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NARBONNE , town in S. France, 5 mi. (8 km.) from the Mediterranean. The capital of medieval Septimania, Narbonne was ruled successively by the Visigoths (413?), the Saracens (719), and the Franks (759). About 900 it became the possession of the local viscount. In 1508 Louis xii of France annexed it to his domains. The earliest written evidence of a Jewish presence in France, from about 471, comes from Narbonne. Sidonius Apollinaris, bishop of *Clermont, entrusted a Jew by the name of Gozolas and a customer of Magnus Felix of Narbonne, with a letter for the latter. Jews are not mentioned again in Narbonne until a *Church council was held there in 589, which forbade Jews, under penalty of a heavy fine, to recite prayers aloud, even in Jewish funeral processions (canon 9, in Mansi, Collectio, ix, 1016). Soon after (597) Pope *Gregoryi ordered an inquiry into a report that four captive Christian brothers had been bought by Jews of Narbonne who held them in their service. The earliest known inscription relating to the Jews of France also comes from Narbonne. It is an epitaph in Latin, including the phrase "Peace to Israel" in Hebrew, to three siblings who died either at the same time or within a short period of one another, probably victims of a plague recorded in Septimania at about the same period.

While there is no information about the Jews of Narbonne during the period of Muslim occupation, a legendary tradition of the 12th and 13th centuries tells of the election of "Jewish kings" there when the town was taken by Pépin the Short in 759. According to some sources (Philomena, Gesta Caroli Magni ad Carcassonam; Milḥemet Mitzvah of *Meir Simeon ha-Me'ili), Jews helped to drive out the Muslims and as a sure means of appreciation, were granted the right to be governed by a "Jewish king." Another source (the addition to the Sefer ha-Kabbalah of Abraham *Ibn Daud) states that Charlemagne invited a certain Machir to become the founder of the dynasty of "Jewish kings." Although this princely dynasty is confirmed authentically only from the 11th or 12th centuries, the Jews held freehold properties by 768. Pope Stephen iii in a letter addressed to Aribert, archbishop of Narbonne, was critical of the fact that Jews, by virtue of the privileges granted by the kings of France, not only owned alodial properties in both the towns and their surroundings, but also employed Christians to work in their vineyards and fields. At the close of the ninth century King Charles iii the Simple (898–923) tried to dispossess the Jews of Narbonne of their estates, at first those that had been recently acquired from Christians, and later all others. These measures did not remain in force for long, and a short while later Jews again owned property, including mills which they also worked.

The partition of jurisdiction over the town between the viscount and the archbishop resulted in the emergence of two distinct groups of Jews, from the point of view of their civic administration (among themselves the Jews formed a single community). In the 11th century Archbishop Pons d'Arce nominated two Jews as toll gatherers. Between 1134 and 1143 clashes which broke out as a result of differences between Ermengarde, viscountess of Narbonne, and Alphonse Jourdain, count of Toulouse, worsened the situation of Narbonne's Jews, and many of them then emigrated to *Anjou, *Poitou, and to the kingdom of France. According to the addition to the Sefer ha-Kabbalah, the Jews of Narbonne numbered 2,000 around 1143; in 1161 Benjamin of Tudela mentions 300 Jews there (but since this figure probably refers to heads of families there was probably a Jewish population of some 1,500). In 1163 Jews were the objects of attacks by the Spanish crusaders but were protected by both Viscount Bérenger and Archbishop Guiffrey.

The Jewish quarter of the viscounty (known as Grande Juiverie, Jouzaigas Majours, etc.), which was of considerable size, situated to the north of the present Place de l'Hotel de Ville and Cours de la République, did not constitute a "closed" quarter and non-Jews and Jews lived side by side. From 1217 the Jews benefited from a very advantageous charter granted by the viscount, in which they were represented by ten arbitrators. Although the Jewish quarter under the archbishop's jurisdiction, situated in the Belvèze quarter, did not obtain such an advantageous charter until 1284, the two Jewish sections shared all community resources. In the viscounty there were at least two synagogues, a hospital, baths, and workrooms, and in the archbishopric there was a cemetery, known as Mont judaïque (or Montjuzaic), some of whose epitaphs were found and preserved in the museum.

In 1236 a petty brawl between a Jew and a fisherman that ended in an accidental homicide set off an anti-Jewish riot which was rapidly suppressed by Viscount Aimeri iv, who ordered the restitution of all objects stolen during the pillage. The Jewish community celebrated its good fortune by a local Purim. At the end of 1246 Viscount Amauri i demonstrated his sympathy toward the Jews by attending a protest meeting against the anti-Jewish policies of King *Louisix. It was, therefore, not surprising that the Jewish quarter of the viscounty attracted Jews from the rest of the province as well as from the archbishop's part of the town. After disputes between the two overlords of the town over the judicial status of certain Jews, both joined forces to defend themselves against the claims of the monarchy, which sought to deprive them (from the close of the 13th century) of the jurisdiction over "their" Jews. When the expulsion order was issued, however, there was no evidence of protest by either the archbishop or the viscount, and it was only with the liquidation of Jewish property that both intervened to claim their share of the profits. (Only the viscount made a satisfactory settlement with the king.) In 1306, on the eve of the expulsion, the town register indicated 165 Jewish households, or about 825 persons (less than 5% of the total population). The exiled Jews moved mainly to *Roussillon or to the Catalonian regions. A few returned in 1315 and later, in 1359, more returned. Tradition has it that three events caused the decline of the town of Narbonne: the silting of the Aude River; the expulsion of the Jews in 1306; and the *Black Death plague of 1348.

The Jews of Narbonne were engaged in both agriculture and the production of wine. With the transfer of ownership of cultivable areas Jews, nevertheless, often retained part of the harvest for themselves. Jews were also involved with salt mines and water mills. Serving as public functionaries, Narbonne's Jews also collected fees for the archbishop and acted as brokers as well as traders. A Jewish notary served to draw up contracts between Jews. There were a number of Jewish physicians in Narbonne and also some goldsmiths. Many Jews practiced moneylending, particularly from the beginning of the 13th century. (Loans were generally given against pledges, personal property, or real estate.)

In his Sefer ha-Kabbalah, Abraham ibn Daud mentions only two French communities which were outstanding for their learning and one of them was Narbonne. Important scholars were R. *Moses b. Joseph b. Merwan ha-Levi, R. *Abraham b. Isaac of Narbonne, and R. Meir b. Joseph (toward the middle of the 13th century), who "caused the Torah to shine forth before their disciples by the study of the Pentateuch, the Bible, the Mishnah, the Babylonian Talmud, and the Jerusalem Talmud." Benjamin of Tudela praised the town "which already has an ancient reputation for erudition. And from there, the Torah has spread throughout all countries. Scholars and men of great authority live there." Among Narbonne's most famous scholars were *Moses ha-Darshan, exegete and head of the yeshivah (toward the middle of the 11th century); Abraham b. Isaac of Narbonne, referred to as av betdin, the father-in-law of *Abraham b. David of Posquières and author of ritual works and talmudic commentaries (second half of the 12th century); Joseph *Kimḥi (Maistre Petit) and his two sons Moses *Kimḥi and David *Kimḥi (second half of the 12th and early 13th centuries); *Isaac b. Meir of Narbonne, liturgic poet (first half of the 13th century); Moses b. Joseph b. Merwan ha-Levi, teacher of (among others) Abraham b. David; Meir b. Simeon ha-Me'ili, author of Milḥemet Mitzvah (middle of the 13th century); and Maestro David de Caslari, physician and poet famous for his commentary on *Maimonides' Guide; and *Moses b. Joshua b. Har David Narboni (late 13th century). There were others who stayed for a time in Narbonne or who were born there but whose activities were restricted to other places. Numerous personalities later bore the surname *Narboni. The 13th-century Jewish troubadour, Bofilh, also came from Narbonne.

From the beginning of the 18th century, Jewish merchants from Avignon were authorized to visit Narbonne four times a year in order to trade there for a period of one month each time. From the close of the 18th century Jews settled in the town as permanent residents. On the eve of World War ii there were hardly any Jews in Narbonne, as was still the situation in subsequent decades.


Gross, Gal Jud, 401ff.; G. Saige, Les Juifs du Languedoc (1881), index; J. Regne, Etude sur la condition des Juifs à Narbonne (1912); B. Blumenkranz, Juifs et chrétiens… (1960), index; I. Levi, in: rej, 48 (1904), 197ff.; 49 (1904), 147ff.; Frey, Corpus, no. 670; R.W. Emery, Heresy and Inquisition in Narbonne… (1941), 22; Z. Szajkowski, Franco-Judaica (1962), no. 309; idem, Analytical Franco-Jewish Gazetteer (1966), 164; Ibn Daud, Tradition, index.

[Bernhard Blumenkranz]