By April 14, 2008 Read More →


Medieval W. Christendom
Jews were prohibited from inflicting harm on Christianity and harm on
Christians as well. The most obvious harm that Jews could inflict of Christians was
to wean them away from their faith. Jews might under no circumstances entice
Christians out of the Christian fold. One of the pre-medieval legacies of the Church
was insistence that Jews be prohibited from positions of power over Christians,
since power often translates into influence. With the passage of time, the concern
with Jewish influence moved from power to contact. Increasingly, the Church
began to enact ecclesiastical legislation that called for segregation of the Jews, so
that they not enjoy the proximity to Christians that might engender religious
influence. The Church demanded that Jews be forbidden from living in small
villages, where Christian-Jewish contact would be inescapable, and that Jews be
restricted to certain sectors of towns, again in an effort to diminish Christian-Jewish

The most radical of these efforts at segregation came in 1215, at the Fourth Lateran
Council, where the assembled leadership of the Church enacted a stipulation that
Jews be readily distinguishable from Christian neighbors by virtue of their garb.
Distinguishing garb eventually took many forms, the most common of which
involved badges sown on the outer garments of Jews and special Jewish hats. All
these efforts at enhanced segregation of the Jews were ultimately dependent on
the lay authorities for enforcement. Many of the lay authorities of medieval
western Christendom were slow in supplying the requisite enforcement, but the
pressure of the Church was unremitting and over time Jews of Europe were in fact
increasingly segregated.

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