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The Jews' Stone

I am never quite sure what to make of the hateful anti-Semitic folk tales found throughout Europe and to whether to brush them aside, pretending they do not exist, or post them in a hope that people can learn from the mistakes of the past. Many follow a similar theme, some travelling Jews trick a poor person into selling them their Christian child which they reputedly take away and ritually sacrifice. At Rinn though, the popularity of the story leads to the child in question becoming the centre of a cult, beatified and seen as a candidate for sainthood, even though it was just a story.

The following version of the tale is from Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm’s ‘Deutsche Sagen’ (1818). ‘In the year 1462 in the village of Rinn in Tyrol a number of Jews convinced a poor farmer to surrender his small child to them in return for a large sum of money. They took the child out into the woods, where, on a large stone, they martyred it to death in the most unspeakable manner. From that time the stone has been called the Jews' Stone. Afterward they hung the mutilated body on a birch tree not far from a bridge.

The child's mother was working in a field when the murder took place. She suddenly thought of her child, and without knowing why, she was overcome with fear. Meanwhile, three drops of fresh blood fell onto her hand, one after the other. Filled with terror she rushed home and asked for her child. Her husband brought her inside and confessed what he had done. He was about to show her the money that would free them from poverty, but it had turned into leaves. Then the father became mad and died from sorrow, but the mother went out and sought her child. She found it hanging from the tree and, with hot tears, took it down and carried it to the church at Rinn. It is lying there to this day, and the people look on it as a holy child. They also brought the Jews' Stone there.

According to legend a shepherd cut down the birch tree, from which the child had hung, but when he attempted to carry it home he broke his leg and died from the injury.’

The three year old child’s name was Anderl (Andrew or Andreas) Oxner and the story of his death and supposed murder dates back to the 15th century. The story was passed down orally to begin with but gained increasing popularity in the 17th century, with the anti-Semitic cult of Anderl von Rinn developing around 1621.

Dr. Hippolyt Guarinoni (1571-1654) heard the story of Anderl around 1619 and apparently came up with the date of 1462 associated with the story in a dream. In 1642 he wrote a book entitled Triumph Cron Marter Vnd Grabschrift des Heilig Unschuldigen Kindts (Triumph, Crown, Martyrdom and Epitaph of the Holy Innocent Child).

In Rinn is a district known as Judenstein (Jew Stone) where a church was built around the rock upon which the beatified Anderl von Rinn was said to have been killed. This became a popular site for pilgrimage.

1751 – Pope Benedict XIV rejected the case to have Anderl canonized.

1754 - Plenary Indulgence granted to pilgrims to Judenstein.

1953 - The veneration of Anderl von Rinn was banned.

1961 - Pope John XXIII attempts to stop the cult's status and show that it was based upon a legend.

1985 - The body of Anderl was removed from the burial ground at Judenstein.

1994 – The cult of Anderl von Rinn was officially banned.

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