Courtesy of Bild-Archiv Der Österreichischen Nationalbibliothek, Wien/COD. 1179, FOL. 86 a
Without parallel in medieval art, 14 roundels from the Moralized Bible (3 shown here) introduce a startling figure to the book’s repertoire of anti-Jewish images: a cat. In the roundel at top left, an idol presides over a philosophy study group; the group’s leader, clearly a Jew, cradles a cat and kisses it on its mouth. In the bottom roundel, a group of “deceiving Jews, heretics, and evil philosophers,” again watched over by an idol, pays homage to a cat. Most disturbingly, in the third roundel, a bearded figure (right) kisses a cat on the anus. These scenes depict a charge made in 13th-century polemics: that heretics called forth the devil in the form of a cat and gave it an “obscene kiss.”
Author Lipton notes that the images of intolerance contained in the Moralized Bible paradoxically succeeded and failed in their anti-Jewish aims. They helped make possible later waves of repression against Jews, culminating in the expulsion of Jews from most of western Christendom by the end of the medieval period. But the traits most negatively associated with Jews by the Moralized Bible—commerce, criticism, intellectual curiosity and dissent—came to typify modern Europe.