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152. Seal of Johan the Jew


Dimensions: 30 mm. Impression.

Location: State Archives in Gelderland, Arnhem, Charter Collection, No. 1081.

Bibliography: Nijhoff, 1830.

This seal has nothing Jewish about it except the last word of the legend, which can hardly be read. Two lions support an angled shield inscribed with an indecipherable emblem, on which rests what may be a helmet or platform from which rise a pair of animal horns like antlers. These are described in general heraldic literature as buffalo or bull horns. There are many north European seals of this type from the Teutonic areas, a typical example of 1386 being shown here.

Seal of Morinot de Tourzel, Chamberlain of the Duke of Berry, 1386. French National Library, Paris, No. 9.029.

Coat of arms of the Jude family of the Cologne area, converts to Christianity. From Johann Siebmacher, Grosses und Allgemeines Wappenbuch, 1856 & thereafter; rpt. Nürnberg, 1964.

The document to which the seal is appended comes from a later period, January 7, 1438. Duke Arnold admits owing Henrik of Wylack, “his young man” (the exact translation), eight hundred Rhine guilders and gives him, to clear the debt, a farm at Ockx in the district near Honepe. The document is stamped with two seals, that of the duke himself and that of “Johan die Joide,” the land steward of the duke. According to the records, the family name was written de Jode, die Joide, and de Jeude, and the same seal appears on Charters 899 and 1252 from Arnhem as well. In one of these documents Johan, also referred to as Jan, appears involved with toll collections at Zaltbommel, a smaller city not far from Arnhem.

The writer’s initial reaction to seals 150–52 is that not one is Jewish except by the most tenuous connection. This opinion is supported by the only scholar who has studied the seals and documents, A. Nijhoff, in Gedenkwaardigheden uit de geschiedenis van Gelderland (Memorybook of the history of Gelderland). Nijhoff points to the fact that Daniel was a knight from Cologne, Berwout (a name rather uniquely Dutch) a city official at Arnhem, and Johan a ducal land steward, and questions whether these men were Jewish. He states that the use of “Jew” as a family name in Dutch did not always refer to a Jew or a Christian who was Jewish by origin, but that the word was sometimes attached to persons who showed what were considered Jewish physical traits or a mentality that seemed to Dutch Christians as characteristic of Jews.

This explanation appears to fit the case of Johan, for despite the family name, there is nothing 282 about the seal, the man, or the position he held which fits a Jewish context. The matter is more complex in the other two cases because of the presence of the Jews’ hats. As has been indicated in the analysis of the device shown on seal No. 78, a patrician family from Cologne with the telltale name of Jude, which also had a coat of arms showing Jews’ hats (as can be seen in the figure here) was without question Christian, though of Jewish origin. Alert, mayor of Duisburg, surely a converted Jew (No. 134), showed three Jews’ hats on his shield. Berwout in the fourteenth century would not be used as a name by a practicing Jew, nor does it seem possible that a Jew would be a city official in Gelderland at this time. Though the name Daniel would be more fitting, it is difficult for this writer to conceive that a Jew would have been a knight in Cologne during the thirteenth century; probably it was not even possible (though certain cases of Jews with status as “burghers” did exist) for him to be a citizen, so he too must be considered a convert or son of a convert. One wonders, however, why a convert should retain Jews’ hats on the field of a personal seal at a time when the Jew was regarded with such malevolence by the Christian community. In the case of the Jude family from in and around Cologne, the coat of arms had been held for some time and was identified with a line accepted as Christian, but this was rather unusual, and we do not know Berwout’s or Daniel’s family antecedents.* The matter remains a mystery.

Seal of Johannes dictus Juetenzoen, Brussels, 15th century. General Archives of the kingdom of Belgium.

Seal of Olivier le Juede, Brussels, 15th century. General Archives of the kingdom of Belgium.

Seal of Gillis die Juede, Bruges, 14th century. General Archives of the kingdom of Belgium.

In 1981 J. Becker published an article in the Zeelander Periodical with the curious title “De Zeeuwse Smouzegangen” or “The Zeelander Moses-Named Things,” the word “S’Moses” being the genitive case of Moses, and referring to Jewish things. Zeeland is a Dutch province sticking into the coast of Belgium next to Flanders. Three “Jewish” seals were included among the items described. The source of this material came from a study of heraldic devices from the Low Countries by J.-Th. Raadt (1899).

Raadt lists nine seal owners with names that could be translated as “Jew”: namely Gillis die Juede, Kuneman Juden, Vrederic die Joede, Gobel Juede, Henri Juede, Jean de Juede, Jean de Joede, Olivier le Juede, and Martin de Jode. Several of these seals show Jew’s hats.

The information from the documents to which these seals were affixed makes it evident that most of these men could not be Jewish. As examples, Vrederic die Joede, whose seal shows three Jew’s hats with straps, in 1386 was enfeoffed by the bishop of Utrecht with the church tithes at Elst; another man was burgomaster of Oostburg (Zeeland); and three others were city officials.

The three so-called Jewish seals listed by J. Becker were those of Johannes dictus Juetenzoen, Olivier le Juede, and Gillis die Juede. The General Archives of the Kingdom of Belgium kindly forwarded to this writer clear photographs of these seals, reproduced here.

Johannes dictus Juetenzoen, that is, Jean said the son of Jueten, is not a Jew. The name “Jueten” indeed is Teutonic, probably referring to someone of the Jute tribe. The description of the seal device states that a Jew’s hat appears above the shield. Considerable imagination is required to see this purported Jew’s hat. It may be added that Jean was an alderman at Brussels in 1423, according to the document stamped with his seal, a position that a Jew could not hold at that time.

Olivier le Juede likewise must be excluded. Olivier was the representative of the Count of Flanders at the cloth hall of Yypres in the early 1450s. Presuming the count might use a Jew as an agent, he would not do so at the Yypres cloth hall, a famous guild trading center. Nor does Olivier ever appear in this period as a Jewish name. The seal device does show three heads with flat hats on a shield, though it is not clear whether these are Jew’s hats.

The seal of Gillis die Juede is most interesting. The inscription, still visible, is + S’ GILLIS DE IVEDE. The device shows a Jew with a Jew’s hat. The Jew has a long beard and a beaked nose and almost appears to be a caricature, somewhat similar to the counterseal of the Paraige of Jewry of Metz (see No. 47).

Gillis die Juede, as indicated in the document from 1324, sealed as a business agent for the guilds at Bruges. Despite the name and the seal device, it is inconceivable that a Jew would have the authority to seal for the Flemish guilds in the early fourteenth century. In fact, no Jew could even be a guild member, let alone an authorized representative. Whether Gillis was a convert or a son of converts, this cannot be considered a Jewish seal.

These three seals, as well as Nos. 150, 151, and 152, prove that neither the name “Jew” (in any of its variants) nor a Jewish device is conclusive proof that the seal owner was Jewish. The entire social context must be considered before a definite judgment can be made.

*It is possible that Daniel (and perhaps even Berwout) were collateral members of the Jude family of Cologne, retaining their familial identity through these seals.

This information was brought to the attention of the writer after completion of the book. It is for that reason no numbers are assigned to these seals.

*It is possible that Daniel (and perhaps even Berwout) were collateral members of the Jude family of Cologne, retaining their familial identity through these seals.

This information was brought to the attention of the writer after completion of the book. It is for that reason no numbers are assigned to these seals.

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