Normandy is one of France’s most famous regions, bearing a rich legacy both antiquated and modern. From its long history of combating kings to its role in the final liberation of Europe from Axis tyranny, Normandy is a great European travel destination, especially for travelers looking for Jewish heritage tours. Our 2020 Normandy cruise will explore the Jewish legacy of the region, while also commemorating Jewish heroism in history. With special guests such as Dr. Henry Abramson, dean of Touro College and Rabbi Irving Elson, retired army chaplain and Director of the Jewish Welfare Board, our Normandy cruise is one that aims to provide a unique Jewish perspective on the world conflicts of the previous decades. Among our stops on this historic tour is the capital of Normandy, the city of Rouen.
A Brief History of Conquests
The city of Rouen, like the rest of Normandy, was the subject of several conquests. Initially known as Rotomagus, this city was under Roman dominion, used for trade and sporting its own amphitheater. When the Vikings that would later be known as the Normans overrun the region in 841, Rouen became their capital city, building a castle atop the old amphitheater. Said castle would later be demolished when King Phillip II annexed Normandy, building his own Chateau Bouvreuil atop its ruins. The city saw relative prosperity, although it was annexed again by another king, Henry V of England in 1419. The French retook the city in 1449 and prospered in the 19th century due to the textile trade.
Photo Credit: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rouen_Castle
Like many cities in Europe, evidence of Jewish heritage can be found in Rouen, said to date back as far as the 11th Century. Unfortunately, like other parts of France during the Middle Ages, these Jews experienced persecution. However, a French Talmudic scholar by the name of Jacob ben Jekuthiel lived in Rouen, and it was he who bore a petition to Pope John XVII which implored him to intercede in the persecution of the Jews. Rouen is also the site of what is considered to be the oldest Jewish building in France, called La Maison Sublime. Discovered by accident in 1976, this monument is believed to be a 12th Century yeshiva, a monument to French Jewry before the expulsion of 1306. Written in Hebrew on the walls is a fragment of the book of Kings, which declares “this house, which is high.”
Today, the Jewish community of Rouen numbers around 700, and the Maison Sublime is but one archeological remnant of ancient European Jewry to be found in the city, which includes the Rue des Juifs. Visiting such historically-relevant locales is an imperative of our kosher cruises, and on our Seine River Cruise in 2020, expect us to visit this city of antiquity.