LANGUEDOC (Hebrew, or ):
Ancient province of France corresponding to the present departments of Tarn, Aude, Gard, and Ardèche, with parts of Haute-Loire, Haute-Garonne, and Tarn-et-Garonne. It was divided into two parts: Higher Languedoc, having for its capital Toulouse; and Lower Languedoc, with Montpellier as its chief city. Two letters of Sidonius Apollinaris and the canons of the council held at Agde in 506 prove the existence in the province at that time of numerous and prosperous Jewish communities (Dom Vaissète, "Histoire Générale de Languedoc," i. 243; Sidonius Apollinaris, iii., Epistle 4; iv., Epistle 5). While Languedoc was a dependency of the Visigothic kings the Jews suffered much persecution, but in a far less degree than their brethren on the other side of the Pyrenees. Protected by the Christian inhabitants, who often rebelled against their kings, the Jews of Languedoc could easily evade many oppressive laws enacted against them. The edict of expulsion issued by Wamba in 672 provoked a general uprising of the inhabitants. After the province had been pacified, and the edict was enforced, the absence of the Jews was of very short duration. Nor did the barbarous laws of Erwige and Egica meet with greater success.Under the Carlovingians.
An era of great prosperity for the Jews of Languedoc set in with the accession of the Carlovingian dynasty. The loyalty of the Jews to the cause of the French kings in the struggle against the Saracens was highly appreciated and rewarded by many privileges. Pepin the Short conceded them the right of enjoying hereditary allodial tenure; and this right was respected by all the Carlovingians, in spite of the protests of some of the clergy. Large communities possessing synagogues and important commercial establishments existed at Béziers, Carcassonne, Lodève, Lunel, Mende, Montpellier, Narbonne, Nîmes, Pamiers, Posquières, Saint-Gilles, and Toulouse.
The happy condition of the Jews of Languedoc did not cease under the rule of the counts, especially under those of Toulouse, who evinced kindly feelings toward them. But the spirit of intolerance that pervaded western Europe in the eleventh century did not fail to leave its impress upon the province. Thenceforward the Jews were obliged to occupy special quarters, and a custom was established which permitted the populace to inflict upon them all kinds of humiliations during Holy Week. At Toulouse it was deemed expedient that at least one Jew should have his ears publicly boxed on the first day of Easter; while at Béziers the mob was allowed to throw stones at the Jews. Still their situation was relatively prosperous; and even these vexations gradually disappeared and were, on the intervention of the counts, superseded by yearly taxes in addition to the poll-tax common to all inhabitants.Jews in Public Office.
The good-will of the counts of Toulouse displayed itself far beyond mere toleration; they even entrusted the Jews with important public offices. Raymond V. about 1170 appointed a Jew as bailiff in his domain of Saint-Gilles, and, with the exception of the counts of Montpellier, his example was followed by many other counts and barons. The nomination of Jews to public offices in the dominions of the viscounts of Béziers and Carcassonne was a common occurrence under Viscount Roger II. and his successor Raymond Roger.
The crusade against the Albigenses at the beginning of the thirteenth century brought a great reaction in the condition of the Jews of Languedoc. Accused by the clergy of having fostered among the Christians a spirit of rebellion against the Church, oppressive laws were enacted against them in the various councils. At that held at Saint-Gilles in 1209 Raymond VI. was compelled to swear that in the future neither he nor his vassals would entrust public or private offices to Jews; and, except at Narbonne, where Jews served as brokers until 1306, this oath was strictly observed in the territory of the counts of Toulouse.
The condition of the Jews in Lower Languedoc became still worse when that province fell into the hands of Saint Louis and his brother Alphonse of Poitiers, who, the former from bigotry and the latter from greed, enacted against them oppressive laws—e.g., the prohibition to sojourn in small localities and to erect new synagogues—and crushed them with fiscal burdens. Everywhere the Jews were imprisoned, to be released only after having paid heavy sums. On the death of Alphonse of Poitiers his estates came into the possession of Philip the Bold, and the Jews of those districts shared the fate of their brethren of northern France.Under Independent Lords.
While the Jews were laboring under adverse circumstances in that part of Languedoc which was annexed to France, those who lived in the domains of independent lords continued to enjoy a high degreeof prosperity during the whole of the thirteenth century. In a letter addressed to his subjects in 1252 Jaime I., Count of Montpellier, declared that he would take the Jews of his territory under his protection, and he enjoined the inhabitants to do them no harm. The dukes of Foix granted the Jews in their domains many privileges, and vindicated their rights against the encroachments of Philip the Fair. In 1303 Count Gaston confirmed all the ancient privileges of the Jews and engaged himself not to claim more than the yearly taxes which had been levied by his father, Roger Bernard, and by his other predecessors. The community of Pamiers, which was under the jurisdiction of the Abbot of Saint Antonin, was treated with benevolence by the ecclesiastical authorities, while those of Alet, Béziers, Grasse, and Nîmes received a no less favorable treatment at the hands of the bishops. But the most favored community was that of Narbonne, which enjoyed special privileges and immunities. Among these the most noteworthy was that of being governed by a Jewish "king."
With the expulsion of the Jews by Charles VI. in 1394 all the communities of Languedoc, with the exception of several, like Montpellier and Narbonne, ceased to exist. See
- Dom Vaissète, Histoire Générale de Languedoc;
- Depping, Les Juifs dans le Moyen Age;
- Bédarride, Les Juifs en France, en Italie, et en Espagne, pp. 107 et seq.;
- Beugnot, Les Juifs d'Occident, p. 116;
- Saige, Les Juifs du Languedoc, Paris, 1881;
- Grätz, Gesch. vi. 175, 201; vii. 9, 37;
- Gross, Gallia Judaica, p. 311.