12/14 July 1555 Papal Bull “Cum Nimis Absurdum” establishes Roman Ghetto and revokes Jewish community rights #otdimjh

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Cum nimis absurdum was a papal bull issued by Pope Paul IV dated 12 July 1555. It takes its name from its first words: “Since it is absurd and utterly inconvenient that the Jews, who through their own fault were condemned by God to eternal slavery…”

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The bull revoked all the rights of the Jewish community and placed religious and economic restrictions on Jews in the Papal States, renewed anti-Jewish legislation and subjected Jews to various degradations and restrictions on their personal freedom.


The bull established the Roman Ghetto and required the Jews of Rome, which had existed as a community since before Christian times and numbered about 2,000 at the time, to live in it. The Ghetto was a walled quarter with three gates that were locked at night. Jews were also restricted to one synagogue per city. Under the bull, Jewish males were required to wear a pointed yellow hat, and Jewish females a yellow kerchief. Jews were required to attend compulsory Catholic sermons on the Sabbath.


 Map of the Rione Sant’Angelo from 1777, coloured to show the extent of the ghetto at that time

The bull also subjected Jews to various other restrictions such as a prohibition on property ownership and practising medicine among Christians. Jews were allowed to practice only unskilled jobs, as rag men, secondhand dealers or fish mongers. They could also be pawnbrokers.


Paul IV’s successor, Pope Pius IV, enforced the creation of other ghettos in most Italian towns, and his successor, Pope Pius V, recommended them to other bordering states. The Papal States ceased to exist on 20 September 1870 when they were incorporated in the Kingdom of Italy, but the requirement that Jews live in the ghetto was only formally abolished by the Italian state in 1882.


Though the Roman and other ghettos have now been abolished, the bull has never been revoked.


Piazza Giudia, showing the gate of the ghetto (middle right), the police post and the gallows; engraving from: Giuseppe Vasi, Delle Magnificenze di Roma

Reflection: As with other Papal Bulls, the limitations of rights and freedoms of the Jewish population was part of a prolonged political and religious campaign against Jews and Judaism. Today the Roman Catholic church has renounced such teaching of contempt and cruel treatment of the Jewish people, but old wounds are still remembered. Can any new initiatives compensate for such pain?




Laws and ordinances to be followed by Jews living in the Holy See [decreed by the] Bishop [of Rome, the Pope] Paul, servant of the servants of God, for future recollection.

Since it is completely senseless and inappropriate to be in a situation where Christian piety allows the Jews (whose guilt—all of their own doing—has condemned them to eternal slavery) access to our society and even to live among us; indeed, they are without gratitude to Christians, as, instead of thanks for gracious treatment, they return invective, and among themselves, instead of the slavery, which they deserve, they manage to claim superiority: we, who recently learned that these very Jews have insolently invaded Rome from a number of the Papal States, territories and domains, to the extent that not only have they mingled with Christians (even when close to their churches) and wearing no identifying garments, but to dwell in homes, indeed, even in the more noble [dwellings] of the states, territories and domains in which they lingered, conducting business from their houses and in the streets and dealing in real estate; they even have nurses and housemaids and other Christians as hired servants. And they would dare to perpetrate a wide variety of other dishonorable things, contemptuous of the [very] name Christian. Considering that the Church of Rome tolerates these very Jews (evidence of the true Christian faith) and to this end [we declare]: that they, won over by the piety and kindness of the See, should at long last recognize their erroneous ways, and should lose no time in seeing the true light of the catholic faith, and thus to agree that while they persist in their errors, realizing that they are slaves because of their deeds, whereas Christians have been freed through our Lord God Jesus Christ, and that it is unwarranted for it to appear that the sons of free women serve the sons of maids. [Therefore,]

  • 1. Desiring firstly, as much as we can with [the help of] God, to beneficially provide, by this [our decree] that will forever be in force, we ordain that for the rest of time, in the City as well as in other states, territories and domains of the Church of Rome itself, all Jews are to live in only one [quarter] to which there is only one entrance and from which there is but one exit, and if there is not that capacity [in one such quarter, then], in two or three or however many may be enough; [in any case] they should reside entirely side by side in designated streets and be thoroughly separate from the residences of Christians, [This is to be enforced] by our authority in the City and by that of our representatives in other states, lands and domains noted above.
  • 2. Furthermore, in each and every state, territory and domain in which they are living, they will have only one synagogue, in its customary location, and they will construct no other new ones, nor can they own buildings. Furthermore, all of their synagogues, besides the one allowed, are to be destroyed and demolished. And the properties, which they currently own, they must sell to Christians within a period of time to be determined by the magistrates themselves.
  • 3. Moreover, concerning the matter that Jews should be recognizable everywhere: [to this end] men must wear a hat, women, indeed, some other evident sign, yellow in color, that must not be concealed or covered by any means, and must be tightly affixed [sewn]; and furthermore, they can not be absolved or excused from the obligation to wear the hat or other emblem of this type to any extent whatever and under any pretext whatsoever of their rank or prominence or of their ability to tolerate [this] adversity, either by a chamberlain of the Church, clerics of an apostolic court, or their superiors, or by legates of the Holy See or their immediate subordinates.
  • 4. Also, they may not have nurses or maids or any other Christian domestic or service by Christian women in wet-nursing or feeding their children.
  • 5. They may not work or have work done on Sundays or on other public feast days declared by the Church.
  • 6. Nor may they incriminate Christians in any way, or promulgate false or forged agreements.
  • 7. And they may not presume in any way to play, eat or fraternize with Christians.
  • 8. And they cannot use other than Latin or Italian words in short-term account books that they hold with Christians, and, if they should use them, such records would not be binding on Christians [in legal proceedings].
  • 9. Moreover, these Jews are to be limited to the trade of rag-picking, or “cencinariae” (as it is said in the vernacular), and they cannot trade in grain, barley or any other commodity essential to human welfare.
  • 10. And those among them who are physicians, even if summoned and inquired after, cannot attend or take part in the care of Christians.
  • 11. And they are not to be addressed as superiors [even] by poor Christians.
  • 12. And they are to close their [loan] accounts entirely every thirty days; should fewer than thirty days elapse, they shall not be counted as an entire month, but only as the actual number of days, and furthermore, they will terminate the reckoning as of this number of days and not for the term of an entire month. In addition, they are prohibited from selling [goods put up as] collateral, put up as temporary security for their money, unless [such goods were] put up a full eighteen months prior to the day on which such [collateral] would be forfeit; at the expiration of the aforementioned number of months, if Jews have sold a security deposit of this sort, they must sign over all money in excess of the principal of the loan to the owner of the collateral.
  • 13. And the statutes of states, territories and domains (in which they have lived for a period of time) concerning primacy of Christians, are to be adhered to and followed without exception.
  • 14. And, should they, in any manner whatsoever, be deficient in the foregoing, it would be treated as a crime: in Rome, by us or by our clergy, or by others authorized by us, and in the aforementioned states, territories and domains by their respective magistrates, just as if they were rebels and criminals by the jurisdiction in which the offense takes place, they would be accused by all Christian people, by us and by our clergy, and could be punished at the discretion of the proper authorities and judges.
  • 15. [This will be in effect] notwithstanding opposing decrees and apostolic rules, and regardless of any tolerance whatever or special rights and dispensation for these Jews [granted] by any Roman Pontiff prior to us and the aforementioned See or of their legates, or by the courts of the Church of Rome and the clergy of the Apostolic courts, or by other of their officials, no matter their import and form, and with whatever (even with repeated derogations) and with other legally valid sub-clauses, and erasures and other decrees, even [those that are] “motu proprio” and from “certain knowledge” and have been repeatedly approved and renewed. By this document, even if, instead of their sufficient derogation, concerning them and their entire import, special, specific, expressed and individual, even word for word, moreover, not by means of general, even important passages, mention, or whatever other expression was favored, or whatever exquisite form had to be retained, matters of such import, and, if word for word, with nothing deleted, would be inserted into them in original form in the present document holding that rather than being sufficiently expressed, those things that would stay in effect in full force by this change alone, we specially and expressly derogate, as well as any others [that might be] contrary to them.

Declared at St. Mark’s, Rome, in the one thousand five hundred fifty fifth year of the incarnation of our Lord, one day prior to the Ides of July [July 14], in the first year of our Papacy [1555].

Leges et Ordinationes to iudaeis in statu Ecclesiastical degentibus observandae

Paulus episcopus servus servants of God, to futuram rei memoriam.

Cum nimis absurdum et inconveniens existat ut iudaei, quos own culpa perpetuae servituti submisit, sub praetextu quod piety Christiana illos receptet et eorum cohabitationem sustineat, christianis adeo sint ungrateful, ut, eis pro gratia, contumelian reddant, et in eos, pro servitute, quam illis debent, dominatum avenge procurent: nos, such quorum notitiam nuper devenit eosdem iudaeos in our alma Urbe and nonnullis SRE civitatibus, Terris et locis, in id insolentiae prorupisse, ut non solum Mixtim cum christianis prope et eorum ecclesias, nothing interceding distincione habitus, cohabitare, verum etiam domos in nobilioribus civitatum, terrarum et locorum, in quibus degunt, vicis et Plateis conducere, et bona Stabilia et compare possidere, ac nutrices et ancillas aliosque servientes christianos mercenarios habere, et alia in different ignominiam et contemptum christiani nominis perpetrate praesumant , considerantes Ecclesiam Romanam eosdem iudaeos tolerare in testimonium verae christianae fidei et ad hoc ut ipsi, sedis Apostolicae pity et benignate allecti, errores suos tandem recognoscant, et ad lumen fidei received verum catholicae satagant, et propterea agree ut quamdiu in eorum erroribus persistunt, effectu operis recognoscanti if servos, christianos true liberos for Iesum Christum Deum et Dominum nostrum effectos fuisse, iniquumque existere ut filii liberae filiis famulentur ancillae.

  • 1. volentes in priemissis, quantum cum Deo possumus, salubriter providere, hac our perpetual valitura Constitution of States sancimus quod de Cetero perpetuis futuris temporibus, tam quam in Urbe in quibusvis aliis ipsius Romanae Ecclesia civitatibus, Terris et locis, iudaei omnes in one o’clock ET eodem , ac is ille capax not fuerit, in duobus aut vel tribus quot satis tot Sint, contiguis et ab habitationibus christianorum penitus seiunctis, for nos in Urbe et for magistratus nostros in aliis civitatibus, Terris et locis praedictis designandis vicis, quos to unicus off ingressus pateat, et quibus solum unicus exitus Detur, omnino habitent.
  • 2. Et in singulis civitatibus, Terris et locis in quibus habitaverint, unicam synagogam off-site usually habeant, nec aliam de novo construere, aut bona immobilia possidere possint. Quinimmo omnes eorum synagogas, praeter unam off, demoliri et wreak havoc. Ac bona immobilia, here to praesens possident, infra tempus eis for ipsos magistratus praesignandum, christianis sell.
  • 3. Et ad hoc ut pro iudaeis ubiquitous dignoscantur, mascula biretum, foeminae true aliud signum patens, ita ut zero so Celari aut abscondi possint, glauci coloris, palam Deferre teneantur et sint adstricti; nec not super delatione bireti aut alterius means huiusmodi, praetextu cuiusvis eorum gradus vel priaeminentiae seu toierantiae excusari, aut for eiusdem Ecclesiae camerarium vel Camerae Apostolicae clericos, seu alias illi praesidentes personas, aut Sedis Apostolicae legatos vel eorum vicelegatos quovis way dispensaries aut absolvi possint.
  • 4. Nutrices quoque seu ancillas aut alias utriusque sexus servientes christianos habere, vel eorum infantes for mulieres christianas lactari aut nutriri facere.
  • 5. Seu dominicis vel aliis praecepto Ecclesiae de festis diebus in public laborare aut laborari facere. § 6. Seu christianos quoquo way encumber aut contractus fictos vel simulatos celebrate.

cum nimis absurdum

Papal Bull Cum nimis absurdum

  • 7. Seu cum ipsis christianis ludere comedere aut vel familiaritatem seu conversationem habere nullatenus praesumant.
  • 8. Nec in Libris rationum et computorum, quae cum christianis pro tempore habebunt, aliis, quam Latinis Literis et quam alio vulgari italics sermon, uti possint, et si utantur, books huiusmodi contra christianos nullam fidem faciant.
  • 9. Iudaei quoque praefati only art strazzariae, seu cenciariae (ut vulgo dicitur) happy, aliquam vel mercaturam wheats hordei, aut aliarum rerum usui humano necessariarum facere.
  • 10. And here former medical fuerint eis, et etiam suited rogati, to curam christianorum access aut illi interest nequeant.
  • 11. Nec if pauperibus christianis dominos vocari patiantur.
  • 12. Et menses in eorum et rationibus computis former triginta diebus completis omnino conficiant, et dies, here to numerum triginta not ascenderint, not pro mensibus integris, sed solum pro tot diebus quot effectu in fuerint, computentur, et iuxta ipsorum dierum numerum et not to rationem intact mensis eorum credita exigant. Ac pignora, eis pro cautione pecuniarum suarum pro tempore consignata, nisi prius transactis to die, court illa eis date fuerint, Decem et octo integris mensibus, sell nequeant, et postquam menses praedicti effluxerint, you ipsi iudaei pignora huiusmodi vendiderint, omnem pecuniam, quae eorum credit superfuerit, domino pignorum consignare.
  • 13. Et statue civitatum, terrarum et locorum, in quibus pro tempore habitaverint, favorem christianorum concernentia, inviolabiliter observata etiam teneantur.
  • 14. Et is about praemissa in aliquo quomodolibet defecerint, iuxta qualitatem deiicti, in Urbe for nos seu vicarium nostrum, aut alios a nobis deputandos, ac in civitatibus, Terris et iocis praedictis for eosdem magistratus, etiam tamquam rebelles criminis lesae nous et rei , ac toto populo christiano warned ,. our et ipsorum vicars, ac deputandorum et magistratuum will puniri possint.
  • 15. No ostantibus constitutionibus et Ordinationibus Apostolicis, ac quibusvis tolerantiis seu privilegiis et indultis Apostolicis eisdem iudaeis for quoscumque Romanos Pontifices praedecessores nostros ac Sedem praedictam aut illius legatos, vel ipsius Romanae Ecclesiae et camerarios Camerae Apostolicae clericos, seu alios illius praesidentes, sub quibuscumque tenoribus et formis, ac cum quibusvis, etiam deregatoriarum derogatoriis, aliisque efficacioribus et insolitis clausulis, nec not irritantibus et aliis decretis, motu proprio et etiam ex certa scientia de ac apostolicae potestatis plenitude concessis, ac etiam iteratis vicibus approbatis et innovatis, quibus omnibus, etiamsi, pro illorum sufficient derogatione, de eis eorumque totis tenoribus specialis specific expressa detects ac et de verb to Verbum, non autem for ciausulas generales idem importantes, mentio, seu quaevis alia expressio Habenda, aut aliqua exquisita form servanda esset, tenores huiusmodi , is de ac verb to Verbum, nihil penitus omisso, et form in illis betrayed observata inserts Forent, praesentibus pro sufficienter expressis habentes, illis alias in his robore permansuris, hac vice dumtaxat specialiter et expresse derogamus, ceterisque contrariis quibuscumque.

Datum romae apud S.Marcum year Incarnationis Domicae, thousandth quingentesimo quingentesimo fifth, Pridie idus Julii, Pont. Our year I.

July 14, 1555

On July 12, 1555, Pope Paul IV issued his bull, cum nimis absurdum, which reenacted remorselessly against the Jews all the restrictive ecclesiastical Legislation hitherto only intermittently enforced. This comprised the segregation of the Jews in a special quarter, henceforth called the ghetto; the wearing of the Jewish badge, now specified as a yellow hat in the case of men, a yellow kerchief in the case of women; prohibitions on owning real estate, on being called by any title of respect such as signor, on the employment by Christians of Jewish physicians, and on dealing in corn and other necessities of life; and virtual restriction to dealing in old clothes and second-hand goods.

This initiated the ghetto period in Rome, and continued to govern the life ofroman Jewry for more than 300 years. Occasional raids were made as late as the 18th century on the ghetto to ensure that the Jews did not possess any “forbidden” books – that is, in effect, any literature other than the Bible, Liturgy, and carefully expurgated ritual codes. Each Saturday selected members of the community were compelled to go to a neighboring church to listen to proseletysing sermons, running the gauntlet of the insults of the populace. In some reactionary interludes, the yellow Jewish hat had to be worn even inside the ghetto.

In the ghetto there were five synagogues or “Scole,” located on different floors of teh same building: the Scola Tempio for the most ancient Roman Jews, the Scola Nova for those that came from small villages of Lazio, the Siciliana for the Jewish refugees from Southern Italy, the Catalana and the Castigliana for the Spanish Jews.

About richardsh

Messianic Jewish teacher in UK
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3 Responses to 12/14 July 1555 Papal Bull “Cum Nimis Absurdum” establishes Roman Ghetto and revokes Jewish community rights #otdimjh

  1. Maria Simma a famous Catholic mystic that spoke with the souls in purgatory states that Pope Paul IV appeared to her asking for prayers. Maria was shocked that a Pope would still be in purgatory after after so many hundreds of years. He told her it was because of his treatment of the Jews. On another note just read your paper on Traditionism at the Jews in the Church conference in 2014. As a Hebrew Catholic who has lived in Israel in the past- I found it very interesting.I now live in Tasmania and I am a consecrated brother with the Little Eucharistic Brothers of Divine Will. cheers Brother Gilbert Joseph of the Divine Presence


  2. Pingback: The Story of Rome’s Jewish Ghetto - International Mission Board

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