© Marcus Roberts (1995 and 2005)


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

Pages < 1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10   > 


Jews themselves though were not eligible to attend the university. However, they were evidently very active in Jewish study and scholarship. David of Oxford possessed an important private library thought to comprise some 49 books or more, in an era when a well-produced book might cost the equivalent of £20,000 in modern money.

Some of the scholars attained not only national but international repute. The rabbinic dynasty of Moses of Oxford spanned four generations and were known for their expert opinions on Jewish law, their commentaries on the Talmud and the vocalisation of the Hebrew Bible. (See special feature on the dynasty of Moses of Oxford). Other Jewish writers associated with the town included Berechiah ben Natronai haNakdan, also known as Benedict le puintur of Oxford, who, amongst his other works, designed the famous Fox Fables (Mishle Shualim), before 1186.

In the Christian university, academics such as Roger Bacon and Bishop Grosseteste of Lincoln, who was Chancellor of the University in 1224,, encouraged the study of both Hebrew and Arabic, and there can be little doubt that Christian scholars consulted the local Jewish rabbis and scholars. Indeed, a letter in Corpus Christie College library (in M.S. Corpus Christi College 10) from Bishop Grosseteste recommens the production of Latin Bibles, with the Hebrew translation, to help Christian scholars learn Hebrew. The production of these bilingual texts would have required the collaboration of Jewish scholars, although whether observant or convert Jews, or both, were employed to do this, is an open question.

A psalter (CCC 10) and a portion of the Rashi commentary on the Bible (CCC 6) in the Corpus Christi collection are thought to have been written in Oxford in the 13th century by Christian and Jewish scholars. Such manuscripts are clear evidence of the interchange between the two religions and cultures in the medieval town.


While relations between the Jews and Christians of 13th century Oxford tended to be positive, there were sporadic outbreaks of anti-semitism. The student rent riot of 1244 was a notable episode, when students protesting about Jewish rents, attacked and sacked Jewish homes. The Church also feared the potentially heretical influence that Judaism might have on Christians. In 1222, when Robert of Reading converted to Judaism -- and even worse -- took a Jewish wife, he was burnt before the gates of Osney Abbey for his pains. It is also reported that other Jews were burnt at the castle in 1222 for their alleged heresy.
Such attacks generally occurred in Oxford, as elsewhere, at the time of major Christian festivals - particularly the Easter period. The most notable of these was the Ascension Day riot of 1268, in which it was alleged that a Jew had attacked a religious procession and trampled the Crucifix to the ground. The whole community was temporarily imprisoned, and the king punished them by forcing them to pay for a marble and gold crucifix that was set up in Merton College.

Post a Comment
Submit to this trail