Medieval History Workshop: “Christians and Jews in Late Medieval Guides for Parish Priests: Local Approaches and Lived Religion.”


Tuesday, November 29, 2022, 5:00pm to 6:30pm


Robinson Hall, History Department Conf. Room (#125), 35 Quincy St., Cambridge, MA 02138

Christians and Jews in Late Medieval Guides for Parish Priests: Local Approaches and Lived Religion

Prof. Deeana Klepper, Boston University

There are many ways that canon law expectations regarding Christian-Jewish interaction were adapted to suit local needs in late medieval Europe, including through synodal statutes or clerical advice to secular rulers. But the implementation of any ecclesiastical vision depended in significant ways upon the work of parish priests who were given responsibility for building and maintaining Christian community at its most fundamental level. Locally authored and oriented guides for parish priests attempted to address the needs of specific communities in ways that better known and widely circulated pastoral literature did not. Drawing on a common set of sources, authors of local priest’s manuals reshaped a shared ecclesiastical tradition in significant ways. We find, for example, an emphasis on the management of Jewish and Muslim converts in two Spanish manuals, on curbing anti-Jewish violence in a German manual, and on usury in a northern Italian manual. Attending to locally oriented pastoral literature adds nuance to our understanding of late medieval Christian approaches to Jews and other religious minorities,  helps us understand the broader issue of adapting ostensibly universal traditions (like canon law) to lived realities, and also provides a model for thinking about the category “lived religion” in medieval contexts.