Not everyone feels all warm and fuzzy about Valentine's Day. One particular Valentine's Day in 1349 sticks in the minds of many.
In 1349, Black Death spread fear and sorrow across Europe from Asia. Bubonic plague, which we now know is spread by rats, took a third of the population of Europe. The people didn't know what caused the disease, and some accused Jews of poisoning the water supply. As the rage of Antisemitism intensified, riots broke out, and attacks on Jewish communities began.
The first of the Black Plague massacres started in June 1348 in Spain, in Barcelona and Cervera. Shortly after, September 21, in the Castle of Chillon on Lake Geneva, Switzerland, Jews confessed under torture to a conspiracy to kill Christians by poisoning wells. Five days later, Pope Clement VI denounced the accusations, saying that Jews suffered deaths like everyone else. Attacks against Jews continued as news of the confessions spread like a new plague.
One such incident took place on Valentine's Day, in the city of Strasbourg, Germany. On the 9th or 10th of February, the town council tried to save the Jews. Tradesmen removed the council from power, and replaced it with another. On Saturday, February 14, about two thousand men, women and children were forced to convert to Christianity or be burned to death.
As recorded by Jacob von Konigshofen, contemporary [translated from Latin]:
"On Saturday that was St. Valentine's Day-they burnt the Jews on a wooden platform in their cemetery. There were about two thousand people of them. Those who wanted to baptize themselves were spared. Many small children were taken out of the fire and baptized against the will of their fathers and mothers. And everything that was owed to the Jews was canceled, and the Jews had to surrender all pledges and notes that they had taken for debts. The council, however, took the cash that the Jews possessed and divided it among the working-men proportionately. The money was indeed the thing that killed the Jews. If they had been poor and if the feudal lords had not been in debt to them, they would not have been burnt."
It always comes down to money.
Riots against Jews continued after the incident in Strasbourg, and included over 200 communities in Spain, Germany, Switzerland and Austria. Valentine's Day does not appear to be a factor in the murders, except for the sickening irony of Christians slaughtering innocent people on a Christian holiday that is supposed to remind us of God's way of love.
Copyright 2011, Kathryn A. Frazier.
Kathryn lives with her husband and children in Tampa, Florida. It's hot there. And swampy. With gators. She's really brave. PreciousHolidays@yahoo.com
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