Jocelin de Brakelond:
Concerning Loans to the Abbey of Bury St. Edmunds, 1173
This transaction violated the laws of the Church with respect to the
pledge given in sacred vessels and vestments. The rate of interest, it will be seen, was
25 per cent per annum, a rate which was more than the monastery could afford. The
protection afforded by the king to the Jews is shown by the message of the almoner
summoning the abbot to answer for the financial embarrassment of his monastery and the
Whence it happened that every monk who held office had his own seal,
and of his own will contracted debts with Christians and Jews. Often the silk vestments
and gold vessels and other ornaments of the church were pledged, without the sanction of
the brethren. I saw a bond made to William Fitz-Isabel for 1,040 pounds; but I knew
neither the cause nor the origin of this. And I saw another bond made to Isaac, the son of
Rabbi Joce, for 400 pounds, but I do not know why. And I saw a third bond made to Benedict
the Jew of Norwich, for 880 pounds; and this was the origin and cause of this debt. Our
buttery was destroyed and William the sacristan undertook willy-nilly to restore it and he
secretly borrowed from Benedict the Jew 40 marks at usury, and he gave him a bond sealed
with a seal that used to hang near the shrine of St. Edmund, with which the gilds and
fraternities were accustomed to seal, but which afterwards, but too late, to the joy of
the monks, was broken. When that debt had increased to 100 pounds the Jew came with
letters from the lord king about the sacristan's debt; and then at length was revealed
what had lain hidden from the abbot and the monks.
Then the abbot was angry and wished to depose the sacristan, alleging
the privilege of the lord Pope that he could depose the sacristan whenever he wished. But
some one came to the abbot and, speaking for the sacristan, so prevailed upon the abbot
that he allowed a bond to be given to Benedict the Jew for 400 pounds, to be repaid at the
end of four years, namely for the 100 pounds to which it had already increased at usury,
and for another 100 pounds that the same Jew had lent to the sacristan for the abbot's
needs. And the sacristan undertook in full chapter to repay all the debt and a bond was
made and sealed with the seal of the monks, but the abbot disagreed and did not apply his
own seal since that debt did not apply to him. But at the end of four years the debt could
not be repaid, and a new bond for 880 pounds was made, to be repaid at stated intervals,
namely, 80 pounds a year. And the same Jew had several other bonds for smaller debts, and
another bond which was for fourteen years, so that the sum of the debt owing to that Jew
was 1,200 pounds. And the almoner of the lord king indicated to the lord abbot that he
should go to the king about such great debts.
From: J. G. Rokewode, ed., Chronica Jocelini de Brakelonda, (London: Camden
Society, 1840), p. 2, reprinted in Roy C. Cave & Herbert H. Coulson, A Source Book
for Medieval Economic History, (Milwaukee: The Bruce Publishing Co., 1936; reprint
ed., New York: Biblo & Tannen, 1965), pp. 175-176.
Scanned by Jerome S. Arkenberg, Cal. State Fullerton. The text has been modernized by
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© Paul Halsall, September 1998