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Nicholas was the name of five popes.


(Giovanni Gaetano Orsini), pope 1277–80. During his brief reign Nicholas displayed a considerable zeal for the conversion of the Jews. His bull Vineam sorce encouraged conversion through "sermons and other means." Copies of the document were sent (1278–79) to the *Franciscans and provincial priors of the *Dominicans in various provinces. Concurrently, however, he renewed the decisions of his predecessors forbidding the forcible baptism of Jews and protecting them from attacks by Christians. Nevertheless, several *Church councils and synods legislated against the free intercourse of Jews and Christians. It is not clear whether it was the supposed hostility of Nicholas or his mildness toward the Jews which prompted Abraham b. Samuel *Abulafia to announce his intention of visiting the pope to demand the release of captive Jews. (When he arrived, however, the pope was already on his deathbed.)


(Girolamo Masci), pope 1288–92. Like many medieval popes, Nicholas IV displayed a mixed attitude toward the Jews. On the one hand, he issued various instructions (1288) to the inquisitors to proceed against *Conversos and he renewed earlier legislation concerning the Jews in Portugal, compelling them to wear a *badge. On the other hand, he specifically protected the Jews of Rome from being molested by Christians (January 1291). He wrote to Emperor *Rudolph (Aug. 29, 1288) requesting the release of *Meir b. Baruch of Rothenburg from prison. There is a belief that he enlisted the services of the Jewish physician and scholar Isaac b. Mordecai Maestro Gaio, who also attended Boniface VIII and who was the first of the Italian Jewish papal physicians.


(Tommaso Parentucelli), pope 1447–55. The attitude toward the Jews of this otherwise enlightened pontiff might be characterized as cruelty tempered by a certain moderation. Soon after his election, under the malign influence of John of *Capistrano, he revived the persecutory legislation of his predecessor, *Eugenius IV. Originally framed for Castile and Leon, this legislation was applied en bloc to Italy. Several subsequent edicts, based generally on those of Eugenius, imposed very severe restrictions on Jewish life. Nevertheless, while urging strong measures against Crypto-Jews, Nicholas insisted on the complete equality of New and Old Christians. After a protest by Emperor Frederick III, Nicholas reversed anti-Jewish legislation adopted by various German synods, and he also granted Borso, duke of *Ferrara, complete freedom to allow Jews to reside in his states and operate banks (1451).


E.A. Synan, Popes and Jews in the Middle Ages (1965), 119ff., 122f., 138f.; I. Loeb, in: REJ, 1 (1880), 115ff.; U. Robert, ibid., 3 (1881), 219f.; 4 (1882), 94f.; D. Kaufmann, ibid., 20 (1890), 35f., 48ff.; S. Grayzel, The Church and the Jews in the XIIIth Century (1966), index.

Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.