Ancient province of France, also called "Haute-Bourgogne" or "Comté de, Bourgogne"; now divided into the departments of Haute-Saône, Doubs, and Jura. There is little mention of Jews in Franche-Comté before the thirteenth century. Not until Philip Augustus drove them out of France at the end of the twelfth century, and at the time of the wars of Méranie, did they begin to settle there. They very soon attracted the suspicion of the clergy. Scarcely half a century after their arrival a new sect came into existence, called "Judaizing Christians" because they observed Saturday instead of Sunday and refused baptism. The general Council of Lyons (1245) took action against these heretics, and the Bishop of Besançon was asked to watch over the Jewish propaganda and to compel every Jew in his diocese to wear a badge. Twenty years later Pope Clement IV. addressed a bull to Jean de Chalon, the "Sire de Salins," who was almost incontestably master of the county of Burgundy, to excite his zeal against the Vaudois and against Judaizing Christians. The diocesan statutes contained clauses forbidding Christians to engage Jewish servants (especially nurses, because they taught children to hate the Christian religion). The clergy kept the Jews at a distance from ecclesiastical domains; for instance, the curé of Luxeuil changed the day of the hay market to Saturday to prevent the Jews from taking part in it.Favored by Nobility.
The nobles, however, made advances to them, partly, perhaps, because the Jews were an important source of revenue. Jean I. de Vergy, Sire of Champlitte and Autrey, took them under his special protection, gave them safe-conducts, and even released them from statute labor, from paying tolls, from the riding-tax, and from other imposts. Jean I. de Chalon-Arlay established a Jewish colony near his château in the village of Lombard, and there is still an ancient cemetery in this vicinity in which the skeletons are found face downward, and which tradition recognizes as the old Jewish cemetery. The members of each organized community paid an annual tax, varying from twenty to one hundred sols. Continually at strife with one another or with the King of France, or even with the Emperorof Germany, most of the nobles of Franche-Comté were in debt, and had need of Jewish money. About 1296, Jews furnished money to Chalon-Arlay and the Count of Montbéliard to support them in their struggle with Philip the Fair. At this time the material condition of the Jews appears to have been fairly prosperous. They had their open accounts at Vesoul, Besançon, Gray, Salins, etc. Many of the nobles had to place their domains in pawn with the Jews. Thus the market-town of Marnay, which belonged to the important family of Chalon, was given over to the Jews of Dole and Villars for five years. One rich Jew of Vesoul, Elias or Helyon, was the creditor of the greatest nobles of Franche-Comté. Vesoul was a center for money-changers, and must have contained a large contingent of Jews. A beautiful synagogue stood in the center of the town; it was still in existence in the sixteenth century, as was also the house of Helyon.Accusation of Well-Poisoning.
The general expulsion of Jews in 1306 does not appear to have affected those in Bourgogne, though their commerce received a blow from which it never recovered. But soon the Jews of Franche-Comté also were forced into exile; they and the lepers were accused of poisoning the wells. Their goods were confiscated. The house of Helyon was given by Queen Jeanne, wife of Philip the Tall, to a lady of her suite, who sold it at the death of the queen and built a chapel with the proceeds. Most of the exiles went to Besançon, at that time an imperial city, thus escaping the authority of the King of France. It is possible that a certain number were allowed to remain on relinquishing their claims to the debts due them. But the exiles soon returned to Franche-Comté. In 1331, at the death of Queen Jeanne, the county of Burgundy passed into the hands of Duke Eudes, but the queen's will caused dissatisfaction, and all the barons arose against him. He had need of the Jews, and recalled them. The account of expenditures in 1332-33 shows that their number was increased by thirty-two families. In 1348, however, the Black Death broke out. Gollut, the historian of the sixteenth century, states that the Jews of Franche-Comté shared the fate of the Jews in other countries and died under extreme torture. This is erroneous. Their oppressors were content with expelling them after having taken away their property. From October 28 to 30 they proceeded to arrest the Jews of the bailiwick of Amont (Haute-Saôte) and to take an inventory of their possessions; but the revenue department, which wished to refill its empty treasury, was disappointed. Certain Jews of Vesoul, Symon, Rubininer, and Hebrelin escaped, but were recaptured and imprisoned. Some of them were hidden away. Finally, after about one hundred days of imprisonment, everything that could be found was taken from them, and the ducal treasury received a net increase of 494 florins.
On Jan. 27, 1349, the Jews, furnished with a safe-conduct, were driven out of the county of Burgundy and escorted as far as Montbozon. A short time afterward the Jews of Doubs, Jura, and Montbéliard were ordered to leave within five months. It is doubtful whether this decree was ever executed, because in 1355 the Archbishop of Besançon renewed the ordinance against the employment of Christian servants. From this time on there is little mention of Jews. In 1360 Manasseh of Vesoul, who negotiated the return of the Jews to France at this time, settled in Paris, where he became steward to the king. In 1374 the Jews were driven out of Salins. On Nov. 21, 1384, Philip the Bold regulated the status of the Jews. He permitted fifty-two families to settle in the towns of his domain on payment of an entrance fee and an annual tax. He fixed the rate of interest; henceforth a Jew was to be believed on his oath, and the evidence of a single apostate was declared invalid. The chiefs of the Jews were called "masters of law"; the Jewish cemetery was separated from the others, and a noble of the court was instituted guardian of the Jews.
The general expulsion of the Jews from France in 1394 put an end to their presence in Franche-Comté. Israel Lévi has proved that a certain number of well-known rabbis lived in this province in the first half of the fourteenth century—for instance, Joseph b. Jacob Tournoy and Joseph de Musidan.
- J. Morey, Les Juifs en Franche-Comté au-XIVe Siècle, in R. E. J. vii. 1 et seq.;
- Israel Lévi, Un Recueil de Consultations Inédites, in ib. xliii. 237 et seq.