William of Norwich
|Born||2 February 1132|
|Died||c. 22 March 1144 (aged 12)|
|Never officially canonized.|
|26 March (removed from the Universal Calendar)|
|Depicted holding nails, with nail wounds or undergoing crucifixion|
|After the |
|This is a part of the series on|
Jews in England
|Blood libel in England|
William of Norwich (2 February 1132 – c. 22 March 1144) was an English boy whose death was, at the time, attributed to the
William was an apprentice
William's story was told in
Since most information about William's life comes only from Thomas, it is difficult to distinguish the facts of the case from the story of martyrdom created around it by Thomas. Thomas wrote that William was born on 2 February 1132 to a local
Shortly before his murder, William's mother was approached by a man who claimed to be a cook working for the Archdeacon of Norwich. He offered William a job in the Archdeacon's kitchens. William's mother was paid three shillings to let him go. William later visited his aunt in the company of this man. His aunt was apparently suspicious, and asked her daughter to follow them after they left. They were then seen entering the house of a local Jew. This was the last time William was seen alive; it was
The Christians of Norwich appeared to have quickly blamed local Jews for the crime, and to have demanded justice from the local
In the meanwhile, William's body had been moved to the monks' cemetery. Some of the local clergy attempted to create a cult around him as a martyr. There is no evidence that the initial accusations against the Jews implied that the murder was related to ritual activity of any kind, but as the cult developed, so did the story of how and why he was killed.
Thomas of Monmouth arrived in Norwich around 1150. He decided to investigate the murder by interviewing surviving witnesses. He also spoke to people identified as "converted Jews" who provided him with inside information about events within the Jewish community. He wrote up his account of the crime in the book The Life and Miracles of St William of Norwich.
In Thomas of Monmouth's account, of the murder he writes that “having shaved his head, they stabbed it with countless thornpoints, and made the blood come horribly from the wounds they made. . . some of those present ad judged him to be fixed to a cross in mockery of the Lord's Passion . . .” William's body was later said to have been found in Thorpe Wood with a crown of thorns atop his head.
One convert, called Theobald of Cambridge, told Thomas that there was a written prophecy which stated that the Jews would regain control of Israel if they sacrificed a Christian child each year. Every year, Jewish leaders met in
Thomas supports this claim by saying that one converted Jew told him that there was an argument over how to dispose of the body. He also says that a Christian servant woman glimpsed the child through a chink in a door. Another man is said to have confessed on his deathbed, years after the events, that he saw a group of Jews transporting a body on a horse in the woods.