Frederick II of Hohenstaufen°

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FREDERICK II OF HOHENSTAUFEN ° (1194–1250), king of Sicily (with Apulia) from 1198; Holy Roman Emperor from 1215. He was in continuous and bitter conflict with the papacy, and was considered an arch-heretic by his opponents, who even termed him anti-Christ for his pamphlet De tribus impostoribus ("On the Three Impostors," i.e., Moses, Jesus, and Mohammed). However he had a lofty, if unusual, conception of the Christian religion, and of the royal duty to serve it. In his attitude toward the Jews and his reactions to them Frederick's complicated and powerful personality displayed an individual approach. In Sicily and in south Italy he confirmed the privileges accorded to the Jews by his Norman predecessors. He also had the dyeing and silk-weaving industries in south Italy, which were crown monopolies, administered by Jewish agents, as had the Norman rulers before him, who also employed Jewish artisans in the textile manufacture. In 1221, however, the Emperor decreed that Jews must be distinguished from Christians by their clothes and their appearance, thus conforming to the decisions of the Fourth Lateran Council (1215). The Jews of Sicily were ordered to wear blue coats over their clothes and grow beards, and the women to wear a blue stripe on their cloaks and head covering to distinguish them from the Christians; but there is no evidence that these strictures were actually enforced. Frederick finalized the legal definition governing the concept of Jewish servitude, which had evolved during the 12th century, describing the Jews in grants of privileges he issued in 1236 and 1237 as "servi camerae *nostrae," which applied to all of his domains. In Sicily, the status of the Jews, formerly modeled by the Normans on the status of the *Dhimmis in the lands of Islam, underwent a significant change as they became servi camerae and the monarch's property. Muslims living in Frederick's domains were accorded similar status.

Frederick invited Jewish translators and scholars to his court: Judah b. Solomon ha-Kohen (*Matkah), Samuel Ibn *Tibbon, and Jacob *Anatoli, who took part in its lively and variegated intellectual life, discussing philosophy and disputing diverse issues with Christian scholars. The emperor also took part in these discussions: in his introduction to Malmadha-Talmidim ('A Goad to Scholars'), Jacob Anatoli referred to the emperor's own attempts at biblical interpretation.

The originality and force of Frederick's personality clearly emerged in the action he took in connection with the blood *libel. When the bodies of children alleged to have been murdered by the Jews in *Fulda (1236) were brought before him, hedetermined that he would finally settle the question. Frederick read about the problem himself and became convinced that the Jews were innocent of the charge. Being unable to obtain a clear-cut opinion or decision from the Church authorities or nobility, he had the original idea of convening a council of apostates, who as former Jews and devout Christians should be able to give a definitive answer. Frederick subsequently published their unequivocal refutation of the blood libel and prohibited the libel's circulation throughout his domains.


Graetz, Hist, 3 (1949), 565–9; W. Cohn, in: mgwj, 63 (1919), 315–32; A. Stern, in: zgjd, 2 (1930), 68–77; J.P. Dolan, in: jsos, 22 (1960), 165–74; G. Wolf, in: P. Wilpert (ed.), Judentum im Mittelalter (1966), 435–41; G. Kisch, The Jews in Medieval Germany (1949), index; L.I. Newman, Jewish Influence on Christian Reform Movements (1925), 291–9; Der Adler: Mitteilungen der Heraldisch-Genealogischen Gesellschaft (1931–34), 40–44; J. Cohn, Die Judenpolitik der Hohenstaufen (1934); S.W. Baron, in: Sefer Yovel… Y. Baer (1960), 102–24; R. Straus, Die Juden im Koenigreich Sizilien unter Normannen und Staufen (1910); Roth, Italy, index; S. Grayzel, The Church and the Jews in the XIIIth Century (19662), index. add. bibliography : G. Sermoneta, "Federico ii e il pensiero ebraico nell'Italia del suo tempo," in: A.M. Romanini (ed.), Federico ii e l'arte del duecento, Atti della settimana di studi (1980), 183-97; D. Abulafia, Frederick ii. A Medieval Emperor (1988); idem, "The Servitude of Jews and Muslims in the Medieval Mediterranean," in: Mélanges de l'École française de Rome, 112, 2 (2000), 687–714; C. Sirat, "La filosofia ebraica alla cortedi Federico ii," in: P. Toubert and A. Paravicini Bagliani (eds.), Federico ii ele scienze (1994); idem, "À la cour de Frédérick ii Hohenstaufen: une controverse philosophique entre Juda Ha-Cohen et un sage Chrétien," in: Italia, 13–15 (2001), 53–78; Dietelkamp, "Der Vorwurf des Ritualmordes gegen Juden vor dern Hofgericht Kaiser Friedrichs ii im Jahr 1236," in: Religiose Devianz (1990), 19–39.

[Reuven Michael /

Nadia Zeldes (2nd ed.)]

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Frederick II of Hohenstaufen°

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Frederick II of Hohenstaufen°