Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Brussels: anti-Israel event at the Cathedral of St Michael and St Gudula

Several Belgian anti-Israel NGO are organising, with the approval of the Belgian Catholic Church, a "charity concert" to raise funds for Artists against the Wall (the association is supported by the government and its anti-Israel agenda is notorious).  The concert is being given wide publicity by associations like the Brussels branch of the Anna Lindh foundation (the murdered Swedish politician known for hostility towards Israel).

The cathedral bears testimony to Jew-hatred and blood libel accusations in Europe. Several stained glass windows portray the following incident :

"In 1370, according to the legend, holy communion wafers began to bleed after being stabbed with daggers by the Jews of Brabant at the synagogue in Brussels. The remains of the hosts were venerated for centuries as the Miraculous Sacrament (Sacrement du Miracle/Sacrament van Mirakel).

It is a fact that in May 1370 some six Jews living in Brussels and Leuven were burnt at the stake after being accused of the theft and desecration of the Blessed Sacrament (the so called ‘Blood Libel’). We know that Jewish property was confiscated, and that from the very beginning it was believed that the holy hosts had actually bled. Later on, in the XVIIth and XVIIIth centuries, it was asserted that in 1370 all Jews had been expelled forever from the Duchy of Brabant.

The guilt of the Jews was never established. On the contrary, it has never even been proven that the hosts had in fact been desecrated. Belief in the alleged miracle was the only justification for executing the Jews. Accusing the Jews lent credibility to the miracle. Moreover, the alleged miracle offered a sought-after opportunity to dispose of the Jews. For the faithful the ‘miracle’ served as a material sign and proof of the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Similar ‘Eucharistic Miracles’ connected with the presumed culpability of the Jews occurred elsewhere as well during the Middle Ages. Traces of red mildew on holy wafers were taken for traces of blood, the blood of Christ.

The legend of the Miraculous Sacrament is presented in many works of art in the cathedral. Especially to be mentioned are the XVIth century stained glass windows in the Sacrament chapel, which today holds the Cathedral treasury, where the reliquaries for the Miraculous Sacrament from different periods are on display. There are also the XVIIIth century tapestries in the choir, but these are not normally on display. Further, note the impressive series of fifteen XIXth century stained glass windows in the cathedral aisles. The last five windows of the northern aisle, near the chapel of the Miraculous Sacrament, portray the devotion to the Miraculous Sacrament from about 1436 till 1870. The first ten windows, eight in the southern aisle, starting at the front, and two in the rear of the northern aisle, represent the legend as it was handed down in Brussels since the middle of the XVth century. The legend runs as follows.

In autumn 1369 a prominent Jew from Enghien took the initiative of bribing a Jewish convert to Christianity to steal communion wafers, in order to desecrate them. Shortly afterwards he was murdered (windows 1-3). His widow passed the hosts to the Jews in Brussels, who stabbed them with daggers in their synagogue on Good Friday 1370. The sacred hosts began to bleed (windows 4 and 5). A Jewess who had converted to Christianity was bribed to conceal the hosts among the Jews of Cologne. But she repented and confessed the whole story to the rector of the “St. Mary’s Chapel” church in Brussels, giving him the miraculous hosts (windows 6-7). Based on the testimony of the Jewess (window 8) and after being judged by the Duke of Brabant the Jews were publicly burnt at the stake. The remaining Jews were expelled by the Duke from the Duchy of Brabant and their property confiscated (window 9). The miraculous sacrament was subsequently transferred in procession to the chapter church of St. Gudula (window 10).

The relic of the Miraculous Sacrament played a significant rôle as a national symbol for the Catholic identity of the country. The veneration of the relic served in public as a support for the struggle against Jews, Protestants and liberals. Charles V and the Habsburg family gave the XVIth century stained glass windows of the chapel of the Miraculous Sacrament. In the XVIIth century, Archdukes Albert and Isabella enriched the chapel with numerous gifts. Albert and Isabella are buried in front of the altar of the Miraculous Sacrament. Leopold I and Leopold II, the first Belgian kings, offered the first two XIXth century stained glass windows in the southern aisle. The other windows were given by the Belgian nobility.

After 1870 the relic was no longer of national significance. The local devotion to the Miraculous Sacrament however survived up to the Second World War. Moreover, the stained glass windows, paintings and tapestries kept the alleged history of the ‘blood libel’ alive. Only after the tragedy of the Holocaust, and under the influence of a more enlightened mentality, was a critical attitude with regard to this anti-Jewish medieval legend adopted in Catholic circles."

No comments: