AMNON OF MAYENCE (MENTZ):
By: Gotthard Deutsch
Subject of a medieval legend that became very popular. It treats of R. Amnon, a wealthy and respected Jew of Mayence, whom the archbishop of Mayence, at various times, tried to convert to Christianity. On one occasion Amnon evasively asked to be given three days' time for consideration. When he failed to appear on the appointed day, the archbishop hadhim brought guarded into his presence. Amnon, rebuked for his failure to keep his promise, pleaded guilty, and said that his tongue should be cut out, because it had expressed a doubt as to the truth of Judaism. The archbishop, however, pronounced the sentence that Amnon's feet, which had refused to come, and his hands should be cut off. This was accordingly done.
Amnon gave orders that he be carried into the synagogue, where New-year's day was being celebrated. The reader was about to begin the Ḳedushah, when he was asked by Amnon to wait. The latter then recited the prayer called, from its initial words, "U-netanneh Toḳef," which is a description of the Day of Judgment. No sooner had he finished the prayer than he expired; and his body immediately disappeared. Three days later he appeared to R. Kalonymus in a dream, taught him the prayer, and asked him to spread it broadcast in Israel.
The oldest mention of this story seems to be found in the notes on Asheri, written by Israel of Krems or Kremsier, about 1400 (R. H. i. § 4, in the Wilna edition of the Talmud, folio 36a). Israel of Krems merely says: The "U-netanneh Toḳef" was written by Amnon of Mayence with reference to his own history. He gives Isaac of Vienna's work, "Or Zaru'a," as his source. The story, as given above, is found in the MaḦzor of the Roman rite for the New-year's day, published 1541. From it Gedaliah ibn YaḦya took it; and the other historians followed him. The MaḦzor editions reprinted it; and so the story became very popular. The Russian poet S. Frug took it as the subject of an epic; and Schakschansky wove it into a drama in Judæo-German.
The story is a legend without any historical value, based on the reminiscences of the persecutions during the Crusades, and inspired by the veneration for the "U-netanneh Toḳef," which, in vivid colors, pictures the divine judgment on New-year's day.
The material of the story is taken partly from the legend of St. Emmeram of Regensburg (see Amram of Mayence), who, having been accused by Uta, daughter of Thedo, Duke of Bavaria, of being her seducer, was tied to a ladder, where his limbs were cut off, one by one. He was then brought to the castle of Aschheim, where he expired praying and blessing his murderers ("Acta Sanctorum," September series, vi. 474).
- Heilprin, Seder ha-Dorot, ed. Maskileison, p. 218, where older sources are quoted;
- Heidenheim's edition of the MaḦzor, introduction, where an alphabetical index of the liturgical poets is given;
- Landshuth, 'Ammude ha-'Abodah, 1857, i. 45.