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34. Seal of Aaron Son of David, Called Haranc of Segré

Dimensions: unknown.

Location: Loire-Atlantique, Provincial Archives, H 133.

Bibliography: Brunschvicg, 1887; Blumenkranz, 1965–66, No. 2, 24 (8); Bedos, 1980b, No. 2, 24 (8).

We are fortunate in being able to trace two seals, now disintegrated, to an actual document still existing at Nantes in the Department of Loire-Atlantique, formerly an important city of the independent duchy of Brittany. This is one of the very few French documents still in existence which has personal Jewish seals appended to it.

The document involves the sealing of two Jews, Jacob of Nantes and Haranc of Segré, to stand as guarantors in the Christian community of a quittance agreed to by two other Jews called Creisson and Bonostru. The towns of Nantes and Segré are located in southern Brittany. X. du Boisrouvray, in charge of the Nantes Archives, kindly provided the information that as long ago as 1884 the two Jewish seals were in fragments: that of Jacob started with a cross, and the last letters of the legend were TES, presumably standing for Nantes; in the field was what seemd to be the end of a sword (after seeing a photograph of the remnants of this seal, this writer believes that considerable imagination was called upon in this description). The fragments of Haranc’s seal are said by the Nantes archivist to have shown a rose of five petals, a device relatively common on certain Jewish (and of course, Christian) medieval seals from Germany. Haranc’s seal has disappeared, and Jacob’s seal has further disintegrated. We can only say that on it Latin letters were employed, not Hebrew, for the single identifiable letter remaining of the legend is clearly an E.*

The translation of the Latin text of the document, illustrated here, is as follows:

That all may know, etc., that the dispute between Geoffroy, Prior of Donges, and Creisson and Bonostru, Jews of Guerande, has been finally resolved in that the said Prior and everything agreed as belonging to the Priory will remain free and exempt and will be quit from the debts incurred with the said Jews and their heirs in perpetuity, and as witnesses to this quittance were brought in Lord Guillaume of Derval, knight, and Lord Main, his brother, and Lord Bonaté of Rouge, knight, and several others. And in order that this may be ratified and established according to the petition of both parties, these documents have been stamped with the seal of Trischant the Seneschal of the Jews at this time, and the seals of Jacob of Nantes and Haranc of Segré of the Jewry. Given at the time of the moon nearest to the Sunday on which is sung Rejoice ye with Jerusalem. In Nantes, the year of Our Lord 1234.

We are extraordinarily lucky that the guarantors summarized the substance of the document on the reverse side in Hebrew, as we learn the real Hebrew names of all parties. The summary, illustrated here, can be translated as follows:

R. Menachem son of R. Yom Tov, who is called Creisson, and R. Judah son of R. Samuel, who is called Bonostru, freed Geoffroy Prior of Donges from all debt and obligation and freed him and his house [Priory] of Donges from every claim till the year (4)995. Jacob son of R. Judah. Aaron son of R. David, that the memory of a just man be for a blessing.

Thus, through the circumstances of the Hebrew summary, we know that the two Jews sealing were Jacob son of Judah, called Jacob of Nantes, and Aaron son of David, called Haranc of Segré. In the latter case, Haranc was probably the closest sound the Latin scribe could find in French for Aharon, the Hebrew for Aaron. Possible Aaron himself used this Christian transmutation of his name, and it may actually have appeared as such—as in many other French cases of double names—on his seal. We are also told the real Hebrew names of the two Jewish principals, called in the Christian community Creisson and Bonostru. Creisson may be the equivalent of Gedaliah (“crescent”), while Bonostru might come from Bonastruc, this being the period when surnames began to be used among the Jews. To have the exact Latin wording of this document is important for another reason. Bernhard Blumenkranz believes that the words “And in order that this may be ratified and established according to the petition of both parties, these documents have been stamped” indicates that there was legal validity to the Jewish seals (personal communication to the author). This writer is a bit more cautious. There is no question that this phrasing indicates that Brittany followed German custom rather than Roman law with its emphasis on the notary’s attestation rather than sealing; indeed, we know that the inhabitants of this corner of what is now France put up a tremendous resistance against Caesar’s invasion, and with the withdrawal of the Romans came successive movements of Celts from Britain and Norsemen from both Scandinavia and Normandy. It can safely be said that, following German custom, the Jewish seals had great importance in validating the documents, as was true in Burgundy (see No. 32). As to the final question of whether their absence would invalidate the agreement, this point cannot decisively be affirmed by reference to any historical source the writer has seen.

Quittance from Nantes, 1234, sealed by Jacob of Nantes and Haranc of Segré. Provincial Archives of Loire-Atlantique, Nantes, H 133.

Reverse of Nantes quittance.


*The document was sealed by the two Jews and Trischant, the Christian seneschal. Older records still retained at the Nantes archives agree on the description of Jacob’s seal. However, they state that the seal of Haranc showed the head of a woman in profile, while that of the seneschal bore a rose with five or six petals.

Isaiah 66: 10. This chant is always sung on the fourth Sunday of Lent in all Catholic churches (Laetare Sunday), which that year was March 19, 1234 in the Old Style dating, 1235 according to present dating.

An earlier Jewish source claims this name to be Pinhls, but this writer believes it to be Menachem.

*The document was sealed by the two Jews and Trischant, the Christian seneschal. Older records still retained at the Nantes archives agree on the description of Jacob’s seal. However, they state that the seal of Haranc showed the head of a woman in profile, while that of the seneschal bore a rose with five or six petals.

Isaiah 66: 10. This chant is always sung on the fourth Sunday of Lent in all Catholic churches (Laetare Sunday), which that year was March 19, 1234 in the Old Style dating, 1235 according to present dating.

An earlier Jewish source claims this name to be Pinhls, but this writer believes it to be Menachem.

The document involves the sealing of two Jews, Jacob of Nantes and Haranc of Segré, to stand as guarantors in the Christian community of a quittance agreed to by two other Jews called Creisson and Bonostru. The towns of Nantes and Segré are located in southern Brittany. X. du Boisrouvray, in charge of the Nantes Archives, kindly provided the information that as long ago as 1884 the two Jewish seals were in fragments: that of Jacob started with a cross, and the last letters of the legend were TES, presumably standing for Nantes; in the field was what seemd to be the end of a sword (after seeing a photograph of the remnants of this seal, this writer believes that considerable imagination was called upon in this description). The fragments of Haranc’s seal are said by the Nantes archivist to have shown a rose of five petals, a device relatively common on certain Jewish (and of course, Christian) medieval seals from Germany. Haranc’s seal has disappeared, and Jacob’s seal has further disintegrated. We can only say that on it Latin letters were employed, not Hebrew, for the single identifiable letter remaining of the legend is clearly an E.*

That all may know, etc., that the dispute between Geoffroy, Prior of Donges, and Creisson and Bonostru, Jews of Guerande, has been finally resolved in that the said Prior and everything agreed as belonging to the Priory will remain free and exempt and will be quit from the debts incurred with the said Jews and their heirs in perpetuity, and as witnesses to this quittance were brought in Lord Guillaume of Derval, knight, and Lord Main, his brother, and Lord Bonaté of Rouge, knight, and several others. And in order that this may be ratified and established according to the petition of both parties, these documents have been stamped with the seal of Trischant the Seneschal of the Jews at this time, and the seals of Jacob of Nantes and Haranc of Segré of the Jewry. Given at the time of the moon nearest to the Sunday on which is sung Rejoice ye with Jerusalem. In Nantes, the year of Our Lord 1234.

R. Menachem son of R. Yom Tov, who is called Creisson, and R. Judah son of R. Samuel, who is called Bonostru, freed Geoffroy Prior of Donges from all debt and obligation and freed him and his house [Priory] of Donges from every claim till the year (4)995. Jacob son of R. Judah. Aaron son of R. David, that the memory of a just man be for a blessing.

Additional Information

ISBN
9780814344859
MARC Record
OCLC
1055142843
Pages
91-91
Launched on MUSE
2018-10-02
Open Access
Yes
Creative Commons
CC-BY-NC-SA
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