publisher colophon

5. Seal of Aaron

Dimensions: ca. 15 mm.

Location: unknown.

Bibliography: Fowler, 1875; Jacobs and Wolf, 1887, No. 512; Loewe, 1932.

J. T. Fowler in 1875 described a document in Latin, with Hebrew appended, to which was affixed a seal impression, and in his article included a photograph of the document. (The seal is unclear in the illustration, and has since fallen off.) The document is a quit-claim from 1249, evidencing the settlement of a debt incurred by the prior and convent of the church at Durham, a small town north of York, with two Jews of Kent, Deulecres son of Yosi and his brother Jornin. Aaron was witness. The three men attested in Hebrew. Added beneath, in Latin, in a different hand and apparently not a part of the original document, is written, “This is the seal of Aaron in testimony.” The witness sealed; the two Jewish principals apparently did not have seals.

In Fowler’s photograph the seal is a bulbous mass which looks like the imprint of a cameo, on which can be barely seen the outline of a face. Fowler, who, of course, had himself inspected the document, states that it was made of yellow wax and showed the remains of a classic face “as if from a Roman gem.” He presumed that the seal belonged to the famous Aaron of York, despite the human likeness; noting that this transgressed Jewish law, he wondered whether “the fact of its being the face only and not the entire figure, rendered it permissible.” Aaron of York died in 1268, so he may well be this Aaron.* Though this question of identity can never be answered unequivocally, a cameo or gem used by an Aaron would be a legitimate seal attestation: as noted earlier, antique gems or copies of such gems were used to seal throughout the Middle Ages.


Though we cannot be certain that land was involved in this transaction, it was the policy of the Church to buy up foreclosed land mortgages from Jews as a cheap way of acquiring property. Through this method (and through gifts, of course) the Church came to own about one-third of all the land in England, which probably was the most important factor in precipitating the Protestant Revolution several centuries later.

*M. T. Clanchy, in From Memory to the Written Record, England 1066–1307 (1979, p. 155), states that in this period a Jacob son of Aaron sealed a Latin charter. Clanchy gives as his source I. Abrahams et al. (1930, vol. 1, Pl. iii). This seal has not been illustrated and discussed here because it belongs to one of the Christian parties to the charter, not to Jacob son of Aaron.

Though we cannot be certain that land was involved in this transaction, it was the policy of the Church to buy up foreclosed land mortgages from Jews as a cheap way of acquiring property. Through this method (and through gifts, of course) the Church came to own about one-third of all the land in England, which probably was the most important factor in precipitating the Protestant Revolution several centuries later.

J. T. Fowler in 1875 described a document in Latin, with Hebrew appended, to which was affixed a seal impression, and in his article included a photograph of the document. (The seal is unclear in the illustration, and has since fallen off.) The document is a quit-claim from 1249, evidencing the settlement of a debt incurred by the prior and convent of the church at Durham, a small town north of York, with two Jews of Kent, Deulecres son of Yosi and his brother Jornin. Aaron was witness. The three men attested in Hebrew. Added beneath, in Latin, in a different hand and apparently not a part of the original document, is written, “This is the seal of Aaron in testimony.” The witness sealed; the two Jewish principals apparently did not have seals.

Dimensions: ca. 15 mm.

Next Chapter

Official Seals

Additional Information

ISBN
9780814344859
MARC Record
OCLC
1055142843
Launched on MUSE
2018-10-02
Open Access
Yes
Creative Commons
CC-BY-NC-SA
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.