INNOCENT III. (LOTHARIO CONTI):
Pope from 1198 to 1216; born at Anagni in 1161; elected June 8, 1198; died July 17, 1216. A Roman writer said of him, "Thy words are the words of God; thy deeds are the deeds of the devil" (Gregorovius, "Gesch. der Stadt Rom," v. 92). This was eminently true of his conduct toward the Jews. He was the first pope who not only did not protect the Jews, but persecuted them with the utmost cruelty. Feeling obliged to Show some pity for the victims of the excesses committed by the crusaders, Innocent, on ascending the pontifical throne, issued a bull ("Sicut Judæis") in which he renewed the prohibitions that had been issued by Clement III. (see Popes). "Although," it read, "the faithlessness of the Jews can not be too much disapproved, they ought not to be excessively oppressed by believers, for they are the living witness of the true religion." He did not, however, conform to this maxim himself; and at his instigation the Lateran Council, over which he presided, dictated the humiliating laws which rendered the Jews the pariahs of humanity; and it especially condemned them to wear
Believing that the spread of the heretical sects, especially of the Albigenses, in southern France, was due to Jewish influence, Innocent endeavored so to humiliate the Jews that the Christians should shrink from associating with them. To the common accusation of ritual murder, Innocent added new ones of his own invention. "The doors of the Jews," writes he, "are open to bandits, and the Christians are mocked for believing in a crucified peasant" ("Epistolæ," vii., No. 186, ed. Bréquigny, in his "Diplomata," ii. 610). He remonstrated with Philip Augustus for allowing the Jews to possess landed property and employ Christian servants and nurses(ib.). In 1205 Innocent censured Alfonso the Noble for the protection granted by that monarch to his Jewish subjects. He wrote, also, to the Count of Nevers, whom he threatened with excommunication if he continued to protect the Jews:
"The Jews, like the fratricide Cain, are doomed to wander through the earth as fugitives and vagabonds, and their faces must be covered with shame. They are under no circumstances to be protected by Christian princes; but are, on the contrary, to be condemned to serfdom. It is, therefore, discreditable for Christian princes to receive Jews into their towns and villages, and to employ them as usurers in order to extort money from Christians. They [the princes] arrest Christians who are indebted to Jews, and allow the Jews to take Christian castles and villages in pledge; and the worst of the matter is that the Church in this manner loses its tithes. It is scandalous that Christians should have their cattle slaughtered and their grapes pressed by Jews, who are thus enabled to take their portion and to impose the leavings, prepared according to Jewish religious precepts, upon Christians. It is a still greater sin that this wine, prepared by Jews, should be used in the Church for the sacrament of the Lord's Supper. While the Christians are excommunicated for favoring the Jews, and their lands laid under the ban, the Jews are laughing in their sleeves because, on their account, the harps of the Church are hung on willows and the priests are deprived of their revenues"
- Güdemann, Gesch. i. 60 et seq., ii. 85 et seq.;
- Grätz, Gesch. vii. 4 et seq.;
- Vogelstein and Rieger, Gesch. der Juden in Rom, i., passim.