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Obj. ID: 1524
Hebrew Illuminated Manuscripts
  Krems Ketubbah, Krems, 1391/2

© Center for Jewish Art, Photographer: Unknown,
Summary and Remarks

The Krems Ketubbah includes the traditional text of the ketubbah recording the marriage between Shalom son of R. Menahem and his virgin bride Zemah daughter of R. Aaron, wedded on Friday, in the year 1391/2, probably in the city ofKrems inLower Austria.

The ketubbah was found cut into four pieces, with the two upper pieces placed inside the binding of a 15th century Latin manuscript. The extant pieces comprise almost the entire ketubbah but there are still small sections that are missing. In the centre from top to bottom approximately four words on each line are missing; and three lines of text are missing across the middle of the ketubbah. By reconstructing the missing text and decoration, it would seem that the ketubbah was most likely large and rectangular in form (probably originally measuring ca. 740 X600 mm).

Some details are missing from the text: the month of the marriage was cut off from the first line; the amount of the tosefet ketubbah was cut off from the three missing lines across the middle (after the 9th line) and the name of the city where the marriage took place (second line of the upper left piece) was almost completely cut off, with only the ending left, reading “רימש” (Rems). This ending led researchers to conclude that the contract was written in the city of Krems, written “קרימש” in Hebrew. The city of Krems had a prominent and flourishing Jewish community during the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. Schwartz suggests that the bride's father Aaron is Aaron of Krems mentioned in a record from 1364 (Schwartz 1913, p. 23), and the groom, Shalom son of Menahem, is Shalom son of Tröstl (Menahem) from the Viennese Walich family which is mentioned in the Viennese records from 1381-1398. Therefore it seems plausible that Krems is indeed the place of marriage originally inscribed in the ketubbah..

We assume that as a result of the expulsion of the Jews from Krems in 1421, the ketubbah was no longer in Jewish hands and not long after this, in 1440, it served a secondary use as part of the binding of a Latin manuscript.


The Krems ketubbah is highly important to the research of Jewish art, as it is the earliest known illuminated Ashkenazi marriage contract and also the earliest ketubbah depicting human figures. Most of the medieval marriage contracts from Ashkenaz up to the twentieth century were written on paper or a small piece of parchment on which only the formal text appeared without any illuminations or verses. David Davidovitch (Davidovitch, Illuminated Ketubbot, col. 930) suggests that the ketubbah of Krems is proof of a custom of illuminating marriage contracts in Ashkenaz of which, unfortunately, only this one example has survived. On the other hand, Shalom Sabar (Sabar, Beginning of Ketubbah Decoration, p. 101, n. 41) claims that Ashkenazi Jews did not place great value on the ketubbah and therefore it was not commonly decorated. Indeed, the original function of the ketubbah as a safeguard against facile divorce was reduced by the ordinance of Ashkenazi Rabbi Gershom ben Judah Me’or Ha-Golah (960-1028), which prohibited divorce against the will of the woman. Moreover, the Ashkenazi ruling for stating a fixed amount on the marriage contract decreased the public interest in hearing the contract read aloud and therefore it carried less importance. Therefore, it would seem more probably that as Sabar claims, the Krems ketubbah is a unique example of illuminated marriage contracts from Ashkenaz.

The elongated bride and groom and their graceful figures recall the Gothic International Style of around 1400 that spread throughoutEurope. However, it is difficult to pinpoint the exact school of illumination of the decoration of the ketubbah but it may have been illuminated in the city where the marriage most probably took place, in Krems.



5 image(s)

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Krems Ketubbah | Unknown
Object Detail
Monument Setting
Synagogue active dates
Reconstruction dates
Artist/ Maker
Historical Origin
Community type
Period Detail
Austria | Vienna | Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (ÖNB)
| Cod. Hebr. 218 (Schwartz No. 202)
Documentation / Research project
Iconographical Subject
Unknown |
Textual Content
Unknown |
Languages of inscription
Shape / Form
Material / Technique
Material Stucture
Material Decoration
Material Bonding
Material Inscription
Material Additions
Material Cloth
Material Lining
Tesserae Arrangement
Construction material
Panel Measurements
Documented by CJA
Surveyed by CJA
Present Usage
Present Usage Details
Condition of Building Fabric
Architectural Significance type
Historical significance: Event/Period
Historical significance: Collective Memory/Folklore
Historical significance: Person
Architectural Significance: Style
Architectural Significance: Artistic Decoration
Urban significance
Significance Rating
Bride: צמח בת ר' אהרן Zemah daughter of Rabbi Aaron Groom: שלום בר מנחם Shalom son of Rabbi Menahem Date: בששי בשבת בחמשה ימים [הטקסט קטוע ונראה שהמילה האחרונה החסרה היא "חמשת"] אלפים ומאה וחמשים/ ושתים לבריאת עולם למ']נין...] Friday, on the fifth day [the text is cut off. It seems that originally the last missing word was: "Five"] thousand one hundred and fifty two to the creation of the world (=1391/2). Place of marriage: [ק]רימש ]K[ rems Witness: יצח'ק ב'ר' גמליאל ז'צ'ל' Isaac son of the late Rabbi Gamliel Dowery: None. The Dowery was most probably originally written in the three missing lines in the middle of the ketubbah.

Material: A sheet of parchment now cut into four pieces and glued to a thick cardboard, thus it is impossible to see the back side of the parchment.




Upper right piece: (281-287) X (203-211) mm.

Upper left piece: (283-285) X (209-212) mm.

Lower right piece: (298-304) X (215-222) mm.

Lower left piece: (298-304) X (215-222)mm.

Letter height: 12-13mm.

Space between lines 14-14.5mm.



A single scribe.



The text of the ketubbah is written in large square Ashkenazi script in dark brown ink.

The witness's signature is in small semi-cursive Ashkenazi script in dark brown ink.


Number of lines

Text of the ketubbah was cut off (from the bottom).  At present there remain:  


20 lines


1 line



Ruling by plummet 1+1 vertical lines (discernible in the upper pieces).




Not discernible.



Not relevant.



Not relevant.


Hebrew numeration

Not relevant.


Blank leaves

Most probably the verso side of the ketubbah is blank; however we cannot clearly determine this fact since the ketubbah is glued to a thick cardboard.

Number of Lines
Hebrew Numeration
Blank Leaves
Façade (main)
Location of Torah Ark
Location of Apse
Location of Niche
Location of Reader's Desk
Location of Platform
Temp: Architecture Axis
Arrangement of Seats
Location of Women's Section
Direction Prayer
Direction Toward Jerusalem
Coin Series
Coin Ruler
Coin Year
Scribal Notes
Trade Mark

The four pieces of the Ketubbah are glued to a very large cardboard (770x 700mm) covered by another cardboard with four “windows” exposing the pieces. The cardboard is kept in a box.


Decoration Program

Floral frame with the figures of a bride and a groom on top (see detailed document).


Suggested Reconsdivuction
The two upper pieces were found inside a 15th century Latin manuscript (ÖNB Cod. 4600) containing Pseudo-Ambrosius's collection of works (see: Denis, Codices Manuscripti Theologici, cols. 529-531; Tabulae codicum manuscriptorum, p. 325). The Latin manuscript is dated 1435-1440, according to the watermarks. It was a gift from Thomas de Hasselbach, a Professor in Perchtoldsdorf. Legate of the Collegium Ducale in Vienna in the possessions of the Wiener Universitaetsbibliothek: and from there, it reached the Wiener Hofbibliothek. The upper right piece was attached to the verso side of the paper flyleaf of the back cover of the manuscript. The mirrored text of the ketubbah as well as remnants of yellow color and the magenta of the groom’s coat are evident on the flyleaf. The flyleaf measures 287 X 208 mm. The upper left piece was found glued to the inner side of the front cover 284 X 203 mm. We do not have information on how or where the two lower pieces were found.
Main Surveys & Excavations
Davidovitch, Illuminated Ketubbot Davidovitch, D., “Illuminated Ketubbot”, Encyclopedia Judaica, vol. 10, 1974, col. 930. Denis, Codices Manuscripti Theologici Denis, M., Codices Manuscripti Theologici Bibliothecae Palatinae Vindobonensis Latini Aliarumque occidentis linguarum, Vienna 1799, II, cols. 529-531. Gaster, The Ketubah Gaster, M., The Ketubah, New York 1974, pp. 48 and 52, pl. VII. Halbturn, S., Judentum im Mittelalter. 4 Mai- 26 Oktober 1978, p. 242. Sabar, Beginning of Ketubbah Sabar, S., “The Beginning of Ketubbah Decoration in Italy; Venice in the late 16th to early 17th Centuries,” Jewish Art 12/13, 1986/7, p.101, note 41. Tabulae codicum manuscriptorum Academia Caesarea Vindobonensis, Tabulae codicum manuscriptorum praeter Graecos et orientales in bibliotheca palatine Vindobonensi asservatorum, Vienna 1899, vol. III, p. 325. The Jews of Europe The Jews of Europe in the Middle Ages, (ed. Historisches Museum der Pfalz Speyer). Published on the occasion of the exhibition ’The Jews of Europe in the Middle Ages’ at the Historical Museum of the Palatinate Speyer, from November 19, 2004 to March 20, 2005 and at the German Historical Museum Berlin, from April 23, 2005 to August 28, Ostfildern 2004 ,pp. 196-197. Schwarz, 1913 Schwarz, Z., "Eine illuminierte Ktrmser Kethubah aus dem Jahre 1392", Archiv für Jüdische Familienforschung. Kunstgeschichte und Museumswesen, I, 4-6, Wien 1913, pp. 23-25. Schwarz, 1925 Schwarz, Z., hebräischen Hss., 1925, no. 202, p. 237.
Michal Sternthal | 2.11.00; 11.8.05
Author of description
Michal sternthal | 2002, 2008
Architectural Drawings
Computer Reconstruction
Section Head
Michal sternthal |
Language Editor
Negative/Photo. No.
The following information on this monument will be completed:
Unknown |