Advertisement

Sacred Space pp 151-171 | Cite as

Holy Body, Holy Society: Conflicting Medieval Structural Conceptions

  • Kenneth R. Stow

Abstract

That Europeans in medieval times used or exploited sacred theologies on the way to self-definition is well known. Jews said they inhabited a qehillah qedoshah (a holy community); Christians, a communis patria (a common fatherland) — a term that originally referred exclusively to the Church — for which they were prepared to die. None other than the famous English jurist Bracton (d. 1268) referred to royal possessions and prerogatives as res quasi sacrae, because they were part and parcel of the corpus mysticum, the civic embodiment of the Corpus Christi, which had come to symbolize, if not sacralize, the undying body of the sovereign republic, wholly or in part.1

Keywords

Jewish Community Thirteenth Century Body Politic Jewish History Biological Family 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

Notes

  1. 1.
    See especially E.H. Kantorowicz, The King’s Two Bodies, Princeton 1957, passim, especially pp. 195 and 210; and, more recently,Google Scholar
  2. M. Rubin, Corpus Christi: The Eucharist in Late Medieval Culture, Cambridge 1991, pp. 259–263.Google Scholar
  3. 2.
    On Edward’s attitude to money-lending, see J.A. Watt’s recent study, “The Jews, the Law, and the Church: The Concept of Jewish Serfdom in Thirteenth-Century England,” in The Church and Sovereignty: Essays in Honor of Michael Wilks, Studies in Church History: Subsidia, IX (1991), pp. 156–161;Google Scholar
  4. see also K.R. Stow, “Papal and Royal Attitudes toward Jewish Lending in the Thirteenth Century,” AJS Review, VI (1981), pp. 161–184; andCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. R.C. Stacey, “1240–1260: A Watershed in Anglo-Jewish Relations,” Historical Research, LXI (1988), pp. 144–146.Google Scholar
  6. 3.
    See W.C. Jordan, The French Monarchy and the Jews from Philip Augustus to the Last Capetians, Princeton 1989, pp. 198–199.Google Scholar
  7. 4.
    Y.F. Baer, Die Juden im christlichen Spanien, Berlin 1936, pp. 404–408.Google Scholar
  8. 5.
    Lotter, “Die Judenverfolgung des ‘Koenig Rintfleisch’ in Franken um 1298,” Zeitschrift für historische Forschung, XV (1988), pp. 413.Google Scholar
  9. 7.
    M. Becker, Florence in Transition: The Decline of the Commune, Baltimore 1967, I, p.11.Google Scholar
  10. 8.
    Ibid., I, pp. 11–12. The semi-sacred, semi-secular character of Roman law made it especially suitable to serve as an instrument of transition in late medieval society, which was finding it increasingly difficult to justify the Jewish presence theologically, but which, in places like Italy, had begun to justify that presence on secular grounds. Roman law played the same role in the Jewish re-admission to Germany from the sixteenth century on, and, consequently, despite its many restrictions on Jews, it formed the backbone of eighteenth-century treatises concerning the potential integration of Jews into German society, such as C.W. Dohm’s Concerning the Amelioration of the Civil Status of the Jews (English transl. by H. Lederer, Cincinnati 1957).Google Scholar
  11. 9.
    K.R. Stow, Alienated Minority: The Jews of Medieval Latin Europe, Cambridge, Mass., 1992, p. 212.Google Scholar
  12. 11.
    Marriage, says J.F. Noonan, (“Power to Choose,” Viator, IV [1973], p. 429), was to be “‘a seedbed of charity’ [Augustine] for the heavenly city”; and, hence, absolutely under Church control, achieved through promoting the consent of the individual and so, theoretically, superseding family control. On the “spiritual family,”Google Scholar
  13. see R. Brentano, Rome before Avignon, New York 1974, pp. 171–210;Google Scholar
  14. D. Herlihy, Medieval Households, Cambridge, Mass., 1985, p. 122, and also p. 114 on the “natural family”; and, on the emergence of priestly celibacy,Google Scholar
  15. J. Brundage, Law, Sex, and Christian Society in Medieval Europe, Chicago-London 1987, p. 174. On the crusades, see Roberti Monachi Historia Hierosolimitana, Recueil des Historiens des Croisades, Historiens Occidentaux, Paris 1844–1895, III, p. 728; andCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. J. Riley-Smith, The First Crusade and the Idea of Crusading, Philadelphia 1986, pp. 22 and 151. Riley-Smith points out that Urban II originally required husbands, as pilgrims, to seek their wives’ agreement to their departure; but they were exempted from this requirement by Innocent III in his encyclical, Ex multa, discussed byGoogle Scholar
  17. J.Brundage in The Crusades, Holy War, and Canon Law, Aldershot, U.K., 1991, essay XV. This notion of abandonment of the married state for the sake of union with a holy cause reflected the ideal rather than the reality, as emerges from a comparison of the statements of Fulcher of Chartres on the pain of leaving wives (Riley-Smith, First Crusade, p. 162) with the assertions of Robert the Monk that “the most beautiful wives became as loathsome as something putrid,” or, in Riley-Smith’s paraphrase, that “they [the crusaders] sought voluntary exile for the love of God” (ibid., pp. 150–151). Although I argue below that the Jewish family ideal was contrary to the Christian one, it would be interesting to know whether the Jewish ordinance forbidding a husband to leave his wife for more than twelve or eighteen months without her permission, formalized in the twelfth century, was at all influenced by the Christian debate over the necessity for a crusader to obtain his wife’s agreement to forgo the “conjugal debt.” The Jewish travellers, of course, were not pilgrims; it was only for commercial or educational reasons, the ordinance stipulates, that such extended journeys might take place. The ’onah (frequency of sexual intercourse) owed the Jewish wife also differs from the “conjugal debt,” in that it is owed only to the wife, and it is for sexual satisfaction per se, not simply for the purpose of avoiding fornication. Moreover, and most importantly, the law stresses the need for companionship as the major reason for not permitting a husband’s departure.Google Scholar
  18. See L. Finkelstein, Jewish Self-Government in the Middle Ages, Westport, Conn., 1924 (reprinted 1972), pp. 168–169.Google Scholar
  19. 12.
    Bernardino da Siena, Le Prediche Volgari, ed. C. Cannarozzi, Florence 1958, sermons 19–21.Google Scholar
  20. On the ecclesiastical control of marriage by means of priests and the Church see also C. Klapisch-Zuber, Women, Family, and Ritual in Renaissance Italy, Chicago 1985, pp. 209–212.Google Scholar
  21. 13.
    Monumenta Germaniae Historica, ed. G. H. Pertz et al., 1826, IX, p. 213; II, p. 200, cited inGoogle Scholar
  22. E. Synan, The Popes and the Jews in the Middle Ages, New York 1965, p. 177.Google Scholar
  23. 14.
    J. Bossy, Christianity in the West 1400–1700, Oxford 1985, pp. 3–13, 19–26. A sign of how deeply individuals throughout Christian society, and not only its theoreticians, sought to identify with Christ’s spiritual essence (irrespective of no-doubt widespread deviant practice, especially in the marriage-bed or in other beds) may lie, paradoxically, in the inversion this essence underwent in popular thinking in the late medieval and early modern periods. As the nuclear family, based on emotional affection, became the dominant model of the family, especially in cities, the mystical Christ was progressively humanized, becoming a flesh-and-blood model for biological families — as indeed were the other New Testament characters forming the Holy Family. Was the autonomous nuclear family legitimizing itself by claiming to imitate the supposed biological family of Christ? This might provide a partial explanation of the clerical encouragement of, for example, the cult of St. Joseph, one of whose early advocates was none other than Bernardino of Siena;Google Scholar
  24. cf. D. Herlihy, Medieval Households, Cambridge 1985, pp. 116–117, 122–123; and idem, “The Making of the Medieval Family: Symmetry, Structure, and Sentiment,” Journal of Family History, VIII (1983), pp. 116–130. One of the manifestations of this cult was the clerical glorification of the marriage rite of the Virgin and St. Joseph, in which the participation of the Church became ever more prominent (iconographically) and essential (from the legal point of view); see Klapisch-Zuber, Women (above, note 12), pp. 178–212. By controlling the cult of the Holy Family, the clergy, it would appear, was seeking to reinstate itself as the arbiter of the biological family, a position it had previously achieved by advocating the ideal of the spiritual family. See also Becker, Florence, I (above, note 7), pp. 40–41, 192, 226–227.Google Scholar
  25. 16.
    On Jews and canon law, see K.R. Stow, The 1007 Anonymous and Papal Sovereignty: Jewish Perceptions of the Papacy and Papal Policy in the Middle Ages, Cincinnati 1984, pp. 35–36, 41–44. Jewish familiarity with Christian theological arguments may be seen in J. Cohen, “Rationales for Conjugal Sex in RaAvaD’s Ba’alei HaNefesh,” Jewish History, VI, 1/2 (1992).Google Scholar
  26. 18.
    Abraham ben David of Posquières, Sefer Ba’alei ha-Nefesh, ed. J.Kafah, Jerusalem 1964, “Gate of Holiness.”Google Scholar
  27. 19.
    Moses ben Nahman (pseudo), “Iggeret ha-Qodesh,” Kitvei ha-Ramban, ed. C. Chavel, Jerusalem 1963, II, pp. 316–37.Google Scholar
  28. 20.
    P. Brown, The Body and Society: Men, Women, and Sexual Renunciation in Early Christianity, New York 1988, p. 94.Google Scholar
  29. 21.
    Isaiah di Trani, Tosfot ha-RiD, Jerusalem 1931, on Yebamot 12b.Google Scholar
  30. 22.
    J. Delumeau, Sin and Fear: The Emergence of a Western Guilt Culture 13th–18th Centuries (English transl. by E. Nicholson), New York 1990, p. 215.Google Scholar
  31. 27.
    B. Klar, The Scroll of Ahimaaz (in Hebrew), Jerusalem 1974.Google Scholar
  32. 30.
    On William of Tournay, see A. D’Alvray & M. Tausche, “Marriage Sermons in Ad Status Collections of the Central Middle Ages,” Archives d’Histoire Doctrinale et Litteraire du Moyen Age, XLVII (1980), p. 100; on Guibert de Nogent,Google Scholar
  33. see J.F. Benton, Seif and Society in Medieval France, New York 1970, pp. 134–137, 209–211.Google Scholar
  34. 31.
    See R. Benson, The Bishop Elect, Princeton 1968.Google Scholar
  35. 32.
    Y.F. Baer, “Ha-yesodot ve-ha-hathalot shel ’irgun ha-qehillah ha-yehudit biymei ha-beinayim,” Studies in the History of the Jewish People, Jerusalem 1985, II, pp. 60–100, esp. pp. 70–72.Google Scholar
  36. 33.
    G. Post, Studies in Medieval Legal Thought: Public Law and the State 1100–1322, Princeton 1964, pp. 27–60.Google Scholar
  37. 34.
    K.R. Stow, “The Jewish Family in the Rhineland: Form and Function,” American Historical Review, XCII (1987), pp. 1085–1110;CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. A. Linder, The Jews in Roman Imperial Legislation, Detroit 1987, pp. 107–110.Google Scholar
  39. 35.
    H.H. Ben-Sasson, A History of the Jewish People, Cambridge, Mass., 1976, p. 502.Google Scholar
  40. 37.
    J.Z. Smith, To Take Place, Chicago 1987, pp. 108–117.Google Scholar
  41. 38.
    S. Morell, “The Constitutional Limits of Communal Government in Rabbinic Law,” Jewish Social Studies, XXXIII (1971), pp. 87–119. On the community as a judicial venue, see also Joseph Tov Elem, as cited and discussed inGoogle Scholar
  42. H. Soloveitchik, The Use of Responsa as an Historical Source: A Methodological Introduction, Jerusalem 1990, pp. 67–69.Google Scholar
  43. 39.
    See S.W. Baron, The Jewish Community, New York 1948, III, p. 179. Baron suggests that herem is generally used in the sense of taqqanah (ordinance). In fact, when speaking of the excommunication of individuals, the preferred if not the exclusive usage in many texts seems to be the Hebrew niddui or gezerah (of shamta). Herem standing alone is best translated as an abbreviation for the much longer: “there is a jurisdictional district where the following regulation is in force.”Google Scholar
  44. See M. Breuer, The Rabbinate in Ashkenaz during the Middle Ages (in Hebrew), Jerusalem 1976, nos. 76 and 77; and Soloveitchik, Responsa (above, note 38), p. 69.Google Scholar
  45. 40.
    Finkelstein, Jewish Self-Government (above, note 11), p. 149: “The legislative power of the community was based on nothing more than a vow undertaken by each member to do or refrain from doing certain things.” That vow is what Bonfils meant by “entering a herem.” See also I. Agus, The Heroic Age of Franco-German Jewry, New York 1969, p. 173.Google Scholar
  46. 41.
    I. Agus, Urban Civilization in Pre-Crusade Europe, New York 1965, p. 449; Soloveitchik, Responsa (above, note 38), p. 88.Google Scholar
  47. 42.
    A. Hourani, A History of the Arab Peoples, Cambridge, Mass., 1991, p. 11.Google Scholar
  48. 45.
    Morell, “Limits” (above, note 38), p. 88; and A. Grossman, “The Attitude of the Early Scholars of Ashkenaz towards the Authority of the ‘Kahal’,” (in Hebrew) Annual of the Institute for Research in Jewish Law, II (1975), p. 178.Google Scholar
  49. 46.
    F. Ganshof, “Medieval Agrarian Society in Its Prime,” Cambridge Economic History, Cambridge 1941, I, p. 333; andGoogle Scholar
  50. J. Le Goff, Medieval Civilization, 400–1500 (English transl. by J. Barrow), Oxford 1988, p. 93.Google Scholar
  51. 47.
    See K.R. Stow, “The Medieval Jewish Community Was Not a Corporation,” in Y. Gafni & G. Motzkin (eds.), Priesthood and Kingship (in Hebrew), Jerusalem 1986, p. 144.Google Scholar
  52. 48.
    E. Ennen, Die europäische Stadt des Mittelalters, Göttingen 1972, pp.105–138;Google Scholar
  53. G. Fasoli, Scritti di Storia Medievale, ed. F. Bocchi et al., Bologna 1974, pp.194–198;Google Scholar
  54. G. Tabacco, “Lo sviluppo del banno signorile e delle comunità rurali,” in G. Rossetti (ed.), Forme di potere e struttura sociale in Italia nel medioevo, Bologna 1977, pp. 175–196, 200–202, 208–209; and seeGoogle Scholar
  55. I. Agus, “Democracy in the Communities of the Early Middle Ages,” Jewish Quarterly Review, XLIII (1952), pp. 165 ff.Google Scholar
  56. 49.
    It would appear that contemporary Islamic Jewries understood herem only in the sense of excommunication. See M.R. Cohen, Jewish Self-Government in Medieval Egypt, Princeton 1980, pp. 41, 125, 206, 216 and 230; andGoogle Scholar
  57. S. Assaf, Ha-’onshin ’aharei hatimat ha-talmud, Jerusalem 1942, pp. 49–51.Google Scholar
  58. 53.
    G. Post, “A Romano-Canonical Maxim, ‘quod omnes tanget, ’ in Bracton,” Traditio, IV (1946), p. 205.Google Scholar
  59. 56.
    H. Beinart, “Hispanic Jewish Society,” in H.H. Ben-Sasson (ed.), Jewish Society through the Ages, New York 1971, p. 227; andGoogle Scholar
  60. S. Schwarzfuchs, Kahal: La communauté juive de l’Europe médiévale, Paris 1986, p. 52.Google Scholar
  61. 58.
    P. Riesenberg, The Medieval Town, Princeton 1958, pp. 49–50; E. Sestan, “La città comunale italiana dei secoli XI–XIII nelle sue note caratteristiche rispetto al movimento comunale europeo,” in Rossetti (ed.), Forme di potere (above, note 48), pp. 194–195.Google Scholar
  62. 60.
    Post, “Maxim” (above, note 53), pp. 200–204, 221–251; J. Mundy, Europe in the High Middle Ages, New York 1973, pp. 435 and 439;Google Scholar
  63. M. Wilks, Sovereignty in the Later Middle Ages, Cambridge 1963, p. 107.Google Scholar
  64. 63.
    Grossman, “The Attitude” (above, note 45), p. 190; and Yehiel Kaplan, “Decision-Making in the Jewish Communities According to Rabbenu Tarn — Theory and Practice,” Zion, LX (1995), p. 282, although Kaplan’s analysis is at variance with that in this essay.Google Scholar
  65. 67.
    E.E. Urbach, Ba’alei ha-Tosafot, Jerusalem 1955, pp. 65–69.Google Scholar
  66. 68.
    See the text in W. Stubbs, Select Charters Illustrative of English Constitutional History, Oxford 1900, p. 485.Google Scholar
  67. 69.
    Elizabeth Crouzet-Pavan, “Venice between Jerusalem, Byzantium, and Divine Retribution: The Origins of the Ghetto,” Mediterranean Historical Review, VI (1991), p. 164;Google Scholar
  68. and E. Muir, “The Virgin on the Street Corner: The Place of the Sacred in Italian Cities,” in S. Ozment (ed.), Religion and Culture in the Renaissance and Reformation, Kirksville, Mo., 1989, p. 28.Google Scholar
  69. 70.
    K.R. Stow, “Sanctity and the Construction of Space: The Roman Ghetto as Sacred Space,” in M. Mor (ed.), Jewish Assimilation, Acculturation, and Accommodation, Lanham, Md., 1992, pp. 54–76.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kenneth R. Stow

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations