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37. Seal of Debt of the Jews of Pontoise


+ Testimony of Debt of the Jews of Pontoise

Dimensions: 55 mm. Impression.

Location: French National Archives, Paris, S 2333, No. 21.

Bibliography: Douët-d’Arcq, 1867, No. 4496; Longpérier, 1859; Blumenkranz, 1965–66, No. 1 (2); Encyclopaedia Judaica, 1972, s.v. “Pontoise”; Bedos, 1980b, No. 1 (2).

Like the previous seal of the Parisian Jewish debt, No. 37 is defined as the royal seal for the Jews of Pontoise by the French National Archives. In this transaction a kiln at Pontoise, a town a short distance northwest of Paris, belonged to a Christian who mortgaged it to several Jews. The document, illustrated here, which dates from 1204, indicates that the Abbot of Saint-Denis, who had just bought the property, satisfied the mortgage. As is usual, the seal was appended to the document in order to establish the legitimacy of the transaction; unlike that of Paris, there is no counterseal.

The seal depiction, with minor variants of style, is the same as that of the debt of the Jews of Paris, and the two are the same size. Here too the lettering has been partially destroyed by time.

We do not know if the satisfaction reflected the true value of the mortgage, given the difficult position of the French Jews at this time, for it will be noted that the Pontoise and Paris liabilities were acquired by monasteries. Shortly before 1204, the Jews of Pontoise had been accused of murdering a Christian child, whose body was taken to a church at Paris and venerated as a martyr, so that it is possible that this and the Paris transaction were forced liquidations.

Pontoise was located in the royal domain, and it would seem that a conventional royal seal type was used, with varying place-name inscriptions for the different Jewish communities scattered throughout the monarchy. The eagle shown on Nos. 35 and 37, as can be seen by comparison with similar seals from elsewhere, two of which are shown here, is a typical representation of the early thirteenth century.

Testimony of the debt of the Jews of Pontoise, 1204. French National Archives, Paris, S 2333, No. 21. Photo courtesy of the Service Photographique, French National Archives.

Seal of Elisabeth widow of Frankfort, 1223. Illustration from Hohenlohe-Waldenburg, 1973, No. 78. Cast from which this drawing was made is in the Waldenburg Palace Museum of Seals.

Reverse of the seal of the community of Avignon, 1226. French National Archives, Paris, D 5499.

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