The Brussels massacre was an anti-Semitic episode in Brussels in 1370 in connection with an alleged host desecration at the Brussels synagogue. A number of Jews, variously given as six or about twenty, were executed or otherwise killed, while the rest of the community was banished. The event was commemorated by local Christians as the Miracle of the Blessed Sacrament, as it was said that consecrated host wafers stabbed by a Jew had miraculously shed blood and been otherwise unharmed. The cult of the putative miracle survived until after the Second World War.
Black Death Jewish persecutions had previously destroyed Brussels' community in 1350. Host desecration was a common anti-Semitic canard in medieval Europe, and the wafers the Jews were supposed to have tried to profane were often said to have been miraculously spared from harm. In 1369, several Brussels Jews were convicted of practising usury.
The version of the allegations circulating in the mid-15th century was that a rich Jew from Enghien wanted to obtain some consecrated hosts to profane, and bribed a male Jewish convert to Christianity from Louvain to steal some. Shortly thereafter, the Enghien merchant was murdered. His widow passed the stolen hosts to the Jews of Brussels, where in the synagogue on Good Friday 1370 some tried to stab the wafers with their daggers, causing blood to pour forth. A female Jewish convert to Christianity was paid to take the hosts to Cologne's Jews, but remorsefully told the story to the parson of Notre-Dame de la Chapelle in Brussels, who took possession of the hosts. The Duke of Brabant,[fn 1] on the woman's testimony, ordered the stabbers burnt at the stake and the remaining Jews banished, with their property confiscated.
Cult of the Miracle
The hosts were placed in reliquaries and became associated with Saint Gudula, the patron saint of Brussels, and an important symbol of the area's Catholic identity. The hosts were kept in Gudula's chapel in the Church (now Cathedral) of Saints Michael and Gudula in Brussels, and paraded in public on her feast day. Ten stained-glass windows depicting the putative miracle were donated to the chapel in the 16th Century by Emperor Charles V. This compared perceived Jewish anti-Catholicism to the nascent Protestant Reformation, with the miraculous bleeding countering Protestant denials of transubstantiation. Five windows added in the nineteenth century depict the development of the cult of the Miracle; these were donated by Belgian kings Leopold I and Leopold II and other nobles, this time linking the Miracle to the contemporary Catholic opposition to secularism. The 1870 quincentenary of the Miracle was marked with celebrations.
After the Second World War and in the light of the Holocaust, the anti-semitic elements of the cult were de-emphasised. In 1968, in the wake of Nostra Aetate issued by the Second Vatican Council, the archdiocese of Mechelen-Brussels officially derecognised the cult, and in 1977 Cardinal Leo Joseph Suenens installed a plaque in the cathedral to highlight this. The former chapel of Saint Gudula is now the cathedral museum, displaying its treasures, including the former reliquaries, with contextual information.
- Commission Nationale Catholique pour les Relations avec le Monde Juif. "Le Miracle du St Sacrament" (in French). Brussels Cathedral. Retrieved 8 April 2014.
- Au nom de l'antisionisme: l'image des Juifs et d'Israël dans la ... p27 Joël Kotek, Dan Kotek - 2005 "Des émeutes antijuives s'ensuivent. La profanation de l'hostie, que les chrétiens identifient à la personne même du Christ, serait la répétition du crime du calvaire. En 1370, une vingtaine de Juifs sont brûlés à Bruxelles."
- The Encyclopedia of Jewish Life Before and During the Holocaust: A-J p204 Shmuel Spector, Geoffrey Wigoder - 2001 -"BRUSSELS ( Fr. Bruxelles) capital of Belgium. Jews are believed to have lived in B. from the middle of the 13th cent. ... The community revived later, but another massacre followed in 1370 in the wake of a Host desecration libel."
- Lefèvre O. Praem, Placide (1930). "A propos du trafic de l'argent exercé par les juifs de Bruxelles au XIVe siècle". Revue belge de philologie et d'histoire 9 (3-4): 902–912.
- Dan Mikhman Belgium and the Holocaust: Jews, Belgians, Germans p121 1998 the annual St. Gudule procession in Brussels in which relics were shown of hosts said to have been profaned by Jews in the year 1370.
- W. Lourdaux, Werner Verbeke Cultura mediaevalis: p174 - 1992 "... terecht uit de middeleeuwse samenleving geweerde joden zich in 1370 wel degelijk aan hostieprofanatie hadden schuldig gemaakt ... Le jubilé d'un vrai miracle (Brussel, 1870). 33 H. Matagne, Le Saint-Sacrement de Miracle a Bruxelles