The Absurd History Of Papal Edicts Concerning Jews

For those who do not spend much time studying church history (I’m no expert) it might seem strange that Christians would have any problems with the Jews since the first Christian church was all Jewish. However, the way the Jews were treated by the Christians over history seems a bit unchristian. To make matters worse, often it was people in positions of power who exploited them. One such position was of the Papacy. Over the course of time various popes announced a slew of absurd edicts concerning the Jews. Here they are.

Pope Eugenius III
Pope Eugenius III

Pope Eugenius III

“Annates” – 1145

Pope Eugenius III was one of the first popes to issue what is formally called a Papal Bulla, which is basically just a written edict from the pope that also served as the head of the Holy Roman Empire. In his first edict he ordered Jews to remit Interest on debts of Crusaders while absent.


Pope Innocent III
Pope Innocent III

Pope Innocent III

“Esti Judaeos” – 1205

Esti Judaeos declared that Jews were allowed their own houses of worship and would not be forced to convert. Jews were forbidden to eat with Christians or own Christian slaves.

“Unnamed” – 1207

In 1207 a papal edict came unnamed, requiring Jews of Spain to pay tithes on possessions obtained from Christians.

Pope Honorius III
Pope Honorius III

Pope Honorius III

“In Generali Concilio” – 1218

In Generali Concilio enforced a law that required the Jews to wear clothing that would separate them from the Christians. This was one of the first papal edicts that really started to push social pressure on the Jews and tried to place them in a position of inferiority. This edict called for a number of different things, including but not limited to:

  1.  Jews had to wear a yellow patch and a pointed hat.
  2. They had to give an additional ten percent of their property tax to the local churches.
  3. They could not hold any public office.
  4. In the three days leading up to Easter they were not allowed in public because they were considered offensive to Christians (Because they were seen as the killers of Christ).

Pope Gregory IX
Pope Gregory IX

Pope Gregory IX

“Unnamed” – 1228

In 1228 one of the main priorities (again) was supporting the crusade efforts. They also had continued an increasingly negative outlook on the Jews. This new edict demanded remitting interest on Crusaders’ debts to Jews and granting a temporary relief for all payments.

“Etsi Judaeorum” – 1233

Etsi Judaeorum (“even the Jews”) was a papal edict that tried to address some of the Jewish/Christian relation issues that came about from his previous edict in 1228. This new edict called for all Jews to be treated with the same humanity with which Christians wish to be treated in heathen lands. Unfortunately this did not last for long because the inquisition was coming in just a few years and the Jews eventually come into the cross-hairs.

“Si vera sunt” – 1239

Si vera sunt (“If they are true”) was declared as part of the new inquisition that started in 1233. In the edict was the seizure and examination of Jewish writings, especially the Talmud. This was because they suspected it of blasphemies against Christ and the Church.

“Unnamed” – 1240

An unnamed edict came in 1240 ordering all Jewish books in Castile (a small teritorry between France and Spain) to be seized on first Saturday (the Sabbath day) in Lent while th Jews were in their synagogues.

This is a difficult time for Jews because the church had started the inquisition and then on top of that, violence is starting to break out in Jewish/Christian areas like Germany. In 1235, 34 Jews were killed after being accused of murdering 5 Christians and draining their blood.

Pope Innocent IV
Pope Innocent IV

Pope Innocent IV

“Impia Gens” – 1244

Impia Gens was yet another edict that called for the burning of the Talmud.

“Divina Justitia Nequaquam” & “Lachrymabilem Judaeorum”- 1247

Divina Justitia Nequaquam and Lachrymabilem Judaeorum were issued not to harm the Jews but to settle some up-risings between Jews and Christians. After the 1235 accusation in Fulda of Jews taking Christians and draining their blood, more absurd claims began to spread. It was said that they were using the blood of Christian children to make the Passover elements and removing hearts from Christian children. Unfortunately, the cruel methods of the inquisition (especially in Spain) were leading to confessions. This led to the rumors only being spread faster and further, until the Jews finally appealed to the Pope. Luckily, the Pope sided with the Jews.

Ad Exstirpanda – 1252

Ad Exstirpanda (“For the elimination”) was en edict directed at heretics but sadly used against the Jews. This edict called for the use of torture for extracting confessions from heretics during the Inquisition and executing relapsed heretics by burning them alive at the stake.

“Unnamed” – 1253

In 1253 the Pope demanded that Jews be removed from Vienne, France.

Pope Gregory X
Pope Gregory X

Pope Gregory X

“Letter on Jews” – 1272

Once again Jews are being accused to stealing and murdering Christian Children. Pope Gregory X tries to dispel rumors.

Since it happens occasionally that some Christians lose their Christian children, the Jews are accused by their enemies of secretly carrying off and killing these same Christian children and of making sacrifices of the heart and blood of these very children. It happens, too, that the parents of these children or some other Christian enemies of these Jews, secretly hide these very children in order that they may be able to injure these Jews, and in order that they may be able to extort from them a certain amount of money by redeeming them from their straits.

And most falsely do these Christians claim that the Jews have secretly and furtively carried away these children and killed them, and that the Jews offer sacrifice from the heart and blood of these children, since their law in this matter precisely and expressly forbids Jews to sacrifice, eat, or drink the blood, or to eat the flesh of animals having claws. This has been demonstrated many times at our court by Jews converted to the Christian faith: nevertheless very many Jews are often seized and detained unjustly because of this. We decree, therefore, that Christians need not be obeyed against Jews in a case or situation of this type, and we order that Jews seized under such a silly pretext be freed from imprisonment, and that they shall not be arrested henceforth on such a miserable pretext, unless—which we do not believe—they be caught in the commission of the crime. We decree that no Christian shall stir up anything new against them, but that they should be maintained in that status and position in which they were in the time of our predecessors, from antiquity till now. (Pope Gregory X)

Pope Boniface VIII
Pope Boniface VIII

Pope Boniface VIII

Between Gregory X and Nicholas IV, the Jews had some form of legal protection against being tortured as part of the inquisition (even though it still often happened). That all changed with Pope Boniface, who was not good at all for Jewish relations.

“Exhibita Nobis” – 1299

Exhibita Nobis allowed for all Jews to be part of the inquisition and it even stated that the accuser of said Jew need not be named. This opened a flood of Jews being tortured and then murdered by the church.

Pope Clement VI
Pope Clement VI

Pope Clement VI

“Quamvis Perfidiam” – 1348

Quamvis Perfidiam was an edict (once again) trying to dispel rumors circulating about the Jews. It seemed as though just about anything and everything could be blamed on the Jews. This time it was the black plague. People were spreading rumors that the cause of the plague was the Jews, poisoning the water wells.

Pope Boniface IX
Pope Boniface IX

Pope Boniface IX

Pope Boniface IX was a breath of fresh air for the Jews. He was the first Pope in over a century who actually tried to repair Jewish relations with the Christians. Sadly, the Popes after him were not that nice.

“Unnamed” – 1402

In 1402 the Pope gave privileges to Roman Jews—reducing their taxes, commanding their Sabbath to be protected, placing them under the jurisdiction of the Curia, protecting them from oppression by Roman officials; all Jews and Jewesses dwelling in the city to be regarded and treated as Roman citizens.

Pope Eugene IV
Pope Eugene IV

Pope Eugene IV

The Roman Catholic Church around this time really started to get pressure applied from all sides. The Jewish/Catholic relations are really bad. The inquisition is turning people against the church. The reformation is causing a large amount of Europeans to revolt against the Catholic Church. And the Muslim Turks are invading from the southeast. A slew of edicts are issued to help mitigate the loss of power.

“Dundum Ad Nostram Audientiam” – 1442

Dundum Ad Nostram Audientiam demanded the immediate separation of all Jews and Christians. The Jews are ordered to move into ghettos.

“Super Gregem Dominicum” – 1442

Super Gregem Dominicum revoked the privileges of the Castilian (Castile, Spain) Jews and imposes severe restrictions on them. Forbids Castilian Christians to eat, drink, live or bathe with Jews or Muslims and declared the legal testimony of Jews and Muslims against Christians to be invalid in court.

Pope Nicholas V
Pope Nicholas V

Pope Nicholas V

“Super Gregem Dominicum” – 1447 (3 times)

Super Gregem Dominicum Re-issued Eugene IV’s edict against Castilian Jews, but for Italy. So now Italian Jews are being oppressed as well as Roman and Spanish. Not only that but the Pope issued this Papal Bulla  more than once; he issued it three times.

“Unnamed” – 1451

An unnamed edict from the Pope in 1451 called for a complete ban on Christian intercourse with Jew and Muslims.

“Dum Diversas” – 1452

Dum Diversas demanded that any Jew or Muslim dwelling in Portugal would now be mandated to perpetual slavery.

Pope Sixtus IV
Pope Sixtus IV

Pope Sixtus IV

“Unnamed” – 1472

Orders taxation of Roman Jews at a tithe during the Turkish war with the Muslims. This came as a desperate measure to fund another Crusade against the Turks, which was a battle not being won by the Europeans.


Pope Alexander IV
Pope Alexander IV

Pope Alexander IV

“Unnamed” – 1500

An untitled decree in 1500 called for a taxation for three years for the Turkish war; one-twentieth of Jewish property throughout the world. This was devastating for many Jews. Once again demonstrating the difficulties that the Turks presented for the church.



Pope Paul III
Pope Paul III

Pope Paul III

“Unnamed” – 1540

An interesting edict in 1540 called for the granting of property to Non-Catholic,  Christians families, except that which was gained by usury (loan interest). It also granted municipal rights, but demanded that they must not marry among themselves or be buried among Jews. Why the Neo-Christians could not be buried with the Jews was likely a resurrection issue.


Pope Julius III
Pope Julius III

Pope Julius III

Pastoris æterni vices – 1554

Pastoris æterni vices was a short edict that setup the taxation of of ten gold ducats (Duke’s coin) on two out of the 115 synagogues in the Papal States.


Pope Paul IV
Pope Paul IV

Pope Paul IV

Cum Nimis Absurdum – 1555

Cum Nimis Absurdum was a papal edict that came from Paul IV, only 2 months after his inauguration, specifically set forth in an effort to segregate the Jews from the Christians in Rome and other surrounding places, and place them into ghettos. It also restricted how many synagogues they can have and various other things, listed below.

  1. All Jews in Rome and surrounding provinces must be removed from Christian residential areas and placed into 1/4 of the town together. These ghettos were the only places they are allowed to live.
  2. Synagogues were restricted 1 per domain (city)
  3. Restricted the Jews from building any buildings.
  4. Called for the destruction of synagogues in places where more than 1 exists.
  5. Any Jews not living in ghettos were required to sell their homes to Christians in an allotted time and move to the ghetto.
  6. Jewish men were required to designate themselves Jewish by wearing a hat and women by a sewn on yellow badge.
  7. Demanded that Jews are not allowed to have Christians as their nurses, maids, or feeding their children.
  8. Jews may never incriminate a Christian.
  9. Jews may not play or fraternize with Christians.
  10. Jews must use Latin or Italian on all financial accounts where Christians are concerned.
    1. Any Jew caught breaking this rule would be limited to garbage-picking as a career for life.
  11. Jewish doctors are 100% prohibited from caring for Christian patients.
  12. Jews could not carry a loan balance longer than 30 days.
  13. Reinforced local “Christian primacy” laws of all Roman territories.

I will end this papal edict summary with the opening phrase.

“Since it is completely senseless and inappropriate to be in a situation where Christian piety allows the Jews (whose guilt—all of their own doing—has condemned them to eternal slavery) access to our society and even to live among us; indeed, they are without gratitude to Christians, as, instead of thanks for gracious treatment, they return invective, and among themselves, instead of the slavery, which they deserve” (Cum Nimis Absurdum, preamble)

Pope Pius V
Pope Pius V

Pope Pius V

Hebraeorum Gens Sola – 1569 (Repealed in 1586, reinstated in 1593)

Hebraeorum Gens Sola as a papal edict that came 14 years after Cum Nimis Absurdum, and demanded the Jews be expelled from Roman states, excepting the city of Rome and the city of Ancona. The edict was supposed to address issues concerning thefts and high crime attributed to the Jews. Jews were demanded to leave and given precisely 3 months to do so, or they would be held in permanent bondage.

Pope Gregory XIII
Pope Gregory XIII

Pope Gregory XIII

“Multos adhuc ex Christianis” – 1581

Multos adhuc ex Christianis re-issued church laws declaring that Jews could not serve as physicians.

“Antiqua Judæorum Improbitas” – 1581

Antiqua Judæorum Improbitas gave jurisdiction over the Jews of Rome to be part of the Inquisition, in cases of blasphemy, the protection of heretics, possession of forbidden works, and employment of Christian servants. Any of these offenses would be punishable by death if found to be true during the inquisition process.

Pope Sixtus V
Pope Sixtus V

Pope Sixtus V

“Christiana pietas” – 1586

Christiana pietas (“Christian Piety”) allowed for Jews to re-settle in Roman states; revoking Pius V’s 1569 bull, Hebraeorum gens sola.


Pope Clement VIII
Pope Clement VIII

Pope Clement VIII

“Caeca et Obdurata” – 1593

Caeca et Obdurata came only 7 years after the Jews were allowed to re-settle in Roman states and it called for the banishment of Jews from Roman states. This came also just one year after Pope Clement banned all Jews from participating int he trading and exchange of commodities.


Resources I Found Helpful–a-descriptive-record-of-the-history-religion-literat-gni-816/page-34-the-jewish-encyclopedia–a-descriptive-record-of-the-history-religion-literat-gni-816.shtml

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