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78. Seal of Meir Son of Asher Halevi (Mayer Aenseli)

* Meyir·bar·Asher·Halevi·Meyir

Dimensions: 27 mm. Impression.

Location: Main County Archives of Karlsruhe, No. 3/188.

Bibliography: Schreckenstein, 1872; Stern, 1887, 1890; Brincken, 1963–64; Schilling, 1964, No. 160; Hohenlohe-Waldenburg, 1973, No. 273.

As on the seal of Moses son of Joseph Halevi, here again are three Jews’ hats with brims facing inward and chinstraps touching, within a shield. Between the inside line of the legend and the outer edge of the shield is a floral design. A similar heavy beaded line forms the outer rim.

The second Meyir of the Hebrew legend can only be honorific, meaning “Light Giver.”

Moses, Merolt, and Meir were Levites, as indicated by “Halevi” in the legends, and all used the same device on their seals (armes de famille). One may suppose that Meir was a cousin of the brothers Moses and Merolt and that the three men were away from Überlingen on common business when disaster struck the Jewish community the previous year.

The use of three Jews’ hats on the shield of seals of important Jews seems common to this area (see Nos. 69, 70, and 73 as well), though in the Swiss cases the design varies in that the hats are shown with the brims pointing out. Schreckenstein states that this device is somewhat similar to that of a patrician family of the fifteenth or sixteenth century from Überlingen. We know that a patrician family of Cologne named Jude also shows what seems to be three Jews’ hats on its coat of arms, which, along with the name, suggest that the family was originally of Jewish origin.* According to Monumenta Judaica, the Jude family was probably forced into conversion during the bloody persecutions of the First Crusade in 1096. The most famous family member, five generations away from this event, was the Cologne burgomaster Daniel Jude, who died in 1284. Seals with the same device of conjoined Jews’ hats appear in Gelderland (The Netherlands), on the upper reaches where the Rhine winds toward the North Sea, indicating that Jews followed trade north through the Rhine Valley and into the Low Countries (see, for example, Nos. 150, 151).

AUGSBURG, BAVARIA

The city of Augsburg was one of the most important trade centers on the route from Italy to northern Europe. Originally a Roman colony founded by Augustus, its name is given on medieval seals as Avgvstaensivm, from which the modern name derives. Augsburg was made a free imperial city of the Holy Roman Empire in 1276. It was annexed to the kingdom of Bavaria in 1806. Its merchant princes, the Fuggers and Welsers (who started their rise to riches at the time that the power of the Jewish bankers was broken), rivaled the Medicis of Florence.

The four main cities of the Holy Roman Empire were Augsburg, Aix-la-Chapelle (Aachen, in German), Metz, and Lübeck. It is no accident, therefore, that one of the few indisputable Jewish community seals extant is from Augsburg, No. 79 in this catalogue. The duchy of Bavaria was a center for medieval Jewry, and, along with the Jewish seals of Augsburg and Regensburg, the records indicate others from Ingolstadt as well as neighboring Ulm and Überlingen. It is not surprising, therefore, that one of the largest bodies of extant medieval Jewish seals comes from Bavaria.*

An established Jewish community existed in Augsburg at the time of Emperor Frederick I (1152–90), and there is a Jewish tombstone from Augsburg, bearing the name of Joseph, which dates from 1231. This is one of the oldest Jewish tombstones from Germany. Revenue from the Jews of Augsburg was already important by the middle of the thirteenth century, creating conflicts involving the city, the bishop, and the emperor. In fact, Jewish money was so valued by the ruling patricians that Augsburg was one of the few German cities that protected its Jews from the depredations of the knight Rindfleisch, who, alleging a desecration of the Host, destroyed many Jewish communities in southern and central Germany in 1298. At the beginning of the fourteenth century, the Augsburg Jews Juedlin and Lamb (also known as Lamp) (Nos. 80–81) acted as the court bankers for the dukes of Munich. In 1304 these two men, in consideration of a very large loan, received a lien against the Munich tax receipts for six years: among the few Augsburg documents with Jewish seals are transactions involving these court bankers. The bishop of Augsburg was also heavily in debt to the Jews at this time; in fact, Jewish dominance in money matters led to the destruction of the community in 1348–49, when the burgomaster, to relieve his personal debt, is said to have opened the gates to the “Jew-killers” during the Black Death.

The Jews were invited to return to Augsburg some time after this massacre but never regained their former importance. In 1438–39 the poverty-stricken remnant of the community, some three hundred persons, was expelled for good. However, according to Raphael Straus, whose book Regensburg and Augsburg is the best on the subject, even at the height of its prosperity the Jewish community never consisted of much more than this number.

Augsburg is one of the few German cities whose Jewish community’s fate can be followed from beginning to end, thanks to the research of Christian Meyer, whose two-volume study, Urkundenbuch der Stadt Augsburg (Book of Documents of the City of Augsburg), describes all the available documents relating to the history of that city, including those concerned with the Jews. These are summarized below.

Dec. 18, 1271. Bishop Hartman relieves the Jews from taxes for one year (Doc. 42).

Dec. 5, 1290. The city council permits the building of a ritual bath (Doc. 125).

April 4, 1291. The city council settles a dispute between the Jewish community and the hospital over their common property line (Doc. 127).

Aug. 23, 1298. The Jewish community offers to build a wall, in four years, at its own expense, stretching from in front of the synagogue cemetery to the city moat (that is, an extension of the city’s fortifications) (Doc. 167). This is the document illustrated here, bearing the Jewish community seal shown as No. 79.

Sept. 7, 1308. The Jewish community promises the city five hundred pounds in new Augsburg pfennings in return for protection. The most important Jews—Michel, Lamb, and Juedlin (Nos. 80-82)—affix their seals (Doc. 211).

Oct. 28, 1326. Emperor Ludwig acknowledges the payment of taxes and promises not to demand more within the year (Doc. 280).

June 8, 1330. Emperor Ludwig sells the Jews (i.e., gives a lien on Jewish taxes) for three hundred silver marks to Peter von Hoheneck, who can collect sixty pounds pfennigs annually (Doc. 295).

June 8, 1330. Emperor Ludwig gives Peter von Hohenegg (sic) the right to collect the yearly tax of the Jews in return for a loan of one hundred silver marks (Doc. 296). It is not clear why the former agreement and this one are recorded separately.

Feb. 28, 1332. The city council, in order to pay back monies borrowed from the Jews, settles with Mrs. Gute, widow of Hermann Lauginger, for twenty pounds Augsburg pfennigs (Doc. 313).

Jan. 8, 1337. The emperor’s council vows that it will not release the Jews held until they have returned to the city their Trostbriefe (literally, “letters of condolence”; according to Raphael Straus, this can only be interpreted as a promise to repay debts due, combined with a promise of protection) (Doc. 344).

Jan. 10, 1337. Emperor Ludwig confirms that the Jews gave back their Trostbriefe but warns that those who resist may be kept prisoner (Doc. 345).

Jan. 28, 1338. The Jewish tax is farmed to Peter von Hoheneck (Doc. 352).

Jan. 18, 1341. The city council, in order to pay back the money owed to the Jews, awards three hundred pounds pfennigs to citizen Konrad Langenmantel by granting him a pension in the amount of fifty pounds pfennigs for himself, his wife, and his daughter (Doc. 382).

Oct. 16, 1347. Emperor Karl IV orders the Jews to pay thirty silver marks yearly to Ulrich von Hochstetten until his debt to the king of two hundred marks is liquidated (Doc. 429).

Oct. 16, 1347. Emperor Karl IV advises Ulrich von Hofstetten (sic) that the Jews will pay him thirty marks yearly until his debt of two hundred marks is liquidated (No. 430).

Nov. 3, 1347. Emperor Karl IV turns over to Duke Friedrich von Teck the county of Augsburg, city and land, including all rights, taxes, Jews, profits, and belongings, and orders all to obey the duke (Doc. 432).

Dec. 6, 1348. Emperor Karl IV advises Ulrich von Hochstetten to recover his two hundred silver marks from the goods left by the Jews (Doc. 452). This, of course, is after the massacre of the Jewish community as a result of the Black Death.

Dec. 21, 1348. Emperor Karl IV frees Bishop Marquard of Augsburg, the church and citizenry, from all debts to Jews (Doc. 456). This flows from the same massacre.

Dec. 22, 1348. In view of the large money debt incurred by his predecessors, Emperor Karl IV gives to Bishop Marquard of Augsburg all rights (to property or possessions) of Jews and Jewesses named as formerly living in Augsburg (Doc. 458).

A series of documents (463, 466, 467, 469, 474, 482, 495, 510, 552, 557, 582, 657, 727, 728, 729, 732, 734, 736, 739, 780) then tell of the squabbling over the remnants of this booty. The only one of any interest is Doc. 557, dated February 24, 1361, whereby the city council rents a building in the Jewish Lane to Michel the Jew of Seifriedsberg in return for unstated interest payments. Clearly, Jews had been readmitted to Augsburg by 1361, though the community never regained its former vitality.


*German families with the judenhut or Jew’s hat as a coat of arms also include the Juden, Jüdden, and Judei, all from Cologne as well, and the Judmänner zu Affeking und Aernbach and the Juden von Bruckberg, from Bavaria.

*Some of these cities were technically independent or were in Swabia or the Upper Palatinate (Augsburg was originally the capital of Swabia, Regensburg that of the Upper Palatinate) but they were overshadowed by Bavaria and eventually became considered part of that German state.

Adolf Kober, in his history of the Jews of Cologne (1940), shows the tombstone of Samuel Moshe ha-Levi, dated 5 Ilyar 934, or April 8, 1174 (facing p. 100). The Hebrew can be clearly read. Kober says that this is “one of the oldest” tombstones in the Jewish cemetery at Cologne. Tombstones still earlier are found in Worms.

*German families with the judenhut or Jew’s hat as a coat of arms also include the Juden, Jüdden, and Judei, all from Cologne as well, and the Judmänner zu Affeking und Aernbach and the Juden von Bruckberg, from Bavaria.

*Some of these cities were technically independent or were in Swabia or the Upper Palatinate (Augsburg was originally the capital of Swabia, Regensburg that of the Upper Palatinate) but they were overshadowed by Bavaria and eventually became considered part of that German state.

Adolf Kober, in his history of the Jews of Cologne (1940), shows the tombstone of Samuel Moshe ha-Levi, dated 5 Ilyar 934, or April 8, 1174 (facing p. 100). The Hebrew can be clearly read. Kober says that this is “one of the oldest” tombstones in the Jewish cemetery at Cologne. Tombstones still earlier are found in Worms.

Additional Information

ISBN
9780814344859
MARC Record
OCLC
1055142843
Pages
168-171
Launched on MUSE
2018-10-02
Open Access
Yes
Creative Commons
CC-BY-NC-SA
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