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Agobard°

Agobard°

AGOBARD ° (779–840), archbishop of Lyons from 814. Agobard, who was born in Spain, was canonized by the Catholic Church. His metropolitan province included some of the most important Jewish settlements in Western Europe. A prolific writer and active church leader, he sharply opposed the Jews, both in his deeds and in his writings, out of religious, political, and social motives. Six of Agobard's pamphlets are devoted to the Jewish question: (1) Epistula de baptizandis Hebraeis ("On the Baptism [of the children] of Jews"); (2) De baptismo judaicorum mancipiorum ("On the Baptism of Jewish-owned Slaves"); (3) Contra praeceptum impium de baptismo judaicorum mancipiorum ("Against an Impious Precept Concerning the Baptism of Jewish-owned Slaves"); (4) De insolentia Judaeorum ("On the Insolence of the Jews"); (5) De judaicis superstitionibus ("On the Superstitions of the Jews"); (6) De eavendo convictu et societate judaica ("On the Necessity of Avoiding Association with Jews"). His writings are of interest not only as the earliest outspoken anti-Jewish document of the Carolingian period, but even more because of the comprehensive nature of his attacks on the various aspects of Jewish life. In 820 Agobard attempted to convert by force Jewish children in Lyons as well as in Chalon, Macon, and Vienne. From his letter to Emperor Louis the Pious in justification of his efforts, it appears that the imperial authorities had previously protected Jews against this design. The problem of the religious adherence of pagan slaves owned by Jewish merchants was raised by Agobard. He complained that the way to the Christian faith was closed to them because, in contrast to the principles of canon law regarding Christian slaves, the church was not given jurisdiction over pagan slaves. His attempt to exert ecclesiastical influence in such cases, however, was frustrated by the intervention of the missi dominici (plenipotentiary emissaries of the emperor). Agobard also attempted to preach a trade boycott of staples of wine and meat brought to market by Jewish landowners. His writings contain information about the influence that Jewish preachers had over some Christians. To counterbalance intellectual sympathy with the religious activities of the synagogue, Agobard took up the theme of Jewish superstition as a topic of controversy. He maintained that the Jews were falsifying their own tradition by mythological interpretations of the Bible and urged the severance of existing social contacts between Christians and Jews. His pupil Amulo continued his anti-Jewish policy and propaganda.

bibliography:

B. Blumenkranz, Les auteurs chrétiens latins du moyen âge sur les Juifs et le Judaïsme (1963), 152–70 (full bibliographical data in notes); A. Bressolles, Saint Agobard, évêque de Lyon (1949); H. Reuter, Geschichte der religioesen Aufklaerung im Mittelalter (1875), 24–41; A. Kleinclaus, L'Empire Carolingien (1902), 268–76; J.A. Cabaniss, Agobard of Lyons (1953).

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