A Domus Conversorum at Bristol?

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In Jewish Historical Studies 41 (2007) Lauren Fogle describes how in 1216, two weeks after his coronation in the abbey of St Mary at Gloucester, the nine-year-old Henry III, accompanied by his guardian, the papal legate Cardinal Guala Bicchieri, held a council 'to inspect the work of the [Bristol] Kalendars Guild, a religious fraternity that had founded a house for converted Jews in the city around 1154 ... There is therefore every reason to believe that Henry III founded the [London] Domus Conversorum as a result of his own pious motives and experiences as a child.'1

Henry was indeed in Bristol on 12 November 1216, but the royal council held on that occasion was called to consider much more important business than the Kalendars Guild. It had to decide how best to rally the ninety seven dissident barons to the young king's cause of repelling the French invasion of his realm led by the dauphin. To secure that end the council, urged by the papal legate and William Marshal, rector regni, reissued Magna Carta, granted by John at Runnymede in June 1215, but annulled by the pope in September.2

The Kalendars Guild was a religious fraternity of clergy and lay folk with its own rule, committed to the spiritual and physical wellbeing of its members. A major concern was attendance at the funerals of members and the saying of prayers for the swift passage of the souls of dead confraters through purgatory. Thus mass was said, corporately, on the Kalends, the first Monday of each month.

The statement that 'about the year 1154, with the consent of the king, two nobles', Robert fitz Harding and the earl of Gloucester, established at Bristol 'a school for converted Jews, or Domus Conversorum ... the earliest of its kind in England', was made by Michael Adler in 1939.3 This was firmly rejected in i960 by Richardson, followed by Roth four years later.4 Adler's

1 L. Fogle, 'The Domus Convenor urn: the personal interest of Henry IIP, Jewish Historical Studies 41 (2007) 1-7.

2 D. A. Carpenter, The Minority of Henry 777 (1990) 21-4; Select Charters, ed. W. Stubbs (1884) 337-43; J. C. Holt, Magna Carta (1965) 101,170, 271-2.

3 M. Adler, Jews of Medieval England (ig^g) 183-5.

4 H. G. Richardson, The English Jewry under the Angevin Kings (i960) 31, n. 6; C. Roth, A History of the Jews in England (3rd edn, 1964) 43, n. 2.

source was the Little Red Book of Bristol. It provides details of an enquiry into 'the liabilities and rights of the Fraternity of Kalendars of All Saints church, Bristol', which was ordered by Thomas Cobham, bishop of Worcester, and held in 1318 by Robert Hasele, rector of Dyrham and Cobham's dean of Bristol, then in the diocese of Worcester.5

What reliance can be placed on Hasele's report? Elsewhere it is recorded that 'most of the [guild's] charters, writings and letters were lost or embez? zled'.6 The verbal evidence placed before the commission came from inter? ested parties who, as Nicholas Orme points out, were 'over

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