publisher colophon

47. Seal and Counterseal of the Paraige of Jewry [of Metz]

Seal

+ SIG DOV PRAIE DE GEURUE

+ Seal of the Paraige of Jewry

Dimensions: 52 mm. high × 46 mm. wide at top, shield-shaped. Location: Metz City Archives. Impression.

Bibliography: Carmoly, 1842; Levy, 1861; Prost, 1873; Jewish Encyclopedia, 1907, s.v. “Seal”; Diamant, 1928; Mendel, 1971–72.

Counterseal

No legend.

Dimensions: 21 mm.

Location: Metz City Archives. Impression.

Bibliography: as above.

Eliakim Carmoly wrote of seal and counterseal No. 47 almost a century and a half ago. With the article were line drawings which he transcribed from an earlier book by Émile Bégin. Carmoly translated the lettering on the seal as “Seal Given for the Jews,” which is incomplete and inaccurate, mainly based on his misunderstanding of the use of the word Geurue, that is, Jurne, standing for Juiverie or a Jewish grouping. The counterseal shows a Jew in dress of a period at least two hundred years after the late Middle Ages. Despite this contradiction, the seal has continued to be accepted as a very early Jewish community seal.

Pierre Mendel, a lawyer and former president of the Metz Academy of Letters, wrote an article explaining the matter and has commented further to this writer on the subject. He says that there is evidence of a Jewish presence in Metz beginning in the ninth century.* In the thirteenth century a struggle for power occurred between the bishopric which ruled the city and a powerful association of bourgeois patricians which had amassed sufficient capital to contest the power of the ecclesiastical authority. By the end of the thirteenth century it had succeeded in eliminating the political influence of the bishops. The Jews were a casualty of this victory because the bourgeois patricians, who welcomed the Lombards, had no further use for them. For almost three hundred years no Jews were permitted to live in Metz.

The political and economic power in Metz was shared by a group of six patrician families; the city was thus a sort of miniature Venice in its oligarchic rule. One of these family groupings, called the Paraige, put on their seal the name of the quarter where the Jews had lived before their expulsion, the judeorum vicus or Quarter of the Jews. This was abbreviated on the seal to Geurue. According to Mendel, this probably occurred because the Paraige were established in that former Jewish quarter. The PRAIE on the seal simply refers to the family name of Paraige. Thus the seal has nothing to do with Jews.

Conversion of Paraige seal into Metz Jewish community seal. Drawing by E. Carmoly.

The line drawings accompanying the earlier article by Carmoly, illustrated here, are inaccurate. The seal itself is not too badly distorted, though the shape is somewhat altered, the figure of the spread eagle is out of proportion, and there are variations in the lettering. The counterseal, however, is a fantasy.

The Metz city archives kindly sent this writer castings of the actual seal and counterseal, taken from a document dated January, 1313. It is the counterseal which is illustrated in this entry as No. 47. It shows the image of a Jew within a small circle. The Jew’s head has a long nose and heavy crested beard; on his head sits a medieval Jew’s hat. This counterseal is thus a Jewish caricature. Apparently the bourgeois patrician family employing this seal, familiar with the Jewish background of its quarter, used the cartoon deliberately to show its contempt for the Jews whose area it had taken over.

Conversion of Paraige counterseal into Metz Jewish community seal. Drawing by E. Cannoly.


*In the thirteenth century Metz became a free city of the Holy Roman Empire. It was annexed by France only in 1552, after the medieval period. However, seals from the city are treated in this section because its population has been largely French-speaking throughout its history.

*In the thirteenth century Metz became a free city of the Holy Roman Empire. It was annexed by France only in 1552, after the medieval period. However, seals from the city are treated in this section because its population has been largely French-speaking throughout its history.

Pierre Mendel, a lawyer and former president of the Metz Academy of Letters, wrote an article explaining the matter and has commented further to this writer on the subject. He says that there is evidence of a Jewish presence in Metz beginning in the ninth century.* In the thirteenth century a struggle for power occurred between the bishopric which ruled the city and a powerful association of bourgeois patricians which had amassed sufficient capital to contest the power of the ecclesiastical authority. By the end of the thirteenth century it had succeeded in eliminating the political influence of the bishops. The Jews were a casualty of this victory because the bourgeois patricians, who welcomed the Lombards, had no further use for them. For almost three hundred years no Jews were permitted to live in Metz.

Additional Information

ISBN
9780814344859
MARC Record
OCLC
1055142843
Pages
111-112
Launched on MUSE
2018-10-02
Open Access
Yes
Creative Commons
CC-BY-NC-SA
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