publisher colophon

120. Seal of Joseph (Josel of Rosheim)

Yosef

Dimensions: 21 × 16 mm. Impression.

Location: Strasbourg Municipal Archives, Series III, 174, Nos. 21 and 38; Obernai Municipal Archives, BB 11.

Bibliography: Loeb, 1882; Feilchenfeld, 1898; Jewish Encyclopedia, 1907, s.v. “Josel of Rosheim”; Raeuber, 1950; Raphaël and Weyl, 1977, 1980.

This small oval seal shows a front view of an ox, standing for Joseph, with the name in Hebrew letters above. It belonged to Joseph ben Gershon Loanz,* called Josel or Joselmann of Rosheim (ca. 1478–1554). Though technically a seal type no longer representative of the Middle Ages, it is among the most important Jewish seals extant. The shape of the seal, the depiction filling almost the whole of the shield area, and the separate letters above rather than around the perimeter all indicate that it derives from the end of the medieval period. It should be emphasized that, unlike the seals from a century and more earlier, this type of seal was a decorative imprint, of value only as a symbol of prestige and position but without legal weight. There are similar Jewish seals from a somewhat earlier time from northern Italy; they likewise appear in the sixteenth century at Frankfort on the Main: both types are illustrated in this catalogue. The seal of Samuel from Frankfort stamped on documents dated 1572 and 1579 (see No. 123) is rather close to No. 120 in style. Coins and sculpture showing a frontal view of an ox very similar to this seal type were also common in antiquity, including Judaea; three examples are illustrated here.

The Strasbourg archives possess documents sealed by Josel of Rosheim from 1534 to the time of his death, concerning such subjects as forbidding Jews of the city to summon Strasbourg inhabitants before outside tribunals and the restitution of stolen objects. The most interesting letters in the municipal archives signed by Josel, noted in the records as Joesslin de Rosheim, concern the anti-Semitic writings of Martin Luther and other Protestant theologians. Josel, in the name of his fellow Jews, protests their dissemination. The shrewd Josel knew well that because Strasbourg was an imperial city, Emperor Charles V would support his complaint despite (or more truly, because of) the fact that Strasbourg had early become a Protestant stronghold. He was right; and indeed in 1543 the municipal council was compelled to ban these anti-Semitic writings. A copy of the letter sent to Martin Luther by the Strasbourg magistrate is filed with the same folio.

In a separate matter, there is another letter located in the archives of the small town of Obernai (formerly called Oberehnheim), near Strasbourg, dated October 10, 1542. It is the text of an address concerning local Jewish problems by Josel to the town councillors, and sealed by him.

Silver drachma from Crete, 4th century B.C.

Stone sarcophagus, 2d-3d century A.D., Bet She’arim, catacomb 20.

Reverse of bronze aes grave from Venosa, Italy, 3d century B.C..

Josel achieved prominence as a rather young man. In 1510 he was made parnas or head representative, of the Jewish communities of lower Alsace. Shortly thereafter he became the advocate of the German Jews, with a special relationship to Emperor Charles V in the difficult times of the Reformation and the various peasant revolts. In 1530, in the presence of the emperor and court at the Diet of Augsburg, Josel defended Judaism against the calumnious attacks of the apostate Antonius Margarita, son of a rabbi. He was so successful in disproving the allegations that Margarita was imprisoned and later banished, an unusually happy end to such confrontations.

Almost all of Joseľs later busy life was spent traveling throughout the Holy Roman Empire, defending—most often successfully—local communities of Jews against slander, false accusation, and claims of ritual murder. Probably Germany would indeed have been completely judenrein (“Jew-free”) by 1543, Luther having become far more venomous against the Jews than were the German Catholics, had it not been for Joseľs extraordinary and untiring efforts. For this reason, he is considered the most important of the Jewish shtadlanin (those influential community leaders who interceded through their high contacts to protect Jews from violence and expulsion) in the Holy Roman Empire during the late Middle Ages.


*The name Loanz is often written as Loans. The outstanding early seventeenth-century cabbalist Rabbi Elijah ben Moses Loans (1564–1636), born in Frankfort on the Main, was a grandson of Josel of Rosheim. The small town of Rosheim, in Alsace, is about fifteen miles southwest of Strasbourg.

*The name Loanz is often written as Loans. The outstanding early seventeenth-century cabbalist Rabbi Elijah ben Moses Loans (1564–1636), born in Frankfort on the Main, was a grandson of Josel of Rosheim. The small town of Rosheim, in Alsace, is about fifteen miles southwest of Strasbourg.

This small oval seal shows a front view of an ox, standing for Joseph, with the name in Hebrew letters above. It belonged to Joseph ben Gershon Loanz,* called Josel or Joselmann of Rosheim (ca. 1478–1554). Though technically a seal type no longer representative of the Middle Ages, it is among the most important Jewish seals extant. The shape of the seal, the depiction filling almost the whole of the shield area, and the separate letters above rather than around the perimeter all indicate that it derives from the end of the medieval period. It should be emphasized that, unlike the seals from a century and more earlier, this type of seal was a decorative imprint, of value only as a symbol of prestige and position but without legal weight. There are similar Jewish seals from a somewhat earlier time from northern Italy; they likewise appear in the sixteenth century at Frankfort on the Main: both types are illustrated in this catalogue. The seal of Samuel from Frankfort stamped on documents dated 1572 and 1579 (see No. 123) is rather close to No. 120 in style. Coins and sculpture showing a frontal view of an ox very similar to this seal type were also common in antiquity, including Judaea; three examples are illustrated here.

Additional Information

ISBN
9780814344859
MARC Record
OCLC
1055142843
Pages
228-229
Launched on MUSE
2018-10-02
Open Access
Yes
Creative Commons
CC-BY-NC-SA
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.