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22. Seal of Solomon Vidal of the Portal

Shelomah Viydal DePortayl

Dimensions: 29 mm.

Location: unknown.

Bibliography: Geże, 1881; Emery, 1959; Blumenkranz, 1965–66, No. 2, 23 (2); Bedos, 1980b, No. 2, 23 (2).

This intriguing seal matrix, of copper with a back grasp for stamping, was found around 1880 at Pamiers, a town south of Toulouse which, when Languedoc was an important earldom, had a flourishing Jewish population. The figure on the seal is a portal with two folding doors locked by a strong bolt. The Hebrew inscription, as usual, follows outside the image around the edge; the seal is one-sided, and there is no inscription in the vernacular.

Our sparse description of this seal comes from the report by Louis Gèze of a meeting of the Archaeological Society of the Midi, held in Toulouse in March of 1881. M. Géze quoted the Hebrew inscription as follows: , that is, “That he may live.”

This seal, whose present location is not known, has importance for two reasons: first, because it is the only Provençal seal in which the vernacular name (the name used when doing business in the Christian community) is written in Hebrew rather than showing separate Hebrew and vernacular legends with different names; second, because we may well have a historical record of the person who owned the seal.

Richard W. Emery, in his Jews of Perpignan (1959), mentions a rather prominent merchant by the name of Salamon de Portali who lived in the latter part of the thirteenth century. The name of Portali is not common in the records of Languedoc, and the conjunction of the name Salamon with de Portali strengthens the identification. Furthermore, as will be seen, there was another Jewish merchant living in Perpignan in this period, according to Emery, named Salamon Sullam de Porta, and in a small town it would be necessary to distinguish between names so similar, which would be accomplished by adding Vidal, probably his father’s name and a name common among Jews of this region. It could even be that the garbled Hebrew letters moved from the end to the beginning of this inscription actually completed the vernacular name, which thus was stamped in Hebrew as either Portali or Portella. Until the seal can be located and physically examined, final judgment will have to be held in abeyance. It is also likely, given the small size of these Jewish communities, that Solomon Vidal and the aforementioned Mielet were related.

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