stringent articles
by Alexander Patschowsky, Das Rechtsverhltnis der Juden zum deuschen Knig
(9.14. Jahrhundert). Ein europischer Vergleich, Zeitschrift der Savigny-Stiftung fr
Rechtsgeschichte, Germanistische Abteilung 110 (1993), 33171 (33536), and Dietmar
Willoweit, Vom Knigsschutz zur Kammerknechtschaft. Anmerkungen zum Rechtsstatus
der Juden im Hochmittelalter, in Geschichte und Kultur des Judentums, Karlheinz Mller
and Klaus Wittstadt, ed., Quellen und Forschungen zur Geschichte des Bistums und
Hochstifts Wrzburg 38 (Wrzburg: Schningh, 1988) 7189.
24Constitutiones et acta publica imperatorum et regum. Vol. 2: 11981272, Ludwig
Weiland, ed., Monumenta Germaniae Historica Leges IV: Constitutiones 2 (Hanover:
Hahnsche Buchhandlung, 1896), 27476, nr. 204 (the MGH editions are online at www., last accessed: 2 July, 2012).
25See recently David Abulafia, The King and the Jewsthe Jews in the Rulers Service
in Jews of Europe, 4354, with respect to (Alsatian) towns Gerd Mentgen, Studien zur
Geschichte der Juden im mittelalterlichen Elsa (Hanover: Hahnsche Buchhandlung, 1995),
206 birgit wiedl

being but one among them.26 Upon his return to power, Duke Frederick II
(re)consolidated his authority over the Austrian Jews by defining their
legal status in 1244.27 His quite comprehensive regulations remained
the basis for further legislation within the duchy of Austria28 and also
served as a model to other rulers.29 The rather detailed economic issues,
mostly in favor of the Jews, and the quite wide-ranging protection suggest
that Frederick aimed at providing an incentive for Jews to settle down
in Austria30as part of his, and no longer the emperors, treasure. With
regard to the towns, this also means that the ruler was determined not to
lose his grip on what he had just acquired and regarded as his immediate
The mid-thirteenth-century regulations addressed, among other things,
two concerns that became the two main conflict issues between ruler and
towns in the course of the fourteenth century: the question of control over

26Generally see GJ III/3, 21718; Toch, Juden im mittelalterlichen Reich, 4849. In

1331, Emperor Louis IV officially enfeoffed the Austrian dukes with the right to the Jews
( Judenregal), Brugger, Ansiedlung, 14344.
27Most recent edition by Brugger and Wiedl, Regesten 1, 3538, nr. 25. For an English
translation, see, last
accessed: 2 July, 2012, which is based on the (somewhat problematic) translation by Jacob
R. Marcus, The Jew in the Medieval World: A Sourcebook, 3151791, (New York: JPS, 1938),
28Re-issued first by Fredericks successor, the Austrian and Styrian Duke and Bohemian
King Pemysl Otakar II (in 1255, 1262, and 1268), and in 1277 ad imitationem clare memorie
quondam Friderici ducis Austrie et Stirie by King Rudolf I (Brugger and Wiedl, Regesten 1,
4548, nr. 35; 5154, nr. 39; 6265, nr. 47; 7173, nr. 56). The explicit reference to Duke
Frederick II conveys a clear meaningRudolf s rival Pemysl Otakar, the (then outlawed)
Duke of Austria, was being blatantly ignored, while by reverting to the ducal privilege of
1244 (and not the imperial one) he stressed his familys (and not the empires) claim on
the duchies of Austria and Styria.
29Hungary: Bela IV, 1251 (Monumenta Hungariae Judaica Vol. 1: 10921539, rmin Friss
and Mr Weisz, ed. (Budapest: Magyar Izraelitk Orszgos, 1903), 2330, nr. 22); Bohemia,
Moravia: Pemysl Otakar II 1255, 1262 und 1268 (see Brugger and Wiedl, Regesten 1, 4548;
nr. 34; 5154, nr. 39; and 6265, nr. 47, the first including Austria, the latter two Austria
and Styria); Poland: Duke Boleslav, 1264 ( Juden in Europa. Ihre Geschichte in Quellen. Vol.
1: Von den Anfngen bis zum spten Mittelalter, Julius Schoeps and Hiltrud Wallenborn, ed.
(Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 2001) 13943, nr. 65); Bamberg: Bishops
Henry II and Wulfing, between 1304 to 1328 (Brugger and Wiedl, Regesten 1, 25557, nr.
30The Jewish immigration into the middle Danube area had already increased during
the first half of the thirteenth century; at least for Vienna, an existing community can be
proven for around 1200 (first mention of the Viennese Synagogue in 1204; see Brugger and
Wiedl, Regesten 1, 1819, nr. 5), thus Frederick might also have reacted to the newly arisen
need of regulating the Jewish life that had begun to flourish.
codifying jews 207

the economic activities of the Jews31 (particularly the question of interest

rates32 and pledges33) and the jurisdiction. The privilege of 1244 put the
Jews under the jurisdiction of the ducal court as far as conflicts between
Jews were concerned, explicitly excluding the municipal court.34 Conflicts
that arose between Jews and Christians were subject to the competence of
the Christian iudex iudeorum, an office quite unique to the eastern parts
of todays Austria35 and usually held by a member of a high-ranking family
of the town. The execution of these articles triggered a struggle for judicial
competence between the duke and his representatives on one side and
the towns on the other side. This conflict went on during the second half
of the thirteenth and the whole of the fourteenth centuries, most notably
since it was explicitly forbidden for the iudex iudeorum to take up cases
between Jewsthis was, and should remain, the sole competence of the
ducal representative, or even the duke himself.
Apart from witnessing and sealing business deeds, which makes up
the majority of the appearances in the sources, the iudex iudeorum had
limited rights of control over the selling of unredeemed pledges and was
entitled to a number of fines from both Jews and Christians, thus partici-
pating at least marginally in the revenues of the ducal protection of the

31GJ III/3, 218485. Generally see Michael Toch, Geldleiher und sonst nichts? Zur
wirtschaftlichen Ttigkeit der Juden im deutschen Sprachraum des Sptmittelalters, in
Tel Aviver Jahrbuch fr deutsche Geschichte 22 (1993), 11726, Toch, Juden im mittelalterli
chen Reich, 96100.
32On Jewish interest rates and usury, see GJ III/3, 215760; Hans-Jrg Gilomen,
Wucher und Wirtschaft im Mittelalter, in Historische Zeitschrift 250 (1990), 265301.
33For the internal Jewish viewpoint on pawnbroking, see Haym Soloveitchik,
Pawnbroking: A Study in Ribbit and of the Halakah in Exile, in Proceedings of the American
Academy for Jewish Research 3839 (197071), 20368.
34Iudex civitatis nostre nullam sibi iurisdictionem vendicet in eosdem [the disputing
Jews]. Yet it has to remain open to interpretation as to whether the duke intended the
internal Jewish court to be passed over, too; lawsuits against Jews, however, were only
to be conducted at the synagogue as long as the duke did not summon the case before
himself (Brugger and Wiedl, Regesten 1, 3536, nr. 25, 8, 30).
35The first iudex iudeorum is mentioned in the Lower Austrian town in 1264 of Krems
(Brugger and Wiedl, Regesten 1, 5657, Nr. 42.). It was to become a rather common office
in both Austria and Styria, partly also in the Styrian and Carinthian enclaves of Salzburg,
but was never introduced into other parts of the Holy Roman Empire save Bohemia and
Moravia, where the 1244 privilege was introduced by King Pemysl Otakar II. For the few
appearances outside these territories, see GJ III/3, 2190.
208 birgit wiedl

Jews.36 Despite the strong ties to the ruler the iudex iudeorum could have,37
the towns were generally interested in strengthening his position as well
as expanding his competences, gradually transforming the office into an
at least partly municipal one.
As for the economic issues, it was the preferential treatment given to
the Jews,38 in the eyes of their Christian neighbours, in the 1244 privilege
that gave rise to resentment among the Austrian citizenry, particularly
with regard to the question of taking in pawn and subsequently resell-
ing potentially stolen goods. In the tradition of the imperial regulations
from the late eleventh century,39 the Austrian Jews were allowed to clear
themselves of the suspicion of having accepted stolen goods as pledges by
taking an oath, an undue preference given to the Jews that stayed in the
minds of the citizens for a long time.40 Even the author of the Viennese
Stadtrechtsbuch (a compendium of legal regulations from the end of the
fourteenth century) still complained polemically about the cursed Jews
having a better legal position against the Christians than the Christians
against the Jews, directly referring to the 1244 regulations and blatantly
ignoring the everyday reality that had long changed to the clear disadvan-
tage of the Jews.41

36In some towns, the fines went to the town judge, even if a iudex iudeorum was in
office, e.g. Villach in Carinthia (Brugger and Wiedl, Regesten 1, 25557, nr. 302).
37E.g., all of the iudicis iudeorum of todays Upper Austrias capital of Linz were also
caretakers of the castle of Linz, the residence of the ducal steward (Lohrmann, Judenrecht,
159). None of the legal documents refers to how the iudex iudeorum was to be appointed/
elected; thus, an appointment by the ruler is at least possible, if not likely (at least as far
as weaker towns are concerned).
38The ample attention the economic sector was given (twelve out of the altogether 31
articles of the privilege deal with money lending and/or pawning) clearly indicates clearly
indicates that establishing the Jews as the ones engaged in monetary business was the
dukes main reason for the interest he took in them.
39Both the imperial privilege for the Jews of Vienna from 1238 and the ducal privilege
from 1244 repeat this right that was first mentioned in the 1090 privilege of Emperor Henry
IV for the Jews of Speyer and Worms (Toch, Juden im mittelalterlichen Reich, 4647; Brugger
and Wiedl, Regesten 1, 31, nr. 20, 2; 35, nr. 25, 6, for a detailed analysis of the 1238
privilege, see also Heinz Schreckenberg, Die christlichen Adversus-Judaeos-Texte und ihr lit
erarisches und historisches Umfeld (13.20. Jahrhundert), Europische Hochschulschriften,
Reihe XXIII Theologie 497 (Frankfurt a. M.: Peter Lang, 1994), 15460.
40It long outlived the Middle Ages and has been utilized polemically as rights of deal
ers in stolen goods until recently. Concerning thedebatedtalmudic roots of what is
today referred to as Marktschutzrecht see Friedrich Lotter, Talmudisches Recht in den
Judenprivilegien Heinrichs IV.? Zu Ausbildung und Entwicklung des Marktschutzrechts im
frhen und hohen Mittelalter, Archiv fr Kulturgeschichte 71 (1989) 5592; Toch, Juden im
mittelalterlichen Reich, 10910.
41Christine Magin, Wie es umb der iuden recht stet. Der Status der Juden in sptmitte
lalterlichen deutschen Rechtsbchern, (Gttingen: Wallenstein-Verlag 1999), 103; Heinrich
codifying jews 209

The policies of Austrian towns in the fourteenth century were therefore

aimed at undermining or mitigating the regulations of the 1244 privilege
or, at least, at benefiting in some way from the existing Jewish community
within the boundaries of the town. Therefore, the additional regulations
appearing in town charters in the late thirteenth and during the four-
teenth centuries mainly focus on economic regulations and restrictions,
whereas the ban from public offices still present in 1238, completely dis-
appeared at the beginning of the fourteenth century. Furthermore, the
attempts of towns at modifying the common regulations to their benefit
remained limited to altering single articles. Among those, the limitation of
interest rates and pawning continued to be the most important onesor
at least those they thought the ruler would concede. It is remarkable that
the issues of penalties and fines for hurting and killing Jews, for devastat-
ing cemeteries and synagogues, and for rape, are hardly ever touched by
the towns.42 Even jurisdictional competences that were granted to the
town judge or the iudex iudeorum, like fines for minor offences that were
investigated and fined by authority of either or both, were barely thema-
tized in the legislation of the towns.
A forged town charter from the Styrian town of Wiener Neustadt is
quite revealing as far as the wishes of the citizenry are concerned.43
According to the dating, the charter was issued by Duke Leopold VI
between 1221 and 1230, thus predating the 1244 privilege by at least
fourteen years. The document is yet in fact a product of the late 1270s;44
therefore, its articles reflect the ideas and concepts of the citizenry after

Maria Schuster, Das Wiener Stadtrechts- und Weichbildbuch, (Wien: Manz, 1973), 13031;
Lohrmann, Judenrecht, 161; Klaus Lohrmann, Die Wiener Juden im Mittelalter (Berlin: Philo,
2000), 3637.
42An exception is the Stadtrechtsbuch of Feldkirch (Vorarlberg) from before 1360
that lists a few regulations concerning bodily injuries of and by Jews, see Gerda Leipold-
Schneider, Das mittelalterliche Stadtrecht von Feldkirch. berlieferung und Edition
(unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Innsbruck, 2001), 236.
43The whole text is edited in: Urkundenbuch zur Geschichte der Babenberger in
sterreich, Vol. 2: Die Siegelurkunden der Babenberger und ihrer Nachkommen von 1216
bis 1279, Heinrich Fichtenau and Erich Zllner, ed. Publikationen des Instituts fr
sterreichische Geschichtsforschung 3/2 (Vienna: Verlag Adolf Holzhausens Nachfolger,
1955), 3652, nr. 232; Brugger and Wiedl, Regesten 1, 2223, nr. 9 (paragraphs with refer
ence to Jews); Lohrmann, Judenrecht, 14753.
44The town of Wiener Neustadt had several town charters forged around 1277; apart
from the abovementioned ducal privilege, a privilege byallegedlyEmperor Frederick
II (and the confirmation by Pemysl Otakar II) which was modelled after the (genuine)
Viennese privilege (Brugger and Wiedl, Regesten 1, 4042, nrr. 30f.).
210 birgit wiedl

the 1244 privilege had come into effect.45 As far as juridical issues are
concerned, both the execution of a lawsuit and the place of jurisdiction
were altered to the advantage of the Christian citizenry. According to the
1244 privilege, the sole place of jurisdiction for Jews was the synagogue46
(unless the duke himself summoned the parties before his own court),
whereas the citizenry of Wiener Neustadt claimed a partial competence
or at least the participation of the town judge, especially when a Jew was
accused of having committed a capital crimea clear tendency to exer-
cise jurisdictional control over the Jews by the town itself.47 Furthermore,
the regulations concerning testimony before court were changed in favor
of the citizens: to prove their claim, Christians usually had to produce
one Christian and one Jewish witness, whereas according to the forged
charter, they were allowed to replace the latter with two members of the
town council who would have been, of course, Christians.
This very early example already set the standards for most of the
demands of Austrian towns in the fourteenth century as far as jurisdic-
tional issues are concerned. The catalogue of rights, which the citizenry of
the Carinthian town of St. Veit presented to the successors of the recently
deceased Carinthian duke at the end of the thirteenth century,48 covers
rather similar ideas: among many other regulations, the citizenry aimed
at gaining greater influence on the municipal jurisdiction over the Jews
and at weakening the position of Jews before court, which wassimilar
to the forgery of Wiener Neustadt from about the same timeachieved
by exchanging Jewish with Christian witnesses: when disputes about

45The legal force of the 1244 regulations had been extended to Styria by the Bohemian
King Pemysl Otakar II who was also duke of Austria and Styria since 1251 and 1261 respec
tively, and the source findings strongly suggest that the Styrian legislation concerning Jews,
although never officially confirmed, greatly resembled the Austrian. The text of the first
Styrian (and Carinthian) privilege for the Jews from 1377 is lost (Lohrmann, Judenrecht,
46For the synagogue as the place of the internal Jewish court, see GJ III/3, 2087, and
Martha Keil, Bet haKnesset, Judenschul. Die mittelalterliche Synagoge als Gotteshaus,
Amtsraum und Brennpunkt sozialen Lebens, in Wiener Jahrbuch fr jdische Geschichte
4 (1999/2000), 7189.
47This development is by no means unique to Austrian towns; see Hans-Jrg Gilomen,
Juden in den sptmittelalterlichen Stdten des Reichs: NormenFaktenHypothesen. Kleine
Schriften des Arye Maimon-Instituts 11 (Trier: Eigenverlag des Instituts, 2009), 2426.
48The citizens of St. Veit claim that these rights date back to the first half of the cen
tury; a Jewish settlement in St. Veit is however not verifiable before the end of the century;
see Brugger, Ansiedlung, 18687.
codifying jews 211

monetary issues occurred, a Christian had to produce another Christian

and a Jew, a Jew two Christians as witnesses.49
The St. Veit catalog and its confirmation by Duke Frederick in 1308 can
be used as a model example in many regards. Economic regulations were
given more room than the jurisdictional issues, which can be observed
in most of the documents examined here; furthermore, these two sectors
were closely intertwined as can be seen in the aforementioned article
on witnesses that took effect only in connection with monetary transac-
tions. However briefly, the catalog addresses, among other things,50 the
main issues that remained predominant throughout the first half of the
fourteenth century: limiting interest rates, excluding Jews from specific
professions, and regulating pawning. Compared to similar documents of
the same timeframe, it is striking how unfavourable for the Jews these
regulations were: e.g., the common practice of Jews taking an oath51 when
under suspicion of reselling stolen goods was not merely mitigated to the
favor of the Christians but turned upside down by forbidding the Jews
to accept any even only potentially stolen goods (underchantez phant,
unrecognised pledges) in pawn at all. The customary regulation merely
forbade the Jews to take items in pawn that were bloodstained or soaked52
(thus clearly recognisable as unlawfully appropriated), to which some
of the towns added specific items mostly of ecclesiastical or economic/
agricultural provenance,53 a common practice throughout the Holy Roman

49Brugger and Wiedl, Regesten 1, 99100, nr. 96; 16263, nr. 157 (re-issuance by Duke
Frederick in 1308), Lohrmann, Judenrecht, 15356.
50Unique to the St. Veit catalog is that the Jews were banned from raising livestock as
well as denied to partake in the use of the municipal common.
51There are only a few oath formulae for Jews of Austrian towns transmitted, nei
ther of which contains the otherwise common curses the Jews had to put on themselves
(see Guido Kisch, Jewry-Law in Medieval Germany. Laws and Court Decisions Concerning
Jews, American Academy for Jewish Research: Texts and Studies 3 (New York: Martinus
Nijhoff, 1949), 6163). Oaths for Vienna, Krems (Hans Voltelini, Der Wiener und Kremser
Judeneid in Mitteilungen des Vereins fr Geschichte der Stadt Wien 12 (1932), 6470) and
Feldkirch (Leipold-Schneider, Stadtrecht von Feldkirch, 272) can be found in legal writ
ing, yet no individual case of a Jew taking an oath is documented (Brugger, Ansiedlung,
52Brugger and Wiedl, Regesten 1, 35, nr. 25, 5.
53Villach (presumably valid for all the Bamberg possessions in Carinthia), 13041328:
bloodstained, soaked, and pierced items, chalices, tunicles (Brugger and Wiedl, Regesten 1,
255, nr. 302); town charter of St. Plten, 1338: tunicles, unground corn, houses, blood
stained clothes (Brugger and Wiedl, Regesten 1, 341, nr. 444; GJ, Vol. II, part 2: Maastricht
Zwolle, Zvi Avneri, ed. (Tbingen: J.C.B. Mohr 1968), 736); Feldkirch, between 1344 and
1359: broken chalices, bloodstained clothes, soaked hides (Leipold-Schneider, Stadtrecht
von Feldkirch, 266); Pettau, 1376: ecclesiastical treasures, bloodstained clothes, unprocessed
yarn and cloth, unground corn (GJ III, part 2: Ortschaftsartikel Mhrisch-BudwitzZwolle,
212 birgit wiedl

Empire.54 Yet according to the wishes of the St. Veit citizenry, the Jews
were furthermore forbidden to take anything in pawn from a person
unknown to them, a regulation that must have proven extremely harm-
ful to everyday business, cutting down heavily the potential clientele of
Jewish money-lenders and pawnshop owners who at least partially made
a living from business with walk-in customers.
The citizenry of St. Veit was able to put through thisgenerally rather
wide-rangingprivilege due to the political situation in 1308, making it
a prime example for the policy towards Jews in the light of the tensions
between rulers and towns during the first decades of the fourteenth cen-
tury. The conflict in question was, however, again primarily a power strug-
gle between two rulers, the Carinthian Duke Henry VI and the Austrian
Duke Frederick I,55 the latter of which had, in the course of his struggle for
the Bohemian crown, managed to gain control over the towns subjected
to the Carinthian duke. Despite the fact that both the towns and the
Jews remained mere tools in this conflict, St. Veit, a flourishing town and
ducal residence, was yet important enough to the Austrian duke that he
deemed it worthy to pander to the citizens wishes. Maybe a surplus ben-
efit tipped the scalessince Henry was highly indebted to his Carinthian
Jews, weakening them meant also weakening Henry and thus was in the
interest of the Austrian duke. Thirty years later, after a firm Habsburg rule
had been established in Carinthia, the then ruling Duke Albrecht II saw
little point in further currying favor with the town and replaced these
regulations with the common rights his Jews have in his towns, referring
to the regulations of the 1244 privilege which were a lot more beneficial
to the Jews.56
Duke Fredericks readiness to acquiesce to the citizens demands in
1308 reveals the amount of effort he was willing to put into surpassing

Ayre Maimon, Mordechai Breuer, and Yacov Guggenheim, ed. (Tbingen: J.C.B. Mohr,
1995), 1097), Markus Wenninger, Zur Geschichte der Juden in Salzburg in Geschichte
Salzburgs Stadt und Land, Vol. 1/2: Mittelalter, Heinz Dopsch and Hans Spatzenegger, ed.
(Salzburg: Pustet, 1983), 74756 (753). On the problem of stolen goods, see Jrg R. Mller,
Gestolen und ainem juden versetzt. Jdische Pfandleiher zwischen legaler Geschftspraxis
und Hehlereivorwurf, in Jdisches Geldgeschft im Mittelalter. Aschkenas. Zeitschrift fr
Geschichte und Kultur der Juden 20/2, Eveline Brugger and Birgit Wiedl, ed. (Berlin and
Boston: deGruyter, 2012), 439478.
54For a list of examples of both towns and banned items, see GJ III/3, 2184.
55Despite the existence of two Babenberg dukes of the same name preceding him, he
was counted as Duke Frederick I of Austria; as the antiking to Louis IV, he was Frederick
III (13141330). Although it stems from sixteenth century historiography, most scholarly
works about Frederick use his nickname the Fair to avoid confusion.
56Joseph Babad, The Jews in Medieval Carinthia in Historia Judaica 7 (1945) 1328
and 193204 (23), GJ II/2, 738.
codifying jews 213

his rival, thus contradicting the general political attitude of the Austrian
dukes towards Jews in the first half of the fourteenth century. In cases of
conflicts between Jews and towns, the Austrian dukes still tended to be
protective of their Jews and to consider any acts against Jews as a direct
challenge to their authority and an attack against their treasure. The com-
plete dependence on ducal protection, however, left the Jews in a pre-
carious situation should immediate need of this protection arise,57 most
notably so during the local persecutions that sprung up in the realm of
todays Lower Austria in the first half of the fourteenth century.58
Apart from pawning, the limitation of the interest rate taken by Jews
was the core issue. The maximum rate of eight pennies per pound per
week59 that had been set by the 1244 charter was already being under-
mined by late thirteenth century efforts: the forged town charter of
Wiener Neustadt cut down the interest rate to three or four pennies and
combined this with additional improvements for the debtor (loss of right
to demand interest upon failure to appear, no compound interest during
the first month after the deadline). Various other towns went along the
same lines,60 whereas in contrast, the rulers tried to keep the taking of
interest as unlimited as possible, since they too profited from a prosper-
ing Jewish community.61 The most dramatic example of limiting interest
rates occurred in the wake of one of the aforementioned persecutions, the
persecution that followed an accusation of host desecration in the Lower
Austrian town of Pulkau in 1338.62 Recognising the danger the Jews were

57See for examples from the Holy Roman Empire most recently Jrg R. Mller, Erez
gezerahLand of Persecution: Pogroms against the Jews in the regnum Teutonicum from
c. 1280 to 1350, in Jews of Europe, 245260 (254256).
58See the article by Eveline Brugger in this volume.
59It is important to stress that this rate is the rate for default interest. Apart from very
few exceptions, only the total amount of loan and interest that is to be paid on the fixed
date is stated in the charters; the interest rate that is mentioned is the rate for the default
interest should the debtor fail to pay (or reach a new agreement, like pawning additional
objects). See also Michael Toch, Jdische Geldleihe im Mittelalter, in Geschichte und
Kultur der Juden in Bayern, ed. Manfred Treml and Josef Kirmeier (Munich: K.G. Saur,
1988), 8594; GJ III/3, 214243.
60The loss of compound interest in the first month after the deadline is e.g. also to
be found in the rights of the Jews of Villach in Carinthia, a town under the rule of the
Bishops of Bamberg. These rights were taken down between 1304 and 1328 (following the
1244 charter to a large extent, and presumably defining the legal position of the Jews in
the Bamberg properties in Carinthia), and are an interesting mixture between matching
the towns and the rulers interests (Brugger and Wiedl, Regesten 1, 25557, nr. 302; GJ
II/2, 852).
61See footnote abovethe rights of the Jews of Villach do not include any limitations
of the interest rate at all. Lohrmann, Judenrecht, 18994, Wadl, Juden Krnten, 15960).
62See the contribution of Eveline Brugger in this volume.
214 birgit wiedl

in, the city of Vienna seized the chance to make use of the persecution
to its own advantage by forcing the Jewish community to agree to a
severe reduction of interest rates on loans to Viennese citizensfrom the
until then common eight pennies per pound per week to a mere three
penniesin return for protection. Both the Jewish community and the
Austrian dukes had to consent to the reduction.63 Business documents
from the mid-fourteenth century suggest that the interest rates had, in
fact, decreased notably, yet this is true for both transactions in urban and
rural areas, correlating with the weakening of the ducal protection.
Along with their efforts to gain control over legal status and credit busi-
ness, towns strove to generally restrict the economic activities of their
Jews. Whereas it was not uncommon for Jews to own land and be involved
in wine-growing and winetrade,64 the range of professions they could
make a living on within the towns realms was limited.65 Apart from the
ban from public offices, which had vanished by late thirteenth century, it
was for the most part professions concerned with food that were black-
listed, among which the butchering and selling of meat turned out to be
the most disputed one, an issue that can be found in both ecclesiastical
and secular legislation in many European regions.66 In 1267, the synods

63Brugger and Wiedl, Regesten 1, 336338, nrr. 43940; Brugger, Ansiedlung, 158,
171, 218; ead., Minem herren dem hertzogen sein juden: Die Beziehung der Habsburger zu
ihren Juden im sterreich des 14. Jahrhunderts, in 25. sterreichischer Historikertag,
St. Plten 2008 (St. Plten: Verlag des Instituts fr Niedersterreichische Landeskunde,
2010), 742749 (746).
64See Haym Soloveitchik, Halakhah, Taboo and the Origin of Jewish Moneylending in
Germany, in Jews of Europe, 305317, who examines Jewish wine growing, trading, and viti
cultural credits. For Austrian Jews, see Martha Keil, Veltliner, Ausstich, Tribuswinkler: Zum
Weingenuss sterreichischer Juden im Mittelalter in Und wenn schon, dann Bischof oder
Abt: Im Gedenken an Gnther Hdl (19412005), eds. Christian Domenig et al. (Klagenfurt:
Krntner Druck- und Verlagsges, 2006), 5372.
65For the range of professions Jews pursued, see Michael Toch, Geldleiher und
sonst nichts?, 11726; id., Economic Activities of German Jews in the Middle Ages, in
Wirtschaftsgeschichte der mittelalterlichen Juden. Fragen und Einschtzungen, ed. Michael
Toch, Schriften des Historischen Kollegs, Kolloquien 71 (Munich: R. Oldenbourg Verlag,
2008), 181210 (204210).
66See, e.g., for a general survey and for Germany Christine Magin, Wie es umb der iuden
recht stet. Der Status der Juden in sptmittelalterlichen deutschen Rechtsbchern. Gttinger
Philosophische Dissertation D 7 (Gttingen: Wallstein Verlag, 1999), 332352 (medicine,
meat, and wine), for France Sara Lipton, Images of Intolerance: the Representation of Jews
and Judaism in the Bible moralise (Berkeley, Los Angeles, and London: California University
Press, 1999), 6869; for Aragon David Nirenberg, Communities of Violence: Persecution of
Minorities in the Middle Ages (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1996), 16972; for
Austria Birgit Wiedl, Jews and the City. Parameters of Jewish Urban Life in Late Medieval
Austria in Urban Space in the Middle Ages and the Early Modern Age, Albrecht Classen, ed.
codifying jews 215

of Wrocaw and Vienna warned the Christians against buying meat and
other food products from Jews since those, as the Christians enemies,
would always seek to poison them.67 In the same year, the butchers guild
of the Lower Austrian town of Tulln put addition charges on the fatstock
that was bought by Jews, yet since the sale itself was not prohibited, this
regulation served presumably more as a fine for the loss of income the
craftsmen suffered (since the Jews butchered the animals themselves)
than reflecting the ecclesiastical ban on Jewish food.68 This concern that
the Jews sold those parts of the animals they would not eat themselves,
and by selling them to Christians enter the domain of the crafts guilds,
remained at the core of the regulations throughout the fourteenth and
fifteenth centuries. Most commonly, the Jews were banned from public
sales altogether, either having to butcher and sell their meat at home,69 or
sell it via separate stalls and tag it clearly as meat butchered by Jews.
These specific stalls Jews had to sell their meat at were usually under
municipal control or even run by the city ( fleischbank) and were also used
for the sale of bad meatwhich meant foul meat as well as meat from
sick or injured animals. This practise was quite common in the Bavarian
region where the oldest regulations can be found,70 including those of
todays Upper Austrian town of Schrding (1316).71 Since this type of stall
was usually located at the fringe of or outside the market place,72 assign-
ing the Jews to these stalls might be interpreted as placing them at a mere

Fundamentals of Medieval and Early Modern Culture 4 (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 2009),
273308 (29799) and ead., Juden in sterreichischen Stadtrechten, 26466.
67Brugger and Wiedl, Regesten 1, 5961, nr. 45.
68Brugger and Wiedl, Regesten 1, 61, nr. 46, English translation (incorrectly dated 1237):, last accessed: 2 July, 2012.
GJ, Vol. I: Von den ltesten Zeiten bis 1238, I. Elbogen, A. Freimann, and H. Tykocinski, ed.
(Tbingen: J.C.B. Mohr, 1963), 38889.
69St. Veit, late thirteenth century, Brugger and Wiedl, Regesten 1, 99, nr. 96, 13.
70Wiedl, Jews and the City, p. 298 (Bavarian and todays Austrian towns); GJ II/2,
557 and GJ III/2, 902 (Munich), 1500 (Ulm). The regulation was also known in Zurich,
GJ II/2, 946; see also Hans-Jrg Gilomen, Kooperation und Konfrontation: Juden und
Christen in den sptmittelalterlichen Stdten im Gebiet der heutigen Schweiz, in Juden
in ihrer Umwelt. Akkulturation des Judentums in Antike und Mittelalter, Matthias Konradt
and Rainer Christoph Schwinges, ed. (Basel: Schwabe, 2009), 157227 (177).
71Brugger and Wiedl, Regesten 1, 194, nr. 202. The article, however, is the only indica
tion of a Jewish settlement in the (rather small) town of Schrding at all, so it may as
well be interpreted as a preventive measure; Wiedl, Jews and the City, 298, with further
72E.g. in the fifteenth-century regulations of Salzburg and Judenburg (Styria): outside
the gate and at the sides the regulations state 1420 and 1467, respectively, see Wiedl,
Jews and the City, 298.
216 birgit wiedl

economic disadvantage, yet the additional association of Jews with the

rotten and foul also is quite obvious. This connotation was stressed
even more when not only the Jewish meat was deemed unfit, or at
least questionable, for Christian consumption but any meat that had
merely been touched by Jews was declared to fall into the same category.73
Some of these regulations like these were even more far-reaching: in
addition to meat, also the touching of fish, livestock in general, orall-
encompassingany goods was prohibited; a wide-ranging control that
extended far beyond the economic issues and intruding into fields such
as the control of behavior.74
Other professions forbidden to or limited for Jews were the brewing of
beer,75 the trading and selling of cloth,76 and the trading of wine as well as
serving wine at a bar,77 although in many parts of Lower Austria, vineyards
remained one of the most common pledges, which, if not redeemed in
time, fell to the Jews and were henceforth cultivated by them. These regu-
lations remained largely unopposed by the rulers, or were even actively
introduced by them, since they did not affect the main interest the rulers
had in the Jews. However, these regulations remain too isolated to draw
any general conclusions from them.
Until the mid-fourteenth century, the Austrian cities had generally
achieved a level of higher importance to the rulers who by then acknowl-
edged their political and economic significance, thus enabling the cities
to move up from being nothing but tools to joining the ranks of the
political players. From that time on, towns therefore aimed at a broader

73Most of these regulations stem from the fifteenth century (Munich, Ulm, but also
towns in France); see Johann Egid Scherer, Die Rechtsverhltnisse der Juden in den deutsch-
sterreichischen Lndern: Mit einer Einleitung ber die Principien der Judengesetzgebung in
Europa whrend des Mittelalters, Beitrge zur Geschichte des Judenrechtes im Mittelalter 1
(Leipzig: Duncker & Humblot, 1901), 57778, the late-fourteenth-century dating of the reg-
ulations of Bolzano (South Tyrol, todays Alto Adige, Italy) is questionable; see GJ II/1, 99.
74Wiedl, Jews and the City, 299.
75St. Veit 1297/1308, Brugger and Wiedl, Regesten 1, 99, nr. 96, 13.
76Wiener Neustadt 1316, Brugger and Wiedl, Regesten 1, 19596, nr. 205. It is not quite
clear whether the regulation refers to cloth trade or tailoring. For Jews as craftsmen, see
Toch, Jdische Geldleihe, 8586, id., Geldleiher und sonst nichts?; Mentgen, Juden im
mittelalterlichen Elsa, 57985, GJ III/3, 213946.
77Pettau 1376. Ferdinand Bischoff, Das Pettauer Stadtrecht von 1376, Sitzungsberichte
der Akademie der Wissenschaften, phil.-hist. Klasse, 113 (1886), 695744. The article
( 18), however, refers only to the retail trade within the city; the Jews of Pettau were
long-distance traders on a big scale, especially with wine and goods from Venetia; see
Wenninger, Juden Salzburg, 753.
codifying jews 217

control than just selectively interfering in Jewish business and life; the
focus of their attention shifted from merely regulating the how to moni-
toring the who, with whom and when, and, of course, how much. It
does not come as a surprise that the first attempts at a more compre-
hensive control started shortly after the persecutions of 1338. Most com-
monly, it was the offices of the town judge and the iudex iudeorum that
were utilized by the cities to supervise the business activities of the Jews.
In September of that year, only a few months after the disastrous events,
Bishop Albrecht II of Passau granted his town of St. Plten a privilege that
not only listed several items Jews were not allowed to accept as pawns
(with the quite unique inclusion of houses) unless they could produce a
concession from the town judge, but moreover, Jews were also put under
a stricter and more general control: they had to report to the town judge
thrice yearly to have their business documents and pawns certified, oth-
erwise these would lose validity should the debtor die within the year.78
These regulations are all the more peculiar since from 1338 onwards, no
Jewish settlement is documented for St. Plten.79 In other towns, the com-
petences were divided up between the town judge and the iudex iudeo
rum; the Jews of Pettau for example had to produce the debt instruments
to the town judge annually, whereas the pledges had to be shown, or at
least reported, to the iudex iudeorum.80 At the end of the century, several
Styrian towns even expanded the control by demanding that any debt
instruments were to be sealed not by either but both the town judge and
the iudex iudeorum.81 The iudex iudeorums responsibility for the Jews also
made him the person to turn to when establishing (semi-)official contact
to the Jews was required; for example, the iudex iudeorum of the Lower
Stryrian city of Marburg (Maribor, Slovenia) was asked by a messenger of
the Counts of Pfannberg to accompany him to the synagogue to inquire
after obligations of the noble family.82
In the second half of the fourteenth century, cities tried to be more
systematic when it came to keeping an eye on the Jews and their business
transactions. The increasing decline of the ducal protection offered consid-
erable leeway for the towns to shift competences to their favour, allowing

78Brugger and Wiedl, Regesten 1, 341, nr. 444, 67.

79Lohrmann, Judenrecht, 15657, who assumes that the articles have merely been cop
ied from other texts.
80Scherer, Rechtsverhltnisse, 54950; Wadl, Juden Krnten, 17677.
81 Lohrmann, Judenrecht, 160.
82Haus-, Hof- und Staatsarchiv Wien (State Archives of Austria, Vienna), AUR 1354 XI
4; Wiedl, Jews and the City, 28586.
218 birgit wiedl

them to tighten their grip on the Jews perceptibly. Their aim of controlling
and monitoring loans and pledges no longer merely encompassed the
aforementioned producing, and certifying of business documents but was
extended to the many transactions concerning smaller amounts, most of
which had not heretofore been documented in writing at all. To establish
this control, many towns set up what is known as Judenbcher (codices
for the Jews) which were in common use already by the last decades of
the fourteenth century,83 developing in the course of a general increase
of written administration. Laid out in the typical style of Satzbcher (a
mixture of mortgage and land registers), and sometimes even included in
the general Satzbuch of the respective town,84 the Judenbuch was usually
administered by the iudex iudeorum. All business transactions conducted
by and with Jews had to be registered in there, which also meant a rather
far-reaching expansion of both the duties and rights of the iudex iudeo
rum. Despite the fact that these endeavors proved highly effective, a con-
siderable competence remained in the hands of the ruler. In many towns,
the high municipal offices were of mixed constitution, with the right
to appoint the judges being a particular privilege of the ruler.85 In some

83The setting up of Judenbcher was not exclusive to the citiesrulers as well as noble
families and from the fifteenth century onwards, also the Estates of Styria and Carinthia
tried to keep track of their debts by establishing Judenbcher; see Wiedl, Jews and the City,
29192. Most of the Judenbcher were lost during the persecutions of 1420/21 that ended
Jewish settlement in Lower Austria (Brugger, Ansiedlung, 16162). As far as the general
scholarly discussion on Judenbcher is concerned, see latest Thomas Peter, Judenbcher
als Quellengattung und die Znaimer Judenbcher: Typologie und Forschungsstand in
Rume und Wege, 30734.
84The best documented examples within Austria, however, are the Judenbuch der
Scheffstrasse and the Liber Judeorum of Wiener Neustadt. The Scheffstrasse, a small com
munity right outside the Vienna city walls that was subject to the duchess of Austria, had
its own register, kept by both ducal officers and representatives of the city of Vienna,
which was a cadastral register as well as a book of loans. Whereas the second part was ded
icated to loans among Christians, the third part is the Judenbuch, entries of loans granted
by Jews (Viennese as well as Lower Austrian and Bohemian Jews) to inhabitants of the
Scheffstrasse. Since the majority of the inhabitants were small-scale craftsmen, most of the
sums (a considerable number of which were granted by Jewesses) were rather small. Artur
Goldmann, Das Judenbuch der Scheffstrasse zu Wien (13891420), Quellen und Forschungen
zur Geschichte der Juden in Deutsch-sterreich 1 (Vienna: Wilhelm Braumller, 1908). An
older Judenbuch of the city of Vienna has been lost; see Artur Goldmann, Das verschol
lene Wiener Judenbuch (13721420) in Quellen und Forschungen zur Geschichte der Juden
in sterreich, 11: Nachtrge (Vienna: Selbstverlag der Historischen Kommission, 1936) 114.
For Wiener Neustadt, see Martha Keil, Der Liber Judeorum von Wiener Neustadt 1453
1500. Edition in Studien zur Geschichte der Juden in sterreich, Martha Keil and Klaus
Lohrmann, ed. (Vienna: Bhlau, 1994), 4199.
85See the example quoted above of the iudicis iudeorum of Linz being caretakers of
the ducal castle.
codifying jews 219

cases, it was even the ruler himself who committed the town to set up a
Judenbuch,86 and although it is likely that the Austrian duke catered to the
wishes of the citizens, registering the debts in the Judenbuch also provided
some protection for the Jews, since the entry rendered it impossible for
debtors to claim that the obligations the Jews presented were forgeries.
Little is known about the organisation that is referred to as Judengericht
(Jewish court, not to be confused with the internal court of the Jewish
community)87 the existence of which is first documented for the city of
Vienna in 1361.88 In the course of a general court reform, Duke Rudolf IV
decreed the continued existence of the Viennese Judengericht, yet speci-
fied neither its constitution nor its competence in detail. Presided over by
the iudex iudeorum, its assessors consisted of delegates from the city and
the Jewish community in equal representation. Its jurisdictional compe-
tences, however, can neither be inferred from its only mention for Vienna
nor from the Styrian references of the fifteenth century,89 although it is
very likely that they mainly dealt with the settling of conflicts between
Jews and Christians.
Their increasing influence notwithstanding, Austrian towns remained
for the most part powerless should the respective ruler, in whose official
possession the Jews remained until the end of Jewish medieval settle-
ment, decide to intervene. The Austrian dukes gave their Jews as fiefs to
noblemen they particularly wanted to honor, reward, or bribe,90 without

86E.g. Duke Albrecht III who obliged the Lower Austrian town of Bruck/Leitha to set
up a Judenbuch; see Lohrmann, Judenrecht, 158.
87Martha Keil, Gemeinde und KulturDie mittelalterliche Grundlage jdischen
Lebens in sterreich in Geschichte der Juden in sterreich, 15122 (4041, 6072).
88Eveline Brugger and Birgit Wiedl, Regesten zur Geschichte der Juden in sterreich. Vol.
2: 13391365 (Innsbruck-Vienna-Bolzano; StudienVerlag: 2010), 263, nr. 992 (the volume
is downloadable as a pdf-file here:
liche_judenurkunden/, last accessed: 2 July, 2012); Lohrmann, Wiener Juden, 47, Brugger,
Ansiedlung, 150.
89Brugger, Ansiedlung, 150.
90The most famous of these was the enfeoffments of the Counts of Cilli (todays Celje,
Slovenia) with the Jew Chatschim and his family by Duke Rudolf IVwhich also means
that the Counts of Cilli, who were about to build up their own territory in the realms of
todays South Styria, Slovenia, and parts of Italy, acknowledged Rudolfs authority over
a Jew who lived on their territory. See GJ III 13501519, Part 1: Ortschaftsartikel Aach
Lychen, Ayre Maimon and Yacov Guggenheim, ed. (Tbingen: J.C.B. Mohr, 1987), 209;
Lohrmann, Judenrecht, 20607; Markus Wenninger, Die Bedeutung jdischer Financiers
fr die Grafen von Cilli und vice versa in Celjski grofje, stara temanova spoznanja,
Rolanda Fugger Germadnik, ed. (Celje: Pokrajinski Muzej, 1999), 14364 (15152). On Jews
between ruler and (Lower Austrian) nobility, see Eveline Brugger, Adel und Juden im mit
telalterlichen Niedersterreich, Studien und Forschungen aus dem Niedersterreichischen
220 birgit wiedl

so much as notifying the towns the Jews dwelled in; should a Jew flee from
a rulers territory, the towns were neither involved in the ensuing trial nor
did they participate in the share of the Jews confiscated property.91 In
1350, the nobleman and chancellor of Styria, Rudolf Otto of Liechtenstein,
granted the Jew Hslein, the right to settle in his town of Murau, plac-
ing himself and his family in a very privileged position with respect to
both the Jewish community of Murau and the town itself.92 Although it
is very likely that Rudolf Otto of Liechtenstein issued the privilege with
ducal approval, there is no mention of any involvement whatsoever of
the town of Murauwhich, if nothing else, had to renounce any jurisdic-
tional rights over Hslein, who fell under the sole competence of Rudolf
Otto himself. A few years later, Hslein had moved to the ducal town of
Judenburg, receiving a privilege of Duke Rudolf IV that went along the
same lines; and when Hsleins return to his hometown Friesach was
interpreted as a flight by Duke Rudolf who then subsequently confiscated
all of Hsleins property, thus ruining the entire familys business,93 nei-
ther of the towns was involved in the process. This example concurs with
a general increase of personalized privileges in the second half of the four-
teenth century,94 privileges that granted a special status to an individual
Jew or Jewess (usually including the entire family) and exempted them
from the legal requirements of the town they lived in.
In the course of the fourteenth century, many German cities had taken
to granting citizenships to Jews,95 a right that had, for the most part,
been transferred to them by the lord of the town.96 As far as Austria is

Institut fr Landeskunde 38 (St. Plten: Selbstverlag des Niedersterreichischen Instituts

fr Landeskunde, 2004).
91For famous flights of Jews see Lohrmann, Judenrecht, 21820 (Hslein) and 22530
(the brothers Chatschim and Mosche).
92Brugger, Ansiedlung, 18182; Wadl, Juden Krnten, 19698.
93Eveline Brugger, Loans of the Father: Business Succession in Families of Jewish
Moneylenders in Late Medieval Austria, in Generations in Towns: Succession and Success
in Pre-Industrial Urban Societies, Finn-Einar Eliassen and Katalin Szende, ed. (Newcastle
upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2009), 11228 (11921).
94Brugger and Wiedl, Christlich-jdische Interaktion, 28889.
95Alfred Haverkamp, Concivilitas von Christen und Juden in Aschkenas im Mittel
alter in Gemeinden, Gemeinschaften und Kommunikationsformen im hohen und spten
Mittelalter, Friedhelm Burgard, Lukas Clemens and Michael Matheus, ed. (Trier: Kliomedia
2002), 31544 (previously published in Aschkenas Beiheft 3, 1996, 10336); GJ III/3, 218187;
Gilomen, Juden in den sptmittelalterlichen Stdten, 1123, with a summary of the relevant
96There are very few examples of cities (Worms, Prague) where this right to grant
citizenship to Jews was independent from the concession of the ruler, see GJ III/3, 2169,
codifying jews 221

concerned, both the dominating position of the ruler(s) and the lack of
really powerful, important cities (with the possible exception of Vienna) is
most likely the reason for non-existing Jewish citizenship, the granting of
settlement remaining exclusively in the hands of the rulers.97 There is but
one exception: the small town of Feldkirch in the utmost west of todays
Austria, which was under the rule of a local and not overly powerful noble
family. Unlike in Austria, Jewish citizenship was fairly common especially
in the area around Lake Constance, to which Feldkirch belonged both
politically and culturally.98 However, Jewish citizens are solely mentioned
in theory in a collection of (customary) regulations of Feldkirch from the
mid-fourteenth century, and no individuals possessing the status of citi-
zens are known.99 Generally, information on Austrian Jews participating
in urban duties is scarce. Jews paying taxes to the town (Laa an der Thaya
1277,100 Eisenstadt 1373),101 or taking part in the city watch (Grz/Gorizia,
todays Italy, 1307)102 are documented yet remain an exception.
During the last decades of the fourteenth century, the situation of
the Jews in the Austrian territories worsened considerably. The concept
of Jews being part of the rulers treasure still prevailed, yet the idea of
profiting from prospering Jewish communities had changed dramatically
to squeezing as much money as possible out of them,103 an economic

97 Klaus Lohrmann, Bemerkungen zum Problem Jude und Brger, in Juden in der
Stadt. Beitrge zur Geschichte der Stdte Mitteleuropas 15, Fritz Mayrhofer and Ferdinand
Opll, ed. (Linz: Landesverlag, 1999) 14566 (16164).
98 Karl Heinz Burmeister, medinat bodase. Zur Geschichte der Juden am Bodensee, Vol.
1, 12001349. (Konstanz: Universittsverlag Konstanz 1994), 4042.
99 Leipold-Schneider, Stadtrecht von Feldkirch, 236. See also Brugger, Ansiedlung,
100Brugger and Wiedl, Regesten 1, 74, nr. 57. On taxation of Jews by cities see GJ III/3,
22632267; on the Jewish taxes in Austria, see Brugger, Beziehung der Habsburger,
101 It is questioned whether the town charter of Eisenstadt, which mentions the
taxes of Jews living in- and outside the city walls, is authentic; see Harald Prickler,
Beitrge zur Geschichte der burgenlndischen Judensiedlungen in Juden im Grenzraum:
Geschichte, Kultur und Lebenswelt der Juden im burgenlndisch-westungarischen Raum
und in den angrenzenden Regionen vom Mittelalter bis zur Gegenwart, Rudolf Kropf,
ed. Wissenschaftliche Arbeiten aus dem Burgenland 92 (Eisenstadt: Burgenlndisches
Landesmusem, 1993), 65106 (6869).
102Brugger and Wiedl, Regesten 1, 160, nr. 153, GJ III/3, 218182; Haverkamp, Concivilitas,
12526; Toch, Juden im mittelalterlichen Reich, 5154; Markus Wenninger, Von jdi
schen Rittern und anderen waffentragenden Juden im mittelalterlichen Deutschland
in Aschkenas. Zeitschrift fr Geschichte und Kultur der Juden, 13/1 (2003), 3582 (5467);
Christine Magin, Waffenrecht und Waffenverbot fr Juden im Mittelalterzu einem
Mythos der Forschungsgeschichte, in ibid., 1734.
103From mid-century onwards, the Austrian dukes favoured noblemen by means of
what is referred to as Ttbriefe (killing letters) which cancelled debt instruments without
222 birgit wiedl

development that was also made possible by the increasing importance of

the citizenries on the financial sector. However, the fact that other groups
were taking on the role of money lender and financiers of the rulers and
the nobility was but one factor in the general deterioration of the overall
status of the Jews. Unlike in the earlier decades most of the persecutions
were condoned, or even initiated, by the rulers.104 The legal role of the
towns remained a minor one, and even if Jewish settlement after the per-
secutions of 1338 was not, as frequently noted, reduced to the big(ger)
towns, the persecutions and expulsions of the fifteenth century were par-
tially initiated, or at least supported and carried out, by the citizenries.
The Vienna Gezerah of 1420/21 brought an end to Jewish life in the duchy
of Austria at the same time when Jews were evicted from many cities
along the Rhine and around Lake Constance.105 A second huge wave of
persecutions within the realms of and carried out by the imperial cities in
the eastern and northern parts of the Holy Roman Empireafter ongo-
ing minor expulsions throughout the centuryat the end of the fifteenth
century occurred concurrently with the expulsion of the Jews from Styria
and Carinthia, which had at least partially been carried out at the demand
of the cities. The combined political and, above all, financial power of
nobility and cities, the good will of which Emperor Maximilian I needed
for his war preparations, eventually succeeded in expelling the Jews from
all over the territory of todays Austria.

any compensation, Lohrmann, Judenrecht, 17173); they held Jews at ransom, or confis
cated their whole property, and the collecting of special taxes became more and more
common (Brugger, Ansiedlung, 21921).
104For example the persecution of the Jews of the Archbishopric of Salzburg in 1404,
which had most likely been caused by financial problems of Archbishop Eberhard III,
Wenninger, Juden Salzburg, 74849.
105Brugger, Ansiedlung, 22124, with a summary of the vast literature.
Making Jews in the Hours of Mary de Bohun

Carlee A. Bradbury

The Hours of Mary de Bohun offers an intimate, small-scale example of

the larger relationship between Christians and Jews in post-expulsion
England. In this Book of Hours, artists constructed and deployed visual
Jews for a unique reader, Mary de Bohun, at a particular transitional
moment in her life, her wedding. Situating the actions of the Virgin as
role model against the Jew as anti-model, artists defined and reinforced
Mary de Bohuns real identity as a member of the Bohun family and her
future identity as a good wife and mother.
The specificity and complexity of the visual vocabulary in the Hours
of Mary de Bohun is unique among the manuscripts made for the Bohun
family. Here, the artist created a layered visual narrative reliant on repeti-
tive gestures, poses, and physiognomies in which he constructed and
deployed Jews to represent both spiritual doubt and the hopeful message
of doubt transformed by recognition. In two parallel image cycles, illus-
trating the Infancy and a selection of miracles of the Virgin, the Bohun
reader saw the behavior of the Virgin Mary, ideal mother and ideal queen,
contrasted with the bad, doubt-filled behavior of the Jew. The relationship
between the Virgin and the Jews unfolds on a stage that echoes the Bohun
world. From heraldry to room furnishings, visual information is personal-
ized to ensure Mary de Bohuns comprehension of the visual cycle in her
Mary Bohun was the youngest daughter of Humphrey de Bohun
(13421373) and Joan Fitzalan (died 1419).1 After the death of her father
in 1373, Mary and her elder sister Eleanor became wards of King Edward
III. Three years later, in 1376, Eleanor married Thomas of Woodstock.2
Thomas quickly realized that he would benefit from the whole of the
Bohun estate if Mary remained unmarried, and thus he planned for her
to become a nun. However, Marys inheritance made her too attractive for

1Lucy Freeman Sandler includes a very useful family tree that serves as the end papers
in The Lichtenthal Psalter and the Manuscript Patronage of the Bohun Family (London:
Harvey Miller Publishers, 2004). See also Thomas T. Birbeck, Sword and Ploughshare: The
Story of the de Bohuns and Caldicot (Chepstow: The Chepstow Society, 1973), 35.
2Birbeck, Sword and Ploughshare, 36.
224 carlee a. bradbury

religious life; John of Gaunt, the Duke of Lancaster (Thomass brother),

arranged her marriage to his son Henry of Bolingbroke. After the marriage
was finalized in 1380, Thomas was faced with the division of his father-
in-laws land and fortune; Thomas became the Earl of Essex and Henry
became the Earl of Hereford and Northampton.3 Thomas forfeited his title
in a battle for the Crown, which ultimately cost him his life in 1397.4
Mary was eleven or twelve years old when she married Henry, who
was about fourteen, at Rochford Hall, Essex, in 1380/1.5 Their initial union
produced a son who died at birth in April 1382.6 Subsequently the couple
lived apart; Mary was sent home to Pleshey Castle to live with her mother
Joan Fitzalan until she turned fourteen in 1383/4.7 In all Mary gave birth
to six living children: Henry of Monmouth (who would become King
Henry V), born in the gatehouse at Monmouth Castle, South Wales, in
1388; Thomas, Duke of Clarence born in 1389; John, Duke of Bedford born
in 1390; Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester born in 1391; Blanche in 1392;
and Philippa in 1394.8 Mary died in 1394, five years before her husband
usurped the throne from Richard II and became King Henry IV, first of the
Lancastrian line.9 Henry IV remarried in 1403, but his union with Joan of
Navarre did not produce children.10

3Birbeck Sword and Ploughshare, 3839. Sandler, Lichtenthal Psalter, 15.

4Sandler, Lichtenthal Psalter, 15.
5The wedding took place either in late 1380 or early 1381. Sandler, Lichtenthal Psalter,
11. Bryan Bevan, Henry IV (New York: St. Martins Press, 1994), 7.
6John Cami Parsons, Mothers, Daughters, Marriage, Power: Some Plantagenet
Evidence, 11501500, in Medieval Queenship, ed. John Cami Parsons (New York: St.
Martins Press, 1993), 67.
7Henrys father, John of Gaunt paid for Marys expenses while living with her mother.
In addition, he paid Joan a small additional stipend. Public Records Office, London,
DL29/262/4070, m.3.
8Bevan, Henry IV, 14. Even though John Capgrave does not mention the first daughter
Blanche in The Illustrious Henries, (he mentions to douteris had he eke in his Chronicle
of England) he provides the most thorough account of each of the sons. John Capgrave,
The Book of the Illustrious Henries, trans. by Francis Charles Hingeston (London: Longman,
Brown, Green, Longmans, & Roberts, 1858), 116117. See also Francis Sanfords chart in A
genealogical history of the kings of England, and monarchs of Great Britain, &c. from the
conquest, anno 1066 to the year, 1677 in seven parts or books, containing a discourse of their
several lives, marriages, and issues, times of birth, death, places of burial, and monumental
inscriptions (London: Thomas Newcomb, 1677), 242.
9A Collection of all the Wills, Now Known to be Extant, of the Kings and Queens of
England, Princes and Princesses of Wales, and Every Branch of the Blood Royal, from the
Reign of William the Conqueror , to that of Henry the Seventh Exclusive, printed and compiled
by J. Nichols. (New York: Kraus Reprint, 1969), 206.
10Collection of all the Wills, 207.
making jews in the hours of mary de bohun 225

Marys will has not surfaced. The only manuscripts specifically linked
to Mary are those made to celebrate her marriage around 1380. However,
there were significant collections of books at both Pleshey Castle and
Walden Abbey in Essex. The variety of these volumes in the locations
where Mary spent her childhood and the early years of her marriage offers
insight into the important role books played in the development of the
Bohun family as an intellectual and devotional community. Two docu-
ments, an inventory of goods at Pleshey Castle in Essex and the will of
Marys sister Eleanor, reveal the range of volumes that were available for
the consumption by the Bohun family and offer a context for understand-
ing the imagery in the Hours of Mary de Bohun.
Upon his marriage to Eleanor, Thomas of Woodstock adopted Pleshey
Castle as his chief residence. When, in 1397, he forfeited his title to the
Crown, his personal goods were seized and an inventory made by royal
escheators. This document provides the clearest picture of the books pres-
ent in the Bohun library. The books are in two categories, one, with forty
entries, for use in the chapel and the other, with eighty-three entries, con-
taining various romances and narratives. The volumes are then individu-
ally described by size and color, and classed as viel and novel.11
Information found in Eleanors will, dated August 9, 1399, both com-
plements and completes the picture of the Bohun library from the 1397
inventory.12 It seems she maintained a personal collection of manuscripts
that escaped mention in the inventory of 1397 and subsequent seizure of
books. Although she bequeaths the bulk of her manuscripts to her son
Humphrey, Eleanor leaves a Psalter to her daughter Joan, a copy in French
of the Golden Legend to her daughter Anne, and several books in French
to her daughter Isabella.13 Since Eleanor was the eldest of the heirs to
the Bohun estate, she was most likely given the majority of the old
family manuscripts. Though Mary may have had knowledge of the older

11Viscount Dillon and W.H. St. John Hope, Inventory of the Seized Goods and Chattels
belonging to Thomas, Duke of Gloucester and Seized at his Castle at Pleshey, co. Essex,
21 Richard II (1397), Archaeological Journal (1897), 54. There is a complete copy of the
inventory in Susan H. Cavanaugh, A Study of Books Privately Owned in England: 13001450
(Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Pennsylvania, 1980), 845851.
12Melvin M. Bigelow, The Bohun Wills, II, The American Historical Review 1, no. 4
(July 1896), 644.
13Bigelow, The Bohun Wills, II, 6479. Cavanaugh, A Study of Books Privately Owned,
226 carlee a. bradbury

volumes, she was the youngest and as such was left with manuscripts that
were either made or altered specifically for her.14
In addition to inheriting and acquiring old books, members of the
Bohun family commissioned new, richly illustrated devotional manu-
scripts. Working with the Bohun family wills and inventories, particularly
those relating to Marys great-uncle, Humphrey de Bohun, the sixth Earl
of Hereford and Essex, Lucy Freeman Sandler identified two of the Bohun
familys artists: John de Teye and Henry Hood, who were also clerics at
Walden Abbey near Pleshey Castle.15 In Humphreys will, dated 1361, John
de Teye is referred to as my illuminator. John was still working at the
Bohun estate in 1389 when he agreed to train Henry Hood, who, in 1390,
received permission to travel to Rome for the Jubilee.16
All of the Bohun manuscripts were user-specific, reflecting and rein-
forcing an ideal Bohun world for the Bohun audience. Sandlers work
suggests that cleric artists like John de Teye and Henry Hood lived and
worked at the immediate disposal of the family, somewhere near the
main Bohun residence at Pleshey Castle in Essex.17 They formed a unique,
closed community of image-makers who worked and lived in close prox-
imity to their patrons. According to Sandler, the manuscripts made in the
1360s for both Humphreys (the sixth and seventh earls) reflect the artists
integration into family life. The artists showed their knowledge of politi-
cal alliances, personality flaws, and inside jokes in the pictorial imagery
of the manuscripts.18

14Even without a will, it seems that Marys books went directly to her children, not to
her husband. Henrys will does not mention any books; however some purchases of books
or their care are listed in the Public Records from 1395 to 1412. Henry owned Bibles, a
missal, and a Psalter, but he was also interested in contemporary literature of his day.
For example, he invited Christine de Pizan to reside at his court, though unsuccessfully.
Cavanaugh, A Study of Books Privately Owned, 409411.
15Sandler, Lichtenthal Psalter, 19, 2426. Lucy Freeman Sandler, Gothic Manuscripts,
12851385, Volume One (London: Harvey Miller Publishers, 1986), 3435. Sandlers identi
fication of the work of two lead artists, John de Teye and an unknown Master, allows for
a distinction between what she calls first and second generation Bohun manuscripts. The
first generation manuscripts were begun in the 1360s for Humphrey the sixth earl and fin
ished for his nephew Humphrey the seventh earl. The second generation of manuscripts,
including the Hours of Mary de Bohun, was made for the marriage of Mary de Bohun and
Henry Bolingbroke in 1380/1381. John de Teye was the constant force in Bohun manuscript
production from the 1360s into the 1380s, as he collaborated on the first and second gen
erations of books. A second unknown artist worked with John and may have replaced him
on the manuscripts made to commemorate Marys marriage.
16Sandler, Lichtenthal Psalter, 19.
17Sandler, Lichtenthal Psalter, 26.
18Sandler, Lichtenthal Psalter, 2526.
making jews in the hours of mary de bohun 227

After the death of Humphrey the seventh earl, the artists remained the
same and were still supervised by John de Teye, but the atmosphere at
Pleshey Castle changed. The manuscripts made in the 1380s were com-
missioned at a time when Joan Fitzalan was head of the family and was
trying to secure a good marriage for her daughters. Though devotional
manuscripts like those made for the Bohun family were instrumental in
shaping their spiritual life, richly illustrated manuscripts like these were
also luxury ornaments that signified the familys good social standing.19
The manuscripts that were given to Mary on her wedding function on
both levels.
By the 1380s, the clerical artists living and working at Pleshey Castle
became important interpreters of devotional narratives and were in a
unique position to create and propagate imagery that defined the Bohuns
and their world. Their most exceptional work, the Hours of Mary de Bohun,
offers the opportunity to consider how a visually constructed Jew was
deployed in a world with no memory or experience of actual Jews. Here
the Jew is structured as a specific counterpoint to the Virgin Mary who
is presented as the readers role model. As anti-model, the Jew appears
in situations where his actions showcase either his unflinching doubt or
an initial doubt that is replaced with acknowledgement or submission to
Christian authority.
As it exists today the Hours of Mary de Bohun includes the Hours of the
Virgin (fol. 1r28v), the penitential psalms (fol. 28r32v), and the Office
of the Dead (fol. 43r66v). The opening folio of each devotional hour,
the penitential psalms, and the Office of the Dead is illustrated with two
distinct but related image cycles: a scene from the Infancy or Passion from
the New Testament appears in historiated initials and the Miracles of the
Virgin appear in the bas de page.
Illustrated at the opening of each hour, scenes from the Infancy or the
Passion fill the six-line historiated initial that begins the first letter of the
first line of prayer. The arrangement of these scenes has been slightly
adjusted from the normal image cycle of the Infancy of Christ associated
with the Hours of the Virgin. The customary arrangement of iconography
is slightly altered.20 The Bohun artist substitutes the Crucifixion at None

19Guglielmo Cavallo and Roger Chartier, Introduction, in A History of Reading in the

West, ed. by Guglielmo Cavallo and Roger Chartier, (Amherst: University of Massachusetts
Press, 1999) 20.
20Typically the Annunciation appears at Matins, the Visitation at Lauds, the Nativity at
Prime, the Annunciation to the Shepherds at Terce, the Adoration of the Magi at Sext, the
228 carlee a. bradbury

and the Resurrection at Vespers, before returning to the traditional scene

of the Coronation of the Virgin at Compline.21 The sequence of events
is changed slightly, as the artist incorporates the Annunciation to the
Shepherds onto the same page as the Nativity at Prime. This change also
affects Terce and Sext: the Adoration of the Magi is illustrated at Terce,
and the Presentation in the Temple at Sext. The traditional imagery of
Vespers is absent; there is no scene of the Flight into Egypt or of its fre-
quent alternate, the Massacre of the Innocents.
The images on the bas de page in the Hours of the Virgin illustrate
selected miracles of the Virgin Mary. The eight miracles (the Fallen Abbess,
Theophilus, the Jew of Bourges, the Christ-Child Taken Hostage, the Monk
and the Roses, the Usurers Soul, the Drowned Sacristan, and the Jew
and the Merchant) typically unfold in a three-part narrative. Unlike the
Infancy cycle there is no pre-ordered association of a particular miracle
with the opening of a particular hour.22 The artists were able to deploy
them creatively to construct extra-textual commentary.
Mary de Bohun would have been aware of these miracles mainly
through books in the Bohun libraries. In the inventory of 1397 inventory
of Pleshey Castle, a volume of un livre en Fraunceis de miracles n[o]stre
dame (a book in French with the miracles of our lady) is listed under
the heading Livres de Diversis Rymances et Estories.23 There is no men-
tion of this volume containing illustrations. Although it is impossible to
identify what specific miracle collection this volume contained, it may
have been Gautier de Coincis Miracles de Nostre Dame, a collection that
contains most (but not all) of the miracles in the Hours of Mary de Bohun.
Another common textual source for Marian miracles that was available in
England is the Golden Legend compiled in 1265 by Jacobus de Voragine,

Presentation in the Temple at None, the Flight into Egypt at Vespers, and the Coronation
of the Virgin at Compline. Roger Weick, Time Sanctified: The Book of Hours in Medieval Art
and Life (New York: George Braziller and Walters Art Museum, 1987), 60, 90.
21 The illustration of the Crucifixion at None is typical of the Hours of the Cross, which
do not include a precedent for illustrating the Coronation of the Virgin at Compline, rather
the final image in the Hours of the Cross is the Entombment. Roger Weick, Time Sanctified,
22A survey of the images cycles of the Hours of the Virgin from manuscripts listed in
Sandler (Gothic Manuscripts) shows that out of twenty-seven manuscripts only five have
image cycles with the Marian Miracles. Only four of these illustrate the Marian Miracles
at the beginning of each hour. Each manuscript shows different miracles as opening dif
ferent hours.
23For the library, see above Books Documented at Pleshey Castle, 168.
making jews in the hours of mary de bohun 229

a French illustrated version of which appeared in the will of Marys sister,

The Bohun artists incorporated visual devices, particularly heraldry,
into the Infancy scenes, ensuring a personalized devotional experience for
Mary de Bohun.25 The arms of the Bohun family, six gold lions separated
by a black bar on an azure ground, appear on the folios that open the first
three devotional Hours of Matins, Lauds, Prime, and finally at Compline.26
At Matins the arms of both the Bohun family and England before 1340
form a background to the initial bearing the Annunciation; there are three
gold lions on a red ground for England in two corners while the Bohun
shield is split in two for the other corners.27 At Lauds we move into the
present: two shields spring from the terminals of the initial bearing the
Visitation: the upper for England after 1340 shows three gold lions on a
red ground quartered with the blue arms of France, while the lower of
John of Gaunt, Marys father-in-law, is almost identical to that of England
save for the black label of three points.28 The corners of the D in square
hold the four parts of the post-1340 England arms. In this little book, the
arms of two families and a country, England past and England present,
come together to define and reinforce the readers spiritual experience
and identity. The heraldry of the Bohuns, England, and John of Gaunt
visually defined Marys nation and family. The heraldry also reminded
Mary of her past, as a Bohun, and her present life as a Lancaster. For her
last daughter Philippa, the Hours images, with their heraldic charges,
were a compact and constant reminder of her faith and family.
Tracking her seamless movement from these familiar initials to bas de
page, Mary saw her role model, the Virgin, face any situation, in any loca-
tion, with composure and calm. The miracles in the bas de page take place
in the world outside of court, a world that is the ideal setting for bad

24Cavanaugh, A Study of Books Privately Owned, 110. Glover, Illustrations of the Miracles,
25Heraldic devices and designs were present at Pleshey Castle, most notably in floor
tiles. See Frances Williams, Pleshey Castle, Essex (XIIXVI Century): Excavations in the
Bailey, 19591963, British Archaeological Reports 42 (1977), 9295.
26The Bohun arms appear in the three-lined V at the opening psalm of Matins, in a
two-lined D at the opening psalm of Lauds, and in a three-lined D at the end of Lauds on
the opening folio of Prime. The Bohun arms make a final appearance on the opening folio
of the final hour, Compline, in the curve of the letter C holding the scene of the Coronation
of the Virgin where Jesus wears a blue robe with gold Bohun lions. Charles Boutell, English
Heraldry (London: Cassell, Petter, and Glapin, 1871), 5859.
27Boutell, English Heraldry, 8588.
28Sandler, Gothic Manuscripts, 162.
230 carlee a. bradbury

behavior, alien to Mary de Bohun. This painted environment, in which the

miracle scenes unfolds, is intentionally less specific, and less relevant to
Marys personal experience than that evoked by the scenes in the initials.
In her dual roles, as model mother and queen, the Virgin Mary is the only
figure that moves from the initial to the bas de page.
The connection between Mary and the Virgin is established at Matins
with the Annunciation where the angel Gabriel interrupts Marys reading
with the words ave maria gracie, unfurling from his hand-scroll (figure
1). Mary looks up from her book, held by a red bookstand, holding her
place in the text with one hand and calmly addressing the angel with
the other. Gabriels mouth is shut, yet his body, wings, and halo emanate
bright orange and red flames that seem to scream his words. Here the
Virgin Mary wears attributes associated with a fourteenth-century queen:
she is crowned and sits on a golden, throne-like chair. Mary de Bohun
kneels in a turret perched outside of the scene; she ignores the book on
her red bookstand, turning her full concentration to the Virgin Mary. The
Virgin wears a pink shift under a blue cloak with gold stars and white
dots. Mary de Bohuns costume, with the colors of her family and country,
directly mirrors the Virgins. The artist abbreviates and abstracts the color
and form of the Bohun arms in the decoration on the Virgins cloak here
in the Annunciation, but in following images the Virgin Marys clothing
becomes more clearly decorated with Bohun heraldry.
The Virgin remains in her royal clothing as she appears in both the ini-
tial and the miracle scene in the bas de page below (figure 1). The Miracle
of the Fallen Abbess or the Abbess Delivered unfolds, from left to right, in
three parts. First, the abbess addresses the bishop who rightly questions
her chastity. Second, a robed hermit is about to take the abbess baby from
the angel Gabriel, as the Virgin comforts the abbess. Finally, five nuns
question the bishop who signals that he found the abbess innocent by
placing his hand on her heart. The three scenes are delineated by cluster-
ing the figures in groups. The repetition of costume types in the bishops
brocaded chasuble and the abbess black habit creates a visual rhythm
that helps the reader move through the image.
Setting a visual precedent for the book, the initial and bas de page scene
are connected through mirrored gesture and pose. In both, the Virgin
wears identical costumes and maintains the same, seated position looking
to the angel at her side. Both the angel and the hermit gaze and gesture at
the Virgin, imploring her to consider the child and thus the abbess chas-
tity. In his pose, the hermit is a quotation of the angel Gabriel. Both look
up as they implore the Virgin. The artist also incorporates witnesses in
making jews in the hours of mary de bohun 231

Figure 1.Matins Copenhagen, Konelige Bibliotek, Thott 547, fol. 1r (Photo: CHD
Center for Hndskriftstudier i Danmark,
232 carlee a. bradbury

both scenes. Supporters of both the bishop and the abbess listen to their
conversation just as Mary de Bohun witnesses the Annunciation from her
little room. The Bishop begins with three supporters, the abbess with two,
and after her acquittal, his support dwindles to one as hers grows to four.
Through repetition of costume, pose and gesture, readers of the Hours
of Mary de Bohun cannot lose sight of Mary de Bohuns namesake, the
Virgin Mary. She is the constant visual element that associates not only
the Infancy and miracle cycles on individual pages, but also connects the
opening of one hour to another. Her image cues the passage of time as
each new hour begins.
Within this series of images associating Mary de Bohun with the Virgin
Mary, the artist constructed Jews into anti-models, using their bad behav-
ior and negative actions to emphasize the ideal, model behavior of the
Virgin. The relationship between the Virgin and the Jew is established
in their contradictory parenting skills illustrated on the opening folio of
Prime (figure 2). Packed with visual information and accentuated with
rich vibrant colors, the beginning of Prime stands apart from the earlier
openings to Matins and Lauds. Breaking from his traditional arrangement
of scenes, the artist illustrates the Annunciation to the Shepherds along
the top of the page, the Nativity in the initial, and the Miracle of the Jew
of Bourges along the bas de page.
The Annunciation to the Shepherds fills the space above the text,
transforming it into a continuous and verdant landscape. This is the only
narrative scene to assume this place in the manuscript. Two of the shep-
herds relax towards the outer edge of the page; they are playing music
on markedly earthly instruments that contrast with the angels heavenly
instruments in the terminals. These two men are oblivious to their sur-
roundings, totally engrossed in their music. Meanwhile, a third shepherd
holds his hand to his face, reacting to Gabriels bright flames. Even his dog
looks up, mouth agape.
In the middle of the folio, the Nativity fills in the initial. Mary nurses her
newborn son, while Joseph observes them with a sideways glance. Sitting
in a throne-like chair and clutching his walking stick, Joseph peeks from
behind a pink curtain. He looks old, tired, and deeply confused in com-
parison with the serene Mary. Though Mary glances at Joseph, her focus
is her child. Mother and child comprise a unified visual element, linked
physically and visually by the white flesh of Marys breast and the childs
gesturing arms. Though there seems to be little interaction between the
members of the holy family, they are a unified visual group. Their gazes as
well as their rather close spatial proximity bind Mary and Joseph.
making jews in the hours of mary de bohun 233

Figure 2.Prime Copenhagen, Konelige Bibliotek, Thott 547, fol. 14v (Photo:
CHD Center for Hndskriftstudier i Danmark,
234 carlee a. bradbury

Manipulation of color, pose, and gesture sets this holy family in the
Nativity against the worst possible family in the scene representing the
miracle of the Jew of Bourges, illustrated in three sections in the bas de
page. At the left, a Jewish boy attends a Christian mass, is singled out by
the Virgin with her pointing gesture, and takes communion. When his
father discovers this, in the center scene, he is enraged and shoves his son
into a burning oven. Finally, at the right, the Virgin retrieves the boy from
the fire unharmed. The Jewish father occupies the central space wearing
a bright red robe, a pink turban-like head covering, and a long beard. As
he shoves his son into the flame, a group of five Jews surround the oven.
They cower, clutching their robes, and frown; behind is a woman who is
the boys mother.
Considering the folio as a whole, the reader follows the interrelated
red robed figures from the Jew of Bourges in the bas de page, to Joseph
in the initial, to the shepherd in the upper margin. Purely visual devices,
not the text, link these three figures. Also bound by the visual language
are the Virgin and the Jew of Bourgeseach maintaining the same posi-
tion as the Jew pushes his son into the oven and the Virgin pulls the boy
free. Recognizing and reading the Virgin on this folio, Mary Bohun sees
her model, the ideal mother in action, caring for not only her son but
saving the Jewish boy. Similarly, Joseph in the Nativity and the Jew of
Bourges are visually identified by their bright red clothing, grey wrinkled
face, long beard, and covered head. Their visual similarity draws attention
to their association as inverses of each other, the good father versus the
bad father, opposed just as are the Virgin and the Jew of Bourges.
Though centrally located in this illustration of the Miracle of the Jew of
Bourges, the boys mother is outside of this nexus of the Virgin as model
and the Jew (in various guises) as anti-model.29 In miracle collections that
were likely available to Mary de Bohun, such as the Golden Legend and
the Miracles de Nostre Dame,the mother screams and draws a crowd to
witness the miracle itself.30 The moment she recognizes that her son is

29Carlee A. Bradbury, Picturing Maternal Anxiety in the Miracle of the Jew of Bourges,
Medieval Feminist Forum 47 no. 2 (2011), 3456. Available at:
30In the miracle as written in the Golden Legend, after the father throws his son into
the oven, his mothers cries attract the crowd of onlookers. Jacobus de Voragine, The
Golden Legend trans. by William Granger Ryan, vol. 11 (Princeton: Princeton University
Press, 1993), 8788. In Gautier de Coincis Miracles de Nostre Dame, after the mother dis
covers what has happened to her son she cries many tears, tears her hair and then runs to
the street screaming, Hareu! Hareu! A ce tyrant car acroez, fait ele, tost! (Help! Help! Come
making jews in the hours of mary de bohun 235

in physical danger at the hands of his father, her husband, she cries out
for help and separates herself from his violent actions. Both Miri Rubin
and Denise Despres read the mother in this miracle tale as a figure of
pathos, helplessly watching as her son, who they see as a metaphor for the
Eucharistic host, is placed in harms way.31 This reading of the boy as host
is sound, yet the role and power of the mother merits further examina-
tion. The mothers placement in this image complements her role in the
textshe is a transitional figure, marking the moment when she makes
the private act public.
Through nuanced control of space, gesture, and costume, the Bohun
artist exploits the instant when the mother cries out, accusing her hus-
band of the terrible act. Her white wimple echoes her tightly crossed
arms; she points one finger at her husband and with the other, she sum-
mons a crowd led by a bearded man who acknowledges the scene with an
extended forefinger. She stands between the oven and the crowd, between
the space of her home and the public sphere. Her pink dress draws atten-
tion to her transitional nature, mirroring the costume of the Virgin and
the boys in church, as well as the drapery defining the space of the church.
Through visual means, the artist associates her with everyone in the visual
narrative except for her husband.
The Jewish mother in this miracle is an example of a rarity among medi-
eval representations of Jews. This female Jew is an example of an uncom-
mon type, identified by Lisa Lampert as the post-Crucifixion Jewess.32
She is neither a representation of a contemporary medieval Jewess, nor is
she a character rooted in exegesis per se. Her appearance in an illustration
of the miracle is unusual.33 By visualizing a mother in distress, the Bohun
artist provides the reader, Mary de Bohun, with an extra potential model,
not only the Virgin who saves the boy but also the boys mother whose
screams make the private act of violence into a public one.

soon, she said, this tyrant killed him [my son]). Gautier de Coinci, Les Miracles de Nostre
Dame vol. II (Geneva: Librarie Droz, 1961), 91.
31Miri Rubin, Gentile Tales: The Narrative Assault of Late Medieval Jews (New Haven: Yale
Press, 1999), 1315. Denise Despres, Mary of the Eucharist: Cultic Anti-Judaism in Some
Fourteenth-Century English Devotional Manuscripts, in From Witness to Witchcraft: Jews
and Judaism in Medieval Christian Thought, ed. by Jeremy Cohen (Germany: Harrassowitz
Verlag, 1997), 385386.
32Lisa Lampert, Gender and Jewish Difference from Paul to Shakespeare (Philadelphia:
University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004), 143.
33Such visualization of the mothers terror in the miracle of the Jew of Bourges is
unusual. She is absent from the Bohun Hours in Oxford, which was made at the same
time as the Hours of Mary de Bohun.
236 carlee a. bradbury

The Jew of Bourges stands apart from the other male Jews in the Hours
of Mary de Bohun. He is a representation of complete doubt, appearing
only once, existing solely as a violent reaction to the actions of his son.
Curiously the artist does not visualize the punishment for the Jews crime.
In both the Golden Legend and the Miracles de Nostre Dame, the miracle
ends as the father is himself thrown into the oven by the town folk and
burned to death.34 Instead, the image in the Hours of Mary de Bohun
ends with the positive image of the Virgin pulling the boy from the oven
unscathed. In the visual narrative of the bas de page at the Hours of Lauds,
Compline, and None, the Bohun artist deploys male Jews that he con-
structs to play more nuanced roles illustrating various levels of perceived
evil, doubt, or recognition.
At Lauds (figure 3), the artist illustrates the complex role of witness in
the Visitation and the miracle of Theophilus. In the Visitation, Elizabeth,
with her grey and modeled face, satisfies her disbelief in her cousins preg-
nancy by touching Marys belly. In the gospel of Luke, Elizabeths recogni-
tion of Marys special status comes when Elizabeth heard the salutation of
Mary, [and] the infant leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with
the Holy Ghost.35 In the bas de page the miracle of Theophilus unfolds
in four scenes. First, Theophilus is dismissed from his spiritual office
as Vicedominus. Second, in an attempt to regain his position, Theophilus
writes an oath pledging himself to a woolly devil with swirling white
horns, while a Jewish priest bears witness. Third, Theophilus prays to a
statue of the Virgin and begs forgiveness; and finally Mary intercedes and
forgives Theophilus, returns his oath, and tames the devil.36
On this folio, gestures of imploration, reaching, and touching are lay-
ered and mirrored from the initial to the miracle, creating a network of
associations. Elizabeth reaches and touches Marys body just as Theophilus
reaches out to the statue of the Virgin while she and her son reach out
to him. In an inversion of the miracle scene, the gesture of touch is rel-
egated to the devil. The artist has complicated the visual imagery, as the
devil that blesses Theophilus is a direct quotation, in pose and gesture, of

34Jacobus de Voragine, The Golden Legend, 8788. Gautier de Coinci, Les Miracles de
Nostre Dame, 91.
35Luke 1:41.
36The miracle of Theophilus is perhaps the most popular and widely illustrated of the
Marian Miracles; see Alfred C. Fryer, Theophilus, The Penitent, as Represented in Art.
Archaeological Journal 92 (1936), 287333.
making jews in the hours of mary de bohun 237

Figure 3.Lauds Copenhagen, Konelige Bibliotek, Thott 547, fol. 6v (Photo: CHD
Center for Hndskriftstudier i Danmark,
238 carlee a. bradbury

Elizabeth. Recognizing the Virgins authority, Elizabeth and Theophilus

are transformed and saved.
The visually shocking red-robed Jewish priest offers a challenge. His
swirling turban-like headgear mimic the devils horns, but his pose and
placement associate him with Theophilus. The artist does not explore the
priest beyond his role as passive witness, only present when Theophilus
is at his weakest point. The artist represents the priest only once, using
spatial proximity and costume to associate the Jew with the devil and thus
focus on the Jews inherent evil. As in the Miracle of the Jew of Bourges,
the artist gives the audience only one glimpse of the Jew. In the Miracle
of the Jew of Bourges, the legacy of the Jews actions resonate through the
remaining scenes from which he is absent. Yet in the Theophilus image
the Jewish priest is immobile, linked to the Jew as he seems to watch,
powerless, as the rest of the miracle unfolds.
At the beginning of Compline, the Jew plays a more active role in the
Miracle of the Jew and the Merchant, which serves as a counterpoint to
the Coronation of the Virgin in the initial (figure 4). The Coronation of the
Virgin within the initial appears quiet and solemn in comparison with the
surrounding host of heavenly music makers: ten angels fill surrounding
loops and flourishes, five angels occupy the space of the letter C above
the coronation, and two incense-swinging figures flank the Virgin and a
golden-bearded Christ. The Bohun arms appear next to the Virgin, who
bows her head to accept the crown from her son, while a young woman
holds open a door, outside the frame next to Christ, and faces the text,
her eyes level with the line averte iram tuam (avert thy anger). Because
imagery in this manuscript is so heavily dependent on the balance and
counter-balance of figure and gesture, this figure that corresponds in posi-
tion to the Bohun arms must refer to Mary de Bohun.
In the bas de page the Miracle of the Jew and the Merchant unfolds in
three scenes. At the left is the encounter where the Jew takes the statue
of the Virgin as collateral on a loan. A black-bearded merchant, wearing
red robes, blue leggings, and black shoes, holds a statue of the Virgin Mary
out to a Jew. Wearing long red robes and a white turban that resembles
swirling horns, the Jew points to a pile of money on a table. The center
image is divided in two halves: on the left, the Jew holds the loan contract
as he retrieves the money from the loan, and on the right, the bareheaded
merchant places the money in a sealed box, which he sends to the Jew on
the sea. Later the Jew, who has hidden the casket of money, demands pay-
ment from the merchant, who suggests asking the Virgin, using her statue
an intercessor, to decide the case. The Virgins judgment appears in the
making jews in the hours of mary de bohun 239

Figure 4.Compline Copenhagen, Konelige Bibliotek, Thott 547, fol. 28v (Photo:
CHD Center for Hndskriftstudier i Danmark,
240 carlee a. bradbury

final scene, where she says that the Jew indeed received the money. Upon
hearing this, the Jew falls to his knees and becomes a Christian.
As at Prime, the artist complicates his set of visual options here at
Compline, weaving visual associations though the page. For example,
both the merchant and the Jew are bearded, though only the Jew has the
now familiar grey, modeled face. Further, while the merchants costume
changes, the Jew consistently wears red. The Jew is the visual focus of the
story; he is the active figure who ultimately recognizes the significance
of the Virgin. Over the course of the miracle, the value the Jew assigned
to the Virgins image shifts from the monetary to the spiritual, as he is
transformed by her power.
The images on the opening of the hour of None, the Crucifixion, and
the Miracle of the Usurers Soul employ the same visual language estab-
lished in earlier miniatures, and they also introduce subtle variations to
the system (figure 5). Christ hangs on the cross in the center of the D
while Longinus, who appears bearded with a black hat and red robe in the
space outside to the left of the initial, stabs Christ with a long red spear
and points to his one open eye. According to the Golden Legend, Longinus
was one of Pilates soldiers who was blinded at the moment he stabbed
Christ, only to be cured when he touched his eyes with Christs blood.37
In the image, Longinus spear crosses right in front of the closed eyes of
the Virgin, who for the first time in this manuscript is uncrowned, repre-
sented as an earthly mother who swoons at the sight of her sons death.
Four women clustered behind support the Virgin, while Mary Magdalene,
hair flowing and eyes swollen, kneels at the foot of the cross and embraces
Christs legs. Her arms, swathed in red sleeves, mirror the red blood flow-
ing from Christs feet. Above the women, God the Father receives the Holy
Spirit in the form of a white dove that has flown from the mouth of Christ
to the mouth of God. Only Christs left hand bleeds, and it drips blood
almost directly into the hand of a Jew, who stands bearded, bareheaded,
and wearing a blue and white prayer shawl. The Jew looks to the viewer,
pointing to the blood and the prayerful action of John the Evangelist who
kneels peacefully in front of the cross. Behind the Jew are two other men,
while behind the young man is an older man with a grey beard.
Just as the Virgin Mary becomes a secondary figure to her son and the
godhead in the Crucifixion, she also assumes a secondary position in the

37Jacobus de Voragine, The Golden Legend, 184.

making jews in the hours of mary de bohun 241

Figure 5.None Copenhagen, Konelige Bibliotek, Thott 547, fol. 22v (Photo:
CHD Center for Hndskriftstudier i Danmark,
242 carlee a. bradbury

Miracle of the Usurers Soul in the bas de page, where three scenes unfold
in a sequence of curtained rooms.38 In the first, the bearded usurer lies in
bed unaware of a debate that is taking place between an angel and a dark
and woolly devil who are engaged by gaze and gesture. In the second, the
usurer remains in bed while a crowned Virgin and Christ replace the angel
and devil. Jesus is surrounded by a mandorla of gold rays; his wounds
bleed as he addresses God the Father, who floats above the scene in a
cloud of red and gold rays. In the final scene at right, the man sits up in
bed, awake, and addresses the angel. As he physically wakes up and rises
from a horizontal to seated position, his headgear falls away and his beard
becomes sparser. Over the course of the three scenes, possession of the
usurers soul is debated and ultimately saved by Christianity.
At None the artist complicates his traditional vocabulary for defining
ultimate recognition of Christianity. Longinus, the Jew in the Crucifixion,
and the usurer all have the same grey face, sunken eyes, beard, and head
covering. Longinus and the Jewish Priest are associated by wearing bright
red, but in the Miracle of the Usurers Soul, it is the angel and Christ who
are clad in vivid red. Despite repetition of visual elements such as the
beard, the robe, and the bright shade of red, these images are not formu-
laic. They challenge the audience to read with vigilance and memory.
The visualized Jews in the Hours of Mary de Bohun reflect the artists
understanding and creative manipulation of the practices of a savvy later
medieval reader who would return to the book again and again. These
figures, especially in the miracle scenes, also respond to various Christian
needs for the Jew. They are visual counterparts to Jeremy Cohens herme-
neutical Jews.39 He suggests that Christians responded to Jews and
Judaism by creating their own unique Jews whom they used to define

38Sandlers initial identification of this scene as the Miracle of the Usurers Soul has
not been finalized, yet a satisfactory alternative has not been proposed. This miracle is
rare and only appears in Caesarius of Heisterbachs collection Dialogus Miraculorum. The
main variation in the miracle tale and image involves a debate, which takes place after the
usurer makes his final penance to a Benedictine monk, between four angels and foul devils
for possession of the usurers soul. In the image, the struggle is abbreviated to one angel
and one large devil. Gothic Manuscripts, Volume Two, 161. Caesarius of Heisterbach, The
Dialogue on Miracles, trans. H. Von E. Scott and C.C. Swinton Bland (London: Routledge,
1929). For a discussion of the complexity of the miracle see, Mary E. Barnicle, The
Exemplum of the Penitent Usurer, PMLA Vol. 33: 3 (1918), 409428.
39Jeremy Cohen, Living Letters of the Law: Ideas of the Jew in Medieval Christianity
(Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999), 23. Here Cohen also provides a discus
sion of his development and formulation of the hermeneutical Jew.
making jews in the hours of mary de bohun 243

their own collective beliefs and identity. Cohen examines how real, living
Jews operated in contrast to a Jew who is hermeneutically and doctrin-
ally crafted and derives from a theological agenda which changed over
It is possible to extend Cohens work to the study of visual representa-
tions of Jews. Imaging the hermeneutical Jew offered medieval artists a
creative challenge. His pliable nature gave artists the chance to use and
develop specific visual elements, which would be easily understood by the
unique interpretive means of a closed audience such as the Bohun family.
In presenting a range from the Jew of Bourges with his unflinching doubt
to the Jew who is converted in the miracle of the Jew and the Merchant,
the Bohun artists annotate the miracles narrative with a spectrum of
meaning that is conveyed visually through association and interplay with
the initials. Making these Jews on the page challenged this talented artist
with an opportunity to mix and match visual elements that were part of
a visual language created for readers in the Bohun family.
In this book, Mary de Bohun saw the Jew repeatedly attempting to
thwart the actions of the Virgin Mary. Segregated to the bas de page or
the edges of the initials, the Jew was outside Mary de Bohuns frame of
familiar reference. However, she could still learn from the Jew in his vari-
ous guises and various stages of doubt or recognition. There was no hope
for the Jew of Bourges, but the Jew in the miracle of the Merchant and the
Jew offered a model for salvation. Gleaning such complex and nuanced
meaning from a purely visual language called for a confident reader will-
ing to remember and employ individual elements of the visual system in
concert with an awareness of their own visual culture. As portrayed by
the Bohun family artists, the Jew was a visual construction whose pres-
ence and actions deployed in the Hours of Mary de Bohun were clearly
understandable to members of the exclusive Bohun family.
Over time the Bohun reader changed from Mary to her daughter
Philippa. After Mary de Bohuns death in 1389, the manuscript now
known as the Hours of Mary de Bohun was given to the last daughter
Philippa, who died childless at Vadstena Abbey on the 5th of January
1430. It is more than likely that Philippa left her mothers Book of Hours
to the Vadstena library, the contents of which were plundered repeatedly

40Cohen, Living Letters of the Law, 25.

244 carlee a. bradbury

until finally dispersed in 1540.41 That Philippa brought her mothers book
to her new homes outside England is an ideal example of the important
role women played as ambassadors of culture and arbiters of lay piety.42
On the pages of this book, cultural memory and spiritual knowledge pass
from mother to daughter, from England to Denmark.

41Brigitta Fritz, The Archives of Vadstena Abbey, in The Monastic Library of Medieval
Vadstena, ed. Monica Hedlund, (Stockholm: Acta Bibliothecae R. Universitatis Upsaliensis,
1990), 32.
42Bell, Medieval Women Book Owners, 742768.
The Christian-Jewish Debate and the Catalan Atlas

Judy Schaaf

In 1377, near the end of the era of medieval mapmaking, when spiritual
understanding still influenced cartography, the Christian king of Aragon
Pedro IV received a document commissioned to represent the world, and
in 1381 his son Prince Juan, Duke of Gerona, sent it to his young cousin,
the new King Charles VI of France, whose father Charles V had asked
Pedro for a definitive representation of the world. The French king had
made an informed request, for the Aragonese royals were well known for
a passionate interest in maps, histories, and travel narratives, and they
kept a great library of such volumes. The Catalan Atlas, as it has come
to be known, was created in the Majorcan atelier of the foremost map-
and instrument-maker of his time, Cresques Abraham (Cresques, son
of Abraham) of Palma, or Cresques lo juheu.1 Cresques mappamundi
reflects both the long tradition of visualizing the world through legend
and spiritual story and the modern experience of exploring it as history
and fact. It is made of both science and story.
A huge document in six parts, the map is painted on parchment
attached to six panels, each measuring sixty-five by fifty-one centimeters.
Panel three of the Atlas visualizes the Far East, to which few Europeans
had then traveled. The recent end of the Mongol century had effectively
shut the door to European explorations of the Far East, but for almost a
century before, men like Marco Polo, Odoric of Pordenone, and William
of Boldensele had ventured there, and their accounts were collected by
the Aragonese king and his heir and made available to Cresques. Another
work in that library was the book of Sir John Mandeville, itself reliant
both upon others eyewitness accounts and upon a tradition of travel

1This is what he is called in Aragonese royal documents relating to the mappamundis

creation and conveyance to Charles VI, King of France, by Prince Juan, Duke of Gerona,
the eldest son of Pedro IV of Aragon, who protected and patronized Cresques and other
Majorcan Jews. See the summary of this history of the maps origins in Mapa mondi une
carte du monde au xive sicle: latlas catalan, ed. by Monique Pelletier and Aleksandra
Sarrabezolles (Paris: Bibliothque nationale de France, 1998) and also in Pinhas Yoeli,
Abraham and Yehuda Cresques and the Catalan Atlas, The Cartographic Journal 7.1 (June
1970), 1727 (2526).
246 judy schaaf

narratives originating in classical and Christian conceptions of self and

other. Mandevilles work, speculative and credulous though it was, pow-
erfully influenced European popular understanding of Asia into and even
beyond the European Renaissance, renewing actual travel there. It also
influenced the Catalan Atlas, one of the most important and influential
maps of the later Middle Ages, a map thought to have been consulted by
Prince Henry the Navigator, Christopher Columbus, and others like them
eager to know the world.
Assuming that a map both describes and interprets the world, this
essay examines a prominent set of the Atlass images representing the
farthest East, in order to discover something about the world view of
the makers of this important mapthe understanding they transmit
about human experience and human history. The discussion focuses on
aspects of the map that reference the experiences of Christians with Jews,
or that are traditionally associated strongly with the relationships of Jews
to Christians. Two key dramas emerge from the figures in this portion of
the mapthe story of Alexander the Greats conquest of the peoples of
Gog and Magog and the story of the ascendancy of Jesus. Each of these
importantly relates to the Christian-Jewish debate about the character
and relationship of Jewish and Christian peoples and their faiths. The
essay uses the evidence of Mandevilles popular and influential book to
depict the extreme Christian position in this debate. Mandevilles vigor-
ously anti-Jewish views are, I argue, countered by Cresquess representa-
tions of Alexander and Jesus, which are neutral expressions of narratives
frequently used as evidence to support anti-Jewish views, in the sense
that his representations do not promote the common understandings that
allow anti-Jewish sentiment to arise from these narratives. Although these
seminal stories were themselves influentially and copiously expressed
through the visual arts, especially in the frescoes, statuary, and wood-
carvings of ecclesiastical architecture and the illuminations of medieval
books, I have opportunity here to refer mainly to the primary visual docu-
ment itself, the Catalan Atlas.
I do not posit that Mandevilles book aloneor even most importantly
influenced the ways in which the Majorcan atelier of Jewish mapmakers
structured its own contribution to the Christian-Jewish debate in the
southern Mediterranean of the late fourteenth century but, rather, that
the definitive stance against Jews that Mandeville takes in the record
that Cresques likely consulted represents the kind of traditional argu-
ment against Jews, and the xenophobia, that were common in the late
medieval era. Cresques and his co-workers, including the son, Jafudo, who
the christian-jewish debate and the catalan atlas 247

followed his father in his profession (and who became, under duress, a
converso called Jacom Ribas after 1391), certainly spent their lifetimes
hearing such views and, perhaps sometimes, defending Jews against them.
I use Mandeville, that is, to represent the commonplace position his book
expresses. The response I describe the Atlas as making refers to the pan-
oramic and complex contexts of the history of Christian antagonism
against, and fear of, Jews.
I suggest that the scenes of the Catalan Atlas that concern prophecies
of the future, including ideas about the second coming and the end of
the world, embed, in effect, Cresquess own contribution to what is called
the Christian-Jewish debate (when the focus is on Christian polemic)
or the Jewish-Christian debate (when it is on Jewish polemic) about
the legitimacy, nature, relationship, and value of these peoples and their
faiths. The essay contains speculative and controversial elements that can
at least inspire further scholarship about this remarkable and seminal
maps views of history and human experience, almost nothing of which
currently exists. The essay is more an explication and observation than an
argument, since there is no scholarly debate about these figures on this
remarkable map. Scholarly discussion of any figures on the Catalan Atlas is
limited to occasional remarks in essays and books pursuing other themes
and arguments: about the character of the maps transitional cartography,
for instance, or about the development of certain historical ideasabout
navigation or trade, for exampleor of legendary ones, like the persistent
medieval fable (or hoax) of Prester John.
Medieval maps represent time as well as place. Northern European
maps, of the world that precede the era or influence of European explor-
atory navigation and of land voyages of discovery, like the Hereford map-
pamundi of the very late thirteenth/early fourteenth century or the Ebstorf
map, c. 1324, are founded in preconceptions of what the world looks like
and how it has come to be. An example is the classical T and O design
which, in Christian maps, displays the world as the body of God or as
the narrative of Christian faith. Centered on Jerusalem, the navel of the
world, the Christian T and O maps represent the Far East as the end of
time, depicting there Jesus in judgment. The Catalan Atlas is, famously,
not one of these kinds of medieval maps, or at least not entirely one. Its
representations embody a good deal of what had been learned by 1375
about the actual world through exploration, trade, and diplomacy, as well
as what was still imagined from tradition about parts unknown. Its west-
ern portions, especially the Mediterranean world, are remarkably accu-
rate geographically and historically. The rhumb lines that crowd together
248 judy schaaf

there come from actual navigation using the kinds of instruments that
Cresquess workshop was famous for making. These lines, and that kind
of intentionally factual geography, also characterize the eastern portions
of the Atlas, but there they are more speculative, increasingly so as one
moves east. Yet even in the Atlass east, its information is based as much
in the actual and historical as was possible for those who created the Atlas
in Cresquess workshop to produce from the evidence of one of the best
libraries for its set of subjects available in Europe at the time.
To read this map chronologically, a modern viewer must approach it
both spatially and temporally and, as it were, both right side up (with
north at the top) and upside down (with south there). If one moves from
east to west across the length of the Atlas, one moves increasingly deeply
into historical time, towards the present moment. Centered temporally
on the present time of the mapmakers world, the western parts of the
map inscribe European history. There, the icons and figures, small and
clustered together, represent the histories that have brought the world
to its present state. Yet if one moves from west to east across the length
of the Atlas, one moves not backward in time, but forward, towards the
Apocalypse. In a sense, the flat map wraps itself around, completing a
temporal sphere. Images of established histories (and legends and myths),
which crowd the western half of the map, thin out but enlarge as one
reaches Asia, where they represent more recent ideas about the world
gathered from European travelers during the Mongol era, as well as from
their redactors, like Cresquess contemporary Mandeville. The farthest
East contains the largest illustrations of the map. The fabulous Far East is
pushed to the extreme and unexplored north and west, traditional place
for invention and discovery. There, Alexander the Greats story about
western conquest and governance of Asia is told as Alexanders triumph
over Gog and Magog in a set of spectacular images that function like a trip-
tych read clockwise. This story is often referenced in the Christian-Jewish
debate, as it is in Mandevilles account of Alexanders confinement of Jews
within the imposing walls of the Caspian mountains, as we shall see.
In addition to the Alexander story, the remarkably rich visual narrative
of the Catalan Far East appears to reference other representation tradi-
tions in Christian medieval art that are centrally related to the Christian-
Jewish debate: the story of the lineage of kings as imaged in the Tree of
Jesse, and the story of the triumph of Christianity over Judaism, as imaged
in the opposition of Ecclesia and Synagoga. Looking especially at elements
unique to the Catalan Atlass depiction of Jesus triumphant at the end of
time, we can see that Cresques lo juheu uses his figures in innovative
the christian-jewish debate and the catalan atlas 249

ways that, in general, converse with such Christian representation tradi-

tions and that, in particular, counter the fear and revulsion of Jews that
texts like Mandevilles express. This essay examines that conversation
and opposition by exploring Cresquess departures from traditional rep-
resentations of scenes and emblems of Christian primacy and hegemony.
Where Mandeville stresses the antipathy and opposition of Christians and
others, especially Jews, Cresques asserts their relationships, the history
that Jews and Christians have in common. Cresques lo juheu and Sir
John Mandeville were contemporaries, both of whose works would exert
huge influence upon the ways in which Europeans would envision the
world for a long time to come. Their stories about otherness, and about
Jews in particular, are narratives in dialogue, and opposition.

Mandevilles Argument against Jews

The work known as The Book of John Mandeville is a compilation and inven
tion; the text claims it was composed in 1356 (or the year after) by John
Mandeville of St. Albans, an English knight, a set of small claims that some
one hundred and fifty years of scholarly detective work have failed to con-
firm beyond a reasonable doubt.2 The earliest dated manuscript, copied
in 1371, is in French and was commissioned for the royal library of Charles
V of France, who later requested, in 1377, the definitive mappamundi that
became the Catalan Atlas. Within a half century, Mandevilles Book had
appeared in eight European languages; nearly three hundred manuscripts
still exist; it remained influential until well into the Renaissance; and it
is still in print today.3 There is evidence that the Books author consulted
a substantial library of encyclopedias, histories, romances, travel narra-
tives, and other writings as he put together his work, and that his two
main resources were the pilgrimage narrative of William of Boldensele,
the Liber dequibusdam ultramarinis partibus (1336) and the missionary
travel narrative of Odoric of Pordenone, his Relatio (1330),4 both of which

2Iain Macleod Higgins, Writing East: The Travels of Sir John Mandeville. (Philadelphia:
Univ. of Pennsylvania Press, 1997), 6.
3For an account of the books origins and history, see Higgins, Writing East, pages 6, 8.
A good brief introduction to the character and influence of Mandevilles work appears in
Benjamin Braude, The Sons of Noah and the Construction of Ethnic and Geographical
Identities in the Medieval and Early Modern Periods, The William and Mary Quarterly,
3rd ser., 54, no. 1 (January 1997), 103142 (115 ff.).
4Higgins, 9.
250 judy schaaf

had been translated into French in 1351, and both of which were, together
with Mandevilles Book itself, in the library of the kings of Aragon in the
later fourteenth century.
Except for the enigma of its authors identity and purpose, much has
been learned and much speculated by scholars of the Book, especially since
the publication of Josephine Waters Bennetts substantial monograph The
Rediscovery of Sir John Mandeville in 1954.5 Although not addressed by
Bennett, a signal aspect of the Book recognized in more recent scholarship
on Mandeville, his dramatic anti-Jewish stance, is an important context
for reading the Catalan Atlass representation of the Far East. The most
complete discussion of Mandevilles position on Jews, its complex history
but unambiguous nature, is presented by Ian Macleod Higgins in the sixth
chapter of Writing East: The Travels of Sir John Mandeville, especially in
its section called The Power of Christian Obedience, the Threat of Jewish
Perfidy.6 Essentially, Higgins explains, the Mandeville-author followed a
clearly signposted but less traveled road in folklore, romance, and exegeti-
cal writing by associating the peoples of Gog/Magog with the lost Jewish
tribes, and he also brought together pieces of variant tellings of the Gog/
Magog story that were especially antithetical to Jews.
Earlier scholarship mentions little about Mandevilles Jews, perhaps
because it concentrates on Mandevilles notable tolerance for all other
others. It is that open-minded, humane observer in Mandeville that
Bennett describes in her chapter on Motives and the Man, for instance,
when she asserts that Mandeville possessed a larger view of the infinite
mercy and wisdom of God than the narrow-mindedness that would revile
differences in others: He believed that there were other ways to be saved
besides being an orthodox Christian, she says, and then cites Mandevilles
remark, from one of the English editions of the Book, that we know not
whom God loveth, ne whom he hateth (Bennett, 74). For Mandeville,
that is true except, plainly, in the case of Jews. As a later scholar puts
it, Mandeville has indeed made a conscious effort to create a relatively
tolerant universal worldview [...] However, to this tolerant view, the Jews
were invisible. [...] What is remarkable is the degree of difference between
the two categories, the Other and the Jewish Other; while for the former he

5Waters Bennett, The Rediscovery of Sir John Mandeville. The Modern Language
Association of America, Monograph Series 14 (New York: Modern Language Association,
6Higgins, 178202.
the christian-jewish debate and the catalan atlas 251

stressed their humanity, for the latter his literary ingenuity was exercised
to make them as evil as possible.7
Mandevilles Book takes, then, a dramatically negative, extremely
xenophobic position against Jews, especially in relating the story of the
enclosed nations. Discussing the character and likely sources of the mate-
rials Mandeville reshaped in this section of the work, Higgins finds that,
significantly, the Mandeville-author ignores the common tradition link-
ing Gog and Magog with the Tartarswho, like the Saracens are mostly
presented in a positive light. Instead, the author prefers the rare anti-
Jewish tradition that identifies the enclosed nations with the lost tribes of
Israel.8 Mandeville says that King Alexander herded these people behind
the Caspian Mountains and, when his mens attempts to wall the gap
and completely close them in failed, called on God to finish that work.
He then stirs his readers fears by mentioning that some Jews occasion-
ally escape, explaining that contemporary Jews maintain knowledge of
Hebrew in order to be able to communicate with the lost tribes at the
time of the Apocalypse, reminding them that dispossessed Jews would
return to reclaim the Holy Land at the end of time, and concluding that
this will occur when the enclosed Jews ultimately escape and become an
army led by Antichrist to war victoriously against the Christian realm. This
will happen, eerily, when a fox burrows under the gates established by
Alexander and lures curious Jews to discover the breach. Higgins argues
that while Mandevilles account purports to discuss the future, it actu-
ally works to incite ill-feeling against Jews in the present, and he says
that in several ways and places, Mandeville overwrites his sources to
serve his own rhetorical and ideological purposes, which are intensely
xenophobic with respect to Jews.9 Higgins exemplifies his argument from
Mandevilles revisions of one of his sources, the mid-thirteenth-century
Mirabilia mundi, in which the enclosed nations are plainly identified with
Tartars (not Jews), and where the prophecy of escape has already been
realized by the recent history of the Mongol century, and by that feared
peoples bloody advance to the rim of the Christian West.
In several other places, too, Mandevilles Book incites contempt and fear
of Jews, remarking often on their identity as Christ-killers, mentioning a

7Benjamin Braude, Mandevilles Jews among Others. in Pilgrims and Travelers to the
Holy Land, ed. by Bryan F. Le Beau and Menachem Mor. Studies in Jewish Civilization 7
(Omaha, NE: Creighton University Press, 1996), 13358 (139).
8Higgins, Writing East, 182.
9Higgins, 183, 18485.
252 judy schaaf

Jewish plot to poison Christians, and referring to Jews as lawless and irre-
deemable. Although some redactions of the Book soften or blunt some
of this anti-Jewish rhetoric, it is unmistakably a feature of Mandevilles
work. Whether or not the Book was consulted by the makers of the
Catalan Atlas, who could have viewed a copy of this well-known and
already highly regarded travel narrative in the library of their Aragonese
king and patron, the views it expresses against Jews were very common
ones, with which anyone would have been familiar. One may thus use
Mandevilles account of the enclosed nations and the Apocalypse as a
context for understanding the interesting and innovative version of those
stories that the Catalan Atlas illustrates.

The Catalan Text: What the Atlas Tells Us, and What It Doesnt

Little is known about either Cresques or Mandeville, and the latters name
even appears to be a pseudonym or assumed identity. Cresques Abraham,
or Cresques son of Abraham, however, is known to have come from a
prominent family who had occupied Majorca for several generations. He
was born c. 1326 and died in 1387 in Majorca, an intellectual and cul-
tural center, where he was acknowledged as magister mappamundorum
et bruxolarum and otherwise distinguished by King Pedro IV.10 The Atlas
was ordered in 1375 and finished by 1377, the year of its presentation to
the king. When Don Juan, the kings eldest son, wished to possess a good
world map, he wrote to Majorca to Olfo de Proxida (who later became
the governor of the island) and instructed him to order a chart that would
represent the straits of Gibraltar, the Atlantic coasts and the ocean in the
most complete form possible.11 That form stretches between the world in
which Cresques lived, the western Mediterranean, and the fabulous world
of the end of time, the extreme Asian northeast.
The text associated with the representation of the farthest East, in Catalan
rather than the usual Latin, helps one read the story the Atlas tells but is
enigmatic and somewhat self-contradictory. Three of the five (or perhaps
six, as will be discussed below) crowned figures within the rings created by
the Caspian Mountains are identified (in Catalan orderwith south at the

10See Yoeli, 2526.

11Yoeli, 26.
the christian-jewish debate and the catalan atlas 253

Figure 1.The Kings of the Catalan atlas Far east

top and moving clockwise) as alexander, a henchman of satan, the great

ruler of Gog and Magog, and Christ12 (see Figure 1, above).
The crowned figure opposite the devil, with whom alexander con-
verses, and who sits outside the area enclosed by mountains, is called
holubeim, which means Chief Khan.13 another inscription informs us
that the main crowned figure, standing flanked on each side by a group

12This snapshot, and all subsequent images of the Catalan atlas, were taken with
permission from the newberry Library, Chicago, from a photo-reproduced version of
the facsimile edition of the atlas in the hermon Dunlap smith Center for the history of
Cartography: the Catalan atlas of the Year 1375, ed. by Georges Grosjean (Dietikon-Zurich:
Urs Graf, 1978).
13all translations of atlas text are from the CD representation of the Catalan atlas
made by the bibliothque nationale de France (bnF), which houses the original document.
see Mapa mondi: une carte du monde au XIVe sicle: latlas catalan, ed. Monique Pelletier
and aleksandra sarrabezolles (bnF, 1998). The CD version is readable via windows 98 or
Mac Os 9. The description of holubeim appears to be taken from Marco Polos discus-
sion of the Great Khan Kublai in the Description of the World. The nearby text, describing
Chambalech, also derives from Polo.
254 judy schaaf

of figures, is Christ, who rewards kings, peoples, bishops, and monks

with his immortal palm. Yet this same figure seems to be the one iden-
tified in a different nearby inscription as Antichrist, whose identity is
glossed thusly: He will be brought up in Chorazim in Galilee, and when
he is thirty years old he will begin to preach in Jerusalem and he will say
contrary to the truth that he is Christ, the Son of the Living God, and that
he will rebuild the Temple. The BNF editors (see footnote 13), reflecting
the confusion of this apparent dual identity, label the figure Christ or
Antichrist. The association of Alexander, Gog/Magog, and the Antichrist
has a complex history and an inception that dates back at least to fifth
century Syria, so it is not surprising to find them referenced in proxim-
ity to one another on the Atlas.14 Although the apparent dual identity of
the maps largest figure seems confusing, it is possible that the inscrip-
tion regarding the Antichrist is not meant to refer to the image of Jesus
blessing the people, which is apparently fully benign, but is only a textual
reference to the Apocalypse in an area of the map meant also to presage
the extreme future.
Regarding the figure identified as Alexander, the text says that two
figures standing opposite Alexander, outside the ring of mountains and
blowing horns, are bronze statues made to bind with a spell the
Tatars Gog and Magog (Figure 2).
This is the Atlass reference to the ancient and complex association of
Alexander the Great with horns, usually those of a ram, an association
that connects Jewish, Christian, and Islamic concepts of prophets and
prophecy.15 Thus, taken together, the images and texts in this section of
the map make a kind of time capsule expressing a synthetic view of human
history that relates biblical history and prophecy (Gog/Magog, Christ),
the legendary past (Alexander), the near present (the great Khan), and

14As Andrew Colin Gow notes in his careful study The Red Jews: Antisemitism in an
Apocalyptic Age, 12001600 (Leiden, NY, and Kln: E.J. Brill, 1995), the association of the
Antichrist with the peoples enclosed by Alexander was firmly fixed in Christian conscious
ness in late antiquity (99) and these peoples quickly became identified with the Ten Tribes
of the Jews. See his Chapter Five, The Medieval Antichrist and his Jewish Henchmen.
15There is a rich body of scholarship concerning the horns of Alexander and, though it
is only peripheral to the concerns here, the Atlass representation deserves special study. A
good introduction appears in Andrew Runni Andersons Alexanders Horns, Transactions
and Proceedings of the American Philological Association, 58 (1927), 100122. The subject
is of interest to scholars of Asia, generally, as is evidenced by a presentation in December
2005 called The Allegory of the Two Horns: Alexander the Great as a Sacred Figure in
West Asia, by Yuriko Yamanaka of Japans National Museum of Ethnology. Her abstract
appears in English at
the christian-jewish debate and the catalan atlas 255

Figure 2.Alexander, Satan, Holubeim, and the Spellbinding Statues

the anticipated future (Antichrist). Innovatively presenting these images,

Cresques produced a signal contribution to the Jewish-Christian debate,
subtly but powerfully arguing the connections that bind Christians and
Jews across time, from the biblical past to the apocalyptic future. That
argument is expressed, in significant part, through the Alexander narra-
tive this section of the map contains.

The Catalan Atlass Alexander Story

The huge portion of the Atlas devoted to the Alexander story dominates
the maps representation of the Far East and is the only visual narrative
told there; other depictions (such as the nearby one of pygmies fighting
cranes, or of an Asian burial) are descriptive, not narrative. Although
256 judy schaaf

the Catalan texts separately identify the three active crowned figures in
this quadrant of the map, which is ringed by fortress-wall-like images
of the Caspian Mountains very like those in classical, Ptolemaic maps of
ancient Scythia, whose ring of mountains was also thought to contain dan-
gerous alien others,16 one may read them as related, moving clockwise
from the mounted figure, through the standing one, to the seated figure at
the apex of the scene. Considered this way, the map narrates the victory
of Alexander over Gog/Magog, then the coming of Christ, and finally the
era of Christian rule, in which Jesus opposes the Devil, who hangs upside
down above him.
Although they have differences that individuate them, the figure on
horseback called the great ruler of Gog and Magog closely resembles
the seated one called Alexander, and these two share with the standing
figure of Jesus blue garments, similar crowns, and similar physiognomy
and hair. I see them as intentionally and intimately related. Together, they
manifest the idea of a savior, their different physical positions indicating
the range of that concept across time, and across biblical and historical-
legendary narrative. Alexanders position in both Hebrew and Christian
exegetical and historical traditions makes it possible to read the set of
images as a kind of triptych expressing ancient history (the conquest of
the peoples of Gog and Magog, as alluded to in the Hebrew Bible and
glossed by legend associating this victory with Alexander the Great), New
Testament history (the advent and life of Jesus), the historical present
(in which the figure called Alexander doubles as a savior figure ruling in
opposition to the Devil, at whom he points a directive, controlling finger
in that image), and the eschatological future (represented in the text
telling of the Antichrist).17

16Scythians were early identified with the enclosed nations of the Alexander legend
(for example, by Josephus), and Mandeville says that the unclean peoples imprisoned
in Scythia, behind the Carpathian Mountains, are the tribes of the Jews. For a summary
account, see Victor Scherb, Assimilating Giants: The Appropriation of Gog and Magog in
Medieval and Early Modern England, Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies, 32,
no. 1 (Winter 2002), 5984, especially pages 5965.
17One explanation for the contradiction between the apparent textual identification of
this figure with the ruler of Gog and Magog and my reading of the figure as an Alexander,
the first in a sequence telling the story of Alexanders conquest of the Far East, would refer
to the common practice of having image and text applications on maps (and other illu
minated documents) applied by different artists. The images illustrating medieval manu
scripts, for instance, frequently contain errors arising from this division of labor. Another
way to explain the seeming discrepancy is to note that text placed near figures does not
always (or only) refer to those figures. There is an example of this on the Catalan Atlas
nearby, as mentioned above, in the Christ/Antichrist image and text.
the christian-jewish debate and the catalan atlas 257

This reading relates the figures within the circle of mountains and sug-
gests why they are visually consonant with one another. Although each
king has a primary identity offered in a nearby text, each also represents
other identities across a range of time, historic to anagogic. The seated
king identified with Alexander, whose alliance with the Devil allowed
his conquest of the East, is also an image of rule opposed to such forces.
The mounted king, identified as ruler of the enclosed peoples, is also the
Alexander who has imprisoned them and perhaps also the Antichrist des-
tined to release them at the end of time. The standing king is identified
as Christ, but he is also a figure for the Antichrist who will imitate him
at the time of the end of the world. This is a daring reading, but it is not
necessary to insist on it to discover Cresquess innovative approach to
conventional understanding of these themes, for they are manifest also
in the nature and relationships of the figures in the portion of the scene
containing the Catalan Atlass largest image, the standing figure of Christ/
To preface a look at that scene, however, it is useful to recall parts of
the Alexander story, which had been told from the third century forward,
that concern his conquest of the peoples of Gog/Magog and those peoples
association with Jews, and, in some versions, with Tatars, considered to be
their descendants.18 A general line of narrative connects these subjects in
most Christian accounts after the mid-twelfth century. References to Gog
and Magog also connect the people of the Book (using that term most
broadly) because they occur in the Hebrew Bible (Genesis, Ezekiel), the New
Testament (Revelation), and the Quran (Suras 18.94101 and 21.9697).
Each of these faiths identifies Gog/Magog with an alien and threaten-
ing other. Hebrew tradition associates Gog with the leader of a nation
(Magog) antithetical to Jews; in The Jewish War VII, 7, 4, Josephus (first
century C.E.) specifically identifies Magog with the Scythians (mentioned
above as a people enclosed by mountains). Christian tradition sometimes
associates Gog and Magog with the ten lost Tribes of Israel, as exempli-
fied in Mandevilles Book. Islamic tradition associates them with ancient
tribes that will be loosed to destroy unbelievers at the end of time.

18There is a substantial body of scholarship on these subjects. Two of the most thor
ough and useful studies look at this complex of subjects from different points of view, as
their titles indicate. Andrew Runni Andersons Alexanders Gate, Gog and Magog, and the
Inclosed Nations, Monographs of the Medieval Academy of America, No. 5 (Cambridge,
MA: The Medieval Academy of America, 1932), explores the development of the legends
seminal elements across time. Andrew Colin Gows The Red Jews, cited above, embraces
these subjects but goes beyond them, taking a sources-and-analogues approach.
258 judy schaaf

Andrew Colin Gows chapter on Apocalypticism and Messianism

describes how the association of Jews (the ten exiled tribes of II Kings17)
with Gog/Magog arose from a complex fusion of Jewish and Christian
accounts of apocalyptic themes. He says that in the later Middle Ages, the
Messianic hope was intimately connected with the belief that the Jews of
the Diaspora would be saved at the time of the Messiah by the ten lost
tribes of Israel, who were awaiting the day when God would send them
back from their exile somewhere east beyond the fabled Sambation, the
legendary river dividing and imprisoning them.19 This Messianic hope is
an important context for understanding Christian antagonism against Jews
during the era. Gows next chapter, Antisemitism and Apocalypticism in
the Middle Ages, brings this history into Christian context, explaining
how the association of Gog/Magog with the Jewish tribes was essentially a
product of twelfth-century Christian apologetics during a period of inten-
sifying persecution of European Jews:
The Ten Tribes were not always associated with Gog and Magog, nor
had they always been understood as apocalyptic destroyers. According to
Commodianus (early fourth century), the Ten Tribes were to return under
the leadership of Christ the Messiah, conquer the Antichrist, and free
Jerusalem. [...] The identification of the apocalyptic destroyers Gog and
Magog with the Ten Tribes of Israel was much stronger in other texts. It
was a product of the twelfth century.20
Although many forces contributed across a long time to create this shift
of emphasis and identification, Gow goes on to implicate the effect of
the extraordinary Latin letter purporting to be from Prester John and
addressed to various crowned heads of Europe, a letter circulating by 1165,
which locates the tribes in the Far East. In one twelfth-century version of
this letter, it is mentioned that Alexander enclosed many peoples behind
high mountains in the far Northeast and that at the time of Antichrist
and the worlds end, they would spill forth to destroy Christians. That
Alexander enclosed both Gog and Magog and the Ten Tribes does not
equate these two peoples, Gow admits, but it is a step in that direction;
the identification was to follow soon after. When this identification takes
place, the foul characteristics ascribed to Gog and Magog in the Letter will
be applicable to the Ten Tribes as well.21

19Red Jews, 3334.

20Red Jews, 3738.
21Red Jews, 40.
the christian-jewish debate and the catalan atlas 259

As can be seen even from this brief and general review, by the time
the Catalan Atlas was created, both Jews and Christians had compelling
interest in the character and fate of the enclosed nations. Both under-
stood them eschatologically. Jews associated liberation and reassimilation
with the Apocalypse; Christians associated earthly destruction but also
spiritual salvation with it. By the late fourteenth century, the Alexander
story had thoroughly fused itself with both Jewish and Christian ideas of
the Apocalypse, especially in Christian story. A legendary-historical fig-
ure, Alexander could be used to associate Jewish with Christian ideas
of the advent of a savior at the end of time, as I believe that Cresques
used him.
Alexander has a complicated reputation in medieval theological writ-
ings, as discussed by George Cary,22 who explains how the difference
between the biblical references to Alexander, in Daniel and Maccabees,
set up an exegetical discourse in which Alexander is both praised and
blamed for the deeds associated with him:
The two important references to Alexander in the Bible occur in Daniel
and Maccabees; the former makes a supposed prophecy of his coming and
his destruction of the Persian empire, while the latter briefly narrates his
career of conquest as a prelude to the story of the deeds of his disrepu-
table successor Antiochus. These two passages were connected in the minds
of Scriptural commentators and of their readers by the similarity in both
contexts of the historical situation of Alexander; in both it is Alexanders
conquests that are the concern of the writer, and in both the account of
Alexander serves merely as an introduction to that of Antiochus, whose
acts were of far greater domestic importance to the Jews. The commentar-
ies upon these passages, however, must be separately considered, since the
references to Alexander in Daniel are couched in prophetic and mystical
language, and therefore demanded from the first a factual interpretation,
while the narrative in Maccabees is historical fact, and therefore came to
be interpreted allegorically by the twelfth-century mystics. We may say that
the two Biblical passages are on different planes; and thus that the inter-
pretation of the first, or allegorical, passage was inevitably historical, while
the interpretation of the second, or historical, passage became by degrees
symbolical. (99100)
Carys inquiry extends well beyond the subjects with which this essay is
concerned, but his assessment of the relevant commentaries of twelfth-
century homilist Godfrey of Admont (who died in 1165, and who was thus

22George Cary, Alexander the Great in Mediaeval Theology, Journal of the Warburg
and Courtauld Institutes, 17, no. 1/2 (1954), 98114.
260 judy schaaf

a contemporary of the composer or composers of the Prester John letter)

provides context for interpreting the Catalan Atlass Alexander story, espe-
cially the images associated with the figure it actually calls Alexander,
a henchman of Satan. Cary describes a mid-twelfth century shift from
interpreting Maccabees historically to interpreting it symbolically:
Antiochus was always the descendant of the Devil, in his accepted role of
Antichrist; now the allegory is carried further, and Alexander, as the his-
torical predecessor of Antiochus, and the originator of that division of the
empire which made him king over the Jews, is become the Devil. [...] But
this interpretation of the Maccabean Alexander is carried to its extreme by
Godfrey of Admont, in a homily on the first book of Maccabees. [...] After
giving the relevant text, Godfrey goes on to identify Alexander with the
Devil. [...] Alexanders life is a microcosm of the Devils campaign against
mankind before the coming of Christ. [...] Thus Godfreys narrative is a
working out of the idea [...] that Antiochus stands in the same relation to
Alexander as does Antichrist to the Devil.23
Consonant with this view, the Catalan Atlass figure of Jesus stands
opposed to those of Alexander and his subject devil, who hangs upside
down above him. Between Alexander and the Devil stands the icon for a
pagan city, a castellated circle from which extends what the BNF editors
call a bulb, to distinguish it from a Christian city, topped by a cross.
While this icon, liberally appearing on the eastern portions of the Atlas,
neutrally represents non-Christian cities there, it seems also to double
here as an icon for the Devils realm, held in check by the admonitory
finger of Alexander. Alexander points down towards it, while the Devil,
arms crossed against his chest in either resistance or abeyance, seems to
be reflecting on what Alexander has to say. But Cresques does not follow
the line of thinking about the identity of Alexander that Cary discovers
expressed in Godfrey. Unlike Godfreys Alexander, who has become the
Devil, the Atlass Alexander stands against the Devil, evidently empow-
ered to control him. As the text concerning the Antichrist, which floats in
the Ocean off the feet of the standing figure of Christ, makes clear, though,
the power with which the Devil may be ruled works only until the end of
time and the advent of Antichrist.
A signal event associated with that advent, the eruption of the enclosed
nations and their conquest of Christian realms, is suggested by the Catalan
Atlass image of the mounted king labeled the great ruler of Gog and

23Cary, 10304.
the christian-jewish debate and the catalan atlas 261

Magog, who is followed and flanked by hosts of armed men, carrying long
spears, and on the march, as in Figure 3 below.
These troops bear a banner featuring a dragon-like figure, which
may represent the Devil generally, or may represent the asian dragon
known to european travelers to the Far east like Marco Polo. if the lat-
ter view is allowed, the flag may identify the enclosed peoples with the
dreadful Tatars, confirming the map inscription near the statues blow-
ing horns, which plainly does so. if the former is allowed, then they are
simply forces of evil at the time of the apocalypse. There is nothing in
this image, at least, to associate the enclosed peoples with Jews, and it
was at Cresquess discretion to eliminate them from the picture. had
Mandeville been a member of Cresquess workshop, the Jews would cer-
tainly have been there.

Figure 3.The Great ruler of Gog/Magog

262 judy schaaf

In spite of the inscription that calls the seated king Alexander the
Devils henchman, Cresques represents him as holding the Devil at bay
or, at least, does not relate in that image the conspiratorial association (or
even, as Cary finds other tradition does, the identity) of Alexander and
the Devil. Similarly, the mounted figure, although labeled as the ruler of
Gog and Magog, seems also to tell another story than that of the inscrip-
tion. Although he is primarily a figure for the ruler the text identifies, he
may also represent the victorious Alexander himself, conqueror and con-
finer of those peoples. He is visually consonant with the Alexander figure,
blue-robed and trefoil-crowned, especially since the scene occurs entirely
within the ring of mountains and thus after the victory of Alexander,
as well as before the eruption of the Apocalypse. This kings right hand
holds the scepter of his rule, and the canopy floating over his head also
indicates his status. His left hand displays a very unusual gesture, with
fingers clamped and thumb held bent above them. It may be significant
that this gesture is the obverse of the signal given by Christ Pantocrator
from the earliest images extant (like the lovely c. sixth-century encaustic
painting in St. Catherines monastery below Mt. Sinai in Egypt) to today.
In those images, primarily from Eastern Orthodox Christianity, Jesus holds
his thumb bent and fingers raised in blessing.24 This Catalan Atlas kings
people (or captives) are not being tortured or inhibited; they regard him
with attention and apparent awe. This panel of the Alexander story tells
a future narrative, as much as a present one. The conquest and enclosure
have been accomplished, and the Apocalypse is yet to come.
Medieval illustrations typically represent multiple moments in time.
They tell stories with beginnings, middles, and ends. They relate experi-
ence to expectation. The Catalan Atlass inscriptions which identify these
three kings as Alexander, the ruler of Gog/Magog, and Jesus are focused
on history, or human time. The related images, which suggest these kings
connection with one another, and thus with a narrative about the pasts
relationship to the future, are focused on prophecy, or spiritual time. In
Cresquess day and for a long time before that, the story of the Apocalypse
excited Christian fears of Jews, for reasons plainly manifest in Mandevilles
Book: For the Jewes seyn, that they knowen wel, be hire Prophecyes, that

24I have spent considerable time, unsuccessfully, attempting to decode this signal,
which does not appear elsewhere on the Atlas and so seems deliberately to refer to the
story told in these images. It may simply be, however, that this figure was intended to
carry a sword or other (probably martial) device in this hand, and that the artist simply
neglected to place it there.
the christian-jewish debate and the catalan atlas 263

thei of Caspye schulle gon out and spreden thorghe out alle the World;
and that the Cristene men schulle ben under hire Subieccioun, als longe
as thei han ben in subieccioun of hem.25
This terrifying concept of future time, in which Jews shall do unto
Christians what Christians have done unto Jews, is not one that the
Catalan Atlas depicts. Its images of the Alexander story are benign, or at
least neutral, so far as Jews are concerned. The Antichrists future army
is decidedly composed of Tatars, not Jews. Where the Antichrist is men-
tioned in the inscription, he is not linked to Jews. The Apocalypse itself
is not the culminating event of the last days actually imaged on this map,
which relates the human story to the present moment, but not beyond
it, unlike other medieval mapsfor example the Hereford mappamundi,
whose supreme image is of Jesus sitting in judgment at the end of time.
Without distorting cartographic or textual tradition, without interpos-
ing alien elements, without subverting accepted story, the makers of the
Catalan Atlas manage to represent the worldly unknown, the Far East,
and to tell the story expected there of the end of time, in a way that does
not implicate Jews as aggressors and demons in the ultimate struggles of
men on earth. In the most prominent panel of the maps Far East, the
scene centered on the beatitudinal Christ, the Atlas displays the same
circumspect and neutral vision and perhaps even goes beyond it to sug-
gest a shared fate for all mankind, an idea consonant with the kind of
understanding that Andrew Gow associates with the early fourth-century
Christian apologist Commodianus, according to whom the Ten Tribes
were to return under the leadership of Christ the Messiah, conquer the
Antichrist, and free Jerusalem.26

The Christian Story of the Catalan Atlas

As the image below (Figure 4) shows, the Catalan Atlass Jesus stands in
the center of the larger of two scenes surrounded by the eastern moun-
tains. Flanked by two groups of people, who stand in apparent rever-
ence and petition on either side, he raises above them, one in each hand,
two tree-like, branched emblems laden with golden medallions or coins.

25This is the version of MS Cotton Tit. C. xvi, in the London edition of 1725, reprinted
and edited by J.O. Halliwell: The Voiage and Travaile of Sir John Maundeville, Kt. (London:
Reeves and Turner, 1883), 267.
26Gow, 37.
264 judy schaaf

Figure 4.Jesus blessing the People

Other coins shower down upon the people, many of whose hands rise to
receive them. although the identity of Jesus is clear, those of the other
figures are not perfectly certain, though most may be identified fairly
securely by referring to common medieval conventions, both textual and
visual. although this image deserves much fuller scrutiny, especially from
art historians, a general discussion of it can suggest how Cresques may be
using Christian representational traditions in ways that are not antitheti-
cal to Jews, and maybe even in ways that include Jews, as Commodianus
did, in the general Christian dispensation at the end of time.
The simplest way to read the range of figures represented here is to see
them in light of the medieval three estates (from Latin status) concept
of social hierarchy familiar in medieval literature and illumination, but an
the christian-jewish debate and the catalan atlas 265

idea in decline by the time of the creation of the Catalan Atlas. Looked at
this way, the cluster of figures at the left hand of Jesus (or right side, from
the viewers perspective) are Clergythree nuns in the background, three
smaller figures before them which resemble monks or acolytes, and two
other figures (to the anterior one of which we will return later, with a dif-
ferent suggestion of identity) representing bishops or other administrative
clergymen. Behind those two figures stand what appear unambiguously
to be bishops crosiers, in a form common to the high Middle Ages. On
Jesuss other hand stands a group that appears to represent the other two
estates, Kings and Commons. Of the superior figures, in the rear, two are
plainly crowned and the third wears an imperial headdress that also may
be a crown. The crowd in front of them includes both male and female
figures, representing the estate of the common people, though not appar-
ently including any image to represent the lowest classes of Commons,
workers like plowmen or delvers, who frequently alone represent this
class in medieval illustrations of the estates. Seen this way, all the figures
are Christians, receiving the blessings of their Lord, either in historical
time or in future time, when they will be ultimately redeemed.
Certain elements of the scene, however, suggest other ideas. The fig-
ures of the three kings on the viewers left could represent the Magi,
the pagan kings who honored Jesus at the nativity by presenting precious
gifts which, here, the shower of gold reciprocates. These kings are spe-
cifically shown on the next leaf of the Atlas, Leaf 4 (the Far East is on
Leaf 3), as riding through the province of Tarsia. The inscription there
explains, From here the Three Wise Men set out and came with their
gifts to Bethlehem in Judaea and worshipped Jesus Christ, and they are
buried in the town of Cologne, two days journey from Bruges.27 The most
prominent figure on the other side, presumably a bishop with his crosier
behind his head, appears with a distinctively pointed hat, unlike that of
any other figure in these scenes, suggestive of a Jews hat, the Judenhut
or pilleus cornutus (see Figure 5, below).
This kind of headwear commonly appears in medieval representations
of Jews from the eleventh century on, usually in its distinctive horned
form, as shown in the Codex Manesse of the early to middle fourteenth

27As translated from Catalan by the BNF editors of the CD annotated facsimile of the
Catalan Atlas. See footnote 13.
266 judy schaaf

Figure 5.The bishop (or Jew?)

century, a book of love poetry which features this image (see Figure 6,
below) of the Jewish poet skind von Trimberg.28
This image also features the bishops crosier in the same form in which
it appears in the atlas and, as in the atlas, there is only one pointed hat
in the scene. although scholars say that the Judenhut was usually yellow
or white, many medieval illuminations depict it in other colorshere,
golden brown. since the suggestion that this figure receiving the bless-
ings of Jesus on the Catalan atlas may be a Jew will attract a good deal
of warranted surprise, it wont be risking much more to illustrate it from

28heidelberg University Library. Cod. Pal. Germ. 848 (Codex Manesse) Fol. 355r.
reproduced by permission.
the christian-jewish debate and the catalan atlas 267

Figure 6.A Jewish Poet

a Christian painting of an Old Testament sacrifice scene made a century

after the time period of the Catalan Atlas itself, Das Opfer der Juden
(The Offering, or Victim, of Jews) of c. 1483, in which a lamb is being
brought to the slaughter (Figure 7). All the figures in this image are Jews,
and they wear quite a variety of headgear.29 One of them, who appears
to be the chief instrument of the sacrificial rite, wears a red Judenhut and

29The Offering of the Jews. Meester van de Inzameling van het Manna. Reproduced
by permission of the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam. It may be an illustra
tion of the idea of Jews as Christ killers, as they sacrifice a lamb. What may be an image
of the murder of Abel by Cain, as precursor of the murder of Jesus, appears in red in the
268 judy schaaf

Figure 7.Jews hats

another, standing to his left, sports a puffy turban resembling that on the
third magus figure in the Catalan Atlas.
Instead of being all Christians, as in the reading above made in the
context of the three estates, two different groups of people may stand on
the two sides of the Jesus of the Catalan Atlas: Christians on his left and
all others on his right, or, perhaps, there are others, pagans and Jews,
intermingled with the figures that are plainly Christians. The Atlas seems
to share the view that Josephine Bennett ascribes to Mandeville when she
says, He believed that there were other ways to be saved besides being
an orthodox Christian.30

30Bennett, 74.
the christian-jewish debate and the catalan atlas 269

Two other images, one of them primary and the other incidental, allow
speculation about the nature of this scene, and they will be discussed in
the context of two well-documented Christian representation traditions.
The first is that of the Tree of Jesse, which presents Jesuss descent from
Abraham, and which originates in Isaiah 11.13 and in the Gospels of
Matthew and Luke; the second is that of the opposition of Ecclesia and
Synagoga, which refers to Christianitys triumph over Judaism. These are
referenced in the remarkable golden branches that Jesus holds above the
people, and in one of the stylized, but more naturalistic, images of trees
that adorn the margins of the scene.
Regarding the golden boughs, the Catalan text says that Jesus blesses
kings, peoples, bishops and monks with his immortal palm. This appar-
ently refers to the luminous passage in Pauls Epistle to the Philippians,
third Chapter, verses 1214: I pursue my course, that I may seize that
crown of immortality [...] Forgetting what I left behind, I stretch every
nerve towards the prize before me, pressing with eager and rapid steps
towards the goal, to seize the immortal palm which God, by Christ Jesus,
bestows.31 At Philippi, Paul established the first European Christian com-
munity (see Acts 16. 940) around 55 C.E. (Coincidentally, Philippi was
named for Phillip of Macedonia, father of Alexander the Great.) This letter
is one of Pauls four captivity epistles, written either in Caesarea or in
Rome when Paul was imprisoned and awaiting Roman trial. In its context,
the passage conjoins the past with the present and future, history with
prophecy, first things with last ones, as do the images associated in this
quadrant of the Catalan Atlas. Paul says that he forgets the tribulations
of the past as he reaches toward the promise of those things which are
before, the promise of salvation. The metaphor is famously that of the
Grecian races, thoroughly familiar to Pauls audience. Paul associates the
winners award of a palm branch with the immortal palm of salvation,
offered through Christ. This passage from Philippians has become a famil-
iar reading in Palm Sunday services, in which the palm primarily refers
to the branches that all four canonical Gospels describe being laid before

31In his still useful, encyclopedic An Introduction to the Critical Study and Knowledge
of the Holy Scriptures, New Edition, Vol. II (Philadelphia: Joseph Whetham, 1840), Thomas
Hartwell Horne presents this passage in its Greek context; see especially pages 19394. The
version of the Bible he cites translates the passage in this manner, but no other version
I could locate does. The immortal palm is usually simply called the prize God holds out
to the Christian faithful.
270 judy schaaf

Jesus during his triumphal approach to Jerusalem just prior to the drama
of the Passion.
However, and whichever, of these ideas came to the makers of the
Catalan Atlas, their text describing this scene makes it clear such associa-
tions are at work here. Yet the branching, tree-like figures that the Atlass
Jesus holds over the people also suggest the mapmakers knowledge of
the representation tradition of the Jesse tree. From the eleventh century
forward, this emblematic tree appears profusely in Christian art in virtu-
ally every mediumincluding stained glass, frescoes, manuscript illumi-
nations, stone carvings and woodcarvings, and even fabric decorationto
represent the descent of Jesus from the Jewish patriarchs and, through
them, from Jesses son David. Representations display a wide range of
styles and details, from the explicit to the abstract: a sleeping Jesse with
a tree rising from his navel or loins, to more stylized versions that even-
tually developed into modern genealogical trees. Medieval Jesse trees
often depict the ancestors framed by medallions, as in this lovely mid-
thirteenth-century example from the Scherenberg Psalter (Figure 8).32
Here, the ultimate scion of the race of Abraham and David is shown
as a child in his mothers cheerful, loving embrace. More often, the final
flower of the tree of Jesse appears as the mature Jesus, and occasionally,
he appears as Christ crucified. No such details occur in the Catalan Atlass
image, in which Jesus actually holds the branches that may represent the
lineage of kings and in which the medallions are reduced to their fur-
thest abstraction as golden coins. These shower down upon two separate
groups of people, possibly suggesting Jesuss relation to both Christians
and Jews.
Another emblem suggests, though more obliquely, that this scene
concerns Jews, as well as Christians. Within the two scenes ringed by
mountains, one representing the enclosed peoples and one showing the
blessings of Jesus, lies a group of distinctive stylized trees unlike those
elsewhere on the Atlas. Eleven in all, they thrust and bend towards the
centers of the scenes, decorating the periphery (see Figure 1). These trees,
arguably, suggest the stocky, vigorous appearance of cultivated olive trees
and may refer to the Book of Jacobs lengthy allegory of cultivating the
olive, an allegory alluded to by Paul in Romans 11.33 But I want to suggest

32Karlsruhe, Badische Landesbibliothek, St. Peter perg.139, fol. 7v. Reproduced by

33There is a significant body of scholarship addressing this theme. For one review
of variant readings of Romans 11, see Terence L. Donaldsons Riches for the Gentiles
the christian-jewish debate and the catalan atlas 271

Figure 8.a thirteenth-century Jesse Tree

272 judy schaaf

Figure 9.a Tree bent beneath the Feet of Jesus

another kind of allusion. none of the trees stands perfectly erect, and,
suggestively, each of them shows a main trunk lopped off to allow a sec-
ondary one to rise to the crown, perhaps itself a reference to the lineage of
Jesus. One of them, however, stands out from the others, bent so severely
that its crown branch extends at a right angle to its trunk, as shown in
Figure 9 above.
Perhaps not by accident, this unique tree appears immediately below
the feet of Jesus, as if his presence and weight bend it. This image may
reference the well-established tradition in Christian art, expressed in
many media but especially in ecclesiastical architecture and manuscript

(rom 11:12): israels rejection and Pauls Gentile Mission, in Journal of Biblical literature
Vol. cxii, no. 1 (spring 1993), 8198.
the christian-jewish debate and the catalan atlas 273

illumination, of representing the triumph of Christianity over Judaism as

a pair of robed female figures, Ecclesia and Synagoga. In the usual mani-
festation of the theme, the two stand on opposite sides of Jesus. Ecclesia,
on the right hand, with scepter and crowned, turns her head upward
towards Jesus. She usually carries a cross and sometimes even a chal-
ice, or grail cup. Synagoga on the left hand, faces away from Jesus, often
with her arm held across her eyes, or a sash there blinding her. She holds
a staff, which is always either grievously bent or broken, sometimes in
more than one place. Often, she holds a Torah precariously. Uncrowned,
or with a crown slipping off her head, and moving away from the pres-
ence of Jesus, she stands in plain opposition to her Christian sister, who
approaches him with confidence. A magnificent example of this theme
occurs as a pair of stone carvings flanking the double portal to the south
transept of Strasbourg Cathedral and dates from c. 1230.34 If the bent tree
of the Catalan Atlas means to suggest this concept, it does so within the
larger contexts of the apparently equal rewards the Catalan Jesus offers
to kings, peoples, bishops, and monks. If the Catalan Atlas means to
represent Jews at all, as I believe it does in the far northeastern portions
of the map, it accomplishes that subtly and knowledgably, following the
kind of plan Shakespeares Hamlet famously laid: by indirection, to find
direction out.
In any case, the world of the Catalan Atlas is a pacific realm, where
even bloody histories have peaceful results. The far eastern realms of the
Catalan Atlas depict a world remarkably in balance and at peace. Although,
compelled by theological and cartographic traditions, those portions of
the map represent what is least known about the actual world and most
feared about the eschatological one, there are, as it were, no dragons
and monsters occupying its space. The fearful subjects of the legendary-
historical past, as represented in the Alexander story, are contained at a
moment after the violence of history and before that of the apocalyptic
future. The idea of the Apocalypse itself is contained in a brief caption
afloat in an as-yet unknown sea. Unless they are present in the images
of the scene of Jesuss blessings, as I posit they may be, there are no Jews
separately identified, in image or text, anywhere on this map, whose
others are exclusively Muslim or pagan, themselves neutrally represented.

34Nina Rowe discusses this example in Idealization and Subjection at the South Porch
of Strasbourg Cathedral, in Beyond the Yellow Badge: Anti-Judaism, Antisemitism and
European Visual Culture before 1800, ed. by Mitchell Merback (Leiden: Brill, 2006).
274 judy schaaf

The presence of these others does not evoke either anxiety arising from
historical fact, or terror projected into an anticipated future. There are not
even any Mongol hordes, although other images on the Atlas reflect its
makers awareness of Mongol history.35 This is also a world in which Jews
and Christians have lived in long association. And this is a map that asso-
ciates them, at least by not distinguishing Jews from Christians, and per-
haps even, by linking Jews history and future benignly with those of the
Christians who commissioned this glorious map from an accomplished
group of informed and inventive Jews.

35These include the fascinating portrait of a Silk Roads caravan, which some have asso
ciated with the travels of the Polos, and several figures of Mongol rulers, like the chief
Khan Holubeim visible in Figure 1. The Mongol century, ending with the collapse of the
Khanate in the late thirteenth century, made European travel to Asia safe and common.
Mythologizing the Jewish Other in the Prioresss Tale

Barbara Stevenson

For a religious system like Christianity to prosper, it must convince

members that it is the divinely-sanctioned charter upon which the com-
munity is based, and it must adapt to cultural changes over time. These
demands create a paradoxical situation: a theology must appear to be a
timeless, fixed truth while at the same time reinventing itself as histori-
cal events reshape a community. To succeed, such a system needs plas-
ticity, Raymond Firths term for the chameleon-like quality of myth to
appear timeless while altering its form to fit new situations.1 As a mytho-
logical system, Christianity has its sacred origin in the Gospels narratives
of Jesuss crucifixion at the hands of his Roman and Jewish enemies and
his subsequent resurrection. For the Christianity of late Antiquity and the
Middle Ages, the written legends of saints provided one means of revis-
ing the original sacred charter. Surrogates for Jesus, saints re-enacted this
mythic origin with their martyrdom and miracles recorded in hagiography
and provided variations that depart from the original myth by adapting
to changing situations. Ritualistic celebrations of recorded saints lives
allowed Christians to form a community and an identity separate from
the Other who tried to vanquish their Christ and saints.2
In one medieval hagiographical tradition, Christian childrenevoking
the Christ Child who as an adult would be crucifiedbecame martyrs
at the hands of Jews, seen as the medieval descendants of those who
participated in the deicide of Jesus Christ. During the Middle Ages, Jews
were the Other, living unconverted in the midst of European Christians,
whose difference was used to help define and forge Christian identity.3 In
England the oldest known saints legend involving blood libel concerns St.
William of Norwich, a boy found dead in 1144. Several years later a monk,

1Raymond Firth, The Plasticity of Myth: Cases from Tikopia, in Sacred Narrative:
Readings in the Theory of Myth, ed. Alan Dundes (Berkeley: University of California Press,
1984), 20716.
2See, for example, Peter Brown, The Cult of the Saints: Its Rise and Function in Latin
Christianity (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1982).
3Jeremy Cohen, Living Letters of the Law: Ideas of the Jew in Medieval Christianity
(Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999).
276 barbara stevenson

Thomas of Monmouth, moved to Norwich and wrote what would serve as

Williams hagiography: Thomas claimed that Jews crucified the child and
that each year Jews commit a similar act of murder to re-enact ritualisti-
cally the mythic crucifixion of Christ in order to express their hatred of
Christ whom they could no longer attack directly.4 Though Jews were
not imprisoned or executed for this offense, William was seen as a martyr
for the Christian faith, and Norwich became a popular pilgrimage site. A
similar tale circulated about St. Hugh of Lincoln, purportedly murdered
by Jews in 1255, whose cult attracted pilgrims to Lincoln Cathedral. In
England the rise of these tales paralleled mounting violence against Jews
in Englandnotably the massacre in York in 1190culminating in the
expulsion of Jews from England in 1290.5 Gavin Langmuir contends that
the creation of this myth and the subsequent executions of Jews accused
of the crime of ritual murder anticipate Christian Englands shift from anti-
Judaism (objections to the religion of Judaism) to antisemitism (prejudice
against Jewish people).6 This ugly myth casts Jews as the archetypal Other
that simultaneously challenges yet reinforces the prevailing hegemony.
A century after the banishment of the Jews from England, Chaucer
penned the Prioresss Tale, a variation on this hagiographical tradition.
A Christian boy is murdered at the instigation of Jews who have his throat
cut and his body thrown in a pit, he is miraculously made to sing by the
Virgin Mary when she places a grain upon his tongue, he is found by his
mother and authorities who hear his singing, and he is avenged when the
Jews are executed. The Prioress concludes her tale by alluding to yonge
Hugh of Lincoln who was also slain by cursed Jews.7 Chaucers version
strips away some sacred elements found in other ritual-murder myths
no canonization of the boy is mentioned and, instead of a ritualistic
re-enactment of the Crucifixion, the Jews kill the little boy because he
sings the Alma redemptoris in their ghetto, which is against their lawes
reverence (l. 564). Chaucers secularization of this tale anticipates the
secular trends of the early modern era when Chaucer himself undergoes a
canonization to become the Homer of English literature, its Poet Laureate

4Gavin Langmuir, History, Religion, and Anti-Semitism (Berkeley: University of Califor

nia Press, 1990), 298.
5James Shapiro, Shakespeare and the Jews (New York: Columbia University Press, 1996),
6Langmuir, 305.
7Geoffrey Chaucer, The Prioresss Tale, in The Riverside Chaucer, ed. Larry Benson,
3rd edn. (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1987), 20912 (212, l. 68485). All quotations from
the text will be from this edition.
mythologizing the jewish other in the prioresss tale 277

and Father. The Prioresss Tale metamorphosed from a medieval reli-

gious myth to a modern secular one that adapted to a changing culture
despite ofand because ofits troubling antisemitism, as commentaries
on the tale illustrate.
The Prioresss Tale became one of the most copied and anthologized
of all the Canterbury Tales. By his count, Charles Owen concludes that
the Prioresss Tale was the second most popular of the tales in the four-
teenth century and the most popular in the fifteenth.8 Early reception of
the tale with its negative portrayals of Jews has been difficult to gauge
because of the lack of evidence. For the era of manuscripts, scribal varia-
tions provide evidence for the reception of the tale. Mary F. Godfreys
examination of various fifteenth-century anthologies that contained the
Prioresss Tale reveals that the narrative appears often in anthologies of
devotional literature featuring Marian miracles. MS. Harley 2251 omits the
final stanza of the Prioresss Tale that references the murder of Hugh of
Lincoln by cursed Jews. Godfrey concludes, Chaucers Jews are hardly
repositories for readers fears and paranoias, but instead are the emptied-
out stock villains of Marian legend.9 Although the Jews had been expelled
from England over a century earlier, they were still useful as the ominous
Other threatening and testing Christian faith.
The printing press transformed Chaucer. Whereas no two manuscripts
are alike, the printing press fixes texts, creating a stable work resistant
to change. This frozen text threatens the plasticity of myth. As Theodore
Van Baaren notes, text-based religions effect change through exegesis
commentary that allows the frozen, unchanging sacred text to be inter-
preted in different ways so as to remain relevant.10 Although the language
of the Prioresss Tale in various editions will have small differences based
upon the manuscripts and the textual traditions used by the editors, basi-
cally the story is fixed and is the same, whether in a Renaissance or con-
temporary edition; however, the commentary and ancillary information
are radically different.
It is through commentary that the Prioresss Tale, the origin of which
lies in a medieval Christian myth of ritual murder, is made relevant to

8Charles A. Owen, Jr., The Canterbury Tales: Early Manuscripts and Relative Popularity,
JEGP 54 (1955), 10410.
9Mary F. Godfrey, The Fifteenth-Century Prioresss Tale and the Problem of Anti-
Semitism, in Rewriting Chaucer: Culture, Authority, and the Idea of the Authentic Text,
14001602, ed. Thomas A. Prendergast and Barbara Kline (Columbus: Ohio State University
Press, 1999), 93115 (108).
10Theodore P. Baaren, The Flexibility of Myth, in Sacred Narrative, 21724.
278 barbara stevenson

modern, secular audiences. Early commentary on the Prioresss Tale is

sparse and tends to consist of labels, glosses, and summaries, as opposed
to critical analysis. Hence, it is difficult to make generalizations regarding
readers reception, but there are hints that Reformation readers reshaped
Chaucer into their own ideological image. For example, an annotated 1532
edition of Chaucer at Yale University contains a handwritten synopsis of
the Prioresss Tale in which the murdered boys singing is not described
as an actual miracle but instead is described as being taken as a miracle.11
One Renaissance reader of a 1550 edition now at Cambridge University
Library wrote down a collection of argumentssummaries for the
tales that preface the Canterbury Tales. The commentator describes the
Prioresss Tale as a story of a child that sange te deum when his throte
was cutt.12 Both summaries de-emphasize the miracle wrought by the
Virgin Mary and avoid labeling the murdered boy a saint or martyr.
These omissions downplay Catholicism, rendering a reading more accept-
able to Reformation evangelicals.
The 1550 marginalia also avoids references to the Jews who murdered
the boy, which suggests that the owner did not perceive this aspect as
the key feature of the tale. In contrast, one early handwritten comment
hinting at antisemitism appears in the margin of the Prioresss Tale in
a 1542 edition at Kennesaw State University.13 The books provenance is
unknown, but various readers through several generations marked the
text. Unfortunately, the pages were cut when the volume was rebound,
so frequently parts of the annotations are missing. Such is the case in
the Prioresss Tale by the line detailing the boys martyrdom the ruby
bright, where one Renaissance commentator wrote:
chaucer by t...
sheweth the in...
blyndnes of thosz
of people & how
deluded by lying
[Ies? or cles?] (fol. lxxviir).

11Antonina Harbus, A Renaissance Readers English Annotations to Thynnes 1532

Edition of Chaucers Works, Review of English Studies, 59.240 (2007), 342355 (348, Fig.2).
12Seth Lerer, Unpublished Sixteenth-Century Arguments to The Canterbury Tales,
Notes and Queries, 50.1 (March 2003), 1317 (14).
13Geoffrey Chaucer, The workes, newlye printed, with dyuers workes whych were neuer
in print before, ed. William Thynne, 2nd edn (London: R. Grafton for W. Bonham, 1542),
mythologizing the jewish other in the prioresss tale 279

Figure 1.Marginal notes in a 1542 edition of Chaucer

That is, chaucer by...showeth the...blindness of those...of people and

how deluded by lying [Jews?].14 [See Figure 1.] Much of the comment is
cropped, so it is impossible to determine its exact meaning. Nonetheless,
the little boys martyrdom at the hands of the Jews triggered a vehement
reaction by the commentator over the way people have been deluded
by liarspresumably Jews, given the context of the note in the margin of
the Prioresss Tale.
Nowhere else does the reader display such emotion. More commonly,
the reader (as did the others who annotated this edition) simply glossed
words and names. For example, in the spurious Plowmans Tale, next to
the word lollers, the commentator glosses:

STC 5069, Kennesaw State University. I wish to express my thanks to Robert Williams,
Senior Curator of the Bentley Rare Book Gallery, for allowing me to use this edition, and
to Rita Impey-Imes, Curator of the Bentley Rare Book Gallery, for scanning the image
for me.
14I would like to thank members of the Georgia Medievalist Association for suggesting
possible readings of the clipped annotations in the 1542 Chaucer edition.
280 barbara stevenson called
...rotestants; that is, [Chauc]er called Protestants (fol. cxixv).
The 1542 edition has been seen as a watershed in transforming Chaucer
from a pre-Reformation poet into a Protestant one because of its inclu-
sion of the anti-clerical Plowmans Tale. The Plowmans Tale was writ-
ten after Chaucers death, but its appearance in the 1542 edition makes it
seem as though Chaucer were the author. The tale was appended to the
end of The Canterbury Tales without comment, as though it were the last
in the collection of tales by Chaucer. The Plowmans Tale is an allegori-
cal debate in which a Pelican, representing Reformist views, denounces
a Griffon, the Popes representative.15 The brief gloss by the Renaissance
commentator has two notable characteristics: it illustrates his belief that
Chaucer authored this spurious anti-clerical tale, and it conflates the
English reform movement of the fourteenth-century Lollards with the
German Protestant movement of the sixteenth century. Through this
interpretive act, the commentator participated in the transformation of
Chaucer from a Ricardian court poet of the Middle Ages into the Poet
Laureate of Reformation England. Between 1478 and 1600 at least ten
editions of the Canterbury Tales were publishedoften the products of
evangelicals as was the 1542 Bonham-Grafton edition, thereby increas-
ing Chaucers popularity and linking Chaucer with the Reformation
Although this commentator does not explicitly reference the English
Reformation, confusion over Christian identity caused by church struggles
has been linked with antisemitism in early modern England. According
to James Shapiro: In the decades following the Reformation, the English
began to think of the Jews not only as a people who almost three centuries
earlier had been banished from English territory but also as a potential
threat to the increasingly permeable boundaries of their own social and
religious identities.17 Since the Middle Ages, Jews had been the Other
who defined what a Christian was not. Debates over the true nature of
Christianity often involved foes accusing one another of Judaizing. For
example, in 1551 the Protestant King Edward VIs ambassador to CharlesV

15Andrew N. Wawn, Chaucer, The Plowmans Tale and Reformation Propaganda: The
Testimonies of Thomas Godfray and I Playn Piers, Bulletin of the John Rylands University
Library of Manchester 56.1 (1973), 17492.
16Derek Pearsall, The Canterbury Tales (London: George Allen & Unwin, 1985),
17Shapiro, 7.
mythologizing the jewish other in the prioresss tale 281

complained that a Catholic preacher was spreading propaganda that

the King of England, his council and kingdom, had all become Jews. In
response to this complaint, Charles Vs ambassador in England said that
there were rumors of many renegados and Jews at this time in England,
although he was uncertain how many were native to England and how
many were refugees.18
This response highlights a common fearthat despite the expulsion of
Jews in 1290, many Jews were secretly immigrating to England, especially
after the Inquisition and the expulsion from Iberia in 1492. In Iberia a num-
ber of Jews converted to Christianity, often under duress, so the sincerity
of these converted marranos was questioned. Forced converts added to
the confusion over the identity of a real Christian. Furthermore, because
of tensions between England and Spain, there was the fear that marranos
could be spies for Spain. As an example of these anxieties, Shapiro points
to John Florios 1598 dictionary, which defines the term marrano as a
Jew, an infidel, a renegado, a nickname for Spaniard.19 Although there is
no way to determine exactly how many practicing Jews lived in England
during the Renaissance, it is known that a community of marranos settled
in Bristol where they dwelled in peace until 1556, when Mary ascended
the throne and enacted heresy laws, which caused marranos to flee the
country.20 Renaissance writers coined pejorative terms for marranos, such
as False Jew and Counterfeit Christian, coinages that reflect the ambi-
guity over identity.21 In brief, Jews were often cast as a religious and a
national Other who complicated Englands religious and political confu-
sion. Confusion is suggested in the 1542 volumes annotation next to the
Prioresss Tale, warning of blindness and of being deluded by lies.
The medieval myth of ritual murder has displayed an astonishing plas-
ticity, and the persistence in print of the Prioresss Tale seems to be a
factor. In tracing the history of the transmission of blood libel stories,
Alan Dundes notes that since Chaucer is one of the acknowledged giants
of English literature, his tale has been key to the wide dissemination of
the narrative.22 Chaucer has been used to reinforce belief in the ritual-
murder myth. In his 1795 modernization of the Canterbury Tales, William

18Ibid., 21.
19Ibid., 18.
20Bernard Glassman, Anti-Semitic Stereotypes Without Jews: Images of the Jews in
England, 12901700 (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1975), 4750.
21Shapiro, 6.
22Alan Dundes, The Blood Libel Legend: A Casebook in Anti-Semitic Folklore (Madison:
University of Wisconsin Press, 1991), 91.
282 barbara stevenson

Lipscomb appends this footnote to the murder of the little boy in the
Prioresss Tale: In St. Peters church (at Trent) they shew the chapel of
Little St. Simon, and say, that in 1276 the Jews stole one Simonin, or Little
Simon, a shoemakers son, in the 28th month of his age, and [...] having
killed the child in a most cruel manner, to drink his blood at one of their
feasts. According to Lipscomb, who dates the incident two centuries too
early, after Simons body was found, thirty-nine Jews were executed and
the remainder of the Jewish community was banished; Pope Sixtus IV can-
onized Simon.23 With the phrases they shew and say, Lipscomb stops
short of affirming this incident as the truth; however, as an exegetical
commentary on Chaucer, the footnote links Chaucers fictitious tale with
what purports to be a historical truth. A more overt antisemitic commen-
tary appears in 1827 in Thomas De Quincys article entitled On Murder
considered as one of the Fine Arts: Indeed, the Jewish School [of the
Art of Murder] was always respectable, even in its mediaeval stages, as
the case of Hugh of Lincoln shows, which was honoured with the appro-
bation of Chaucer, on occasion of another performance from the same
school, which in his Canterbury Tales, he puts into the mouth of the Lady
Abbess.24 Despite the ironic tone of the piece, this quote illustrates that
De Quincy believes in the truth of such ritual murder accounts as Hugh
of Lincolns and ascribes Chaucerthe first Poet Laureate of Englandas
an authority on the subject.
Tales of ritual murder largely disappear after the horrors of the Holocaust;
however, since Chaucers position as Englands first Poet Laureate assured
him a prominent place in the canon of English literature and subsequently
in the curriculum of schools and universities since the nineteenth century,
Chaucers variation of this myth reaches numerous readers each year.
Even after World War II some English texts still suggested that Jews really
murdered children to express hostility toward Christianity. Shapiro points
to John Hooper Harveys 1948 textbook, The Plantagenets, which alludes
to the Prioresss Tale and historical references that constitute what he
claimed was proof for ritual murder committed by Jews.25 More recently,
in the 1986 illustrated edition of the Canterbury Tales, Nevill Coghills

23Qtd. in Betsy Bowden, Eighteenth-Century Modernizations from the Canterbury Tales

(Cambridge: Brewer, 1991), 197, n. 2.
24Qtd. in Caroline Spurgeon, Five-Hundred Years of Chaucer Criticism and Allusion,
13571900, 3 Vols. (190817); rpt. New York: Russell & Russell, 1960), II, 165.
25Shapiro, 101.
mythologizing the jewish other in the prioresss tale 283

1986 modernized version of the Prioresss Tale appears with images of

Jews from medieval manuscripts. The caption beneath one picture reads:
The hostility of the Christian world towards the Jews in the Middle Ages
was fully reciprocated. This illustration from the late fourteenth-century
Vernon manuscript is of a Jew who threw his own child into an oven
because he had been contaminated by entering a Christian Church.26 In
the story, after the Jew throws his son into the oven, the boy is rescued
by the Virgin Mary, while the father is punished for his crime. As Miri
Rubins book Gentile Tales: The Late-Medieval Narrative Assault on Jews
demonstrates, this fictitious tale originated from medieval Christian cler-
gy.27 The wording of the caption suggests to the reader that it is a true
account (although the caption was eliminated in the 1996 edition).
However, this 1986 edition of Chaucer is an anomaly for post-Holo-
caust Chaucer editions and studies. Since the Holocaust, Chaucer schol-
arship on the Prioresss Tale tends to fall into one of two camps: either
it discusses the literary artistry of the tale to affirm Chaucers place in
the English canon and curriculum, or it presents historical research to
debunk accounts of ritual murder and to trace the rise of antisemitism
with its culmination in the Holocaust. It is not the intent of this article to
summarize Chaucer scholarship over the past century, but to note how
this extensive exegesis of Chaucer reshapes the tale so as to make it rel-
evant to new generations of readers after World War II. Whereas earlier
commentary was rare and thus makes determining reader reception dif-
ficult, the profusion of commentary over the past century (as evidenced
by the numerous entries in the MLA Bibliography) serves as a record of
modern reception of the Prioresss Tale and its role in contemporary
educational institutions.
But with its problematic portrayals of Jews and its close link to histori-
cal accusations of ritual murder, can the Prioresss Tale retain its plas-
ticity as a myth for a post-Holocaust world that tries to honor diversity
and to value equality? Greg Wilsbacher broaches this topic in his article
Lumianskys Paradox: Ethics, Aesthetics, and Chaucers Prioresss Tale.
After World War II, R.M. Lumiansky published a modernized version of
the Canterbury Tales, omitting the Prioresss Tale and substituting it
with a summary that states that the boy is murdered, but omitting the

26Nevill Coghill, trans., The Canterbury Tales: An Illustrated Edition (London: Leopard,
1986), 112.
27Rubin, 89.
284 barbara stevenson

identity of the murderers. The introduction justifies the censorship by

noting that the tale resembles ugly Nazi propaganda that was still flour-
ishing after the Holocaust. However, ultimately ruling against censor-
ship, Lumiansky decided to include the tale in the 1954 edition and even
praised the artistry of its prologue. Wilsbacher concludes that Lumiansky
was right in restoring the tale and rejecting censorship. Wilsbacher argues
from a position of ethics: he claims that the ugliness of the antisemitism
negates any literary beauty the narrative possesses and that the tale pro-
duces an intense discomfort that can be the starting point for exploring
the tales implication in past traumas and its potential to be part of future
Wilsbachers defense of the tale as a useful exercise in ethics may con-
trast with other scholarly critiques that see the tale as an important histor-
ical lesson in antisemitism or as a model of literary aesthetics, yet they all
come to the same conclusion: the Prioresss Tale should be read by and
taught to new generations of students. Censorship of the tale would con-
stitute an attack on academic freedom. Contemporary society embraces
freedom of speech as the cornerstone of democratic government; likewise,
academic freedom is essential to intellectual inquiry. Scholarship cannot
expand without academic freedom, so censorship is a grave threat to the
university. Hence, commentaries now reshape reception of the Prioresss
Tale so that it conforms to contemporary mores and thus continues to be
included in the curriculum.
The reverence accorded to Chaucers tale, from the past up to the pres-
ent, gives the work a mythic quality. The Prioresss Tale is a descendant
of the Christian myth of ritual murder, which served as a perverse oppo-
site to saints legends. Although the Canterbury Tales is no sacred text
and Geoffrey Chaucer is no god, the Canterbury Tales has functioned as
a secular mythology since the late Middle Ages. The tales are seen as the
originary text for English literature, so scholars, rather like priests, pro-
mote this text as a model embodying the values of great literature and
culture and as a model deserving of emulation. Like a sacred text, the
Canterbury Tales is seen as a permanent, timeless narrative, which must
then be reinterpreted through exegesis to remain relevant to a changing
culture, including an academic culture that now promotes diversity and

28Greg Wilsbacher, Lumianskys Paradox: Ethics, Aesthetics and Chaucers Prioresss

Tale, College Literature 32.4 (Fall 2005), 128 (20).
mythologizing the jewish other in the prioresss tale 285

discourages the prejudices present in the Prioresss Tale. But scholars

vigorously defend the tale, even though they are offended by its portrayal
of Jews, because censorship would undermine academic freedom, a value
central to the academic community. Chaucers Jews are now constructed
as an affirmation of free speech, and so the Prioresss Tale perseveres as
a myth encoding the religious, social, and political values of the culture
in which it is read.
Him Jesus, that Jew!Representing Jewishness
in the York Plays1

Miriamne Ara Krummel

[O]n the seventeenth day before the calends of April, being the sixth day
before Palm Sunday, the Jews of the city of York, in number five hundred
men, besides women and children, shut themselves up in the tower of York
[...] in consequence of their dread of the Christians. [...] Each master of
a family, beginning with the chief persons of his household, with a sharp
knife first cut the throats of his wife and sons and daughters, and then of
all his servants, and lastly his own. Some of them also threw their slain
over the walls among the people. [...] Those who had slain the others were
afterwards killed by the people. [...] All the Jews in the city of York were
destroyed, and all acknowledgments of debts due to them were burnt.2

1Him Jesus, that Jew are words spoken by Judas in The Conspiracy, l.127. From here
onwards all references to the York Plays will be cited in the body of the essay by line
numbers and taken from the York Mystery Plays, eds. Richard Beadle, and Pamela L. King
(New York: Oxford University Press, 1984). All translations of this play are my own and
follow Beadles glossary. The early ideas for this essay were hatched during the 2003 NEH
Institute at the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies, entitled Representations of
the Other: Jews in Medieval Christendom (9 July to 13 August 2003). I extend my greatest
debt of gratitude to Irv Resnick for organizing a marvelous institute in 2003. I wish also to
thank the NEH for providing the financial support necessary to make study at this institute
possible. One expected outcome of the institute was a syllabus, and I designed one entitled
The Medieval Postcolonial Jew, which I taught to two communities of undergraduates
and to a fine group of graduate students. I am particularly grateful to students in these
three classes whose compelling conversations about matters medieval and postcolonial
enabled me to work out my ideas about these seemingly disparate but also deeply con
nected subjects. Among all my students, these four were the most involved in my project:
Abbe Adre, Eli Galayda, Katie Faraone, and Wanda Huber, and I thank them for their lively
responses to my questions. The Medieval Postcolonial Jew is also the provisional title of
my second book, and my work in this essay will figure in that book. A special thanks is due
to Kristine Utterback and Merrall Price whose careful reading of my prose compelled me
to expressions of clarity where I had been unwittingly unclear. This essay is dedicated to
Rhoda Soloway who first encouraged me to allow the practical work of the classroom to
have an impact on the theoretical world of scholarship. Without Rhodas encouragement
this piece would not be. All mistakes are my own.
2The Annals of Roger of Hoveden, trans. Henry T. Riley, Vol. II (1853; reprint, New York:
AMS Press, 1968), 13738.
288 miriamne ara krummel

Once again, Jewish death results in Christians being free from their debts.3
Thus Roger of Hoveden documents a trauma that cut deeply into the his
tory of twelfth-century York.4 Roger of Hovedens solemn and sobering
account is not the only chronicle of this event, however; another twelfth-
century chronicler, William of Newburgh, tells the story in equally emo
tional language. In Williams account, Jewish deaths occurred amidst raging
flames, ending only the following dawn when the Jews were promised
clemency in return for baptism; as the survivors left the castle, the cruel
butchers slaughtered them all.5 After this episode of Jewish immolation,
the chancellor of the king traveled to York and tried to unearth the cause
of the massacre at Cliffords Castle. With this trip the chancellor intended
to reconcile how the Jews flight for sanctuary concluded, instead, in mar
tyrdom and death. But such closure was not meant to be: the chancellors
mission was unsuccessful. He failed to arrest the cruel butchersthe
men whose actions prompted the antisemitic outburst that precipitated
the Jews eventual act of kiddush ha-Shem (ritual suicide). The chancellor
of York thus closed his case without achieving any resolution and without
trying those who had participated in the murder of the Jews of York.
The chancellors failed investigation epitomizes the early response that
would embed trauma into the history of York, enabling the massacre of
the Jews to resonate with an interrogative force, imbuing the impossible,
unceasing communication between the dead and the living, the past and
the present with fearful intimacy.6 That is, the slain Jews of the Cliffords
Tower massacre become specters, haunting the roads and byways of York.
The traumatic memory of Jewish death resonates as an open wound

3Sylvia Tomasch, Postcolonial Chaucer and the Virtual Jew, in The Postcolonial Middle
Ages, ed. Jeffrey Jerome Cohen (New York: St. Martins Press, 2000), 24360 (248).
4Another well remembered event of kiddush ha-Shem [martyrdom for the sake of
Jewishness or God] occurred in 1096 in the Rhineland. The Jews of the Rhineland were
attempting to escape certain death at the Crusaders swords by choosing their own death.
See Robert Chazan, European Jewry and the First Crusade (Berkeley: University of California
Press, 1987). Chazan provides two narratives of the Rhineland massacres (S and L); see
22597. See also Lee Patterson, The Living Witnesses of Our Redemption: Martyrdom
and Imitation in Chaucers Prioresss Tale, Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies
31 (2001), 50760; Patterson studies the historical layering (255) of the Prioresss Tale
and reflects on its intersections with the Rhineland Jews act of kiddush ha-Shem. Christian
behavior can be likened to acts of super-obedience. On the subject of super-obedience, see
Slavoj iek, The Plague of Fantasies (New York: Verso, 1997), esp. 54.
5William of Newburgh, in R.B. Dobson, The Jews of Medieval York and the Massacre of
March 1190 (York, England: St. Anthonys Press, 1974), 28.
6Christine Chism, Alliterative Revivals (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press,
2002), 1.
him jesus, that jew! 289

an unresolved traumathat would make the disaster of 1190 seem like

a staging ground for the expulsion of 1290.7 Both the losses of 1190 and
1290 were to become perpetually relevant to medieval monastic histories,
such as those of Roger of Hoveden and William of Newburgh, as well as
silently central to dynamic theatrical reproductions of biblical texts, such
as the Corpus Christi performance in York. In sum, Jewish spectral pres
ence hovers over the York performances of Jewish bodies.8
Whether one reads the sobering account of Roger of Hoveden or
reflects on the dramatic retelling of William of Newburgh, the moment
at Cliffords Tower in 1190, resonating as a rupture in an otherwise linear
history of medieval York, changes the telling of Yorkist history.9 Because
of this day in March 1190, the Christian denizens of York had to live with
the memory that Jewish peopleJewish bodieswho had once moved
and lived alongside them, had perished as the outcome of antisemitic
fantasies and unchecked violence. On the sixth day before Palm Sunday,
Richard Malebisse and his henchmen effectively shifted the population of
York by removing all Jewish difference and leaving behind only Christian
homogeneity.10 Jewish bodies could not entirely disappear, however.11
Jews owned houses, purchased food and clothing, and lent money: their

7Chism, Alliterative Revivals, 187.

8The words spectral presence are informed by the work of Steven F. Kruger. See
especially his The Spectral Jew: Conversion and Embodiment in Medieval Europe, Medieval
Cultures 40 (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2006).
9On the topic of temporal nonlinearity, see Ania Loomba, Colonialism/Postcolonialism
(New York: Routledge, 1998), esp. 13. Poststructuralist theories of history provide us with
the traction to flatten the passage of time between medieval and modern injustices, acts
that dehumanize people, and behavior that violates human rights.
10The destruction of the Jewish community in York in 1190 uncannily and horribly
mirrors what happened in Jedwabne, Poland when an entire village turned against its
Jewish neighbors. Those few who had not been murdered over the course of the morning
on that day in June 1941 were herded to a barn that was then put to flames. For an account
of this massacre, see Jan T. Gross, Neighbours: The Destruction of the Jewish Community in
Jedwabne, Poland, 1941 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2003). The way in which
these events touch upon and intersect with each other is a subject I will take up elsewhere
in a future book manuscript.
11On the subject of lack and mourning, see L.O. Aranye Fradenburg, Be not far from
me: Psychoanalysis, Medieval Studies, and the Subject of Religion, Exemplaria (1995), 7:
4154. For a compelling discussion of the erasure of Jewish bodies, see Kathleen Biddick,
The Typological Imaginary (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2003), 6075.
Jeremy Cohen argues in Living Letters of the Law (Berkeley: University of California Press,
1999) that multi-dimensional Jews, who were not simply the static Jews of the Bible but
rather a living, vibrant culture threatened Latin Christendom. Cohens theory develops out
of a search for an explanation for anti-Jewish violence in the wake of Augustines decree,
slay them not (see 31763, and also the introduction to this volume).
290 miriamne ara krummel

presence was known; their absence would be felt. Jews were thus trans
formed into specters, haunting the histories of York.12 Roger of Hovedens
and William of Newburghs accounts provide evidence that the act of
chronicling the history of York involves rehearsing what occurred to the
Jews at Cliffords Tower. This rehearsal of Christian malevolence, in turn,
necessitates mention of an abject Yorkist past and thus has the potential
to stimulate regret for, dismay, and a subsequent anger about being made
to feel guilty.13 All of these emotional realities emerge in the York mys
tery cycle, which speaks to the psychic necessity for designing a drama
of Jewish presence in the Christian imaginary.14 This essay reflects upon
that necessity and explores the postcolonial performance of the Jewish
character in these plays.15

Performing Absent Jews

Indelible, graphic images accompany the knowledge that the Jewish heads
of households in York committed suicide only after first slitting the throats
of their wives, children, and servants. The lack of Christian charity and the
absence of salvific sanctuary only compounds the horror of this event as
the fraught relationship between Jews and Christians resonates with past
misunderstandings and present horror. In 1190, Jews were imprisoned with
no escape: the drama between the Jews who sought sanctuary and those
Christians who denied Jews their humanity problematizes the distinctions
between the good Christian and the evil Jew, because in denying Jews the

12On the theorization of spectral presence, see Kruger, The Spectral Jew. See also
Miriamne Ara Krummel, Crafting Jewishness in Medieval England: Legally Absent, Virtually
Present (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011), 714, which cites deeds that continue to
reference Jews who had occupied land and houses long after the 1290 expulsion.
13See Jacques Lacan, who studies how subjects become angered (aggressive) after hav
ing to reflect upon the motivations of their actions, in Aggressiveness in Psychoanalysis,
crits: A Selection, trans. Bruce Fink (New York: W.W. Norton, 2002), 1030.
14See Gross, Neighbours, for a compelling crystallization of the concept of Jewish pres
ence despite absence. Gross speaks of twentieth-century Jedwabne: it seems to me that
in a village where people keep telling each other who murdered how many Jews, and in
what manner, hardly any room is left for conversation on any other subject. Citizens of
Jedwabne would thus have been cursed with a Midas touch condemning them to a per
petual preoccupation with Jews (whom they had wanted to get rid of once and for all),
235 n. 6; see also, 105110. Jeffrey Jerome Cohen, The Flow of Blood in Medieval Norwich,
Speculum, 79 (2004), 2665, discusses the anxiety of identity in twelfth-century Norwich.
15Carolyn Dinshaw, Pale Faces: Race, Religion, and Affect in Chaucers Texts and Their
Readers, Studies in the Age of Chaucer, 23 (2001), 1941, details Chaucers representation
of this issue in regard to the Northumbria of the Man of Laws Tale.
him jesus, that jew! 291

requested sacrament of baptism, Christians become nothing more than

murderers, blurring the distinctions between victim and victimizer.16 The
post-1190 relationship between Jews and Christians thus runs counter to
that which is fantasizednamely, the medieval libel that the Jews per
petually torment Christians,17 and suggests, instead, that an alternative
scenarios is more likely: certain members of the Christian population
deployed popular images of the Jewish discriminatory identity either to
erase their debts to the Jews or to affirm their position in the Christian
community.18 The event at Cliffords Tower ruptures the fantasy of the
obstinate Jew who refuses baptism, replacing that fantasy with the lived
reality that the Christian denies the sacrament to the Jew.
For the citizens of York the mistreatment of the Jews does not end
in 1190. One hundred years later, the people of York are reminded that
history is inescapable, that the past is still alive in the present19 as the
unassimilable memory of the 1190 event is overlaid with the expulsion of
the Jews from England in 1290. These moments of massacre and expul
sion culminate in the 1325 performance of the Corpus Christi cyclethe

16For the account of Jews being denied Christian baptism, see Dobson, The Jews
of Medieval York, 28. See also R.I. Moore, The Formation of a Persecuting Society: Power
and Deviance in Western Europe, 9501250 (New York: Basil Blackwell, 1987); and Moore,
Anti-Semitism and the Birth of Europe, Christianity and Judaism: Papers Read at the 1991
Summer Meeting and the 1992 Winter Meeting of the Ecclesiastical History Society, ed. Diana
Wood (New York: Blackwell, 1992), 3357.
17There are various medieval libels that promote such fantasies. See Miri Rubin,
Gentile Tales: The Narrative Assault on Late Medieval Jews (New Haven: Yale University
Press, 1999); Alan Dundes, ed. The Blood Libel Legend: A Casebook in Anti-Semitic Folklore
(Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1991); Bettina Bildhauer, Blood, Jews, and
Monsters in Medieval Culture, The Monstrous Middle Ages, eds. Bettina Bildhauer, and
Robert Mills (Buffalo: University of Toronto Press, 2003), 7596. See also Bildhauers
reading of Paolo Uccellos predella of the Profanation of the Host (14678) in her Medieval
Blood, Religion and Culture in the Middle Ages Series, Series Eds. Denis Renevey, and
Diane Watt (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 2006), 4648. For literary representations,
see, especially, Geoffrey Chaucers Pardoners Tale and Prioresss Tale. For a fuller sense of
this fictional and fictionalized iteration, see Miriamne Ara Krummel, The Pardoner, the
Prioress, Sir Thopas, and the Monk: Semitic Discourse and the Jew(s), The Canterbury
Tales, Revisited: 21st-Century Interpretations, ed. Kathleen Bishop (Newcastle: Cambridge
Scholars Press, 2008), 88109.
18For trenchant discussions of the fabrication of and utility in designing a discrimi
natory identity, see Homi K. Bhabha, The Location of Culture (New York: Routledge,
1994), 8592; and Etienne Balibar, Racism and Nationalism, eds. Etienne Balibar, and
Immanuel Wallerstein, Race, Nation, Class: Ambiguous Identities, trans. Chris Turner (New
York: Verso, 1991), 4951. Gavin I. Langmuir, Toward a Definition of Antisemitism (Berkeley:
University of California Press, 1990), 30110, discusses the anxieties of identity that emerge
in the psyches of newly-minted Christians.
19Chism, Alliterative Revivals, 187.
292 miriamne ara krummel

York mystery playsthat enables a return of Jewish presence through the

reimagining of the biblical accounts of the Old and New Testaments.20 In
the varied and, ultimately, postcolonial representation of Jewish figures,
the York Plays experiment with representing Jews as artifactual remem
brances for a community that has touched Jewswhether through the
body of their God or through the memory of former neighbors.21 The York
plays, articulating a complex fantasy of presence and absence, attempt to
right the imbalances of 1190 and 1290.
The exigencies of proximity, visibility, and centrality, amplified by the
horrors of the massacre and expulsion, make it unlikely that Jews would
fade from Christian memory. Jews haunt Yorkist history. More precisely,
the York Jews had become a perceptible presence in the years between
their initial appearance on and near the York territory (in the 1170s)
and the date of their expulsion from medieval England (in 1290).22 Twelfth-
and thirteenth-century Jewish bodies lived and worshiped among the
Christians of York.23 During Henry IIIs reign, royal taxation records
indicate extraordinary wealth among the Jews.24 Because of this wealth,
a flourishing money-lending business also appeared, and three of the six
wealthiest Jews in all of EnglandLeo Episcopus of York; his daughter,
Henna; and his son-in-law, Aaron of Yorkmade York the center of their

20Beadle, York Mystery Plays, xviixix.

21Sarah Beckwith, Christs Body: Identity, Culture, and Society in Late Medieval Writings
(New York: Routledge, 1993), 3336; and Beckwith, Absent Presences: The Theatre of
Resurrection in York, Medieval Literature and Historical Inquiry: Essays in Honor of Derek
Pearsall, ed. David Aers (Rochester, New York: D. S. Brewer, 2000), 185205. See also
Jody Enders, The Medieval Theater of Cruelty: Rhetoric, Memory, Violence (Ithaca: Cornell
University Press, 1999), 19598; and Geraldine Heng, Empire of Magic: Medieval Romance
and the Politics of Cultural Fantasy (New York: Columbia University Press, 2003), esp.
22Dobson finds that the first appearance of a single indisputable York Jew in the
Yorkshire Pipe Rolls does not occur until 11767 (The Jews of Medieval York, 6).
23The estimate for Jewish bodies ranges from 196 to 362. The population figures for
the Jews of York is taken from J.M. Lilley, G. Stroud, D.R. Brothwell, and M.H. Williamson,
The Jewish Burial Ground at Jewbury (York Archeological Trust, 1994), 302. These figures
represent the approximate number of Jewish bodies buried in York between the late-
twelfth and thirteenth centuries (295). The synagogue of medieval York was located on
Coney Street (Dobson, The Jews of Medieval York, 45). As one reflects on these numbers,
it is important to keep Dobsons words in mind: the history of the medieval English Jews
[...] tend to be much better documented in their final declining years than at the height
of their fortunes and influence (150); see his The Medieval York Jewry Reconsidered,
The Jews in Medieval Britain: Historical, Literary and Archeological Perspectives, ed. Patricia
Skinner (New York: Boydell Press, 2003). The number of Jews could, therefore, be a great
deal higher than 362.
24Dobson, The Jews of Medieval York, 41.
him jesus, that jew! 293

business.25 The Jews who returned to the city of York after the 1190 mas
sacre were, therefore, a noticeable presence.
As moneylenders, medieval Jews enabled the Yorkist economy to thrive.
As citizens, the Jews occupied tenements in critical sites around York:26
Coney Street, Micklegate, and Pavementall stops on the route traveled
by participants in the York Mystery Cycle.27 In fact, on Coney Street (also
the site of stations five, six, seven, and eight), audiences of the Cycle would
have passed not only the former homes of Yorks wealthiest Jews but also
of its former synagogue.28 On Coney Street two of the buildings passed by
participants in the York Cycle had belonged to Josaeus the Jew (his house
had become, by the time of the York Cycle, St. Georges Inn) and Aaron
of York, who lived near St. Martins Church.29 In fact, place, performance,
profit, and Christianitas intersect in medieval Yorkist records that fuse dis
cussions of the homes of York denizens, the sites of the stations, and the
need to remain true to the Christian message. These records also resonate
with the anxiety that the Christian message will succumb to the tempta
tions of festival and merry-making. Robert Davies notes that an order was
therefore made, that these pageants, which were maintained by the com
mons and artificers of the city in honour and reverence of our Lord Jesus
Christ, and for the honour and profit of the city be played in none other
than these twelve places and among those twelve stations, four specify
the owners and their residences (stations two, three, seven, and nine).30
The performance of conventional Christian identity required the remark
able participation of the entire York community, and that community was
meant to perform the extraordinary intersection of faith and profit in
ordinary places.

25Dobson, The Jews of Medieval York, 40, 4142. For information about Henna, see The
Medieval York Jewry Reconsidered, 15455.
26Benedict the Jew, famous because he made the wrong choice of attending Richard
Is coronation and, by this act unwittingly started the pogroms that included the 1190 mas
sacre at Cliffords Tower, lived in a mansion on Spen Lane near the friary of the orders
of the Sac (89). Jewbury, the cemetery for the Jews of medieval York, lay near the River
Foss and the remains of a Roman Wall (see 281 and the folded map); see Angelo Raine,
Mediaeval York: A Topographical Survey Based on Original Sources (London: John Murray,
27Dobson, The Jews of Medieval York, 44; Robert Davies, Extracts from the Municipal
Records of the City of York (London: J. B. Nichols and Sons, 1843), 232.
28Dobson, The Jews of Medieval York, 45.
29Raine, Mediaeval York, 150, 155.
30Davies, Extracts from the Municipal Records, 232.
294 miriamne ara krummel

Rehearsing Trauma

Trauma does not go away: it is a memory and a history of an event that

reoccurs ceaselessly. Cathy Caruth characterizes trauma as an event [that]
is not assimilated or experienced fully at the time, but only belatedly, in
its repeated possession of the one who experiences it.31 This haunting of
the present compels a rewriting of the past. I contend that the experi
ence of what transpired with the Jews of Yorkin the twelfth century and
again in the thirteenth centuryfigures as a repeating trauma and that
the Jews traumatic histories haunt the psyches of the denizens of York
into the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries when the medieval mystery
cycle was performed. As Christine Chism writes: Ghosts trouble the stra
tegic amnesias, substitutions, and transcendences through which history
is shaped and the contours of the present are inaugurated.32 Whether as
a memory on the land or as a character in the plot, Jews are physically
present in the drama of the York Cycle, which details a cycle of life that
was sure to remind viewers of the shifting interplay between torturer and
victim, exploiter and the source of wealth.33 The plays resonate with rup
ture between past and present and make impossible a future without the
specter of a past trauma.
Temporarily filling the gap left in the wake of Jewish absence, separate
York plays also perform the role of artificial presence, albeit through the
guise of biblical figura, by erasing traumatic memories even if only for a
moment. The York plays enable a magical romance with Jewishness where
Jewish spectrality is at once permanently present but also safely distant.
That is, while the Jewish story remains a necessary component of each
of the York plays evocation of nostalgia, utopia, trauma, and ruin, the
York plays do not overtly threaten the ascendancy of Latin Christendom.34
The York plays invoke lost utopias just as the Corpus Christi cycle bravely
rehearses the deepest Christian trauma, the spectacle of the Crucifixion,
which, like other medieval mystery plays, would have recorded truth

31Cathy Caruth, ed., Trauma: Explorations in Memory (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins

University Press, 1995), p. 4; italics hers.
32Chism, Alliterative Revivals, 1.
33Chism, Alliterative Revivals, 188.
34Sarah Beckwith, Signifying God: Social Relation and Symbolic Act in the York Corpus
Christi Plays (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2001), 18.
him jesus, that jew! 295

as scenes of torture.35 The intensity of Jesuss death returns us to the

unhealed trauma of the Jewish martyrological moment in 1190 at Cliffords
Coeval to the necessary portrayal of the suffering body is the continual
reminder that changeability dictates the dramas journey through biblical
legend. Nothing, the plays instantiate through their very plots, can remain
the same; everything changes: Eden can no longer be inhabited by Adam
and Eve; the land of the earth cannot be rediscovered as Noah found it;
Moses leads the Jews out of Egypt only once. Certainly, these cycles can
be viewed again and againjust as the biblical texts can be experienced
repeatedly through reading and through sermon. Nevertheless, these iter
ations repeat the experience of loss, and the repetition of that loss creates
a community united in its suffering and in its mourning because change
invites the inescapability of loss. What remains after the experience of loss
is the mourning of the lost object and the attempt to preserve what is lost
in its earlier (and unadulterated) form. In essence, to avoid succumbing
to the inevitability of Jewish absence, Christians cathect some Jewish con
tent.37 The Christianto avoid loss and to defray mourningbecomes
the then and the now (becomes at once the Jew and the Christian)
to fashion, in Kathleen Biddicks terms: bundles of fantasies that bind
Christian-ness to supersessionary notions.38 The Plays thus create a com
munity of mourners.39 This communitas (a corporate identity, of famil
ial, local, and national bonds40) must include Jews in their absence from

35Enders, The Medieval Theater of Cruelty, 3.

36My reference to Jewish martyrdom emerges from two contacts: one a colloquium
paper, The Middle Ages Draw Near: Jewish Suffering as Usable Past, and conversation
with Bernard Dov Cooperman. The colloquium, The Middle Ages and the Holocaust:
Medieval Anti-Judaism in the Crucible of Modern Thought, was held at the University of
Pittsburgh on Sunday, 22 April 2012. The second reference is to Robert Chazans Let Not
a Remnant or a Residue Escape: Millenarian Enthusiasm in the First Crusade, Speculum
84 (2009), 289313.
37For a discussion of cathexis, see Sigmund Freud, Mourning and Melancholia,
in Collected Papers, Vol. IV, trans. Joan Riviere (London: Hogarth P, 1948), 15270, who
explains that cathexis involves both the denial of loss of a beloved object and a subsequent
railing against that object that, in the mind of the melancholic, allowed itself to be lost;
anger results because facing the loss involves recognizing ones limited power to control
38See Biddick, Typological Imaginary, 6.
39Beckwith, Signifying God, 1617.
40Anthony Bale, The Jew in the Medieval Book: English Antisemitisms, 13501500 (New
York: Cambridge University Press, 2006), 117.
296 miriamne ara krummel

the homes they occupied and in their presence in the Plays that drive
the economy. As Anthony Bales The Jew in the Medieval Book shows, by
the fourteenth century, Jewishness had adopted a domesticated quality,
appearing in legends that were central to core belief systems of medieval
Christians. In fact, issues introduced in the public plays had immediate
resonance in the viewers personal dramas: it was through the commu
nal re-staging of the vilification of the Jew that obedience and faith were
taught, and the idea of a polity articulated.41 Yet the York Corpus Christi
cycle reveals that while the Jew was feared and Othered, there were also
Jewish bodies that were cherished and loved. In this guise both the vili
fied and beloved signify as specters that haunt the viewers of the York
Corpus Christi. That ghostly presence surfaces in the close of the cycle:
Pavement. For at Pavementthe last stationviewers would be left in
the citys marketplace to purchase goods and to be reminded of place, per
formance, profit, and history.42 From Pavement, participants could look
to the Southeast and see Cliffords Tower, where the Jews of York, thought
of as moneylenders throughout their time in York, perished in 1190.43


The York Cycle can offer its audience multiple access points at any one
given moment. Dating to 1388 and formalized in 1415, the York Mystery
Plays are complex in both nature and in design.44 For example, as
Richard Beadle has noted, the plays create moments of dramatic enter
tainment, reinforce Catholic doctrine, and enable a city to remain fiscally
competitive.45 The performances were splendid and theatrical, involv
ing high drama (performers were commanded to have their torches
borne and lighted before the procession every year), deploying advanced

41Bale, The Jew in the Medieval Book, 143.

42Beadle, York Mystery Plays, xix.
43Jews occupied other professions, of course, but in the popular fantasy, Jews were
strictly linked to finances. This fantasy was born out by the monarchys and various lords
relationship with their Jews. See, for example, Kenneth R. Stow, Alienated Minority: The Jews
of Medieval Latin Europe (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1992); Langmuir, Toward a
Definition of Antisemitism; Robert C. Stacey, Parliamentary Negotiation and the Expulsion
of the Jews from England, Thirteenth Century England VI, eds. Michael Prestwich, R.H.
Britnell, and Robin Frame (Rochester: The Boydell Press, 1997), 77101; and Dobson, The
Jews of Medieval York, 717.
44For information about the early performances, see Davies, Extracts from the Municipal
Records, 230, 233.
45Beadle, York Mystery Plays, ixxii.
him jesus, that jew! 297

technology in set design (large and high scaffolds [were] placed upon
wheels), and unfolding with unmatchable grandeur (the procession
included pageants of extraordinary magnitude and splendour, [...] hung
with rich tapestry and inlaid with ivory and gold).46 Together, the inter
section of all these possibilitiesoffering dramatic entertainment, pro
moting Catholic doctrine, stimulating the profit economy, and depicting
the Jewstretched the purpose of religious devotion.47 In general, the
performance of these outdoor dramas was viewed with some concern, as
the words of the preacher John Bromyard clarify: to Bromyard, the plays
were merely novis spectaculisthe stuff of vanity, curiosity, and amuse
ment.48 Reflecting on medieval York, Robert Davies reminds us that the
York plays were institutionalized as a regular event at the same time that
the commons of the city complained to the council that the play and pag
eants [...] were not played as they ought to be.49 This attempt to have the
plays performed as they ought to be resonates with a larger conservative,
cultural anxiety over modernization, secularization, and weekly atten
dance in the church and at the pulpit.50 Even more, in the midst of this
freighted conversation about authenticity and performance was the real
ity that leftover Jewish property was used because the selection of the
twelve places, where the Corpus Christi would be performed included
three places that had been just a century before near the homes of Jews.51
Consciously using religion in economically profitable ways underscores
the urgency to craft a more permanent division between the Jew and the
Christian. Christians, after all, had been taught that the words of Exodus
22.2527; Leviticus 25.3537; and Deuteronomy 23.19, 20 spoke against
usurious practices.52 Christians wanted to avoid becoming Jewish through
usurious practices, but the borders between Christian and Jew remained
inescapably porous. The preoccupation with and inevitable need to

46Davies, Extracts from the Municipal Records, 233, 239, 24041, respectively.
47Christian K. Zacher, Curiosity and Pilgrimage: The Literature of Discovery in Fourteenth-
Century England (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1976), 2932.
48G.R. Owst, Literature and Pulpit in Medieval England (New York: Barnes & Noble,
1961), 480, 482 (I translate the Latin text: vana, curiosa et jocosa).
49Davies, Extracts from the Municipal Records, 231; italics mine.
50Owst, Literature and the Pulpit, 48182.
51 The first quotation is taken from Gross, Neighbours, and is used repeatedly by the
people who conveniently acquired the property of the Jews whom they had murdered.
The reference to the stations in the York cycle is taken from Davies, Extracts from the
Municipal Records, 232.
52On the link between doctrine and financial gain, see Bale, The Jew in the Medieval
Book, 107112.
298 miriamne ara krummel

engage in financial dealings, render the division between Christian and

Jew permeable as does Christian proximity to the Hebrew Bible (as the
Old Testament).
The porousness of this division between Christian and Jew, given the
importance of Jesus and the Jewish Patriarchs to the Christian faith,
requires a careful (re)construction of what/who is and is not Jewish.
The distinctions between Christian and Jewish identities and bodies are
complicated when members of the community perform convincingly as
Jewish characters who are outedidentifiedas Jewish, such as Moses
and Jesus, by the plays themselves.53 The ultimate theatricality of identity
contributes to the surreal nature of imagining Jews in front of or near by
the homes that they had once occupied. Important to this point is that
the fantasy of the York Plays epic drama absorbed an entire commu
nity. Sarah Beckwith estimates that as much as a tenth of the city [was]
involved in the productionup to twenty Christs, twelve Maries, several
different Gods, and a few Satans [were] wandering the city and giving
multiple performances at several sites.54 The emotional struggle over the
Jew as a coveted biblical prototype (as a uni-dimensional figure and as a
collective identity) threatened to disrupt key fantasies, and those fantasies
intensified as memories of the complex individuals who live and work
in the world erupts in a measured attack on Jews.55 The hostile depic
tions, leveled against the Jews for becoming multi-dimensional, are an
act of aggression that follows the loss of and threat to established and
protected roles for Jews and for Christians. In this way the York Mystery
Cycle, a remarkably intact cycle of critical events in biblical history, also
animates a moment when perceptions of the Jewish Other changed. This

53My references to closeted and outed identities is informed by Diana Fusss work in
Inside/Out, the introduction to Inside/Out: Lesbian Theories, Gay Theories, ed. Diana Fuss
(New York: Routledge, 1991), 110. A closeted Jewish identity is one that the text conceals;
an outed Jewish identity is one that the text denotes. I discuss this point more fully in later
sections of this essay.
54Beckwith, Signifying God, xvi.
55I arrive at this notion about a collective identity of Jews who speak and act in one
voice independent of Richard Cole who argues for a massed body as a sort of hivemind
in Massed Bodies and the Yearning for Holocaust in Medieval Scandinavia, delivered
at the colloquium, The Middle Ages and the Holocaust: Medieval Anti-Judaism in the
Crucible of Modern Thought.
him jesus, that jew! 299

proximity of the Jewish and the Christian also required new technologies
of separation.56
The act of designing and performing drama enables the people of
York to work out their fears, anxieties, and traumas of faith and iden
tity. And, thus, what traditionally signifies as Jewish is removed from spe
cially marked Jewish characters in this fantasy of constructing a Christian
identity that acknowledges Jewishness at its very roots. But important to
this fantasy is removing the contaminated content of Jewishness. So if
some Christians are to become Jews, the customary libels of Jewishness
have to be carefully removed from the Christian and projected onto the
undeniable villain (the Jewishly figuring character) who is, magically, nei
ther Christian nor Jew. The York Plays, in this way, at once reconcile the
spectrality of Jews and rehearse a trauma from 1190 that left Jewish pres
ence haunting both the people of York and the performers of the York
Plays.57 Even though Jews had been physically absent from English soil
since 1290, each performer, each viewer, each writer, had to separate what
was Jewish from what was Christian in order to restore a balance between
Christians and Jews. The fine balance of identity had been thrown out
of equilibrium by the events of 1190 and 1290 when the Jew became the
victim, and the Christian became the victimizer.58 And so, the social flaws
that are customarily attributed to the Jewthe unearned profits of ava
rice and usury and the tendency to cause harm to and seek the death
of Christians59had to be removed from the Jewish characters such as
Moses and Jesus, whose Jewishness was integrally linked to Christian
mythology and applied to other characters who, in tradition, exhibited
those putatively Jewish characteristics, such as Noahs wife, Joseph,
Caiaphas, and Annas, whose histories did not resonate so intensively
with Christian salvation. While the York Corpus Christi cycle maintains
the delusory fantasies about Jewishness, the standard anti-Jewish libels

56See, especially, Lisa Lampert [Lampert-Weissig], Gender and Jewish Difference from
Paul to Shakespeare (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004), 10708; and
Biddick, The Typological Imaginary.
57See Kruger, The Spectral Jew, xxx.
58On the subject of the 1290 expulsion of the Jews from England, see Robin R. Mundill,
Englands Jewish Solution: Experiment and Expulsion, 12621290 (New York: Cambridge
University Press, 1998). On the separation of Jew from Christian, see Lampert [Lampert-
Weissig], Gender and Jewish Difference.
59The quoted material comes from Sylvia Tomasch, Postcolonial Chaucer and the
Virtual Jew, The Postcolonial Middle Ages, ed. Jeffrey Jerome Cohen (New York: St.Martins
Press, 2000), 248. See also Langmuir, Toward a Definition of Antisemitism.
300 miriamne ara krummel

are evident in only some of the characters who are historically Jewish;
other charactersalthough equally Jewishare portrayed without the
customary anti-Jewish libel.
The plays furnish viewers with characters, such as Moses and Jesus,
whom the text rightly identifies as Jewish, yet these Jews figure without
the putative Jewish characteristics that are evident in the behavior of
Noahs Wife, Joseph, Caiaphas, and Annas who, while historically Jewish,
are not outed as Jewish by the plays. The York Plays thus resonate with
a portable Jewishness (even a portable Otherness) that signifies a shift
in the dream of identity. And so I wonder, as David Lawton asks, Who
or what is a Jew?60 Lawton concludes that the Jew, like all figures, is a
simulacrum.61 In this the Jew transmits information about what is known
and what is unknown, about what is safely visible and what is urgently
feared. The presence of Jewishness intensifies psychic discomfort as the
happy memories of good Jews, such as the Biblical Patriarchs, are over
laid with the terrifying memories of the evil Jews of the Gospel accounts
who punish, betray, and kill Christians and disturb the Christian God.
The outcome is the surfacing of a bifurcated Jewishness. The seemingly
allosemitic representation of the bifurcated Jew speaks of an uncontrol
lable need to depictand then, by necessity, to transformcharacters
whose lives remain intricately needed in the Christian story. I think here
of Moses and Jesus whom the text outs as openly Jewish.62 But making
Jews heroes presents multiple psychic problems. One of those prevailing
issues is Jesuss Jewishness. A second of those issues that surface is the loss
of a villain (a role easily occupied by the denoted Jew).
Any play, in its very craft, has a need to have villains and characters
who derail and deny times forward movement. But these York villains
still exist and have not disappeared despite Jesuss apparent Jewishness.
Because of the multiple identities of the Jew (simultaneously the Christian
god and the Christian villain), Jews break into two rhetorical identities:
denoted and undenoted. Traditionally villainous Jews become undenoted,
as is especially exemplified with Noahs wife and with Joseph, because

60David Lawton, Sacrilege and Theatricality: The Croxton Play of the Sacrament,
Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies, 33 (2003), 281309 (284).
61Lawton, Sacrilege and Theatricality, 30405. See also Biddick, Paper Jews:
Inscription / Ethnicity / Ethnography, The Art Bulletin 78 (1996), 59499.
62Allosemitism is a simultaneous attraction to and revulsion of the Jew. See Zygmunt
Bauman, Allosemitism: Premodern, Modern, Postmodern, Modernity, Culture, and the
Jew, eds. Bryan Cheyette and Laura Marcus (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1998),
him jesus, that jew! 301

Jesuss denoted Jewishness denies some Jews the possibility of claim

ing their identity. When Jesus becomes a Jew, the Corpus Christi cycle
struggles with a self-introduced vacuum that brings us to the second issue:
the loss of a villaina role once so easily occupied by the denoted Jew.
Now the Jew, once the hated and uncivil Other, is a fellow sufferer who
works to have justice prevail over iniquity. This new Jewishness returns
us to the two Jewish tragedies in Yorkist history: the massacre at Cliffords
Tower and the expulsion of the Jews from England. And the loss of the
bad Jewboth as key figures in the biblical accounts and as local deni
zens of Yorkleads to a mourning for past things whose visibility can
only surface in the fantasies of cathexis, a cherishing of what is absent.63

The Work of the York Plays

What emerges out of these seemingly opposing fantasies are images of a

medieval, postcolonial Jew, a portable Other in the York Corpus Christi
cycle. The York plays, therefore, resonate with images of mobile Jews
whose manifold splendor speaks of a Jewishness that performs as fixed
yet also changeable and porous. Jews are fixed as the biblical type for
which Augustine demands perpetual protection in his well-known argu
ment distilled as sicut Judis.64 The porous and permeable nature of the
performed Jew leads us toward fluid postcolonial signifiers. It is in the
nature of the postcolonial figure to become a projection of something he is
not.65 And so, any charactersnot just Jewish ones (as Pharaoh of Moses
and Pharaoh reveals)whose motives are riddled with doubt and whose
behavior defiled by villainous intent are portrayed with the standard attri
butions of Jewish figures.66 Jews and Jewishness, present only in fantasies
of return, become spiritual doubles, ghostly specters, and medieval dop
pelgngers in being designed as artifactually presentas figures whose
presence is necessary to both scripture and community. Existing at once
as no where and as now here, Jews are simultaneously absent from the

63See Freud, Mourning and Melancholia.

64Cohen, Living Letters of the Law, 7479.
65See Bhabha, The Location of Culture, 108; and Tomasch, Postcolonial Chaucer and
the Virtual Jew, 24546.
66See Kruger, The Spectral Jew; Lampert [Lampert-Weissig], Gender and Jewish
Difference; Bale, The Jew in the Medieval Book.
302 miriamne ara krummel

local geography yet also spectrally present in daily religious performance.67

In this guise the Jew figures as both protean and postcolonial: protean
because of his very ability to play the wide variety of roles assigned to him
and postcolonial because the Jew is the displacement, fantasy, psychic
defense, and an open textuality of the medieval Christian viewer.68
The postcolonial Jew is a putative Jewnot present as a Jew but,
instead, presenting as a metaphor of a Jew, as the being of all the signs of
what is Jewish without actually being Jewish. The performance of puta
tive Jewishness resembles Homi Bhabhas partial presence, a charac
ter that is equal parts incomplete and virtual.69 I speak of characters
in the York Plays whose antisocial tendencies and homicidal urges are
signifiers for incomplete and virtual Jewishness. Caiaphas and Annas, for
instance, refuse to acknowledge change and dream of homicidal futures.
Noahs Wife and Joseph also exhibit characteristics that speak of psychic
frailties, such as unexpected madness and inexorable stubbornness. All
these putatively Jewish characteristics emerge as embodied fantasies of
strategies of desire as metonymies of presence.70 In this way Jews are
at once present and absent: Jews are present as physically necessary
their bodies are desired for and necessary to the performance of biblical
texts; they are, after all, central characters in the biblical stories, as Lisa
Lampert-Weissig explains, biblical Jews, the patriarchs, are praised as
proto-Christians who longed for a Christ who is, of course, Jesus Christ.71
Jews are also only metonymically present because what is fantastically
attributed to Jews is removed from Jewish characters and thrust onto non-
Jewish figures. In either case the present Jew is always absent. And so, I
posit that the Jew (both representational and denoted) speaks to what
Bhabha identifies as the process of mimicry, which is the sign of a double

67See Roger Friedland and Deirdre Boden, NowHere: An Introduction to Space, Time
and Modernity, NowHere: Space, Time and Modernity, eds. Roger Freidland and Deirdre
Boden (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994), 160. See also Krummel, Globalizing
Jewish Communities: Mapping Jewishness in Fragment VII of Chaucers Canterbury Tales,
Texas Studies in Literature and Language, 50 (Summer 2008), 12142 (12130).
68For the reference to the Protean Jew, see Denise L. Despres, The Protean Jew in the
Vernon Manuscript, Chaucer and the Jews: Sources, Contexts, Meanings, Sheila Delany, ed.
(New York: Routledge, 2002), 14564; the quoted text can be found on 146. For a discus
sion of the postcolonial, see Homi Bhabhas The Location of Culture (New York: Routledge,
1994), 10222; the quotation is taken from p. 108.
69Bhabha, The Location of Culture, 86.
70Bhabha, The Location of Culture, 90; italics his.
71Lampert [Lampert-Weissig], Gender and Jewish Difference, 37.
him jesus, that jew! 303

articulation; a complex strategy of reform, regulation and discipline, which

appropriates the Other as it visualizes power.72 What Jewishfigures
driven by villainous urges and pecuniary impulsesshifts away from bib
lically Jewish characters and is applied, instead, to historical figures whose
actions suggest that they tend more to destroy rather than to create com
munity. As such, in this drama of identity, the Jew becomes virtual, and as
virtual, the Jew comes to epitomize what Sylvia Tomasch identifies as the
integral connections between imaginary constructions and actual people,
even when they exist only in a fabricated past or a phantasmatic future.73
The hybridity of the Jewish and non-Jewish characters suggests a frighten
ingly close proximity of Christian and Jewish identities, complicated by
the inevitability that performance of the plays required Christian bodies
to dress up as Jewish bodies.
The result: on the one hand, in the York Corpus Christi cycle there is a
clear utility for the Jew. Moses (much more than a Hebrew) and Jesus (much
more than a boy without What is in blood libel deemed a clearly denoted
biologically earthly father) are textually outed as Jewish figures. (The text
denotes Moses and Jesus as Jews). On the other hand, the Jewishness of
Caiaphas and Annas is rhetorically closeted as the actions of these two fig
ures are colored by their putative Jewishness. (The text suppresses men
tion of Caiaphass and Annass Jewishness.) Even more, Noahs Wife and
Joseph signify how the characteristics of the putative Jew (Homi Bhabhas
displaced, fantastical, and metonymically present chimera) enact margin
alization from the dominant community. In an entirely freighted gesture
of portioning out Jewishness, the York Corpus Christi cycle splits Jewish
(and Christian) identity, fashioning denoted Jewishness onto a sign that
signifies only the positive quantity of Christian identity. This Jewishness is
at once protected and nurtured. The Other Jewishnessthe putative and
undenoted oneanimates the content that is removed from the Jewish
and, thus, never was a part of the Christian identity.74

72Bhabha, The Location of Culture, 86.

73Tomasch, Postcolonial Chaucer and the Virtual Jew, 252.
74See Peter Gabel, The Meaning of the Holocaust: Social Alienation and the Infliction
of Human Suffering, Tikkun 13 (Nov/Dec 1998), 1218, who discusses the psychic process
involved in thrusting weaknesses upon an object, an Other, who is not-you.
304 miriamne ara krummel

Jewishness In and Out

In Moses and Pharaoh, Pharaohs destruction of the Jews is clearly the

driving force of the play. From the outset, Jewish lives, especially that of
Moses, are threatened because the growing Jewish population poses a
threat to Pharaohs continued ascendancy:
The Jews that won here in Goshen
And are named the children of Israel.
They multiply so fast
That soothly we suppose
They are like, and they last,
Your lordship for to lose. (ll.3136)
Customarily, the Jewish threat would translate to mean that viewers are
expected to sympathize with Pharaoh. But the play deploys this theme in
a remarkable switch. Moses, identified as one of the Jews (by God on l.161,
by 2 Counsellor on l.303, and by Pharaoh on l.322) communicates with
God whereas Pharaoh worships Mahound (l.401), a prototype for a hea
then God. Moses is, in this way, on the side of justice, and Moses struggle
to protect his peoples lives is a conflict that members of the Christian
audience would respect, admire, and support. Consequently, Pharaohs
admonitions of and homicidal dreams about Moses and the Jewish peo
ple would be despised and castigated by the audience at the York perfor
mance of Moses and Pharaoh.
The audience thus sympathizes with the side that is right, which is also
provocatively the side of the outwardly-denoted Jewish figure. Moreover,
God supports Moses, for God has said he save us shall (l.378). Moses
must simultaneously struggle against villainy and escape the murderous
fantasies of Pharaoh, who confidently proclaims: For so many fall we shall
fang [recapture] them / And mar them ere tomorn at noon (ll.35556)
and whose 2 Counsellor affirms this goal: We shall not bide, but ding
[strike] them down / Till all be dead, without dread (ll.399400). But the
Jews (only virtually Jewish but actually Christian) survive Pharaohs homi
cidal impulses as the play closes with the words of the Youth (a confident
representative of the superseded and sanctified future): Now we are won
from woe, / And saved out of the sea, / Cantemus domino, / To God a
song sing we (ll.405408). The language of the Youths songLatin, not
Hebrewtestifies finally to the identity of the wronged figures. Like the
little Clergeon of the Prioresss Tale, the cherished youth sings the undefiled
him jesus, that jew! 305

song to God as the link between Jews and Christians is closed:75 Moses,
as the erstwhile Jew, hereafter adopts his Christian form, as all Christians
unite in the struggle against oppression. In this play Pharaoh occupies the
seat of the villain (no surprise, of course), which in this play embodies the
characteristics of the undenoted Jew (perhaps, a little surprising): Pharaoh
dreams of destroying communities; he worships the wrong god; and he
attempts to murder innocent youth. Constructing Pharaoh in this way is
indicative of the making of a Universal Other.76
In a similar reversal of the traditional identity formations, Jesus
also assumes the role of the cherished (but not putative Jew) in The
Conspiracy and in The Death of Christ. In the perennially and proto
typically horrible moment of betrayal, Judas becomes the putative Jew
when he fingers Jesus in The Conspiracy:
Ingenti pro inuriahim Jesus, that Jew,
Unjust unto me, Judas, I judge to be loath.
For at our supper as we sat, the sooth to pursue,
With Simon Leprous, full soon my skift came to scathe
[On account of great injurythere is Jesus, that Jew who was unjust to me,
Judas. I judge him to be hateful. As we sat at supper with Simon the Leper,
I hatched my plan] (ll.12730).
Jesus, that Jew, is surrounded by people (Caiaphas, Annas, Judas, Soldiers)
who are and who also are not members of his Jewish tribe. In fact, both
The Conspiracy and The Death of Christ openly identify Jesus as a
Jew. In The Conspiracy, Pilate (who is amazed by the Jews violence),
Caiaphas (who seeks to protect Jewish essentialism), and a soldier (whose
Jewishness is putative, not stated in the play) have a conversation about
Jesuss rupture of the sanctity of their Sabbath:
PILATE: Forsooth, ye are over-cruel to know.
CAIAPHAS: Why, sir? For he would lose our law,
Heartily we him hate as we owe....
For why, upon our Sabbath day the sick makes he safe,
And will not cease for our saws to sink so in sin.

75For the text of the Prioresss Tale, see Geoffrey Chaucer, The Riverside Chaucer, gen.
ed. Larry D. Benson 3rd ed. (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1987).
76Fabricating a Universal Other whose very being resembles the fantastical imaginings
of what makes a Jewish Other, is the subject of my second book manuscript, currently
entitled The Medieval Postcolonial Jew.
306 miriamne ara krummel

2 SOLDIER: Sir, he covers all that come recoverance to crave

But in a short continuance, that kens all our kin.
But he holds not our holy days, hard hap might him have,
And therefore hanged be he, and that by th