Saturday, November 18, 2006

For Shabbat: Jewish Architecture in England

Check out this neat little slide show about endangered Jewish architecture in England, some of it medieval.

Strangely perhaps, one of the photos depicts Clifford's Tower in York: not exactly Jewish architecture, but surely a place of central importance in narrating the Jewish history of England. This stone tower was built to replace the wooden one in which the Jewish inhabitants of the city were incinerated in 1190. The plaque barely visible by the stairs in the picture attests to that massacre. The plaque reads:
On the night of Friday 16 March 1190 some 150 Jews and Jewesses of York having sought protection in the Royal Castle on this site from a mob incited by Richard Malebisse and others chose to die at each other's hands rather than renounce their faith.

As far as my memory recollects, nothing in the tower museum itself speaks about that event -- though they do sell an excellent pamphlet by R. B. Dobson, Clifford's Tower and the Jews of Medieval York (London: English Heritage, 1995.)

File this under the discussion about universal versus local time streams, featured here and here.

Thanks, JKW, for sending the link.


  1. I've nothing to say just now about commemorating Judaism in Britain. Just writing because the caption for the Clifford's Tower slide struck me as odd. It goes:

    Clifford's Tower in York is one of 300 landmarks highlighted in the book. Many from the city's Jewish community died here in 1190 after seeking refuge from an angry mob

    This is odd. That "here," first of all, since, as JJC points out, the only "here" in this case is the hill itself. And "angry mob" hides so much about what happened. It suggests spontaneity, chaos, when, well, I'll just let Robert Stacey take it from here:

    The York massacre was organized by powerful gentry whose familial and tenurial links were with "some of the most powerful men in England" (248). "Almost all the men whose duty it was to protect the Jews of York in March 1190 were either absent from the county or uncertain of their authority within it. Those who attacked and massacred the Jews of York, on the other hand, were men with wide connections in local society and important links to the political opponents of William de Longchamp around the royal court" (249).

    from “Crusades, Martyrdoms, and the Jews of Norman England, 1096-1190,” in Juden und Christen zur Zeit der Kreuzz├╝ge, ed. A. Haverkamp. Sigmaringen, 1998. 233-51

  2. Relevant background info here:

    I think there is a storyboard about 1190 in the keep now. The stone keep wasn't built until the reign of Henry III - so not quite a direct replacement for the one burnt down. Sorry to be pedantic. Wearing archaological hat (and boots) today.


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