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38. Seal of Debt of the Jews of Provins

[Presumed] + TESTIMONIVM DEBITI IVDEORVM PRVVINO

+ Testimony of Debt of the Jews of Provins

Dimensions: unknown.

Location: formerly appended to a document at the Provincial Archives, Provins, 85, No. 29.

Bibliography: Arbois de Jubainville, 1865; Veissière, 1961; Blumenkranz, 1980, No. 1 (3); Bedos, 1980b, No. 1 (3).

Provins was a city about fifty miles southeast of Paris in Champagne, a feudal county independent of but closely allied to the royal domain of France until 1285, when King Philip IV, called the Fair, who had married Jeanne, heiress to Champagne, ascended the throne of France. In the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, before this union, Provins had an epoch of splendor under the powerful counts of Champagne, of the House of Blois.

This earlier time was also a period of well-being for the Jews of Champagne, where Solomon ben Isaac, called Rashi (1040–1105), was born at Troyes. The towns of Troyes, Ramerupt, and Dampierre, as noted in the remarks regarding No. 10, were among the leading centers of rabbinical learning, and these rabbis contributed greatly to the commentaries on the Talmud as we know them today.

The economic reason behind both the general prosperity and the Jewish presence was the six annual market fairs held in Champagne—two at Provins, two at Troyes, and one each at Lagny-sur-Marne and Bar-sur-Aube—which attracted merchants and buyers from all over western Europe, as noted earlier. Henry d’Arbois de Jubainville (1865, p. 73) quotes a document dated “maio LXXXV°” (which we may assume is May, 1085, since this particular volume concerns Champagne from the end of the eleventh to the middle of the twelfth century) in which the Jewish community agreed to pay twenty five livres per annum, in accord with letters received previously, to participate in the fair at Bar-sur-Aube. A Provins Jewish community is specifically mentioned in a document dated April 16, 1172, at which time it was said to maintain baking facilities, a joint school and synagogue, and a cemetery. In Jewish sources the fairs at Troyes are frequently mentioned.

The basis for our knowledge of seal No. 38 comes from Abbé Michel Veissière (1961, pp. 289–90), who reproduces the original document in the Provins archives, also illustrated here. His summary reads: “Act sealed by the seal of the Jews of Provins recognizing a donation of seven livres of annual rent to the church of Saint Quiriace by Guillaume of Crochet in order to free himself from a debt contracted with Salemin, Jew of Orléans.” This summary, of course, does not reflect the entire transaction. The last paragraph of the Latin document states:

In testimony of this thing so that neither the said aforementioned Jews nor others among them can contradict the church in rendering account, at the request of both parties and with their consent, the seal of testimony of the Jews of Provins is asked for by those present.* Done in the church of the blessed Quiriaci on the Friday after Brandones in the Year of the Incarnate Word MCC two [1202], month of February.

Testimony of the debt of the Jews of Provins, February 1202. Provincial Archives, Provins, 85, No. 29. Photo courtesy of the Municipal Library, Provins.

The existence of the testimony seal referred to here is known only from the text; the seal itself is missing.

The Seal of Debt of the Jews of Pontoise (No. 37) is from a document dated 1204, and that of the Jews of Paris (No. 35) from one of 1206. The three documents are thus contemporary, and from the Latin wording of this Provins quittance, it would seem that the form of the seal used here was similar in type to that of Pontoise and Paris except for the name Prvvino, for the city, inscribed as required.

The evidence adds strength to the supposition that a standard seal type was decreed as a matter of French policy and adopted in all areas under royal control for use in matters of Jewish debt. Apparently there was no individual seal transported to various localities or to which documents were brought, but rather a prescribed pattern on which the city name involved was engraved for a transaction. This system may seem clumsy, unnecessary, and expensive to the modern mind, but it must be remembered that during a good part of the thirteenth century the royal domain consisted mainly of Île-de-France, Vermandois, and Normandy. The dukes and counts of Champagne, Burgundy, la Marche, Bourbon, Maine, Anjou, and Poitou may have been more or less appanages of the royal realm, but they were highly jealous of their semi-autonomy and feudal privileges. As a result, a separate seal was cut to show the duchy or county in which a debt transaction occurred.


*The Latin words are: “sigillum testimonii Judeorum de Pruvino presentibus appositum est.”

“Anno Verbi incarnati MºCCº secundo, mense Februario.” Abbé Veissière correctly lists it as 1203 “New Style”; that is, since the date falls between January 1 and Easter, the date should be 1203 in our present system.

*The Latin words are: “sigillum testimonii Judeorum de Pruvino presentibus appositum est.”

“Anno Verbi incarnati MºCCº secundo, mense Februario.” Abbé Veissière correctly lists it as 1203 “New Style”; that is, since the date falls between January 1 and Easter, the date should be 1203 in our present system.

In testimony of this thing so that neither the said aforementioned Jews nor others among them can contradict the church in rendering account, at the request of both parties and with their consent, the seal of testimony of the Jews of Provins is asked for by those present.* Done in the church of the blessed Quiriaci on the Friday after Brandones in the Year of the Incarnate Word MCC two [1202], month of February.

In testimony of this thing so that neither the said aforementioned Jews nor others among them can contradict the church in rendering account, at the request of both parties and with their consent, the seal of testimony of the Jews of Provins is asked for by those present.* Done in the church of the blessed Quiriaci on the Friday after Brandones in the Year of the Incarnate Word MCC two [1202], month of February.

Additional Information

ISBN
9780814344859
MARC Record
OCLC
1055142843
Pages
98-100
Launched on MUSE
2018-10-02
Open Access
Yes
Creative Commons
CC-BY-NC-SA
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