Vous êtes sur la page 1sur 42

Jewish History

DOI 10.1007/s10835-015-9250-5

Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

The Wandering Hat: Iterations of the Medieval Jewish

Pointed Cap
Zentralinstitut fr Kunstgeschichte, Munich, Germany
E-mail: naomilubrich@web.de
Abstract From the twelfth to the seventeenth century, a cone-shaped hat called a pileus cornutus served as a distinguishing sign for Jews in the German-speaking regions of the Holy
Roman Empire. What did the hat signify previously, and how did its meaning change after it
was imposed on Jews by decree in the thirteenth century? This study traces its history as far
back as Greek antiquity, when a pointed Phrygian hat was used as a means of identifying
barbarians. Traveling on to Rome, where it was known as a pileus, the hat rose to prominence
as a symbol for emancipated slaves. Its imposition on Jews in the Middle Ages was a turning point. Thereafter, the hat began to appear in representations of an increasing variety of
deceiving figures, real and mythical, including heretics, criminals, and dwarfs. Following the
course of the pileus not only sheds light on an intriguing singular phenomenon; it also stands
as a paradigmatic example of a traveling concept and helps to refine our understanding of
cultural transferof culture as transfer.
Keywords Hat Jewish hat Pileus Judenhut Traveling concept Distinguishing sign

For a period of five hundred years, from the twelfth to the seventeenth century, a pointed cap called a pileus cornutus served as a distinguishing sign for
Jews in the Holy Roman Empire. It features prominently on church fronts in
northern Italy and France and throughout German-speaking Europe, as well
as in illustrated manuscripts (e.g., fig. 1), on coins, and on sculpted valuables
from England to Hungary. But why a hat? Where did it come from and what
did it signify?
Little is known about the pileus cornutus before its sudden appearance in
art of the twelfth century.1 Just last year, however, historian Sara Lipton was
1 The Jewish hat has not yet been the subject of a monograph. Excellent shorter contributions
on the development of the Jewish hat have been provided by art historian Ruth Mellinkoff,
who noted instances in which non-Jewish outcasts were depicted with Jews hats, but she ultimately found these representations too inconsistent to provide a basis for generalization. Ruth
Mellinkoff, Outcasts: Signs of Otherness in Northern European Art of the Late Middle Ages
(Berkeley, 1993). Medieval Jewish studies scholar Danile Sansy provides some evidence
that Jewish hats were models for stigmatizing headwear in Chapeau juif ou chapeau pointu?
Esquisse dun signe dinfamie, in Symbole des Alltags, Alltag der Symbole: Festschrift fr
Harry Khnel zum 65. Geburtstag, ed. Gertrud Blaschitz et al. (Graz, 1992), 365. However,
she leaves the questions raised by her observation for future scholars to address.


Figure 1. Illustration of the poet Ssskind von Trimberg, Codex Manesse, 13001340, Zurich.
Universittsbibliothek Heidelberg, Cod. Pal. Germ., fol. 355r.

able to shed new light on its origins and significance. She identified its earliest
known manifestation in an illustrated manuscript from about 1015, in which
a Jewish prophet wears a pointed hat similar to the hats of the three magi, the
royal astrologers from the East.2 The hat became more widely distributed in
the following centuries and came to identify Jews specifically. But it spread
at a time when anti-Jewish discourse was rampant, and its prestige plummeted. Jews were charged with being unable to see the truth of Christian
faith because their vision was deceptiveit was merely physical, excluding
the spiritualand Jews and pointed hats became entwined in a discourse of
visual fallacy.
Taking Liptons findings as a point of departure but extending her time
frame backward and forward, into the distant past and up to recent times,
this study looks at the Jewish hats migration. How did it become a sign
of the magis priestly/royal authority and their Eastern exoticism in the first
place? What changed when hats were imposed on Jews, and how did Jews react to their mandatory headwear? Which other figures came to be associated
with pointed hats? Specifically, how did a discourse on Jewish deception influence the iconography of disbelievers, criminals, and dwarfs? Drawing on
2 Sara Lipton, Dark Mirror: The Medieval Origins of Anti-Jewish Iconography (New York,

2014), 25, 47, and Unfeigned Witness: Jews, Matter, and Vision in Twelfth-Century Christian
Art, in Judaism and Christian Art: Aesthetic Anxieties from the Catacombs to Colonialism,
ed. Herbert L. Kessler and David Nirenberg (Philadelphia, 2011), 4573.


Figure 2. Royal or divine figure with high conical headdress, eighteenthseventeenth century
BCE, Syria-Levant. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

documents from art, literature, and numismatics, as well as the histories of

law and costume, this study views the hat as a paradigmatic case of stigma
semiotics and an example of the cross-cultural migration of images.

Antiquity: Barbarians, Slaves, Cultic Worshippers

The pileus can be traced back to two distinct hats of antiquity. A pointed
priestly hat was transmitted from Assyria to Etruria, while an Asian hat
was transferred from Phrygia to Greece. Jews took part in the hats transfer,
adopting it or relegating it to their neighbors depending on the context. In
Roman times, these two hats merged under the term pileus.
Conical hats were originally attributes for gods in and around Assyria
during the Bronze Age (fig. 2).3 As their earthly representatives, priests appropriated conical hats, as did rulers such as the ninth-century King Assurnassipal of Assyria.4 The privilege of wearing pointed hats was extended
3 See also, e.g., figurine of a Canaanite god, 15501000 BCE, Jewish Museum, New York.
4 See orthostate of King Assurnasirpal II and genius, ninth century BCE, Kalchu, Nimrud,

Vorderasiatisches Museum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin (henceforth SMB), Berlin. Another

example is the stele with the laws (Gesetzesstele) of King Hammurabi of Babylon, 17921750
BCE, depicted on the Codex Hammurabi, basalt stele, eighteenth century BCE, Louvre, Paris.


Figure 3. Black Obelisk of Shalmaneser III, erected 825 BCE, Nimrud. British Museum,

to Assyrian soldiers, horsemen, and mariners by about 700 BCE. In neighboring Egypt, on the other hand, hats took on many shapes, some rounded
and drooping downward, others high but wide, and still others elaborately
shapedbut seldom conical.5
On the Black Obelisk from Nimrud (fig. 3), a frieze erected in 825 BCE to
celebrate the reign of Shalmaneser III, King of Assyria (859824 BCE), both
Shalmaneser and his ally, King Jehu of Israel, wear special hats.6 The hats are
not equal: Jehus floppy cap has toppled over backward while he bows down
5 See, e.g., statuette of Amun, 945712 BCE, and kneeling statuette of King Amasis, 570526

BCE, both at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

6 Scholars believe that Jews in antiquity dressed like their neighbors, and many lived in the
regions where the pointed hat was prevalent, such as Lydia and Phrygia. Monika Schuol,
Augustus und die Juden: Rechtsstellung und Interessenpolitik der kleinasiatischen Diaspora
(Frankfurt am Main, 2007), 35, 258. Historian Shaye Cohen writes: Not a single ancient
author says that Jews are distinctive because of their looks, clothing, speech, names, or occupations. Shaye J. D. Cohen, Those Who Say They Are Jews and Are Not: How Do
You Know a Jew in Antiquity When You See One?, in Diasporas in Antiquity, ed. Shaye
J. D. Cohen and Ernest S. Frerichs (Atlanta, 1993), 3. See also Eric Silverman, A Cultural
History of Jewish Dress (London, 2013), 24; Doreen Yarwood, The Encyclopaedia of World
Costume (London, 1978), 257. The historian Josephus (first century CE) describes Jewish
priests wearing caps (migbaa), and Jewish high priests wearing elaborate, many-layered hats
with crown elements. We do not know whether these were originally pointed or round. See
Ruth Mellinkoff, Christian and Jewish Mitres: A Paradox, in Florilegium in Honorem Carl
Nordenfalk Octogenarii Contextum, ed. Per Bjurstrm, Nationalmuseums Skriftserie, n.s., 9
(Stockholm, 1987), 146.


Figure 4. Votary, sixth century BCE, Cyprus. The Cesnola Collection, Metropolitan Museum
of Art, New York.

to Shalmaneser, who, by contrast, stands large and erect, wearing a threetiered planter-shaped hat with an added peak at its top.7 As the hat was a
symbol of authority, its different depictions communicate a hierarchical order
between the two men and their countries: Assyria was the greatest political
force in the region from 934 to 609 BCE, while Israel was an ally, small in
size but strategically located.8
Other reliefs, sculptures, and actual helmets from roughly the same era
show how conical hats spread across Cyprus (fig. 4), Anatolia, Mesopotamia,
and Persia and reached as far west as Etruria (fig. 5), which traded with
Assyria during its Orientalizing period in the seventh and sixth centuries
BCE.9 With an increasingly narrow tip made of olive wood, termed an apex,
7 In contrast to this depiction, Jehu is remembered as a powerful man who killed his predecessor, King Joram, in a coup; he also killed both King Ahazia of Judah and Jezebel and dismantled the house of Ahab. He is given credit for destroying the Baal cult (2 Kings 10:1928),
although the bloodbath he carried out remains a controversial feat (Hosea 1:45).
8 On a stele showing Judaean captives being led out of Lachish, hats are a symbol of hierarchy,
with the warden wearing a pointed hat and bearing a stick while the captives remain bareheaded; stone relief from the South-West Palace of Sennacherib, ca. 704681 BCE, British
Museum, London.
9 For Cyprus, see also terracotta statuette of a man, 750600 BCE, Metropolitan Museum
of Art, New York. For Anatolia, see orthostate relief of a lion hunt, found at Sakagz,
750 BCE, and Helmet, Samal (Zincirli Hyk), 900700 BCE, both in the Antikensammlung, SMB, Berlin. For Mesopotamia, see wall panels with scenes showing campaigning in
southern Iraq, 640620 BCE, Nineveh, South-West Palace, Assyria, and wall panel of a battle scene, 728 BCE, Nimrud Central Palace, later South-West Palace, Assyria, both in the
British Museum, London. For Persia, see figure of a horseman, fifthfourth century BCE, Iran
(Achaemenid), Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.


Figure 5. Etruscan statuettes of priests, Siena. Archologisches Institut, Gttingen.

Figure 6. Flamines, west side of the Ara Pacis, 13 BCE, Rome. Photograph by Wolfgang

the pointed priests hat survived in this modified shape into the second
century CE in the vesture of priestly flamines (fig. 6). It remained holy:
the highest representative, flamen dialis,10 was required to keep his hat on

10 Joseph Georg Wolf, Lanx und licium: Das Ritual der Haussuchung im altrmischen Recht,
in Sympotica Franz Wieacker: Sexagenario Sasbachwaldeni a suis Libata, ed. Detlev Liebs
(Gttingen, 1970), 6364; Rudolf Hadwich, Die rechtssymbolische Bedeutung von Hut und
Krone (PhD diss., Johannes Gutenberg-Universitt Mainz, 1952), 5.


Figure 7. Limestone statue of Artemis Bendis (detail), third century BCE, Kourion. The Cesnola Collection, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

at all times11 and would lose his office should it fall or be blown off his
A second pointed hat, the Phrygian hat, derived from Persia and Phrygia. It was originally constructed from a bulls teat or nipple, which could be
made soft, with the tip bending over forward, or stiff, with the tip pointing
straight upward.13 In the sixth century BCE, it became a sign of Asians
or barbarians when artists in Greece reproduced it as an attribute for Easterners, including Eastern gods, rulers, and royal children on vase imagery,
statues, and reliefs.
The Phrygian hat identified, among others, the Phrygian god of vegetation, Attis;14 the Thracian hunting goddess, Bendis (fig. 7);15 and the divine mortal Ganymede, whom Zeus, in the guise of an eagle, abducted from
Troy.16 The historical figures who were given Phrygian hats were not particularly venerable: King Midas from Phrygia was remembered as a fool and
11 Sine apice sub divo esse licitum non est, Gellius, Noctes Atticae, 10.15. (Here the term
apex is used metonymically for the hat itself.)
12 At < Q. > Sulpicio inter sacrificandum e capite apex prolapsus idem sacerdotium abstulit,
occentusque soricis auditus Fabio Maximo dictaturam, C. Flaminio magisterium equitum deponendi causam praebuit. Valerius Maximus, Facta et dicta memorabilia, 1.1.5.
13 This hat was originally believed to lend its wearer the animalistic strength of the slain bull.
See G. Seiterle, Die Urform der Phrygischen Mtze, Antike Welt 16, no. 3 (1985): 113.
14 See, e.g., figurine of Attis dancing, 300250 BCE, Beotia, Louvre, Paris; figurine of Attis
dancing, holding a flower in his hand, 150100 BCE, Louvre, Paris; figurine of Attis playing
the syrinx, 200150 BCE, Amphipolis, Louvre, Paris.
15 Bendis is labeled both under her Thracian name and as her Greek counterpart, Artemis. See
also figurine of Artemis Bendis, Tanagra, 350 BCE, Louvre, Paris.
16 Statue, Ganymede and the eagle, Greek and Roman Antiquities, British Museum, London.


Figure 8. Medea and the Peliades, second century CE, Roman copy of Greek original from
420410 BCE. Antikensammlung, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Berlin. Photograph by Jrgen
Liepe. Antikensammlung der Staatlichen Museen zu BerlinPreuischer Kulturbesitz.

King Rhesus of Thrace as an enemy who fought alongside the Trojans, while
Anchises from Dardania was Aphrodites disavowed lover.17 From the Greek
perspective, Easterners were conquered people, threatening foes, and exotic
foreigners, if not worse: Medea, the daughter of King Aetes of south Caucasian Colchis, was a notorious child murderer. She was depicted with the hat
(fig. 8),18 as were the sons of King Priam of Troy, Paris (the infamous abductor of Helen) and his brother Hector.19 Mythical creatures, such as Typhon,
a winged beast with snake-legs and horse-ears from Cilicia, or the singlebreasted Amazons from the Black Sea, were also given hats with pointed
tips.20 The hat was extended to Greeks who traveled to the East, such as
Odysseus and Bellerophon (fig. 9), and became confounded with a pointed
cap called a pilos that was worn by, among others, slaves and lower-class
laborers such as welders.21
17 See, e.g., two volute craters showing the death of the Thracian King Rhesus, 340 BCE, Altes

Museum, SMB, Berlin. On Anchises, see Hadwich, Die rechtssymbolische Bedeutung, 12.
18 See, e.g., Lucanian calyx-krater with Medea, ca. 400 BCE, attributed to the Policoro Painter,
Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, Ohio.
19 See, e.g., red-figure bell-krater with Helen and Paris, 380370 BCE, Louvre, Paris; volute
crater with Hector taking leave of Andromache, 340 BCE, Altes Museum, SMB, Berlin.
20 See, e.g., Chalcidian water jug with Typhon, ca. 550 BCE, Staatliche Antikensammlung,
21 Among the travelers, the pilos characterized both Bellerophon, who was Corinthian by birth
but travelled across Anatolia to slay the notorious beast Chimera, and the errant Odysseus,
who spent years abroad. Pliny noted the inconsistent depictions of Odysseus (who at times is
shown with a hat and at other times without) and attributed the first images of Odysseus with


Figure 9. Terracotta bail-amphora, detail, Pegasus with Bellerophon, attributed to the Ixion
Painter, 330310 BCE, Greece. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

In the world outside art, the question as to who should wear a hat was,
in at least one document, a cause of violence: the inciter of the Maccabean
revolt (167160 BCE), Antiochus IV Epiphanes (215164 BCE) is recorded
as having forced young Jewish men to wear a hat. Though this particular
hat was the broad-brimmed petasos, the episode nevertheless suggests that
imposing hats on a conquered and subject people was a cause of tension.22
Jews themselves used the Phrygian hat as a cultural sign at Dura Europos (ca.
a hat to Nikomachos of Thebes, who painted from 360 to 320 BCE (Pliny, Naturalis historia
35, 108). But many artifacts showing Odysseus with a hat are dated earlier (e.g., cheek part of
a helmet with resting warrior, Odysseus or Philoktet, fourth quarter of the fifth century BCE,
Antikensammlung, SMB, Berlin; terracotta figurines with Ulysses and Penelope, 450 BCE,
Louvre, Paris. See also red figure situla with Odysseus, Lycurgus painter, 360 BCE, Museo
Nazionale Archaeologico, Naples). Mariners such as the underworld ferryman Charon also
wear the pilos; see, e.g., the depiction of Charon on the Monterozzi necropolis, tomb 5636,
built ca. 250200 BCE, Tarquinia, Italy. The Greek-Aetolian twins Castor and Pollux received
the hat as adventurers, acclaimed horsemen, and the patrons of sailors; see, e.g., tetradrachme
of the Seleucid Antiochus VI with the Dioskouri, 144143 BCE, Staatliche Antikensammlung,
Munich; helmet of Castor or Pollux, Sons of Zeus, Isis Temple, third century BCE, Samari,
Israel, Jewish Museum, New York. For depictions of slaves and laborers with pointed hats, see
figurines of ordinary people, thirdfirst century BCE, and figurine of a blacksmith hammering,
510500 BCE, Attic Greece, both in Altes Museum, SMB, Berlin.
22 For he built gladly a place of exercise under the tower itself, and brought the chief young
men under his subjection, and made them wear a hat. 2 Maccabees 4:12. The hat was a
petasos, a broad-brimmed hat associated with the god Hermes. John R. Bartlett, The Cambridge Bible Commentary on the New English Bible (Cambridge, 1973), 246. See also Samuel
Krauss, The Jewish Rite of Covering the Head, in Beauty in Holiness: Studies in Jewish
Customs and Ceremonial Art, ed. Joseph Gutman (Jersey City, NJ, 1970), 428.


Figure 10. Oriental captive, 1200 CE, Rome. Louvre, Paris.

244 CE)but for their neighbors, not for themselves: in the wall paintings
the Jewish men are bareheaded, while the Persians Ahasueros and Haman
wear Phrygian caps.23
In Rome, the Eastern cap and the priestly/royal hat merged under the
Latinized Greek term pileus, a derivation of either the Greek pilos or the
Latin pilus (hair). On the one hand, Romans drew on the Greek tradition of
depicting Asians with pileifor instance, on a sculpture of an Oriental captive (1200 CE; fig. 10) and on the arch commissioned by Roman Emperor
Galerius in Thessaloniki (fourth century CE).24 On the other hand, they resorted to Etruscan-Assyrian customs of marking spiritual and social elevation
by means of priestly pilei. The most prominent example is the pileuss ceremonial function as a key prop in the manumission of slaves. One image of
this ritual still exists in a first-century BCE marble relief that shows the emancipation of two slaves with conical hats, one kneeling, the other standing and
extending his hand to his counterpart as a freeman (fig. 11).25
When it was used as a metonym for emancipation and liberation, the
pileus had a positive appeal. War hero Q. Terentius Culleo drew on its symbolic force when he wore a pileus at Scipio Africanuss triumph (201 BCE) to
23 In these same wall paintings, however, both Jewish and non-Jewish priestsAron, Isaia,

and a Zoroastrian priestwear headwear of various shapes (round, square, and pointed, respectively).
24 Other sculptural images of barbarians wearing Phrygian hats are the battle scenes on the
Great Ludovisi sarcophagus (260 CE, Museo Nazionale Romano, Rome) and on the sarcophagus discovered in 1830 in a tomb at Vigna Ammendola on the Via Appia (17080 CE, now at


Figure 11. Scene of manumission, first century BCE, probably Rome. Muse royal de
Mariemont, Belgium.

symbolize his restored freedom from Carthaginian war captivity.26 In Latin,

servos vocare ad pilleum meant to grant slaves liberty,27 pilleum conferre
to bestow liberty,28 and pilleum capire to seize liberty.29 After the death of
Caesar, Brutus minted coins with an image of the pileus (with a round tip) between daggers to signify that Rome had been freed (fig. 12).30 Two millennia
later, the symbol flourished again when, in 1766, the archaeologist Johann
the Museo Capitolino, Rome). Both are depicted in Bernard Andreae, Rmische Kunst (Darmstadt, 2012), 259, images 194, 195, and 23233, image 169.
25 Traditionally, the conical hats on this relief were believed to be the slaves pilei. The museum now questions this assumption, suggesting that the hats identify the slaves as chariot
racers; see Scne daffranchissement (?), Muse royal de Mariemont website, accessed July
28, 2015, http://www.musee-mariemont.be/index.php?id=8015. But this new reading is inconclusive: other images of chariot racers from the same time show them wearing a wide variety
of headwear, pointed or roundor none at all.
26 Livy, History of Rome, 30.45.
27 Ibid., 24.32; Suetonius, Life of Tiberius, 4.
28 Tertullian, De Spectaculis, 21.
29 Plautus, Amphitruo, 1.1.462.
30 Caesars murder did not compromise the hats appeal, and neither did the fact that it remained symbolically attached to slaves, captives, Asians, and recently freed men, who never
received the full privileges of a citizen. On the contrary, Romans wore the pileus as a symbol
of respect for social inferiors. On the boisterous nights of Saturnalia, a popular festival that
included gorging feasts and drinking bouts, social norms were overturned and slaves were
treated as equals to their masters. Roman citizens exchanged their togas for colorful clothing otherwise considered gauche, and everyone, citizens and slaves alike, wore pilei. Unctis


Figure 12. M. Iunius Brutus and L. Plaetorius Cestianus, denarius, 4342 BCE. Mnzkabinett, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Berlin. Photograph by Reinhard Saczewski.

Jakob Winckelmann uncovered and described a bas-relief of Libertas wearing a pileus. The rediscovered liberty hat became the image of the French
Revolution and is still today the identifying feature of Marianne, the female
embodiment of France. It is also featured on a number of South American
flags, emblems, and crests as a sign of those countries newfound independence.31
In 100 CE to 300 CE, the pileus became the central icon of Mithraism,
a clandestine religious cult worshipping the Persian bull-slayer Mithras
(fig. 13) that had more adherents in and around Rome than any other religion. In the Mithraic context, all of the hats referencesAssyrian, Greek,
Etruscan, and Romanresurfaced and merged: Mithras wore a pileus as a
god, a priest, and a Persian. Former slaves and foreigners living in Rome,
who were particularly drawn to Mithraism, wore them as his followers. The
hat was so central to Mithraic iconography that it was used as a symbol for
Mithras when the Persian god could not be shown in his entirety (fig. 14).32
falciferi senis diebus, / regnator quibus inperat fritillus, / versu ludere non laborioso / permittis, puto, pilleata Roma (On the old Scythe-bearers feastful days, whereof the dice-box is
king and lord, you, cap-clad Rome, allow me, I wot, to trifle in verse untoilsome). Martial,
Epigrammaton 11.6.4, trans. Walter C. A. Ker (London, 1919). On clothing conventions, see
Hendrik S. Versnel, Saturnus and the Saturnalia, in Transition and Reversal in Myth and
Ritual, vol. 2 of Inconsistencies in Greek and Roman Religion (Leiden, 199093), 147.
31 David Hackett Fischer, Liberty and Freedom: A Visual History of Americas Founding Ideas
(Oxford, 2005), 41.
32 Common ground between Mithraism and Judaism lay in their Levantine heritage and their
adherents, who were foreigners. Among the Jews, many migrated to Rome from Palestine
and Asia Minor; still others were brought to Rome as war captives and slaves. Inscriptions in
the catacombs reveal the influence of the constitutions of Asia Minor as well as Palestinian


Figure 13. Mithraic relief, 100300 CE, Louvre, Paris.

Figure 14. Mitreo di felicissimus, mosaic, seventh panel, Ostia Antica, second century CE.
This mosaic designating a space for Mithraic practice shows the pileus as the most prominent
of four cultic objects.

presbyterial structures for Roman Jewish communities. Hermann Lichtenberger, Josephus

und Paulus in Rom: Juden und Christen in Rom zur Zeit Neros, in Begegnungen zwischen
Christentum und Judentum in Antike und Mittelalter: Festschrift fr Heinz Schreckenberg, ed.
Hermann Lichtenberger and Dietrich-Alex Koch (Gttingen, 1993), 248. A large number of
Jewish prisoners of war were captured by Ptolemy I in revolts leading up to the First JewishRoman War (first century CE). Youval Rotman, Captives and Redeeming Captives: The Law
and the Community, in Judaea-Palaestina, Babylon and Rome: Jews in Antiquity, ed. Benjamin Isaac and Yuval Shahar (Tbingen, 2012), 22930. Jews living in Rome are described
by Philo of Alexandria, Legatio ad Gaium, 15556. Christian legends of Judaism in late antiquity reveal Mithraic-inspired concepts of bull slaying and secrecy. In one, which circulated in
twelfth-century accounts such as the Kaiserchronik (Chronicle of emperors), Pope Sylvester I


Figure 15. The three magi, mosaic, 526 CE (renovated in the nineteenth century). Cathedral
of Sant Apollinare Nuovo, Ravenna.

Middle Ages: Persians, Muslims, Jews

With this joint heritage of priestly/royal authority and Eastern exoticism, the
pileus was a natural choice of headwear for the three magi, distinguished
foreigners whose adoration of Christ was one of the most often depicted early
Christian motifs.33 In a mosaic (526 CE) at the Cathedral of Sant Apollinare
Nuovo in Ravenna, the wise men wear red, forward-bent pilei, which are set
off by green palm trees (fig. 15). There, and on a similar depiction on the side
(31435) watches the Jewish sorcerer Zambry kill a fierce bull by whispering Gods secret
name into its ear. The magic name had appeared to Zambry on the surface of a silver vessel full of water after he had recited mystical charms and fasted for seven days. In the story,
Sylvester then one-upped Zambry by bringing the dead animal back to life. Persuaded by this
feat, Zambry and his Jewish followers converted to Christianity. See Die Kaiserchronik eines
Regensburger Geistlichen, ed. Edward Schrder, vol. 1 of Deutsche Chroniken und andere
Geschichtsbcher des Mittelalters, ed. Gesellschaft fr ltere Deutsche Geschichtskunden
(Hannover, 1895), 26472, verses 995810370; Konrad von Wrzburg, Silvester, ed. Wilhelm
Grimm (Gttingen, 1841), 14767, verses 45455160. See also Vera Milde, Si entrunnen alle
scentlchen dannen: Christlich-jdischer Disput in der Silvesterlegende der Kaiserchronik,
in Juden in der deutschen Literatur des Mittelalters, ed. Ursula Schulze (Tbingen, 2002),
33 On changing conceptions of the magi, see Robin M. Jensen, Witnessing the Divine, Bible
Review (December 2001), republished online in Bible History Daily, website of the Biblical Archaeology Society, August 23, 2014, http://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/biblical


Figure 16. Three youths refusing to worship an idol, fresco, fourth century. Catacomb of
Saints Mark and Marcellian, Rome.

panel of the tomb of the exarch Isaac (seventh century), their hats and elegant
attire are indicative of Asian wealth.34
Eastern Jewish figures were represented with pointed hats as well. On
a sixth- or seventh-century Syrian ivory carving, a pileus adorns Daniel in
the lions den; he also wears a luxurious cape rivaling those of the magi.35
Other Jewish wearers of the Phrygian hat are the three handsome youths of
Jerusalem who refused to worship an idol in Babylon and were condemned
to death in a fiery furnace (Daniel 3). The youths and their hats are depicted
on frescoes at the Catacomb of Priscilla in Rome (third and fourth centuries),
at the Catacombs of Saints Mark and Marcellian in Rome (fourth century;
fig. 16) and at Wadi Sarga in Egypt (sixth century, now in the British Museum).36 Yedida Kalfon Stillman, a scholar of Arab dress, has shown that
high hats did in fact surge in esteem during the Golden Age of Islam (from
the eighth to the thirteenth century). The hats of the magi, Daniel, and the
youths, therefore, were not only carriers of symbolic meaning but also actual
coveted garments.
Besides Phrygian caps, a pointed hat termed a qalansuwa (fig. 17)a reference to Qalansawe, a city that borders on Netanya todaygrew in sta34 Relief with the three magi on the tomb of the exarch Isaac, Museo Nazionale, Ravenna.
For a photograph of the tomb, see Henri Pirenne, ed., Mohammed und Karl der Grosse: Die
Geburt des Abendlandes (Stuttgart, 1993), fig. 53.
35 Ivory carving of Daniel in the lions den, sixthseventh century, probably Syrian, British
Museum, London.
36 Thomas Mathews, The Clash of Gods: A Reinterpretation of Early Christian Art (Princeton,
NJ, 1993), 84.


Figure 17. Qalansuwa, eleventhtwelfth century, Syria. Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland,

tus and in size.37 Suspended upon a high frame made of reeds or wood,
qalansuwas were varied and individuated, strung with pearls or embellished
with a bulb. Some had turban bindings at their base. Since qalansuwas communicated wealth and authority, the founder of Baghdad, Caliph al-Mansur
(71475), ordered his courtiers to enlarge theirs.38 By the ninth century, their
use, size, and material had become ever more opulent and they were put under regulation by sumptuary laws.39
Early medieval luxury-goods traders from the Arabic Mediterranean
spread the custom of wearing high hats all along the silk route. The hats
appeal reached as far east as China, as far north as the North Caucasus, and
as far west as Spain. In China, figurines of heavily mustached or bearded
Semitic merchants from eighth-century tombs wear pointed hats as attendants
to the deceased, ensuring their good appearance in the afterworld (fig. 18).40
A complete silk cap with a gold-threaded tip from the eighth or ninth cen37 See also a similar garment simply termed hat, Egypt, 10001400, Victoria and Albert
Museum, London.
38 Arab historians of the Middle Ages credited [the qalansuwas] introduction on a wider
scale for people at court to the Abbasid caliph al-Mansur (ruled 754775 . . .). Yedida Kalfon
Stillman, Arab Dress: A Short History; From the Dawn of Islam to Modern Times, ed. Norman
A. Stillman (Leiden, 2000), 3536.
39 Use of the qalansuwa by non-Muslims was regulated in ninth-century Muslim dress legislation. Ilse Lichtenstadter, The Distinctive Dress of Non-Muslims in Islamic Countries,
Historia Judaica (1943): 4647.
40 A similar figurine is among the collection at the Eretz Israel Museum in Tel Aviv.


Figure 18. Figurine of a Semitic merchant, mid-eighth century (Tang Dynasty), China. Jewish Museum, New York. Photograph by Ardon Bar Hama.

Figure 19. Cap / helmet, eighthninth century, Mocvaja Balka, Northern Caucasus.

tury survived in the north Caucasian Mocvaja Balka tomb site (fig. 19).41
Meanwhile, stiff qalansuwas gained adherents in Spain as well (fig. 20).
In the tenth century, privileged people in the Latin West, among them clerics and aristocrats, began to wear pointed hats.42 The miter (from the Greek
mitre, meaning headband or tiara and used synonymously with pileus) became a Christian ritual item, as can be seen on coins portraying St. Peter
minted by Sergius III (90411) and Benedict VII (97483).43 Miters subse41 Anna Ierusalimskaja and Birgitt Borkopp, eds., Von China nach Byzanz: Frhmittelalterliche Seiden aus der Staatlichen Ermitage Sankt Petersburg (Munich, 1996), 39.
42 Lipton, Dark Mirror, 17.
43 Joseph Braun, Mitre, in Catholic Encyclopedia (New York, 1913).


Figure 20. Man wearing a qalansuwa, miniature from El Libro de Juegos (1283), commissioned by Alfonso X of Castile (Alfonso el Sabio). Library of the monastery at Real Sitio de
San Lorenzo de El Escorial, Madrid, Ms. T.I.6, fol. 14r.

quently became official liturgical clothing to be bestowed and accepted ceremoniously. A bull from Pope Leonis IX in 1049 decrees that the Archbishop
Eberhard von Trier and all of his successors should be afforded this headwear: For the investiture of the highest office, your head shall be adorned
with the Roman miter, which you and your successors in ecclesiastical service shall wear following Roman fashion.44 South of Trier, the custom of depicting spiritual leaders wearing pointed hats reached Montecassino in 1087,
as we can see in an Exultet scroll (fig. 21).
Aristocrats adopted pointed headwear along with Asian-patterned material in the early Middle Ages.45 Carolingian helmets in French and Germanic
cultures took on Phrygian bends46 or were conical at the center.47 The inspiration for this style might have been the military valor of Arab forces, which
had conquered vast regions around the Mediterranean wearing pointed helmets. On his tomb plaque at the Cathedral of St. Julien in Le Mans, Geoffrey
44 Pro investitura ipsius primatus, Romana mitra caput vestrum insignivimus; qua & vos &
successores vestri in Ecclesisaticis officiis, Romano more, semper utamini. Johannes Christianus Lnig, Des Teutschen Reichs-Archiv Spicilegii Ecclesiastici, Fortsetzung des I. Theils
von Erz-Stifftern / auch Teutschem- und Johanniter-Orden (Leipzig, ca. 1716), chap. 18, 202.
This was the first explicit decree to ordain headwear. Paul Hinschius, System des katholischen
Kirchenrechts mit besonderer Rcksicht auf Deutschland (Berlin, 1869), 1:609 n. 9.
45 Annemarie Stauffer, Die mittelalterlichen Textilien von St. Servatius in Maastricht (Riggisberg, 1991).
46 Hilda Amphlett, Hats: A History of Fashion in Headwear (Buckinghamshire, 1974), 21;
Hadwich, Die rechtssymbolische Bedeutung, 89.
47 See, e.g., Spangenhelm, sixthseventh century, Byzantine or Germanic, found in the Saone
River near Trevoux, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.


Figure 21. Auctoritas spiritualis, miniature from the Barberini Exultet scroll, 1087, Montecassino. Biblioteca Vaticana, Barb Lat 592, fol. 5. Also reproduced and described in Heidi
Blcher, Die Mitren des hohen Mittelalters (Riggisberg, 2012), 31.

Figure 22. Tombstone of Geoffrey Plantagenet, 115155, Cathedral of St. Julien, Le Mans,

Plantagenet le Bel (111351) wears such a helmet adorned with a cat of

prey to match the cat on his shield (fig. 22). An illustrated genealogical tree
of the Guelph family shows several men wearing red Phrygian caps, including relations of Frederick I (Frederick Barbarossa, 112290; fig. 23). The
fondness for Eastern hats extended to some soldiers who wore, instead of
helmets, soft pilei with scarlet ribbons.48 By the twefth century, even farmers
48 Friedrich Hottenroth, Handbuch der Deutschen Tracht: Mit 1631 ganzen Figuren und
1391 Teilfiguren in 271 schwarzen Textillustrationen, 30 Farbtafeln und einer Titelvignette
(Stuttgart, 1896), 51.


Figure 23. Detail from the Guelph family tree, late twelfth century. Hochschul- und Landesbibliothek Fulda, manuscript D 11, Kat.-Nr. II.A.20, fol. 13v.

and manufacturers in continental Europe and England were wearing hats in

the Phrygian style.49
In the context of this fondness for pointed hats, the first depiction of a
Judenhut in the Second Gospel Book of Bishop Bernward of Hildesheim
(ca. 1015) would clearly have been, as Sara Lipton has shown, an elegant
garment bespeaking Eastern wealth and not a stigma, as it later became. But
Lipton urges caution as to thinking that Jews would have actually worn the
garment; rather, she believes, it may have been used solely as an artistic symbol.50 In light of textile and artistic finds such as those mentioned earlier, her
concern seems cautiousperhaps overly cautious. In fact, it seems counterintuitive to assume that Jews did not, in some times and places, wear pointed
hats similar to the ones they were depicted with. Indeed, medieval writers had
noted that wealthy Jews displayed luxurious clothingwhich, as we have
seen, included pointed hatsand that Jews had previously worn the pileus.51
49 Amphlett, Hats, 18.
50 Lipton argues that the hat was more likely an artistic attribute than a real one: It is by
no means certain that in the period and place where the iconography [of the Jewish hat] was
developedeleventh-century northwestern EuropeJewish men regularly wore hats at all.
She contends that the only aspect of [Jews] attire that attracted comment was the luxury
displayed by wealthier Jews and concludes that in sum, we have no reason to think that
in eleventh-century Europe the wearing of hats by Jews was either a new or a (newly noted)
general custom, . . . or that those Jews who did wear hats wore characteristic or conspicuously
pointed ones. The only evidence we really have for the wearing of pointed Jewish hats by
medieval Jews prior to the thirteenth century is art. Lipton, Dark Mirror, 17, 20, 21.
51 In his study of thirteenth-century papal letters and conciliary decrees, Solomon Grayzel
noted that one reason for the 1215 Lateran Council legislation was that Jews wear . . . clothes


Moreover, their clothing was said to be recognizably Jewish: Saint Rimbert, Archbishop of Bremen-Hamburg (83088), remarked in passing that
Jesus wore Jewish clothing, looking dignified and radiant.52 And even
four centuries later, in 1215, the Fourth Lateran Council stated that in some
provinces a difference of dress distinguishes the Jews and Saracens from the
Christians.53 Jews in France wore ostentatious hats, which the French Rabbi
Rashi (10401105) criticized for their immodesty: Kohanim are permitted
to keep on their caps at the Dukan [desk, lectern] if they do so because of
the cold but not if they do so for ostentation.54 Finally, diasporic Jews fostered their Levantine heritage in ways other than dress. Early Ashkenazic
Jewish communities consisted of families of long-distance traders from the
Land of Israel (via Italy) and Babylon (via Spain and southern France) who
sold their wares to the Christian aristocratic elite.55 They showed a strong
cultural interest in Eastern language and rabbinic legislation. Jewish Apulian
gravestones, which had been inscribed in Greek and Latin up to the seventh
. . . such as give them an aristocratic appearance. Solomon Grayzel, The Church and the
Jews in the 13th Century, vol. 1, 11981254 (Philadelphia, 1933), 62. See also Lipton, Dark
Mirror, 20.
52 Da kam ein Mann durch die Thre von hohem Wuchs in jdischer Kleidung mit einem
wrdevollen Antlize. Aus seinen Augen strahlte der Glanz der Gottheit wie eine Feuerflamme. Saint Rimbert, Archbishop of Bremen-Hamburg, Das Leben der Erzbischfe Anskar
und Rimbert, trans. J. C. M. Laurent (Berlin, 1856), 12. The man is Christ himself, his inner
brilliance matched by shimmering cloths and shining beads.
53 The full text of Canon 68: In nonnullis provinciis a Christianis Judos seu Saracenos
habitus distinguit diversitas: sed in quibusdam sic qudam inolevit confusio, ut nulla differentia discernantur. Unde contingit interdum, quod per errorem Christiani Judorum seu
Saracenorum, & Judi seu Saraceni Christianorum mulieribus commisceantur. Ne igitur tam
damnat commixtionis excessus per velamentum erroris huiusmodi, excusationis ulterius
possint habere diffugium; statuimus ut tales utriusque sexus, in omni Christianorum provincial, & omni tempore, qualitate habitus publice ab aliis populis distinguantur, cum etiam per
Mosen hoc ipsum legatur eis injunctum. Johannes Dominicus Mansi, Sacrorum conciliorum
nova et amplissima collectio, vol. 22, Anni 11661225 (Venice, 1767; Paris, 1903, repr., Graz,
1961), 1055, canon 68. Translation in Joseph Black, ed., The Broadview Anthology of British
Literature: The Medieval Period (Toronto, 2009), 1:640.
54 Krauss, Jewish Rite, 42067 (Rashi, 465).
55 Before the ninth century, there were no structured groups of Jews living in German-speaking
territory. Starting around 800, individual Jews began to arrive, and by the tenth century communities were established. According to demographic historian Michael Toch, the mental
and religious make-up of the early Ashkenazic Jewry exhibits a twin heritage, an Italian one
deriving from the Land of Israel and a southern French one going back to Spanish and ultimately late antique Babylonian sources. Michael Toch, Jewish Migrations To, Within, and
From Medieval Germany, in Peasants and Jews in Medieval Germany: Studies in Cultural,
Social, and Economic History (Hampshire, 2003), 64041. See also Kenneth R. Stow, Alienated Minority: The Jews of Medieval Latin Europe (Cambridge, MA, 1992), 73.


Figure 24. Jewish caricatures on the bronze doors of Verona cathedral, mid-twelfth century.

century, were written in Hebrew thereafter.56 In the ninth century, Mediterranean Jews viewed the Babylonian Geonim (heads of religious schools in
Sura and Pumbedita) as the highest authorities in Jewish law.57 In this Orientophilic context, it is hard to imagine that early medieval Jews would not
have worn the elegant Eastern hats they were depicted with.
The twelfth century, however, marked a change in cultural orientation.
Early medieval Orientophilia gave way to late medieval Orientophobia after
the First Crusade set out in 1096 to open a route to Muslim-ruled Jerusalem
and massacred Jewish communities in Speyer, Mayence, and Worms on their
way. At this point, the conical hat became a key element of anti-Jewish slander. The quantity and complexity of anti-Jewish iconography featuring hatted
Jews starting in the twelfth century is well documented; the following examples stand for innumerable others.58 A fresco from 1100 in Jelling, Denmark, shows John the Baptist speaking in front of a group of Jews, who are
disindividuated as a crowd of hatted figures, with a number of excess hats
in the background.59 Mobs of hatted Jews violently capture Jesus on the
mid-twelfth-century bronze doors of the Verona cathedral (fig. 24) and on
56 Stow, Alienated Minority, 73.
57 Ibid., 72.
58 For a sense of the large number of mostly deprecating visual representations of Jews, see

Heinz Schreckenberg, Die Juden in der Kunst Europas: Ein historischer Bildatlas (Gttingen, 1996). One major reason for the inconsistencies in representations of Jews and their hats
was that a favorite motif of medieval Church imagery was the nativity scene, which included
Joseph, who was a respected figure as the father of Christ despite being Jewish. As a Jew, he
nevertheless wore a Jewish hat. This inconsistency is well presented in Mellinkoff, Outcasts.
59 Jesus, John the Baptist, and Jews, ceiling fresco in the church of Jelling, Denmark, ca. 1100;
Vox clamantisc in deserto, manuscript, Jelling, Denmark, 1100, depicted in Schreckenberg,
Die Juden in der Kunst Europas, 220. See also Lipton, Dark Mirror, 2539, 46.


Figure 25. Flagellation of Christ, ca. 1480 (artist unknown). Jagdschloss Grunewald, Berlin.

Figure 26. Juden-Sau sculpture, 1270 (replica). Ritterstiftskirche Bad Wimpfen, Heilbronn.

bronze doors made in Magdeburg around 1154 (now in Novgorod, Russia),60

as well as on a coin minted in Halberstadt in the second half of the twelfth
century.61 Subsequently, anti-Jewish caricatures became highly aggressive.
Artworks such as the Flagellation of Christ in the Jagdschloss Grunewald
in Berlin show Jews flagellating Christ with instruments of torture (fig. 25),
while Jewish Sow sculptures from the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries
show Jews drinking sows milk directly from the animal (fig. 26).62
60 Magdeburg and southwest Germany, twelfth century, depicted in Schreckenberg, Die Juden

in der Kunst Europas, 169.

61 Brakteat, 116077, Halberstadt, Mnzkabinett, SMB, Berlin.
62 See also, e.g., Juden-Sau sculpture, thirteenth or fourteenth century, glise St-Martin, Colmar.


At the same time, aristocratic and priestly headwear became more diversified, each in its own way. The shape of the Christian miter morphed starting
in 1100, distinguishing itself from the pileus by means of two peaks instead
of onea shape that it still has today.63 Meanwhile, aristocrats began to
wear their pointed helmets in bashlyk-style, with side lappets or headdress
Jews public lives changed dramatically when, in what was to become the
first pan-European sartorial legislation, the Fourth Lateran Council decreed
that Jews in all Christian countries be visibly distinguished from non-Jews.65
The first countries to act upon the councils order required identifying badges
for Jews:66 England prescribed a badge with two tablets in 1217 and Aragonia a badge with a wheel in 1228.67 After a delay of a half century or more,
German-speaking lawmakers ordained the pileus cornutusfirst in Breslau
(1266) and then in Vienna (1267), Nuremberg (1290), and Erfurt (1389).68
63 Mellinkoff was able to reconstruct how the miter with two tips developed out of a horned

headdress with animalistic peaks on the sides of the head: it was later turned so that the
horns appeared in the front and the back. Ruth Mellinkoff, Christian and Jewish Mitres,
146. Grayzel notes that church documents complain that Jews are mistaken for members of
the clergy and receive the respectful salutation of the rustic folk who may happen to be in the
city. Grayzel, Church and the Jews, 1:62.
64 See, e.g., the thirteenth-century Spanish relief panel, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New
York, and the Boppard-Pyrmont Tombstone, Marienberg, end of the fourteenth century, Neues
Museum, SMB, Berlin.
65 Though the 1215 decree was the first Europe-wide vestimentary legislation, Caliph Umar
b. al-Kattab had probably already imposed such a decree on Christians, Jews, and other nonMuslims in 634, as had Umar b. Abd Al-Aziz in 71720. The original law was justified as
a means to control intermarriage, but since special taxes were imposed, financial issues were
evidently also a consideration. Laws regulated the use of silk and long tunics. Belts (zunnars)
were restricted, as was the length and quilting of qalansuwas. The twisting of shoe-straps was
controlled. In the ninth century, nonbelievers were made to wear yellow clothes and badges on
their headwear. A dress distinction for non-Muslims reached Egypt and Spain in the ninth century. Lichtenstadter, The Distinctive Dress of Non-Muslims, 45, 3840, 46, 48, 4345. See
also Esther Juhasz, Externally Fashioned Aspects of Jewish Dress, in The Jewish Wardrobe:
From the Collection of the Israel Museum, Jerusalem (Jerusalem, 2012), 16; Stow, Alienated
Minority, 247.
66 Felix Singermann, Die Kennzeichnung der Juden im Mittelalter: Ein Beitrag zur sozialen
Geschichte des Judentums (Berlin, 1915), 17. See also Eric Myles Zafran, The Iconography
of Antisemitism: A Study of the Representation of the Jews in the Visual Arts of Europe,
14001600 (PhD diss., New York University, 1973).
67 Singermann, Die Kennzeichnung der Juden, 17, 19.
68 Synodus Wratislavientis (Breslau, 1266), par. 12; Concilium Viennense (1267), in Solomon
Grayzel, The Church and the Jews in the 13th Century, vol. 2, 12541314, ed. Kenneth R.
Stow (New York, 1989), 24447; Singermann, Die Kennzeichnung der Juden, 37.


Figure 27. Italian Jew drawn in the margins of a Hebrew manuscript, 1469. British Library,
London, Ms. Add. 26957, fol. 43v.

But unlike badges, which were clearly defined in terms of size, motif, and
application, the shape of the pileus (Judenhut in German) was rarely specified. The Schwabenspiegel (1275), for example, declared only that the Jews
should wear hats that are pointed,69 while the Deutchenspiegel (127475)
simply states that the Jews should no longer leave their schools and synagogues without a Jewish hat.70 As a result, several different types of
Jewish hats emerged that deviated from the conical hats initially depicted.
Many were elaborate, with cascading brims and golden spheres atop their
mandatory peaks (figs. 2730). To be sure, the various shapes were not always tolerated: Duke Leopold IVs Judenordnung, promulgated in Freiburg
on September 14, 1394, forbade elaborate hats and enforced the unpopular
69 Die iuden suln hte tragen, die spiz sin; da mit sint si uz gezeichent von den cristen, daz
man si fr iuden haben sol. Heinrich Gottfried Gengler, ed., Des Schwabenspiegels Landrechtsbuch (Erlangen, 1875), 177.
70 Most Jewry laws from German-speaking cities are similarly vague: 6. Der jode sal ok
ut syner synagogen nymer komen ane joden hud, Berliner Stadtbuch (1397), quoted in
P. Clauswitz, Das Berlinische Stadtbuch aus dem Ende des XIV. Jahrhunderts (Berlin, 1883);
47. Von ersacztem alden rechte sal keyn iodde usz der synagogen gen ane hud, Meiener
Rechtsbuch (135787), quoted in Friedrich Ortloff, Das Rechtsbuch nach Distinctionen nebst
einem Eisenachischenn Rechtsbuch (Jena, 1836); 117,2. Dissen eid sal die jode dun up
Moyses bken. Die jode sal ok nmmer t siner schule oder ut siner sinagogen komen
ane joden hud, Deutschenspiegel (127475), quoted in Karl August Eckhardt and Alfred
Hbner, eds., Deutschenspiegel und Augsburger Sachsenspiegel, Nova Series of Monumenta
Germaniae Historica: Fontes Juris Germanici Antiqui, ed. Gesellschaft fr ltere deutsche
Geschichtskunde (Hannover, 1933). All are also reproduced in Guido Kisch, Jewry-Law in
Medieval Germany: Laws and Court Decisions Concerning Jews (New York, 1949), 98,
88, 68.


Figure 28. Joseph with Jews hat, miniature, first half of the fourteenth century. Wrtembergische Landesbibliothek Stuttgart, HB XIII6, fol. 274r.

Gugel, a pointed hood;71 other codes, such as Johannes Purgoldts Rechtsbuch (15034), banned spherical ornaments.72
Yet attempts to curb the manifold hat designs proved futile. Italian Renaissance scholar Flora Cassen documents five different Jewish hats and one
collar that appeared contemporaneously in sixteenth-century Italy: beretto,
capello, pileus, cappuccino, cendallo, and vello.73 By all accounts, Jews in
71 Der Anzug der Juden hat knftig in Mnteln und groen Gugelhten von einer Farbe Tuch,

nur nicht roth oder grn zu bestehen. Heinrich Schreiber, Geschichte der Stadt und Universitt Freiburg im Breisgau, 5 vols. (Freiburg, 1857), 2:41.
72 Johannes Purgoldts Rechtsbuch states: Allen enden sullen dye iuden underscheit haben
an husern, an kleydern und an andern dingen. Ihr huser sullen gesundert sey us den cristen
und bey einander, und seyle uber dye gassen gezcogenn. Ir kleyder sullen auch gesundert
seyn von den kleydern der cristen: dy man sullen keyne kogeln tragen, sundern hoer filtzhut.
Das schribt der babst Innocentius der erste. Darufo stehet auch geschriben in dem wichpildsrechte, das kein iude us seyner schule ader us syme huse gehen sulle uf die strasse
ane huett. Dye man sullen auch stefeln an tragen, und ane holtzschun gehen; dy wyber mit
umbgewunden sleygern und mit witen heubtfenstern an denn menteln, und ane holtzschun;
quoted in Friedrich Ortloff, Das Rechtsbuch Johannes Purgoldts nebst statuarischen Rechten
von Gotha und Eisenach enthaltend (Jena, 1860), 255. A similar prescription was passed in
Erfurt, while a document in Nuremberg (1290) allowed established Jews to wear elaborate hats
but enforced the felt Gugel on recent foreigners and newcomers. Singermann, Die Kennzeichnung der Juden, 38.
73 Cassen relates the story of a Jew from Piedmont, Leone Segele, who travelled to the Duchy
of Milan in 1560 to see his sister and conduct business. There, a young man told him that his
black Jewish hat was illegal and that he would need to wear a different one. Seeking clarity,
Segele consulted a hat maker: Maestro, I want to travel to Lodi and then on to other places, so
make me a hat according to the law . . . regarding the hats of the Jews. This new hat was not
right either, however; days later, the podest of Lodi arrested him because it was not the right


Figure 29. Jew, miniature, in an illuminated Pentateuch (and other biblical books) written by
Joshua b. Elijah, dated October 22, 1309, Brussels, Brabant. Staatsbibliothek Hamburg, Codex
Levy 19, fol. 625r.

Figure 30. Miniature, details, in the Darmstadt Haggadah, written by Israel ben Meir of Heidelberg, fourteenth century. Hessische Landes- und Hochschulbibliothek, Cod. or. 8, fol. 48v.

western Europe had ceased to wear the simple, conical hat that had originally
been chosen to identify them.
To what extent Jews felt stigmatized by the hat has been debated by scholars: Rafael Straus, the first scholar to write an article on the medieval Jewish
hatin 1942believes that Jews actively avoided it. He points out a discrepancy between Jewish self-depictions in Hebrew manuscripts and Chrisshade of yellow. Flora Cassen, From Iconic O to Yellow Hat: Anti-Jewish Distinctive Signs
in Renaissance Italy, in Fashioning Jews: Clothing, Culture, and Commerce, ed. Leonard J.
Greenspoon (West Lafayette, IN, 2013), 3536.


tian caricatures of Jews, arguing that Jews sought to round out their hats and
created bent and vaulted . . . forms with a barely noticeable point or none at
all, as well as rolled forms of considerable length or those in which the roll is
indicated only by means of a crease.74 Besides testing the definition of the
word Spitz (point), Jews were clearly also testing municipal control: council decrees from Breslau (1266) and Vienna (1267) deplore that Jews were
abandoning their hats in public.75
Other documents, however, suggest that at least in some communities
Jews attempted to reclaim the hat as a source of pride.76 It was discussed as a
religious item: Menachem Meiri (12491310) contended that head coverings
were signs of modesty, worn to express respect for a God above.77 Rabbi Jacob ben Rabbenu Asher (ca. 12701340) advised all Jewish males to follow
Rabbi Huna and never walk any considerable distance without a head covering,78 while Rabbi Yerucham ben Meshullam (12901350) went so far as to
forbid Jews to recite a blessing bareheaded.79 Rabbi Israel ben Hayyim Bruna
(140080) agreed, issuing a pronouncement that male bareheadedness vio74 Straus posits that curved forms were completely victorious over the pointed shapes.

Raphael Straus, The Jewish Hat as an Aspect of Social History, Jewish Social Studies
4 (1942): 66. But others disagreee.g., Thrse and Mendel Metzger, who believe that starting in the fourteenth century, the funnel-shaped hat took on a flat brim, while the centerpiece
became narrow and was topped with a bulb. Thrse Metzger and Mendel Metzger, Jdisches
Leben im Mittelalter nach illuminierten hebrischen Handschriften vom 13. bis 16. Jahrhundert, trans. Ilse Wirth (Fribourg, 1983), 124.
75 Item statuimus atque ordinaviums, ut Iudei cornutum pileum, quem quondam in istis partibus consueverunt deferre et sua temeritate deponere praesumpserunt, resumerent, ut a christianis discerni valeant evidenter, sicut olim in gernerali concilio fuit definitum. Quicumque
autem Iudeus sine tali signo deprehensus fuerit incedere, ad morem terrae poena pecuniaria
puniatur. Julius Aronius et al., eds., Regesten zur Geschichte der Juden im Frnkischen und
Deutschen Reiche bis zum Jahre 1273 (Hildesheim, 1970), 302. The text is also reproduced
(with variations in spelling) in Christine Magin, Wie es umb der iuden recht stet: Der Status
der Juden in sptmittelalterlichen deutschen Rechtsbchern (Gttingen, 1999), 156.
76 Curator and Jewish clothing historian Esther Juhasz writes: Although the historical evidence is not conclusive, it is contended by some that in Christian countries Jews began to
emphasize head covering in part as a reaction to the Christian practice of uncovering ones
head in public as a sign of reverence, particularly in church. Esther Juhasz, Mens Head
Covering, in The Jewish Wardrobe: From the Collection of the Israel Museum, ed. Esther
Juhasz (Jerusalem, 2012), 64.
77 Menachem Meiri, Bet Ha-Behirah, commentary on Kiddushin 311, cited by and commented
on in Wayne Allen, Further Perspectives on Jewish Law and Contemporary Issues (Bloomington, IN, 2011).
78 Jacob ben Asher, Arbaah Turim, Orah Hayyim 2 and 91, cited in Allen, Further Perspectives on Jewish Law, and Krauss, Jewish Rite, 465.
79 Netiv 16, cited by Solomon Luria, eelot u-teuvot Maharshal (Jerusalem, 1969), 72.


lated religious law.80 In the Shulhan Arukh, Joseph ben Ephraim Karo (1488
1575) made headwear mandatory for speaking the name of God and for going
into synagogue.81 Others objected: Rabbi Solomon Luria (151073), for instance, sought like-minded supporters to overrule those in favor of the hat.82
The papal decree of 1215 spurred a long debate and left an enduring legacy:
wearing a yarmulke today, as Esther Juhasz argues, is a vestige of medieval
rabbinical attempts to recast the Judenhut as a mark of defiance.83 Incidentally, it still today remains a convention, not a religious requirement.84

Early Modern Era: Romans, Criminals, and Dwarfs

Of the many good reasons for Jews to vary the shapes of their hats, one
consideration would have been to eschew a symbol of increasing contempt.
The simple conical hat had begun to develop into a malicious sign symbolizing not just Jewish otherness but also treachery and crime in general. The
iconographic tradition of pointed hats on evildoers lasted into the seventeenth
The pileus characterized non-Jewish adversaries as early as the twelfth
century in select church illustrations. Romans, who were made responsible
for the death of Christ, and specifically Pontius Pilate, wore Jewish pilei,
as the French Jewish studies scholar Bernhard Blumenkranz and the art historian Colum Hourihane have shown.85
Pointed hats were extended to criminals when a late fourteenth-century
law in Seligenstadt forced non-Jewish usurers as well as Christian women
80 Israel ben Hayyim Bruna, Sheelot u-teshuvot / Responsa (Stettin, 1860), 35; Silverman,

Cultural History of Jewish Dress, 161.

81 Joseph ben Ephraim Karo, Shulhan Arukh, Orah Hayyim 91:3, cited in Allen, Further Per-

spectives on Jewish Law, and Krauss, Jewish Rite, 456; Juhasz, Mens Head Covering, 64.
82 Simon Hurwitz, The Responsa of Solomon Luria (Maharshal): The Legal Decisions of the
Famous 16th Century Sage (New York, 1969), 10911.
83 The humiliating Jewish Judenhut [transformed] in medieval Germany into a proudly worn
mark of identity. Esther Juhasz, Externally Fashioned Aspects, 23. Juhasz cites Alfred
Rubens, A History of Jewish Fashion (London, 1973), where this is not stated so clearly.
84 Krauss, Jewish Rite, 422.
85 In the original Flemish Bible from 1160, the sponge-bearer wears a Jewish hat, as does
Pilate in the Psautier of Lige from the thirteenth century. In the principal scene of the midfourteenth-century Bible des pauvres from Tegernsee, where Judas receives the salary of his
treason from the priests, they are depicted with Jewish physiognomies and the pointed hat.
Bernhard Blumenkranz, Le juif mdival au miroir de lart chrtien (Paris, 1966), 103, 97, 88.
See also Colum Hourihane, Pontius Pilate, Anti-Semitism, and the Passion in Medieval Art
(Princeton, NJ, 2009), plates 6, 7, and figs. 33, 38, 46, 64, 66, 76; Sara Lipton, Images of
Intolerance: The Representation of Jews and Judaism in the Bible moralise (Berkeley, 1999).


Figure 31. Heathen. Johann Prss, Strassburger Heldenbuch, ed. Joachim Heinzle (Gppingen, 198187), 238.

who had relationships with Jews to wear them as a punishment.86 From then
on, the hat proliferated onto dubious men, especially those faulted for engaging in non-Christian activity. In the 1421 municipal law of Ofen, in Hungary, men convicted of sorcery were forced to wear a pointed Jews hat
(eynen gespizten judenht . . . auf dem hapt).87 Heathens and thieves in Johan Prsss 1483 Strassburger Heldenbuch wear pointed hats and helmets
(fig. 31),88 as do the culprits in the illustrated news reports collected by Johann Jakob Wick, such as a mean-looking man at a heathen ritual in an illustration of an article from September 3, 1568, about a mother who married
86 Hans-Friedrich Foltin, Die Kopfbedeckungen und ihre Bezeichnungen im Deutschen

(Giessen, 1963), 4344; Michael Toch, Between Impotence and Power: The Jews in the
Economy and Polity of Medieval Europe, in Peasants and Jews in Medieval Germany, 226.
87 Der damit vormerct wirt unnd uberwundenn, czum ersten mal sal man yn setczen auf eyn
leiter, und eynen gespitzten judenhut sol er haben auf dem haupt, daran dy heiigen engil seyn
gemalt, damit er ummbget. Andreas Michnay and Paul Lichner, eds., Ofner Stadtrecht von
MCCXLIVMCCCCXXI / Buda Vrosnak Trvnyknyve MCCXLIVMCCCCXXI (Pressburg, 1845), 178. See also Armin Friss, Magyar-zsid oklevltr [Monumenta Hungariae Judaica] (Budapest, 1903), 146. In a document described by Joshua Trachtenberg, Jews and
magicians were equated in an alphabetical register of existing laws from the second half of
the fourteenth century that listed under Juden details on the punishment of sorcerers. Joshua
Trachtenberg, The Devil and the Jews: The Medieval Conception of the Jews and Its Relation
to Modern Anti-Semitism (Philadelphia, 1983), 67. Which document Trachtenberg refers to
could not be determined from the source provided.
88 Johan Prss, Strassburger Heldenbuch, ed. Joachim Heinzle (Gppingen, 198187).


Figure 32. Ogre, Kindlifresserbrunnen, 154546. Kornhausplatz, Bern.

her daughter to Satan,89 or a drummer in an article about a witch burning in

Bremgarten on September 13, 1574.90
In popular narratives, pointed hats proliferated onto fictional figures. The
brothers Grimm noted that in medieval fairytales, unreliable, tricky people
wore pointed hats (though in this instance they do not mention Jews).91 Atop
a fountain in Kornhausplatz in Bern, an ogre eating a baby and carrying several more in a sack wears a pointed qalansuwa with a bulb at the tip (fig. 32).
In his Liber chronicarum (1493), Hartmann Schedel (14401514) sketched
the magician Merlin (who was not Jewish) wearing a conical hat with a tassel at the top of its turban binding (fig. 33);92 it looks almost identical to
the headwear he sketched on several Jews, including one in the entourage of
King Solomon.93
89 Johannes Haller, Von einer grusamen that, wie ein muitter irr tochter dem sathan verhrat,
in Matthias Senn, ed., Die Wickiana: Johann Jakob Wicks Nachrichtensammlung aus dem 16.
Jahrhundert; Texte und Bilder zu den Jahren 1560 bis 1571 (Ksnacht-Zrich, 1976), 16162.
90 Johann Jakob Wick, ed., Sammlung von Nachrichten zur Zeitgeschichte aus den Jahren
156087, Zentralbibliothek Zrich, Ms F 23, fol. 399r.
91 Jacob und Wilhelm Grimm, Irische Elfenmrchen (1826; Paderborn, 2012), 2, 44.
92 The decision to depict Merlin with this hat may have been contested: in the German edition,
Merlin wears a rounded hat. Hartmann Schedel, Weltchronik (Nuremberg, 1493), fol. 138r.
93 Hartmann Schedel, Liber chronicarum (Nuremberg, 1493), fol. 47. While biblical accounts
portray Solomon (965931 BCE) as wise, apocryphal texts interpreted him as a sorcerer. As
Pablo A. Torijano writes: The use of Solomon and his legend in magical texts and practices
constitutes an extraordinary development that, in some aspects, would have a bigger impact in
the Western world than the biblical account itself. Pablo A. Torijano, Solomon and Magic,


Figure 33. Merlin. Hartmann Schedel, Liber chronicarum (Nuremberg, 1493), fol. 138r.

One iteration of the Jewish hat is particularly noteworthy. Like criminals,

heretics,94 sorcerers, and ogres, dwarfs also came to be depicted with pointed
hats. Their appropriation of the Jewish symbol in German folklore (such as
Knig Laurins Rosengarten and the Nibelungenlied, as well as in the stories
from the Deutsches Heldenbuch, particularly Ortnit and Wolfdietrich) fabricated a fictional framework for a discourse on vision, visibility, and deception that was in many ways analogous to the discourse on Jews. Specifically,
dwarfs were fabled to manipulate human sight.95 They could disappear and
reappear at will, and they could also make humans blind, temporarily or permanently.
This imagined menace connects dwarfs with Jews in a particularly uncanny way. As Lipton has shown, the medieval Jew served as the primary
medium through which Christians explored and expressed their changing
ideas about knowledge, vision, and representation. In fact, the figure of the
Jew served as the paradigmatic exemplar of physical vision and its misuse.96 Jews visual deception had two components. On the one hand, Christians wanted Jews to be visible because their ancestors had been witnesses
in The Figure of Solomon in Jewish, Christian, and Islamic Tradition: King, Sage, and Architect, ed. Joseph Verheyden (Leiden, 2013), 107.
94 Elizabeth Carson Pastan, Tam haereticos quam Judaeos: Shifting Symbols in the Glazing
of Troyes Cathedral, Word & Image 10 (1994): 6683.
95 Evgen Tarantul, Elfen, Zwerge und Riesen: Untersuchung zur Vorstellungswelt germanischer Vlker im Mittelalter (Frankfurt am Main, 2001), 280.
96 Lipton, Dark Mirror, 6 (my emphasis).


of the life of Christ; their existence was proof of his. On the other hand,
Christians needed to explain Jews refusal to follow Jesus, which they did
by claiming that Jews vision was faulty. Jews ability to perceive, they contended, was purely physical; they could see only the material and not the
spiritual world. As Lipton writes, Jews embodied the tension between deprecation of reliance on physical vision as inconsonant with faith and longing
for direct, visual experience of the divine.97 To keep Jews from disappearing
from sight, like dwarfs, they were made to wear special clothing. And to keep
Christians from questioning Jesuss invisible divinity, Jewish and dwarfish
perception was portrayed as perilous.98
The garment used to expose Jews, the pointed hat, subsequently migrated
onto dwarfs. In a variety of stories, pointed hats became the device by which
dwarfs either revealed themselves to or concealed themselves from human
sight.99 One example is Knig Laurins Rosengarten, a folktale from around
1250, in which the dwarf Laurin wreaks havoc by kidnapping and raping
women in and around Bern.100 When the hero Dietrich of Bern challenges
Laurin to battle, and victory is nigh, Laurin puts on his hat to trick him:
Do greiff es in die teschen sin, [He reached into his pockets]
dorus nam es ein helmkeppelin, [and took out his concealing cap]
der vil cleine recke, [the very small warrior]
domit er sich bedeckte, [to cover himself with]
das sin der Berner nit ensach. [so that the Berner would not see
In this scene of combat, Laurins magic hat hides him, leaving the superior
warrior, Dietrich of Bern, wondering whether he can trust his vision. Puzzled, he addresses the air around him from which the physical Laurin has
just disappeared, saying: Du bist in kurczen stunden / vor mynen ougen
verswunden (In a short time you have / disappeared before my eyes).102
Intriguingly, two ancestors of dwarfs in antiquity already wore pointed
hats. The Greek god Hephaestus, who was a recluse and a welder, was sometimes portrayed wearing a pilos like those worn by outsiders to Greek society
97 Ibid.
98 In the case of Jews, the argument was that their vision was merely physical; they were able

to see only the material and not the spiritual world.

99 Tarantul, Elfen, Zwerge und Riesen, 279.
100 The Rosengarten tales grew out of Dietrich von Berns Goldemar narrative from 123040.
August Ltjens, Der Zwerg in der deutschen Heldendichtung (Breslau, 1911), 43.
101 Knig Laurins Rosengarten (henceforth cited as Laurin), verse 469; my translation. This
version is from manuscript b (ca. 1360), Universittsbibliothek Basel Hs. G2 II 73, 4, fol. 2r,
transcribed in Thorsten Dahlberg, ed., Zwei unbercksichtigte mittelhochdeutsche LaurinVersionen (Lund, 1948).
102 Dahlberg, Zwei Laurin-Versionen, manuscript b, verse 469.


and low-level craftsmen. And Roman incubi and succubi, house demons who
purportedly took sexual advantage of sleeping women, also sometimes wore
pointed caps in the tradition of Eastern deities and house slaves.103 Yet medieval dwarfs did not inherit their hats from antique representations directly,
for the instances in which Hephaestus, the demons, and classical dwarfs were
depicted wearing pilei were haphazard at best,104 and, more importantly, little was known about these figures in the Middle Ages and even less was
known about their clothes.105 Rather, dwarfs were portrayed with the hat because they were tricksters, figures of deception, and vision manipulators to
be marked as such by the prevalent symbol of visual deception, the Jews hat.
In essence, late medieval dwarfs wore the hat of their ancestors as mediated
by the debates of their time.
In fact, during the millennium between antiquity and the late Middle
Ages, dwarfs did not wear hats at all. When artists of the early and High
Middle Ages designed figures of dwarfs, they looked in the first instance to
Scandinavia, which had a rich tradition of both dwarf narratives and aristocratic pointed helmets, but not of the two together. In the Edda, a series of
mythical stories written by the Icelandic historian Snorri Sturluson (1176
1241) that served as inspiration for the Nibelungenlied, pointed helmets are
headgear not for dwarfs but for warriors such as Odin, who wears a golden
helmet when he sets out for battle.106 A helmet called Oegishjalmr allows
its wearers to change shape,107 but this device too was not worn by dwarfs,
who resorted instead to magical belts and gloves.108 In mainland Europe,
the earliest known medieval depiction of a dwarf appears in the entourage of
William the Conquerer on the eleventh-century Bayeux Tapestry, wearing a
103 Petronius (2766) recorded this legend: Sed quomodo dicuntego nihil scio, sed

audiviquom Incuboni pilleum rapuisset, et thesaurum invenit (Some people sayI dont
know this myself, but Ive heardthat he [Trimalchio] tore off an incubuss pileus and found
a treasure). Petronius, Satiricon Liber 40; my translation.
104 See, e.g., the bareheaded and bald figure of a dwarf, first century, Augusta Raurica, Augst,
near Basel, and the equally bareheaded, bald figurine Dancing dwarf, Macedonian and Ptolemaic, 332150 BCE, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
105 Historian Jean Seznec has shown that artists were not interested in reproducing Greek gods
according to their Classical appearance and clothing: Gleichgltig gegen die Mythologie, die
sie im brigen nicht kennen, halten sie bei jeder Gestalt die allgemeinen Zge fest, doch ohne
ihren Typ, ihr Kostm und ihre griechischen Attribute bewahren zu wollen. Jean Seznec, Das
Fortleben der Antiken Gtter: Die mythologische Tradition im Humanismus und in der Kunst
der Renaissance, trans. Heinz Jatho (Munich, 1990), 118.
106 Snorri Sturluson, The Prose Edda, trans. Jesse L. Byock (London, 2005), 72. Even a
woman wears a war helmet (82).
107 Sturluson, The Prose Edda, verses 1617.
108 Ibid., 55.


simple round hood,109 while many of the aristocratic warriors wear spiked
Pointed caps with magical properties appeared on dwarfs just as laws
were passed to make pointed hats legally binding for Jews. The stealthy entry of these hats into folklore can be traced in the garments terminology. In
the early manuscripts of the Nibelungenlied, the dwarf Alberich is said to
wear a tarnkappe, or concealing cape, according to the original sense of
the word kappe.111 Alternatively, the magical garment is termed tarnkleit, or
concealing cloak, in the chivalric epic Song of Alexander (1170).112 But
a change took place between the thirteenth and fifteenth centuries, when
the twenty-four textual witnesses of the Nibelungenlied were recorded. By
the sixteenth century at the latest the word kappe had begun to designate
a cap, and the invisibility cape morphed into a visibility cap. In a
late Viennese manuscript of the Nibelungenlied written between 1504 and
1517, the tarnkappe is interpreted as a torenkappe, or fools hat.113 In other
manuscripts, the garment is called a tarnhut.114
A similar change occurs in Knig Laurins Rosengarten. In the eighteen surviving manuscripts written from the fourteenth to the sixteenth centuries, the dwarfs coat mutates from a hellkappe (disappearing cloak) to a
109 Betty M. Adelson, The Lives of Dwarfs: Their Journey from Public Curiosity toward Social

Liberation (New Brunswick, NJ, 2005), 151.

110 Adelson describes a warriors helmet in one of her illustrations as a saxon helmet such as

would have been worn by King Harolds soldiers at the Battle of Hastings. . . . It is conical in
shape and reinforced around the rim. Adelson, The Lives of Dwarfs, 151.
111 In his Middle High German dictionary, Matthias Lexer accounts for the lack of clarity and
consistency as to the garment by defining kappe as a coat-like outer garment with a hood
to cover the head (mantelartiges, mit einer kapuze versehenes kleid, das von mnnern und
frauen, bes. auf reisen getragen wurde). Matthias Lexer, Mittelhochdeutsches Taschenwrterburch (Stuttgart, 1992), 104. This definition would not apply to the composite helmkappe
112 Daz twere ruft d in sn her / vil balde unde ber lt: / all die mnen und diu brt, / die
ziehen ab ihr tarnkleid. / und lt iuz niht wesen leit, / daz iuch der knic beschouwe / hie f
diser ouve, / daz er daz wizze sunder wn, / daz ich in niht betrogen hn. Strassburger Alexander, verse 137. See J. V. Zingerle, Anteloye und Alexander, in Germania: Vierteljahrsschrift
fr deutsche Alterthumskunde 18 (1873): 224.
113 Michael S. Batts, ed., Das Nibelungenlied: Paralleldruck der Handschriften A, B und C
nebst Lesarten der brigen Handschriften (Tbingen, 1971), 3031.
114 The Bavarian pronunciation makes toren a particularly close approximation of tarn. 3.
Aventiure [chapter], verse 97, version held by the sterreichische Nationalbibliothek, Vienna,
Ser. Nov. 2663. Four variants in the Nibelungenlied, verse 337, 1, are tarnhut (A), Tarnhut (B), Tarnhuot (C), tornhaut (D). Karl Lachmann and Wilhelm Wackernagel, eds., Zu
den Nibelungen und zur Klage (Berlin, 1836), 48. I thank Michael Stolz, Bern, for information
on this issue.


Helmkappe (helmet cap).115 Here, as an m comes to substitute for the l,

a magical cape is exchanged for a distinguishing cap. This neologism is the
result of a gradual semantic shift: already in the fifteenth century, descriptions
of how the garment was to be worn reveal its new shape. In the Laurin and
Wolfdietrich narratives, in the descriptions f satzte ich ir mn keppelin116
or er sazte im f die kappen,117 the word f implies that the keppelin is
a hat, since in German coats are put an, while hats are put auf.
The popularization of the dwarf coincided directly with anti-Jewish
rhetoric. Specialists note that the greatest proliferation of dwarf-related Spielmannsdichtung (minstrel tales), the widest variety of dwarf figures, and
their most marked character development took place in the mid-thirteenth
century.118 This was precisely the time when authorities across Germanspeaking Europe were devising ways to make Jews visible while condemning their inability to see the divinity of Christ. The choice of hats as a visual
identifying sign was a widely discussed phenomenon that would have had an
influence on writers, singers, and poets. Accordingly, both the Nibelungenlied and the Rosengarten use a small change in lexicology to turn the cloak
into a hat, an invisibility device into a visibility marker.
Visual evidence of dwarfs wearing pointed hats can be found in the fourteenth century. In the Tristan room of Runkelstein Castle (ca. 1410), the
dwarf Melot, small in stature and with a pointed hat on his head, approaches
the city gates (fig. 34). In the Erfurt Collegiate Church of St. Severus, a side
relief from the sarcophagus of St. Severus (ca. 1363) showing the Adoration
of the Magi includes a dwarf battling a three-headed dragon (fig. 35). He
is wearing a conical helmet with a large ornamenta tassel or featheron
top.119 Intriguingly, the magi, whose royal, exotic, pointed hats inspired the
original Judenhut, are now either bareheaded or wear crowns. Nearly two
hundred years later, Lucas Cranach painted Der schlafende Herkules und die
Pygmaen (1551) with the pygmies appearing as dwarfs, each wearing a different type of pointed hat (fig. 36).
Real individuals with dwarfism were depicted with pointed hats too
a very elaborate one in the sixteenth-century Scenes from the Story of Tobias
115 Laurin, manuscript b (ca. 1360), Basel library Hs. G2 II 73, 4, fol. 2r, transcribed in
116 Laurin, verse 749, in Oskar Jnicke et al., eds., Deutsches Heldenbuch (Berlin, 1866),
117 Wolfdietrich B 805, in Jnicke et al., Deutsches Heldenbuch, 3:284.
118 The surviving manuscripts are earlier versions that later matured or that have passages
added later. Ltjens, Der Zwerg, 35.
119 Jir Fajt and Andrea Langner, eds., Kunst als Herrschaftsinstrument: Bhmen und das
Heilige Rmische Reich unter den Luxemburgern im Europischen Kontext (Berlin, 2009),
524, fig. 9.


Figure 34. The dwarf Melot, Tristan Room, Runkelstein Castle, ca. 1410.

Figure 35. Adoration of the Magi on sarcophagus of St. Severus, 1363. Collegiate Church of
St. Severus, Erfurt.

by Bugiardini (fig. 37) and one custom-made to match his suit in Antonio
Moros Dwarf of Cardinal Granvella (1545).120 Incidentally, dwarfs were
literary antecedents for court entertainers, musicians, and fools.121 Dwarf
scholars August Ltjens and Isabel Habicht believe that the fools hat is an
offshoot of the dwarfs hat, which would relate it to the Jews hat as well.122
120 Antonio Moro, Dwarf of Cardinal Granvella, 1545, Louvre, Paris.
121 Vor dem Hintergrund der intertextuellen Auseinandersetzung mit dem Modell des chr-

tienschen Artusroman bernehmen die Zwerge in den nachklassischen Versromanen die

Rolle des Narren, der die vermeintlichen Ideale der klassischen Artusromane hinterfragt.
Isabel Habicht, Der Zwerg als Trger metafiktionaler Diskurse in deutschen und franzsischen Texten des Mittelalters (Heidelberg, 2010), 243. See also Ltjens, Der Zwerg, 4.
122 To be sure, the iconography of the medieval fool, including his headwear, is complex.
Different types of fools were depicted in different ways: simpletons were distinguished from


Figure 36. Lucas Cranach, Der schlafende Herkules und die Pygmaen, 1551. Staatliche
Kunstsammlungen, Dresden.

Figure 37. Giuliano Bugiardini, Darstellung aus dem Leben des jungen Tobias, sixteenth century, Florence. Gemldegalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Berlin.

The historian of early modern Europe Charles Zika argues that cleric Paulus
Frisiuss story Dess Teuffels Nebelkappen (The devils hoodwink; Frankfurt,
court jesters, heretics from entertainers. The classical fools hat with two peaks over the ears
has been explained as reference to an ass (which goes back to Greek representations of the
Phrygian king Midas, who was portrayed as a fool). See Lynn E. Roller, The Legend of
Midas, Classical Antiquity 2, no. 2 (October 1983): 299313. Since the pointed hat proliferated to various non-Jewish figures, the depiction of fools wearing Jews hats could have come
directly from other sources without dwarfs serving as intermediaries.


1583) was key to proliferating the dwarfs hat to other deceiving figures
witches, for instance, and the devil as master conjurer (Gaukelmeister),
arch-trickster (Erzgaukler), and master magician (Schwartz Caspar).123
If the pointed hat was the dwarfs most conspicuous Jewish appropriation,
it was not the only one. Dwarf narratives also fell in line with discussions of
Jewish character, Jewish cohesion, and Jewish customs: Germanic dwarfs
were Orientale, commissioners to Asia, or newcomers to Europe from mysterious, splendid countries.124 In the Nibelungenlied, Alberichs workshop is
located in a mountainous region called Geigelsas, Gckelsass, Goukelsahs,
or Berg zu gloggen sachsen, all of which are linguistic morphisms of Caucasus.125 Likewise, Laurins uncle Walberan is king of the dwarfs across a
realm spanning Albania, Sinai, Judaea, and the Caucasus.126
In addition to their shared status as migrants, dwarfs and Jews also share
their knowledge of, and trade in, luxury items. In early narratives, dwarfs
are commissioners to the court, welcome visitors, and even residents: in
the Strassburger Alexander, for example, dwarfs elegantly dressed in gold
accompany Queen Candacis across the court.127 They come as experts in
earthly goods, bringing with them gems, rhinestones, precious metals, and
expensive fabricsfrom Arabia and Caucasia, for instance. As the Nibelungenlieds Alberich discloses: The rings are the smallest ever made and are
of the purest gold, without alloy and clear as glass. There is nothing on earth
123 Charles Zika, Exorcising Our Demons: Magic, Witchcraft, and Visual Culture in Early
Modern Europe (Leiden, 2003), 491. Zika makes a connection between the Nebelkappe and
the anti-Jewish discourse of blindness and faulty vision, but he refers to the blindfolded Synagoga, not to the Judenhut (511). Another possibility is that the sorcerers hat derived from the
Judenhut directly, in line with long-standing beliefs, tales, and talk of Jewish sorcery.
124 Differences between the two figures would be the dwarfs solitariness, his knowledge of
the earth, his dwelling in caves, and his skilled handicraftin sum, the characteristics deriving
from Hephaestus.
125 Ltjens, Der Zwerg, 37.
126 See, e.g., the description in the epic tale Walberan, an extension of the Laurin narrative:
Albrch des doch niht enliez, / den boten erdoch fr sich hiez. / Ez nam den boten den ez
vant, / den sande ez in ter twerge lant, / hin ber mer verren / ze einem grzen herren, / der
was gewaltec aller twerge / diu enhalp mers wrn in den bergen. / Ein berc hiez Armen, / in
dem selben wonte ez d. / Ouch hiete ez in sner phlege / Sin den berc alle wege. / Dar
zuo diente sner hant / Ein berc Tabr genannt. / Alle die wrn in Jud, / di muosten ime
dienen d; / und daz birg ze Kaukasas / im allez undertnec was. Jnicke et al., Deutsches
Heldenbuch, 1:238. See also Ltjens, Der Zwerg, 4344.
127 Uor si gingen getwerge / zo der herberge. / di waren alle wol gezogen, / daz merket
uor ungelogen. / di trugen phelline wat. / di was mit golde wol genat. si trugen gra unde
bunt . Strassburger Alexander, verses 606369. H. F. Massmann, ed., Deutsche Gedichte des
zwoelften Jahrhunderts und der naechstverwandten Zeit (Quedlinburg, 1837), 1:130; Ltjens,
Der Zwerg, 18.


so fine. I got it from a mountain called Caucasus in a land called Arabia.128

In the Artusroman stories, dwarfs sell fine Indian silks and material covered
with gemstones, among other things, to queen Albiun.129 And dwarfs not
only trade in jewels but also use them themselves. In the adventure story of
Saint Brandon, a dwarf called Pert, with a long beard and wavy hair, wears
furs and silks and sings songs in a language Brandon cannot understand.130
Experts on the earths riches, dwarfs keep vast amounts of metals and
stones in their hidden storage places.131 From their treasures they draw magical strength.132 But their dependence on these valuables also makes them
vulnerable. Many stories tell of the loss and theft of their possessions and
of their demise or expulsion from their various habitats by humans.133 Their
stories reflect eerily on the history of Ashkenazi Jews, who came to Germanspeaking cities as migrants bearing silks, spices, and stones but were then
driven out of business with import restrictions and a growing textile industry in Europe.134 A large majority of Jewish traders resorted to moneylending, which included pawning and was forbidden to Christians. At this time,
dwarfs appear as treasure hoarders.135 The belief that Jews hoarded treasures was one of the reasons King Philip the Fair expelled all Jews from
France in 1306: he hoped to enrich himself and his people with Jewish valuables. His decree indeed brought him a windfall in property, chattels, and uncollected debts left behind.136 Similarly, the pogroms in Strasbourg of 1348
128 Ich wne ouch in der werlde iht s guotes s. / ich namz in einem lande, daz heizet

Arb. / daz golt ist valsches ne und ist lter sam ein glas. / ich namz an einem berge, der
heizet Kaukasas. Ortnit 114, in Jnicke et al., Deutsches Heldenbuch, 3:17. Translation in
Ortnit and Wolfdietrich: Two Medieval Romances, trans. J. W. Thomas (New York, 1986), 8.
See also Ltjens, Der Zwerg, 36.
129 Ltjens, Der Zwerg, 87.
130 The narrative about Saint Brandons adventures includes his encounter with the dwarf Pert.
The story derives from a late twelfth-century poem from the Lower Rhine region. Brendanus
Sanctus, Von sant Brandon ein hbsch lieblichs lesen, was er wunders auff dem Meer erfahren
hat (Nuremberg, 1508), pt. 7. See also Ltjens, Der Zwerg, 1617.
131 Tarantul, Elfen, Zwerge und Riesen, 174.
132 Stories in which dwarfs draw magical strength from their treasures are Orendel, Ortnit (the
fable of the helper from the Elbe), and the Nibelungenlied. Ltjens, Der Zwerg, 35.
133 Ibid., 7980; Tarantul, Elfen, Zwerge und Riesen, 15960.
134 Michael Toch, Between Impotence and PowerThe Jews in the Economy and Polity of
Medieval Europe, in Peasants and Jews in Medieval Germany, 239.
135 Even King Solomon is recorded as hoarding treasures in the anonymous early fifteenthcentury German translation of Petrus Comestors Historia scholastica. See D. Hans Vollmer,
ed., Eine deutsche Schulbibel des 15. Jahrhunderts: Historia Scholastica des Petrus Comestor
in deutschem Auszug mit lateinischem Paralleltext (Berlin, 1927), 2:481.
136 Kenneth Stow reconstructed how popular belief held that the departing Jews had hidden
away vast, untapped treasures. Stow, Alienated Minority, 282.


have been explained as an attempt to usurp Jewish wealth: the chronicler

Fritsche Closener reported that Strasbourgers burned Jews and then took over
the valuables in Jewish safes.137
Importantly, not all dwarfs were portrayed as antagonists to be gotten
rid of. In some court narratives they are helpful assistants or vassals to the
heroes.138 In Ortnit, the dwarf and the hero are companions. Dwarfs even
swear oaths of fealty and offer themselves, their lands, and their people in
support of the heroes. And in some episodes, dwarfs are victims of giants,
to whom they must pay dues and provide servicesa description that corresponds to the situation of medieval Jews who paid special taxes to feudal
rulers. In these stories, the giants steal from the dwarfs and oust them from
their dwellings.139 Despite the figurations of these alternative dwarf tales,
however, the most popular narratives cast dwarfs as pagans who are unreliable, disloyal, vengeful, spiteful, and backstabbing.140
The figure of the dwarf survived long after Jews obligation to wear a
Judenhut was rescinded (initially in Austria in 1656, and finally in Prussia
in 1812). Only in one context have similarities between dwarfs and Jews
been noted since then, namely, in Richard Wagners operas, which recast medieval material including the Nibelungenlied. As Theodor Adorno revealed,
antisemitic traits characterize Wagners dwarfs Alberich and Mime: The
gold-grabbing, invisible, anonymous, exploitative Alberich, the shouldershrugging, loquacious Mime, overflowing with self-praise and spite, . . .
all the rejects of Wagners work are caricatures of Jews.141 Drawing on
137 Waz man den Juden schuldig waz, daz wart alles wette, unde wurdent alle pfant und

briefe die sie hettent uber schulde wider geben. Fritsche Closeners Chronik (1362), in Bayerische Akademie der Wissenschaften, Die Chroniken der oberrheinischen Stdte: Straburg
(Leipzig, 1870), 1:130. See also Diethard Aschoff, Die Judenverfolgung des Jahres 1350 in
der lteren westflischen Geschichtsschreibung, in Begegnungen zwischen Christentum und
Judentum in Antike und Mittelalter: Festschrift fr Heinz Schreckenberg, ed. Dietrich-Alex
Koch and Hermann Lichtenberger (Gttingen, 1993), 34.
138 Especially in court narratives, dwarfs adhere to knightly conventions. Ltjens, Der Zwerg,
106. While many popular narratives paint a picture of dwarfs as unreliable and prone to trickery, Habicht and Ltjens agree that court narratives tamed dwarfs, reducing their trickery to
a minimum. Habicht speaks of a disempowerment: Ganz anders gestaltet sich die Konzeption des Zwergs in der hfischen Literatur. . . . Der Zwerg erscheint hier als rationalisiertes,
gleichzeitig aber auch depotenziertes Wesen. Habicht, Der Zwerg, 237; Ltjens, Der Zwerg,
68, 106.
139 Ltjens, Der Zwerg, 97, 100, 105.
140 Habicht, Der Zwerg, 239; Ltjens, Der Zwerg, 107.
141 Der Gold raffende, unsichtbar-anonyme, ausbeutende Alberich, der achselzuckende,
geschwtzige, von Selbstlob und Tcke berflieende Mime . . . all die Zurckgewiesenen
in Wagners Werk sind Judenkarikaturen. Theodor Adorno, Versuch ber Wagner (Frankfurt,
1981), 19, translated by Rodney Livingstone as In Search of Wagner (London, 2009), 1213.


Adorno, Germanist Marc A. Weiner argues that Wagners palette of antisemitic dwarf stereotypes includes physical attributes such as being small
and hairy, greedy and horny, and speak[ing] and shriek[ing] with nervous energy in a high and nasal voice, exuding foul odors associated with pitch, flatulence, and sulfur; they also emphatically limp.142 While this may be true,
Wagner did not invent a connection between Jewish distortions and dwarfs
but simply tapped into a rich, age-old repertoire of social branding initially
connected by medieval concepts of deception.
As fairytales became the staple of an increasingly soothing bedtime literature for children, dwarfs were tamed. Today, they are friendly helpers, in
fiction and as figurines on the lawns of Germanys Schrebergrten; in fantasy
art, illustration, film design, and the production of toys and garden decorations, the dwarfs pileus thrives. Its Jewish reference, meanwhile, is long
Since its inception as a sign of divinity in Bronze Age civilizations over
twenty-five hundred years ago, the pointed hat has transferred from culture to
culture, taking on new functions without shedding the old. Its course changed
sharply when it became a legal requisite and a stigma for Jews; as a result,
it crystallized as a symbol of deception and proliferated onto tricksters and
criminals as well as onto dwarfs, whose trademark it remains today. Where
might the hat go next?

142 Marc A. Weiner, Richard Wagner and the Anti-Semitic Imagination (Lincoln, NE, 1995),