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Dashiell Harrison




Location: California
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PostPosted: Tue 11 Sep, 2018 5:06 pm    Post subject: Jews in Late Medieval Civic Militias         Reply with quote

I'm doing some research for a piece of fiction I'm writing and I was wondering if anyone could help me out. I know that Jews served in civic militias in a number of medieval and early modern cities in the Holy Roman Empire. Does anyone know of any instances of sieges between 1400 and 1550 or so where Jewish militiamen are mentioned as taking part in defense of a city?

It looks like they might have been involved in the 1492 siege of Brunswick, but I can't find any more information about that event. Anyone know where I might be able to find an account of the siege that is available in English?

Thanks!
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Jean Henri Chandler




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PostPosted: Wed 12 Sep, 2018 1:18 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The policies varied widely from town to town in Central Europe in the High to Late Medieval period, and it changed over time, but very generally followed one of three patterns:

1) In most cities Jews were either banned from the militia or not required to be in it
2) in some cities Jewish people were assigned to defend their own quarter but were segregated from the other militia
3) in a few cities Jewish residents were part of the regular militia.

A good example of #3 was in Frankfurt Am Main up until 1349 pogroms associated with the Black Death. After that the circumstances of the Jewish community were diminished but some remained in the militia until the 1460's.

This book mentions Jewish militia fighters within Cologne, Speyer, Dortmund and Nuremberg, as well as in Spain.

Sometimes in one town where you had several distinct municipalities (as was typical) Jewish people might be allowed in the militia in one but banned from another. A lot of times when you read of expulsions of Jews from a town, they were actually just relocating to another municipality, like from the Old Town to the New Town.

Things seemed to get worse for Jewish people in Western and Central Europe generally in the Early Modern period.

But by contrast, as the result of their strict religious tolerance laws, Jewish people were part of the militia in several towns in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in the 16th and 17th Centuries.

https://kehilalinks.jewishgen.org/slutsk/slutsk_militias.html

There also appear to be several Jewish fencing or grappling masters associated with the famous Gesellschaft Liechtenauer incidentally, such as Ott Jud, Jud Leow, and the brothers Andres and Jacob Liegniczer.

Hope that helps,

Jean

System D'Armes Historical European fencing in New Orleans

Essays on Hroarr

Introducing the Codex Guide to the Medieval Baltic
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Dashiell Harrison




Location: California
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PostPosted: Thu 13 Sep, 2018 1:19 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks, Jean.

There was another Jewish fencing master, Joseph von Wurzburg in the 14th century court of the Bisoph of Speyer.

I'm desperately curious to know more about the lives of these men, where they learned their skills, how they employed them, and what their relationships with their Christian colleagues were like, but I guess, like so many other questions about historical fencing masters, we will probably never know.

PS
I happen to be a big fan of your scholarship on the military activities of guilds and burghers. I hope you keep putting stuff out.
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Jean Henri Chandler




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PostPosted: Fri 14 Sep, 2018 8:03 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dashiell Harrison wrote:
Thanks, Jean.

There was another Jewish fencing master, Joseph von Wurzburg in the 14th century court of the Bisoph of Speyer.


Oh that's great, I'll add that to my notes. Any sources for this?

Quote:

I'm desperately curious to know more about the lives of these men, where they learned their skills, how they employed them, and what their relationships with their Christian colleagues were like, but I guess, like so many other questions about historical fencing masters, we will probably never know.


To be honest, I am very curious too. And also about some other interesting outlier characters. Conditions of the Jewish communities in Central Europe were very complex and often extremely tragic and fraught. But also sometimes surprisingly engaged in civic life.

Another interesting area to look at by the way is Genoa and their holdings in the Crimea. There were some Jewish families there who ended up becoming quite powerful. Check out the Ghisolfi family

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ghisolfi

One other thing I have learned which seems to be a general if not universal rule in many Central European towns is that Jewish residents or citizens were given a protected status similar to Priests, Friars, Monks or women, in that they were not obligated to be in the militia or town watch, and did not have to carry a sword or other weapon in town, and were protected by town authorities by being placed under the "peace of the city" meaning that assaulting or molesting them would be equivalent to attacking the town and punished very harshly. But! They could choose to forefiet this protection and carry a sword if they wanted to. This seems to have been the case with some of the women we know who participated in fechtschuler and also a couple of women who were documented as taking duty in the town watch in lieux of their husbands. It was clearly rare though. But presumably a Jewish resident could choose to carry a weapon.

We have records from Anne Tlusty's Martial Ethic in Early Modern Germany which indicate Jewish residents keeping weapons in their houses and carrying swords during Purim. I covered one of these in my lecture on her book a few years ago at the Higgins Armoury. Enigmatic to say the least. I have also seen reference to regulations requiring Jewish travelers to turn in their "throwing axes" (maybe hurlbats?) at the Inn or town gate in certain cities. Also very enigmatic! This was mentioned by Johannes Janssen (a 19th Century cleric and historian).

I do think we will know much more about all this however if someone does the research. The medieval period is very hard to understand even compared to older epochs, because it's just so different from today. But it's not such an impenetrable mystery that you can't get there from here. The truth is there are an immense amount of records, letters, transcripts and all kinds of other literary evidence from the late medieval period still around, particularly from the towns. Have you seen the research Jens peter Kleinau did recently about Talhoffer being a hit-man for Nuermberg for example?

I think a lot of exciting data about guys like Ott Jud and your Joseph von Wurzburg are out there somewhere waiting to be found, somebody just needs to make the effort to find it and figure it out. It may even be already available in documents that are scanned and online, but they will still have to be transcribed and translated in most cases. Some of it may also be in archives that nobody has scanned yet there are still plenty of those.

Quote:

PS
I happen to be a big fan of your scholarship on the military activities of guilds and burghers. I hope you keep putting stuff out.


Thank you that is very kind of you to say. I am in fact working on a new article for HROARR and for another Swedish blog / magazine project... hopefully some of these will be finished and published soon so keep an eye out.

Jean

System D'Armes Historical European fencing in New Orleans

Essays on Hroarr

Introducing the Codex Guide to the Medieval Baltic
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Dashiell Harrison




Location: California
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PostPosted: Fri 14 Sep, 2018 6:20 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Here's the link to Joseph 'Schirmer' von Wurzburg's Wiktenauer page. https://wiktenauer.com/wiki/Joseph_Schirmer_von_W%C3%BCrzburg

Unfortunately the only record of him that it mentions is his charter from Archbishop Adolf von Nassau-Wiesbaden-Idstein dated to 1385.

The Jewish community in Wurzburg suffered a Judenschlact in 1349, but seems to have been reconstituted by 1377. Presumably Joseph was born sometime in that window, although I suppose the name 'von Wurzburg' doesn't necessarily mean he was actually born in the city. The Jewish Virtual Library contains a short history of the Jewish community in what appears to be every major German city, although they just have bibliographies without footnotes. https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/wuerzburg.

It certainly seems plausible to me that large numbers of 14th and 15th century Jews would have preferred to carry arms rather than throw themselves on the mercy of town councils given the state-sanctioned persecution they faced, but who knows. We don't know anything about how Joseph von Wurzburg learned his skills, but Lew and Andreas seem to have studied under a Christian master, which indicates an interesting relationship.

That's an interesting theory about Talhoffer, I hadn't heard that. Was he thought to have been involved in more murders besides that of Wilhelm von Villenbach?
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Jean Henri Chandler




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PostPosted: Fri 14 Sep, 2018 10:44 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

One thing i recall from Tlusty about German Jewish burghers, a lot of them seemed to be named after their house, like Jacob from the house of the rose, Johannes from the house of the wolf and so on.

As for Talhoffer, all I know really is what Jens has dug up and posted on his blog, I think I linked it upthread. Talhoffer worked as muscle for Nuremberg for a while after they "gave him a horse' as the euphemism went. He was involved in that one incident for which he was captured by the brother of the guy who was killed (from one of the noble families) wrote that letter in which he blamed the murder on his fellow outlaws as a way of getting himself out of trouble. Some other nobles vouched for him apparently, a couple.

Their orders were not to kill the guy anyway but to capture him and bring him back to Nuremberg. He was a 'robber knight' who had captured a caravan from Venice, and ransomed some Nuremberg merchants. They put a bounty on his head.

After that was all over I think Talhoffer got a job working for a Duke or something I can't remember.

System D'Armes Historical European fencing in New Orleans

Essays on Hroarr

Introducing the Codex Guide to the Medieval Baltic
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Pedro Paulo Gaião




Location: Rio de Janeiro, Brasil
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PostPosted: Thu 20 Sep, 2018 5:42 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jewish participation in feudal or militia services were extensively known in Medieval Period, but regulations, obligations, and bans were applied in different places. I'm not sure if there was ever a medieval council forbidding Jewry service or possession of arms: but in Germany, although they were obliged to serve in the city militia during siege action, such duty was to be perfomed UNARMED (considering Chandler's statesment, I believe such service was only applied in the places were jews indeed were allowed to serve in the militia).

Ian Heath in his Armies of Feudal Europe 1066 - 1300 tells us:
Ian Heath wrote:
Jews were expected to perform military service in some parts of Europe other than Spain but chiefly in an unarmed capacity (a 13th century German ms., for instance, contains a representational picture of a body of militia, amongst whom is an unarmed Jew).

Source: http://warfare.gq/WRG/Feudal-68-Jewish_Soldier-11-13C.htm?i=1

I can't remember if this is actually based in actual sources, but I read that Spanish Jews were prohibited to wear armor, though most of the blacksmiths in Portugal and Castille were Jews. Regarding to Spanish legislation, in Portugal the jews were excepted from military duty and other feudal obbligations imposed on the common folk, like guard duty in a local castle's garrison or the cleaning of the castle itself; however, in cases of invasion of cities and castles, they were obliged to defend the site like the rest of the folk. I can't say for Castile, though, but Heath wrote about it:

"[...] it seems fairly certain that this figure, from a Spanish ms. variously dated to the late-12th century and c. 1220, represents a Jewish soldier such as are occasionally recorded serving as infantrymen in Christian Spanish armies throughout this era. Later Moslem sources refer to 'large numbers' of Jews fighting for the Christians at major battles (Sagrajas, for example), though more often they only assisted in the defence of the towns in which they lived. Nevertheless, Jews resident on monastic land, or estates belonging to the Military Orders, often actually garrisoned frontier fortresses, receiving tax reductions in exchange for their military service. Probably the only reason that they did not feature more prominently in Christian armies was the mindless anti-Semitism that was apparent even in mediaeval times - to quote but one example, Christian troops arriving to relieve Toledo in 1196 killed many of the towns Jewish defenders as infidels, despite the fact that the latter had marched out and fought against the Almohades during the siege. Even so, there are occasional references to Jewish soldiers even in the 13th-14th centuries. A document of 1266 refers to Jewish ballesteros (ie, archers) amongst the holders of property in Jerez de la Frontera, while Jews are recorded being killed fighting for Castile in 1272 and defending Gerona against the French in 1285. Nearly a century later, at the Battle of Montiel in 1369, King Pedro the Cruel of Castile's army is reported by Froissart to have contained 'fierce and strong people such as Saracens, Jews and Portuguese', though with predictable bigotry he claims that 'the Jews turned their backs and fled and fought no stroke'. "
--------------------

Quote:
There also appear to be several Jewish fencing or grappling masters associated with the famous Gesellschaft Liechtenauer incidentally, such as Ott Jud, Jud Leow, and the brothers Andres and Jacob Liegniczer.


Dashiell Harrison wrote:
Thanks, Jean.

There was another Jewish fencing master, Joseph von Wurzburg in the 14th century court of the Bisoph of Speyer.

I'm desperately curious to know more about the lives of these men, where they learned their skills, how they employed them, and what their relationships with their Christian colleagues were like, but I guess, like so many other questions about historical fencing masters, we will probably never know.


I might add another; in Martin Luther's infamous book ("About the Jews and their Lies") he mentions that a Jewish fencing master was under the service of the prince of Saxony (can't remember if it was the Duke or the Elector). The jew was quite confident in his techniques and said to the prince that he got powers from a magic crystal with "jewish runes", in which he jailed a demon inside (this was somehow a famous belief among medieval esoterics). The prince suspected that his fencing master was planning to kill him, so he pierced his heart with a sword. Dr. Luther also mentions that people were commenting about a jewish highwaymen who robbed and murdered people in a specific part of Germany, like a robber knight.

About skills: in Middle Ages, technical knowledge were kept in families through generations: you see that with the Helmschmidt in Germany, the Negroli family in Italy and so on. The jewish community possessed lots and lots of specific technical knowledge, in blacksmith, goldsmithing, jewelry, metal-working etc etc. Like the huguenots in France, they were a vital part of the economy due to such crafting knowledge. Their expelling usually was an ancient form of "brain migration". If with wanna get a vision about it, just remember that Tolkien used the medieval image of the jews when he created the dwarfs (dwarven names even have Hebraic roots). In Medieval Portugal, some authours talk about a jewish monopoly in the local production of weapons and armor (e.g. David Nicolle). In England, a portuguese knight of jewish origin called Edward Brampton (originally Duarte Brandão) was a blacksmith refugee from Portugal who converted to Christianity in England and fought in the War of Roses for the Yorkist cause; got knighthood and titles of his own and was among the richest man in Portugal and England.

Keeping that in mind, it also worth to notice that the jewish concept of community life was somehow stronger compared to the christian folk at where they lived; so they would cooperate with their own to get a better life among themselves. While christians would be less likely to admit other christians in their workshops solely by christian partnership, jews were more likely to accept other jews in their business. Such a thing, by the way, is one of the reasons why jews usually maintain their status of economic elite in our societies; they often helped each other.

“Burn old wood, read old books, drink old wines, have old friends.”
Alfonso X, King of Castile (1221-84)
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Pedro Paulo Gaião




Location: Rio de Janeiro, Brasil
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PostPosted: Thu 20 Sep, 2018 6:09 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:

One other thing I have learned which seems to be a general if not universal rule in many Central European towns is that Jewish residents or citizens were given a protected status similar to Priests, Friars, Monks or women


Not exactly, but something similar to that. Inspired by Church's legislation against Jewish integration in Christian Society, Central Europe knew a social institution called "Chamber Servitude", or "Servidão/Escravidão de Câmara" in Portugal. Crudely speaking, that meant that jews were "slaves" of the princes and the Emperor himself, not being subjects to the same duties, privileges, and obligations of the Christian folk. This benefited the princes and the Emperor because they could collect "protection taxes" directly from the jewish community in exchange for the so-called protection and the right to observe their own laws in certain subjects; for example, in Portugal it forbade Christians to open butcheries in the jewish and moorish neighbors (where they would sell pork in front of their houses and temples, which as disrespectful). In Portugal, we had Cartas de Foral, documents given to local communities of muslim and jewish residents of the Portuguese Kingdom which recognized their statuses as King's slaves and their right to observe their own laws, religion etc etc. The muslims who were under such social condition were called "foros-mouros", and the King reffered to them as "my own moors"; that meant that all muslims in Portugal were either domestic slaves of christian masters or were "free" under the social slavery of the Crown.

Jean Henri Chandler wrote:


But! They could choose to forefiet this protection and carry a sword if they wanted to. This seems to have been the case with some of the women we know who participated in fechtschuler and also a couple of women who were documented as taking duty in the town watch in lieux of their husbands. It was clearly rare though. But presumably, a Jewish resident could choose to carry a weapon.


I'm not sure if people could openly carry weapons in german towns; although keeping arms was a quite accepted practice, carrying them in the streets was something that most of the medieval societies would allow to those of knight status and up. The exception being, as far as I read, Scandinavian societies.

--------------

Btw, I write historical-based fantasy by my own, so it's kinda my personal interest too. I'm currently collecting data of Military Ordinances forcing people to possess weapons and armor according to their wealth, like Edwardian Ordinance of late 1200's, Castillian Ordinance of Arms (1385) and the Portuguese "Ordenações Afonsinas" of 1470's.

“Burn old wood, read old books, drink old wines, have old friends.”
Alfonso X, King of Castile (1221-84)
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Jean Henri Chandler




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PostPosted: Thu 20 Sep, 2018 2:46 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Pedro Paulo Gaião wrote:

I'm not sure if people could openly carry weapons in german towns; although keeping arms was a quite accepted practice, carrying them in the streets was something that most of the medieval societies would allow to those of knight status and up. The exception being, as far as I read, Scandinavian societies.


Hi Pedro,

You would be incorrect in that belief. I recommend this book

https://www.amazon.com/Martial-Ethic-Early-Modern-Germany/dp/1349366471

She gets deeply into the laws and court records of Augsburg in particular but also German towns in general. It was indeed both common practice and within the law as written for citizens (a subset of the population) to carry swords. This was extended down to the rank of journeymen. Not only were you expected to carry a sword, if you got in a fight and were defending yourself or were provoked you could get away with it relatively unscathed. Very much unlike England or France in the same period.

I would post a bunch of art to also back this up as you see German burghers wearing swords all the time but you noted that it was a near universal practice so I guess our only disagreement would be on the technical legality of the practice.

It was technically legal in ~ 99% of towns in Central Europe under German town law, not just for the medieval period but well into the Early Modern. There were some towns that had placed specific restrictions on certain people for carrying weapons, for example after some riots in 1511 Frankfurt am Main passed a law stating that "on account of the riots, hereafter no master or journeyman belonging to the shoemakers' guild shall carry a sword or dagger longer than that which was designated on the Roemer."

source - History of the German People at the close of the Middle Ages, Johannes Janssen, page 24

But this only applied to the shoemakers.



dueling / stabbing swords such as proto-rapiers, cut-thrust swords and by the 16th Century true rapiers (like you see here being worn by Augsburg accounting Matthäus Schwarz in the early 16th Century) were also generally forbidden under town law in most places but apparently this fell by the wayside by the second quarter of the 16th Century in most places.

Jean

System D'Armes Historical European fencing in New Orleans

Essays on Hroarr

Introducing the Codex Guide to the Medieval Baltic
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