Friday, August 6, 2010

Sumptuary Laws: Jews, Christians and Muslims




From about the 8th century in Muslim countries, Christians and Jews were sometimes forced to wear special emblems on their clothes. This was an attempt to prevent inter-breeding. A ninth century Caliph in Bagdad was thought to have introduced the yellow star (Bareta) which was worn by both Jewish and Christian people. Further sumptuary controls were issued in Bagda inthe 12th century.

'Two yellow badges [are to be displayed], one on the headgear and one on the neck. Furthermore, each Jew must hang round his neck a piece of lead with the word Dhimmi on it. He also has to wear a belt round his waist. The women have to wear one red and one black shoe and have a small bell on their necks or shoes.'



By the 13th century sumptuary laws based on religious conviction was introduced into Europe. Pope Innocent III convoked the Fourth Council of the Lateran and in 1215 it ruled that Jews and Muslims must be distinguishable by their dress. The most common form of badge was the "rota" or "wheel", which looked like a ring, of white or yellow. Other European countries folloed with similar sumptuary legislation.



In England Edward I issued the Statute of Jewry which prescribed jews wear two yellow round-topped rectangles (like tablets); in Portugal Jews wore a red star of David; and in France, French Jews were ordered to wear an oval rouelle (a yellow rota). In Venice, sumptuary laws were most strictly regulated and directed towards Jews, prostitutes, and women.



The Venetians were considered a tolerant people but still discriminated against Jewish people. The first ghetto officially came into existence in Venice on March 29, 1516. Sumptuary laws forced Jews to wear a star-shaped yellow badge called a bareta. There were few exceptions made albeit doctors of medicine were exempt. Eventually the Council of Ten revoked the medical doctor’s privilege of being excluded from the wearing of the yellow bareta and they were forced to don the hats as well. Generally, the Jewish community strictly regulated themselves, prohibiting fur or bright colours so as not to draw attention on themselves. Prostitutes and courtesans were also outcasts in Early Modern Venetian society. Prostitutes were required to wear a yellow veil, reminiscent of the yellow bareta.



The Jewish hat (Jewish cap) was a cone-shaped pointed hat, often white or yellow, worn by Jews in Medieval Europe and some of the Islamic world. Initially worn by choice, its wearing was enforced in some places in Europe after 1215 for adult male Jews to wear while outside a ghetto in order to distinguish Jews from others. Like the phrygian cap it often resembles, the hat may have originated in pre-Islamic Persia and resembles a hat worn by Babylonian Jews.

Reviewed 4/01/2016

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