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The 1901 Jewish Encyclopedia
Mark placed on the dress of Jews to distinguish them from others. This was made a general order of Christendom at the fourth Lateran Council of 1215. At the instigation of Innocent III., the decision of the Council ordered the Jews, in the following terms, to bear a Badge:
"Contingit interdum quod per errorem christiani Judæorum seu Saracenorum et Judæi seu Saraceni christianorum mulieribus commisceantur. Ne igitur tam damnatæ commixtionis excessus per velamentum erroris hujusmodi, excusationis ulterius possint habere diffugium, statuimus ut tales utriusque sexus in omni christianorum provincia, et omni tempore qualitate habitus publice ab aliis populis distinguantur."
From this it would appear that the motive of the order was to prevent illicit intercourse between Jews and Christian women; but it is scarcely doubtful that this was little more than a pretext, the evidence of such intercourse being only of the slightest (see Abrahams, "Jewish Life in the Middle Ages," pp. 93-95). It was no doubt the general policy of the Church to make a sharp line of demarcation between the true believer and the heretic; and the Badge came as the last stage in a series of enactments in the twelfth century, intended to prevent social relations between Jews and Christians, the chief of these being the prohibition of Christians becoming servants of the Jews. The Badge had a most deleterious effect upon their social relations; and the increasing degradation of the position of Jews in Christendom was due in a large measure to this outward sign of separation, which gave the official stamp of both Church and state to the discrimination of social status against the Jew. The idea of such a discrimination seems to have been derived from Islam, in which the dress of the Jews was distinguished by a different color from that of the true believer as early as the Pact of see Omar (640), by which Jews were ordered to wear a yellow seam on their upper garments (D'Ohsson, "Histoire des Mogols," 1854, 3:274). This was a distinct anticipation of the Badge. In 1005 the Jews of Egypt were ordered to wear bells on their garments and a wooden calf to remind them of the golden one (S. Lane-Poole, "History of Egypt," 1901, 6:126). Later on, in 1301, they were obliged to wear yellow turbans (ib. pp. 300, 301). It may have been some sort of retaliation for a similar restriction placed upon the Christians in Islam, since the order of the Council applied to Saracens as well as to Jews.
The most usual form in which the Badge appeared was that of a ring sewn on the upper garment and of a different color to it. This was called "the wheel" (Latin, "rota"; French, "roue, rouelle"), and was the distinguishing mark used in the Romance countries, France, Italy, and Spain. This form seems to have existed in the diocese of Paris even before the Lateran Council; for it is mentioned among the synodal statutes of Bishop Eudes de Sully, who died July 13, 1208. After the Lateran Council it was ordered in the whole of ecclesiastical France at the Council of Narbonne in 1227 ("deferant signum rotæ," Mansi, "Concilia," , 1186). This was repeated by local councils at Arles 1234 and 1260, Béziers 1246, Albi 1254, Nîmes 1284 and 1365, Avignon 1326 and 1337, Rodez 1336, and Vanves 1368.
The state followed the Church in imposing the Badge upon the Jews in France. Saint Louis published an ordinance to that effect (June 19, 1269); and his example was followed by the kings of Francedown to Charles VI. It was generally made imperative on both sexes; but at times Jewesses had to wear a veil called "orales" or "cornalia." The age at which it was worn varied from seven years at Marseilles to thirteen at Arles and fourteen at Avignon. It was mainly worn upon the breast.; but during the reign of Philippe le Hardi a second Badge was worn on the back. The color at first ordered was saffron yellow, but under King John it was particolored red and white. The size varied; it was generally about three or four fingerbreadths from one side to the other, the circle of the Badge one finger-breadth in thickness. Under King John it was of the size of the great seal, about 35 mm. in diameter, and in the time of Charles V. as large as 50 mm.
When a Jew was found without the Badge he was fined various sums, ranging from five sous at Marseilles to ten Tours livres under Saint Louis. Charles V. reduced this to twenty Parisian sous. For special reasons and doubtless for payment the Jew was allowed to go without the Badge; but the instances of this permission in France are rare, and generally only for travel. Adding injury to insult, the authorities forced the Jews to pay an annual sum for the use of the badges, and, curiously enough, one finds them left as pledges ("Revue Etudes Juives," 5:307,308). When the Jews left the rest of France the wearing of the Badge was still kept up at Avignon, which was under the rule of the popes; and evidence of the Badge is found there as late as 1592.
Spain, Italy, and England.
In Spain the use of the Badge varied in the different kingdoms. Pope Honorius III. gave a dispensation (1219) to the Jews of Castile; whereas James I. in 1228 ordered those of Aragon to wear it. His example was followed by the king of Navarre, and even by the emir of Granada, Ismael Abu-I-Walid (1315-26). The practise of wearing the Badge does not appear to have continued long in Spain. The Council of Zamora, 1313, complains of its not having been put into force; and many instances are given of permission to Jews to discontinue it. In 1371 the ordinances were revived, and a bull of Benedict XIII. (May 11, 1415) insisted upon the Jews carrying a yellow and red Badge, the men on their breast, the women on their forehead.
Italy appears to have been troubled less with injunctions about the Badge than the other parts of Christendom. Throughout the thirteenth century the Badge is only known in Sicily (Zunz, "Z. G." p. 488); but in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries local injunctions are found in Venice, Verona, Parma, Rome, Asola, and Genoa. It was known as the "O." from its shape, and appears to have resembled the form used in France rather than that customary in Spain. In several instances it was accompanied by the pointed hat (JUDENHUT); while in Venice the hat entirely replaced the Badge. The age at which it was worn, and the place upon which it was fixed, varied as much as in France; but, as a rule, the former was thirteen years.
In England the form of the Badge varied from that worn in the rest of Europe, at least in later years. It was first imposed upon the Jews in England by Stephen Langton, archbishop of Canterbury, in 1222, and was in the form of a band, two fingers broad and four long. It was at first white, and afterward changed to yellow. In 1274, under Edward I., its shape became that of the Tables of the Law. In Germany the earliest mention of the Badge is in a dispensation accorded to the Jews of Erfurt, Oct. 16, 1294; but it would appear that throughout the fourteenth century the hat was the chief mark of identification used, though the Badge was reintroduced by Emperor Sigismund in 1434 at Augsburg. Similar restrictions are given at Nuremberg, Bamberg, and Frankfort in the middle of the fifteenth century. Here, in almost every case, the Badge was a yellow sign (compare G. Wolf, "Geschichte der Israelitischen Cultusgemeinde in Wien," p. 68, Vienna, 1861). Schudt, in his "Jüdische Merkwürdigkeiten," gives facsimiles of those used at Frankfort in the years 1613-16, which vary from 92 to 48 mm.
In Austria it would appear that the hat was the only sign of distinction according to the Council of Vienna, 1267, whereas in Hungary, 1279, the Badge was placed on the left breast. In Poland there is no trace of the Badge, but only of the hat, while in Crete up to the present day some of the houses of Jews were marked with the "O."
- Ulysse Robert, Les Signes d'lnfamie, Paris, 1891, in which he reproduces the substance of his article in Revue des Etudes Juives, 6:81-95, 7:94-102, with insignificant additions. Robert gives full and elaborate references for all the above statements, which summarize his main conclusions.
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Singer, Isidore, Ph.D, Projector and Managing Editor. Entry for 'Orales'. 1901 The Jewish Encyclopedia. https://www.studylight.org/​encyclopedias/​eng/​tje/​o/orales.html. 1901.