Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS
Heritage Civilization and the Jews
About the Series Historical Timeline Resources Lesson Plans Episodes
sidecurve1 The Crucible of Europe
Interactive Presentation
Interactive Atlas
Historical Documents
Video Resources
The Church Condemns Jewish Moneylenders

Christians were forbidden to charge interest for money they lent to other Christians, but borrowing was becoming increasingly common in the late Middle Ages. This created a "niche" for Jewish moneylenders. Their rates of interest were widely regarded as "heavy and immoderate" by the Church, which thought lending money should always be an act of charity, never of business.

The accompanying statement is among those issued by the Fourth Lateran Council (convened by the pope in 1215) to reduce Christian dependence on Jewish loans.





The more the Christian religion refrains from the exaction of usury, the more does the Jewish perfidy become used to this practice, so that in a short time the Jews exhaust the financial strength of Christians. Therefore, in our desire to protect Christians in this matter, that they should not be excessively oppressed by the Jews, we order by a decree of this synod that, if henceforth a Jew, under any pretext, extort heavy and immoderate usury from a Christian, all relationship with Christians shall be denied him until he shall have made sufficient amends for his exorbitant exactions. The Christians, if need be, shall be compelled by ecclesiastical punishment without appeal to abstain from such commerce.