‘Gentile Tales: The Narrative Assault on Late Medieval Jews’ by Miri Rubin

Chapter 2 – From Jewish Boy to Bleeding Host

The Marian Tales: involved miracles of resolution and/or forgiveness; Jews were opponents of the Virgin’s grace, but also needed her mercy

˗ Story of Theophilus: influenced by a Jewish magus, Theophilus made a pact with the devil, but in the end is saved by the Virgin Mary

˗ Story of the Jewish boy: a Jewish boy is thrown into an oven after his father discovered that he had participated in the Eucharist; after surviving the ordeal, the boy claimed that he was saved by two people matching the description of the Virgin Mary and a young Jesus; at the end, the boy and his mother converted to Christianity, while the father was thrown into the oven and died. [Analysis: a perfect example of the Virgin Mary’s mercy; a witness tale where the boy’s personal experiences influenced the conversion of multiple Jews]

– The construction of a Christian identity was depended on creating differences between Christians and non-Christians – Jews became an ever-preset danger to the faith; new narratives concerning Jews became more violent, accusatory, and vindictive

Jews and the eucharist – notion that Jews were intent on testing or abusing the host soon became ‘common knowledge’; Spread of tales made it easier for Christians to believe in supposed transgressions by Jews; the safety and importance of the eucharist became more important

Chapter 3 – Patterns of Accusation

Paris, 1290 [first documented case of a host desecration accusation] – During Holy Week, a Jewish man tempted a poor Christian woman with the cancellation of her debt if she would bring him a host from Easter communion. Once in his possession, the Jew tested and abused it. After throwing the indestructible host into a boiling cauldron of water, the water turned red and an image of a crucifixion hovered above the cauldron. After being discovered, the man was found guilty and he was burned; his family converted to Christianity [parallels to the Jewish Boy story]. The event became part of local tradition and even had a cult following. A site was built at the scene of the alleged crime, the knife that was used in the abuse became holy by association, and the host became a relic

Elements to a host desecration narrative: encounter between a Jew and a Christian willing to hand over the consecrated host in exchange for money or favors; abuse of host and its subsequent secondary transformation; Jew gets rid of the host, which produces signs that reveal its location; Host recovered and contained

Chapter 4 – Persons and Places

The Perpetrator: the (Male) Jew – Jewish abusers often men [Jew had to be a man in order to act as a fully moral person, capable of evil and guilt; females lacked reason and moral faculties]; belief: Jews weren’t like other men – had strange desires, suffered from physical afflictions like menstruation, etc.

Women: it was often women who gave Jews the host [either as poor debtors or as Christian maids in Jewish households]

˗ Opposing roles: Jewish accomplices or instrumental in detecting host abuse

Children: child-like innocence paralleled the young Christ; sometimes the host would take the shape of a child; hard to refute a child’s testimony in trial

Priests, Sextons, and Anti-Clerical Sentiment: clergy were the saviors in the drama – they recovered the host and contained it correctly; sometimes also had sinister roles

Thieves and Thief-Plots: thieves were the middlemen in the transfer of the eucharist from Church to Jew

Converts: those affected by the miraculous host

Crowd: the Christian crowd most often represented as a swift actor in the desecration drama; possibly motivated by zeal, anger, and fear of God

Chapter 5 – Making the Narrative Work

– Strength of the narratives a result of its deep roots in Christian lore and ideas about Jews

– Tales of host desecration legitimized violence against Jews

– Deadly results were situated within specific contexts (led by charismatic preachers, motivated by crusades, etc.); on the other hand, places where order was more enforced may have seen less violence

– Accusations could be highly suggestive, but its consequences depended on the audience’s interest and capacity for action

Chapter 6 – Violence and Trails of Memory

Texts: passiones – a narrative form where political events were rendered in the style of scriptural passages concerning Christ’s Passion

Tales that Exemplify: designed to teach lessons and morals

Images: Telling the Tale – image is the pictorial representation of the story; Sacramental Use – image is created to contain the host or a relic associated with it [the images themselves become sacred]; Universal Tale – local tales could be situated in a wider set of eucharistic narratives; Processionals: processions surrounding the host could be considered an image representation

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