The Life and Miracles of St. William of Norwich

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The Life and Miracles of St. William of Norwich is a hagiography by the monk Thomas of Monmouth that was written in 1173. Thomas of Monmouth investigated the death of a young boy who would later be known as William of Norwich. In 1144, William was purportedly ritually murdered by the Jewish community in the town of Norwich.

Overview[edit]

The Life and Miracles of St. William of Norwich details the first known account of supposed ritual murder by Jews. In this account, William was abducted by Jews, tortured and crucified. Initially, the Jews treated William well but he was quickly bound and gagged by an object called a teasel. William was shaven and forced to wear a crown of thorns. Afterwards, William was "fixed to a cross in mockery of the Lord's Passion" and crucified.

The credibility of Thomas of Monmouth's accusations hinges upon the testimony of a monk and former Jew named Theobald of Cambridge. Theobald claimed that Jews had to sacrifice a Christian yearly to obtain their freedom and reclaim Israel. Hence, William of Norwich's ritual death at the hand of the Jewish community. Furthermore, Thomas of Monmouth elaborately constructed William's narrative to mimic the death of Jesus Christ, comparing William to "an innocent lamb."

Anti-Semitism[edit]

Thomas of Monmouth's account contributed to the Jewish community in England experiencing intense discrimination and eventually expulsion. The 1194 Ordinances placed new taxes and restrictions upon the Jews. By 1290, Edward I expelled all Jews from England.

See also[edit]

Bibliography[edit]

  • The Broadview Anthology of British Literature. Broadview Press. 2011. ISBN 9781554810482.
  • Thomas of Monmouth. (1172), Jessop, Augustus; James, M.R. (eds.), The life and miracles of St. William of Norwich (in Latin and English) (1896 ed.), Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, OL 7250037M