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79. Seal of the Jews in Augsburg

Ḥotam Kehal Agusta

Seal of Augusta Community

[at right]

S IVDEORVM INAGVSTAE[NSIVM]

S[igillvm] Ivdeorvm in Avgvstae[nsivm]

Seal of the Jews in Augsburg

Dimensions: 52 mm. Impression.

Location: Augsburg City Archives.*

Bibliography: Stetten, 1803; Levy, 1861; Jewish Encyclopedia, 1907, s.v. “Augsburg”; Grünfeld, 1917; Herlitz and Kirschner, 1927–30, s.v. “Augsburg”; Straus, 1939; Brincken, 1963–64; Roth, 1971, Fig. 6; Hohenlohe-Waldenburg, 1973, No. 272.

This most unusual seal shows the double-headed Hapsburg eagle.* (Augsburg was one of the principal cities of the Holy Roman Empire); between the heads of the eagle is a Jew’s hat with the chinstraps hanging down. The lettering runs around the device, framed in a circular heavy line: the Hebrew inscription starts to the right of the eagle’s heads; the Latin inscription starts to the right of the Hebrew and is written clockwise.

The remains of the seal are still appended to a document dated August 23, 1298. The substance of this document relates to important events occurring at that time. Because the city fathers of Augsburg had not opened the gates to the knight Rindfleisch in his campaign to eradicate the Jews of southern Germany, they demanded that the Jewish community pledge itself to extend the city’s fortifications. With four years to finish this security wall (which remained in existence until 1704, when it was destroyed by the French in the War of the Spanish Succession), the Jews had to deposit as security for its completion the personal valuables of the leading members of the community and the synagogue itself. The wording of the 1298 document is revealing. It starts off: “We, Benditte, Juedlin his son, Michel, Lambt, Aaron his son, etc. . . . and the Community of Jews in the town of Augsburg” and concludes, “In order that it will not be forgotten, this letter was made and sealed with the town seal at Augsburg and with our seal, which are both appended hereto.”

Seal of Renaud of Burgundy, 1284. From Auguste Coulan, Inventaire des Sceaux de la Bourgogne, Paris, 1912, Pl. XX No. 107.

It is thus apparent that we are dealing with two seal impressions, both indeed which are still extant, that of the city itself and that of the Jewish community. The latter is a very rare treasure, a genuine late thirteenth-century European Jewish community seal appended to a document dealing with events involving Jews in a known historical situation. It may be added that the device used on the seal indicates a significant cultural identity with the area in which these Jews lived. What is also rather unusual is that the Jewish principals are listed without identification of each as a Jew after his name.


*The seal impression is half off the original document. The best impression known is a plaster cast in the seal museum of Friedrich Karl, Prince of Hohenlohe-Waldenburg, Württemberg. The plaster cast was taken by the great-grandfather of the present prince when the seal impression in the Augsburg Archives was still relatively intact.

*Paul von Stetten, the German historian from this area who first wrote about the Jews of Augsburg, claimed that the eagle was a Swabian device. However, see a very similar emblem on the seal of Renaud of Burgundy, dated 1284, illustrated here.

The part of the seal showing the name of the city is broken off except for the first letter. The Hebrew might have been , or “Augsburk,” showing the way the city name would have been spelled in German when the seal was engraved.

*The seal impression is half off the original document. The best impression known is a plaster cast in the seal museum of Friedrich Karl, Prince of Hohenlohe-Waldenburg, Württemberg. The plaster cast was taken by the great-grandfather of the present prince when the seal impression in the Augsburg Archives was still relatively intact.

*Paul von Stetten, the German historian from this area who first wrote about the Jews of Augsburg, claimed that the eagle was a Swabian device. However, see a very similar emblem on the seal of Renaud of Burgundy, dated 1284, illustrated here.

The part of the seal showing the name of the city is broken off except for the first letter. The Hebrew might have been , or “Augsburk,” showing the way the city name would have been spelled in German when the seal was engraved.

Additional Information

ISBN
9780814344859
MARC Record
OCLC
1055142843
Pages
172-173
Launched on MUSE
2018-10-02
Open Access
Yes
Creative Commons
CC-BY-NC-SA
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