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Carcassonne, France

CARCASSONNE (Heb. קרקשונה), capital of the department of Aude, in Languedoc, S. France. The first definite evidence of Jews there dates from 839. The Jew Gaudiocus (Isaac?) and his two sons enjoyed the protection of the emperor Louis the Pious (814–840) and owned land in the suburbs of Carcassonne. Later a community was established which owned a cemetery on the slopes of a hill, an area still known as the "Pech Judaïc"; at the end of the 13th century two further plots of ground were purchased to extend the cemetery. The suburb of Saint-Vincent included a Jewish farm known as honor Judaicus. The Jews of Languedoc owned real estate in freehold (alodium) and therefore sometimes exercised certain seigneurial rights. In Carcassonne in 1142, for example, the Christian tenants of land belonging to Jews donated it to the Knights Templar. The latter consequently became tenants of the Jewish owners Guilhem Mancip and Bonysach, as they did later (1173) of the Jews Ruben, Belfait, Juceph, and Mosse Caravita, in respect of a vineyard. The same Mosse Caravita held the office of bailiff, and Jewish bailiffs are found in Carcassonne at least until 1203. From 1195, the Jews in the neighboring localities, in particular in *Limoux and Alet (-les-Bains), had to contribute toward the taxes imposed on the Jews of Carcassonne.

The situation of the Jews there deteriorated when Languedoc was incorporated into the Kingdom of France. A number of Jews were still able to practice there as brokers. However, anti-Jewish measures were enforced by the synodal constitutions of the bishop of Carcassonne in 1272 which prohibited Jews to leave their homes during Easter week and forbade Christians to employ Jewish physicians. In 1288 a decision by the parliament of Toulouse authorized the seneschal of Carcassonne to designate a special judge to deal with the affairs of Jews, but the office was abolished in 1292. Shortly afterward, an investigation was made to determine the number of Jews in the area and whether they fell under the jurisdiction of the crown or the local barons. Previously, in 1291, the king ordered that the Jews who had recently arrived in Carcassonne from England should be expelled. The activities of the Inquisition in Carcassonne were limited by Philip the Fair, who in 1293 instructed the seneschal that it should only deal with relapsed Jewish converts. The inquisitional archives of Carcassonne contained "a parchment volume inscribed in Hebrew characters" and "a large parchment register inscribed in Hebrew characters." In 1304, shortly before their expulsion with the rest of the Jews from France (1306), the Carcassonne community was made to contribute to the local taxes from which they had previously been exempt, in addition to their special taxes. Reestablished in 1315, the community suffered from the hostility of the local townsmen, who complained to the king, and it soon disappeared. A third community was established in 1359, whose members were still engaged in moneylending; the commune of Labruguière (Tarn) was among the debtors. When finally expelled in 1394, the Jews of Carcassonne found refuge in Provence and in *Comtat-Venaissin . The surname "Carcassonne" was retained by several families in this region in particular, as well as in Sardinia.

Medieval scholars of Carcassonne include the liturgical poet *Joseph b. Solomon ; Elijah b. Isaac *Lattes ; Jacob b. Eli, author of a polemic addressed to Pablo *Christiani ; Samuel b. Solomon Nasi, author of a commentary on Maimonides' Guide; Mordecai b. Isaac Ezovi, alias En Crescas of Orange, one of the exiles of 1306; the physician Dolan Bellon; Benjamin b. Isaac, translator of medical works; and the physician Leon Joseph, who was one of the victims of the expulsion of 1394.

After the invasion of France by the Germans during World War II, a number of Jews found refuge in Carcassonne, then in the unoccupied zone. They numbered approximately 150 in 1941. An internment camp established in the town for foreign workers also included many Jews. In 1968 there were 75 Jews living in Carcassonne.


Gross, Gal Jud, 613–7; J. Poux, Histoire de la cité de Carcassonne (1922); G. Saige, Juifs de Languedoc (1881); rej, index to vols. 1–50 (1910), 101; Z. Szajkowski, Franco-Judaica (1962), index; idem, Analytical Franco-Jewish Gazetteer (1966), 163; Aronius, Regesten, 101.

[Bernhard Blumenkranz]

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