Regensburg Cathedral and the Judensau

A shocking image to any Jew who would have passed the cathedral while going about their daily business

Some who visit Germany for the first time assume that the persecution of the Jews in Europe began with Adolf Hitler and the Third Reich. Not so. The Jews have been chased out of Europe, murdered and punished with huge taxation rates for more than 1,000 years in Europe. In Regensburg there is a visible example of this dark side of European history.
It is the stone sculpture of Jews suckling from a pig.

The Jewish prohibition of pork comes from Torah, in the book Leviticus, Chapter 11, verses 2 through 8. The arrangement of Jews surrounding, suckling, and having intercourse with the animal (sometimes regarded as the devil), is a mockery of Judaism and example of antisemitic propaganda.

The image appears in the Middle Ages, mostly in carvings on church or cathedral walls, often outside where it could be seen from the street (for example at Wittenberg and Regensburg), but also in other forms. The earliest appearance seems to be on the underside of a wooden choir-stall seat in Cologne Cathedral, dating to about 1210. The earliest example in stone dates to ca. 1230 and is located in the cloister of the cathedral at Brandenburg. In about 1470 the image appeared in woodcut form, and thereafter was often copied in popular prints, often with antisemitic commentary. A wall painting on the bridge tower of Frankfurt am Main, constructed between 1475 and 1507 near the gateway to the Jewish ghetto and demolished in 1801, was an especially notorious example and included a scene of the ritual murder of Simon of Trent.

As an unrelated development, during the Nazi period, Judensau was used as an insulting appellation in German. Although this word is identical in form to the name of the image, it is historically separate and morphologically opposite, and translates as “Jewish sow” rather than “Jews’ sow”.

The stone carving of the Jewish Pig is on the south side of the Regensburg Cathedral, facing the former Jewish ghetto. That ghetto was cleared inn 1519 in order to build a church. More than 500 Jews were expelled.

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