99. Seal of Meir Hesse
Dimensions: 28 mm. Impression.
Location: Bavarian Main State Archives, Munich, Regensburg City Doc. 2533.†
This rather crude seal seems a bit atypical in the series of Regensburg late fourteenth-century seals despite its familiar size and iconography. Between the standard beaded lines the Hebrew inscription, lacking the Latin S for “seal,” runs counterclockwise, with a floral decoration between the two words; since the spacing is so ill-conceived, a larger decoration, perhaps also meant to be floral, takes up the remaining third of the circumference. On the shield in the field is a six-pointed star at the left and a thin crescent moon at the right; again the workmanship is poor. The skilled artisan who made the other seals apparently did not make this one.
The seal is affixed to a document dated August 22, 1384. We know from the German document that the sealer’s second name is Hesse; the Munich archives list it as Mairhess. Since second names were still rather rare among Ashkenazi Jews of the fourteenth century, this second name probably indicated that Meir came from Hesse. A group of documents—those sealed by Gnendel and Chalman, Saadia, and Veivel (Nos. 90–92, 98) and this one by Meir Hesse—all are dated 1384. This is no accident. In the late spring and summer of that year, the burghers of Regensburg, in a period of great distress because of continued warfare, compelled these Jews, the richest of the city, to bind themselves by oath not to leave the city and to pledge their jewels and other personal property as surety. Incidentally, the city fathers then arrested these men and only released them when they renounced the right to have their property returned.