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Pope Paul IV Issues a Discriminatory Papal Bull, 1555

Updated: Dec 4, 2020

On This Day in Jewish History: July 14th, 1555




Pictured here is Pope Paul IV.


Today, he issued Cum nimis absurdum, a Papal Bull that “placed religious and economic restrictions on Jews in the Papal State.” In conjunction with the Spanish Inquisition, the move played a major role in lasting discrimination towards medieval Jewry from the Church.


The Bull said that Jews were "slaves" because of their own actions and therefore are second class citizens. He wrote that the only reason Jews are allowed to live in Italy is out of kindness for them by the Pope until they realize the error of their ways and they convert to Christainity. Jews are currently taking advantage of that kindness and are living in the noble areas of Italy, employing Christains to work under them, and fraternizing with Christains. Pope Paul IV decided that this was not okay and, therefore, issued the Papal bull Cum nimis absurdum.


The Bull made it illegal for Jews to own property, have more than one synagogue, employ Christains as wet-nurses or servants, work on Sundays or other Christain holidays, become close friends with Christains, be a doctor for a Christain, be a purveyor of food, and to allow a Christain to call a Jew "master."


It also required all Jews to wear a head covering which showed everyone they were Jewish (for men a pointed hat and for women a handkerchief), keep all records in Italian (as opposed to Hebrew), and they must follow all laws which favor Christains over Jews. In summary, Jews had to sell their property, become merchants of second-hand items only, and have no contact with Christians. The move dehumanized the Italian Jewish community and laid the groundwork for blood libels and violence.


The Jews of Rome were also required to live in a ghetto. These ghettos had to present in every town that Jews lived in them and be a block or a quarter where all of the Jews lived. The ghetto had to be surrounded by a wall and the gates must be locked every night. These ghettos would last three centuries. Finally, in 1870 the ghettos were disbanded and Jews, momentarily, received full rights



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