FRANCHE-COMTÉ, region and former province in E. France, comprising the present departments of Haute-Saône, Doubs, and Jura. Since a document of 1220 mentions a Jewish quarter (vicus Judaeorum) in *Lons-le-Saunier, the Jews must first have come to Franche-Comté at a much earlier date, probably after the expulsion from the kingdom of France in 1182. From the middle of the 13th century, there is increased evidence of the presence of the Jews and the 40 or more places they had settled, including Baume-les-Dames, *Besançon, Lons-le-Saunier, and *Vesoul. Because they were a valuable source of income, the Jews were eagerly welcomed by various local lords, who granted them advantageous privileges, but they were not admitted to the Church domains. From a detailed list of the fiscal contributions of the Jews drawn up in 1296, it is apparent that by then several localities no longer permitted Jewish residence; those remaining paid an annual tax of 975 livres. Though Franche-Comté was temporarily under the control of the French kingdom at the time, the Jews were not affected by the expulsion order of 1306; however, they were included in that of 1322, though possibly it was not rigorously enforced. From 1332–33 at the latest, new immigrants joined those who had been able to remain in their homes; in a census of 86 Jewish families, 32 are described as recent arrivals. As during the 13th century, their principal occupation was moneylending.
During the *Black Death persecutions in 1348, the count appointed two commissioners, who promptly arrested the Jews and seized their belongings. They were imprisoned for many months (those of Vesoul for nearly ten months), some of them in Gray and the others in Vesoul. In spite of confessions extracted under torture, none was condemned to death but all were banished, and the regent, Jeanne de Boulogne, promised that Jews would no longer be tolerated in Franche-Comté. However, from 1355, there were Jews in the province once more, especially in Bracon and Salins-les-Bains, where a Christian loan bank was set up in 1363 so that there need be no recourse to Jewish moneylenders; the Jews were subsequently expelled from the town in 1374. In 1384, shortly after Franche-Comté was reunited with Burgundy, the duke authorized many Jewish families to settle there, but they did not escape the general expulsion from Burgundy ten years later. Many of them found refuge in Besançon, from where one Jew returned to settle in Champlitte. Driven out in 1409, he was the last Jew to live in Franche-Comté before the French Revolution.
J. Morey, in: REJ, 7 (1883), 1–36; L. Gauthier, in: Mémoires de la Société pour l'Emulation du Jura (1914), 90ff.; J. Fohlen, in: Archives Juives, 5 (1968–69), 12–13.
Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.