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Research Guide in Comtat Venaissin (1)

by Stéphane Lallich

par J.-C. Hérelle-Carcassone

by Jean Carcassonne

A Little History

A little history to start with, Comtat-Venaissin and Avignon belonged to Saint-Siège up to 1791, from XIII century for Comtat and from 1348 for Avignon. These two territories merged in 1793 to the department of Vaucluse (84). Where France had expelled the Jews from XIV century and Provence from 1500-1501, the popes had always refused to drive out the Jews from their territories. The communities, established no doubt in Roman could remain there and from 1790 they could obtain French citizenship. According to Lunel, the tradition is that most families of the house of David and the Tribe of Juda would have been exiled to Southern Gaule and to the Iberian peninsula following the fall of Jerusalem. Two families still existed in 1808 whose ancestry was the first Hebrews (Moulinas) !

Until the first half of XVI century, almost all the trades was opened to them, they could be proprietors, but it was not without difficulties. In particular the massacre of Carpentras in 1459 or the various requests for their expulsion. Things got worse, starting from the Counter-Reformation. In 1524, prohibition of holding public office and obligation to wear the yellow hat, which succeeded the obligation of the council of Lateran of 1215.

In 1555, reaffirmation of the obligation to wear the yellow hat and further more severe restrictions on trade.

Cavaillon Synagogue
Cavaillon Synagogue

The most populated area was Carpentras, originally 64 families increases to 1276. Then levels out at 1000 in 1760-70, reduces down to 343 in 1808. The two other comtadines, Isle had between 27 and 63 families, including unindexed families equates to around 100 and 300 people, Cavaillon seems to have gone from 10 to 30 families, that is to say 40 with 12 people approximately. Avignon saw its population decrease over two centuries between 1550 and 1746, perhaps because of the plague of 1721 which would have killed at least 71 people. The population increased after that to approximately 400 people.

Carpentras Avignon L'Isle Cavaillon
1605 : 73 feux (dénombrement) 1566 : 102 fam. 1682 : 28 fam.(fonds Moureau) 1657 : 12 fam. (taille)
1709 : 605 pers.sur 6854 hab. (dén.) 1721 : 65 fam., 290 pers. (dén.) 1703 : 27 fam.(ibid.) 1703 : 20 fam. (taille)
1742 : 168 fam., 752 pers. (recens. cert. Rabbin) 1746 : 67 fam., 279 pers. (recens.) 1747 : 29 fam. (ibid.)  
1769 : 212 maisons, 818 pers. (dén. cert. Baylons) 1759 : 385 pers.(dén.)   1774 : 30 noms (supplique)
1789 : 222 fam., 910 pers. (dén..) 1789 : 350 pers. 1789 : 63 fam.(recens. Baylons) 1796 : 17 foyers, 93 pers.
1808 : 360 pers.(état préfectoral) 1808 : 130 pers.(Etat préfectoral) 1808 : 22 pers.(état préfectoral) 1808 : 49 pers.(état préfectoral)

Those Jews who lived from the fabric trade, sharp practice and lending money grew rich during the XVIII and many tried their luck in France, in particular in Bordeaux where six of them obtained letters patent in 1759, in Montpellier, Nimes, Orange, Marseilles, Paris.

In 1808, there were only 561 people in the communes of Carpentras, Avignon, Isle and Cavaillon, plus 70 people in the remainder of the department of Vaucluse, compared to 425 in Gard, mainly in Nimes and Bridge-Saint-Spirit. Following this dispersion, the problem of the heavy common debts of each one of these communities was "to remove from the majority of the Jews originating in Avignon or Comtat any desire for maintaining or for reviving the memory of their their old community" (Moulinas).