Boniface was the name of nine popes. Only the last two showed significant evidence of concern with the Jews of Europe.
BONIFACE VIII (1294–1303), in his Jewish policy displayed an attitude substantially like that of his 13th-century predecessors. In 1295, he commended a citizen of Paris for having established a chapel on the spot where a miracle was said to have occurred when some Jews were supposed to have tortured a consecrated wafer (see Desecration of the Host). The same year the pope objected to the erection of a new synagogue in Trier, Germany. In 1297, he praised the queen of Sicily for having expropriated the property of Jewish usurers and urged her to use the money for the benefit of the poor.
In 1300, he ordered the expulsion of Jewish and Christian usurers from Avignon. But outweighing the above was his favorable response in 1299 to the complaints of the Jews of Rome and Avignon against inquisitors who accused them of illegal acts and then compelled them to answer the charges in some distant court. Claiming that Jews were in the category of those powerful enough to overawe witnesses, inquisitors refused to divulge the names of those who accused Jews of encouraging heresy. Jews, the pope maintained, were not necessarily powerful. One of his decisions became part of Canon Law, namely that Jews, even minors, once baptized must remain Christians.
BONIFACE IX (1389–1404) showed exceptional favor to the Jews of Rome. The city had become impoverished because of the absence of the Papal Court for the greater part of the 14th century; subsequently it was further afflicted by a succession of plagues, during which Jewish physicians had shown great skill in serving the sick of all classes. The pope continued and even amplified the favors shown these physicians by his predecessor, Urban VI, especially to Manuel and his son Angelo. He included them among his familiares (members of his household), reduced their taxes, and freed them from the obligation of wearing the Jewish badge. Several other physicians were likewise favored, and the Jews of Rome in general profited from this attitude.
The papal chamberlain, acting on behalf of the pope, eased the regulations on the badge, alleviated the tax burden, and even spoke of the Jews as “citizens.” The pope could not show an equally friendly attitude to Jews outside the papal territory, since this was the period of the Great Schism in the church and various states wavered in their obedience to the pope in Rome.
M. Stern, Urkundliche Beitraege ueber die Stellung der Paepste zu den Juden, 2 vols. (1893–95), passim; Vogelstein-Rieger, 1 (1896), 255–8, 317–9; E. Rodocanachi, Le Saint-Siège et les Juifs (1891), passim.
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.