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Nicholas Donin

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Nicholas Donin (Nicolas Donin) of La Rochelle, a Jewish convert to Christianity in early thirteenth-century Paris, is known for his role in the 1240 Disputation of Paris, which resulted in a decree to publicly burn all available manuscripts of the Talmud.

Excommunication

Donin was excommunicated from the ghetto of Paris by Rabbi Yechiel of Paris in the presence of the whole community and with the usual ceremonies. Having for ten years lived in the state of excommunication, though still clinging to Judaism, he was baptised into the Roman Catholic Church and joined the Franciscan Order.

Crusader

Donin's first act of retaliation as a Franciscan was to stir up the Crusaders to the bloody persecutions in Brittany, Poitou, and Anjou, in which 3,000 Jews were killed, 500 accepting the alternative of baptism.

Disputations

Authority of Pope Gregory IX

In 1238 Donin went to Rome, presented himself before Pope Gregory IX, and denounced the Talmud. Thirty-five articles were drawn up, in which Donin stated his charges of virulent attacks on the Virginity of Mary and the divinity of Jesus.

The Pope was persuaded that the accusations were true and dispatched to the authorities of the Church, transcripts of the charges formulated by Donin, accompanied by an order to seize all copies of the Talmud and deposit them with the Dominicans and Franciscans. If an examination corroborated the charges of Donin, the scrolls were to be burned.

Authority of King Louis IX

This order was generally ignored, except in France, where the Jews were compelled under pain of death to surrender their Talmuds (March, 1240). Louis IX ordered four of the most distinguished rabbis of France -- Yechiel of Paris, Moses of Coucy, Judah of Melun, and Samuel ben Solomon of Château-Thierry -- to answer Donin in a public debate. In vain, however, did the rabbis argue against the charges of blasphemy and immorality which were the main points of Donin's arraignment. The commission condemned the Talmud to be burned. In 1242, fire was set accordingly to twenty-four carriage loads (ten to twelve-thousand volumes) of written works.

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