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The Sherman Lectures 2014 Thinking about Jews in Medieval Europe Lecture 2: The ‘Jewish Body’ 13 May 2014 By Miri Rubin, Queen Mary University of London.

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Presentation on theme: "The Sherman Lectures 2014 Thinking about Jews in Medieval Europe Lecture 2: The ‘Jewish Body’ 13 May 2014 By Miri Rubin, Queen Mary University of London."— Presentation transcript:

1 The Sherman Lectures 2014 Thinking about Jews in Medieval Europe Lecture 2: The ‘Jewish Body’ 13 May 2014 By Miri Rubin, Queen Mary University of London



4 Why the body historical? Anthropology and history: ritual, the body as actor Gender and history Social history/Alltagsgeschichte : the history of everyday life: the body eats, works, rests, plays, enjoys, reproduces, attracts, repels, ages…. History of emotions


6 The Body and Politics: The King’s/Queen’s Two Bodies

7 The Body and Empire

8 Religious Discipline and Fantasy

9 The Body and Religious Practice

10 The Body Decorated

11 Veins and womb, 13 th c English

12 14thc English planetary influences on body

13 Prum Evangilary c.1100-30 Chronicon Albeldense, c. 1000

14 Limousin calendar, c.1150

15 The Oxford Bible moralisée, early 13 th c

16 Nativity, Musée de Cluny panel, French 14C

17 The Minnesänger Süsskind von Trimberg, in 14thc Manesse ms


19 In some provinces a difference in dress distinguishes the Jews or Saracens from the Christians, but in certain others such a confusion has grown up that they cannot be distinguished by any difference. Thus it happens at times that through error Christians have relations with the women of Jews or Saracens, and Jews and Saracens with Christian women. 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.

20 Essen, c.1000


22 The gentiles call their holiness which is a sin of lechery Your chosen ones reject the lineage of the woman of lechery The gentiles raise an image higher than God Your people bear witness to your lordship, God of Gods, The gentiles have a defeated corpse as their nonsensical folly Your cohort has you as holy seated in praise. Sefer Gezerot Ashkenaz ve-Zarefat, ed. Abraham Habermann, Jerusalem, 1945

23 Look and behold, O 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. The Narrative of the Old Persecutions or Mainz Anonymous ’, in The Jews and the Crusaders: The Hebrew Chronicles of the First and Second Crusades, ed. and trans. Shlomo Eidelberg, Madison (WI), 1977, pp. 95-115, p. 110.

24 And there was one pious man there, whose name was R Isaac haLevi, and they tortured him with hard torment, and made him filthy despite himself, since he knew not what was happening due to the beating he had suffered. Hebra ̈ ische Berichte u ̈ ber die Judenverfolgungen wa ̈ hrend des Ersten Kreuzzugs, ed. Eva Haverkamp, Hannover: Hahnsche Buchhandlung, 2005, p.409.

25 The virgins and the wives and the bridegrooms looked out of the windows and shouted in a great voice, saying: ‘Look and see, our God, what we are doing to sanctify your great name, without forsaking your divinity for the sake of a hung crucified, a bedraggled and disgusting corpse, condemned even in his own time, bastard, son of uncleanliness and of adultery’. Ed. Haverkamp, p.333.

26 Odo: …’Gabriel said that she is “full of grace” (Luke 1:28)… If full, nothing of her was in any way devoid of grace. So, nothing of hers was emptied by sin, whose whole being was filled with grace. Therefore her sex was filled with glory, her womb was filled with glory, her organs were filled with glory, the whole of her was filled with glory, because the whole of her was filled with grace. Odo of Tournai, On Original Sin; and, A Disputation with the Jew, Leo, concerning the Advent of Christ, the Son of God: Two Theological Treatises, trans. Irven M. Resnick, Middle Ages Series, Philadelphia, 1994, p.97.

27 Where is that which you called the uncleanliness of woman, the obscene prison, the fetid womb? Confess, you wretch, your stupidity…. In his conception the virgin became the marriage bed of omnipotent God and the sanctuary of the Holy Spirit… The secret places of her blessed womb were the more holy, or rather the more divine, the more intimately divine mysteries grew there… What in all creation is more holy, more clean, more pure than the virgin from whom was assumed what God became? O womb, O flesh, in whom and from whom the creator was created, and God was made incarnate... Odo of Tournai, On Original Sin, ed. Resnick, p. 97.

28 Having accomplished their proposed malice in this way, the Jews consulted each other as to what more was to be done, took care to remove the lifeless body hanging from the post, and entered into collective consultation as to what to do with it. Several said it should be thrown into a privy, for greater shame and degradation, but some of the cleverer ones thought to hide it in the ground, lest the Christians somehow manage to find it. Yet the working of divine clemency, which prepared for later times the discovery of so great a martyr, allowed neither that he be cast down into the privy, nor that he be hidden in the earth. Therefore, by the provision of the divine plan, making them doubt themselves, not knowing for certain as yet what to do, they all agreed unanimously on the matter, that while they carefully reflected on the issue, they should keep him in the meantime in a more hidden place.

29 On the morrow…..they met again for the business at hand, and, as we later learned from one of them, … a certain person who had considerable authority among them: ‘Listen to me, brothers, followers of the Lord’s law. I consider it utterly useless for us - and I fear greatly the danger which would follow in the future - if the body of this Christian were to be drowned in our privy, or concealed in the earth within the area of our houses. Since, indeed, we dwell in rented houses, if within a month or sooner when some new reason arises, we move away from these dwellings to others, I fear what might follow after our departure, and I will be greatly amazed if what I fear were not to happen. For once we have left, the Christians who will move in will assuredly inspect everything, and one cannot believe that they will not – to shame us – either cleanse the sewers, or fill up the old ones and dig new ones where they wish. What then? It is likely and easy then for the body will be found by the cleaners or the diggers. Having found it, in no way will the deed be imputed to Christians, but the blame for the whole affair will undoubtedly be passed on to us. It does not seem likely that a Christian would have been willing to do such a thing to Christians, nor, up to a point, Jews to a Jew.



32 Ramsey Psalter, c. 980-1000

33 Duccio, c.1308, Maesta


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