Jewish communities have had a strong presence in France throughout its history. Many cities and towns are steeped in Jewish heritage such as the Marais, the Jewish district in Paris, and the town of Carpentras in the South of France.
During this excursion you’ll visit the synagogue of Cavaillon, built in 1494, and what remains of its ghetto and mikvé (ritual bath). Then, it’s on to the synagogue in Avignon, built in 1689, and finally you’ll see the oldest and most beautiful of the ancient synagogues in Carpentras, built in 1367, the jewel of Provence.
A Day Rich in History:
the presence of Jews in France goes back to Roman Gaul around the time of the fall of Masada in 73. Jewish communities contributed to the cultural life of the Provence region in a range of fields; science, medicine, philosophy, mysticism and music. They also played an important role in the progression and circulation of goods and ideas.
Jews were expelled from the French crown in the 14th cenutry and a hundred years later from the rest of Provence. The only havens that remained were two fiefs under papal sovereignty, the Comtat Venaissin and Avignon, both in the Vaucluse department, where they were protected and able to practice their religion.
Although they were protected, they lived under a pervasive and enduring atmosphere of anti-Semitism and were forced to wear distinctive signs such as yellow pins or hats. In the middle ages they were authorized to work as doctors, masons and tailors. In the 16th century Jews were excluded from most fields of work except for money lending, which was forbidden to Christians, and the selling used goods.
In time, Jews were forced to live in districts known as “Carriére”, Provencal word for street, separated from Christians, and closed off with a chain and latter by a door. Space was limited and overcrowded on these narrow streets with tall buildings. Life was difficult until the French Revolution freed them and scattered their communities.
There is so much to discover and learn about Jewish communities in Provence over the ages from the ghettos to the ancient cemeteries and healing wells.
Interested by the French Lavender full day tour?
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