Editions and Translations
Thomas of Monmouth’s Life retells the birth, death, and subsequent miracles of thirteen-year-old William of Norwich who was believed to have been killed in a ritual murder performed by Jews in celebration of the Jewish holiday of Passover. Monmouth began his seven-volume hagiography of the tanner’s apprentice six years after the teen’s death in 1144, creating a new saint cult popular in and around Norwich for several hundred years.
Little is known about Thomas of Monmouth other than he was a Benedictine Monk at Norwich Cathedral Priory in the mid-twelfth century.
Importance for the Study of Angevin History
Since its first published edition, historians have long-doubted the credibility of Monmouth’s Life, and most agree it is a myth. However, Monmouth does accurately depict the growing hostility with which Christians looked upon Jews in the twelfth century, and it is supposed to be the first use of the blood libel, the ritualistic killing of Christians by Jews. This started a system of belief that any suspicious death of a Christian child was thought to have been murdered by Jews, and no Christian child was considered safe in the hands of a Jew.