Bookstore Glossary Library Links News Publications Timeline Virtual Israel Experience
Anti-Semitism Biography History Holocaust Israel Israel Education Myths & Facts Politics Religion Travel US & Israel Vital Stats Women
donate subscribe Contact About Home

Paul IV

(1476 - 1559)

Pope Paul IV (born Giovanni Pietro Caraffa, was pope from 1555. Even before his election, he was a leading spirit in the Counter-Reformation and a staunch enemy of all forms of heresy. Because of this, he was extremely hostile to the Jews, as shown by his zeal as head of the Inquisition from 1542. Scarcely had he been elected pope before he bore down upon the Jews in the Papal States with implacable ruthlessness.

He was mainly responsible for the burning of the Talmud in 1553. In his Bull Cum nimis absurdum of July 14, 1555, he decreed that in every town the Jews were to gather together in one street or one quarter, which was to be locked at night (the ghetto), and all synagogues except one were to close. Jews were to sell all their houses and landed property, confine themselves to trading in second-hand clothing and rags, and avoid all contact with Christians. They were forbidden to employ Christian wet nurses or domestic servants, and were ordered to wear the Jewish badge on their clothes. He directed his hatred in particular against the Marranos of Ancona, who had been invited there by previous popes in order to develop trade between Ancona and Turkey. Paul IV had some hundred of the Marranos of Ancona thrown into prison; 50 were sentenced by the tribunal of the Inquisition and 25 of these were burned at the stake. Paul IV may he considered the instigator of one of the most wretched periods in the history of the Jews in Italy – the period of the ghettos, which dragged on for three centuries.


Milano, Italia, index S.V. Paolo IV; idem, Ghetto di Roma (1964), index S.V. Paolo IV; Roth, Italy, index; J. Sonne, Mi Paolo ha-Revi'i ad Pius ha-Ḥamishi… (1954).

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

Photo: British Museum, Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.