Saturday, May 19, 2012

Domus Conversorum

from a sketch by Matthew Paris
 In 1232, King Henry III of England established the Domus Conversorum, the "House of Converts" or "Converts Inn." Jews who wished to convert to Christianity were encouraged to give up all their possessions and enter the Domus, where they would have their needs met and would be instructed in their new religion. A tax was laid on all Jews in England aged 12 and above for the upkeep,  and several religious houses made contributions as well. Men in the Domus received 1.5p (pence) per day, women received 1p.

In 1290, when Edward I expelled all the Jews from England, the Domus contained only about 80 converts. A chaplain and a warden attended to the spiritual and material needs of the converts. Over the centuries, as the number of converts waned, the building (situated on Chancery Lane on what was originally the western border of London) became used for storage of public records, and the warden was put in charge of keeping the records.

From the mid-14th century until the early 1600s, only a few dozen Jews entered the Domus, having arrived on England's shores for one reason or another. An act of Parliament in 1891 finally eliminated the official purpose of the Domus Conversorum. The Records Office in London occupies the site today.

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