23 February 2009

UK: Black Death, gold jewellery

In 1349, nearly 1,000 Jews died in one day from the Black Death in Erfurt, Germany. The plague wiped out about a third of Europe's population.

In Erfurt, the Jewish population was destroyed and Europe's oldest synagogue abandoned.

Fast forward to Erfurt in 1998, when a trove of jewellery weighing nearly 30kg (66 pounds) was discovered. Earlier, in 1863, another collection was found in Colmar, France, hidden in the walls of a home.

The collection of gold and silver is considered priceless. Experts say the items were hidden by families during the Black Death, when Jews were being blamed for the spread of the plague.

An exhibition - The Treasures of the Black Death - brings together two hoards of medieval gold and silver jewellery. at the Wallace Collection in central London, which will run through Sunday, May 10.

Included are three of the earliest known examples of Jewish wedding rings. The rings show a house which symbolises the home of the couple and the Temple of Jerusalem. The inscription reads mazal tov (good fortune, Hebrew).

Also on display, a 650-year-old perfume bottle. It is part of the only surviving medieval cosmetic set, complete with ear cleaners and tweezers.

The Erfurt synagogue is being restored as a museum and will house the artefacts permanently beginning in autumn 2009.

Read the complete article here

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