The passion of the Jews of Prague: The Pogrom of 1389 and the lessons of a medieval parody

Barbara Newman*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations

Abstract

Outbreaks of anti-Jewish violence in late medieval cities were hardly rare. For that reason, among others, surviving records are often frustratingly brief and formulaic. Yet, in the case of the pogrom that devastated Prague's Jewish community on Easter 1389, we have an extraordinary source that has yet to receive a close reading. This account, supplementing numerous chronicle entries and a Hebrew poem of lament, is the Passio Iudeorum Pragensium, or Passion of the Jews of Prague-a polished literary text that parodies the gospel of Christ's Passion to celebrate the atrocity. In this article I will first reconstruct the history, background, and aftermath of the pogrom as far as possible, then interrogate the Passio as a scriptural and liturgical parody, for it has a great deal to teach us about the inner workings of medieval anti-Judaism. By parod I mean not a humorous work, but a virtuosic pastiche of authoritative texts, such as the Gospels and the Easter liturgy, that would have been known by heart to much of the intended audience. We may like to think of religious parodies as ring or audacious, seeing in them a progressive ideological force that challenges corrupt institutions, ridicules absurd beliefs, and pokes holes in the pious and the pompous. But The Passion of the Jews of Prague shows that this was by no means always the case.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-26
Number of pages26
JournalChurch History
Volume81
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 1 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • History
  • Religious studies

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