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SIDIC Periodical - 1967/3
Liturgy (Pages 08 - 11)

Other articles from this issue | Version in English | Version in French

Ritual Crimes
Elsa Pariente | M. E. Yarnitzky


The history of Europe has been marred by Christians' cruelty to Jews, and among the most regrettable are the accusations of ritual murder and desecration of hosts. The first case of this kind is thought to have occurred in England in the twelfth century; the wave of superstition gradually spreading throughout Europe, causing thousands of Jews to be burned to death or drowned for their alleged crimes (cf. Edward Flannery: The Anguish of the Jews,chap.5, pp. 98-121). In many places a cult to these pseudo-martyrs developed, or it became the custom on a certain day each year to have a solemn procession of Christians, who, in this way, attempted to "make reparation" for the so-called sacrilege.

In Spain, for instance, the oldest of these devotions is known as that of "Little Dominguito del Val", an account of which is given in the book "Amigos". The legend is as follows:

The scene is Saragossa in 1243, where there was a quarter reserved for "very wicked Jews". The Chief Rabbi wanted a Christian child. Three Jews, in whom all the legendary "diabolical" characteristics were to be found, caught the young Dominguito and took him to the Synagogue, where the Rabbi tried to force him to stamp on a crucifix.The child refused, and the Jews demanded his crucifixion. Furious at this profession of faith from a seven-year old child, one of the Jews who had kidnapped him, pierced his heart with a lance. But, a miracle revealed both the crime and Dominguito's holiness. The Bishop of Saragossa, organized a procession on a grand scale for his burial in the church of the Holy Saviour, Where, even today, the little martyr is honoured, and Dominguito became the patron of altar boys.

The "Noticiero" of Saragossa, dated August 30th, 1965, published an article giving an account of the feasts and processions organised in honour of the "saint", with details of his martyrdom and the diabolical wickedness of the Jews. The "Amistad Judeo-Cristiana" contacted the priest author of this account, and last year (1966) the customary article for the "saint's feast made no allusion to the Jews. The good will of the Saragossa clergy which this shows, deserves our appreciation, but can we be satisfied to allow such legends to exist ? In the minds of the uneducated they could still have the same injurious results as in the past, and Carol Baroja tells us what these results were: multiplication of ritual crimes, with their accompanying torture, massacres, and in Spain, the expulsion of the Jews in 1491.

Ritual murder stories which have been examined,have been found to be without historical foundation, for example, the case of "Simonino of Trent" (Italy), whose cult was abolished by Archbishop Alessandro Gottardi of Trent after the Council, Vatican II, and the chapel once dedicated to "Simonino"

was handed over to a group of "Focolarini" for ecumenical work. Also in Lincoln, England, for years the cult to "Little St. Hugh" has largely been abolished. We quote:

"The shrine of 'Little St. Hugh' in the south aisle of Lincoln Cathedral, is the tomb of an eight-year old boy named Hugh, whom the medieval Jews of Lincoln were accused of murdering for ritual purposes. Chaucer, in his 'Prioresse's Tale', gives the ancient version of this libellous accusation, which, in 1255, touched off massacres of Jews in many British cities. For years, over the tomb of 'Little St. Hugh', there was an inscription recording the martyrdom of Hugh, his burial in the cathedral, and the fact that the ritual murder charge against medieval Jews was a common superstition.

In 1959, a new version replaced the old inscription, (the old story was removed from guidebooks to Lincoln in the 1930's,) and now it reads:

The shrine of 'Little St. Hugh's Trumped-up stories of 'ritual murders' of Christian boys by Jewish communities were common throughout Europe during the Middle Ages and even much later. These fictions cost many innocent Jews their lives. Lincoln had its own legend, and the alleged victim was buried in the cathedral. A shrine was erected above, and the boy was referred to as 'Little St. Hugh'. A reconstruction of the shrine hangs near. Such stories do not redound to the credit of Christendom, and so we pray: REMEMBER NOT LORD OUR OFFENSES, NOR TEE OFFENSES OF OUR FOREFATHERS". (The Landmarks of a People. A guide to Jewish sites in Europe -Bernard Postal and Samuel H. Abrahamson).

The following is taken from a reportage of "Religious News Service" of December 16th, 1966:

"A series of twelve medieval oil paintings which a West German magazine recently described as having 'the character of an anti-semitic art gallery', is slated to disappear from the Roman Catholic Church in Deggendorf, a pilgrimage centre near here (Regensburg, Germany.)

Hanging in the presbytery of the so-called Church of the Sepulchre, the paintings depict the killing of all twenty Jewish citizens of Deggendorf on September 30th, 1337 - allegedly after Jews had desecrated sacred, hosts. After the slaughter, a church was built and an annual repentance pilgrimage, now known as 'Deggendorf Gnad' was introduced...

In response to numerous protests and petitions from the general public and Christian-Jewish bodies, the captions (which these pictures carried) were recently covered over with black cardboard. However, local Catholic authorities insisted that the annual 'Gnad' could still be construed as an anti-Semitic demonstration and should be discontinued. When adverse reaction continued, diocesan authorities ordered the paintings completely covered".

Unfortunately, however, despite the new orientation which the Council has given to Christian thinking in the decree on non-Christian religions,there remain several instances of the continuance of these devotions. In Spain, devotion to the "Nino de la Guardia" still continues at Guardia itself, and in Toledo Cathedral, near the door where the child is supposed to have been kidnapped, a statue of the "saint" still commemorates the "crime".

In Segovia, where there was a large Jewish community during the "golden age", there is to this day a history of worship in reparation for a legendary profanation of a host by a Jew. At the beginning of this year, visitors to the Church of Corpus Christi were given small brochures, recounting the sacrilege with details and descriptions which can easily be imagined.

In Judenhass - Schuld der Christen?! (W. P. Eckert and E. L. Ehrlich), John Henning alludes to the annual Corpus Christi procession in Brussels which is held in expiation for the alleged profanation of the Blessed Sacrament by Jews in 1370. In actual fact, the origin of the "Sacrament of the Miracle" in Brussels is little known today. Nevertheless, the stained glass windows, the XVIth-century tapestries which are exhibited on the occasion of the procession, and the pictures with captions permanently on view in the church, speak openly of the profanation of the Blessed Sacrament by Jews, and of the miracle of the hosts which bled. The supposed remains of these three hosts are kept in a rich monstrance (1837) among the Church treasures.

The annual procession dates back to the sixteenth century: in 1530 the "Sacrament of the Miracle" saved the town of Brussels from an epidemic, and the procession was instituted in thanksgiving. On all this, we refer readers to P. F. Lefevre, "Le Miracle eucharistique a Bruxelles" in Analecta Bollandiana, (1933)t. LI, p.325-336; idem, Le theme slu. miracle des hosties poignard4es par les Juifs a Bruxelles en 1370, in Moyen Age, No.3-4 (1953), P. 373- 398.

In May, 1966, several representatives of the Jewish Consistory in Belgium visited Professor -P, F. Lefevre at Louvain to 64 h adVide as a historian on the "Sacrament of the Miracle". (Professor Lefevre is archivist at Brussels Cathedral). Professor Lefevre assured them that there are no historical souroes to prove the guilt of the,Jews for the deeds, of 1370; probably it was an anti-semitic manifestation. The miracle, as such, has neverbeen proved.

The stained glass windows and the tapeetries are of great artistic value, so the ecclesiastical authorities, of Neobklen-Brussels, ,are thinking of suggesting to the Jewish Consistory that a brief, printed guiae,ehould be placed in the Cathedral for the, use pf the faithful and of tourists,: explaining the legendary origin of the "Sacrament of the Miracle', which the Church admits is rooted in the anti-semitic mentality of the time. The pictures, being of less value, can be removed from the Church. In this case, a religious community was founded for the purpose of making reparation for the alleged profanation.

The JUdischer Presse Dienst of August, 1967, reports that even to this year, 1967, the stone relief of the small boy Werner, said to have been murdered by Jews, is shown publicly in the Werner-Kapelle in Oberwessel-am-Rhein in Germany.

In Rome, the church of Santa Maria della Divina Carit, facing the main synagogue, is one in which the Jews were forced to listen to a Catholic preacher on Sundays during the Middle Ages. To this day, on the fašade of the Church under the image of the Crucifixion, the following words are inscribed in Hebrew and Latin:

"Each day I stretched out my hands to a rebellious people who went by evil ways, following their own whims, a people who provoked me". (Is. 65:2).

Nevertheless, many Christians are slowly becoming aware of the impossibility of preserving this type of devotional expression.


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