The Medieval Route of Rashi in Champagne, new route of the Council of Europe Jewish Heritage Route
By Delphine Yagüe – CulturistiQ Cultural laboratory – RMRC project manager
In the heart of the Aube, the former county of Champagne, rich and powerful, had prestigious prosperous medieval Jewish communities from the 11th to the 13th centuries: Troyes, Ramerupt, Dampierre, Villenauxe, Lhuître, Ervy-le-Châtel, Chappes, St-Mards-en-Othe, Bar-sur-Aube, Mussy-sur-Seine, Brienne, Plancy, Trannes … Apart from the current Department of Aube, it also included other Jewish communities in Vitry, Provins, Joinville, Sens or Château-Thierry… After Rashi, born in Troyes in 1040, many scholars originally installed in the villages of Champagne, claim to be from his École champenoise and influence other Jewish communities in the interpretation of the Bible and the Talmud.
The name of the prestigious county of Champagne then spread through all the Western Jewish communities through them. Their comments and legal decisions are the only testimonies of that time, attesting to intense intellectual activity and a flourishing local Jewish life. The native language of the Jews of Champagne is Champagne, dialect of the language of Oïl. They speak and know Hebrew poorly. Also, in their comments, the Sages of the Jewish communities often translate Hebrew words into Champagne and describe situations of daily life there. A method that facilitates access to reading and studying sacred texts. They thus transmit to us the words of a forgotten living language and very many testimonies on the local life of the time: trades, clothing, fauna, flora, relations between Jews and Christians, organization of the county…
Rashi’s sons-in-law and grandsons founded the Tossafist school. It first radiated from the village of Ramerupt until 1146. Dampierre then Sens – then located in the county of Champagne -, then took up the torch. When the county entered the kingdom of France between 1285 and 1305, Paris became the epicenter. Great educators, Rashi and the Tossafists sometimes use drawings and describe their daily lives in their comments, in order to better explain the laws and concepts of sacred texts. Thus they give a lot of information on the tools and techniques allowing to work the vine and to produce wine, but also to make bread, to work the glass or to build houses or wells. They are true passers of history and unknowingly leave us with the fundamental elements which today make up the exceptional heritage of the Aube and in particular the cultivation of the vine, the production of wine (from Champagne) and the art of stained glass!
It is the story of this strong Jewish presence and of the fruitful and original daily, intellectual and economic interactions and relationships between Jews and Christians that the Medieval Route of Rachi in Champagne has sought to promote since 2019. This Route, a new European Cultural Route integrating the Council of Europe’s Jewish Heritage Route, aims to promote the Jewish memory of the Department of Dawn, an invaluable cultural heritage shared by Jews around the world and the historic heritage of a territory of very first plan – the former county of Champagne – with national and international influence.
To energize the territory, it is currently implementing numerous projects to create a global cultural and tourist offer around the history of the former Jewish communities of Champagne in Troyes, in the villages of Aube and beyond. A difficult challenge in the context of the promotion of an intangible cultural heritage, but fascinating and unifying around many local, national and international actors among communities, associations and scientists. On the program to come very quickly: tourist activities in the territory, program of exhibitions, signage, creation of new visiting devices … To discover step by step, on the page of the Departmental Committee of Aube carrying the project.