publisher colophon

20. Seal of Todros Son of Kalonymos/Toros Momet

No. 20, Separate seal face. Seal of Toros Momet.

[separate seal face]

No. 20. Seal matrices of Todros son of Kalonymos and Toros Momet, connected by stem.

[separate seal face]

*S’ TOROS · MOMET

*Seal of Toros Momet

Dimensions: Hebrew face, 20 mm.; Provençal face, 14 mm.

Location: Lorraine Historical Museum, Nancy, Wiener Collection, 32.

Bibliography: Bedos. 1980b, No. 2, 21 (5).

This double seal and No. 19 will be discussed together because they appear to belong to a father and son, Kalonymos and his son Todros. They are among the most interesting of all known medieval Jewish seals.

No. 19 is an example of a type inscribed on both sides of the matrix, showing the legend in Hebrew on one face and on the other face the legend in the language of Provence, the langue d’oc (hence, the province of Languedoc) as distinguished from the langue d’oïl, the language of northern France which eventually overwhelmed the language of Oc, formerly Roman Aquitaine. When this seal was made, Provence and Languedoc were separate independent areas but both spoke the Provençal language of southern France, collectively referred to as the Midi. The seal, formerly in the collection of J. Charvet, is made of copper. Both sides of the seal show a lion within a shield in the rampant position, though technically the paws of the lion seem to be resting on the left edge of the triangular shield.

The Todros seal is a rare type, for it is in fact two separate copper seals attached to each other by a stem, also of copper, perforated by a hole, as shown here, presumably so that it could be hung on a chain around the neck or placed on a rod for safekeeping. In the center of the seal with the Hebrew legend, sharply indicated by high relief on a shield, is a traditional lion rampant. Two beaded lines contain the letters, while the three spaces formed between the inside beaded line and the corners of the triangular shield are filled with what seem to be branches from a bush. The seal with the inscription in the vernacular is smaller than the other. It also shows a lion rampant in the center, but the lion is not embossed on a shield. The legend is enclosed within circular beaded lines. The handle connecting the two matrices is approximately 15 mm. long; the central part of the stem through which the hole passes is heavier and in the form of a lug. Over all, the total length of the seals with their stem is 21 mm. The seals of Kalonymos son of Todros and Todros son of Kalonymos are closely related in iconography and inscription, and without question a familial relation is involved. (The Todros seal was only recently discovered by Brigitte Bedos.) The precise relationship of the owners is not known. The names Kalonymos and Todros were very common among Jews of the Midi, and several different families of no obvious blood kinship bore these names. The key, of course, rests in the seal which states “Moumet the Jew of Narbonne”* because this narrows the search to the Kalonymos family of Narbonne, about which a considerable amount is known. In 1897 Henri Gross published a bibliography of all available information on early French Jewish history, including material relevant to this family. Jean Regné, in a 1912 study dealing with the Jews of Narbonne, devoted ten pages to the subject (adding some confusion as well as light, one must admit). When the information available in these two works is combined with certain newly available facts, we can trace the history of the Kalonymos family, which is sometimes spelled Calonymos, Calonymus, Kalonymus, or Qalonymus.

Kalonymos the Great lived in the eleventh century and is claimed to have died at ninety, possibly surviving into the early twelfth century. He was an esteemed scholar and much praised for his services to his co-religionists. Sometimes called the nasi (“prince” or leader of the community) or gaon (“eminence”), he is also referred to as Kalonymous I. His father was named Todros and also entitled nasi.

Todros son of Kalonymos lived in the first half of the twelfth century. He was a Hebrew poet and author of azharot, or liturgical poems, for the holiday of Shavuot. He may be called Todros II.

Kalonymos son of Todros (also called Kalonymos II) was a well-known and rich rabbi, and nasi of the Jews of Narbonne. He was the leader of the community when Benjamin of Tudela visited the city around 1165 at the beginning of his famous trip, one of the most renowned and lengthy voyages of the medieval period. Kalonymos II is identified with the “Clarimoscius filius Taurascii” (sometimes spelled “Clarimoscus filius Tauroscii”) mentioned in a Latin deed of conveyance of April, 1195: “Clarimoscius” is the Latin version of the Greek-derived “Kalonymos” (“Clarimos” in Provençal), and “Taurascii” is the Latin plural of “Todros.” A land act from 1163 and a casual reference to his being alive in 1216 indicates that this second Kalonymos also lived to be a very old man.

Todros son of Kalonymos (Todros III) is a shadowy figure. Jean Regné (1912, p. 184) states that Kalonymos II had a son named Bonmacip and that this “Bonmacip son of Clarimos” is no other than Todros son of Kalonymos in the same direct line. Regné’s statement is based on an act of June 3, 1252, in which the name of Bonmacip is accompanied by the phrase “Jewish king,” nasi or prince sometimes being translated as “king” by Christians. Regné supports this thesis by noting a further act of June 16, 1257, wherein one party is listed as “Touros son of Clarimos, surnamed Astruc son of Bonmacip.” Regné correctly adds that Jews had double names, one for themselves and another for the Christian community, but the reasoning here is inconclusive. Henri Gross does not make the same deduction in his Gallia Judaica (1897).

Meshullam son of Kalonymos son of Todros was also nasi at Narbonne. He attacked the writings of Maimonides in 1232. The age differences are so great that it is difficult to establish his position in the family line.

Kalonymos son of Todros, a great, rich, and esteemed rabbi, was called “Rex judeus Narbone,” that is, king of the Jews of Narbonne, in the Christian records. He may also be referred to as Kalonymos III. The archives of Aude (the French department in which Narbonne is now located) reveal that in 1306, as part of the general property spoliation and physical expulsion of the Jews from France ordered by Philip the Fair, some thirty houses owned in freehold in whole or part by Kalonymos were, through legal trickery, declared to have been held only in limited tenure.* They were seized by the king’s representative and sold for the very large sum of 670 livres.

Latin documents refer to this Kalonymos son of Todros as Mometus Taurossi or Momet Tauros, skipping the intermediate “son of.” (Mometus and Momet are diminutives of Clarimoscius as, for example, the Italian Giuseppe becomes Pepe or Pepito.) We are not certain who the grandfather of this Kalonymos III was, but the lineage must come from Meshullam son of Kalonymos, the possibly hypothetical Todros III, or a collateral line, in any case going back to the same main branch.

Much research has been done on the seal of Kalonymos bar Todros, and French writers, including Gross, Regné, Gustave Saige, and Longpérier are in agreement that this seal belongs to the third man of this name, the renowned rabbi who was expelled from Narbonne with all the other Jews by the edict of 1306. The sole skeptic is Brigitte Bedos, who, after comparing this seal with the one belonging to Todros bar Kalonymos, recently discovered, is inclined to the view that the owner of the Kalonymos seal may be the second person of that name. All concerned agree that there is not a single document in Latin or Provençal sealed with this seal; and because of this Regné postulated that the Hebrew face constituted the seal proper, used for Hebrew documents, while the Provençal face was the counterseal. This assumption, which Brigette Bedos also accepts, is merely theoretical, as no Hebrew documents sealed with the seal are known.

The almost general agreement that this seal belonged to Kalonymos III, who was considered the richest and most celebrated of the three men from Narbonne known with this name, is based on two observations. The first is that the letters of the legend and the seal design belong stylistically to the late thirteenth century. The second is that a shield is used on the seal, a heraldic or armorial symbol which could hardly have appeared on the seal of a Jew before this time—indeed, its use even in the late thirteenth or very early fourteenth century, from which period this seal apparently derives, is itself quite extraordinary. Since there are a few known examples of seals employed by Jews in this general period, we may assume that the use of the shield had spread to the bourgeoisie by the middle of the thirteenth century. In fact, Zoé Oldenbourg, in a 1961 study of the Albigensian crusade, writes that by the late twelfth century the rich burgher in Languedoc was equal in status to the feudal lord because of the importance of trade, and specifically notes: “It is true that the burghers, whether out of snobbishness or through some lingering sense of inferiority, still made efforts to acquire noble escutcheons; but this was, in their case, mere gratuitous self-satisfaction” (p. 23). The towns were ruled by consuls, a survival from Roman law, elected from among the city’s nobility and bourgeoisie. In such an atmosphere, rich Jews like Kalonymos bar Todros in the following century could legally use the shield on their personal seal. As to the lion shown on both faces of this seal as well as on the seals of Todros bar Kalonymos, this is said to indicate that Kalonymos was descended from the tribe of Judah. We know this to be true for Kalonymos II because Benjamin of Tudela wrote that the esteemed rabbi was “of the seed of David”; the two other men of this name would appear to be of the same line.

The third Kalonymos bar Todros was a religious zealot who sided with Rabbi Abba Mari ben Moses of Lunel, then rabbi in Montpellier, in the savage contest raging at that time among the Jewries of northern Spain and southern France as to whether the study of science was permissible. The Albigenses, a heretical Christian sect who maintained their stronghold in Languedoc for many years, had been destroyed by the Church in a holy crusade during the first half of the thirteenth century. Under the more tolerant Albigensian influence, the Languedoc Jews had developed an intense interest in science and philosophy. Kalonymos bar Todros III was one of the leaders in the movement to excommunicate all Jews who wavered from total absorption in the Talmud, a movement which itself was a kind of Jewish Inquisition,* putting the anathema on entire communities of dissenters. There is a certain historic irony in the fact that the kind of bigotry practiced by Kalonymos was then used by like-minded Christians to expel not only Kalonymos but the entire Jewish population of Languedoc.

Adrien de Longpérier (1872a) originally translated the last seven Hebrew letters of this seal as ‡ In 1873 Joseph Derenbourg, a friend and colleague of Longpérier, responded to the publication of this material with the explanation that these letters were a series of Hebrew abbreviations which, because the fifth letter had been read as a kof instead of a mem, had been misinterpreted. The seven first letters thus derive from the seven words which compose the second verse of Isaiah 57: “He shall enter into peace, they shall rest in their beds, each one walking in his uprightness.” These seven letters are a eulogy which, according to Derenbourg, was commonly spoken in the medieval period at Narbonne when the dead were laid out. Here it refers to the father of Kalonymos, who thus was dead when the seal was engraved. It may be noted, however, that the last letter of No. 20, the seal of Todros son of Kalonymos, ends in a mem rather than a nun.

There are various sources of information on the seal of Kalonymos son of Todros, in contrast to the double seal of Todros son of Kalonymos, whose provenance is not even listed in the archives of the museum at Nancy. However, the repetition of the seven-letter eulogy in a variant form does tell us not only that the father of Todros is dead, but that the seal of Todros son of Kalonymos was made about the same time and that both seals would seem to derive from a common cultural milieu. Likewise, the heraldic lion rampant on both these seals refers to descent from the house of David. It is thus evident, aside from the significant pattern of names, that the owners of these seals were related and lived in the same locality.

Since this family had a tradition of naming their sons after their own fathers, it is possible that Todros could be the father of the third Kalonymos, as he himself had a father of that name (Jean Regné [1912] believes this to be the case, as noted above). This thesis is also supported, in a negative sense, by the fact that there is a break in the known genealogical table between Meshullam, who was the son of a Kalonymos, and the Kalonymos who owned this seal. It is also possible that this double seal belonged to the Todros who was the son of the originator of the line, Kalonymos the Great. Supporting the last hypothesis is the fact that the letters of the legend in the vernacular—particularly the E and T as well as the very curious M—are very early in style, and Brigitte Bedos is inclined to this view. The more likely supposition, however, is that Todros was the son of the “Jewish king” of Narbonne, Kalonymos, and that the son had engraved this double seal after the death of his father, imitating the style exactly. It should be noted that Ivdev ďNerbo, that is, “Jew of Narbonne,” which appeared on the vernacular face of the seal of Kalonymos, does not appear on the vernacular seal of Todros. The father was expelled from Narbonne after his seal had been cut, while the son probably had his seal cut while he was a refugee, and thus no longer could state that he was a resident of Narbonne. Furthermore, the heraldic shield appears on both faces of the seal of Kalonymos (who, when his seal was made, was the richest Jew of Narbonne), while the shield can be seen on the seal with a Hebrew inscription, but does not appear on the one in the vernacular belonging to Todros. Impoverished by the spoliations of Philip the Fair, the son might sport a shield on a seal used among fellow Jews but reduced as he was in worldly goods, would not dare indicate a high bourgeois rank on a seal used to stamp documents involving Christians. Thus circumstantial evidence seems to indicate that the double seal of Todros bar Kalonymos belonged to the son of the man who flourished in the late thirteenth and early fourteenth century and not to the earlier men of that name.


*“Nerbo,” on the seal. Gross (1897, p. 401) states that Narbonne in old Provençal was called Nerborute, and thus the spelling is merely a contraction of the city name.

*See Regné, 1909, p. 96. Longpérier (1872b, p. 727) states that there were only twenty houses involved. S. Luce, “Catalogue des documents du trésor des Chartes relatifs aux Juifs,” REJ 2 (1881), pp. 48, 52, lists a total of twenty-three houses.

*Actually, the medieval Inquisition was created in this area specifically to deal with the Albigenses, and the rigidly orthodox Jews were merely following the Christian model.

King Philip the Fair was impartial in his greed. In 1307, after despoiling and expelling the Jews, he turned on the Order of the Knights Templars, based in Paris, which had the largest treasury in northern Europe. Through Philip’s influence over Clement V, the first Avignon pope, the order was abolished in 1311–12, with the king of France receiving a significant part of the forfeited monies. In 1316 Philip confiscated the property of the Lombards and expelled them as well.

Arthur J. Zuckerman (1965, p. 58) also gives the wrong translation and adds a further error of his own, stating that the S’ was really Se and stood for Senior. The error should have been noted because the two possible names, Jesse or Isaiah are spelt differently in Hebrew.

*“Nerbo,” on the seal. Gross (1897, p. 401) states that Narbonne in old Provençal was called Nerborute, and thus the spelling is merely a contraction of the city name.

*See Regné, 1909, p. 96. Longpérier (1872b, p. 727) states that there were only twenty houses involved. S. Luce, “Catalogue des documents du trésor des Chartes relatifs aux Juifs,” REJ 2 (1881), pp. 48, 52, lists a total of twenty-three houses.

*Actually, the medieval Inquisition was created in this area specifically to deal with the Albigenses, and the rigidly orthodox Jews were merely following the Christian model.

King Philip the Fair was impartial in his greed. In 1307, after despoiling and expelling the Jews, he turned on the Order of the Knights Templars, based in Paris, which had the largest treasury in northern Europe. Through Philip’s influence over Clement V, the first Avignon pope, the order was abolished in 1311–12, with the king of France receiving a significant part of the forfeited monies. In 1316 Philip confiscated the property of the Lombards and expelled them as well.

The Todros seal is a rare type, for it is in fact two separate copper seals attached to each other by a stem, also of copper, perforated by a hole, as shown here, presumably so that it could be hung on a chain around the neck or placed on a rod for safekeeping. In the center of the seal with the Hebrew legend, sharply indicated by high relief on a shield, is a traditional lion rampant. Two beaded lines contain the letters, while the three spaces formed between the inside beaded line and the corners of the triangular shield are filled with what seem to be branches from a bush. The seal with the inscription in the vernacular is smaller than the other. It also shows a lion rampant in the center, but the lion is not embossed on a shield. The legend is enclosed within circular beaded lines. The handle connecting the two matrices is approximately 15 mm. long; the central part of the stem through which the hole passes is heavier and in the form of a lug. Over all, the total length of the seals with their stem is 21 mm. The seals of Kalonymos son of Todros and Todros son of Kalonymos are closely related in iconography and inscription, and without question a familial relation is involved. (The Todros seal was only recently discovered by Brigitte Bedos.) The precise relationship of the owners is not known. The names Kalonymos and Todros were very common among Jews of the Midi, and several different families of no obvious blood kinship bore these names. The key, of course, rests in the seal which states “Moumet the Jew of Narbonne”* because this narrows the search to the Kalonymos family of Narbonne, about which a considerable amount is known. In 1897 Henri Gross published a bibliography of all available information on early French Jewish history, including material relevant to this family. Jean Regné, in a 1912 study dealing with the Jews of Narbonne, devoted ten pages to the subject (adding some confusion as well as light, one must admit). When the information available in these two works is combined with certain newly available facts, we can trace the history of the Kalonymos family, which is sometimes spelled Calonymos, Calonymus, Kalonymus, or Qalonymus.

Kalonymos son of Todros, a great, rich, and esteemed rabbi, was called “Rex judeus Narbone,” that is, king of the Jews of Narbonne, in the Christian records. He may also be referred to as Kalonymos III. The archives of Aude (the French department in which Narbonne is now located) reveal that in 1306, as part of the general property spoliation and physical expulsion of the Jews from France ordered by Philip the Fair, some thirty houses owned in freehold in whole or part by Kalonymos were, through legal trickery, declared to have been held only in limited tenure.* They were seized by the king’s representative and sold for the very large sum of 670 livres.

The third Kalonymos bar Todros was a religious zealot who sided with Rabbi Abba Mari ben Moses of Lunel, then rabbi in Montpellier, in the savage contest raging at that time among the Jewries of northern Spain and southern France as to whether the study of science was permissible. The Albigenses, a heretical Christian sect who maintained their stronghold in Languedoc for many years, had been destroyed by the Church in a holy crusade during the first half of the thirteenth century. Under the more tolerant Albigensian influence, the Languedoc Jews had developed an intense interest in science and philosophy. Kalonymos bar Todros III was one of the leaders in the movement to excommunicate all Jews who wavered from total absorption in the Talmud, a movement which itself was a kind of Jewish Inquisition,* putting the anathema on entire communities of dissenters. There is a certain historic irony in the fact that the kind of bigotry practiced by Kalonymos was then used by like-minded Christians to expel not only Kalonymos but the entire Jewish population of Languedoc.

The third Kalonymos bar Todros was a religious zealot who sided with Rabbi Abba Mari ben Moses of Lunel, then rabbi in Montpellier, in the savage contest raging at that time among the Jewries of northern Spain and southern France as to whether the study of science was permissible. The Albigenses, a heretical Christian sect who maintained their stronghold in Languedoc for many years, had been destroyed by the Church in a holy crusade during the first half of the thirteenth century. Under the more tolerant Albigensian influence, the Languedoc Jews had developed an intense interest in science and philosophy. Kalonymos bar Todros III was one of the leaders in the movement to excommunicate all Jews who wavered from total absorption in the Talmud, a movement which itself was a kind of Jewish Inquisition,* putting the anathema on entire communities of dissenters. There is a certain historic irony in the fact that the kind of bigotry practiced by Kalonymos was then used by like-minded Christians to expel not only Kalonymos but the entire Jewish population of Languedoc.

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780814344859
MARC Record
OCLC
1055142843
Pages
72-74
Launched on MUSE
2018-10-02
Language
English
Open Access
Yes
Creative Commons
CC-BY-NC-SA
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