York 1190: Jews and Others in the Wake of Massacre was organised by Sarah Rees Jones and Sethina Watson of the Centre for Medieval Studies and the Department of History.

The conference was supported by the British Academy, the Jewish Historical Society of England and the Royal Historical Society. The Borthwick Institute republished the essays of Barrie Dobson on anglo-jewish history for the occasion: The Jewish Communities of Medieval England . We are publishing a collection of essays relating to the theme of the conference and developing further related research projects.

Saturday, 27 March 2010

Blindness – a medieval preoccupation and fascination?

Robin Mundill asked the following question:
In relation to the Jews it was during Carlee Bradbury’s paper that I thought of the panel from the York Chapter House roof and the depiction of Synagogue. Is it coincidence that the blind woman involved in the ritual murder story of St Hugh was healed? The language of Edward’s strengthening of the London Domus Conversorum in 1280 reads “ in order that those who have already turned from their blindness to the light of the Church…….’. Or am I reading too much into it?

(Robin I moved this from the comments to a New Post - I think it will attract more discussion that way).


  1. Jewish blindness in the Middle Ages is both metaphorical and medical - a constantly recurring theme. It is a particular instance of "Jewish disease" that can be cured by the healing waters of baptism (the transformation from metaphor to medical over the centuries is something I am especially interested in tracing). So no, I don't think you are reading too much into it.
    Cheers, Emily Rose

  2. I find these 'vision miracles' really interesting too, for the way in which they literalize the metaphorical relationship between seeing and understanding. Surely we're also meant to remember St Paul's blindness upon his conversion...

  3. Many towns also supported hospitals for priests who had gone blind. I suppose the explanation usually given for such foundations is functional (a priest who cannot see, cannot work) - but do you think they may also have been linking literal blindness to apostasy?