Hebrajski średniowieczny (?) epigraf z Chełma

Andrzej Trzciński


A Medieval (?) Hebrew Epigraph from Chełm

In 2019 after removing an abundance of weeds from the Jewish cemetery in Chełm (Poland, Lublin voivodeship), an inventory of tombstones was carried out. A tombstone (matsevah) with medieval characteristics and an incomplete date (only the row of tens and ones being preserved:ע'ד' ...) was discovered. The author of the article examined the artifact thoroughly, taking into consideration the historical and archeological context, the features of the epigraph as a whole, as well as its philological and paleographic aspects. The features of the Chełm matsevah were compared with Jewish tombstones from the thirteenth to the sixteenth century of the Ashkenazi territory, especially from the historical lands of the Polish Commonwealth. The author estimated its origin to the year  רע''ד(274, i.e. 1513/1514 according to the Gregorian calendar), although the date קע''ד(174, i.e. 1413/1414) is not excluded. Such a large time range is plausible because of the long duration of a number of features of medieval tombstones. The matsevah from Chełm is an important historical and epigraphic landmark. In the framework of the historical borders of the Kingdom of Poland (excluding Silesia from the Piast period) it is the oldest preserved Jewish tombstone and confirms the existence and location of the cemetery in the town since at least the early sixteenth century.Indirectly this also confirms a typical placement of Jewish cemeteries in royal cities and towns at a significant distance from the center. As an epigraphic artifact, the finding is a rare example of the medieval matsevah as a whole and regarding such aspects as its content, configuration of inscription, technology of production and features of script.

Keywords: Chełm, Jewish cemetery, Jewish tombstones, epigraphics, Hebrew paleography.

Słowa kluczowe: Chełm, cmentarz żydowski, nagrobki żydowskie, epigrafika, paleografia hebrajska