Free Online Bible Library | William of Norwich

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William of Norwich

1132-1144. Supposed victim of a Jewish ritual murder. A pious tanner's apprentice in Norwich, William was-according to certain ecclesiastics, especially the prior, William Turbe-lured from his home in Holy Week and sacrificed by the Jews during their Passover celebrations. In fact he had probably died of a cataleptic fit and been buried prematurely by his parents. At first the civil authorities refused to believe this tale, which was the first accusation of ritual murder in English, and indeed European, history (there is no continental parallel till 1171), but William's reburial in Norwich Cathedral in 1151 aroused a wave of superstitious fanaticism. Visions and miracles were reported at the tomb, and the boy's relics were venerated as those of a saint and martyr till the Reformation. This ugly episode began a whole series of discoveries of boy saints and martyrs elsewhere, details of which are based suspiciously on the Norwich prototype.