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תְשׁוּאוֹת מִקְהִלַת הָעִבְרִים בְּרוֹמָא | Universitatis Hebreorum urbis Gratiarum actio | Plaudit for Pope Benedict ⅩⅣ, by the Jewish Community of Rome (1751)

In the mid-18th century, the Jewish community in Rome was surviving, barely, impoverished in its appointed ghetto and suffering under the gaze and ignominies imposed by Christendom. So, we can imagine just how severe the community was impacted after the Tiber River overflowed its banks and flooded the ghetto in 1751. Pope Benedict ⅩⅣ (Prospero Lorenzo Lambertini) in his rule over the Jews of Italy, and in his regard for Jews in other European lands, showed some basic concern for Jewish lives lacked by other leaders (if only perhaps in the hope that at least some of these Jews or their children might choose at some point to convert to Christianity). The community in turn composed this plaudit acclaiming the leadership of Benedict ⅩⅣ in his role as governor of the Papal States. The plaudit served as an introduction to a longer Ode (also in Latin and Hebrew) whose contents are unfortunately not available to us and whose whereabouts are unknown following the manuscript’s auction in 2017.


Source (Latin)Translation of the Latin (English)Source (Hebrew)Translation of the Hebrew (English)
Universitatis Hebreorum urbis Gratiarum actio
Universal Gratitude of the Hebrew Community
מִקְהִלַת הָעִבְרִים אֲשֶׁר בְּרוֹמָא תְשׁוּאוֹת חֵן חֵן (זכריה ד:ז)
From the Hebrew Community in Rome, “shouts of beautiful! beautiful!” (Zechariah 4:7)
Ad SUMMU. Pontificem Optimum maximum feliciter Regnantem Benedictum ⅩⅣ
To his highness, the greatest and most prosperous reign of the Pope, Benedict ⅩⅣ,
לְרוֹמְמוּת הָאַפִּיפְיוֹר גָדוֹל וָטוֹב בִּמְאֹד מְאֹד הַמּוֹלֵךְ בְּשַׁלְוָה עַל כִּסֵא מַלְכוּתוֹ בָּרוּךְ אַרְבָּעָה עַשָׂר
to his Highness, the exceedingly great and benevolent Pope, who reigns peacefully on the throne of his kingdom, Benedict ⅩⅣ
ob sibi prestitum pregande sufsidius in Tyberis alluvione
on account of the support provided by him [during] the flood of the [river] Tiber,
עַל כִּי הִפְלִיא חַסְדוֹ עִמָהּ בִּצְדָקָה רַב לְהוֹשִׂיעַ (ישעיה סג:א) בִּזְמַן שֶׁנְּהַר טֵיבֵירי שָׁטָף וְעָבָר עַל־כָּל־גְּדוֹתָיו (כמו ישעיה ח:ז-ח)
on account of his marvelous kindness with her people, “mighty to save” (Isaiah 63:1) at the time the River Tiber swept through as a flood and flowed over all its beds (cf. Isaiah 8:7-8),
a Kalendis Febrary usque ad septimam invadente diem Anno ⅯⅮⅭⅭⅬⅠ
from the first to the seventh day of February of the year 1751.
מִתְּחִלַת פֵיבְרָארוֹ עַד שִׁבְעָה בּוֹ שְׁנַת אׄתׄשׄנׄאׄ
from the first of February until the seventh, [1751].

This plaudit of thanksgiving in Latin and Hebrew was brought to our attention by Fred McDowell via his twitter feed (@onthemainline). The prayer is contained in a pamphlet sold at auction in 2017, and now in presumably private hands. The Kedem auction catalogue described the manuscript as follows,

Ornamented Manuscript – Pamphlet in Honor of Pope Benedict XIV, Written in Gratitude by the Jewish Community of Rome – Rome, 1751

Illustrated and ornamented manuscript, a pamphlet written in honor of Pope Benedict XIV, as a mark of gratitude from the Jews of Rome, in recognition of his assistance to those who were affected by the flooding of the Tiber River. [Rome], 1751.

Calligraphic writing in Hebrew, Latin and Italian. Pages framed in gold, with floral ornamentations.

Most pages are divided into two columns – one with the Hebrew text and the other with Latin translation.

On the first page is a general declaration: “From the Hebrew Rome community, our cheers for the exalted Pope… who peacefully rules on his royal throne, blessed be the fourteenth who performed wonderful kindness and great charity offering assistance at the time of the flooding of the Tiber River from the beginning of February until the seventh, in 1751.”

This is followed by a long, more detailed text, in Hebrew and Latin, with praises for the Pope in flowery language and thanks for his assistance, describing the dire circumstances of the Jews of Rome and the Pope’s generosity in providing for the Jews of the vicinity.

A similar version of praise and gratitude dedicated to Cardinal Silvio Valenti Gonzaga appears further in the pamphlet. These pages are followed by words of thanks and appreciation in Italian.

For hundreds of years (until the Italian unification in 1870), the Pope served not only as head of the Catholic Church, but also as governor of the Papal States. Therefore, Benedict XIV (who is blessed in the Hebrew text of this pamphlet) was the direct ruler of the Jewish community of Rome. In those times, the Jews of Rome were restricted to a ghetto located on the banks of the Tiber River, and were subject to constant flooding by the river.

Pamphlet, opens from left to right. [12] leaves (22 written pages). Fair condition. Dark stains. Traces of adhesive tape. Professionally restored tears and damages, with paper replacements to margins. The gold frames and ornamentation were reinforced and restored with added color.

Thanks to Ohad Stolarz for reviewing my Hebrew transcription and for his corrections. Please feel free to improve upon my translation by leaving a comment or by contacting us. –Aharon Varady


Thanksgiving prayer for Pope Benedict XIV (Jewish Community of Rome, 1751)




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