Of Gold and God, Part I


The Cathedral of Basel sits on a high bluff overlooking the Rhine where it bends and widens to begin its northward journey.

Wife of Árpád, who led the Hungarians.




The first church was built here in the early 800s but was destroyed by invading Hungarians in 917, during the time when they ravaged western Europe until their defeat in 955.  An inscription on the sarcophagus of the bishop records:  Bishop Rudolph, killed by the pagans on 20 July.

A new church was built in 1019, during theHand of Heinrich holding cathedral reign of Emperor Heinrich II, who recognized the strategic position of Basel, at the intersection of roads leading over the Jura Mountains to Burgundy and France and over the Alps to Italy.

The Emperor allowed the Bishop of Basel to mint his own currency and gave Basel several forests rich in game to provide meat for the episcopal household.

Heinrich also saw that the cathedral was quickly reconstructed after its destruction by the Hungarians, and it became a symbol of his relationship with Basel.  On October 11, 1019, he attended the consecration of the cathedral and honored it with important gifts.

foot reliquary

The Cathedral treasury had been thoroughly ransacked.  A single relic remained in the Treasury.  This was the foot of one of the Holy Innocents, those children slaughtered by Herod in his attempt to kill the infant Christ.  The relic was donated by a sixth-century Irish monk, and is now housed in a reliquary of much later date, though the sole is engraved:  the whole foot of the innocents St. Columban gave.  One can view the relic in the leather-lined compartment through the aperture in the top.

But Heinrich donated many important relics associated with Christ, the Virgin, John the Baptist, and many other saints.   The most important were a splinter of the True Cross and the blood of Christ, still the most valuable items in Basel.  (A previous Emperor once traded Basel and a large part of Swabia for the spear believed to have pierced Christ.)

Heinrich cross

The Splinter and Blood are housed in a splendid cross made of gold, silver, and gems, and known as the Heinrich Cross.  Several years ago, thieves stole the splinter, but left the cross behind.  The relic was later returned and can be clearly seen behind the rock crystal cabochons of the cross-shaped reliquary.

On Sundays, Mondays, Fridays, and feast days, a cleric stands in front of the choir screen calling, “Help maintain the cathedral, which is inhabited by God, Our Lady, the heavenly emperor Saint Heinrich, and all the saints. . .Anyone in possession of money found, acquired through gambling, usury, or not legally inherited, should give it to the house of Our Lady and so be free of sin.”  As a reward for their donations, the devout are blessed with the Heinrich Cross or another reliquary.

HeinrichKunigunde2Heinrich himself was declared a saint in 1146.  He and his wife, Kunigunde, are commemorated by huge effigies which now stand on the west side of the Cathedral.

Kunigunde finalHeinrich finalBut they were buried in the cathedral in Bamberg.   In the 1300s, Basel petitioned Bamberg for relics and received fragments of the right arms of the emperor and the empress.  These arrived at the city gates on November 4, 1347, and the bishop in his finery, the clergy, and all the burghers, hastened to accompany the relics to the cathedral with a parade of crosses, treasures, and candles.  The remains are housed in tower-shaped reliquaries, composed of crystal cylinders with statues of Heinrich and Kunigunde and various saints.

earthquake from Cosmographia universalis 1554But though the important pieces of the Treasury survived, Heinrich’s cathedral was wrecked in the violent earthquake of October 18, 1356.  The quake destroyed the choir, the vault of the nave, and the great bell tower.  After the quake, a great fire broke out in the city and burned most of the houses.  And this calamity fell hard on the heels of the plague that killed a third of Basel’s populace in 1349.

It was to strengthen his dispirited and mourning city that Johann Senn von Münsingen, Bishop of Basel, traveled to Rome, acquiring for Basel relics of saints Paul, Cecilia, Pancras, Fabian, Sebastian, Agnes, Dorothy, Urban, Petronella, George, and Lucy, as well as of the Holy Innocents and the 10,000 Martyrs.

Johann Senn von Munsingen

The importance of this undertaking is portrayed in a document of 1360, which depicts Johann Senn von Münsingen receiving from Saint Paul a tooth, which he offers, displayed in a large monstrance, to The Virgin Mary and the Christ Child.  Sewn to this parchment document are two texts promising an indulgence (the remission of temporal punishment in purgatory) of forty days for the veneration of the relics.

Of course the Reader understands that a Cathedral treasury contains two types of precious objects.  Items used in the liturgy, such as vessels for the Eucharist, books, censers to burn incense, and the vestments of different colors worn for different days of the liturgical calendar.  And then, the relics, believed to be the bodily remains of Christ, Mary and the saints, or objects that had touched them.  The relics are housed in reliquaries of precious materials to reflect their value.

reliquary bust of St. PantalusThere are four types of reliquaries.  They may be shaped like the remains they contain, such as the one containing the foot of the Innocent.  They may display a relic  behind a crystal window, such as the Heinrich Cross.  They may be busts or full-length statuettes of the saint.  Or they may simply be a casket.

But the receptacles, however opulent, are not as valuable to the faithful as the relics within.  For the hope is that the saints offer favors and intercede with God.  The reconstruction of the cathedral after the earthquake was accomplished by donations from the veneration of the relics that Johann Senn von Münsingen collected on his journey to Rome.  On June 25, 1363, the new high altar was consecrated in the rebuilt choir.

In the 150 years since then, the Treasury of the Basel Cathedral has continued to grow through the donations of the devout.


Capito calls the reader’s attention to The Treasury of Basel Cathedral,  Timothy Husband, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, from whence came many of these excellent images.


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Death & Industry: My first day in Basel

I spent the first night in my new city at the Stork Inn, because the permanent lodging provided by my position as Cathedral preacher was not prepared for me.  Early the next morning, I walked about, delighting myself in the simple fact that I was here.

I toured the Fish Market, a great busy square surrounded by inns, public houses, shops, booths, and dwellings.  Though it was early morning, commerce had begun.

Basle Rathaus--thewolfseye

Nearby was the Corn Market, the Marktplatz.  Here stands the brand new center of City Government, the Rathaus, with its three arches and its golden spire.  When trouble arises, the great bell, and the flag, will call every soldier, every guild member and every male above fourteen to his appointed place at the wall in defense of the City.

Location of Dance of DeathWalking eastward along the Rhine, the river meeting me on my left, I could see the University rising in front of me beyond the bridge, and beyond that, the delicate, red sandstone towers of the Cathedral.  Then I passed the wall of the Dominican Cemetery, on which is painted the Dance of Death. This great mural is almost 200 feet long, twice as long as the famous similar painting in Lübeck.  Basel’s Dance of Death was painted around 1440, and so is 20 or 25 years older than Lübeck’s.  It is truly magnificent, with 39 dancing couples of every age and rank, serving to remind all passersby of the inevitability of one’s end, so that wise choices may be made by all.

Basle-Dance of Death--Abbess - Version 2Basle-Dance of Death-Musician - Version 2

Hans Holbein the YoungerA young man of a studious countenance sat on the ground before the painting, with a stack of paper, on which he was sketching with the greatest concentration.

The Rhine divides greater Basel from little Basel (Kleinbasle).  And it was in Kleinbasle, near the river, that Gothic minusculemy friend, Johann Amerbach had settled both his home and his print shop in the house known as “the King’s Seat” or zum Kaiserstuh.  This was barely a decade after he arrived in Basel with only some punches to create a round gothic minuscule type.  But he was already rising in Basel society.  In those early years, he was known as “The Venetian,” because he had studied printing in Venice.

CarthusiansFor both religious and scholarly reasons, Amerbach chose zum Kaiserstuh to be close to the Carthusian monastery, where he could consult the wealth of manuscripts in its excellent library, returning the favor by giving the monastery a copy of every book he printed. On the birth or death of any of his children, and on feast days and other occasions, he made presents to the monastery of money, sugar, pepper, ginger, cloves, parchment, paper, and other such choice items.

Even though I knew that Johann Amerbach was dead, I had not been to Basel during the eighteen months since he died, which was on Christmas Day of 1513.  And even though I knew that I would not sit at the table with him or his genial wife, Barbara, who died the summer before he did, my grief reached new depths when I entered zum Kaiserstuh.  Here the sons,St. Jerome--1513-Bellini Bruno and Basilius live, as the younger, Bonifacius, comes and goes from his studies at Freiburg.  Or rather, here they work and sleep, devoting heart and soul, and, as Bruno sighed, “our youth,” to their father’s dream:  The Complete Works of Jerome from the Amerbach presses.

When I previously visited the Amerbach home to study Hebrew, the house teemed with resident scholars like the Greek expert, Johannes Cono, also recently dead, and the converted Jew, Matthaeus Adrianus, who is in zum sessel 4Heidelberg.  But now, though the presses here are never stilled, the real heart of the vast Jerome project lies across the river at the house known as zum Sessel, “the front seat”.

Amerbach expanded his operations and bought or leased zum Sessel, in greater Basel, to house additional presses.  His younger collaborator, Johann Froben, moved into zum Sessel, which consists of several houses and a yard, in 1507.  It was here Erasmus stayed on his first visit to Basel. But though zum Sessel houses a flurry of scholars, printers, correctors, typesetters and illustrators, I was struck today by just how many women there are about.

zum sessel 3For Froben married  Gertrud Lachner, daughter of a well-to-do book dealer. Gertrud is outspoken, and her mother and several unmarried sisters all live at zum Sessel.  And unlike Barbara Amerbach, whose concerns centered always on her children and her home, these women have opinions on almost every subject.  It was, as Erasmus told the Amerbach sons, a “petticoat government.”

“Poor Froben,” Bruno said to me, as we had our midday meal and tipped a glass at the Flower Inn (zur Blume), the oldest inn in Basel.  “His wife and her father have all the money, and Froben’s lack of education surely embarrasses him when he can’t enter into discussions about the text he is to print.”


But as I toured the stacks of folios at zum Sessel, I thought how beautiful they were, and how Froben went patiently ahead, despite criticism from every direction.  Froben insisted on beautiful paper from Lorraine, and he had creative and innovative ideas about fonts and illustrations.  It was said that Erasmus had moved his printing from Paris to Basel because Froben’s books were so beautiful.

After I had taken most of the day traversing my new city and visiting at both zum Kaiserstuh and zum Sessel, I retraced my steps back by the Dance of Death.  The young artist was still there.  He had been joined by one who was older by a few years, perhaps a brother, and they were earnestly discussing the boy’s many sketches.

Holbein brothers


The silverpoint of Ambrosius and Hans Holbein (the younger) by their father was done in 1511, four years before they moved to Basel in 1515, the same year that Capito arrived.  So Hans would have been seventeen rather than around thirteen, as he is in this sketch with Ambrosius.

The Basel Rathaus ©theWolfsEye

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Amerbach Bible for Sale

Go here to see the most excellent work of my friends, the Amerbachs.  Be sure to scroll down the page to see the lovely images.

By the muses!  I might have used this Bible.

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Published in: on May 22, 2012 at 7:27 pm  Leave a Comment  

From Christian child to Turkish Janissary

Diether von Michelstadt, Knight of the Holy Order of Saint John, missioned on the Isle of Rhodes, to his dear cousin, Wolfgang Capito.  May God bless you, beloved friend, in the sure hope of our resurrection on the last day.

Your welcome letter arrived today in good time, since our supply ships had favorable winds and nearly flew across the seas.  You say you have heard many horrible stories about the Turks and wonder if they are true.  You say you have heard of an elite army composed of stolen Christian children.  Sadly, this is indeed true.

Devsirme–Topkapi Palace

The practice is called the “devsirme,” which means “gathering,” and it is a human taxation, sometimes called the “boy harvest,” of the non-Muslim populations of Anatolia and the Balkans, primarily Greeks and Albanians and a few Armenians.  Every few years, the Sultan conscripts a certain percentage–perhaps ten percent–of Christian male children.  The boys are usually between eight and twelve years old.  The Sultan’s officer arrives in a village, the Christian fathers are ordered to appear with their sons, and the strongest, most promising boys are taken.

We hear many stories about this.  Some say the Christian parents will disfigure their sons to prevent their being chosen.  Others, that the Christians are starving and some children wish to go.  We hear that Muslim parents, desirous of the fine education and elite opportunities in the Sultan’s service, sometimes bribe Christians to claim their children.

Janissary–Gentile Bellini

The Janissary schooling, which may take 14 years, converts the children to the faith of Islam and teaches them the Ottoman view of the world.  They learn Turkish, Persian, and Arabic.  There is physical training, study of literature, the Koran, and the law called the Seriat.  The boys are separated forever from their families and, once in the palace school, they cannot leave for any reason or have any contact with the outside world.  They know they cannot marry until they retire.  They emerge passionate Muslims, eager to fight, ready to die for their faith and the Sultan.

The Janissaries live and train in tightly disciplined barracks communities to give them a cohesive strength unusual in any other army.  While many Turks favor beards, the Janissaries wear only a mustache and shave their heads, except for a scalp-lock.

Although they are slaves, they are well paid, have striking uniforms, and the best food and equipment available.  Their distinctive headgear looks like a folded sleeve.  A Muslim holy man, Hajji Bektash, blessed the new soldiers upon the founding of the corp.  Some say the sleeve of his robe touched their heads.  Others say he tore the felt sleeve off his white coat and placed it on a soldier’s head, calling him a “new trooper.”  Either way, the Janissaries wear these sleeves in remembrance.  Even in peacetime, the Janissaries never disband, but improve their training skills and their military installations, much as we are doing ourselves at the present moment.   They are expert with firearms and a great variety of other weapons of the most modern sorts.  They often carry small hand bombs called “grenades” because of their similar aspect to pomegranates.

In addition to his Janissaries, the Sultan can put an army in the field with hundreds of thousands of armed men, from his territories’ vast populations, and equip them with good arms and generous provisions, from his limitless wealth.   The majority of these soldiers are feudal cavalry, armed with lance and bow, brave, but not always well led.   But these are supported by artillerymen with some of the largest cannon in the world.   Their supplies of good powder and abundant shot allow them to maintain a steady fire by day and night.   The army is well served by a supply corps, by sappers and miners for an extended siege, and by a medical branch for the sick and wounded.

As you know, we are only a few leagues from the Turkish coast, with no other armed Christians nearby.

We concentrate on the addition of several small strong points in front of the main walls.  These go by the name of ravelin or demi-lune, and are intended to stop the shot from Turkish heavy cannon from reaching the main curtain walls.  Our supplies of rations and weapons are already quite large.  Together with our large supply of fresh water, I suppose we might survive a blockade of a hundred years.  The Sultan may indeed attack Rhodes, but I promise you, he will pay a dear price, including ruinous casualties to his precious Janissaries.  As always, we rely not only on our own arms, but on the mercy of God.  May he be eternally praised in all we do.

Sincere thanks for your welcome letters.  May your days be as happy and sunny as ours here in the Levant.


Diether von Michelstadt created by Leopold Glueckert, O.Carm.,Ph.D

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Published in: on September 16, 2011 at 9:52 am  Comments (1)  

Sample Posts? Searching for Something?

Get the flavor of Capito’s different types of posts in the samples below:

Scenes of daily life:  What Day is It?   In the Land of the Blind

Reflections of 16th-century thought:  Earthquakes and Plagues; Ordination Angst

Modern Issues:  Blackwater;  When Banks Rule  

Interesting Adventures:  The Weird Woman;  The Frankfurt Fair

Times of Change:  City Air Makes Men Free;  Of Truth and Cards


If you wish to follow Capito’s life through his extraordinary century, begin here and click next at the end of each post.


If you arrived by way of a search engine but don’t find your topic, use our Index by Subject  


This week’s post appears directly below.

Published in: on August 28, 2011 at 7:29 am  Leave a Comment  

Letter from a Knight on Rhodes

Diether von Michelstadt, Knight of the Holy Order of St. John, quartered on the Isle of Rhodes, to his dear cousin and brother in the Lord, Wolfgang Capito.

Greetings to you my dear friend, and all the blessings which God can bestow. Your recent letter reached me just yesterday with the arrival of our supply galleys from Venice.

Selim I

This past year, a new and vigorous Ottoman Sultan arose, who goes by the name Selim. He deposed his father Beyezid, whom he considered too weak. Selim quickly killed all his brothers and nephews.  He remembers the challenge to his father’s rule by his uncle Djem, who fled to our protection on Rhodes.  (Beyezid made an agreement with the Pope to keep Djem in luxurious restraint until he died, thereby preventing a civil conflict in Constantinople.)  The new Sultan is called “Selim the Grim.”

Local Greeks report that Selim seeks to unite the many Islamic realms by force, to present a united front against us. Selim claims the title of “Caliph of Islam.” Our spies report that Selim prepares his forces for a clash with Ismail, Shah of the powerful Safavid Empire of Persia. Selim is a fervent Muslim of the Sunni faction, and passionately wants to surpass the Shi’ites of Persia, and assume their leadership. He is well aware of Ismail’s power and resilience, but he places much hope in his corps of Janissaries, who are well trained in the use of firearms, a device which Ismail holds in contempt. If Selim gains Syria and Mesopotamia, he will be nearly impossible to stop.

Our spies also suggest that he may move against the Mamelukes, the Islamic slave-soldiers who have ruled Egypt for centuries. By my faith, control of Egypt and the Holy Land would give Selim the lucrative pilgrimage road to Mecca and Medina, and the title Defender of the Holy Places, which carries enormous religious prestige even among the Shi’ites.

Since the Turks have long since gained control of most of Greece and the mainland of the Levant, we alone on Rhodes remain as an armed outpost of Christendom. Our fleets of war galleys terrorize their spice convoys from Asia and shipments of grain from Egypt. They do not wish us well, and when the day of reckoning comes, the fighting will be severe. Let us hope that our walls will defeat the hoards of unbelievers, as happened in 1480. May God and Holy Mary continue to protect us.

In these present days, all is quiet on our beautiful island, but the threat of invasion is never absent. My fellow brothers in the Order’s German langue never stop their training and preparations for the assault which we know must come. We have amassed vast stores of food, powder, shot, arrows, and counter-siege apparatus.

Our fortifications are no doubt the finest and best crafted in the world, and yet we continue to strengthen our masonry, deepen our moats, and multiply our cisterns. We boast to the other seven langues that our German bastion is the best defended section of the walls, and that we hope that the Turks make their first assault against us, so that we may teach them a lesson.

Last week I accompanied three of our galleys on a raid to capture stores of powder in the magazine of a Turkish village. We spared the women and children, as well as men who raised no weapons. While I do not agree with Erasmus that a Christian should not go to war, I do agree that if we slaughter the innocent, as the Turks do, then we have become Turks of the spirit and not Christians.

I am disturbed to hear your news of the bickering among theologians in your district. Their issues mean very little to me. I understand the need to stamp out corruption and greed among the clergy, but why fall into hostile factions over theories that no normal person wishes to understand? If only your friends could see the great threat posed by the Turks against our poor outpost here on the East of the Great Sea. There has never been a time in history when devout Christians needed to honor their common beliefs more than now.

With all that said, my brother, do not worry about my welfare. Our situation on Rhodes is most pleasant for now. Like all the other auberges of the Knights, our German residence palace is comfortable and strong, a true fortress within a fortress. Our supply of food and wine is generous and delicious, more than you could wish.

We maintain our rhythm of prayer as devoutly as our military preparations. The spirit among our Knights and our other helpers is warm and fraternal, as I wish that your own companions might be. As I fondly remember your kindness to my own dear mother, I wish you the Lord’s choicest blessings.

From your own, Diether

Diether von Michelstadt created by Leopold Glueckert, O.Carm.,Ph.D

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Index by Subject

Your Capito, Best Reader, has taken to frequent wandering in the back rooms of this publishing house called WordPress (though it can’t hold a candle to the Amerbachs).  He delights to know how visitors land here.  What were they seeking?  A few days ago, someone searched for Humanists Latin Names.  Clearly, this researcher wanted to know why we scholars of the humanities take Latin names.  Or perhaps, how we arrive at our new appellative.  Perhaps he was thinking of redefining himself.  Or reviving the custom. 

This same back room also presents a list of posts viewed each day.  Oh disappointment!  The poor seeker of names never found my most excellent discussion of this topic, for that post was not viewed that day.  (I modestly say it is the best article I’ve ever seen on the subject.)

Naturally, I wanted to jump on a fast horse and chase the searcher down, but unless that horse would be Pegasus, able to travel through the ether, I can not do it.  A courier can usually be bribed to reveal the name of an anonymous sender, but Capito has no way to contact this seeker of names.

Several researchers come to this site daily looking for specific information, so Capito has decided to create an Index by Subject to aid those looking for posts about a particular topic.  However, if you just want to sit around the Hog’s Snout and pass a costrel, we won’t need an Index.

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Published in: on July 22, 2011 at 8:18 am  Leave a Comment  

An Allemande with Clio

Those who wish to trek in the country of History can take many paths. 

The first is the road of true scholarship, and those who dedicate themselves to this difficult way deserve our admiration. Their efforts require knowledge of the old languages, long hours of tedious research, and the close scrutiny of their peers.  Two such scholars are particularly close to Capito’s heart.  If the reader wishes to know more about the historical Capito, he should consult:

Wolfgang Capito, From Humanist to Reformer by James M. Kettelson.  The best and most recent biography in English.

The Correspondence of Wolfgang Capito, translated by Erika Rummel, provides English translations of Capito’s letters unavailable elsewhere.  (The letters in Latin are provided here with English summaries of letters available elsewhere.)

The second path to the country of History, also taken by the serious scholar, is that of creative nonfiction or popular history.  An excellent example of this approach is found at History in the Margins by Dr. Pamela Toler.  Visit this clever site regularly for fascinating glimpses backstage of the many dramas that history unfolds.

The third path, not so scholarly but still delightful, is to flit about like a bee.  This writer has taken such an approach, and his meandering trail can be found at The Research Behind Capito.

Whichever path you find, dear Reader, if Clio, the Muse of History, takes your hand, your steps will be an allemande into a land full of amazements.

Clio from The Allegory of Painting by Johannes Vermeer

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Published in: on June 17, 2011 at 5:59 am  Comments (1)  

Johannes Pfefferkorn is an Ass

By Jove!  What a stir an idiot can make in this world.  Doubtless, Gentle Reader, you have heard of the ruckus this stubborn fool, Johannes Pffefferkorn, has instigated, but if not, I shall present the facts so that you can render a judgment.  

Pfefferkorn (peppercorn) was born a Jew but now inflicts misfortune on his people.  He was convicted of burglary in Cologne and imprisoned in 1504.  The next year, he converted to Christianity.  Some say this was to be set free, but my sources say that he was already free.

Pfefferkorn became assistant to Jacob van Hoogstraaten, the prior of the Dominicans, those most zealous Inquisitors.  Van Hoogstraaten must have rejoiced to land a prize fish, for now he had a Jew to testify to the crimes of the Jews. 

The Dominicans published Pfefferkorn’s slanderous pamphlets, in which he attempted to prove that Jewish religious writings were hostile to Christianity.  Immediately all true Hebrew scholars recognized Pfefferkorn as all pepper and no meat; that is, that he had little understanding of Hebrew writings and could not discuss them with any intelligence.

Jewish moneylenders

Pfefferkorn demanded that the Jews cease lending money at interest, work for their living and attend Christian sermons.  He demanded that the Talmud and all Jewish writings be destroyed.  With each succeeding pamphlet, he grew more venomous, until he advocated taking Jewish children from their parents and expelling all Jews from Christian lands. 


The Dominicans convinced Kunigunde, sister of Emperor Maximillian, to plead for Pfefferkorn.  She went before the Emperor and begged him on her knees to order the Jews to deliver their books to Pfefferkorn for destruction.  (Some suggested a Dominican ruse, for as the authorized instruments of the Inquisition, the Dominicans can also rule books acceptable and return them to the Jews, for a price.)

The Jews appealed to the Emperor.  They asked for a commission to investigate Pfefferkorn’s claims.  The Emperor then asked for opinions from several universities and individuals, including the Hebrew scholar, Johann Reuchlin.  Though two universities ruled against the Jewish books, Reuchlin stood in favor of the Jews and gave a scholarly and brilliant answer.

Reuchlin divided Jewish literature into six classes, exclusive of the Bible.  (1) poetry, fable and satire; (2) commentaries; (3) sermons, songs and prayers; (4) philosophy and science; (5) the Talmud, and (6) Kabbala.

“In the first class,” said Reuchlin, “are to be found books which deny or criticize the Christian religion.”  But he knew of only two, a pamphlet by Lipman and the life of Jesus.  The Rabbis prohibit Jews to possess or read these books under threat of severe penalties. 

Reuchlin said that the second class contained nothing harmful to Christianity, but was of great value in interpreting the Scriptures.  Christian scholars cannot fully understand the Bible because of their ignorance of Hebrew, for the best understanding of Scripture comes from knowledge of the original language.  Reuchlin compared the scholar who says that he does not need a Hebrew commentary, because he has many Christian ones, to a person wearing a light garment in cold weather.

The Jews, Reuchlin observed, have received from emperors and popes the privilege of unmolested worship and, so, should keep the third class, and the fourth class is equal to books in Latin, Greek, or German.

“But of the Talmud,” Reuchlin said, “I must own that it is to me a sealed book, and it is evident that those who pass judgment upon it have as little knowledge of it as I.  They have no idea of its nature or history.  Nevertheless, they talk as if they understood it clearly.  I can only compare such people to those who criticise algebra while they are totally ignorant of the rudiments of arithmetic.”

Reuchlin praised the Kabbala, reporting that Pope Sixtus VI studied it and found so much in support of Christianity that he translated Kabbalistic books into Latin.

Alluding to Pfefferkorn, though not by name, Reuchlin said, “What use is advice given by people who abandon Judaism through jealousy, animosity, fear of persecution. . .Such individuals bear the name of Christians, but in heart they are not Christians.  I know of some whose faith in both religions, Christianity and Judaism, is weak, and who, if their schemes were brought to naught, would become disciples of Mohammedanism.

“The Jews have been citizens of German lands for three centuries and should be protected by the law.  It would be ridiculous to adjudge them heretics, for they were not born Christians, but have been Jews from a time antecedent to the birth of Christianity.”

Reuchlin argued so powerfully that the emperor suspended his edict and returned the Jews’ books.  However, it is said the Pfefferkorn rages like a rabid dog against the Jews and against Reuchlin, sharpening his pens to needles and dipping them in poison, as he prepares yet another pamphlet.  So I doubt that this ends the matter.

Simon of Trent ritual sacrifice--1493

I, Capito, wish we would deal more kindly with the Jews.  For is that not what we are enjoined by our Christ to do?  Even if they should make themselves our enemies–though I very much doubt that Jews sacrifice Christian babies in their rites or even poison wells–are we not to love our enemies?

As a scholar, I am appalled at the destruction of any book, particularly an ancient one in the original language, and especially one which contains the history and root of our Christian faith.  Which makes me think that I shall study Hebrew.

If Pepperpill leaves me any books.

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