Cum nimis absurdum

Cum nimis absurdum was a papal bull issued by Pope Paul IV dated 14 July 1555. It takes its name from its first words:[1] "Since it is absurd and utterly inconvenient that the Jews, who through their own fault were condemned by God to eternal slavery..."

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 which 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 (see yellow badge). Jews were required to attend compulsory Catholic sermons on the Jewish shabbat.

The bull also subjected Jews to various other restrictions such as prohibition on property ownership and practising medicine among Christians. Jews were allowed to practice only unskilled jobs, as ragmen, secondhand dealers [2] 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.



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, in the first year of our Papacy.


  1. ^ Migliau, Procaccia, Rebuzzi, and Vitale, p. 25.
  2. ^ De Rossi, 222.


  • Bice Migliau and Micaela Procaccia with Silvia Rebuzzi and Micaela Vitale, Lazio Jewish Itineraries: Places, History, and Art, trans. Gus Barker. Venice: Marsilio, 1997.
  • Stow, Kenneth R. (1977) Catholic Thought and Papal Jewry Policy 1555–1593. The Jewish Theological Seminary of America, New York.

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