Interesting Visit to Carpentras France’s Oldest Synagogue
A Visit to Carpentras
It is not unusual to find us headed to Carpentras on Friday morning’s for the weekly market or shopping for kid’s clothes. Carpentras is a short 25-minute ride down the D-7 from the village of Sablet. As we get near, we see Notre-Dame de l’Observance Church towering over Carpentras.
The city of Carpentras is located along the banks of the Auzon River. Carpentras was a commercial site used by Greek merchants in ancient times, and known to Romans, first as Carpentoracte Meminorum, mentioned by Pliny, then renamed Forum Neronis (“Forum of Nero”).
Pope Clement V took up residence in Carpentras at the beginning of the Avignon Papacy, along with the Roman Curia, in 1313. It was his successor Pope John XXII who settled definitively in Avignon. Nowadays, Carpentras is a commercial center for Comtat Venaissin and is famous for the black truffle market that takes place every Friday morning during the winter months. In May and June, the strawberries from the fields around Carpentras are juicy red treats.
The Oldest Synagogue in France
The synagogue in Carpentras was built in 1367 and is the oldest Jewish house of worship in France today. Richly decorated interiors are highlighted by deep red wall hangings and a turquoise blue domed roof. There are several points of interest in the building, including a 30-foot-deep ritual bath, fed by a natural spring, and two bakeries. Portions of the structure were restored in the 18th-century and declared a historical monument in 1924.
Place Maurice Charretier
Tel: +33 (0)4 90 63 39 97
The Jewish cemetery in Carpentras is also worth a visit. In 1343, Bishop Hughes, the nephew of Pope Clement VI who held the seat of power in Avignon at the time, allowed the Jewish community access to land to build the synagogue and establish a cemetery.
For more insight into this religious history in France, consider joining a Jewish heritage tour from Paris to Provence in 2020. These small-group tours are designed for a maximum of six guests.
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