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Mainz 128 inscriptions (1049-1322)

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In the present collection, all previous publications on the medieval Mainz gravestones are to be compiled.

The Jewish cemetery of "Magenza" - long the leading of the three famous SchUM towns of the Rhineland - is one of the oldest, if not the oldest cemetery of medieval Ashkenaz. Located on the northern edge of the city, it stretches down a hill, close to an old Roman road leading to the city from the northwest, near, perhaps even over, the remains of an abandoned Roman necropolis. Because of the sandy subsoil, the cemetery was called "Jews' Sand" from the 13th century onwards. Burials on this site can be traced back to about the year 1000, but the cemetery is probably even older. During the persecutions of the First Crusade, the Jewish community of Mainz was almost completely wiped out and its cemetery destroyed. When the Jews returned to Mainz, they replaced some of the lost gravestones of their illustrious ancestors with (undated) memorial stones - a considerable indication of the importance and self-perception of this community.

In 1438, the Jews were again expelled from Mainz, the cemetery again destroyed, the gravestones looted and used as building material. In 1449, only part of the cemetery area was returned to the Jews who had returned to Mainz, and this area served the community until 1880, when a new cemetery was established.

In the last two centuries, around 250 medieval Jewish gravestones have been found in Mainz. They date from the mid-11th century to 1421, including a stone from 1049, the oldest dated Jewish gravestone ever found in Germany.

A large part of the rediscovered gravestones were installed in buildings from the 15th century. However, individual stones were also repeatedly found in the gardens and plots adjacent to the cemetery, in an area that was presumably part of the medieval cemetery until the expulsion in 1438. These include the gravestones found in 1952 during the construction and in 2007 during the demolition of the adjacent agricultural school.

A few gravestones are exhibited in the Landesmuseum Mainz or kept in the depot, others have remained blocked up until today, others have been lost again. Most of the stones found, however, were re-erected in 1926 in a "memorial cemetery" adjoining the cemetery, inaugurated by Rabbi Sali Levi of Mainz, to commemorate the glorious past of the community of medieval Mainz. The area of this "memorial cemetery" was also originally part of the medieval cemetery, as excavations under Rabbi Levi's supervision were able to prove.

A number of individual inscriptions have been published to date. In 1834, the discovery of a first gravestone was reported. In 1860/62, Rabbi Marcus Lehmann of Mainz published several more medieval tomb inscriptions in the journals Jeschurun and Der Israelit, the "central organ for Orthodox Judaism". He was followed in 1898 by Sigmund Salfeld with an overview of all the gravestones known at the time and the reprinting of some inscriptions in his work Das Martyrologium des Nürnberger Memorbuchs. When Rabbi Sali Levi inaugurated the memorial cemetery in 1926, he published further inscriptions as well as a list of all 188 gravestones that had been erected at the memorial.

After the Second World War, it was thanks to the efforts of the Protestant theologian Eugen Ludwig Rapp (1904-1977) that the medieval gravestones were not forgotten. He collected every newly discovered gravestone and made sure that every detail was photographed and documented.

In 1970, 104 Mainz grave inscriptions were published in the memorial book for Zvi Avneri, and in the year of E. L. Rapp's death (1977), his Chronik der Mainzer Juden (Chronicle of the Jews of Mainz) was finally published with its detailed treatment of the grave monument site.

Due to the new discoveries in 2007 and the efforts to elevate the Jewish heritage of the SchUM cities to the rank of a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the medieval Mainz gravestones have also finally returned to the centre of interest. The publications listed and compiled in the following, however, mostly hardly go beyond a reproduction of (partly divergent) copies of the inscriptions, partly with translations. To this day, a thorough autopsy of the gravestones found so far as well as a complete edition according to today's standards is a desideratum, not to mention a detailed scholarly treatment of all gravestones including translation and commentary of the inscriptions as well as their classification in the medieval Jewish sepulchral culture. The recent publication of the Würzburg medieval gravestones, the largest surviving corpus of spolia with almost 1,500 gravestones and fragments, on the one hand, and our simultaneous work on the Worms cemetery and the Speyer medieval gravestones, on the other, open up completely new perspectives for contextualising the inscriptions and profiling their specific characteristics as well as for the entire large-scale family and scholarly history of medieval Ashkenaz.

This collection of all previous publications on the Mainz gravestones is intended to prepare a scholarly treatment of them.

Zitation der digitalen Edition

Digitale Edition - Jüdischer Friedhof Mainz (1049-1322 / 128 Einträge)
URL: http://www.steinheim-institut.de/cgi-bin/epidat?id=mz1

 

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