Marcus Roberts


Bookmark this page |  E-mail this page to a friend

Pages < 1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   > 

Research shows that the medieval Anglo-Jews were really of most significance to their local economies acting in many ways like local banks. There is little evidence to argue that they were significant in international finance or in expediting international trade over long distances, though this is not to forget that the major individual money lenders did often conduct business in several counties at once through their agents.

The closeness of relations between the Canterbury Jews and the Cathedral, as well as their self-confidence, is shown by the events in 1187, when the monks of the Cathedral found themselves in dispute with Archbishop Baldwin over their right to elect the Archbishop. Baldwin wanted them to submit to his authority and when they refused, they entered into one and a half years dispute which led to Baldwin besieging the monastery with soldiers in an effort to starve them into submission.

Both the town's people and the Jews supported the rebels. The Jews not only smuggled food and drink to the monks, but they even prayed for them! Gervase in the Chronicles of Canterbury, marveled at the irony of this, 'the Archbishop did not cease to take away, nor, the Jews to give. The Archbishop excommunicated, the Jews prayed - a wonderful contrast indeed!'

Naturally, there were always complaints to be made about the exactions of the Jews. When the monks of the rival St Augustine's Abbey borrowed from the Jews, Pope Alexander III heard of this and exhorted Henry II to protect the holy fraternity from them.

One complaint which was to lead to more serious consequences concerned the Archdeacon of Bath, Peter de Blois. The Archdeacon was six pounds in debt to Sampson, a major figure in the Canterbury Jewry and London Jews. He wrote a beautifully composed begging letter to his close friend the Bishop of Ely, exhorting him to redeem him from the Jews. He said that he would otherwise have to go urgently to Canterbury, from Bath, 'in order to be crucified by the perfidious Jews' and craved the Archdeacon, in oleaginous tones that, '...You will remove this cross from me, and take upon yourself the payment of the six pounds that I owe Sampson the Jew, and, by this act, turn my debts into a cause of profound gratitude to you.'

It is little surprising that he is later credited with a then popular and an aggressive anti-Semitic work, called Contra Perfidiam Judaeorum - 'Against the perfidy of the Jews' - one which helped create a hostile climate against the medieval Anglo-Jews.

In regard to the town's people, the Canterbury Jews seemed to be well integrated. A contemporary miracle story sets its main action at a Jewish inn in the city and assumes that both communities had free interchange. The gist of the story is that a Christian woman was carrying a bucket of water from a holy well sanctified by St Thomas a Becket. She went into the inn of a Jewess to have her weak foot 'charmed' by the Jewess who was skilled in this dark art. As she crossed the threshold the bucket split in three leading her to 'learn the wicked intuition of her own mind...', and to abjure the Jews.

Post a Comment
Submit to this trail