Licoricia has been described by Robert Stacey as ‘the most important Jewish woman in medieval England’.
Licoricia was a remarkable Jewish woman of the 13th century whose story teaches important lessons for today, and helps us challenge current prejudices.
The sculpture, by Ian Rank-Broadley FRSS is a beautiful addition to Winchester in its own right, acting as a gateway to medieval Winchester, its Jewish community, and its royal connections. Depicting a successful businesswoman of the time, it is an inspiration to women of today and also promote tolerance and understanding in our society. It is a gateway to a new world of discovery about Winchester’s and England’s royal and medieval past.
The project has important educational objectives, which will use the statue as their focal point. Both are described below.
What’s the purpose of the Project?
Licoricia was a prominent member of Winchester’s medieval Jewish community. Her statue:
- Promotes tolerance and the value of diversity in the community, challenging prejudice.
- Educates people about England’s and Winchester’s important but little-known medieval Jewish Community.
- Informs them about Winchester’s significant Royal medieval past.
- Inspires young people and women, illustrating the role of education in providing opportunities.
- Is of national interest and a lasting enhancement to the city of Winchester
Licoricia was one of many Jewish women who achieved much in a man’s world. She was a woman of worth whose leadership helped Winchester’s Jews to be exempt from the crippling tallages of the time. A list of Jewish women known from the records has been compiled by Dr Adrienne Williams Boyar https://majw.uvic.ca/women.html.
What are its messages?
Messages from history
- Jews were part of the English community from 1067 until 1290, having arrived after the Norman Conquest in 1066 nearly a thousand years ago. They contributed to the building of iconic places of worship such as Westminster Abbey and Lincoln Cathedral, and also other institutions, as well as to trade and culture.
- Licoricia (who died in 1277) was a leader in her community and one of a handful of Jews, including women, prominently involved in finance. The Jews were restricted in the jobs they could do. Other occupations included doctors, teachers, scribes, poets, vintners, metalworkers and tradesmen.
- Licoricia was highly educated, like many Jewish women of her time, enabling them to be successful in their own right.
- Jews were the property of the King, frequently persecuted by the Church, and taxed at will until they were too poor to be of any utility. As a result, those who would not convert to Christianity were forced out of the country by the Edict of Expulsion issued by King Edward I in 1290.
Lessons for today
- Jews of the Middle Ages are an early example of a religious minority in the UK, and their story highlights the danger of the majority limiting the freedom of the minority (“the tyranny of the majority”).
- As a minority, the Jews made an outsized contribution to England’s society and economy. Diversity of community creates cultural and commercial benefits.
- Many prejudices against the Jews originated in the Middle Ages, and shaped anti-semitism, which still exists today. Such prejudices included deicide, and the killing of children. These led to marking through badges and clothing, attempts at conversion and attacks. Education is the key to the elimination of prejudice.
- The education of women has provided them with opportunity. As a result, progress has been made by women in business and other areas of public life, but 800 years after Licoricia lived, women are still striving for equality.
- Progress on religious and racial tolerance has been made in society – today the UK is a vibrant multi-faith, multi-ethnic and multi-racial society – but there is further work to be done.
Sculpted by top sculptor Ian Rank-Broadley, it depicts Licoricia with her youngest son, Asher, at about five to six years old, holding her hand. There are no known illustrations of Licoricia and in any case, pictures created at the time showed rank and occupation rather than being accurate portraits, so the sculptor has used as his inspiration his daughter and grandson, both of whom are Jewish.
Licoricia wears the clothes worn by a wealthy woman of her time. Careful research has gone into her clothes and headdress, with input from the Victoria and Albert Museum, and the Jewish Museum in London. Although at that time, Jews and Muslims were required by the second Lateran Council of 1215 to wear distinctive dress – interpreted as a tabula (a badge shaped like the Ten Commandments) in England for the Jews, she is not wearing one as wealthier Jews paid for the privilege not to. In Licoricia’s right hand will be a tallage demand. Jews were tallaged (taxed) increasingly harshly and sporadically as the thirteenth century progressed, with demands often being accompanied by imprisonment. On the death of her husband, David of Oxford, Licoricia paid thousands of pounds to the King, which helped build Westminster Abbey.
Licoricia’s son Asher is also depicted in mid-13th century clothes. In his hand is a dreidel, a spinning top. The top and letters relate to the dreidel game (thought to derive originally from the Roman game of Teetotum) which is usually played at the Jewish festival of Chanukah. Asher was the second son of Jacob and Leah (Genesis 30:13, which reads: ‘Leah declared, “What a fortune!” meaning “Women will deem me fortunate.” So she named him Asher’).
Licoricia is seen purposefully walking ahead – a woman with much to do and complex issues on her mind – whilst also holding on to Asher’s hand showing her commitment at the same time to her family.
The plinth has the words from Leviticus 19:18 (‘Love thy neighbour as thyself’) inscribed in both English and Hebrew. The text is also found in Matthew 22:39 in the New Testament, and is also identifiable in Islamic Hadith, such as Sahih Book 1, Number 72, and Musnad Ahmad, Number 21627. It is therefore a key concept in all Abrahamic faiths and a message of reconciliation for our times. The English will be from the King James version of the Bible as large parts of this Bible were translated in Winchester. The font will be Albertus. ‘Love Thy Neighbour’ was called the great principle of the Torah by Rabbi Akiva.
Albertus is a typeface which Berthold Wolpe created in the 1930s, before he emigrated from Germany to England in the face of antisemitic persecution. The font is named after Albertus Magnus, who participated in the trial of the Talmud in 1240, and was a German philosopher and theologian. His writings are considerably influenced by Moses Maimonides, the Jewish philosopher. Albertus was used as the font for many British coins and can be found on the street signs in several London boroughs, as well as Winchester. The Hebrew font used will be inspired by a 12th century Anglo-Jewish text, Codex Valmadonna I. Codex Valmadonna I, a Humash or liturgical Torah, remains the only extant Hebrew Humash dated to medieval England. Although Deuteronomy, Job, and other sections do not survive, Codex Valmadonna I contains rare biblical texts, including Targum Sheni and Targum Ruth. The original scribe wrote on the final page: “Finished the Hebrew Humash, Targum, Haftorot, Hamesh Megillot and Job on the 15 Tammuz 4949 (July 9, 1189).” This date places Valmadonna I at the heart of the Jewish persecution in England (1189–1190), which accompanied the coronation of Richard I and the Third Crusade.
As Suzanne Bartlet writes in her book ‘Licoricia of Winchester’, Licoricia is the story of one woman in the thirteenth century living not only within her Jewish community, but alongside her Christian neighbours in the old capital of Winchester. Her life and that of her family reflect the experiences of the Jews of medieval England during the century that ended with their expulsion to the continent, and with it the story of Jewry in this country, until their return in the seventeenth century.
Following a competition involving sculptors both local and national, the commission was won by Ian Rank-Broadley FRSS. Ian is a multi-award winning sculptor with many important commissions to his name. These include, the Armed Forces Memorial at the National Memorial Arboretum, the effigy of HM Queen used on all UK & Commonwealth coinage 1998- 2015, and a commission for a statue of Diana, Princess of Wales for TRH Duke of Cambridge and Duke of Sussex for Kensington Palace.
Photographs of part of the Armed Forces Memorial and the effigy of the Queen on UK coinage.
Ian has kindly given permission for us to use photographs of the sculpture. We have the enthusiastic support of both Hampshire County Council and Winchester Council in the project.
In November 2020 we commissioned Ian to sculpt the life-sized statue. It was unveiled on 10 February 2022.
The leaflet is being distributed through the Library, Winchester tourist sites such as the Westgate Museum and Great Hall, the City Museum and tourist information services, as well as being used as a marketing tool. It is a very important element of our educational work, and accompanies the statue.
Future plans include an academic symposium, a larger exhibition on the medieval Jewish community of England, further educational material for schools (please see below for lessons), lectures and activities.
Lessons for children
Working with Hampshire County Council, we have already completed two Key Stage 3 lessons to be made available free of charge to Hampshire secondary schools. As far as we are aware, this project is unique. We aim to commission further lessons for Key Stage 1 and 2.
Professor Miri Rubin of Queen Mary College, London, and President of the Jewish Historical Society of England, and Rabbi Jonathan Romain of Maidenhead Synagogue, have reviewed the lessons before publication.
These lessons cover our aims and in addition, educate in disciplinary thinking in history, and develop young people’s knowledge of disciplinary concepts and processes in history. They take the form of a Powerpoint presentation, and include teaching and learning classroom materials, and lesson plans.
We are working with other schools to develop their curriculum and are keen to help more to do so, as well as developing material for download from this website.
The Licoricia story is rich ground for lessons in that it facilitates enquiry into history, identity and culture, prejudice, sources, and geography.
The statue itself is a fascinating enquiry into costume. Licoricia carries a tallage demand and her son Asher a dreidel. She does not wear tabulae because she would have paid not to.
The plinth carries important messages about shared texts between the Abrahamic faiths, in the Albertus font https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Albertus_(typeface) developed by a refugee from Nazism (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Berthold_Wolpe), and in a translation which was at least partly undertaken in Winchester (the King James Bible – https://literarywinchester.org.uk/authors/john-harmar/).
The history brings into question the veracity and bias of sources, and the evidence outside these sources. Amazing artefacts exist such as manuscripts, tombstones, buildings, tokens and utensils such as the Bodleian Bowl. There is even poetry. It further facilitates enquiry into church and state, and medieval prejudice.
Geographical knowledge is assisted on a macro scale by the widespread distribution of Jews throughout Britain, and their links with France and beyond; the studying of people and place has an excellent case study in Winchester, which retains a streetplan which can be traced to the Romans and Saxons, and contains many medieval buildings. We can tell where Jews lived and were buried because medieval Winchester is one of the best documented and researched cities anywhere.
Looking at today, lessons can investigate the nature of modern prejudice and how it is influenced by the past, as well as looking at the importance of education and gender equality. We wish to celebrate and promote diversity, and this can be done through examining how minorities such as the Jews enriched society then and do so now.
Please contact us if we can be of help in developing educational resources or facilitating visits.
We expect our work to reach many hundreds of thousands of people. Our lessons are being taught to Hampshire’s pupils and further afield, and once Covid has receded we should be able to reach many of Winchester’s 5.4 million annual visitors in addition to the 1.8 million residents of Hampshire. Locally we are well supported by our local councils and many organisations as well as the local media. Nationally we have support far and wide including from the national press. We are working with all these organisations to maximise our impact.
The library, which receives 600,000 visits per year, is accessible for disabled people and has disabled lavatories and a cafe. It is next door to the popular Theatre Royal.
We are making special efforts to ensure that the project is publicised and accessible to everyone, making it fully inclusive. Inclusivity will be helped by location: a large majority of 5-15 year olds visit a library each year together with over a third of adults (more women than men), including 30% of people in lower socio-economic groups and 45% BAME groups.
We are working with many organisations to maximise our impact, including:
Hampshire County Council, Winchester Council, Hampshire Cultural Trust, Heritage Open Days, the Jewish Historical Society of England, the Holocaust Education Trust, the Migration Museum, and the Jewish Museum, London.
Please also see ‘The History of the project and the time’.