Medieval Anti-Jewish Anti-Semitism (Source Reader)

Not for a quick read, this is a long working-post with primary source material in English translation for general interest and for use in the classroom. The original impetus for posting this was for my students in a course at Syracuse on anti-Judaism and anti-Semitism. While I am noting the scholarly texts and other sites from which these sources were taken, these are not for scholarly use or citation, appearing as they do here at this post without precise, page-by-page pagination. Scholars of medieval Jewish history will insist that anti-Jewish animus did not simply define Jewish life in the medieval Christian west. Even a cursory look at Jacob Rader Marcus’ anthology from 1938, the Jews in the Medieval World will confirm that medieval Jewish life was rich and multi-variegated. If this is, in fact the case, then maybe it was because Jewish life flowered, as often as not, only as part of a modus-vivendi provided under the not-always-secure and not-always-consistent umbrella of secular and ecclesiastical protection held up against popular anti-Jewish animus and in competition with the burgher class.

To head the post I am posting the Gothic image of Aaron as it reflects the place of the Jews in a medieval Christian scheme, circa 1170. I was going to use a more gruesome image of Simon of Trent, perhaps the most infamous of blood libels; it is from the early modern Nuremberg Chronicle. But it didn’t look right on the page. Both Simon and the image of him in the Chronicle are already early-modern, as is Luther, not medieval. In contrast, this older image of Aaron sets a more meditative mood for the post. Along with an image of Moses, the two brothers were used to frame the image of Mary and Child at the cathedral at Noyon. What you won’t get from the reproduction of the image at the official website of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York is the close-up pathos and closed up expression. Years back, I wrote about this image of Aaron and his brother-image here where I noted how easy they are to miss in the medieval galleries at the Met as they sit watching the spectacle of Christian life surrounding them.

A quick overview finds variant Christian accents to this discourse, caught as it is between toleration and subjugation and leading nowhere good for the Jews. By the year 1500 the Jews are pretty much chased out of western Europe, moving east into Poland and Hungary. Re-reading the material and preparing this post, a key term that struck out is the simple term “human.” I was not expecting to find it. Most of the reference is, of course, to human blood; but in one remarkable case, which you can easily find by scrolling down below with a word-search, the reference is to the “common bond” that Jews and Christians share. While I do not want to put a bow on it, I want to say that, in the round, the material that I gathered reflects a social intimacy between Christians and Jews that is bound up with anti-Jewish antipathy. We see this especially in the canon law texts. Keywords below in no particular order of interest are “blasphemy,” “tolerate,” “blood,” “woman” and “women,” “slave,” “nurse,” “Christian mercy,” “Christian piety,” “protection,” “synagogue,” “Talmud,” “scripture.”

Contents Below:

  1. Augustine Commentary to Psalm 59 (“Slay them not”) (on the tension between preserving
    Jewish lives and the harsh subjugation of the Jews until their conversion)

2.  Bishop of Speyer: Grant of Land & Privileges to the Jews, 1084

3. Mainz Anonymous (a Jewish chronicle from First Crusader massacres) (late 11th C., early12th C?)

3. Gratian’s Decretum (church law) (1140s)

4. Thomas of Monmouth (early text accusing Jews of the ritual murder by crucifixion of Christian children) (1173)

5. Ephraim ben Jacob (a letter responding to the accusation of ritual murder and blood libel),

6. Selections from Gesta Philippi Augusti (written by a monk on the expulsion of Jews from France, including libel about alleged Jewish enmity and hostile acts taken against Christian people and Christian sancta) (1181)

7. Pope Innocent III to King Philip Augustus of France against Jewish blasphemy (1205)

8. Selections from Fourth Lateran Council (restricting Jewish life) (1215)

9. Raymond of Penaforte, The Decretales (codification of papal decrees) (1230)

10. Frederick II defends and protects Jews against blood libel (1236)

11  Alexander of Hales, Summa Theologica (toleration of Jewish rites, etc)

12. Emperor Frederick II convenes secular and ecclesiastical authority, defends and protects the Jews against blood libel (1236)

13. Pope Innocent IV attacks Talmud (1244)

14. Pope Gregory X: Letter on tolerating Jewish life (1272)

15. Material on the Black Death, the accusation that Jews poisoned the wells to spread the
plague, and the burning of the Jews of Strasbourg (1348)

16. Selections from Martin Luther, On the Jews and their Lies 

[The texts are below]:   

Augustine, Commentary on Psalm 59

[The commentary is famous for the phrase, “Slay them Not” as part of a larger program subjugating the Jews to Christian truth. In the close reading of the Psalm, the suffering of the Passion is the major focal point, and the “men of bloods and strong men” who, for Augustine, are clearly the Jews and should not be imitated. Jesus on the cross has been made weak, like a hen. The text is about the punishment of sin and the remission of sin., God’s wrath and God’s patience, even with the Jews. Jesus would forgive his death having been slain by dead men and while that his suffering makes alive men who are dead. I am including what I believe is the whole commentary and putting in bold the most in/famous selections about subjugating without killing the Jews, and passages re: what Augustine looked forward to be the eventual conversion of the Jews –Zjb]

[Note: Paula Fredriksen cites but I cannot find an easy to use online copy: Maria Boulding. Exposition on Psalms. The Works of Saint Augustine. III/15-17 (Hyde Park, NY: New City Press, 2000. I therefore found an internet site, noted below. –ZJB]]  

Psalm 59

For the director of music. To the tune of “Do Not Destroy.” Of David. A miktam.[b] When Saul had sent men to watch David’s house in order to kill him.

Deliver me from my enemies, O God;
    be my fortress against those who are attacking me.
Deliver me from evildoers
    and save me from those who are after my blood.

See how they lie in wait for me!
    Fierce men conspire against me
    for no offense or sin of mine, Lord.
I have done no wrong, yet they are ready to attack me.
    Arise to help me; look on my plight!
You, Lord God Almighty,
    you who are the God of Israel,
rouse yourself to punish all the nations;
    show no mercy to wicked traitors.[c]

They return at evening,
    snarling like dogs,
    and prowl about the city.
See what they spew from their mouths—
    the words from their lips are sharp as swords,
    and they think, “Who can hear us?”
But you laugh at them, Lord;
    you scoff at all those nations.

You are my strength, I watch for you;
    you, God, are my fortress,
10     my God on whom I can rely.

God will go before me
    and will let me gloat over those who slander me.
11 But do not kill them, Lord our shield,[d]
    or my people will forget.
In your might uproot them
    and bring them down.
12 For the sins of their mouths,
    for the words of their lips,
    let them be caught in their pride.
For the curses and lies they utter,
13     consume them in your wrath,
    consume them till they are no more.
Then it will be known to the ends of the earth
    that God rules over Jacob.

14 They return at evening,
    snarling like dogs,
    and prowl about the city.
15 They wander about for food
    and howl if not satisfied.
16 But I will sing of your strength,
    in the morning I will sing of your love;
for you are my fortress,
    my refuge in times of trouble.

17 You are my strength, I sing praise to you;
    you, God, are my fortress,
    my God on whom I can rely.

The First Part.

1. As the Scripture is wont to set mysteries of the Psalms on the titles, and to deck the brow of a Psalm with the high announcement of a Mystery, in order that we that are about to go in may know (when as it were upon the door-post we have read what within is doing) either of whom the house is, or who is the owner of that estate: so also in this Psalm there has been written a title, of a title. For it has, At the end, corrupt not for David himself unto the inscription of the title. This is that which I have spoken of, title of Title. For what the inscription of this title is, which to be corrupted he forbids, the Gospel to us does indicate. For when the Lord was being crucified, a title by Pilate was inscribed and set, King ofthe Jews, Matthew 27:37 in three tongues, Hebrew, Greek, and Latin: John 19:20 which tongues in the whole world mostly do prevail….Therefore corrupt not is most proper and prophetic; since indeed even those Jews made suggestion at that time to Pilate, and said, Do not write King of the Jews, but write, that Himself said that He was King of the Jews: John 19:21 for this title, say they, has established Him King over us. And PilateWhat I have written, I have written. And there was fulfilled, corrupt not.

2. Nor is this the only Psalm which has an inscription of such sort, that the Title be not corrupted. Several Psalms thus are marked on the face, but however in all the Passion of the Lord is foretold. Therefore here also let us perceive the Lord’s Passion, and let there speak to us Christ, Head and Body. So always, or nearly always, let us hear the words of Christ from the Psalm, as that we look not only upon that Head, the one mediator between God and man, the Man Christ Jesus. 1 Timothy 2:5 …But let us think of Christ, Head and whole Body, a sort of entire Man. For to us is said, But you are the Body of Christ and members, 1 Corinthians 12:27 by the Apostle Paul. If therefore He is Head, we Body; whole Christ is Head and Body. For sometimes you find words which do not suit the Head, and unless you shall have attached them to the Body, your understanding will waver: again you find words which are proper for the Body, and Christ nevertheless is speaking. In that place we must have no fear lest a man be mistaken: for quickly he proceeds to adapt to the Head, that which he sees is not proper for the Body….

3. Let us hear, therefore, what follows: When Saul sent and guarded his house in order that he might kill him. This though not to the Cross of the Lord, yet to the Passion of the Lord does belong. For Crucified was Christ, and dead, and buried. That sepulchre was therefore as it were the house: to guard which the government of the Jews sent, when guards were set to the sepulchre of ChristMatthew 27:66 There is indeed a story in the Scripture of the Reigns, of the occasion when Saul sent to guard the house in order that he might kill David. 1 Samuel 19:11 …But in like manner as Saul effected not his purpose of slaying David: so this could not the government of the Jews effect, that the testimony of guards sleeping should avail more than that of Apostles watching. For what were the guards instructed to say? We give to you, they say, as much money as you please; and say ye, that while you were sleeping there came His disciples, and took Him away. Behold what sort of witnesses of falsehood against truth and the Resurrection of Christ, His enemies, through Saul figured, did produce. Enquire, O unbelief, of sleeping witnesses, let them reply to you of what was done in the tomb. Who, if they were sleeping, whence knew it? If watching, wherefore detained they not the thieves? Let him say therefore what follows.

4. Deliver me from mine enemies, my God, and from men rising up upon me, redeem Thou me Psalm 58:1. There has been done this thing in the flesh of Christ, it is being done in us also. For our enemies, to wit the devil and his angels, cease not to rise up upon us every day, and to wish to make sport of our weakness and our frailness, by deceptions, by suggestions, by temptations, and by snares of whatsoever sort to entangle us, while on earth we are still living. But let our voice watch unto God, and cry out in the members of Christ, under the Head that is in heaven, Deliver me from mine enemies, my God, and from men rising up upon me, redeem Thou me.

5. Deliver me from men working iniquity, and from men of bloods, save Thou me Psalm 58:2. They indeed were men of bloods, who slew the Just One, in whom no guilt they found: they were men of bloods, because when the foreigner washed his hands, and would have let go Christ, they cried, Crucify, Crucify: Matthew 27:23 they were men of bloods, on whom when there was being charged the crime of the blood of Christ, they made answer, giving it to their posterity to drink, His blood be upon us and upon our sons. Matthew 27:25 But neither against His Body did men of bloods cease to rise up; for even after the Resurrection and Ascension of Christ, the Church suffered persecutions, and she indeed first that grew out of the Jewish people, of which also our Apostles were. There at first Stephen was stonedActs 7:58 and received that of which he had his name. For Stephanus does signify a crown. Lowly stoned but highly crowned. Secondly, among the Gentiles rose up kingdoms of Gentiles, before that in them was fulfilled that which had been foretold, There shall adore Him all the kings of the earth, all nations shall serve Him: and there roared the fierceness of that kingdom against the witnesses of Christ: there was shed largely and frequently the blood of Martyrs: wherewith when it had been shed, being as it were sown, the field of the Church more productively put forth, and filled the whole world as we now behold. From these therefore, men of bloods, is delivered Christ, not only Head, but also Body. From men of bloods is delivered Christ, both from them that have been, and from them that are, and from them that are to be; there is delivered Christ, both He that has gone before, and He that is, and He that is to come. For Christ is the whole Body of Christ; and whatsoever good Christians that now are, and that have been before us, and that after us are to be, are an whole Christ, who is delivered from men of bloods; nor is this voice void, And from men of bloods save Thou me.

6. For behold they have hunted my soul….There have rushed upon me strong men Psalm 58:3. We must not however pass on from these strong men: diligently we must trace who are the strong men rising up. Strong men, upon whom but upon weak men, upon powerless men, upon men not strong? And praised nevertheless are the weak men, and condemned are the strong men. If it would be perceived who are strong men, at first the devil himself the Lord has called a strong man: No one, He says, is able to go into the house of a strong man, and to carry off his vessels, unless first he shall have bound the strong man. Matthew 12:29 He has bound therefore the strong man with the chains of His dominion: and his vessels He has carried off, and His own vessels has made them. For all unrighteous men were vessels of the devil….But there are among mankind certain strong men of a blameable and damnable strength, that are confident indeed, but on temporal felicity. That man does not seem to you to have been strong, of whom now from the Gospel Luke 12:16 has been read: how his estate brought forth abundance of fruits, and he being troubled, hit upon the design of rebuilding, so that, having pulled down his old barns, he should construct new ones more capacious, and, these having been finished, should say to his soulYou have many good things, soul, feast, be merry, be filled.…There are also other men strong, not because of riches, not because of the powers of the body, not because of any temporally pre-eminent power of station, but relying on their righteousness. This sort of strong men must be guarded against, feared, repulsed, not imitated: of men relying, I say, not on body, not on means, not on descent, not on honour; for all such things who would not see to be temporal, fleeting, falling, flying? But relying on their own righteousness….Wherefore, say they, does your Master eat with publicans and sinners? Matthew 9:11 O you strong men, to whom a Physician is not needful! This strength to soundness belongs not, but to insanity. For even than men frenzied nothing can be stronger, more mighty they are than whole men: but by how much greater their powers are, by so much nearer is their death. May God therefore turn away from our imitation these strong men….The same are therefore the strong men, that assailed Christ, commending their own justice. Hear ye these strong men: when certain men of Jerusalem were speaking, having been sent by them to take Christ, and not daring to take Him (because when he would, then was He taken, that truly was strong): Why therefore, say they, could ye not take Him? And they made answer, No one of men did ever so speak as He. And these strong men, Hath by any means any one of the Pharisees believed on Him, or any one of the Scribes, but this people knowing not the Law? John 7:45-49 They preferred themselves to the sick multitude, that was running to the Physician: whence but because they were themselves strong? And what is worse, by their strength, all the multitude also they brought over unto themselves, and slew the Physician of all….

7. What next? Neither iniquity is mine, nor sin mine, O Lord Psalm 58:4. There have rushed on indeed strong men on their own righteousness relying, they have rushed on, but sin in me they have not found. For truly those strong men, that is, as it were righteous men, on what account would they be able to persecute Christ, unless it were as if a sinner? But, however, let them look to it how strong they be, in the raging of fever not in the vigour of soundness: let them look to it how strong they be, and how as though just against an unrighteous man they have raged. But, however, neither iniquity is mine, nor sin mine, O Lord. Without iniquity I did run, and I was guided. Those strong men therefore could not follow me running: therefore a sinner they have deemed me, because my steps they have not seen.

8. Without iniquity I did run, and was guided; rise up to meet me, and see. To God is said this. But why? If He meet not, is He unable to see? It is just as if you were walking in a road, and from afar by some one you could not be recognised, you would call to him and would say, Meet me, and see how I am walking; for when from afar you espy me, my steps you are not able to see. So also unless God were to meet, would He not see how without iniquity he was guided, and how without sin he was running? This interpretation indeed we can also accept, namely, Rise up to meet me, as if help me. But that which he has added, and see, must be understood as, make it to be seen that I run, make it to be seen that I am guided: according to that figure wherein this also has been said to AbrahamNow I know that you fear God. Genesis 22:12 God says, Now I know: whence, but because I have made you to know? For unknown to himself every one is before the questioning of temptation: just as of himself Peter Matthew 26:35-69 in his confidence was ignorant, and by denying learned what kind of powers he had, in his very stumbling he perceived that it was falsely he had been confident: he wept, and in weeping he earned profitably to know what he was, and to be what he was not. Therefore Abraham when tried, became known to himself: and it was said by GodNow I know, that is, now I have made you to know. In like manner as glad is the day because it makes men glad; and sad is bitterness because it makes sad one tasting thereof: so God’s seeing is making to see. Rise up, therefore, he says, to meet me, and see Psalm 58:5. What is, and see? And help me, that is, in those men, in order that they may see my course, may follow me; let not that seem to them to be crooked which is straight, let not that seem to them to be curved which keeps the rule of truth.

9. Something else I am admonished to say in this place of the loftiness of our Head Himself: for He was made weak even unto death, and He took on Him the weakness of flesh, in order that the chickens of Jerusalem He might gather under His wings, like a hen showing herself weak with her little ones. Matthew 23:37 For have we not observed this thing in some bird at some time or other, even in those which build nests before our eyes, as the house-sparrows, as swallows, so to speak, our annual guests, as storks, as various sorts of birds, which before our eyes build nests, and hatch eggs, feed chickens, as the very doves which daily we see; and some bird to become weak with her chickens, have we not known, have we not looked upon, have we not seen? In what way does a hen experience this weakness? Surely a known fact I am speaking of, which in our sight is daily taking place. How her voice grows hoarse, how her whole body is made languid? The wings droop, the feathers are loosened, and you see around the chickens some sick thing, and this is maternal love which is found as weakness. Why was it therefore, but for this reason, that the Lord willed to be as a Hen, saying in the Holy ScriptureJerusalem, Jerusalem, how often have I willed to gather your sons, even as a hen her chickens under her wings, and you have not been willing. But He has gathered all nations, like as a hen her chickens….

10. And You, Lord God of virtues, God of Israel. Thou God of Israel, that art thought to be but God of one nation, which worships You, when all nations worship idols, Thou God of IsraelGive heed unto the visiting all nations. Fulfilled be that prophecy wherein Isaiah in Your person speaks to Your Church, Your holy City, that barren one of whom many more are the sons of Her forsaken than of her that has a husband. To Her indeed has been said, Rejoice, you barren, that bear not, Isaiah 54:1 etc., more than of the Jewish nation which has a Husband, which has received the Law, more than of that nation which had a visible king. For your king is hidden, and more sons to you there are by a hidden Bridegroom….The Prophet adds, Enlarge the place of Your tabernacle, and Your courts fix thou: there is no cause for you to spare, extend further your cords, and strong stakes set thou again and again on the right and on the left. Isaiah 54:2 Upon the right keep good men, on the left keep evil men, Matthew 25:33 until there come the fan: Matthew 3:12 occupy nevertheless all nations; bidden to the marriage be good men and evil men, filled be the marriage with guests; Matthew 22:9 it is the office of servants to bid, of the Lord to sever. Cities which had been forsaken You shall inhabit: Isaiah 54:3 forsaken of God, forsaken of Prophets, forsaken of Apostles, forsaken of the Gospel, full of demons. For You shall prevail; and blush not because abominable You have been. Therefore though there have risen up upon you strong men, blush not: when against the name of Christ laws were enacted, when ignominy and infamy it was to be a ChristianBlush not because abominable You have been: for confusion for everlasting You shall forget, of the ignominy of Your widowhood You shall not be mindful.

11. Have not pity upon all men that work iniquity. Here evidently He is terrifying. Whom would He not terrify? What man falling back upon his own conscience would not tremble? Which even if to itself it is conscious of godliness, strange if it be not in some sort conscious of iniquity. For whosoever does sin, also does iniquity. 1 John 3:4 For if You shall have marked iniquities, O Lord, what man shall abide it? And nevertheless a true saying it is, and not said to no purpose, and neither is nor will it be possible to be void, Have not pity upon all men that work iniquity. But He had pity even upon Paul, who at first as Saul wrought iniquity. For what good thing did he, whence he might deserve of God? Did he not hate His Saints unto death? Acts 9:1 did he not bear letters from the chief of the priests, to the end that wheresoever he might find Christians, to punishment he should hurry them? When bent upon this, when there proceeding, breathing and panting slaughter, as the Scripture testified of him, was he not from Heaven with a mighty voice summoned, thrown down, raised up; blinded, lightened; slain, made alive; destroyed, restored? In return for what merit? Let us say nothing; himself rather let us hear: I that before have been, he says, a blasphemer, and persecutor; and injurious, but mercy I have obtained. 1 Timothy 1:13 Surely You would not have pity upon all men that work iniquity: this in two ways may be understood: either that in fact not any sins does God leave unpunished; or that there is a sort of iniquity, on the workers whereof God has indeed no pity.

12. All iniquity, be it little or great, punished must needs be, either by man himself repenting, or by God avenging. For even he that repents punishes himself. Therefore, brethren, let us punish our own sins, if we seek the mercy of God. God cannot have mercy on all men working iniquity as if pandering to sins, or not rooting out sins. In a word, either you punish, or He punishes….

13. But let us see now another way in which this sentence may be understood. There is a certain iniquity, on the worker whereof it cannot be that God have mercy. You enquire, perchance, what that is? It is the defending of sins. When a man defends his sins, great iniquity he works: that thing he is defending which God hates. And see how perversely, how iniquitously. Whatever of good he has done, to himself he would have it to be ascribed; whatever of evil, to God. For in this manner men defend sins in the person of God, which is a worse sin….Therefore you defend your sin in such sort, that you lay blame on God. So the guilty is excused, so that the Judge may be charged. However on men working iniquity God has no pity at all.

14. Let them be converted at the evening Psalm 58:6. Of certain men he is speaking that were once workers of iniquity, and once darkness, being converted in the evening. What is, in the evening? Afterward. What is at the evening? Later. For before, before that they crucified Christ, they ought to have acknowledged their Physician. Wherefore, when He had been crucified — rising again, into Heaven ascending — after that He sent His Holy Spirit, wherewith were fulfilled they that were in one house, and they began to speak with the tongues of all nations, there feared the crucifiers of Christ; they were pricked through with their consciences, they besought counsel of safety from the Apostles, they heard, Repent, and be baptized each one of you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, and your sins shall be remitted unto you. Acts 2:38 After the slaying of Christ, after the shedding of the blood of Christ, remitted are your sins….Let these be converted, therefore, they also at evening. Let them yearn for the grace of God, perceive themselves to be sinners; let those strong men be made weak, those rich men be made poor, those just men acknowledge themselves sinners, those lions be made dogs. Let them be converted at evening, and suffer hunger as dogs. And they shall go around the city. What city? That world, which in certain places the Scripture calls the city of standing round: that is, because in all nations everywhere the world had encompassed the one nation of Jews, where such words were being spoken, and it was called the city of standing round. Around this city shall go those men, now having become hungry dogs. In what manner shall they go around? By preaching. Saul out of a wolf was made a dog at evening, that is, being late converted by the crumbs of his Lord, in His grace he ran, and went around the city.

15. Behold, themselves shall speak in their mouth, and a sword is on the lips of them Psalm 58:7. Here is that sword twice whetted, whereof the Apostle says, And the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. Ephesians 6:17 Wherefore twice whetted? Wherefore, but because smiting out of both Testaments? With this sword were slain those whereof it was said to Peter, Slay, and eat. Acts 10:13 And a sword is on the lips of them. For who has heard? They all speak in their mouth, Who has heard? That is, they shall be angry with men that are slow to believe. They that a little before were even themselves unwilling to believe, do feel disgust from men not believing. And truly, brethren, so it is. You see a man slow before he is made a Christian; you cry to him daily, hardly he is converted: suppose him to be converted, and then he would have all men to be Christians, and wonders that not yet they are. It has chanced out to him at evening to have been converted: but because he has been made hungering like a dog, he has also on his lips a sword; he says, Who has heard? What is, Who has heard? Who has believed our hearing, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? Isaiah 53:1 For who has heard? The Jews believe not: they have turned them to the nations, and have preached. The Jews did not believe; and nevertheless through believing Jews the Gospel went around the city, and they said, For who has heard? And You, Lord, shall deride them Psalm 58:8. All nations are to be Christian, and you say, Who has heard? What is, shall deride themAs nothing You shall esteem all nations. Nothing for You it shall be; because a most easy thing it will be for all nations to believe in You.

16. My strength to You I will keep Psalm 58:9. For those strong men have fallen for this reason; because their strength to You they have not kept: that is, they that upon me have risen up and rushed, on themselves have relied. But I my strength to You will keep: because if I withdraw, I fall; if I draw near, stronger I am made. For see, brethren, what there is in a human soul. It has not of itself light, has not of itself powers: but all that is fair in a soul, is virtue and wisdom: but it neither is wise for itself, nor strong for itself, nor itself is light to itself, nor itself is virtue to itself. There is a certain origin and fountain of virtue, there is a certain root of wisdom, there is a certain, so to speak, if this also must be said, region of unchangeable truth: from this the soul withdrawing is made dark, drawing near is made light. Draw near to Him, and be made light: because by withdrawing you are made dark. Therefore, my strength, I will keep to You: not from You will I withdraw, not on myself will I rely. My strength, to You I will keep: because, O God, my lifter up You are. For where was I, and where am I? Whence have You taken me up? What iniquities of mine have You remitted? Where was I lying? To what have I been raised up? I ought to have remembered these things: because in another Psalm is said, For my father and my mother have forsaken me, but the Lord has taken me unto Him.

17. My God, the mercy of Him shall come before me Psalm 58:10. Behold what is, My strength, to You I will keep: on myself I will in no ways at all rely. For what good thing have I brought, that you should have mercy on me, and should justify me? What in me have You found, save sins alone? Of Yours there is nothing else but the nature which Thou hast created: the other things are my own evil things which You have blotted out. I have not first risen up to You, but to awake me You have come: for His mercy shall come before me. Before that anything of good I shall do, His mercy shall come before me. What answer here shall the unhappy Pelagius make? My God has shown to me among mine enemies Psalm 58:11. How great mercy He has put forth concerning me, among mine enemies He has showed. Let one gathered compare himself with men forsaken, and one elect with men rejected: let the vessel of mercy compare itself with the vessels of wrath; and let it see how out of one lump God has made one vessel unto honour, another unto dishonour.

For so God, willing to show wrath, and to manifest His power, has brought in, in much patience, the vessels of wrath, which have been perfected unto perdition. Romans 9:22 And wherefore this? In order that He might make known His riches upon the vessels of mercy. If therefore vessels of wrath He has brought in, wherein He might make known His riches upon the vessels of mercy, most rightly has been said, His mercy shall come before me: My God has showed to me among mine enemies: that is however great mercy He has had concerning me, to me He has showed it among these men concerning whom He has not had mercy. For unless the debtor be in suspense, he is less grateful to him by whom the debt has been forgiven. My God has showed to me among mine enemies.

18. But of the enemies themselves what? Slay them not, lest sometime they forget Your law. He is making request for his enemies, he is fulfilling the commandment….Slay not them of whom the sins Thou slayest. But what is it to be slain? To forget the law of the Lord. It is real death, to go into the pit of sin; this indeed may be also understood of the Jews. Why of the JewsSlay not them, lest sometime they forget Your law? Those very enemies of mine, that have slain me, do not Thou slay. Let the nation of the Jews remain: certes conquered it has been by the Romans, certes effaced is the city of them, Jews are not admitted into their city, and yet Jews there are. For all those provinces by the Romans have been subjugated. Who now can distinguish the nations in the Roman empire the one from the other, inasmuch as all have become Romans and all are called Romans? The Jews nevertheless remain with a mark; nor in such sort conquered have they been, as that by the conquerors they have been swallowed up. Not without reason is there that Cain, on whom, when he had slain his brother, God set a mark in order that no one should slay him. Genesis 4:15 This is the mark which the Jews have: they hold fast by the remnant of their law, they are circumcised, they keep Sabbaths, they sacrifice the Passover; they eat unleavened bread. These are therefore Jews, they have not been slain, they are necessary to believing nations. Why so? In order that He may show to us among our enemies His mercy. My God has shown to me in mine enemies. He shows His mercy to the wild-olive grafted on branches that have been cut off because of pride. Behold where they lie, that were proud, behold where you have been grafted, that lied: and be not proud, lest you should deserve to be cut off.

19. Scatter them abroad in Your virtue Psalm 58:11. Now this thing has been done: throughout all nations there have been scattered abroad the Jews, witnesses of their own iniquity and our truth. They have themselves writings, out of which has been prophesied Christ, and we hold Christ. And if sometime perchance any heathen man shall have doubted, when we have told him the prophecies of Christ, at the clearness whereof he is amazed, and wondering has supposed that they were written by ourselves, then out of the copies of the Jews we prove, how this thing so long time before had been foretold. See after what sort by means of our enemies we confound other enemies. Scatter them abroad in Your virtue: take away from them virtue, take away from them their strength. And bring them down, my protector, O Lord. The transgressions of their mouth, the discourse of their lips: and let them be taken in their pride: and out of cursing and lying shall be declared consummations, in the anger of consummation, and they shall not be Psalm 58:12. Obscure words these are, and I fear lest they be not well instilled….

The Second Part.

1. For, behold, the Jews are enemies, whom this Psalm seems to imply; the law of God they hold, and therefore of them has been said, Slay not them, lest sometime they forget Your law: in order that the nation of Jews might remain, and by it remaining the number of Christians might increase. Throughout all nations they remain certainly, and Jews they are, nor have they ceased to be what they were: that is, this nation has not so yielded to Roman institutions, as to have lost the form of Jews; but has been subjected to the Romans so as that it still retains its own laws; which are the laws of God. But what in their case has been done? You tithe mint and cummin, and have forsaken the weightier matters of the law, mercy, and judgment, straining a gnat, but swallowing a camel. Matthew 23:23-24 This to them the Lord says. And in truth so they are; they hold the law, hold the Prophets; read all things, sing all things: the light of the Prophets therein they see not, which is Christ Jesus. Not only Him now they see not, when he is sitting in Heaven: but not even at that time saw they Him, when among them humble He was walking, and they were made guilty by shedding the blood of the Same; but not all. This even today we commend to the notice of your Love. Not all: because many of them were turned to Him whom they slew, and by believing on Him, they obtained pardon even for the shedding of His blood: and they have given an example for men; how they ought not to despair that sin of whatsoever kind would be remitted to them, since even the killing of Christ was remitted to them confessing….

2. What in them will You slay? The Crucify, Crucify, which they cried out, not them that cried out. For they willed to blot out, cut off, destroy Christ: but Thou, by raising to life Christ, whom they willed to destroy, dost slay the transgressions of their mouth, the discourse of their lips. For in that He whom they cried out should be destroyed, lives, they are taken with dread: and that He whom on earth they despised, in heaven is adored by all nations, they wonder: thus are there slain the transgressions of them, and the discourse of their lips. What is, let them be taken in their pride? Because to no purpose have strong men rushed on, and it has fallen out to them as it were to think themselves to have done somewhat, and they have prevailed against the Lord. They were able to crucify a man, weakness might prevail and virtue be slain; and they thought themselves somewhat, as it were strong men, as it were mighty men, as it were prevailing, as it were a lion prepared for prey, as it were fat bulls, as of them in another place he makes mention: Fat bulls have beset me. But what have they done in the case of Christ? Not life, but death they have slain….And what now has come to pass in those men that have been converted? For it was told to them that He whom they slew rose again. They believed Him to have risen again, because they saw that He, being in Heaven, thence sent the Holy Spirit, and filled those that on Him believed; and they found themselves to have condemned nought, and to have done nought. Their doing issued in emptiness, the sin remained. Because therefore the doing was made void, but the sin remained upon the doers; they were taken in their pride, they saw themselves under their iniquity. It remained therefore for them to confess the sin, and for Him to pardon, that had given Himself up to sinners, and to forgive His death, having been slain by men dead, and making alive men dead. They were taken therefore in their pride.

3. And out of cursing and lying shall be declared consummations, in anger of consummation, and they shall not be. This too with difficulty is understood, to what is joined the and they shall not be. What shall they not be? Let us therefore examine the context above: when they shall have been taken in their pridethere shall be declared out of cursing and lying consummations. What are consummations? Perfections: for to be consummated, is to be perfected. One thing it is to be consummated, another thing to be consumed. For a thing is consummated which is so finished as that it is perfected: a thing is consumed which is so finished that it is not. Pride would not suffer a man to be perfected, nothing so much hinders perfection. For let your Love attend a little to what I am saying; and see an evil very pernicious, very much to be guarded against. What sort of evil do ye think it is? How long could I enlarge upon how much evil there is in pride? The devil on that account alone is to be punished. Certes he is the chief of all sinners: certes he is the tempter to sin: to him is not ascribed adultery, not wine-bibbing, not fornication, not the robbing of others’ goods: by pride alone he fell. And since pride’s companion is envy, it must needs be that a proud man should envy….In a word, all vices in evil-doings are to be feared, pride in well-doings is more to be feared. It is no wonder, then, that so humble is the Apostle, as to say, When I am made weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:10 For lest he should himself be tempted by this sin, what sort of medicine does he say was applied to him against swelling by the Physician, who knew what He was healing? Lest by the greatness, he says, of the revelations I should be exalted, there was given to me a thorn of my flesh, the angel of Satan, to buffet me: wherefore thrice the Lord I besought, that it should depart from me: and He said to me, My grace is sufficient for you, for virtue in weakness is made perfect. 2 Corinthians 12:7-9 See what the consummations are. An Apostle, the teacher of Gentiles, father of the faithful through the Gospel, received a thorn of the flesh whereby he might be buffeted. Which of us would dare to say this, unless he had not been ashamed to confess this? For if we shall have said that Paul had not suffered this; while to him as it were honour we give, a liar we make him. But because truthful he is, and truth he has spoken; it behooves us to believe that there was given to him an angel of Satan, lest by the greatness of the revelations he should be exalted. Behold how much to be feared is the serpent of pride….

4. What is, in the anger of consummation shall be declared consummations? There is an anger of consummation, and there is an anger of consuming. For every vengeance of God is called anger: sometimes God avenges, to the end that He may make perfect; sometimes He avenges, to the end that He may condemn. How does He avenge, to the end that He may make perfect? He scourges every son whom He receives. Hebrews 12:6 How does He avenge, to the end that He may condemn? When He shall have set ungodly men on the left hand, and shall have said to them, Go into fire everlasting, that has been prepared for the devil and his angels. Matthew 25:41 This is the anger of consuming, not that of consummation. But there shall be declared consummations in the anger of consummation; it shall be preached by the Apostles, that where sin has abounded, grace shall much more abound, Romans 5:20 and the weakness of man has belonged to the healing of humility. Those men thinking of this, and finding out and confessing their iniquities, shall not be. Shall not be what? In their pride.

5. And they shall know how God shall have dominion of Jacob, and of the ends of the earth Psalm 58:13. For before they thought themselves just men, because the Jewish nation had received the Law, because it had kept the commandments of God: it is proved to them that it has not kept them, since in the very commandments of God Christ it perceived not, because blindness in part has happened to Israel. Romans 11:25 Even the Jews themselves see that they ought not to despise the Gentiles, of whom they deemed as of dogs and sinners. For just as alike they have been found in iniquity, so alike they will attain unto salvationNot only to Jews, says the Apostle, but also even to Gentiles. Romans 2:10 For to this end the Stone which the builders set at nought, has even been made for the Head of the corner, in order that two in itself It might join: for a corner does unite two walls. The Jews thought themselves exalted and great: of the Gentiles they thought as weak, as sinners, as the servants of demons, as the worshippers of idols, and yet in both was there iniquity. Even the Jews have been proved sinners; because there is none that does good, there is not even so much as one: they have laid down their pride, and have not envied the salvation of the Gentiles, because they have known their own and their weakness to be alike: and in the Corner Stone being united, they have together worshipped the Lord….

6. They shall be converted at evening Psalm 58:14: that is, even if late, that is, after the slaying of our Lord Jesus ChristThey shall be converted at evening: and hereafter they shall suffer hunger as dogs. But as dogs, not as sheep or calves: as dogs, as Gentiles, as sinners; because they too have known their sin that thought themselves righteous….It is a good thing therefore for a sinner to be humbled; and no one is more incurable than he that thinks himself whole. And they shall go around the city. Already we have explained city; it is the city of standing round; all nations.

7. They shall be scattered abroad in order that they may eat Psalm 58:15; that is, in order that they may gain others, in order that into their Body they may change believersBut if they shall not be filled, they shall murmur. Because above also he had spoken of the murmur of them, saying, For who has heard? And You, O Lord, he says, shall deride them, saying, Who has heard? Wherefore? Because, as nothing You shall count all nations. Let the Psalm be concluded. See ye the Corner Ephesians 2:20 exulting, now with both walls rejoicing. The Jews were proud, humbled they have been; Gentiles were despairing, raised up they have been: let them come to the Corner, there let them meet, there run together, there find the kiss of peace; from different parts let them come, but with differing not come, those of Circumcision, these of uncircumcision. Far apart were the walls, but before that to the Corner they came: but in the Corner let them hold themselves, and now let the whole Church from both walls, say what? But I will sing of Your power, and I will exult in the morning of Your mercy Psalm 58:16. In the morning when temptations have been overcome, in the morning when the night of this world shall have passed away; in the morning when no longer the lyings in wait of robbers and of the devil and of his angels we dread, in the morning when no longer by the lamp of prophecy we walk, but Himself the Word of God as it were a Sun we contemplate. And I will exult in the morning of Your mercy. With reason in another Psalm is said, In the morning I will stand by You, and I will meditate. With reason also of the Lord Himself the Resurrection was at dawn, that there should be fulfilled that which has been said in another Psalm, In the evening shall tarry weeping and in the morning exultation. For at even the disciples mourned our Lord Jesus Christ as dead, at dawn at Him rising again they exulted. For You have become my taker up, and my refuge in the day of my tribulation.

8. My Helper, to You I will pray, because Thou, O God, art my taker up Psalm 58:17. What was I, unless You succoured? How much despaired of was I, unless You healed? Where was I lying, unless You came to me? Certes with a huge wound I was endangered, but that wound of mine did call for an Almighty Physician. To an Almighty Physician nothing is incurable….Lastly, thinking of all good things whatsoever we may have, either in nature or in purpose, or in conversion itself, in faith, in hope, in charity, in good morals, in justice, in fear of God; all these to be only by His gifts, he has thus concluded: My God is my mercy: He being filled with the good things of God has not found what he might call his God, save his mercy. O name, under which no one must despair! If you say, my salvation, I perceive that He gives salvation; if you say, my refuge, I perceive that you take refuge in Him; if you say, my strength, I perceive that He gives to you strength: my mercy, is what? All that I am is of Your mercy….

Source. Translated by J.E. Tweed. From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, Vol. 8. Edited by Philip Schaff. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1888.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight.

Bishop of Speyer: Grant of Land & Privileges to the Jews (1084)

In the name of the Holy and Indivisible Trinity, I, Rudiger, surnamed Huozmann, Bishop of Speyer,

When I made the villa of Speyer into a town, thought I would increase the honor I was bestowing on the place if I brought in the Jews. Therefore I placed them outside the town and some way off from the houses of the rest of the citizens, and, lest they should be too easily disturbed by the insolence of the citizens, I surrounded them with a wall. Now the place of their habitation which I acquired justly (for in the first place I obtained the hill partly with money and partly by exchange, while I received the valley by way of gift from some heirs) that place, I say, I transferred to them on condition that they pay annually three and a half pounds of the money of Speyer for the use of the brethren. I have granted also to them within the district where they dwell, and from that district outside the town as far as the harbor, and within the harbor itself, full power to change gold and silver, and to buy and sell what they please. And I have also given them license to do this throughout the state. Besides this I have given them land of the church for a cemetery with rights of inheritance. This also I have added that if any Jew should at any time stay with them he shall pay no thelony. Then also just as the judge of the city hears cases between citizens, so the chief rabbi shall hear cases which arise between the Jews or against them. But if by chance he is unable to decide any of them they shall go to the bishop or his chamberlain. They shall maintain watches, guards, and fortifications about their district, the guards in common with our vassals. They may lawfully employ nurses and servants from among our people. Slaughtered meat which they may not eat according to their law they may lawfully sell to Christians, and Christians may lawfully buy it. Finally, to round out these concessions, I have granted that they may enjoy the same privileges as the Jews in any other city of Germany.

Lest any of my successors diminish this gift and concession, or constrain them to pay greater taxes, alleging that they have usurped these privileges, and have no episcopal warrant for them, I have left this charter as a suitable testimony of the said grant. And that this may never be forgotten, I have signed it, and confirmed it with my seal as may be seen below. Given on September 15th, 1084, etc.

Source: Roy C. Cave & Herbert H. Coulson, A Source Book for Medieval Economic History, (Milwaukee: The Bruce Publishing Co., 1936; reprint ed., New York: Biblo & Tannen, 1965), pp. 101-102.]


Mainz Anonymous (late 11th c, early 12th c.?) (a chronicle of First Crusader massacres, 1096)

I shall begin the narrative of past persecution -may the Lord protect us and all of Israel from future persecution.

In the year one thousand twenty-eight1 after the destruction of the Temple, this evil befell Israel. The noblemen and counts and the common people in the land of France united and decided to soar up like an eagle to wage war, and to clear a way to Jerusalem, the Holy City, and to come to the tomb of the crucified one, a rotting corpse that cannot avail and cannot save, being of no worth or significance.

They said to each other: “Look now, we are going to a distant country to make war against mighty kings and are endangering our lives to conquer the kingdoms which do not believe in the crucified one, when actually it is the Jews who murdered and crucified him.” They stirred up hatred against us in all quarters and declared that either we should accept their abominable faith or else they would annihilate us all, even infants and sucklings. The noblemen and common people placed an evil symbol-a vertical line over a horizontal one on their garments and special hats on their heads.

When the communities in the land of France3 heard this, they were gripped by fear and trembling, and they resorted to the custom of their ancestors. They wrote letters and dispatched messengers to all communities around the River Rhine, bidding them to proclaim fast days and seek mercy from God, that He might save them from hands of the enemy. When the letters reached the saints, the men of renown, the pillars of the universe in Mainz, they wrote to the land of France, saying: “All the communities have decreed a fast day. We have done our duty. May the Omnipresent One save us and you from all the trouble and affliction. We are greatly concerned about your well-being. As for ourselves, there is no great cause for fear. We have not heard a word of such matters, nor has it been hinted that our lives are threatened by the sword.

When the errant ones started arriving in this land [Rhineland], they sought money to buy bread. We gave it to them, applying to ourselves the verse: “Serve the king of Babylon, and live.'” All this, however, did not avail us. Because of our sins, whenever the errant ones arrived at a city, the local burghers would harass us, for they were at one with them in their intention to destroy vine and root all along their way to Jerusalem.

When the errant ones came, battalion after battalion like the army of Sennacherib,’ some of the noblemen in this kingdom declared: “Why do we sit? Let us join them, for every man who goes on this path and clears the way to the unholy grave of the crucified one will be fully qualified and ready for Hell. ” The errant ones gathered, the nobles and the commoners from all provinces, until they were as numerous as the sands of the sea. A proclamation was issued: “Whosoever kills a Jew will receive pardon for all his sins. ” There was a Count Dithmar there who said that he would not depart from this kingdom until he had slain one Jew; only then would he proceed on his journey.

When the holy community of Mainz learned of this, they decreed a fast day and cried out loudly to the Lord. Young and old alike fasted day and night, reciting prayers of lamentation in the morning and evening. Despite all of this, however, our God did not withhold His wrath from us. For the errant ones came with their insignia and banners before our homes, and, upon seeing one of us, they would pursue and pierce him with their lances-till we became afraid even to step on the thresholds of our homes.

On the eighth of lyar, on the Sabbath, the measure of justice began to fall upon us. The errant ones and the burghers first plotted against the holy men, the saints of the Most High, in Speyer, and they planned to seize all of them together in the synagogue. Told of this, the saints arose on Sabbath morning, prayed quickly, and departed from the synagogue. When the enemy saw that their plot to take them all captive together had been frustrated, they rose up against them and slew eleven of them. This was the beginning of the persecution, fulfilling the Biblical verse: “And at my sanctuary shall you begin.”

When Bishop John heard of this, he came with a large army and wholeheartedly aided the community, taking them indoors and rescuing them from the enemy. The bishop then took some of the burghers and cut off their hands, for he was a righteous man among the Gentiles, and the Omnipresent One used him as a means for our benefit and rescue.

Rabbi Moshe, the Parnass, son of Rabbi Yekuthiel, stood in the breach. He endangered himself for his fellow Jews. As a result of his efforts, all those who had been forcibly converted and had survived in Henry’s domain by fleeing to various places were enabled to return. And through the aid of the king, Bishop John enabled the remnant of the community of Speyer to take refuge in his fortified towns.

The Lord had mercy upon them for the sake of His Great Name, and the bishop concealed them until the enemies of the Name had passed. The Jews engaged in fasting, weeping, and lamentation, and began to despair greatly, for day after day the errant ones and the Gentiles and Emicho, may his bones be ground to dust, and the common people all gathered against them to capture and annihilate them. Through the efforts of Rabbi Moshe, the Parnass. Bishop John saved them, for the Lord had moved him to keep them alive without taking a bribe-for it was the Lord’s doing to grant us a vestige and a remnant by the bishop’s hand.

When the bad tidings reached Worms that some of the community of Speyer had been murdered, the Jews of Worms cried out to the Lord and wept in great and bitter lamentation. They saw that the decree had been issued in Heaven and that there way no escape and no recourse. The community then was divided into two groups: some fled to the bishop and sought refuge in his castles; others remained in their homes, for the burghers had given them false promises, which, like broken reed staffs, cause harm and do no good. For the burghers were in league with the errant ones in their intention to wipe out our people’s name and remnant. So they offered us false solace: “Do not fear them, for anyone who kills one of you –his life will be forfeit for you.” The Jews had nowhere to flee, as the Jewish community had entrusted all their money to their non-Jewish neighbor. It was for this very reason that their neighbors handed them over to the enemy.

On the tenth day of lyar, a Monday, they cunningly plotted against the Jews. They took a rotting corpse of thein, which had been buried thirty days previously, and bore it into the city, saying: “Look what the Jews have done to one of us. They took a Gentile, boiled him in water, and poured the water into our wells in order to poison us to death!” When the errant ones and burghers heard this, they cried out. They all assembled, anyone capable of drawing and bearing a sword, big and small, and declared: “Behold, the time has come to avenge him who was nailed to the wood, whom their forefathers slew. Now, let no remnant or vestige of them be allowed to escape, not even a babe or a suckling in the cradle.”

The enemy came and smote those who had remained at home –handsome lads, pretty and pleasant girls, old men and old women all extended their necks in martyrdom. Manumitted servants and maids were also slain in sanctification of the Eternally Awesome and Sublime Name of Him Who rules above and below, Who was and will be, Whose Name is Lord of Hosts, and Who is crowned with the graces of the Seventy-Two Names, He Who created the Torah nine hundred and seventy-four generations before the creation of the world; and there were twenty-six generations between the creation and Moses, father of the prophets, through whom the Torah was given-the same Moses who wrote in this Torah: “It is the Lord Whom you have chosen today,” etc.  It was for Him and His Torah that they were slain like oxen, and dragged through the marketplaces and streets like sheep to be slaughtered, and lay naked in the streets, for the foe stripped them and left them naked.

When· the survivors saw their brethren lying naked and the chaste daughters of Israel naked –under this great duress they yielded to the foe. For the errant ones had said that they would not leave a single survivor. So some of the Jews said: “Let us do their will for the time being, and then go and bury our brethren and also save our children from them.” For the enemy had already seized the few remaining children, thinking that perhaps they would be gained for their erroneous faith. But the children did not tum away from their Creator, and their hearts did not stray after the crucified one; but they clung to God-on-High.

Those of the community who had remained within the bishop’s chambers sent garments so that the dead might be clothed by those rescued, for the survivors were charitable people. The heads of the community remained there (in the bishop’s palace], and most of the community were spared initially. They sent words of comfort to the forced converts: “Do not fear and do not take to heart what you have done. If the Blessed Holy One saves us from our enemies, then we shall be with you in death and in life. But do not tum away from the Lord.”

On the twenty-third of Iyar, the errant ones and the burghers said: “Let us also take vengeance against those who have remained in the courtyard and chamber of the bishop.” People assembled from all the surrounding villages, together with the errant ones and the burghers, and they besieged and fought against them. A great battle was fought between the two groups until they captured the chambers where the children of the Sacred Covenant were sheltered. When they saw that the war was on every side by decree of the King of Kings, they justified Heaven’s judgment upon them, placed their trust in their Creator, and offered true sacrifices, taking their children and wholeheartedly slaughtering them in witness to the Oneness of the Venerated and Awesome Name. The notables of the community were slain there.

There was a man there by the name of Meshullam, son of Isaac, and he called out in a great voice to his beloved wife Mistress Zipporah and to all those present: “Hear me, adults and children! God gave me this son; my wife Zipporah bore him in her advanced age. His name is Isaac. I shall now offer him up as a sacrifice as our Father Abraham did his son Isaac.” His wife Zipporah said to him: “My lord, my lord, wait, do not yet move your hand toward the boy whom I have raised and brought up, whom I bore in my old age. Slaughter me first and let me not see the death of the child.””‘ He replied: “I shall not tarry even for a second. He Who gave him to us shall take him as His share and place him in the bosom of our Father Abraham.” He bound Isaac, his son, and took the knife in his hand to slaughter him, reciting the blessing for Ritual Slaughter. The boy responded: “Amen.” And he slaughtered the boy. He took his shrieking wife and together they left the room. The errant ones then slew them.

“Wilt Thou restrain Thyself for these things, 0 Lord?  Yet, with all this, His great wrath did not tum away from us!

There was a lad there named lsaac, son of Daniel. They asked him: “Do you wish to exchange your God for a disgusting idol?” He replied, “God forbid that I should deny Him. In Him I shall place my trust and I shall even yield up my soul to Him.” They put a rope around his neck and dragged him through the entire city in the muddy streets to the house of their idolatry. There was still some life in his frame when they said to him: “You can still be saved if you agree to change your religion.” Having already been strangled, he could not utter a word from his mouth, so he gestured with his finger to say: “Cut off my head.” And they slit his throat.

There was yet another youth there [in Worms], by the name of Simḥa ha-Cohen, son of our Master lsaac ha-Cohen, whom they sought to contaminate with their putrid water. They said to him: “Look, they have all been killed already and are lying naked.” The youth cleverly answered: “I will do all that you ask of me if you take me to the bishop.” So they took him and brought him to the bishop’s courtyard. The bishop’s nephew was there, too, and they began to invoke the name of the foul and disgusting scion and then left him in the bishop’s courtyard. The youth drew his knife, then gnashed his teeth, like a lion worrying his prey,  at the nobleman, the bishop’s kinsman; then he dashed at him and plunged the knife into his belly, and the man fell dead. Turning from there, he stabbed yet another two, until the knife broke in his hand. They fled in all directions. When they saw that his knife had broken, they attacked him and slew him. There was slain the youth who had sanctified the Name, doing what the rest of the community had not done slaying three uncircumcised ones with his knife.

The rest devotedly fasted daily and then endured martyrdom. They had wept for their families and their friends to the point of exhaustion, so that they were unable to fight against the enemy. They declared: “It is the decree of the King. Let us fall into the hand of the Lord, and let us go and behold the Great Light.” There they all fell attesting the Oneness of the Name.

A distinguished woman, named Mistress Mina, found refuge below the ground in a house outside the city. The people of the city gathered outside her hiding place and called: “Behold, you are a woman of valor. Perceive that God is no longer concerned with saving you, for the slain are lying naked in the open streets with no one to bury them. Yield to baptism.” They fell all over themselves entreating her, as they did not wish to slay her, for her fame had traveled far because the notables of her city and the nobles of the land used to frequent her company. But she answered by saying: “Heaven forfend that I should deny God-on-High. Slay me for Him and His Holy Torah, and do not tarry any longer.” There she was slain, she who was praised in the gates. They all were slain sanctifying the Name wholeheartedly and willingly, slaughtering one another: young men and maidens, old men and women, and babes, too, were sacrificed in sanctification of the Name.

Those specifically mentioned by name acted thus, and the others not mentioned by name even surpassed them in valor. What they did had never been witnessed by the eye of man. It is of them and the likes of them that it was said: “From mortals, by Your hand, 0 Lord; from mortals of this world, whose portion is in this life. . . . ” “Neither hath the eye seen a God beside Thee, Who worketh for him that waiteth for Him. ” They all fell by the hand of the Lord and returned to their rest, to the Great Light in the Garden of Eden. Behold, their souls are bound up till the time of the End in the bond of life with the Lord, God, Who created them.

When the saints, the pious ones of the Most High, the holy community of Mainz, heard that some of the community of Speyer had been slain and that the community of Worms had been attacked a second time, their spirits failed and their hearts melted and became as water. They cried out to the Lord: “Alas 0 Lord, God!” You completely annihilate the remnant of Israel? Where are all your wonders which our forefathers related to us, saying: ‘Did You not bring us up from Egypt, 0 Lord?’ But now You have forsaken us, delivering us into the hands of the Gentiles to destroy us!”

All the Jewish community leaders assembled and came before the bishop with his officers and servants, and said to them: “What shall we do about the news we have received regarding the slaughter of our brethren in Speyer and Worms?” They [the bishop and his follower replied: “Heed our advice and bring all your money into our treasury and into the treasury of the bishop. And you, your wives, sons, and all your belongings shall come into the courtyard of the bishop. Thou, will you be saved from the errant ones.” Actually, they gave this advice to herd us together and hold us like fish that are caught in an evil net and then tum us over to the enemy.  The bishop assembled his ministers, servants, and great noblemen in order to rescue us from the errant ones, for at first it had been his desire to save us, but in the end he turned against us.

One day a Gentile woman came, bringing a goose which she had raised since it was newborn. The goose would accompany the Gentile woman wherever she went, and the woman would call to all passerby, saying: “Look, the goose understands my intention to go straying and he desires to accompany me. ” The errant ones and burghers then gathered against us and said to us: “Where is He in Whom you place your trust? How will you be saved? See the wonders which the crucified one works for us.” And they all came with swords and lances to destroy us, but some of the burghers came and prevented them. At this point, the errant ones all united and battled the burghers on the bank of the River Rhine, until a Crusader was slain.

Seeing this the Crusaders cried out: “The Jews have caused this,” and nearly all of them reassembled.

When the holy people saw this, their hearts melted. The foe reviled and derided them, with the intention of falling upon them. Upon hearing their words, the Jews, old and young alike, said: “Would that our death might be by the hand of the Lord, so that we should not perish at the hands of the enemies of the Lord; for He is a Merciful God, the sole sovereign of the universe.”

They abandoned their houses; neither did they go to the synagogue save on the Sabbath. That was the final Sabbath before the evil decree befell us, when a small number of them entered the synagogue to pray; Rabbi Judah, son of Rabbi Isaac, also came there to pray on that Sabbath. They wept exceedingly, to the point of exhaustion, for they saw that it was a decree of the King of Kings.

A venerable student, Baruch, son of Isaac, was there, and he said to us: “Know that this decree has been issued against us in truth and honesty, and we cannot be saved; for this put night I _and my son-in-law Judah heard the souls praying here [in the synagogue] in a loud voice, like weeping.  When we heard the sound, we thought at tint that perhaps some of the community had come back from the court of the bishop to pray in the synagogue at midnight because of their anguish and bitterness of heart. We ran to the door of the synagogue, but it was closed. We heard the sound, but we understood nothing. We returned frightened to our house, for it was close to the synagogue. Upon hearing this, we cried out: ‘Alas, 0 Lord, God! Will You completely annihilate the remnant of Israel?'” Then they went and reported the occurrence to their brethren who were concealed in the court of the count and in the bishop’s chambers. Thereupon, they, too, wept exceedingly.

On the New Moon of Sivan, the wicked Emicho, may his bones be ground to dust between iron millstones, arrived outside the city with a mighty horde of errant ones and peasants, for he, too, had said: “I desire to follow the stray course.” He was the chief of all our oppressors. He showed no mercy to the aged or youths, or maidens, babes, or sucklings-not even the sick; and he made the people of the Lord like dust to be trodden underfoot, killing their young men by the sword and disemboweling their pregnant women.

They [the Crusaders] encamped outside the city for two days. The leaders of the community now said: “Let us send him money and give him letters of safe conduct, so that the communities along the route will honor him. Perhaps the Lord will intercede in His abundant grace.” For they had already given away their money, giving the bishop, the count, his officers and servants, and the burghers about four hundred halves to aid them [the Jews]. But it was of no avail whatever.

We were not even comparable to Sodom and Gomorrah, for in their case they were offered reprieve if they could produce at least ten righteous people, whereas in our case not twenty, not even ten, were sought.

On the third of the month of Sivan, the day on which Moses said: “Be ready against the third day -on that day the diadem of Israel fell. The students of the Torah fell, and the outstanding scholars passed away; ended was the glory of the Torah, and the radiance of wisdom came to an end. “He hath cast down from heaven unto the earth the splendor of Israel. 1143 Humility and the fear of sin ceased. Gone were the men of virtuous deed and purity, nullifiers of evil decrees and placaters of the wrath of their Creator.”” Diminished were the ranks of those who give charity in secret; gone was truth; gone were the explicators of the Word and the Law; fallen were the people of eminence, while the number of the shameless and insolent increased. Alas that they are gone! For since that day on which the Second Temple was destroyed, their like had not arisen, nor shall ·there be their like again. They sanctified the Name with all their heart and with all their soul and with all their might, happy are they.

At midday, the evil Emicho, may his bones be ground to dust, came with his entire horde. The townspeople opened the gate to him, and the enemies of the Lord said to one another: “Look, the gate has opened by itself; this the crucified one has done for us in order that we may avenge his blood on the Jews.” They then came with their banners to the bishop’s gate, where the people of the Sacred Covenant were assembled-a vast horde of them, as the sand upon the seashore. When the saints, the fearers of the Most High, saw this great multitude, they placed their trust in their Creator and clung to Him. They donned their armor and their weapons of war, adults and children alike, with Rabbi Kalonymos, son of Rabbi Meshullam, at their head.

There was a pious man there, one of the great men of the generation, Rabbi Menachem, son of Rabbi David, the Levite. He said to the entire community: “Sanctify the Venerable and Awesome Name with a willing heart.” They all answered as did the sons of our Father Jacob when he wished to reveal the time of the Final Redemption to his children but was prevented from doing so because the Divine Presence departed from him. Jacob then said: “Perhaps I have been found to have a defect, just like Abraham, my grandfather, or like my father Isaac.” And like our father, who, when they received the Torah at Mount Sinai at this season, promptly declared: “We shall do and obey,'”” so did the martyrs now declare in a great voice: “Hear, 0 Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One.”

And they all advanced toward the gate to fight against the errant ones and the burghers. The two sides fought against each other around the gate, but as a result of their transgressions the enemy overpowered them and captured the gate. The bishop’s people, who had promised to help them, being broken reed staffs, were the first to flee, so u to cause them to fall into the hands of the enemy.

The enemies now came into the courtyard and found Rabbi Isaac, son of Rabbi Moses, whom they smote with a stroke of the sword, slaying him. However, fifty-three souls fled with Rabbi Kalonymos via the bishop’s chambers, entered a long chamber called the sacristy, and remained there. The enemy entered the courtyard on the third day of Sivan, the third day of the week, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness-let darkness and the shadow of death claim it for their own, let God not inquire after it from above, nor let the light shine upon it. 0 Sun and Moon! Why did you not withhold your light? 0 stars, to whom Israel has been compared, and the twelve constellations, like the number of the tribes of Israel, the sons of Jacob-why was your light not withheld from shining for the enemy who sought to eradicate the name of Israel? Inquire and seek: was there ever such a mass sacrificial offering since the time of Adam?

When the people of the Sacred Covenant saw that the Heavenly decree had been issued and that the enemy had defeated them, they all cried out, young and old men, maidens, girls, children, menservants and maids, and wept for themselves and for their lives, saying: “Let us bear the. yoke of the Holy Creed, for now the enemy can slay us but by the lightest of the four deaths, which is the sword, and we shall then merit eternal life, and our souls will abide in the Garden of Eden, in the speculum of the Great Luminary.” They all then said with gladness of heart and with willing soul: “After all things, there is no questioning the ways of the Holy One, blessed be He and blessed be His Name, Who has given us His Torah and has commanded us to allow ourselves to be killed and slain in witness to the Oneness of His Holy Name. Happy are we if we fulfill His will, and happy is he who is slain or slaughtered and who dies attesting the Oneness of His Name. Such a one will not only be worthy of entering the World-to-Come and of sitting in the realm of the saints who are the pillars of the universe; he will also exchange a world of darkness for one of light, a world of sorrow for one of joy, a transitory world for an eternal world. 

And in a great voice they all cried out as one: “We need tarry no longer, for the enemy is already upon us. Let us hasten to offer ourselves as a sacrifice to our Father in Heaven. Anyone possessing a knife should slaughter us in sanctification of the One Name of the Everlasting One. Then this person should thrust his sword into either his throat or his stomach, slaughtering himself.” They all arose, man and woman alike, and slew one another. The young maidens, the brides and the bridegrooms looked out through the windows and cried out in a great voice: “Look and behold, 0 Lord, what we are doing to sanctify Thy Great Name, in order not to exchange Your Divinity for a crucified scion who was despised, abominated, and held in contempt in his own generation, a bastard son conceived by a menstruating and wanton woman. ” They were all slaughtered, and the blood of the slaughter  into the chamber where the children of the Sacred Covenant had taken refuge. They lay in rows, babes and aged men together, gurgling in their throats in the manner of slaughtered sheep.

“Wilt Thou restrain Thyself for these things, 0 Lord?” Avenge the spilt blood of Your servants! Let one and all behold –has the like of this ever occurred? For they all vied with one another, each with his fellow, saying: “I shall be the first to sanctify the Name of the Supreme King of Kings.” The saintly women threw their money outside in order to delay the enemy, until they had slaughtered their children. The hands of compassionate women strangled their children in order to do the will of their Master, and they turned the faces of their tender, lifeless children toward the Gentiles.

When the enemy came into the chambers, they smashed the door and found the Jews writhing and rolling in blood; and the enemy took their money, stripped them naked, and slew those still alive, leaving neither a vestige nor a remnant. Thus they did in all the chamber where children of the Sacred Covenant were to be found. But one room remained which was somewhat difficult to break into, and the enemy fought over it till nightfall.

When the saints saw that the enemy was prevailing over them, they rose up, men and women alike, and slaughtered the children, and then slaughtered one another. Some of them fell upon their swords and perished, and others were slaughtered with their own swords or knives. The righteous women hurled stones from the windows on the enemy, and the enemy threw rocks back at them. The women were struck by the stones, and their bodies and faces were completely bruised and cut. They taunted and reviled the errant ones with the name of the crucified, despicable, and abominable son of harlotry, saying: “In whom do you place your trust? In a putrid corpse!” The misled ones then approached to smash the door.

There was a distinguished young woman there named Mistress Rachel, daughter of Isaac, son of Asher, who said to her friend: “Four children have I. Have no mercy on them either, lest those uncircumcised ones come and seize them alive and raise them in their ways of error. In my children, too, shall you sanctify the Holy Name of God.” One, of her friends came and took the knife. When Rachel saw the knife, she cried loudly and bitterly and smote her face, crying and saying:  “Where is Your grace, 0 Lord?” She [the friend] then took Rachel’s little son Isaac, who was a delightful boy, and slaughtered him. She [Rachel] had spread her sleeves between the two brothers and said to her friend: “Upon your life do not slaughter Isaac before Aaron.” The lad Aaron, upon seeing that his brother had been slaughtered, cried: “Mother, mother, do not slaughter me,” and fled, hiding under a box. Rachel then took her two daughters, Bella and Madrona, and sacrificed them to the Lord, God of Hosts, Who commanded us not to depart from His pure doctrine, and to remain wholehearted with Him.

When this pious woman had completed sacrificing three of her children to our Creator, she raised her voice and called to her son Aaron: “Aaron, where are you? I will not spare you either, or have mercy on you.” She drew him out by his feet from under the box where he had hidden, and slaughtered him before the Exalted and Lofty God. Rachel then placed them in her two sleeves, two children on one side and two on the other, beside her stomach, and they quivered beside her until finally the errant ones captured the chamber and found her sitting and lamenting over them. They said to her: “Show us the money you have in your sleeves”; but when they saw the slaughtered children, they smote and killed her upon them.

It is of her that it was said: ”The mother was dashed in pieces with her children.” She perished with them, as did that righteous woman who perished with her seven sons, and it is of her that it was said: ”The mother of the children rejoices. “

The errant ones slew all those who were inside and stripped them naked as they still quivered and writhed in their blood. “See, 0 Lord, and behold, how abject I am become.” Then they threw them out of the rooms, through the windows, naked, creating mounds upon mounds, heaps upon heaps, until they appeared as a high mountain. Many of the children of the Sacred Covenant were still alive when they were thus thrown, and they gestured with their finger: “Give us water to drink.” When the errant ones saw this, they asked: “Is it your desire to deme yourselves?” The victims shook their heads in refusal and gazed upward to their Father in Heaven, thus saying no, and pointed with their fingers to the Blessed Holy One, whereupon the errant ones slew them.

Such were the deeds of those that have been cited by name. As for the rest of the community, how much more did they do to attest the Oneness of the Holy Name, and all of them fell into the hand of the Lord.

The errant ones then began to rage tumultuously in the name of the crucified one. They raised their banner and proceeded to the remainder of the community, in the courtyard of the count’s fortress. They besieged them, too, and warred against them until they had taken the gatehouse of the courtyard and slew some of them as well. A man was there, named Moses, son of Ḥelbo. He called his two sons and said to them: “My sons, Ḥelbo and Simon, at this hour Gehenna is open and the Garden of Eden is open. Which of the two do you desire to enter?” They replied, saying: “Lead us into the Garden of Eden.” They extended their throats, and the enemy smote them, father and sons together.

There was also a Torah Scroll in the room; the errant ones came into the room, found it, and tore it to shreds. When the holy and pure women, daughters of kings, saw that the Torah had been torn, they called in a loud voice to their husbands: “Look, see, the Holy Torah –it is being tom by the enemy!” And they all said, men and women together: “Alas, the Holy Torah, the perfection of beauty, the delight of our eyes, to which we used to bow In the synagogue, kissing and honoring it! How has it now fallen into the hands of the impure uncircumcised ones?”

When the men heard the words of these pious women, they were moved with zeal for the Lord, our God, and for His holy and precious Torah. One young man, by the name of David, son of our Master Rabbi Menaḥem, said to them: “My brethren, rend your garments’° for the honor of the Torah!” They then rent their garments in accordance with the instructions of our Sages.

They found an errant one in one of the rooms, and all of them, men and women, threw stones at him till he fell dead. When the burghers and the errant ones saw that he had died, they fought against them. They went up on the roof of the house in which the children of the Covenant were; they shattered the roof, shot arrows at them, and pierced them with spears.

There was a man [there] by the name of Jacob, son of Sullam, who was not of distinguished lineage and whose mother was not of Jewish origin. He called out in a loud voice to all those that stood about him: “All my life, until now, you have scorned me, but now I shall slaughter myself.” He then slaughtered himself in the name of Him Who is called Mighty of Mighties. Whose Name is Lord of Hosts.

Another man was there, Samuel the Elder, son of Mordecai. He, too, sanctified the Name. He took his knife and plunged it into his stomach, spilling his innards onto the ground. He called to all those standing about him and declared: “Behold, my brothers, what I shall do for the sanctification of the Eternally Living One.” Thus did the elder perish, attesting the Oneness of God’s Name and In sanctification of God-fear.

The errant ones and the burghers now departed from there and entered the city, and they came to a certain courtyard where David, the Gabbai, son of Nathaniel, was hiding together with his wife, children, and his entire household-the courtyard of a certain priest. The priest said to him: “Behold, not a vestige or remnant has survived in the bishop’s courtyard or the count’s. They have all been slain, cast away, and trampled underfoot in the streets-except for the few who were profaned. Do as they did, that you may be saved-you, your money, and your entire household-from the errant ones.

The God-fearing man replied: “Go to the errant ones and to the burghers and tell them all to come to me.” When the priest heard the words of Master David, the Gabbai, he rejoiced greatly, for he thought: “Such a distinguished Jew has consented to give heed to our words.” He ran to them and related the words of the righteous man. They, too, rejoiced greatly and gathered about the house by the thousands and myriads. When the righteous man saw them, he placed his trust in his Creator and called out to them, saying: “Alas, you are children of whoredom, believing as you do in one born of whoredom. As for me –I believe in the Eternally Living God Who dwells in the lofty heavens. In Him have I trusted to this day and in Him will I trust until my soul departs. If you slay me, my soul will abide in the Garden of Eden-in the light of life. You, however, descend to the deep pit, to eternal obloquy, condemned together with your deity-the son of promiscuity, the crucified one!”

Upon hearing the words of the pious man, they flew into a rage. They raised their banners and encamped around the house and began to cry out and shout in the name of the crucified one. They advanced toward him and slew him, his pious wife, his sons, his son-in-law, and his entire household and kin-all of them were slain there in sanctification of the Name. There the righteous man fell, together with the members of his household.

Then they turned and came to the house of Samuel, son of Naaman; he, too, sanctified the Holy Name. They gathered around his house, for he alone of the entire community had remained at home. They asked him to allow himself to be defiled with their putrid and profane water. He placed his trust in his Creator, he and all those with him, and they did not give heed to them [the Crusaders]. The enemy slew them all and cast them out through the windows.

 Those who have been cited by name performed these acts. As to the rest of the community and their leaden-I have no knowledge to what extent they attested the Oneness of the Name of the King of Kings, the Holy One, blessed be He and blessed be His Name, like Rabbi Akiba and his companions.

May the Lord rescue us from this exile.

[source: Shlomo Eidelberg (trans. & ed.), The Jews and the Crusaders: The Hebrew Chronicles of the First and Second Crusades, pp.99-115]

GRATIAN’S DECRETUM (statement of Church law) (1140s)


Canon III Others are to be invited to the faith not by harsh means, but by gentle words.

Pope Gregory to Pascasius, bishop of Naples: Those who sincerely wish to lead people who stand outside the Christian religion into the proper faith should strive to do so by gentle means rather than by harsh means, lest adversity alienate the mind of those whom a reasonable argument would have been able to attract. For those who do otherwise and wish to force them, under such pretext, from the customary observance of their rite are seen clearly to attend to their own affairs more intently than those of God.

Certain Jews living in Naples have beseeched us claiming that some Christians have improperly attempted to hinder them from certain observances of their festivals, so that they not be permitted to practice the observances of their festivals, as they and their ancestors have been permitted to do for a long time. If this be true, then those Christians seem to be acting in vain. For of what use is it when-although they are prohibited in defiance of long usage-there is no profit toward the conversion of faith? Why should we establish rules for the Jews as to how they should observe their ceremonies, if through such rules we are unable to afford them gain? We should therefore behave in such a way that, appealed to by reason and mildness, they wish to follow us and not, to flee, so that, showing them what we learn from their books, we might, with the help of God, be able to convert them to the bosom of the Mother Church. Therefore you must, as fully as possible, with the help of God, move them to convert by admonitions without permitting them to be disturbed again concerning their observances. Rather they must have the full right of observing and celebrating all their festivals and holidays as both they and their ancestors have had for a long time past…

Canon V 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 s;;tved in faith by the conversion of his own spirit. Thus, in order that they be converted by the free exercise of will and not by force, they are to be persuaded but not impelled. However, as for those who have already been forced into Christianity, as was done at the time of the most pious Prince Siseburt, since it is manifest that they have linked themselves with the divine sacraments and have accepted the grace of baptism and have been anointed with the oil and have been participants in the body of the Lord, it is necessary that they be forced to uphold the faith which they accepted under duress or by necessity, lest the name of the Lord be brought into disrepute and the faith which they accepted be held vile and contemptible.


Canon XIII This then is to be observed, since a lord and his slave should be of the same faith. Moreover, if a Jew purchases a Christian slave, the slave should be set free by the authority of the Judge or bishop, even if the slave himself is unwilling.

Whence Pope Gregory to Bishop Libertinus: Christian slaves purchased by Jews should be set free. You must set free, according to the precepts of the law and without delay, Christian slaves whom a Jew happens to purchase, lest-Heaven forbid!-the Christian religion be defiled by being subject to the Jews.

Canon XIV Public offices should not be committed to Jews.

From foe Third Toledan Council

No public office shall be accorded to the Jews, offices through which opportunity might be accorded them to inflict harm upon Christians. If any Christians are defiled by them into the Jewish rite or circumcised, they shall be set free and returned to the Christian faith, without anyprice paid.

Canon XV Pope Gregory indicated to Fortuna/us, bishop of Naples, what should be done concerning those who, sold as infidels, desire to enter the grace of baptism:

Slaves who proceed from infidelity to faith are to be set free. It is necessary that you be concerned, if, in place of the servitude of the Jews, not only a Jew but also a pagan wishes to become Christian, that-after his desire is clear-there be no opportunity of selling him on some pretext or subterfuge to another Jew. Rather he who desires to be converted to the Christian faith shall be set free in all ways through your protection.

Indeed it is necessary that you protect carefully those who happen to lose their slaves, lest they perhaps consider that their well-being has been improperly harmed. Thus, if it happens that pagans, whom the Jews buy from foreign lands for the sake of trade and for whom a buyer to whom they might be sold is not found within three months, flee to the Church and say that they wish to become Christians or proclaim such a desire outside the Church, then they shall receive their price from a Christian buyer. If, however, after the aforesaid three months, any of the slaves of the Jews shall declare his will and wishes to become a Christian, then no one shall purchase him, nor shall his master under any circumstances dare to sell him. Rather he shall undoubtedly receive the gift of liberty, since it is assumed that he bought him not for commerce, but for serving him.

Canon XVI The same to Januarius, bishop of Cagliari.

If a slave of the Jews flees to a holy place because of faith, you shall not allow him to sustain damage. Rather, whether already Christian or just now baptized, he shall by all means be set free, through the proper protection of ecclesiastical piety, without any harm to the Christian poor. 

Canon XVII Also from the Twelfth Toledan Council.

If the slaves of the Jews, not yet converted, flock to the grace of Christ, they shall be granted liberty.

Canon XVIII From the Council of Macon.

In the present council, by the authority of God, we ordain that no Christian slave shall henceforth serve a Jew. Rather, when twelve shillings have been paid for each fit slave, any Christian shall have the right of purchasing that slave, either for release or for servitude. If a slave wishes to become a Christian and is not permitted to do so he shall do likewise, since it is abominable that a blasphemer of the Christian faith hold in chains one whom the Lord Christ redeemed by the spilling of his blood.

If any Jew does not wish to agree to these things which we have enacted, so long as he postpones agreement to the set sum, that slave is permitted to live with Christians wherever he wishes.


Canon XXV Heretics, Jews, and pagans may not accuse Christians.

Pope Gaius to Bishop Felix: Pagans or heretics or Jews may not accuse Christians or impute against them a charge of infamy.


Canon X It is found to the contrary in the Fourth Council.

Unless a Jew joins the faith, he is to be separated from his Christian mate. Jews who hold Christian girls in matrimony should be admonished by the bishop of the city that, if they wish to remain with them, they must become Christians. If, once admonished, they refuse, they are to be separated, since an infidel cannot remain in union with one who has already been brought into the Christian faith. Moreover, children who are born from such parents are to follow the faith and condition of the mother. Likewise those who are born of infidel women and Christian men are to follow the Christian faith, rather than the Jewish superstition.

Canon XI Indeed this is decreed lest, while the Christian seeks the salvation of the infidel, he along with the infidel shall find the damnation of infidelity.

Whence in the same council it was decreed concerning the children of Jews as well as others coming into the faith that they leave the society of infidels. Christians are to be removed from the fellowship of parents, lest they become entrapped in their errors. We order that the sons and daughters of Jews be removed from the fellowship of their parents. They are instead to be sent to monasteries or to God-fearing Christian women or men, so that through contact with them they may become acquainted with the religion of faith and, better instructed in manners and in faith, they may improve themselves.

Canon XII Nothing is to be shared between Jews coming into the faith and infidels.

In the same council: Fellowship with the wicked can often corrupt the good, especially those inclined toward vice. There is therefore to be no contact between Jews brought into the Christian faith and those who still remain in the old rite, lest they be subverted by contact with them. Therefore henceforth any of those who have been baptized and who do not shun the company of infidels are to be turned over to Christians and those infidels are to be condemned to public flogging.

Canon XIII One is not to dine with Jews, to live with Jews, nor to accept medicine from them.

From the Sixth Toledan Council: No one who is in sacred orders or a layman shall eat their unleavened bread nor live with them nor call any of them in illness nor accept medicine from them nor bathe with them. If anyone do so-if he is a cleric, he should be deposed; if he is a layman, he should be excommunicated.

Canon XIV Clerics and laymen should avoid the friendship of Jews and should not receive them at their gatherings.

From the Council of Agde: All clerics and laymen should avoid the fellowship of the Jews nor

should anyone receive them in fellowship. For, since they do not associate with Christians in common meals, it is improper and sacrilegious that their bread be consumed by Christians. For those foods which we eat with the Apostle’s permission are judged impure by them. Thus Christians will begin to be inferior to Jews, if we use those foods which are offered by them, while they disdain foods offered by us…

Canon XV Thus also Ambrosius in his Book of Patriarchs.

Christians are not to be joined in wedlock with infidels. Beware, 0 Christian, of giving your daughter to a Gentile or to a Jew. Beware, it is said, of seeking for yourself a Gentile or a Jewess or a stranger, i.e., a heretic, or anyone foreign to your faith as a wife. If the woman is Christian, it is not sufficient, unless you are both initiated by the sacrament of baptism. Likewise you are to arise at night for prayer, and God is to be beseeched in joint supplication…

Canon XVII He who associates himself by conjugal bond to Jewish depravity shall be cut off

From the Council of Auverne: If anyone joins himself by conjugal bond to Jewish depravity, whether a Christian female is joined by carnal bond to a Jew or a Jewess to a Christian male, and is known to admit such a misdeed, he shall be excluded from Christian assembly and society and from the communion of the Church.


Canon XCIII For how many months Jews are to be held among the catechumens.

From the Council of Agde: when Jews, whose perfidy often leads back to their vomit, wish to enter the Christian fold, they shall enter for eight months among the catechumens of the Church. If they are known to enter in pure faith, only then shall they merit the grace of baptism. However, if for any reason they incur the danger of illness during the set time and are desperate, they may be baptized.

Canon XCIV Concerning the many Jews frequently returning to Judaism.

From the Fifth Toledan Council: Many Jews who were formerly moved to the Christian faith, now blaspheming Christ, are known not only to observe Jewish rites, but also to commit abominable circumcision. Concerning such persons the Sacred Council, with the advice of our most pious and religious lord, King Sisemand, decrees that such transgressors, corrected by pontifical authority, shall be brought back into the cult of Christian dignity and that clerical censure shall coerce those who are not converted by their own volition. Moreover, those whom they circumcised, if their children, they are to be separated from the company of their parents; if servants, they are to be awarded freedom because of the injury to their bodies …

[Source: Robert Chazan, Church, State, and Jew in the Middle Ages, 20-6]

Expulsion of the Jews from France (1181)

(Not to be confused with expulsion of France in 1306) According to Marcus: It is taken from the Gesta Philippi Augusti, a contemporary Latin history written by the monk Rigord, who began writing his chronicle about 1186]

[Philip Augustus had often heard] that the Jews who dwelt in Paris were wont every year on Easter day, or during the sacred week of our Lord’s Passion, to go down secretly into underground vaults and kill a Christian as a sort of sacrifice in contempt of the Christian religion. For a long time they had persisted in this wickedness, inspired by the devil, and in Philip’s father’s time, many of them had been seized and burned with fi re. St. Richard [of Pontoise], whose body rests in the church of the Holy Innocents-in-the-Fields in Paris, was thus put to death and crucified by the Jews, and through martyrdom went in blessedness to God.1 Wherefore many miracles have been wrought by the hand of God through the prayers and intercessions of St. Richard, to the glory of God, as we have heard.

And because the most Christian King Philip inquired diligently, and came to know full well these and many other iniquities of the Jews in his forefathers’ days, therefore he burned with zeal, and in the same year in which he was invested at Rheims with the holy governance of the kingdom of the French, upon a Sabbath, the sixteenth of February [1180], by his command, the Jews throughout all France were seized in their synagogues and then despoiled of their gold and silver and garments, as the Jews themselves had despoiled the Egyptians at their exodus from Egypt [cf. Exod. 12:36ƪ]. This was a harbinger of their expulsion, which by God’s will soon followed. . . .

At this time [1180-1181] a great multitude of Jews had been dwelling in France for a long time past, for they had flocked there from various ends of the world, because peace abode among the French, and liberality; for the Jews had heard how the kings of the French were prompt to act against their enemies, and were very merciful toward their subjects. And therefore their elders and men wise in the law of Moses, who were called by the Jews didascali [teachers], made resolve to come to Paris.

When they had made a long sojourn there, they grew so rich that they claimed as their own almost half of the whole city, and had Christians in their houses as menservants and maidservants, who were open backsliders from the faith of Jesus Christ, and judaized with the Jews. And this was contrary to the decree of God and the law of the Church. And whereas the Lord had said by the mouth of Moses in Deuteronomy, “You shall not lend upon usury to thy brother,” but “to a stranger” (Deut. 23: 20-21), the Jews in their wickedness understood by “stranger” every Christian, and they took from the Christians their money at usury. And so heavily burdened in this wise were citizens and soldiers and peasants in the suburbs, and in the various towns and villages, that many of them were constrained to part with their possessions. Others were bound under oath in houses of the Jews in Paris, held as if captives in prison.

The most Christian King Philip heard of these things, and compassion was stirred within him. He took counsel with a certain hermit, Bernard [of Coudray] by name, a holy and religious man, who at that time dwelt in the forest of Vincennes, and asked him what he should do. By his advice the King released all Christians of his kingdom from their debts to the Jews, and kept a fifth part of the whole amount for himself.

Finally came the culmination of their wickedness. Certain ecclesiastical vessels consecrated to God – the chalices and crosses of gold and silver bearing the image of our Lord Jesus Christ crucified – had been pledged to the Jews by way of security when the need of the churches was pressing. Th ese they used so vilely, in their impiety and scorn of the Christian religion, that from the cups in which the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ was consecrated they gave their children cakes soaked in wine.

In the year of our Lord’s Incarnation 1181, in the month of April, which is called by the Jews Nisan, an edict went forth from the most serene king, Philip Augustus, that all the Jews of his kingdom should be prepared to go forth by the coming feast of St. John the Baptist [ June 24]. And then the King gave them leave to sell each his movable goods before the time fixed, that is, the feast of St. John the Baptist. But their real estate, that is, houses, fields, vineyards, barns, winepresses, and such like, he reserved for himself and his successors, the kings of the French.

When the faithless Jews heard this edict some of them were born again of water and the Holy Spirit and converted to the Lord, remaining steadfast in the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ. To them the King, out of regard for the Christian religion, restored all their possessions in their entirety, and gave them perpetual liberty.

Others were blinded by their ancient error and persisted in their perfidy; and they sought to win with gift s and golden promises the great of the land – counts, barons, archbishops, bishops – that through their influence and advice, and through the promise of infinite wealth, they might turn the King’s mind from his firm intention. But the merciful and compassionate God, who does not forsake those who put their hope in Him and who doth humble those who glory in their strength . . . so fortified the illustrious King that he could not be moved by prayers nor promises of temporal things.

The infidel Jews, perceiving that the great of the land, through whom they had been accustomed easily to bend the King’s predecessors to their will, had suffered repulse, and astonished and stupefied by the strength of mind of Philip the King and his constancy in the Lord, exclaimed with a certain admiration: “Shema Yisra’el!” [that is, “Hear, O Israel”] and prepared to sell all their household goods. The time was now at hand when the King had ordered them to leave France altogether, and it could not be in any way prolonged. Then did the Jews sell all their movable possessions in great haste, while their landed property reverted to the crown. Thus the Jews, having sold their goods and taken the price for the expenses of their journey, departed with their wives and children and all their households in the aforesaid year of the Lord 1182.

[[SOURCE: Jacob Marcus, The Jew in the Medieval World: A Sourcebook, 315-1791, (New York: JPS, 1938), 24-27]



Thomas of Monmouth, The Accusation of the Ritual Murder of St. William of Norwich (1173)

See the Catholic Encyclopedia [1913] article William of Norwich for much background information. [Note that this article, while rejecting the Ritual Murder and Blood Libels, does end by suggesting that some of the cases were based on real incidents.]

[Marcus’ introduction] Medieval Christians (and some modern ones, too) believed that Christian children were seized and tortured to death by the Jews during the Passover season. This myth appears in a complete form for the first time in The Life and Miracles of St. William of Norwich, a Latin work written about 1173 by Thomas of Monmouth, a contemporary of the events which he relates. The story of the ritual murder of the boy William in 1144 is virtually the first of a long series of such accusations, a series that has not yet come to an end. The significance of these accusations is that by such descriptions of the Jew they have served throughout the ages to create an anti-Jewish mentality. Generations have believed that no Christian child was safe in Jewish hands. Hundreds of Jews have been imprisoned, killed, or burnt alive on this charge. The Papacy has frequently denounced this charge, yet it is equally true that in numerous instances the accusation of ritual murder was not made except with the vigorous support of the local Church authorities.

The author, Thomas of Monmouth, a monk in the Norwich Benedictine monastery, was an exceedingly credulous person. Dr. Jessopp of Norwich, one of the editors of Thomas’ work, believes that our monkish author belongs to the class of those who are “deceivers and being deceived.”

In the specific case of William of Norwich, the evidence, critically sifted leads one to believe that he actually existed and that his body was found after he had died a violent death. Everything beyond this, however, is in the realm of speculation.


When therefore he was flourishing in this blessed boyhood of his, and had attained to his eighth year [about 1140], he was entrusted to the skinners [furriers] to be taught their craft. Gifted with a teachable disposition and bringing industry to bear upon it, in a short time he far surpassed lads of his own age in the craft aforesaid, and he equaled some who had been his teachers. So leaving the country, drawn by a divine urge he betook himself to the city and lodged with a very famous master of that craft, and some time passed away. He was seldom in the country, but was occupied in the city and sedulously gave himself to the practice of his craft, and thus reached his twelfth year [1144].

Now, while he was staying in Norwich, the Jews who were settled there and required their cloaks or their robes or other garments (whether pledged to them, or their own property) to be repaired, preferred him before all other skinners. For they esteemed him to be especially fit for their work, either because they had learnt that he was guileless and skillful, or, because attracted to him by their avarice, they thought they could bargain with him for a lower price, Or, as I rather believe, because by the ordering of divine providence he had been predestined to martyrdom from the beginning of time, and gradually step by step was drawn on, and chosen to be made a mock of and to be put to death by the Jews, in scorn of the Lord’s Passion, as one of little foresight, and so the more fit for them. [William is to be put to death to mock the crucifixion.]

For I have learnt from certain Jews, who were afterwards converted to the Christian faith, how that at that time they had planned to do this very thing with some Christian, and in order to carry out their malignant purpose, at the beginning of Lent they had made; choice of the boy William, being twelve years of age and a boy of unusual innocence.

So it came to pass that when the holy boy, ignorant of the treachery that had been planned, had frequent dealings with the Jews, he was taken to task by Godwin the priest, who had the boy’s aunt as his wife, and by a certain Wulward with whom he lodged and he was prohibited from going in and out among them any more But the Jews, annoyed at the thwarting of their designs, tried with all their might to patch up a new scheme of wickedness, and all the more vehemently as the day for carrying out the crime they has determined upon drew near; and the victim, which they had though they had already secured, had slipped out of their wicked hands.

Accordingly, collecting all the cunning of their crafty plots, they found-I am not sure whether he was a Christian or a Jew-a man who was a most treacherous fellow and just the fitting person for carrying out their execrable crime, and with all haste-for their

Passover was coming on in three days-they sent him to find out and bring back with him the victim which, as I said before, had slipped out of their hands.


At the dawn of day, on the Monday [March 20, 1144] after Palm Sunday, that detestable messenger of the Jews set out to execute the business that was committed to him, and at last the boy William, after being searched for with very great care, was found. When he was found, he got round him with cunning wordy tricks, and so deceived him with his lying promises….


Then the boy, like an innocent lamb, was led to the slaughter. He was treated kindly by the Jews at first, and, ignorant of what was being prepared for him, he was kept till the morrow. But on the next day [Tuesday, March 21], which in that year was the Passover for them, after the singing of the hymns appointed for the day in the synagogue, the chiefs of the Jews…. suddenly seized hold of the boy William as he was having his dinner and in no fear of any treachery, and ill-treated him in various horrible ways. For while some of them held him behind, others opened his mouth and introduced an instrument of torture which is called a teazle [a wooden gag] and, fixing it by straps through both jaws to the back of his neck, they fastened it with a knot as tightly as it could be drawn.

After that, taking a short piece of rope of about the thickness of one’s little finger and tying three knots in it at certain distances marked out, they bound round that innocent head with it from the forehead to the back, forcing the middle knot into his forehead and the two others into his temples, the two ends of the rope being most tightly stretched at the back of his head and fastened in a very tight knot. The ends of the rope were then passed round his neck and carried round his throat under his chin, and there they finished off this dreadful engine of torture in a fifth knot.

But not even yet could the cruelty of the torturers be satisfied without adding even more severe pains. Having shaved his head, they stabbed it with countless thorn­points, and made the blood come horribly from the wounds they made. [Jesus had worn a crown of thorns before his death.] And so cruel were they and so eager to Inflict pain that it was difficult to say whether they were more cruel or more ingenious in their tortures. For their skill in torturing kept up the strength of their cruelty and ministered arms thereto

And thus, while these enemies of the Christian name were rioting in the spirit of malignity around the boy, some of those present ad judged him to be fixed to a cross in mockery of the Lord’s Passion, as though they would say: “liven as we condemned the Christ to a shameful death, so let us also condemn the Christian, so that, uniting the lord and his servant in a like punishment, we may retort upon themselves the pain of that reproach which they impute to us.”

Conspiring, therefore, to accomplish the crime of this great and detestable malice, they next laid their blood­stained hands upon the innocent victim, and having lifted him from the ground and fastened him upon the cross, they vied with one another in their efforts to make an end of him.

And we, after enquiring into the matter very diligently, did both find the house, and discovered some most certain marks in it of what had been done there. [This was supposed to be the house of a rich Jew, Eleazar, who was later murdered by order of his debtor, Sir Simon de Novers]. For report goes that there was there instead of a cross a post set up between two other posts, and a beam stretched across the midmost post and attached to the other on either side. And as we afterwards discovered, from the marks of the wounds and of the bands, the right hand and foot had been tightly bound and fastened with cords, but the left hand and foot were pierced with two nails. Now the deed was done in this way, lest it should be discovered, from the presence of nail­marks in both hands and both feet, that the murderers were Jews and not Christians, if eventually the body were found. [Both hands and feet were not nailed lest it look like a crucifixion.]

But while in doing these things they were adding pang to pang and wound to wound, and yet were not able to satisfy their heartless cruelty and their inborn hatred of the Christian name, lo! after all these many and great tortures, they inflicted a frightful wound in his left side, reaching even to his inmost heart, and, as though to make an end of all, they extinguished his mortal life so far as it was in their power. [Jesus was similarly pierced by a lance while nailed to the cross. The chronicler here imitates the Apostle John’s narrative.] And since many streams of blood were running down from all parts of his body, then, to stop the blood and to wash and close the wounds, they poured boiling water over him.

Thus then the glorious boy and martyr of Christ, William, dying the death of time in reproach of the Lord’s death, but crowned with the blood of a glorious martyrdom, entered into the kingdom of glory on high to live for ever. Whose soul rejoiceth blissfully in heaven among the bright hosts of the saints, and whose body by the Omnipotence of the divine mercy worketh miracles upon earth…. [St.. William after his death worked many miracles that brought streams of people to his shrine.]

As a proof of the truth and credibility of the matter we now adduce something which we have heard from the lips of Theobald, who was once a Jew, and afterwards a monk. He verily told us that in the ancient writings of his fathers it was written that the Jews, without the shedding of human blood, could neither obtain their freedom, nor could they ever return to their fatherland. [There is no such statement in Jewish law or literature.] Hence it was laid down by them in ancient times that every year they must sacrifice a Christian in some part of the world to the Most High God in scorn and contempt of Christ, that so they might avenge their sufferings on Him; inasmuch as it was because of Christ’s death that they had been shut out from their own country, and were in exile as slaves in a foreign land. [The Jews rejected Jesus and were as a result punished by exile from Palestine. Angry, they took revenge by secretly crucifying Christian children-thus Theobald. This libel is reminiscent of Apion, an Alexandrian writer of the first century.]

Wherefore the chief men and Rabbis of the Jews who dwell in Spain assemble together at Narbonne, where the Royal seed [resides], and where they are held in the highest estimation, and they cast lots for all the countries which the Jews inhabit; and whatever country the lot falls upon, its metropolis has to carry out the same method with the other towns and cities, and the place whose lot is drawn has to fulfill the duty imposed by authority. [Lots are cast in Narbonne, France, where Jews had a “king” to decide which city was to seize the Christian victim. ]

Now in that year in which we know that William, God’s glorious martyr, was slain, it happened that the lot fell upon the Norwich Jews, and all the synagogues in England signified, by letter or by message, their consent that the wickedness should be carried out at Norwich. “I was,” said he, “at that time at Cambridge, a Jew among Jews, and the commission of the crime was no secret to me. But in process of time, as I became acquainted with the glorious display of miracles which the divine power carried out through the merits of the blessed martyr William, I became much afraid, and following the dictates of my conscience, I forsook Judaism, and turned to the Christian faith.”

These words-observe, the words of a converted Jew-we reckon to be all the truer, in that we received them as uttered by one who was a converted enemy, and also had been privy to the secrets of our enemies.

[SOURCE: Jacob Marcus, The Jew in the Medieval World: A Sourcebook, 315-1791, (New York: JPS, 1938), 121-127.]

Ephraim ben Jacob: The Ritual Murder Accusation at Blois, May, 1171

[Marcus’ introduction] In 1171 the Jews of Blois, France, were accused of having crucified a Christian child during the Passover holydays and of having thrown the corpse into the Loire. This is the first time that the accusation of ritual murder was made in continental Europe. It is difficult to account for its occurrence just at this time unless it is a reverberation of the William of Norwich tale of a generation before. The accusation that Jews require Christian blood for their Passover ritual has been made against the Jews from that time on down to the present day in practically all lands and has cost the lives of hundreds of innocent Jewish men, women, and children.

The following account of the burning of over thirty men and women at Blois is taken from A Book of Historical Records, a Hebrew historical work of Ephraim ben Jacob (1132-about 1200), a German Jewish Talmudist and poet of note.

What shall we say before God? What shall we speak? How can we justify ourselves? God must have found out our iniquity.

In the year 4931 [1171], evil appeared in France, too, and great destruction in the city of Blois, in which at that time there lived about forty Jews. It happened on that evil day, Thursday, toward evening, that the terror came upon us. A Jew [Isaac bar Eleazar] rode up to water his horse; a common soldier-may he be blotted out of the book of life-was also there watering the horse of his master. The Jew bore on his chest an untanned hide, but one of the corners had become loose and was sticking out of his coat. When, in the gloom, the soldier’s horse saw the white side of the hide, it was frightened and sprang back, and it could not be brought to water.

The Christian servant hastened back to his master and said “Hear, my lord, what a certain Jew did. As I rode behind him toward the river in order to give your horses a drink, I saw him throw a little Christian child, whom the Jews have killed, into the water. When I saw this, I was horrified and hastened back quickly for fear he might kill me too. Even the horse under me was so frightened by the splash of the water when he threw the child in that it would not drink.” The soldier knew that his master would rejoice at the fall of the Jews, because he hated a certain Jewess influential in the city. He as much as put the following words into his master’s mouth: “Now I can wreak my vengeance on that person, on that woman Pulcelina.”

The next morning the master rode to the ruler of the city, to the cruel Theobald, son of Theobald-may his unrighteousness and bitter, evil curses fall upon his head. He w as a ruler that listened to falsehood, for his servants were wicked. [Theobald V was Count of Blois, 1152­1191. He was called “the Good.”]

When he heard this he became enraged and had all the Jews of Blois seized and thrown into prison. But Dame Pulcelina encouraged them all, for she trusted in the affection of the ruler who up to now had been very attached to her. However, his cruel wife, a Jezebel, swayed him, for she also hated Dame Pulcelina. [Theobald’s wife was Alix, the daughter of King Louis VII of France.] All the Jews had been put into iron chains except Pulcelina, hut the servants of the ruler who watched her would not allow her to speak to him at all, for fear she might get him to change his mind.

The ruler was revolving in his mind all sorts of plans to condemn the Jews, but he did not know how. He had no evidence against them until a priest appeared-may he be destroyed and may his memory be uprooted from the land of the living-who said to the ruler: “Come, I’ll advise you how you can condemn them. Command that the servant who saw the Jew throw the child into the river be brought here, and let him be tested by the ordeal in a tank of water to discover if he has told the truth.”

The ruler commanded and they brought him, took off his clothes, and put him into a tank filled with holy water to see what would happen. If he floated, his words were true; if he sank, he had lied. Such are the laws of the Christians who judge by ordeals-bad laws and customs by which one cannot live! The Christians arranged it in accordance with their wish so that the servant floated, and they took him out and thus they declared the wicked innocent and the righteous guilty. [In this ordeal the normal procedure appears to have been reversed. Generally the innocent sank and the guilty floated.]

The ruler had started negotiations for a money settlement before the coming of the priest who incited the ruler not to accept any ransom for the dead child. [In the Middle Ages many crimes could be expiated legally through a money payment.] He had sent a Jew to the Jews of the other communities] and had asked how much they would give him. The Jews consulted with their Christian friends and also with the Jews in the dungeon, and these latter advised offer only one hundred pounds and in addition their uncollected debts amounting to the sum of one hundred eighty pounds.

In the meantime the priest arrived on the scene, and from this time on the ruler paid no attention to the Jews and did not listen to them, but only to the instruction of the priest. In the day of wrath money could not help them. At the wicked ruler’s command they were taken and put into a wooden house around which were placed thorn bushes and faggots. As they were led forth they were told: “Save your lives. Leave your religion and turn to us.” They mistreated them, beat them, and tortured them, hoping that they would exchange their glorious religion for something worthless, but they refused. Rather did they encourage each other and say to one another: “Persist in the religion of the Almighty!” [A Christian historian of that time says that some did convert.]

At the command of the oppressor they then took the two [Jewish ] priests, the pious Rabbi Jehiel, the son of Rabbi David Ha­Kohen, and the just Rabbi Jekutiel Ha­Kohen, the son of Rabbi Judah, and tied them to a single stake in the house where they were to be burned. They were both men of valor, disciples of Rabbi Samuel and Rabbi Jacob [the grandsons of Rashi]. They also tied the hands of Rabbi Judah, the son of Aaron, and then set fire to the faggots. The fire spread to the cords on their hands so that they snapped, and all three came out and spoke to the servants of the oppressor: “The fire has no power over us. Why should we not go free?” [Since these three had withstood the ordeal by fire, they asked to be freed. ] The enemy answered: “By our lives! You shall not get out.” They kept on struggling to get out but they were pushed back into the house. They came out again and seized hold of a Christian to drag him along with them back onto the pyre. When they were right at the fire the Christians pulled themselves together, rescued the Christian from their hands, killed them with their swords, and then three them into the fire. Nevertheless they were not burnt, neither they nor all those thirty­ one persons. Only their souls were released by the fire; their bodies remained intact. When the Christians saw It they were amazed and said to one another: “Truly these are saints.”

A certain Jew by the name of Rabbi Baruch, the son of David, a priest, was there and saw all this at that time with his own eyes. He lived in the territory of that ruler and had come there to arrange terms for the Jews of Blois, but, because of our sins, he had no success. However, a settlement was made by him for one thousand pounds to save the other Jews of that accursed ruler. He also saved the scrolls of the Torah and the rest of their books. This happen in the year 4931 on Wednesday, the 20th of the month of Siwan [May 26, 1171]. This day ought to be established as a fast day like the Fast of Gedaliah. [The assassination of Gedaliah, who was governor of Judah after the destruction of the Temple in 586 BC] is still observed on the 3rd of Tishri.] All these facts were written down by the Jews of Orleans-a city close by that of the martyrs and made known to the teacher, our master Rabbi Jacob [ben Rabbi Meir, Rashi’s grandson, the greatest French rabbi of his day. He died in the third week after the Blois burning ].

It was also reported in that letter that as the flames mounted high, the martyrs began to sing in unison a melody that began softly but ended with a full voice. The Christian people came and asked us s “What kind of a song is this for we have never heard such a sweet melody?” We knew it well for it was the song: “It is incumbent upon us to praise the Lord of all.” [This prayer, the Alenu, or Adoration, now recited daily, was then a New Year’s prayer with a special] melody].

O daughters of Israel, weep for the thirty­ one souls that were burnt for the sanctification of the Name, and let your brothers, the] entire house of Israel, bewail the burning.

Because of our sins these men were not even given a Jewish burial but were left at the bottom of the hill on the very spot where they had been burnt. It was only later the Jews came and buried the s bones. There were about thirty­ two holy souls who offered themselves as a sacrifice to their Creator; and God smelled the sweet savor, for him whom He has chosen does He cause to come night unto Him. [The number of those burnt varies in different sources. One source lists a new­born babe. ]

Of their own free will all the communities of France, England, and the Rhineland observed Wednesday, the 20th of Siwan, 4931, as a day of mourning and fasting. This was also the command of great teacher Jacob, the son of Rabbi Meir, who wrote letters to them a informing them that it was proper to fix this day as a fast for all t our people, and that it must be greater even than the Fast of Gedaliah a ben Ahikam; it was to be like the Day of Atonement [a twenty hour fast ].

[[SOURCE: Jacob Marcus, The Jew in the Medieval World: A Sourcebook, 315-1791, (New York: JPS, 1938), 127-130.]]



[for an outline of all 71 canons, see:]

Concerning the Interest Taken by Jews (canon 67)

The more the Christian religion is restrained in the exaction of interest so much more does the knavery of the Jews in this matt er increase, so that in a short time they exhaust the wealth of Christians. Wishing therefore to provide for Christians in this matt er lest they be burdened excessively by the Jews, we ordain through synodal decree that if they hereafter extort heavy and unrestrained interest, no matt er what the pretext be, Christians shall be withdrawn from association with them until the Jews have made satisfaction for their unmitigated oppression. Also the Christians shall be compelled, if necessary, through Church punishment from which an appeal will be disregarded, to abstain from business relations with the Jews. Moreover, we command the princes that they should not be hostile to the Christians because of this, but should rather seek to restrain the Jews from such great oppression. And under threat of the same penalty we decree that Jews should be compelled to make good the tithes and dues owed to the churches which the churches have been accustomed to receive from the houses and other possessions of the Christians before they came into the possession of the Jews, regardless of the circumstances, so that the Church be preserved against loss.

That Jews Should be Distinguished from Christians in Dress (Canon 68)

In some provinces a difference in dress distinguishes the Jews or Saracens from the Christians, but in certain others such 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 or Saracens with Christian women. Therefore, that they may not, under pretext of error of this sort, excuse themselves in the future for the excesses of such prohibited intercourse, we decree that such Jews and Saracens of both sexes in every Christian province and at all times shall be marked off in the eyes of the public from other peoples through the character of their dress. Particularly, since it may be read in the writings of Moses (Num. 15: 37-41) that this very law has been enjoined upon them.

Moreover, during the last three days before Easter and especially on Good Friday, they shall not go forth in public at all, for the reason that some of them on these very days, as we hear, do not blush to go forth better dressed and are not afraid to mock the Christians who maintain the memory of the most holy Passion by wearing signs of mourning.

Moreover, we forbid most severely that anyone should presume at all to break forth in insult to the Redeemer. And since we ought not to ignore any insult to Him who blotted out our disgraceful deeds, we command that such impudent fellows be checked by the secular princes by imposing on them proper punishment so that they shall not at all presume to blaspheme Him who was crucified for us.

That Jews Not Be Appointed to Public Office (Canon 69)

it would be altogether too absurd that a blasphemer of Christ should exercise authority over Christians, we, in this chapter, renew, because of the boldness of transgressors, what the Toledo Council has prudently decreed in this matter. We forbid that Jews be preferred for public offices since by pretext of some sort they manifest as much hostility to Christians as possible. If, moreover, anyone should thus turn over an office to them, aft er due warning he shall be checked through a severe punishment, as is fit, by the provincial council which we command to meet every year. Indeed, the association of Christians with such a Jewish official in commercial and other matters shall not be allowed until whatever he has gotten from Christians through the office is transferred to the use of poor Christians, as the diocesan bishop shall carefully direct. And he shall be dismissed in disgrace from the office which he has impiously assumed. We extend the application of this law also to pagans.

Converts to the Faith from the Jews Must Not Observe the Old Customs of the Jews (Canon 70)

Some converted Jews, as we understand, who came voluntarily to the waters of Holy Baptism, have not altogether sloughed off the old identity in order to put on the new one more perfectly. Since they retain remnants of their earlier rites they confound the majesty of the Christian religion through such a mixture. Since, moreover, it is written, “Woe to the sinner who follows two paths” (Ecclesiasticus [Sirach] 2:12) and since one ought not to put on a garment woven of both linen and wool [cf. Lev. 19:19], we therefore ordain that such persons must be restrained in every way by the prelates of the churches from the observance of their old religious rites. For in the observance of Christianity it is necessary that a healthy compulsion should preserve these Jews whom free will has carried to the Christian religion. It is a lesser evil not to know the way of the Lord than to go back, after it has been acknowledged.

Expedition to Recover the Holy Land (Canon 71)

If any of those setting out for there [i.e. the Holy Land] are bound by oath to pay interest, we command that their creditors shall be compelled by the same means [ecclesiastical censure] to release them from their oaths and to desist from the exaction of interest. But if any creditor shall compel them to pay interest, we order that he shall be forced, by a similar chastisement, to pay it back. We command that the Jews, however, shall be compelled by the secular power to remit interest; and until they remit it all faithful Christians shall, under penalty of excommunication, refrain from every species of interaction with them. For those, moreover, who are unable at present to pay their debts to the Jews, the secular princes shall provide by a useful delay, so that after they [the crusaders] begin their journey they shall suffer no inconvenience from interest, until their death or return is known with certainty. The Jews shall be compelled, after deducting the necessary expenses, to count the income which they receive in the meantime from the mortgaged property toward the payment of the principal; since a favor of this kind, which defers the payment and does not cancel the debt, does not seem to cause much loss. Moreover let the prelates of the Church who are proven to be negligent in doing justice to the crusaders and their families, understand that they shall be severely punished.

[source: Jacob Marcus, The Jew in the Medieval World: A Sourcebook, 315-1791, (New York: JPS, 1938, 137-41]

RAYMOND OF PENAFORTE: THE DECRETALES (authoritative collection of church law) (1234)  


 Chapter I If a slave, bought by a Jew as merchandise, became or wished to become a Christian, he shall be redeemed for twelve shillings.

From the Council of Macon: In the present council, by the authority of God, we ordain that no

Christian slave shall henceforth serve a Jew. Rather, when twelve shillings have been paid for each fit slave, any Christian shall have the right of purchasing that slave, whether for release or for servitude. If a slave wishes to become a Christian and is not permitted to do so, then the same thing should be done, since it is abominable that a blasphemer of Christ hold in the chains of servitude one whom the Lord Christ has redeemed.

Chapter II A Jew may not hold a Christian as a slave. However he may hold him as a serf.

Pope Gregory to the bishop of Lucca: Through the reports of many we have learned that Christian slaves are held in servitude by Jews living in the city of Lucca. This matter seems to us all the more severe in the light of the effort on your part. It is indeed fitting that you, by virtue of your office and out of consideration for the Christian faith, leave no occasion for them to attract the simple to the Jewish superstition in any way, by argumentation or by the force of power. Therefore, we warn you that, according to the strict sense of the most sacred laws, no Jew is permitted to hold a Christian slave in his power. Rather if Christian slaves be found among them, they shall be given their liberty, by virtue of the protection stemming from the sanctity of the laws. By the strict meaning of the laws, those who are on the Jews’ estates should also be free. However, since they have belonged to the Jews for a long time and have cultivated their lands, owing dues according to the condition of the case, they may remain and cultivate their farms, offering the customary payments to those people. They shall observe all which the laws decree concerning colonists and no extra burden should be imposed upon them. If any of the Jews wishes to transfer any of these to a different place or to retain him for a different service, then he has revealed himself as one who, by his own temerity and the severity of the law, violates the law of slaves and the law of master. Therefore in all these matters we wish that you be devoted skillfully, etc.

Chapter III Jews may retain old synagogues. They may not demand new ones.

Pope Gregory to the bishop of Cagliari: The Jews of your city, coming here, complained to us as follows. Peter, who by the will of God was led from their superstition to the cult of the Christian faith, when he had gathered some rowdies, on the day following his baptism, that is on the Sunday of the festival of Passover, in grave scandal and without your assent, occupied their synagogue, which is located in Cagliari. He placed there an image of the mother of our God and Lord and the sacred crucifix and the white cloak in which, risen anew from the fountain of baptism. He had been clothed. They sent us letters attesting these things from Eupater the glorious master of the knight, and from the fine and pious count and from other knights of your city. They also added that this was known to you and that the aforesaid Peter was prohibited from daring to do such a thing. Knowing this, we fully praise you since, because reverence for the good is seemly for a priest, you wished that nothing be done which would be reprehensible.

Since you involved yourself in these things which were wrongly done, you demonstrated that what was done was displeasing to you. Considering in this matter the intent of your will and your wisdom, we urge by these words that, when the venerable image and cross have been removed, with the veneration which is fitting, you ought to restore that which was violently removed. Since, just as the law does not permit the Jews to build new synagogues, so it permits them to hold their old synagogues without disturbance. Therefore, lest the aforesaid Peter or other, etc.

Chapter IV On Holy Friday it is not permitted the Jews to have open doors or windows.

Pope Alexander III: Since, concerning those matters of which you wrote in your letter relative to the Jews, we do not have a fixed law, we inform you through the content of this letter that, when your clergy has. been convoked, you may generally forbid, both by our authority and by your authority, the Jews from having open doors and windows on Good Friday. Rather they must keep them closed for the entire day. Also you shall permit no Christian slaves to live with them . Rather you shall generally order all that no Christian dare to remain in servitude to them, lest they be converted through conversation with them to the Jewish perfidy.

Chapter V Christians who serve Jews or Saracens or pagans in their houses should be excommunicated. Also secular rulers who presume to deprive baptized Jews of their goods should be excommunicated.

Pope Alexander III in the Lateran Council: Jews and Saracens shall not be permitted to have Christian slaves in their homes, neither for the purpose of nursing their children, nor for

domestic service, nor for any other purpose. Those who dare live in the homes of Jews or Saracens shall be excommunicated. If, moreover, with God’s inspiration, anyone become a convert to Christianity, he shall under no condition be deprived of his property. For converts ought to be in better circumstances than they had been before accepting the faith. If, however, any act to the contrary be found, we command the princes and the potentates in their respective places that, under pain of excommunication, they shall cause the hereditary portion and property of those converts to be restored to them intact.

Chapter VIII Jews may repair old synagogues into their prior state. They may not demand synagogues anew.

Pope Alexander III: Be advised that you ought not permit the Jews to build anew synagogues where they have not had them. Indeed if old synagogues fall or threaten to fall, it can be tolerated that the Jews rebuild them. They must not, however, enhance them or make them larger and more pretentious than they were known to be previously. In any case, they should clearly have the right to be tolerated in their old synagogues and observances.

Chapter VIII Christians should not be in the close service of Jews.

Pope Alexander III: By the authority of the present letter we order and command that you forbade all Christians  who are in your jurisdiction and, if necessary, compel them by ecclesiastical punishment that they not place themselves in the servitude of the Jews for any price. You should also take care to prohibit their midwives and nurses that they not dare to feed the children of the Jews in their houses, because the customs of the Jews and our customs in no way agree. The Jews, moved by their enmity for the human race, through continual conversation and excessive familiarity, bend the souls of the simple to their superstition and perfidy.

Chapter IX Jews should not be baptized against their will nor forced into baptism nor punished without judicial proceedings nor despoiled of their goods nor disturbed in their festivals nor have their cemeteries violated nor their corpses exhumed.

Pope Clement III: Just as the Jews, without permission, should not presume to do in their synagogues more than is permitted by the law, so ought they not suffer curtailment in those privileges which have been conceded them. Therefore, although they prefer to remain hardened in their obstinacy rather than acknowledge the prophetic words of the prophets and the secrets of their own scriptures and thus arrive at an understanding of Christianity and salvation, nevertheless, in view of the fact that they begged for our protection and our aid, ·in accordance with the clemency that Christian piety imposes, we, following in the footsteps of our predecessors of blessed memory, the popes Calixtus, Eugenius, and Alexander, grant their petition and offer them the shield of our protection. We decree that no Christian shall use violence to force them to be baptized as long as they are unwilling and refuse. However, if any one of “‘them seeks refuge among Christians by reason of faith, after his willingness has become quite clear, he shall be made a Christian without subjecting himself to any calumny. For surely one who is known to have come 😮 Christian baptism not willingly, but against his wishes, cannot be believed. to possess the faith of Christ.

Moreover, without the judgment of the authority of the land, no Christians all presume to kill or wound any of them or rob them of their money or change the good customs which they have thus far enjoyed in ‘the. place where they live. Furthermore, while they celebrate their festivals, no one shall disturb them in any way by means of sticks or stones. No one shall exact from them forced service, except that which they have been accustomed to perform from ancient times. In opposition to the wickedness and avarice of evil men in these matters, we decree that no one shall dare to desecrate or reduce the cemetery of the Jews or, with the object of extorting money, to exhume bodies there buried. If anyone, however, after being acquainted with the contents of this decree, should presume to act in defiance of it, God forbid, he shall suffer loss of honor and office, or he shall be punished by the penalty of excommunication, unless he shall have made proper amends for his presumption.

Chapter XIII Jews should not have Christian nurses or servants. Commerce with Christians is to be forbidden to those who do so.

Innocent III to the archbishop of Sens and the bishop of Paris: Christian piety accepts the Jews who by their own guilt are consigned to perpetual servitude, because they crucified the Lord who their own prophets had predicted would come in the flesh to redeem Israel. Christian piety permits the Jews to dwell in the Christian midst, although, because of their perfidy, even the Saracens who persecute the Catholic faith and do not believe in the Christ whom the Jews crucified cannot tolerate them and have even expelled them from their territory, vehemently rebuking us for tolerating those by whom, as we openly acknowledge, our Redeemer was condemned to the cross. Therefore the Jews ought not be ungrateful to us, requiting Christian favor with contumely and intimacy with contempt. Yet, mercifully admitted into our intimacy, they threaten us with that retribution which, according to the common proverb, the mouse in a pocket, the snake around one’s loins, and the fire in one’s bosom are accustomed to exhibit to their hosts. For we have heard that the Jews make Christian women nurses for their children, and something which is an abomination not only to utter but even to think-whenever it happens that on the day of the Lord’s Resurrection they rake in the body and blood of Jesus Christ, the Jews make these women pour their milk into the latrine for three days before they again give suck to the children. Besides, they commit other detestable and unheard of acts against the Catholic faith, as a result of which the faithful should fear that they are incurring divine wrath when they permit the Jews to perpetrate unpunished such deeds as bring confusion upon our faith.

We therefore asked our dearest son in Christ, Philip he illustrious king of France, and ordered the noble duke of Burgundy and the countess of Troyes so to restrain the excesses of the Jews that they shall not dare raise their neck, bowed under the yoke of perpetual slavery, against the dignity of the Christian faith. We strictly forbid them to have any nurses or other kinds of Christian servants in the future, lest the children of a free woman should be servants to the children of a slave. Rather as slaves rejected by God, in whose death they wickedly conspired, they shall, by the effect of this very action, recognize themselves as the slaves of those whom Christ’s death set free at the same time that it enslaved them. For, as soon as they begin to gnaw in the manner of a mouse and bite in the manner of a serpent, one may fear lest the fire that one

keeps in his bosom burn up the gnawed parts. Wherefore we command you, by this apostolic letter, to take care to warn the aforementioned king and the others to this effect on our behalf and most zealously to prevail upon them that henceforth the perfidious Jews should not in any other way dare grow insolent, but should, in servile fear, exhibit always the shame of their guilt and respect the honor of the Christian faith. If indeed the Jews do not dismiss the Christian nurses and servants you armed with our authority, should strictly forbid all Christians, under penalty of excommunication, from daring to undertake any commerce with them.

Chapter XIV A Jew who strikes a cleric must be punished temporally. If in fact he cannot be punished, commerce with Christians shall be forbidden to him until he makes amends to the injured.

Pope Innocent III: You asked to be instructed by the Apostolic Throne how you should proceed against a Jew who had raised a hand of violence against a certain priest. To this request we briefly reply to you that, if the aforementioned Jew lives under your own jurisdiction, you should punish him by means of  money payment or whatever other secular penalty may be in order, giving proper satisfaction to the one struck. Otherwise you should threaten and induce his lord that he should cause fitting amends to be made to the injured and to the Church. Should his lord neglect to execute this, you should interdict Christians, by means of ecclesiastical punishment, not to dare have commercial relations with this Jew until he makes amends.

Chapter XV Jews and Saracens of both sexes in Christian lands should wear garb by means of which they can be distinguished from Christians. On Good Friday they should not appear in public, nor should they behave frivolously as an insult to the Creator.

Pope Innocent III in the General Council: Whereas in certain provinces the difference in their clothes sets Jews and Saracens apart from Christians, in certain other lands there has arisen such confusion that no differences are noticeable. Thus it sometimes happens that by mistake Christians have intercourse with Jewish or Saracen women, and Jews or Saracens with Christian women. Therefore , lest these people, under the pretext of error, find an excuse for the sin of such damnable intercourse, we decree that Jews and Saracens of either sex, and in all Christian lands, and at all times, shall easily be distinguishable from the rest of the population by the quality of their clothes, especially since such legislation is imposed upon them also by Moses.

Moreover, they shall not walk out in public on the Days of Lamentation or the Sunday of Easter. For, as we have heard, certain ones among them do not blush to go out on such days more than usually ornamented and do not fear to poke fun at Christians who display signs of grief at the memory of the most holy Passion.

We most especially forbid anyone to dare to break forth into insults against the Creator. Since we cannot shut our eyes to insults heaped upon Him Who washed away our sins, we decree that such presumptuous persons shall be duly restrained by fitting punishment meted out by the secular rulers, so that none dare blaspheme against Him Who was crucified for our sake.

Chapter XVI One who appoints a Jew or pagan to public office shall be reproached by the provincial council. Commerce with Christians should be denied to the appointee until he leaves office and returns gains for the use of Christian poor, to the specifications of the bishop.

Pope Innocent III in the General Council: Since it is quite absurd that any who blaspheme against Christ should have power over Christians, we, on account of the boldness of the transgressors, renew what the Council of Toledo already has legislated with regard to this. We forbid that Jews be given preferment in public office, since this offers them the pretext to vent their wrath against

Christians. Should anyone entrust them with an office of this kind, he shall be restrained from so doing by the council of the province, which we order 😮 be held every year. Due warning having been given him, he shall be restrained therefrom by such means as the denial of all intercourse, commercial and otherwise, with Christians until they shall have turned for the use of poor Christians, in accordance with the dispositions of the bishop of the diocese, all that they may have earned from the Christian3 through the office they had undertaken and abandon in disgrace the office which they had so irreverently assumed. This shall apply also to pagans.

Chapter XVIII Jews and pagans are not to be preferred for public office. If royal rights are sold to them, a proper Christian is to be chosen to collect these dues.

Pope Gregory IX to the bishops of Astorga and Lugo: Because of the particular affection that we cherish for the illustrious king of Portugal . .. we order you to induce that king not to prefer Jews to Christians in public office, in accordance with the decree of the General Council, and, if by chance he sells his revenues to Jews or pagans, to appoint a Christian under no suspicion of bringing hardships upon clergy and churches through whom the Jews or Saracens might collect the royal dues without injury to Christians.

Chapter XIX He concludes.

Pope Gregory IX: No Jew may buy or retain in his service a baptized slave or one who desires to be baptized. If the Jew, for purposes of business, buys an unconverted slave and the slave afterwards becomes or desires to become a Christian, the Jew shall be paid twelve shillings for him, and he shall be withdrawn from service at once. But if he does not put the slave up for sale within three months, or if he buys him for his own service, he shall not presume to sell the slave, nor shall anyone else presume to buy him; rather without any compensation the slave shall be set free.

[source: Robert Chazan, Church, State, and Jew in the Middle Ages, 27-35]



Chapter I. Whether Jews are to be tolerated.

Concerning this first matter as follows: It seems that they are not to be tolerated.

  1. They blaspheme against Christ and against the Blessed Virgin; they take revenge on the Catholic faith; they do injury to the sacraments and to ecclesiastics, as is indicated in the Decretales. According to the Old Testament, blasphemers are to be subjected to death. Therefore Jews are not to be tolerated, but should be consigned to death, especially those who behave in this fashion.
  2. Moreover, in their book which is called Talmud, many statements are contained which relate to blasphemy of Christ and the Blessed Virgin. Since they must observe the doctrine of that book as law, they along with these books should be dispersed.
  3. Also, Christians persecute those pagans who hold the Holy Land to the death. However, contempt of the Redeemer is a great injury. Therefore Christians ought to persecute to the death those who perpetrate such contempt. Therefore the Jews are not to be tolerated. That they exhibit such contempt is revealed through that which is said in the Decretales.

It seems to the contrary.

  1. Through that which is said in Psalms: “Kill them not, lest my people forget.” In regard to this the Glossator says: “This may be applied particularly to the Jews. The Psalmist beseeches, lest the Jews utterly disappear. Rather they are dispersed so that they might be invited to conversion. The Psalmist also prays on their behalf, saying ‘Kill them not,’ those who killed me; rather let the Jewish people remain with the sign of circumcision.” Therefore they are to be tolerated.
  2. Also testimony taken from adversaries is the very best. The Catholic Church takes testimony from the Old Testament, which the Jews observe. To the end that the Catholic Church may have testimony from its enemies, the Jews are to be tolerated. For from the Old Testament, namely from the Law of Moses and the Prophets, testimony is taken concerning Christ which the Jews are unable to negate.
  3. Also in Isaiah 10:22, it is indicated that a remnant of Israel shall turn again. Similarly the Apostle, in Romans 11 :5. Now remnants cannot be saved, unless the seed of the Jews remains. Therefore the seed of the Jews must be preserved. Therefore the Jews must be tolerated.

This then must be conceded.

In response to the objections:

  1. To the objection it must be said in rebuttal that, although they perpetrate blasphemy, they believe that they do not sin thereby, since they believe that the messiah has not yet come. In this they err and are consigned to future damnation, unless they recover their senses. As is said in Psalms: ”I shall pay them out to the full.” In regard to this the Glossator says: ”In the present, they shall be dispersed; in the future, they shall all be damned.” If, however, they persist in open blasphemy, the must be coerced by the secular rulers, as is indicated in the Decratales, where it is said: “We most especially forbid anyone to dare to break forth into insults against the Redeemer. Since we cannot shut our eyes to insults heaped upon Him Who washed away our sins, we decree that such presumptuous persons shall be duly restrained by fitting punishment meted out by the secular rulers, so that none dare blaspheme against Him Who was crucified for our sake.”
  2. To the second objection, it must be said that their books, in which blasphemies are contained, are to be burned. If they tenaciously persist in blasphemy and are convicted before a tribunal, they are to be punished with a fitting penalty. The same is the case if they blaspheme secretly.
  3. To the third objection, it must be said that the issue concerning those pagans holding the Holy Land differs from that concerning the Jews. Christians persecute those pagans as unjust holders of the Holy Land and as violators of a sacred place, to the injury of Christ. Jews, however, are allowed for many reasons to live and dwell among Christians. This is so, since we have received the Old Testament from the Jews, since Christ came from their seed, since the promise of their salvation when ” the Gentiles have been admitted in full strength” has been made. Therefore, if they transgress openly against Christ, they are to be coerced by the proper punishment. It does not seem they should be spared punishment in cases of open sins any more than evil Christians.

Chapter II Whether the Jewish rite is idolatrous.

Secondly, it is asked whether their rite is idolatrous.

It seems so.

  1. Through that which is said in Galatians 5: 1: ” Refuse to be tied to the yoke of slavery again.” In regard to this the Glossator says: “The servitude of the Law is no lighter than that of idolatry.” It thus seems that servitude to the Law is compared to that of idolatry in sinfulness.
  2. Further, it is said in Galatians 4:9: “How can you turn back to the mean spirits?” In regard to this, the Glossator says: “Observance of the Law, to which they had been devoted, became a sin almost equal to service of idols, to which they had been devoted prior to conversion.” Whence it seems that observance of the Law is like idolatry. This is explained there by that which follows: “After Christ, the Law is not far removed from ancient idolatry.” Therefore it appears clearly that observance of the Law is like idolatry.

To the contrary:

  1. The Law dictates belief in God and service of Him alone. Idolatry demands the opposite, for it serves idols. Thus service of the Law can in no way be equated with the sin of idolatry.

The solution:

1-2. It must be replied that it is not equally sinful for the Jews to observe the rite of the Law as to engage in idolatry. Rather it is called ” a sin almost equal” for those assuming the Christian faith, because in either case it is apostasy, even though it is not equal. Concerning the burden of the sin there is likewise a similarity, for in both cases the sin is grave. Therefore the sacrifices of the Jews are reproved as those of the Gentiles. It is said to be close to idolatry, because in either case it constitutes infidelity. The Galatians, since they had been Gentiles, served idolatrous superstition. When they withdrew from the Catholic faith to the service of the Law, which is prohibited, they fell as it were into infidelity.

Moreover, by virtue of the action undertaken, sacrifices, there was a similarity to idolatry, by virtue both of the inclination to sacrifice as well as the superstition in sacrifices. However, it is not a similar sin for the Jews to serve the Law as it was for those who served idols.

Chapter III Whether Jews are to be permitted to observe their rite in celebrations and in other ways.

Thirdly, it is asked whether they are to be permitted to observe their rite in celebrations and in other ways.

It seems not.

  1. For they sin mortally in observing their rites, since the period of the Law had already elapsed. Jerome says that the Laws are deathly 😮 those who observe them, and Augustine concurs. It therefore remains that they sin mortally by observing the Law. Since the Church does no: hinder this action, it seems to consent, particularly since it could hinder. “Anyone who ceases to hinder an open action when he might” seems to consent, according to Augustine. Therefore the Church sins. Therefore it remains that the Church should not permit the Jews to observe their rites through celebrations.

To the contrary:

  1. It seems that the Church should give them permission, since it commands that they not be impeded from observance of their celebrations, as is noted in the Decretum, where it is said: “They must have the full right of observing and celebrating all their festivals and holidays, as

both they and their ancestors have had for a long time past.” The same also appears in that which is said in the Deere/ales, where it is said: “Furthermore while they celebrate their festivals, no one shall disturb them in any way by means of sticks or stones.” However, the Church does not give the right to sin. Therefore they do not sin by celebrating their festivities. They are therefore permitted to observe their rites.

  1. This also appears through that which Pope Gregory says: “Of what use is it to prevent the Jews from the solemnities of their holidays when-although they are prohibited in defiance of long usage there is no profit toward the conversion of faith. Why should we establish rules for the Jews as to how they should observe their ceremonies, if through such rules we are unable to afford them gain? We should therefore behave in such a way that they wish to follow us by reason and mildness, rather than flee us.” From them it is accepted that they should be permitted to observe their proper solemnities.

The solution:

It must be said that they should be permitted by tolerance, as indicated in the Decretales, where it is said that “in any case, they should clearly have the right to be tolerated in their old synagogues and observances.” If they were forbidden to observe their rites, then they would be seemingly forced into the faith, but enforced servitude is not pleasing to God. Moreover, Pope Gregory says: “Adversity may alienate the mind of those whom a reasonable argument would have been able to attract.”

To the objection:

  1. It must be said to the contrary that the Church, although it permits Jewish observance, cannot be said to consent. For that consent which is considered sin is understood to involve manifest misdeeds, where one is responsible for converting those who are caught up in it, or where the sinners are united in a bond of faith with the one who corrects. This however does not have a place in this issue. Therefore it is not called consent, but rather the permission of tolerance, lest something worse happen and so that, in a different way, good be elicited.

Chapter IV Whether Jews are to be compelled to the faith.

Fourthly, it is asked whether they are to be compelled to the faith by threats and penalties.

It seems not.

  1. It is said in the Council of Toledo: “Concerning the Jews the sacred synod ordered that no one henceforth force them to believe. Just as man, heeding the serpent, perished through the exercise of his own free will, so too, called by the grace of God, one should be saved in faith by the conversion of his own spirit. They are therefore not to be compelled forcibly, but rather they are to be persuaded.” Pope Gregory says the same thing. It therefore remains that they are not to be forced into the faith.
  2. Likewise Augustine says: “Although unwilling, we are able to do. However we cannot believe except voluntarily.” Thus no one should be led fo faith by compulsion.

To the contrary:

  1. Augustine says in Ad Macedonium: “Man leads his neighbor to the worship of God by the consolation of kindness and by the correction of discipline.” Discipline means through lashes. Therefore one should be led to faith by lashes.
  2. Also in the Decretum, it is said that “by the lashes of tribulation evil men are kept from evil and drawn toward the good.” Therefore one should be forced into faith by lashes.
  3. Moreover, in the Decretum, it says that some are to be forced into Christianity, “as was done at the time of the most pious Prince Sisebut.”

The solution:

It must be said that one thing is understood concerning converts to the faith who never believed and another concerning those who once believed but then left the faith or held it in contempt. In regard to those who never believed, they should never be compelled. If, however, they once believed, they should be compelled to serve the faith or return to it. In this way are the aforesaid authorities to be understood. Moreover, it must be noted that there are two categories of force: absolute and conditional. One who has never believed should never be compelled by absolute force. In this way the authorities who speak of this should be understood, for in this way faith is not gained nor is the nature of baptism imprinted, as noted in the Decretales. If the force is conditional, such as through threats or lashes, then in this way faith and the imprint of baptism are received, since there is volition. In this way some have been compelled “to hold i:he faith which they accepted under duress, ‘lest the name of the Lord be brought to disrepute’ and the faith which they accepted be held vile and contemptible,” as noted in the Decretum.

Chapter V , Whether when they come to the faith they should be quickly accepted.

In the light of this question, it is asked whether those who come to the faith from Judaism should be quickly accepted or not. It may be similarly asked concerning the pagans.

It seems not.

  1. Through that which is said in the Deere/um, where it is said that they shall enter “for eight months among the catechumens of the Church. If they are known to enter in pure faith, only then shall they merit the grace of baptism.” The same is also noted there where it is said that “abstinence of forty days is set.” In any case a long period is given for probation and for the sake of completing penitence.

However it seems the contrary.

  1. Through that which is said in Acts 2:38, where Peter says to the Jews: “Repent and be baptized, every one of you.” Since they were baptized quickly, by that example it does not seem that there should be significant difference between accepting the faith and the sacrament of faith, which is baptism.
  2. It is likewise noted in Acts 10:47-8, where it is said by Peter. “Is anyone prepared to withhold the water for baptism from these persons, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we did ourselves?’ Then he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.” In the same fashion it is noted concerning the eunuch in Acts 8:36-8. From these instances it seems that a long delay is not appropriate.

The solution:

It must be said that one situation existed in the early Church and another during the development of the Church. For in the early Church, there was the gift of the Holy Spirit, which was demonstrated in a visible sign among the believers. Other signs manifesting faith also occurred among them. Therefore it was not necessary to defer the sacrament of faith. However during the development of the Church, when there were not such signs demonstrating or proving faith clearly and feigning of the heart lurks or might lurk, a delay of time was necessary so that proof of faith and catechism can be achieved, through which readiness for baptism can be accomplished. Thus at different times differing terms were set, some for the earlier epochs and some for the later, so that one might show aptitude for the faith and so that the readiness to return ”to the Jewish vomit” be removed. Such terms, according to which it seems more or less wise to proceed, are left to the judgment of wise prelates.

[Source: Robert Chazan, Church, State, and Jew in the Middle Ages, 44-51]

POPE INNOCENT III to KING PHILIP AUGUSTUS of FRANCE against Jewish blasphemy (1205)

To the King of France:

It does not displease God, but is even acceptable to Him, that the Jewish dispersion should live and serve under Catholic kings and Christian princes until such time as their remnant shall be saved, in those days when “Judah will be saved and Israel will dwell securely.” Nevertheless, such princes are exceedingly offensive to the sight of the Divine  Majesty who prefer the sons of the crucifiers, against whom to this day the blood cries to the Father’s ears, to the heirs of the crucified Christ, and who prefer the Jewish slavery to the freedom of those whom the Son freed, as though the son of a servant could and ought to be an heir along with the son of the free woman.

Know then that news has reached us to the effect that in the French kingdom the Jews have become so insolent that by means of their vicious usury, through which they extort not only usury but even usury on usury, they appropriate ecclesiastical goods and Christian possessions. There seems to be fulfilled among the Christians that which the prophet bewailed in the case of Jews, saying: “Our heritage has been turned over to strangers, our houses to outsiders.”

Moreover, although it was enacted in the Lateran Council that Jews are not permitted to have Christian servants in their homes, neither under pretext of rearing their children nor for domestic service nor for any other reason whatever, but that those who presume to live with them shall be excommunicate, yet they do not hesitate to have Christian servants and nurses, with whom, at times, they work such abominations as are more fitting that you should punish than proper that we should specify.

Moreover, although the same council decided to admit Christian evidence against Jews in lawsuits that arise between the two since they use Jewish witnesses against Christians, and although it decreed that whoever preferred the Jews to the Christians in this matter should be anathematized, yet they have to this day been given the preference in the French realm to such an extent that Christian witnesses are not believed against them, while they are admitted to testimony against Christians.

Thus, if the Christians to whom they have loaned money on usury bring Christian witnesses about the facts in the case, the Jews are given more credence because of the document which the indiscreet debtor left with them through negligence or carelessness, than are the Christians through the witnesses produced. Nay, more, in complaints of this nature witnesses are not received against them at all.

By this time, and it is with shame that we repeat it, they have become so insolent that at Sens they have built a new synagogue near an old church, a good deal higher that the church. There they celebrate the Jewish rites, not in a low tone, as they used to before they were expelled from the kingdom, but, in accordance with their custom, with great shouting. Thus they do not hesitate to hinder divine services m that church.

What is even worse, blaspheming against God’s name, they publicly insult Christians by saying that Christians believe in a peasant who had been hung by the Jewish people. Indeed, we do not doubt that He was hung for us, since He carried our sins in His body on the Cross, but we do not admit that He was a peasant either in manners or in race. Forsooth, they themselves cannot deny that physically He was descended from priestly and royal stock and that His manners were distinguished and proper. Also on Good Friday the Jews, contrary to old custom, publicly run to and fro over the towns and streets and everywhere laugh at the Christians because they adore the Crucified One on the Cross and, through their improprieties, attempt to dissuade them from their worship.

The doors of the Jews are also open to thieves half the night, and, if any stolen goods be found with them, none can obtain justice from them. The Jews likewise abuse the royal patience, and, when. They remain living among the Christians, they take advantage of every wicked opportunity to kill in secret their Christian hosts. Thus, it has recently been reported that a certain poor scholar had been found murdered m their latrine.

Wherefore, lest through them the name of God be blasphemed and Christian liberty become less than Jewish servitude, we warn, and in the name of God exhort Your Serene Majesty-and we join thereto a remission of sins-that you restrain the Jews from their presumptions in these and similar matters and that you try to remove from the French kingdom abuses of this sort for you seem to have the proper zeal of God and knowledge of Him. Moreover, since secular laws should be directed with greater severity against those who profane the name of God, you should so turn against these blasphemers that the punishment of some should be a source of fear to all and that ease of obtaining forgiveness serve not as an incentive to evil doers. You should bestir yourself, moreover, to remove heretics from the French kingdom, nor should your Royal Highness permit wolves who hide in sheep’s clothes in order to destroy the ewes to wander in your realm, but rather by persecuting them Your Highness should display the same zeal with which he follows the Christian faith.

Given in Rome, at Saint Peter’s, January 16, in the seventh year (1205]

[source: Robert Chazan, Church, State, and Jew in the Middle Ages, 171-3]

Emperor Frederick II convenes secular and ecclesiastical authority, defends and protects the Jews against blood libel (1236)

THE NAME OF THE HOLY AND UNDIVIDED TRINITY, Frederick II, through the favor of divine mercy august emperor of the Romans and king of Jerusalem and Sicily: Although the preeminence of this august dignity is obligated to extend the arm of its protection to all subjects of the Roman Empire and although it is fitting, for the protection of the faith which stems from celestial dispensation, to treat the faithful of Christ with special favor, nonetheless, for the proper management of justice, it is required that we rule the non-believers properly and protect them justly, as a special group committed to our care. Thus, living with the faithful under the protection of our majesty, they shall not be violently oppressed by those stronger than themselves. Therefore, it is by the contents of the present letter that present and future generations shall know that all the serfs of our court in Germany have beseeched our majesty that we deign by our grace to confirm for all the Jews of Germany the privilege of our divine grandfather Frederick, granted to the Jews of Worms and their associates. These are the contents of that privilege…

Providing then for the security and peaceful status of the Jews of Germany, we cause this special grace to be extended to all Jews who belong directly to our court. That is to say, copying and adhering to the edicts of our aforesaid grandfather, we confirm for the Jews by our natural mercy the above privilege and those stipulations contained in it, in the same manner as our divine and august grandfather granted to the Jews of Worms and their associates.

Moreover, we wish that all present and future know the following. When a ,erious crime was imputed to the Jews of Fulda concerning the death of certain boys of the town, because of that terrible incident the harsh opinion of the neighboring populace, spawned by recent misfortune, was projected against the rest of the Jews of Germany, although covert attacks were not yet in evidence. In order to clarify the truth concerning the aforesaid crime, we had many of the princes and magnates and nobles of the empire, along with abbots and clerics, convened to provide counsel. When diverse views on the matter had been expressed, not adequate to produce clear counsel, as is fitting, we concluded that one could not proceed more properly against the Jews accused of the aforesaid crime than through those who had been Jews and had converted to the cult of the Christian faith. They, since opposed to Judaism, would not withhold whatever they might know against the Jews, whether through the Mosaic books or through the contents of the Old Testament. Although through the authority of many books, which our majesty distributed, our conscience had the innocence of the aforesaid Jews reasonably proven, in order to provide satisfaction for both the populace and the law, by our counsel and that of our princes, magnates, nobles, abbots, and clerics, with unanimous agreement, we sent special messengers to all the kings of the West, through whom we had many experienced experts in Jewish law sent from their kingdoms to our presence. When they had tarried in our court for some time, we commanded in order to ascertain the truth of this matter, that they diligently conduct  a study and instruct our conscience whether there survives any belief leading to the perpetrating of any act regarding human blood, which might impel the Jews to commit the aforesaid crime. When their findings were published on this matter, then it was clear that it was not indicated in the Old Testament or in the New that Jews lust for the drinking of human blood. Rather, precisely the opposite, they guard against the intake of all blood, as we find expressly in the biblical book which is called in Hebrew, “Bereshit,” in the laws given by Moses, and in the Jewish decrees which are called in Hebrew, “Talmud.” We can surely assume that for those to whom even the blood of permitted animals is forbidden, the desire for human blood cannot exist, as a result of the horror of the matter, the prohibition of nature, and the common bond of the human species in which they also join Christians. Moreover, they would not expose to danger their substance and persons for that which they might have freely when taken from animals. By this sentence of the princes, we pronounce the Jews of the aforesaid place and the rest of the Jews of Germany completely absolved of this imputed crime. Therefore, we decree by the authority of the present privilege that no one, whether cleric or layman, proud or humble, whether under the pretext of preaching or otherwise, 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. Let all know that, since a lord is honored through his servants, whoever shows himself favorable and helpful to our serfs the, Jews will surely please us. However, whoever presumes to contravene the edict of this present confirmation and of our absolution bears the offense of our majesty.

In order that the present confirmation and absolution remain in unimpaired and perpetual validity, we have ordered that the present privilege be drawn up and be sealed with the golden seal bearing the symbol of our majesty.

[source: Robert Chazan, Church, State, and Jew in the Middle Ages, pp.124-6] 

Pope Innocent IV attacks Talmud (1244)

To THE KING of France: The wicked perfidy of the Jews, from whose hearts our Redeemer has not removed the veil of blindness because of the enormity of their crime, but has so far permitted to remain in blindness such ·as in a measure covers Israel, does not heed, as it should, the fact that Christian piety received them and patiently allows them to live among them through pity only. Instead, it commits enormities that arouse shock in those who hear them and horror in those who mention them. For, ungrateful to the Lord Jesus Christ Who, in the abundance of His kindness, patiently expects their conversion, they, displaying no shame for their guilt nor reverence for the honor of the Christian faith, throw away and despise the law of Moses and the prophets and follow certain traditions of their elders. On account of these same traditions, the Lord reproves them in the Gospel saying: “Why do you transgress God’s commandment and render it void in the interest of your traditions, teachings:  doctrines and commands of men?’ In traditions of this sort they rear and nurture their children. These traditions are called ”Talmud” in Hebrew. It is a large book, exceeding in size the text of the Bible. In it are often found blasphemies against God and His Christ, obviously entangled fables about the Blessed Virgin abusive errors and unheard of follies. But of the laws and the doctrine of the prophets they make their children altogether ignorant. They fear that if the truth which is found in the law and the prophets, indicating clearly that the only begotten Son of God is to appear in the flesh, be furnished these children would be converted to the Christian faith and humbly return to their Redeemer.

Not content with these things, they make Christian women nurses for their children, in insult to the Christian faith, and with these women they commit many shameful actions. On account of this, the faithful must beware lest they incur divine indignation, since they shamefully suffer them to do things which bring confusion upon our faith.

Indeed our beloved son the chancellor of Paris and the doctors, the regents of Paris, after having at the command of our predecessor, Pope Gregory of blessed memory, as expressed in a decree, read the abovenamed book of abuse and others, along with all their glosses, taken from them by force, and after having examined them, consigned them to the flames, in the presence of clergy and laity, to the confusion of the perfidy of the Jews, as we have seen in their letters. You, also, Catholic king and most Christian prince, have given fitting help in these matters and extended your favor, and on account of this we recommend the Royal Excellency with fitting praise to God and bestow our gratitude upon you. Nevertheless, because the blasphemous abuse of these Jews has not: yet ceased, nor their troubles as yet given them understanding, we asked your Royal Highness and we beseech you in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ to strike down with merited severity all the detestable and heinous excesses of this sort which they have committed in insult of the Creator arid to the injury of the Christian name and which you have with laudable piety begun to prosecute. You should order that the above-mentioned abusive books, condemned by these doctors, as well as all the commentaries which have been examined and condemned by them, be burned in fire wherever they can be found throughout your kingdom. You should stringently forbid them hereafter to have any Christian nurses or other Christian servants, lest the children of the freeborn serve the children of the maidservants. As slaves reproved by the Lord, whose death they sinfully plotted, they must acknowledge themselves, as a result  of this act, as slaves of those whom the death of Christ set free, while condemning them to slavery. Thus henceforth we may with fitting praise be able to commend to God the zeal of your sincerity. 

Given at the Lateran, on the ninth of May, in the first year [1244].

[source: Robert Chazan, Church, State, and Jew in the Middle Ages, pp.231-33]


Pope Gregory X: Letter against the blood libel (1271-76)

Gregory, bishop, servant of the servants of God, extends greetings and the apostolic benediction to the beloved sons in Christ, the faithful Christians, to those here now and to those in the future. Even as it is not allowed to the Jews in their assemblies presumptuously to undertake for themselves more than that which is permitted them by law, even so they ought not to suffer any disadvantage in those [privileges] which have been granted them.1 Although they prefer to resist in their stubbornness rather than to recognize the words of their prophets and the mysteries of the Scriptures, and thus to arrive at a knowledge of Christian faith and salvation; nevertheless, inasmuch as they have made an appeal for our protection and help, we therefore admit their petition and off er them the shield of our protection through the clemency of Christian piety. In so doing we follow in the footsteps of our predecessors of blessed memory, the popes of Rome: Calixtus, Eugene, Alexander, Clement, Celestine, Innocent, and Honorius.

We decree moreover that no Christian shall compel them or any one of their group to come to baptism unwillingly. But if anyone of them shall take refuge of his own accord with Christians, because of conviction, then, after his intention will have been manifest, he shall be made a Christian without any intrigue. For, indeed, that person who is known to have come to Christian baptism not freely, but unwillingly, is not believed to possess the Christian faith.

Moreover no Christian shall presume to seize, imprison, wound, torture, mutilate, kill, or inflict violence on them; furthermore no one shall presume, except by judicial action of the authorities of the country, to change the good customs in the land where they live for the purpose of taking their money or goods from them or from others.

In addition, no one shall disturb them in any way during the celebration of their festivals, whether by day or by night, with clubs or stones or anything else. Also no one shall exact any compulsory service of them unless it be that which they have been accustomed to render in previous times.

Inasmuch as the Jews are not able to bear witness against the Christians, we decree furthermore that the testimony of Christians alone against Jews shall not be valid unless there is among these Christians some Jew who is there for the purpose of offering testimony.

Since it happens occasionally that some Christians lose their Christian children, the Jews are accused by their enemies of secretly carrying off and killing these same Christian children and of making sacrifices of the heart and blood of these very children. It happens, too, that the parents of these children or some other Christian enemies of these Jews, secretly hide these very children in order that they may be able to injure these Jews, and in order that they may be able to extort from them a certain amount of money by redeeming them from their straits.

And most falsely do these Christians claim that the Jews have secretly and furtively carried away these children and killed them, and that the Jews offer sacrifice from the heart and the blood of these children, since their law in this matter precisely and expressly forbids Jews to sacrifice, eat, or drink the blood, or to eat the flesh of animals having claws. This has been demonstrated many times at our court by Jews converted to the Christian faith; nevertheless very many Jews are often seized and detained unjustly because of this.

We decree, therefore, that Christians need not be obeyed against Jews in a case or situation of this type, and we order that Jews seized under such a foolish pretext be freed from imprisonment, and that they shall not be arrested henceforth on such a miserable pretext, unless – which we do not believe – they be caught in the commission of the crime.

We decree that no Christian shall stir up anything new against them, but that they should be maintained in that status and position in which they were in the time of our predecessors, from antiquity till now. We decree, in order to stop the wickedness and avarice of bad men, that no one shall dare to devastate or to destroy a cemetery of the Jews or to dig up human bodies for the sake of getting money. Moreover, if anyone, aft er having known the content of this decree, should – which we hope will not happen – attempt audaciously to act contrary to it, then let him suffer punishment in his rank and position, or let him be punished by the penalty of excommunication, unless he makes amends for his boldness by proper recompense. Moreover, we wish that only those Jews who have not attempted to contrive anything toward the destruction of the Christian faith be fortified by the support of such protection. . . .

Given at Orvieto by the hand of the Magister John Lectator, vice-chancellor of the Holy Roman Church, on the 7th of October, in the first indiction [cycle of fifteen years], in the year 1272 of the divine incarnation, in the first year of the pontificate of our master, the Pope Gregory X.

[source: Jacob Marcus, The Jew in the Medieval World: A Sourcebook, 315-1791, (New York: JPS, 1938, 151-54]

Jews and the Black Death, Burning of the Jews

The Confession of Agimet of Geneva, October 1348

[The confession of Agimet is found in the Appendix to Johann S. Schilter’s 1698 edition of the Middle High German chronicle of the Strasbourg historian, Jakob von Königshofen Twinger (1346- 1420).

The year of our Lord 1348. On Friday, the 10th of the month of October, at Châtel, in the castle thereof, there occurred the judicial inquiry which was made by order of the court of the illustrious Prince, our lord, Amadeus, Count of Savoy, and his subjects against the Jews of both sexes who were there imprisoned, each one separately. This was done after public rumor had become current and a strong clamor had arisen – because of the poison put by them into the wells, springs, and other things which the Christians use – demanding that . . . they should be found guilty and, therefore, that they should be punished. Hence this their confession made in the presence of a great many trustworthy persons.

Agimet the Jew, who lived at Geneva and was arrested at Chatel, was there put to the torture a little and then he was released from it. And after a long time, having been subjected again to torture a little, he confessed in the presence of a great many trustworthy persons, who are later mentioned. To begin with it is clear that at the Lent just passed Pultus Clesis de Ranz had sent this very Jew to Venice to buy silks and other things for him. When this came to the notice of Rabbi Peyret, a Jew of Chambéry who was a teacher of their law, he sent for this Agimet, for whom he had searched, and when he had come before him he said, “We have been informed that you are going to Venice to buy silk and other wares. Here I am giving you a little package of half a span in size which contains some prepared poison and venom in a thin, sewed leather bag. Distribute it among the wells, cisterns, and springs about Venice and the other places to which you go, in order to poison the people who use the water of the aforesaid wells that will have been poisoned by you, namely, the wells in which the poison will have been placed.”

Agimet took this package full of poison and carried it with him to Venice, and when he came there he threw and scattered a portion of it into the well or cistern of fresh water which was near the German House, in order to poison the people who use the water of that cistern. And he says that this is the only cistern of sweet water in the city. He also says that the aforementioned Rabbi Peyret promised to give him whatever he wanted for his troubles in this business. Of his own accord Agimet confessed further that aft er this had been done he left at once so that he would not be captured by the citizens or others, and that he went personally to Calabria and Apulia and threw the aforementioned poison into many wells. He confesses also that he put some of this same poison in the well of the streets of the city of Ballet.

He confesses further that he put some of this poison into the public fountain of the city of Toulouse and in the wells that are near the [Mediterranean] Sea. Asked if at the time that he scattered the venom and poisoned the wells, mentioned above, any people had died, he said that he did not know inasmuch as he had left every one of the aforementioned places in a hurry. Asked if any of the Jews of those places were guilty in the aforementioned matt er, he answered that he did not know. And now by all that which is contained in the five books of Moses and the scroll of the Jews, he declared that this was true, and that he was in no wise lying, no matter what might happen to him. Ʀƨ.Ʀ

The Cremation of Strasbourg Jewry, February 14, 1349

[The second selection is taken from the body of Königshofen’s history. Th is account merits credence, not only because Königshofen was an archivist and lived close to the events of which he writes, but also because he incorporated considerable material from his Strasbourg predecessor, the historian Fritsche Closener, who was probably an eyewitness of the tragedy]

In the year 1349 there occurred the greatest epidemic that ever happened. Death went from one end of the earth to the other, on both sides of the sea, and it was even greater among the Saracens than among the Christians. In some lands everyone died so that no one was left . Ships were also found on the sea laden with wares; the crew had all died and no one guided the ship. The Bishop of Marseilles and priests and monks and more than half of all the people there died with them. In other kingdoms and cities so many people perished that it would be horrible to describe. Th e pope at Avignon stopped all sessions of court, locked himself in a room, allowed no one to approach him and had a fire burning before him all the time. As for the source of this epidemic, all wise teachers and physicians could say only that it was God’s will. As the plague was now here, so was it in other places, and it lasted more than an entire year. Th is epidemic also came to Strasbourg in the summer of the aforementioned year, and it is estimated that about sixteen thousand people died.

In the matter of this plague the Jews throughout the world were reviled and accused in all lands of having caused it through the poison which they are said to have put into the water and the wells – that is what they were accused of – and for this reason the Jews were burnt all the way from the Mediterranean into Germany, but not in Avignon, for the pope protected them there.

Nevertheless they tortured a number of Jews in Berne and Zofingen [Switzerland], who then admitted that they had put poison into many wells, and they also found the poison in the wells. Thereupon they burnt the Jews in many towns and wrote of this affair to Strasbourg, Freiburg, and Basel in order that they too should burn their Jews. But the leaders in these three cities in whose hands the government lay did not believe that anything ought to be done to the Jews. However in Basel the citizens marched to the city hall and compelled the council to take an oath that they would burn the Jews, and that they would allow no Jew to enter the city for the next two hundred years. Thereupon the Jews were arrested in all these places and a conference was arranged to meet at Benfeld [Alsace, February 8, 1349]

The Bishop of Strasbourg [Berthold II], all the feudal lords of Alsace, and representatives of the three aforementioned cities came there. The deputies of the city of Strasbourg were asked what they were going to do with their Jews. They answered and said that they knew no evil of them. Then they asked the Strasbourgers why they had closed the wells and put away the buckets, and there was a great indignation and clamor against the deputies from Strasbourg. So finally the Bishop and the lords and the Imperial Cities agreed to do away with the Jews. The result was that they were burnt in many cities, and wherever they were expelled they were caught by the peasants and stabbed to death or drowned…

The Jews are Burnt

On Saturday – that was St. Valentine’s Day – they burnt the Jews on a wooden platform in their cemetery. There were about two thousand people of them. Those who wanted to baptize themselves were spared. Many small children were taken out of the fire and baptized against the will of their fathers and mothers. And everything that was owed to the Jews was cancelled, and the Jews had to surrender all pledges and notes that they had taken for debts. The council, however, took the cash that the Jews possessed and divided it among the working-men proportionately. The money was indeed the thing that killed the Jews. If they had been poor and if the feudal lords had not been in debt to them, they would not have been burnt. After this wealth was divided among the artisans some gave their share to the Cathedral or to the Church on the advice of their confessors.

Thus were the Jews burnt at Strasbourg, and in the same year in all the cities of the Rhine, whether Free Cities or Imperial Cities or cities belonging to the lords. In some towns they burnt the Jews after a trial, in others, without a trial. In some cities the Jews themselves set fi re to their houses and cremated themselves.

The Jews Return to Strasbourg

It was decided in Strasbourg that no Jew should enter the city for a hundred years, but before twenty years had passed, the council and magistrates agreed that they ought to admit the Jews again into the city for twenty years. And so the Jews came back again to Strasbourg in the year ƥƧƪƬ aft er the birth of our Lord.

[Source: Jacob Marcus and Marc Saperstein, The Jews in Christian Europe A Source Book: 315–1791, (Cincinnati: Hebrew Union College Press, 2015), 154-57{an expanded version of Marcus’ anthology from 1938}]

Martin Luther, from On the Jews and Their Lies, (1543)

I say, before they [the Jews] would have us Gentiles – whom they incessantly mock, curse, damn, defame, and revile – share the Messiah with them, and be called their co-heirs and brethren, they would crucify ten more Messiahs and kill God himself if this were possible, together with all angels and all creatures, even at the risk of incurring thereby the penalty of a thousand hells instead of one. Such an incomprehensibly stubborn pride dwells in the noble blood of the fathers and circumcised saints. They alone want to have the Messiah and be masters of the world. The accursed Goyim must be servants, give their desire (that is their gold and silver) to the Jews [echoing Hag. 2:7], and let themselves be slaughtered like wretched cattle. They would rather remain lost consciously and eternally than give up this view.

From their youth they have imbibed such venomous hatred against the Goyim from their parents and their rabbis, and they still continuously drink it. As Psalm 109 [:18] declares, it has penetrated flesh and blood, marrow and bone, and has become part and parcel of their nature and their life. And as little as they can change flesh and blood, marrow and bone, so little can they change such pride and envy. They must remain thus and perish, unless God performs extraordinarily great miracles.8 If I wished to vex and anger a Jew severely, I would say, “Listen Jehudi, do you realize that I am a real brother of all the holy children of Israel and a co-heir in the kingdom of the true Messiah?” Without doubt, I would meet with a nasty rebuff . If he could stare at me with the eyes of a basilisk, he would surely do it. And all the devils could not execute the evil he would wish me, even if God were to give them leave – of that I am certain. However, I shall refrain from doing this, and I ask also that no one else do so, for Christ’s sake. . . .

Therefore, dear Christian, be advised and do not doubt that next to the devil, you have no more bitt er, venomous, and vehement foe than a real Jew who earnestly seeks to be a Jew. There may perhaps be some among them who believe what a cow or goose believes, but their lineage and circumcision infects them all. Therefore the history books often accuse them of contaminating wells, of kidnapping and piercing children, as for example at Trent, Weissensee, etc. They of course deny this. Whether it is true or not, I do know that they do not lack the complete, full, and ready will to do such things either secretly or openly where possible. This you can assuredly expect from them, and you must govern yourselves accordingly. If they do perform some good deed, you may rest assured that they are not prompted by love, nor is it done with your benefit in mind. Since they are compelled to live among us, they do this for reasons of expediency, but their heart remains and is as I have described it. If you do not want to believe me, read Lyra, Burgensis, and other truthful and honest men. And even if they had not recorded it, you would find that Scripture tells of the two seeds, the serpent’s and the woman’s. It says that these are enemies [Gen. 3:15], and that God and the devil are at variance with each other. Their own writings and prayer books also state this plainly enough.

A person who is unacquainted with the devil might wonder why they are so particularly hostile toward Christians. They have no reason to act this way, since we show them every kindness. They live among us, enjoy our shield and protection, they use our country and our highways, our markets and streets. Meanwhile our princes and rulers sit there and snore with mouths hanging open and permit the Jews to take, steal, and rob from their open money-bags and treasures whatever they want. Th at is, they let the Jews, by means of their usury, skin and fleece them and their subjects and make them beggars with their own money. For the Jews, who are exiles, should really have nothing, and whatever they have must surely be our property. They do not work, and they do not earn anything from us, nor do we give or present it to them, and yet they are in possession of our money and goods and are our masters in our own country and in their exile. A thief is condemned to hang for the theft of ten florins, and if he robs anyone on the highway, he forfeits his head. But when a Jew steals and robs ten tons of gold through his usury, he is more highly esteemed than God himself.

In proof of this we cite the bold boast with which they strengthen their faith and give vent to their venomous hatred of us, as they say among themselves, “Be patient and see how God is with us, and does not desert his people even in exile. We do not labor, and yet we enjoy prosperity and leisure. The accursed Goyim have to work for us, but we get their money. This makes us their masters and them our servants. Be patient, dear children of Israel, better times are in store for us, our Messiah will still come if we continue thus and acquire the chemdath [wealth] of all the gentiles [Hag. 2:7] by usury and other methods.” Alas, this is what we endure for them. They are under our shield and protection, and yet, as I have said, they curse us. . . .  

In addition, no one is holding them here now. Th e country and the roads are open for them to proceed to their land whenever they wish. If they did so, we would be glad to present gifts to them on the occasion; it would be good riddance. For they are a heavy burden, a plague, a pestilence, a sheer misfortune for our country. Proof for this is found in the fact that they have often been expelled forcibly from a country, far from being held captive in it. . . .

What shall we Christians do with this rejected and condemned people, the Jews? Since they live among us, we dare not tolerate their conduct, now that we are aware of their lying and reviling and blaspheming. If we do, we become sharers in their lies, cursing, and blasphemy. Thus we cannot extinguish the unquenchable fire of divine wrath, of which the prophets speak, nor can we convert the Jews. With prayer and the fear of God we much practice a sharp mercy to see whether we might save at least a few from the glowing flames. We dare not avenge ourselves. Vengeance a thousand times worse than we could wish them already has them by the throat. I shall give you my sincere advice:

First, to set fire to their synagogues or schools and to bury and cover with dirt whatever will not burn, so that no man will ever again see a stone or cinder of them. This is to be done in honor of our Lord and of Christendom, so that God might see that we are Christians, and do not condone or knowingly tolerate such public lying, cursing, and blaspheming of His Son and His Christians. . . .  

Second, I advise that their houses also be razed and destroyed. For they pursue in them the same aims as in their synagogues. Instead they might be lodged under a roof or in a barn, like the gypsies. Th is will bring home to them the fact that they are not masters in our country, as they boast, but that they are living in exile and in captivity, as they incessantly wail and lament about us before God.

Third, I advise that all their prayer books and Talmudic writings, in which such idolatry, lies, cursing, and blasphemy are taught, be taken from them. . . .

Fourth, I advise that their rabbis be forbidden to teach henceforth on pain of loss of life and limb. . . . Luther and others believed that the Jews cursed the Christians in their daily prayers.

Fifth, I advise that safe-conduct on the highways be abolished completely for the Jews. For they have no business in the country-side, since they are not lords, officials, tradesmen, or the like. Let them stay at home. I have heard it said that a rich Jew is now travelling across the country with twelve horses – his ambition is to be a Kokhba – devouring princes, lords, lands, and people with his usury, so that the great lords view it with jealous eyes. If you great lords and princes will not forbid such usurers the highway legally, some day a troop may gather against them, having learned from this booklet the true nature of the Jews and how one should deal with them and not protect their activities. For you, too, must not and cannot protect them unless you wish to become participants in all their abominations. . . .

Sixth, I advise that usury be prohibited to them, and that all cash and treasure of silver and gold be taken from them and put aside for safekeeping. The reason for such a measure is that, as said above, they have no other means of earning a livelihood than usury, and by it they have stolen and robbed from us all they possess. Such money should now be used in no other way than the following: Whenever a Jew is sincerely converted, he should be handed one hundred, two hundred, or three hundred fl orins, as personal circumstances may suggest. With this he could set himself up in some occupation for the support of his poor wife and children, and the maintenance of the old or feeble. For such evil gains are cursed if they are not put to use with God’s blessing in a good and worthy cause.

Seventh, I recommend putting a flail, an ax, a hoe, a spade, a distaff, or a spindle into the hands of young, strong Jews and Jewesses and letting them earn their bread in the sweat of their brow, as was imposed on the children of Adam (Gen. 3:19]). For it is not fitting that they should let us accursed Goyim toil in the sweat of our faces while they, the holy people, idle away their time behing the stove, feasting and farting, and on top of all, boasting blasphemously of their lordship over the Christians by means of our sweat. No, one should toss out these lazy rogues by the seat of their pants. But if we are afraid that they might harm us or our wives, children, servants, cattle, etc., if they had to serve and work for us – for it is reasonable to assume that such noble lords of the world and venomous, bitt er worms are not accustomed to working and would be very reluctant to humble themselves so deeply before the accursed Goyim – then let us emulate the common sense of other nations such as France, Spain, Bohemia, etc., compute with them how much their usury has extorted from us, divide this amicably, but then eject them forever from the country. For, as we have heard, God’s anger with them is so intense that gentle mercy will only tend to make them worse and worse, while sharp mercy will reform them but little. Therefore, in any case, away with them!. . .

In brief, dear princes and lords, those of you who have Jews under your rule – if my counsel does not please you, find better advice, so that you and we all can be rid of the unbearable, devilish burden of the Jews. . .

[Source: Jacob Marcus and Marc Saperstein, The Jews in Christian Europe A Source Book: 315–1791, (Cincinnati: Hebrew Union College Press, 2015), 212-20 {an expanded version of Marcus’ anthology from 1938}]

Primary Documents; Source Collections in English translation:

Chazan, Robert (ed. and trans.). Church, State, and Jew in the Middle Ages. New York: Behrman House, 1980

Marcus, Jacob Rader (ed. and trans.). The Jew in the Medieval World: A Source Book: 315–1791. Rev. ed. Cincinnati: Hebrew Union College Press, 1999

Saperstein, Marc (ed. and trans.). Jewish Preaching 1200–1800: An Anthology. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1989.

Simonsohn, Shlomo (ed.). The Apostolic See and the Jews: Documents. 7 vols. Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, 1988–1990

[[Special note to the Internet History Sourcebooks Project at Fordham University which you can find here and where I found so many of the sources found below.]]

About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish thought and philosophical aesthetics.
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