Jewish house in Zurich

Date: ca. 1330
Location or Findspot (Modern-Day Country): Switzerland
Description: A house in Zurich preserves mural decoration that reveals its former ownership by a wealthy Jewish family. Minne and her two sons, Moshe (Moses) and Mordechai (Gumprecht)—both sons of Menachem—are cited in local documents of the 1320s and '30s. They had the main reception room of the house painted with images that would also have been prized by their upper-class neighbors: scenes of hunting, archery, knights and ladies, and noblewomen dancing with coarse male peasants (as described in a parody by the Middle High German poet-minstrel (Minnesänger) Neidhart, ca. 1180s–1240). Neidhart's poems were often performed for a courtly audience. That this was a Jewish house is clear only from the Hebrew inscriptions in a band below the coats of arms, which refer mostly to nobles of southwestern German origin. These Hebrew words were painted at the same time as the preliminary drawings of the shields, indicating where each heraldic emblem was to be placed. The paintings show that Jews shared the taste for images of courtly life and love prevalent among wealthy patrons in fourteenth-century Europe, a taste well represented by the precisely contemporary Manesse Codex compiled in Zurich.

Zurich's town council required Jews who settled there to engage in moneylending, which was forbidden to Christians. The Jewish community in Zurich was eradicated in 1349 after being blamed for the Black Death: the men were burned to death and the women and children forced into exile. Minne's house was acquired by a Christian military-religious order. The exceptional wall paintings were discovered in 1996.
Relevant Textbook Chapter(s): 9, 10
Image Credits: Wikimedia Commons, Albinfo

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