ALEXANDER IV., POPE (1254-61):
By: H. G. Enelow
Was Count Rinaldo di Segni prior to his elevation to the pontifical throne in 1254, at a time of great turbulence; he ruled until his death, at Viterbo, Italy, May 25, 1261. He attempted to unite the Greek and Latin churches, and to annex the kingdom of Sicily to the papal domain; he established the Inquisition in France in 1255, and encouraged the orders of mendicant friars. Owing to the factional struggles in Rome and the undisputed sway of the senator Brancaleone, the pope's position was exceedingly weak, but none the less his influence did not remain unfelt in Jewish history. An edict which Alexander issued throws light on the contemporary position of the Jews in Rome. It is in this document that, for the first time in about 750 years, the names of Roman Jews (Angelus, Sabbatorius, Museus, Salamon, Consiliolus) appear in a papal manifesto. A number of prominent Jewish merchants seem to have stood in commercial relations to the papal court, as, indeed, the Jewish tradesmen almost always appear to have done. On February 1, 1255, the pope relieved these merchants of all road-taxes throughout the papal possessions. A similar franchise was granted on March 5 to the Roman citizens and merchants in general, and on April 6 to several Roman citizens mentioned by name. While it is true that this document bears witness to the distinction which existed between the Jews and the other Roman citizens and merchants, the former, no doubt, having been excluded from the common commercial gilds, it proves, also, that the Jewish merchants conducted their business in common with their Christian fellows, and that, as a rule, they were granted the same rights by the papal government. Nor was the granting of such privileges necessarily inspired by a real friendliness toward the Jews; it was due rather to the commercial indispensability of the latter. That Alexander IV. was swayed in his concessions by no motive of love for the Jews is evidenced by history. On Sept. 3, 1257, he reissued the edict concerning the Jewish badge, which, though it eventually fell into abeyance, seems at the outset to have been enforced throughout Italy and to have been the cause of a great deal of depression among the people, as is depicted in a liturgic elegy of a contemporary, Benjamin b. Abraham Anav. Alexander, likewise, in a bull addressed to the duke of Burgundy and the count of Anjou and Provence, ordered the confiscation of the Talmud, as containing "errors against the Catholic faith, and horrible and intolerable blasphemies."
- Vogelstein and Rieger, Gesch. d. Juden in Rom, i. 239 et seq.;
- Rev. Ét. Juives, i. 116 et seq.;
- ḳobeẓ 'al-Yad, iv. 22 et seq.