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ALEXANDER °, name of seven popes. The following are the most significant for Jewish history:

alexander ii, reigned 1061–73, consistently followed the policy set by Pope *Gregory the Great at the end of the sixth century of applying suasion rather than force to convert Jews. When the Christian reconquest of the Iberian peninsula began in earnest, he urged the bishops of Spain to continue defending the Jews against attack by native and foreign soldiers, especially the unruly bands of French knights who had joined the Christian armies against the Muslims. He wrote in the same vein to Berengar, viscount of Narbonne, and to Wifred, its bishop, in 1063. In 1065 Alexander issued a strong warning to the prince of Benevento, in southern Italy, who was using force to convert the Jews.

alexander iii, reigned 1159–81, reissued the *bullSicut Judaeis protecting Jews against physical injury and interference with their religious rites. He objected when the Jews in Bourges, France, erected a synagogue which was not only new, but also higher than a neighboring church. The Third Lateran Council, which met in 1179, prohibited Christians from serving in Jewish homes; urged the secular authorities not to confiscate the property of converts from Judaism lest, being impoverished, they reverted to their former faith; and requested the civil courts to admit the testimony of Christians in lawsuits involving Jews. The pope also objected to Jews having the right to cite a cleric before a secular court. Because of prevailing conditions in Europe, most of these restrictive measures were not enforced for a long time, but they eventually found their way into the Corpus Iuris Canonici of 1580, the official collection of church law. The possibility that the pope would urge the council to force the Jews to wear a distinguishing *badge was averted, perhaps through the influence of Jehiel, grandson of *Nathan b. Jehiel, the compiler of the Arukh, who held a high post in the papal household.

alexander iv, reigned 1254–61, reissued the bull Sicut Judaeis in 1255. During the bitter struggle of the papacy against the imperial Hohenstaufen family, he granted letters of protection to a number of Roman Jewish army suppliers, exempting them from having to pay extra tolls on the roads. That this did not represent a generally favorable attitude is evident from his other pronouncements. Alexander iv insistently enforced the wearing of the distinguishing Jewish badge and the confiscation of the Talmud. The pope commended Louis ix of France and Count Thibaut of Champagne (who was also king of Navarre) for having taken away from the Jews sums which had presumably been gained through usury. He granted them the right to use such money for "pious purposes" (1258). In a letter addressed to several churchmen, the pope expressed horror that certain clerics had left church articles with the Jews as pledges for their debts.

alexander v, reigned 1409–10, was elected by the Council of Pisa in a vain effort to end the schism within the church. He shared the superstitions of his day, blaming the division within the church on bad Christians and on Jewish magicians. The Jews, he asserted, corrupted the world by consulting the Talmud and practicing usury.

alexander vi (borgia), reigned 1492–1503, displayed an ambivalent attitude toward the Jews. Where personal gain or the exigencies of diplomacy made it desirable, he was harsh; but where he was free to use his good sense, he showed understanding and humanity. After the expulsion of the Jews from Spain and Portugal, he permitted *Marranos to continue residing in the environs of Rome. When, however, King Ferdinand of *Spain protested, alleging that the pope's leniency encouraged their flight from Spain, Alexander compelled the refugees publicly to reaffirm their Christian loyalty. Even so, he appears to have profited financially from his refusal to take more extreme measures. While the pope reduced the size, and therefore the prominence, of the distinguishing Jewish badge, he lengthened the distance of the disgraceful annual races in Rome in which Jewish participants had to run naked, so as to be able to watch them from his residence at Castle St. Angelo. He imposed on the Jews an additional tribute of 5% for three years, to help defray the expenses of the Turkish War. Alexander treated favorably the Jews he employed as his personal physicians; one of these Bonet *Lattes, dedicated to him his book on astronomy.

alexander vii, reigned 1651–67. His policy toward the Jews was primarily motivated by zeal for making converts. Though he did not apply force, he frequently applied indirect compulsion. Residence in the ghetto was strictly regulated, and the entire Jewish community was held responsible for the rental of an apartment vacated by a convert or through the death of its occupant in the recent plague, for Jews were not permitted to own property even within the ghetto (1658). Christian contact with Jews was assiduously discouraged. In 1659 Jews were prohibited from teaching or learning under Christians. To be the servant of a Jew was a punishable offense. The one improvement in the Jewish situation under Alexander vii was the abolition, in the last year of his papacy, of the shameful annual races (cf. Alexander vi).


Vogelstein-Rieger, index (incl. bibl.); E. Rodocanachi, Le Saint-Siège et les Juifs (1891); S. Grayzel, Church and the Jews (1966), index; E.A. Synan, Popes and Jews in the Middle Ages (1965).

[Solomon Grayzel]

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