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The Jewish Kingdom of Rouen

The visit of Pope Innocent II to Rouen in 1131

Being anxious to increase support of Innocent II, St. Bernard of Clairvaux (founder of the Cistercian order) organized in 1131 the Rouennais visit of the new pope in order to receive the support of the local clergy and the Jewish community.

The national council of French bishops convened at Etampes in October 1130 by King Louis VI the Fat had rallied the French bishops to Pope Innocent II, during the period of a schism that opposed him to Anacletus II. Bernard of Clairvaux had decided that Innocent was the right choice, and since he was one of the most prominent French abbots of his time, his opinion had influenced the king’s decision. In the months that followed, Bernard of Clairvaux tried to win over other important people to the Pope’s cause, among them Henry Ist Beauclerc of England, and Lothair, Emperor of Germany. Trying to secure the support of the clergy of Rouen, Bernard took advantage of Henry’s presence in the city by taking the Pope to see his friend Hugues d’Amiens, the archbishop.

Bernard of Clairvaux

Innocent II had arrived in Rouen on May 9, 1131, and as William of Malmesbury writes the king honored him with gifts not only from himself but from the nobles and, moreover, the Jews. This proves how fundamental the role of the Jewish community of Rouen was and how important its influence in the recognition of Innocent II by the Jews of Western Europe. In consonance therewith one finds that, ten years later, in a treatise against the Jews (Tractatus adversus Judaeos), Peter the Venerable found it necessary to mention that the messiah the Jews were expecting could in no way be incarnated in that king whom certain of your people claim they have at Narbonne, and whom others claim they have at Rouen.