Rare English medieval siddur goes on display

The 12th-century prayerbook is on display in Bishop Auckland, Durham


Medieval siddur on display at the Faith Museum (Corpus Christi College, Oxford)

A siddur believed to have been used in late 12th century medieval England has gone on display at the Faith Museum in Bishop Auckland.

The rare book, one of the earliest Jewish texts to survive from Northern Europe, is thought to have been made in England or Northern France.

But its owner was thought to have been an Arabic speaker from Spain - a list of his debtors is scribbled in the margins in the Judeo-Arabic dialec, which is the only known example of Arabic written in medieval England.

The siddur, loaned by Corpus Christi College, can be seen until August 11.

The museum opened last autumn under the umbrella of the Auckland Project, a charity to develop the area as a cultural destination.

Charlotte Grobler, the project’s curator, said: “There are very few remaining Jewish objects from medieval England, not because there weren’t people practising Judaism at this time but because they were often living within predominantly Christian communities and faced significant persecution.

“Like many of the objects in the Faith Museum, this siddur is a personal object used to practise faith in a very personal way. Since manuscripts were costly to produce at the time, it could have also been used by the owner’s whole family and the wider community.”

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