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MAGDEBURG

146. Seal of Samuel (of Derenburg)

Dimensions: unknown.

Location: unknown.

Bibliography: Heinemann, 1867–73, vol. 4; Bierbach, 1954–57, vol. 2.

The diplomatic statutes of Anhalt list a document numbered 320, dated October 24, 1364, in which Hermann von Warberg, the Cathedral Provost of Magdeburg, and his associates attest that at a meeting scheduled in Barby between Archbishop Dietrich of Magdeburg and Prince Waldemar I of Anhalt, the latter did not appear. The document goes into further details; but it is sufficient to point out in this context that seven men sealed as testimony, all of them distinguished Christian gentlemen except one by the name of “Sammuel von Derenburg iude.” Only four of the seven seals affixed remain, and among those lost is that of Samuel. The original document is still held in the State Archives at Magdeburg.

Apparently unrelated is the matter of the seal of “Smol de jude.” In the Document Book of the City of Halle the third volume lists a document numbered 921, and dated March 22, 1370, in which Archbishop Albrecht III of Magdeburg covenants to a citizen of Halle, the knight Markward von Ammendorf, that he cedes to him the right to the use of the water from a well in Halle* until Christmas of the coming year, and that he is guaranteed the recovery of any losses if this right is breached. Meinhard von Schiersted, the representative of the archbishop, and the Jew Smol affix their seals to guarantee the archbishop’s pledge to Markward. A copy of this agreement is at the State Archives of Magdeburg.

It is a pity that an impression of this seal cannot be located, for Samuel of Derenburg, referred to in most records as Smol (from Shemuel, the Hebrew form of his name), was one of the most important early German Jewish financial factors. The footnotes to this item in the Document Book of Halle state that Smol and Samuel of Derenburg were one and the same party. Other notes state: “The privileged position of the Court Jew Samuel of Derenburg is remarkable”; “The Jew Samuel of Derenburg was adviser and confidant of the Archbishop Dietrich.” This is the first time the writer has seen the expression “Court Jew” used for a Jewish adviser as early as the fourteenth century in Germany. Actually, Samuel or Smol had a confidential relationship with four archbishops at Magdeburg, and that with Peter, the last of the four, was even closer than that with Dietrich. Undoubtedly a man of great personal charm, Smol bore a relationship to these archbishops similar to that between Jacob son of Daniel/Nathanael and Archbishop Baldwin of Trier a few years earlier (see Nos. 106 and 112).

We know quite a bit regarding this extraordinary man, who was associated in his financial transactions with two of his brothers, Marquard and Ephraim. He is first mentioned on November 28, 1347, when Archbishop Otto assigned the sum of three hundred marks received from the town council of Brunswick to Smol and his brothers, as well as three other citizens of Magdeburg.* The 1364 document is discussed above. On February 27, 1365, Smol was a member of a commission given the authority to decide a controversy between Archbishop Dietrich and the city of Halle involving a salt mine. In 1366 we know of two situations to which Smol was a party: on March 22 he, with three knights, guaranteed as bondsmen a sum promised to the archbishop; that same year he was also involved with the highest nobility in reconciling a violent dispute between the archbishop and the aristocrat Hans von Hadmersleben. The 1370 document involving the matter of a well has been referred to above.

The relationship between Archbishop Peter and Smol was so close that Pope Gregory XI in 1372 rebuked Peter for his obvious favoritism toward a Jew, threatening him with dire consequences if he did not stop allowing a Jew jurisdiction over Christians. One of the papal charges stated that Smol was reputed to have received license from the archbishop to convert a former chapel into a synagogue. Samuel of Derenburg, also known as Smol, was indeed a forerunner of the later prominent Court Jews and an anomaly in the period after the Black Death in the fourteenth century.


*A note tells us that this well or spring was the most productive of the salt springs in Halle.

Listed as Kop. 32, BI. 27b. The writer has written repeatedly requesting a microfilm of this copy, but without success.

*This is a typical case of Jews and Christians working in harmony as financial partners. Several other such examples have been pointed out earlier. The Jews could not have survived in medieval Europe if Christian colleagues in high places (mostly, though not always, for personal benefit) had not secreted their money or actually hidden Jews bodily in times of extreme crisis, making their economic or physical survival possible.

*A note tells us that this well or spring was the most productive of the salt springs in Halle.

Listed as Kop. 32, BI. 27b. The writer has written repeatedly requesting a microfilm of this copy, but without success.

*This is a typical case of Jews and Christians working in harmony as financial partners. Several other such examples have been pointed out earlier. The Jews could not have survived in medieval Europe if Christian colleagues in high places (mostly, though not always, for personal benefit) had not secreted their money or actually hidden Jews bodily in times of extreme crisis, making their economic or physical survival possible.

Apparently unrelated is the matter of the seal of “Smol de jude.” In the Document Book of the City of Halle the third volume lists a document numbered 921, and dated March 22, 1370, in which Archbishop Albrecht III of Magdeburg covenants to a citizen of Halle, the knight Markward von Ammendorf, that he cedes to him the right to the use of the water from a well in Halle* until Christmas of the coming year, and that he is guaranteed the recovery of any losses if this right is breached. Meinhard von Schiersted, the representative of the archbishop, and the Jew Smol affix their seals to guarantee the archbishop’s pledge to Markward. A copy of this agreement is at the State Archives of Magdeburg.

Apparently unrelated is the matter of the seal of “Smol de jude.” In the Document Book of the City of Halle the third volume lists a document numbered 921, and dated March 22, 1370, in which Archbishop Albrecht III of Magdeburg covenants to a citizen of Halle, the knight Markward von Ammendorf, that he cedes to him the right to the use of the water from a well in Halle* until Christmas of the coming year, and that he is guaranteed the recovery of any losses if this right is breached. Meinhard von Schiersted, the representative of the archbishop, and the Jew Smol affix their seals to guarantee the archbishop’s pledge to Markward. A copy of this agreement is at the State Archives of Magdeburg.

We know quite a bit regarding this extraordinary man, who was associated in his financial transactions with two of his brothers, Marquard and Ephraim. He is first mentioned on November 28, 1347, when Archbishop Otto assigned the sum of three hundred marks received from the town council of Brunswick to Smol and his brothers, as well as three other citizens of Magdeburg.* The 1364 document is discussed above. On February 27, 1365, Smol was a member of a commission given the authority to decide a controversy between Archbishop Dietrich and the city of Halle involving a salt mine. In 1366 we know of two situations to which Smol was a party: on March 22 he, with three knights, guaranteed as bondsmen a sum promised to the archbishop; that same year he was also involved with the highest nobility in reconciling a violent dispute between the archbishop and the aristocrat Hans von Hadmersleben. The 1370 document involving the matter of a well has been referred to above.

Additional Information

ISBN
9780814344859
MARC Record
OCLC
1055142843
Pages
271-272
Launched on MUSE
2018-10-02
Open Access
Yes
Creative Commons
CC-BY-NC-SA
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