JEWISH-AMERICAN HALL OF FAME • JEWISH MUSEUM IN CYBERSPACE
ANTI-SEMITIC BIGOTRY AS CHRONICLED BY HISTORICAL MEDALS


 


MEDALS RELATED TO RELIGION

Blood Libel Medals. “Blood Libels” are a group of slanders against the Jews which have as their origins passages from the New Testament of the Bible. (For more on the religious origin of this term, see below).

Besides holding Jews responsible for such global calamities as famine and plague, it was not unusual to blame them for defilement of Christian religious objects, such as the consecrated wafers used ritually in the Catholic Mass (the Host). The accusation and murder of Jews by burning them alive for the alleged desecration of the Host have been promoted in several forms of art, some of which go back to medieval times (figure 18).

 
Figure 18. Burning of Jews for the Supposed Desecration of Sacramental Wafers in Deggendorf, Bavaria in 1492.

Woodcut by Hartmann Schedel for the Nuremberg Chronicle, known as Schedelsche Weltchronik, published in 1493 (Wikipedia).

In 1837 a medal was issued that celebrated an anniversary of a similar supposed desecration of the Host by Jews, in this case one that was said to have occurred 500 years earlier in Deggendorf, Germany. As the story goes, in 1337 Jewish guests at a Christian gathering were accused of stealing and trying to destroy the Hosts by placing them in a bag of poison and sinking them into the local well, an act which caused the subsequent death of several townsfolk. The consecrated wafers were retrieved from the well, placed in a chalice in the church, and in the ensuing anger, the Jewish community was slaughtered. Five hundred years later a medal was distributed memorializing the event (figure 19). Pilgrimages to the Deggendorf church continued until the ritual was abolished in 1992.

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