Missionary merchants: Three medieval anti-Jewish works from Genoa

Ora Limor

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Despite the fact that Jews were not allowed to live in medieval Genoa, three anti-Jewish works were written in that city. The first two works describe religious disputations between Genoese merchants and Jews in Mediterranean port cities, one in Ceuta in 1179 and the other in Majorca in 1286. The third and latest work comprises a collection of anti-Jewish arguments, based on biblical and post-biblical Jewish literature. An attempt to define the cultural and social milieu from which these works originated, uncovered various obvious and less obvious connections between them. While there is a close literacy connection between the first two disputations, the notarial documents in the Genoese archives also reveal commercial connections between the protagonists of these two disputations and the writer of the third polemical work. In addition, the first two disputations are quite exceptional within the genre of polemical literature, both in their plot and in the nature of their arguments. The protagonists of these disputations are lay Genoese merchants, who are described as more capable of defending their faith than monks and clerics. Hence, these works reveal a new and little known aspect of inter-religious controversy, and also contribute to our knowledge of the culture of the Italian cities in the thirteenth century.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)35-51
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Medieval History
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1991

Bibliographical note

A Hebrew version appeared in "WCJS" 9, B1 (1986).

RAMBI publications

  • Christianity and antisemitism -- History -- To 1500
  • Christianity and other religions -- Judaism -- History -- To 1500
  • Jews -- Italy -- Genoa


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