Vitrail Synagogue Rachi Troyes

In the heart of the Aube region, the former county of Champagne was home to prestigious medieval Jewish communities from the 11th to the 13th centuries. Rashi, Rabbi Salomon son of Isaac, a great commentator on the sacred texts of Judaism, was born in Troyes in 1040. He gave an unexpected boost to the intellectual creativity of the Jews of Champagne.

After him, many scholars who claimed to be members of his Champagne School influenced other Jewish communities in their interpretation of the Bible and the Talmud. Through them, the name of the prestigious county of Champagne spread throughout the Jewish communities of the West. Their commentaries and legal rulings are the only evidence of this period, attesting to intense intellectual activity and a flourishing local Jewish life.

The incredible destiny of Rachi in the small town of Troyes in Champagne

Rashi, Rabbi Salomon son of Isaac, a great commentator on the sacred texts of Judaism, was born in Troyes in 1040. He left the city to complete his religious studies in the Rhineland. On his return to his home town, he founded a study circle in which he trained around twenty students in a revolutionary method of exegesis (interpretation of texts).

From Troyes, he devoted his life to commenting on the Talmud and the Hebrew Bible. An accomplished scholar, he was consulted by many communities. His three daughters ensured him numerous descendants. He died at the age of 65 on 13 July 1105. Buried in Troyes with full honours, his tomb has been missing since the 16th century, when the Jewish cemetery in the Preize quarter was destroyed to enlarge the town. Rashi continues to be read and studied by Jews the world over, who regard him as the ‘commentator par excellence’.

Champagne, the intellectual crossroads of the Middle Ages

In the 11th century, Champagne was ruled by the Counts of Champagne and Brie, powerful vassals of the King of France. Jews have lived here for several centuries and enjoy fairly favourable living conditions. There are many exchanges between the Jewish and Christian communities, who speak the same language, practise the same trades and live in the same neighbourhoods.

From the 12th century onwards, the Counts Thibaud II of Champagne and then Henry I the Liberal encouraged the intellectual effervescence of the county. They shared the company of numerous scholars such as Bernard de Clairvaux, Chrétien de Troyes, Pierre le Mangeur (Petrus Comestor) and Abélard, and communicated with the Wise Men of the Jewish communities of Champagne in a convivial atmosphere.

In the 13th century, the rich and powerful Champagne region was home to almost 50 prosperous Jewish communities: Troyes, Ramerupt, Dampierre, Villenauxe, Lhuître, Ervy-le-Châtel, Chappes, St-Mards-en-Othe, Barsur-Aube, Mussy-sur-Seine, Brienne, Plancy, Trannes, etc. Apart from the present-day department of Aube, the former county of Champagne and Brie had other Jewish communities in Vitry, Provins, Joinville, Sens and Château-Thierry…

Conditions changed under Louis IX, who drastically restricted the rights of the Jews. Then Philip the Fair and Charles expelled the Jews from the kingdom of France in 1306 and again in 1394, for a period of four centuries. Champagne will gradually forget these times of fruitful sharing with the Jews who had been living there for centuries.

Bibliothèque de la Maison Rachi - ©CulturistiQ

The European Route of Jewish Heritage in Aube

Since 2019, Champagne has been part of the Jewish Heritage Route, a Cultural Itinerary of the Council of Europe, as the cradle of a universally known and recognised intangible heritage. The Medieval Route of Rashi in Champagne a mission is to promote the Jewish memory of the Département of Aube, a priceless cultural heritage shared by Jews the world over and the historical heritage of a leading region – the former county of Champagne – with national and international influence.

To give the region a boost, over time it will offer a wide range of cultural and tourist activities in the 20 communes of Aube that hold the memory of the former Jewish communities of Champagne.

European Days of Jewish Culture 2023

This year’s European Days of Jewish Culture and Heritage are being celebrated across Europe from Sunday 3 September, on the theme of “memory”.

Click here to find out more about the Medieval Route of Rachi in Champagne.

Click here for events in Europe.

Journées Européennes de la culture juive 2023
Maison Rachi - ©Didier Guy

Medieval synagogues no longer exist in Champagne. Since 1960, a synagogue has been located on rue Brunneval in Troyes, in a former 17th-century noble building. The 2000m2 buildings were magnificently restored in 2016. Since 2017, in parallel with worship, the synagogue has been offering a daring museographic trail within its walls to discover Rachi and his work thanks to an innovative immersive and digital scenography, “La Maison Rachi”.

The Institut Universitaire Européen Rachi is a higher education establishment, open to all, devoted to Jewish and Semitic studies and research into the monotheisms. In the spirit of the commentator Rashi, it opens Judaism up to the world. The courses, evening debates and conferences held throughout the year provide food for thought on dialogue between cultures and religions.

Portail Institut Rachi - ©ADT Aube
Fresque de Dampierre
Fresque de Ramerupt

Frescoes to showcase Aube’s medieval Jewish heritage

To promote Jewish heritage in the Aube region, the Route Médiévale de Rachi en Champagne launched a Fresco project in October 2021. The project was launched in partnership with the Communauté de Communes Arcis Mailly Ramerupt, in the municipalities of Ramerupt, Dampierre and Lhuître. Three initial frescoes now highlight the history of these towns, which were home to Jewish communities during the reign of the Counts of Champagne.

Eventually, around twenty villages in Aube will host a series of frescoes, offering visitors and residents alike a genuine tourist trail around the Frescoes to be discovered in the Department of Aube.

The common thread linking each fresco is the symbolism of the book and the written word, with a commentary by Rashi or his disciples, in Hebrew and French. The frescoes are painted on outside walls that are accessible from the public highway. The model for each fresco is entrusted to an artist selected through a Call for Artistic Projects. The frescoes are created by volunteers from the Association des Passeurs de Fresques. (see press article).

The first fresco was created at the beginning of June 2022 in Dampierre on the wall of the Town Hall. It depicts Isaac de Dampierre, the famous commentator of the Tossafist school, disciples of Rashi of Troyes.. The artist, Jean-Philippe Ledit, has created a highly colourful work in which Rabbi Isaac, Rachi’s great-grandson, is depicted studying the sacred texts.

The second fresco was created in June 2023 in Ramerupt on the wall of the old school, opposite the church. It depicts a fictitious meeting between the Count of Champagne Henri 1st the Liberal and Rabbenu Tam, leader of the Tossafists and grandson of Rashi.. The artist, Javier de Sierra Salaberry, has proposed a work that highlights the well-known figures of the Rachi family who settled in Ramerupt in the 12th century.

The third fresco was created in September 2023 in Lhuître on the wall of the Town Hall. It shows Rashi surrounded by his wife, daughters and disciples on the cereal-growing land of Lhuître near Sainte Tanche, patron saint of the village since the 7th century.

Filled with symbols, these frescoes bring this intangible heritage to life for the general public. In addition to its touristic and artistic aspects, the Rachi Trail is a genuine civic adventure based on the notion of transmission: local residents were involved in the artistic creation of each fresco through various workshops and meetings. It’s an original way of raising public and school awareness of this history that belongs to them.

Press coverage


Experience a series of “Heritage Encounters” in the form of walks, guided tours and offbeat workshops to discover Aube, its history and its natural, gastronomic, architectural and artistic treasures, through the writings of Rachi.

Unusual journeys back in time to explore Rachi and Jewish heritage in a different way, while at the same time promoting the cultural and tourist players, craftspeople and producers involved in this adventure.

Rencontres patrimoines avec CulturistiQ
Sphère Rachi, Moretti (c) Delphine Yague, CulturistiQ

Follow the 3.5 km self-guided tour of Troyes in the footsteps of Rachi. Or accompanied by a guide. (Book on 03 25 82 62 70)

Discover the exceptional history that has united the Jewish community with the County of Champagne and Aube for many centuries…