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Brittany, France

BRITTANY (Fr. Bretagne), region and former province of western France and ancient independent duchy. Canon 12 of the ecclesiastical Council of Vannes in Brittany (465) forbade clerics to partake in meals with Jews. At about the same time, Nunechius, bishop of *Nantes , welcomed a newly converted Jew. Jews are again found in Brittany from the end of the 12th century living in Ancenis, Clisson, Dol, Guérande, Lamballe, Nantes, and Rennes, and probably also in some other places. By an agreement of Feb. 23, 1222, Pierre Mauclerc, duke of Brittany, confirmed the jurisdiction of the bishop of Nantes over the Jews living in his see. In 1236 many Jews in Brittany were massacred by Crusaders. The remainder were expelled in April 1240 by the duke Jean le Roux who declared a moratorium on all debts owed to Jews and ordered them to return all pledges of chattels or real estate. The duke bound himself and his successors to uphold the decree in perpetuity. For several centuries, therefore, only converted Jews are found living in Brittany. A problem is presented, however, by the Hebrew tombstone (dated 1574) of Solomon b. Jacob Semahes found in Quimperlé. From the beginning of the 17th century, numerous *Marranos settled in Brittany, mainly in Nantes; their Christian competitors failed to have them expelled. During the 18th century, Jewish traders from Bordeaux, Alsace, and Lorraine began to visit the fairs and markets. In 1780, as a result of an isolated incident, they were all expelled. Immediately after the French Revolution, they are found again, notably in Nantes, Brest, Rennes, and Saint-Servan. In 1808, when the *consistories were established, the total number of Jews living in Brittany was only about 30. In the late 20th century there were communities in Nantes, Brest, and Rennes.


Gross, Gal Jud, 126ff.; Blumenkranz, in: Etudes d'histoire du droit canonique… G. le Bras, 2 (1965), 1055ff.; L. Brunschvicg, in: REJ, 14 (1887), 84ff.; 49 (1904), 110–20; I. Loeb, ibid., 17 (1888), 92ff.; 33 (1896), 88–121; 43 (1901), 117–22; H. Sée, ibid., 80 (1925), 170–81; J. Montigny, Essai sur les institutions… de Bretagne (1961); E. Durtelle de Saint-Sauveur, Histoire de Bretagne (19574), 230ff.

[Bernhard Blumenkranz]

Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.