France’s government has allocated half a million dollars for the preservation and restoration of France’s oldest Jewish building, discovered by accident under a parking lot in 1976, reported JTA, citing French publication Tendance Ouest.
Nicknamed the “Sublime House,” historians believe the Rouen building to be the seat of a 12th century Yeshiva. Its current moniker comes from an engraving found in the building that reads, “This house is sublime.” According to European Association for the Preservation and Promotion of Jewish Culture and Heritage, it’s not only the oldest Jewish building in France, but in all of Europe. According to JTA:
Built just after the First Crusade in the heart of the Jewish Quarter of Rouen, the building is a testament to the spiritual and material wealth of the Jewish community of France, for which Rouen was a major hub. Around 5,000 Jewish people are believed to have lived in the quarter right in the heart of town, until the expulsion of the Jews from France in 1309.
The building was closed to the public between 2001 and 2009 because of security concerns, but soon after the reopening, “humidity and poor ventilation” began to take its toll on the Sublime House. The government’s funding will cover approximately a little over half of the necessary repair costs, with the rest coming from grants and donations.
The 1,615 square-foor Sublime House is slated to reopen in 2017. Inside of it, a Hebrew inscriptions reads, “May the Torah Reign forever.”
Jesse Bernstein is a former Intern at Tablet.