Built in 1367, Carpentras Synagogue is one of the oldest synagogues in France, located in the capital of what was once called the Comtat Venaissin, the area surrounding Avignon in southeastern France. Fleeing persecution in thirteenth-century France, many Jews sought pontifical protection in Carpentras, which was controlled by the Avignon papacy at this time, and established the synagogue shortly thereafter. It was restored in the eighteenth century by the architect Antoine D’Allemand and updated to reflect contemporary baroque décor. A monumental stairway leads through from the ground floor to the first floor, belying the synagogue’s modest façade. On the ground floor, the ritual baths (mikveh) and two bakeries represent some of the building’s oldest retained features, while a separate room devoted to Jerusalem also exists within the main prayer space.
Support through the Jewish Heritage Program
WMF supported conservation work on the synagogue’s interior in 2001. The plaster on the ceilings and walls was cleaned and the floor tiles were replaced. The stairway was cleaned and its lime pointing repaired, along with a passageway created for a future bookshop. Electrical and lighting systems were brought up to contemporary standards to accommodate modern needs.
The Carpentras Synagogue is a significant part of Judeo-Provençal cultural heritage. It is a living monument to the geographic migration patterns of Jews as they fled persecution in medieval France. The synagogue continues to hold services for a small local congregation, and as such continues to demonstrate its relevance to contemporary society. Efforts made by WMF to rehabilitate the synagogue also helped to ensure that Carpentras, a community that dates back to antiquity, remains relevant to France’s socio-cultural legacy.