Thomas of Monmouth

Last updated
Thomas of Monmouth
Borntwelfth century
Diedafter 1172
Occupation monk, writer
Known forThe Life and Passion of William of Norwich

Thomas of Monmouth (fl. 1149–1172) was a monk who lived at Norwich Cathedral Priory, a Benedictine monastery in Norwich, in Norfolk, England during the mid-twelfth century. He was the author of The Life and Miracles of St. William of Norwich , a hagiography of William of Norwich that is considered an antisemitic text.

Floruit, abbreviated fl., Latin for "he/she flourished", denotes a date or period during which a person was known to have been alive or active. In English, the word may also be used as a noun indicating the time when someone flourished.

Monk religious occupation

A monk is a person who practices religious asceticism by monastic living, either alone or with any number of other monks. A monk may be a person who decides to dedicate his life to serving all other living beings, or to be an ascetic who voluntarily chooses to leave mainstream society and live his or her life in prayer and contemplation. The concept is ancient and can be seen in many religions and in philosophy.

Monastery complex of buildings comprising the domestic quarters and workplace(s) of monks or nuns

A monastery is a building or complex of buildings comprising the domestic quarters and workplaces of monastics, monks or nuns, whether living in communities or alone (hermits). A monastery generally includes a place reserved for prayer which may be a chapel, church, or temple, and may also serve as an oratory.

Contents

Career

Thomas was presumably born in Monmouth, since he is identified by the town's name. Historian Gavin I. Langmuir says that he appears to have been "respectably educated". [1] He arrived in Norwich in 1149–50, a few years after the 1144 death of William of Norwich, a child whose unsolved death was blamed on the local Jewish community. Thomas quickly devoted himself to the promotion of William's claims to sainthood, by collecting evidence of his holiness and by arguing that he had been martyred by the Jews in a ritual murder.

Monmouth Town in Monmouthshire, Wales

Monmouth is the historic county town of Monmouthshire, Wales and a community. It is situated where the River Monnow meets the River Wye, within 2 miles (3.2 km) of the border with England. The town is 30 miles (48 km) northeast of Cardiff, and 113 miles (182 km) west of London. It is within the Monmouthshire local authority, and the parliamentary constituency of Monmouth. Monmouth's population in the 2011 census was 10,508, rising from 8,877 in 2001.

Gavin I. Langmuir was a Canadian medievalist historian. Much of his work focused on the Jews of medieval England and the history of antisemitism.

William of Norwich English saint

William of Norwich was an English boy whose death was, at the time, attributed to the Jewish community of Norwich. It is the first known medieval accusation against Jews of ritual murder.

Thomas of Monmouth unsuccessfully tried to get William of Norwich canonized as a saint, but did succeed in creating a cult around him in Norwich. He contended that he had received visions from the founding Bishop of Norwich, Herbert de Losinga, who had died in 1119. Losinga told him that William's body should be moved into the chapter house of the monastery. Thomas had to battle the sceptical prior Elias, who was unconvinced of William's sanctity. But the body was moved in 1150, the year in which Elias died, and by then the cult of William was established.

Bishop of Norwich Diocesan bishop in the Church of England

The Bishop of Norwich is the ordinary of the Church of England Diocese of Norwich in the Province of Canterbury. The diocese covers most of the county of Norfolk and part of Suffolk. The Bishop-designate of Norwich is Graham Usher.

Herbert de Losinga 11th and 12th-century Bishop of Norwich and Bishop of Thetford

Herbert de Losinga was the first Bishop of Norwich. He founded Norwich Cathedral in 1096 when he was Bishop of Thetford.

Life of William

The crucifixion of William as described by Thomas, depicted on a rood screen in Holy Trinity church, Loddon, Norfolk Death of William of Norwich.jpg
The crucifixion of William as described by Thomas, depicted on a rood screen in Holy Trinity church, Loddon, Norfolk

Thomas heard from a converted Jew named Theobald of Cambridge that every year there is an international council of Jews at which they choose the country in which a child will be killed during Easter. This is because a Jewish prophecy says that the killing of a Christian child each year will ensure that the Jews will be restored to the Holy Land. Monmouth claimed that in 1144 England was chosen, and the leaders of the Jewish community delegated the Jews of Norwich to perform the killing. They then abducted and crucified William. [2]

This is the earliest recorded ritual murder accusation against the Jews. [1] According to Langmuir, the evidence strongly suggests that Thomas had discovered that the Jews had crucified William in a manner designed to mimic the death of Jesus. In his own account, this specific claim is never made by any of the earlier accusers, who only say that Jews were responsible for William's death. Even Theobald only speaks of sacrifice. [1] Thomas of Monmouth's account helped inflame antisemitic sentiment in England, resulting in the eventual expulsion of the Jews from England in 1290.

The Edict of Expulsion was a royal decree issued by King Edward I of England on 18 July 1290 expelling all Jews from the Kingdom of England. Edward advised the sheriffs of all counties he wanted all Jews expelled by no later than All Saints' Day that year. The expulsion edict remained in force for the rest of the Middle Ages. The edict was not an isolated incident, but the culmination of over 200 years of increased persecution. The edict was overturned during the Protectorate more than 350 years later, when Oliver Cromwell permitted Jews to return to England in 1657.

Historian Gillian Bennett says of the book that "The tone throughout is intemperate, and the gloating description of William's martyrdom quite sick. In Thomas's eyes, there is nothing that Jews will not stoop to, and they are constantly referred to as 'our enemies'." [3]

Thomas continued to add material to his book after the first volume came out in 1150. The second volume, probably written up in 1155, is even more "strident" in tone, according to Bennett, suggesting that Thomas' claims had met with considerable scepticism and opposition. He marshals evidence to support his assertions. It is only in this volume that the claims about an annual crucifixion ritual are made. [3] Later volumes concentrate on accumulating evidence of miraculous cures effected by William. A final volume was completed in 1172 and a preface was added.

Nothing else is known about his life after this date.

The single surviving manuscript of Thomas' work was discovered by M. R. James and published in 1896 with historical essays by James and Augustus Jessopp.

The Life and Passion of William of Norwich as antisemitic propaganda

The blood libel rumor eventually spread throughout the Christian world in the Middle Ages. [4]

Works

Related Research Articles

Antisemitism is hostility to, prejudice, or discrimination against Jews. A person who holds such positions is called an antisemite. Antisemitism is generally considered to be a form of racism. It has also been characterized as a political ideology which serves as an organizing principle and unites disparate groups which are opposed to liberalism.

Blood libel or ritual murder libel is an antisemitic canard accusing Jews of murdering Christian children in order to use their blood as part of religious rituals. Historically, these claims—alongside those of well poisoning and host desecration—have been a major theme of the persecution of Jews in Europe.

Antisemitism in Christianity is the hostility of Christian Churches, Christian groups, and by Christians in general to Judaism and the Jewish people.

Pope Celestine II pope

Pope Celestine II, born Guido di Castello, was head of the Catholic Church and ruler of the Papal States from 26 September 1143 to his death in 1144. He is the first pope mentioned in the prophecy of Saint Malachy.

Theobald of Bec 12th-century abbot and Archbishop of Canterbury

Theobald of Bec was a Norman archbishop of Canterbury from 1139 to 1161. His exact birth date is unknown. Some time in the late 11th or early 12th century Theobald became a monk at the Abbey of Bec, rising to the position of abbot in 1137. King Stephen of England chose him to be Archbishop of Canterbury in 1138. Canterbury's claim to primacy over the Welsh ecclesiastics was resolved during Theobald's term of office when Pope Eugene III decided in 1148 in Canterbury's favour. Theobald faced challenges to his authority from a subordinate bishop, Henry of Blois, Bishop of Winchester and King Stephen's younger brother, and his relationship with King Stephen was turbulent. On one occasion Stephen forbade him from attending a papal council, but Theobald defied the king, which resulted in the confiscation of his property and temporary exile. Theobald's relations with his cathedral clergy and the monastic houses in his archdiocese were also difficult.

Little Saint Hugh of Lincoln Child saint and murder victim

Hugh of Lincoln was an English boy whose death was falsely attributed to Jews. Hugh is sometimes known as Little Saint Hugh to distinguish him from Saint Hugh of Lincoln, an adult saint. Hugh became one of the best known of the blood libel 'saints': generally children whose deaths were interpreted as Jewish sacrifices. Little Sir Hugh was never actually canonised, making the moniker "Little Saint Hugh" a misnomer.

Religious antisemitism is aversion to or discrimination against Jews as a whole based on religious beliefs, false claims against Judaism and religious antisemitic canards. It is sometimes called theological antisemitism.

Sir John Lexington was a baron and royal official in 13th century England. He has been described as having been Lord Chancellor, but other scholars believe he merely held the royal seals while the office was vacant or the chancellor was abroad. He served two terms, once from 1247 to 1248, and again from 1249 to 1250.

William de Turbeville was a medieval Bishop of Norwich.

Anti-Semitism in the history of the Jews in the Middle Ages became increasingly prevalent in the Late Middle Ages. Early instances of pogroms against Jews are recorded in the context of the First Crusade. Expulsion of Jews from cities and instances of blood libel become increasingly common in the 13th to 15th centuries. This trend peaked only after the end of the medieval period, and subsided only with Jewish emancipation in the late 18th to 19th century.

Antisemitic canards are unfounded rumors or false allegations which are defamatory towards Judaism as a religion, or defamatory towards Jews as an ethnic or religious group. They often form part of broader theories of Jewish conspiracies. According to defense attorney Kenneth Stern, "Historically, Jews have not fared well around conspiracy theories. Such ideas fuel anti-Semitism. The myths that all Jews are responsible for the death of Christ, or poisoned wells, or killed Christian children to bake matzos, or "made up" the Holocaust, or plot to control the world, do not succeed each other; rather, the list of anti-Semitic canards gets longer."

Ariel Toaff is a professor of Medieval and Renaissance History at Bar Ilan University in Israel, whose work has focused on Jews and their history in Italy.

The Rhodes blood libel was an 1840 event of blood libel against Jews, in which the Greek Orthodox community accused Jews on the island of Rhodes of the ritual murder of a Christian boy who disappeared in February of that year.

Robert of Bury English saint

Saint Robert of Bury was an English boy, allegedly murdered and found in the town of Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk in 1181. His death at a time of rising anti-Semitism was blamed on local Jews. Though a hagiography of Robert was written, no copies are known, so the story of his life is now unknown beyond the few fragmentary references to it that survive. His cult continued until the English Reformation.

Antisemitism —prejudice, hatred of, or discrimination against Jews has experienced a long history of expression since the days of ancient civilizations, with most of it having originated in the Christian and pre-Christian civilizations of Europe.

Harold of Gloucester child martyr

Saint Harold was a child martyr who was reported to have been slain by Jews in Gloucester, England, in 1168. The claims arose in the aftermath of the circulation of the first blood libel myth following the unsolved murder of William of Norwich. A cult of Harold was briefly promoted in Gloucester, but soon died out.

Antisemitism in the United Kingdom signifies the hatred of and discrimination against British Jews.

The Life and Miracles of St. William of Norwich is a hagiography by the monk Thomas of Monmouth that was written in 1173. Thomas of Monmouth investigated the death of a young boy who would later be known as William of Norwich. In 1144, William was purportedly ritually murdered by the Jewish community in the town of Norwich.

References

  1. 1 2 3 Langmuir, Gavin I (1996). Toward a Definition of Antisemitism, University of California Press, pp. 216ff
  2. Paper on William of Norwich presented to the Jewish Historical Society of England by Raphael Langham Archived 2013-05-01 at WebCite
  3. 1 2 Gillian Bennett, Bodies: Sex, Violence, Disease, and Death in Contemporary Legend, University of Mississippi Press, Jackson, 2005, pp.255 ff.
  4. "Blood Libel: A False, Incendiary Claim Against Jews". Anti-Defamation League. Retrieved 15 April 2018.