Cover image for Gentile tales : the narrative assault on late medieval Jews
Gentile tales : the narrative assault on late medieval Jews
Rubin, Miri, 1956-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New Haven [Conn.] : Yale University Press, [1999]

Physical Description:
xiii, 266 pages : illustrations (some color), maps ; 25 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
BM585.4 .R83 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
BM585.4 .R83 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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This powerful book tells of the creation and growth of one of the principal anti-Jewish stories of the Middle Ages and the violence that it bred. Beginning in Paris in the year 1290, Jews were accused of abusing Christ by desecrating the Eucharist--the manifestation of Christ's body in the communion service. Over the next two centuries this became an authoritative, awe-inspiring tale that spread throughout Europe and led to violent anti-semitic activity in areas from Catalonia to Bohemia--particularly in some German regions, where at times it produced region-wide massacres and "cleansings."

Drawing on sources ranging from religious tales to Jews' confessions made under torture to religious poems, Miri Rubin explores the frightening power of this narrative. She looks not just at the occasions on which massacres occurred but also at those times when the story failed to set off violence. She also investigates the ways in which these tales were commemorated in rituals, altarpieces, and legends and thus became enshrined in local traditions. In exploring the character, nature, development, and eventual decay of this fantasy of host desecration, Rubin presents a vivid picture of the mental world of late medieval Europe and of the culture of anti-semitism.

Author Notes

Miri Rubin is a Reader in medieval history at Oxford University and a Fellow of Pembroke College. Her previous books are Charity and Community in Medieval Cambridge (1987) and Corpus Christi: the Eucharist in Late Medieval Culture (1991). She has also co-edited Framing Medieval Bodies (with Sarah Kay, 1994) and edited The Work of Jacques Le Goff and the Challenges of Medieval History (1997). She is currently working on the Penguin History of Britain, 1314-1485.

Table of Contents

List of Illustrationsp. ix
Acknowledgementsp. xi
1 Introductionp. 1
2 From Jewish Boy to Bleeding Hostp. 7
3 Patterns of Accusationp. 40
The 'first' telling of the tale in a well-governed capital: Paris, 1290p. 40
Regional massacres: Rintfleisch 1298, Armleder 1336-8p. 48
A town and its precious miracles: Korneuburg, 1305p. 57
Local upheavals, a town and its hinterland: Pulkau, 1338p. 65
4 Persons and Placesp. 70
The perpetrator: the (male) Jewp. 71
Womenp. 73
Childrenp. 77
Priests, sextons and anti-clerical sentimentp. 78
Thieves and theft-plotsp. 80
Convertsp. 84
The crowd and its violencep. 88
Order restored: synagogue into chapelp. 89
Interjection: What did Jews Think of the Eucharist? According to Jews and According to Christiansp. 93
5 Making the Narrative Workp. 104
Catalonia-Aragon: dynastic tensions and host desecration accusationsp. 109
Venetian doubt: Crete 1451-2p. 115
Heresy, crusade and the logic of expulsion: Austria, 1421p. 116
Preaching and incitement: Wroclaw, 1453p. 119
Regional infection: the neighbouring dioceses of Regensburg and Passau in the 1470sp. 129
6 Violence and the Trails of Memoryp. 132
Textsp. 134
Clerical parody and Jewish lament: Prague, 1389p. 135
Tales that exemplifyp. 140
Imagesp. 144
Telling the talep. 148
Miraculous emphasis and sacramental usep. 154
One among many: the universal talep. 154
Processional afterlife: holy knife and sacred host in fifteenth-century Parisp. 159
Word and image: image and prayerp. 161
The Carew-Poyntz Book of Hoursp. 161
The holy host of Dijonp. 162
Dramap. 169
Broadsheets and poems: Passau 1477, Sternberg 1492 and Deggendorf 1337p. 173
The fragility of memory: Brussels 1370, and laterp. 181
Conclusionp. 190
Appendix: Rabbi Avigdor Kara: All the Afflictions (Et kol ha-tela'a)p. 196
Notesp. 199
Indexp. 258