Samuel Ibn Tibbon

The Tibbonides, a dynasty of scholars

Samuel Ibn Tibbon (born in Lunel around 1160, died in 1230) traveled extensively, living in Arles, Béziers, Marseille...

He was the most illustrious of the Tibbonid dynasty, a rabbi, physician, translator and philosopher. He translated Maimonides' texts, including "Le guide des égarés", and wrote medical and philosophical treatises.

Numerous other scholars, Talmudists, translators, grammarians, physicians, astronomers and philosophers also made this community famous.

Much of the Aristotelian knowledge preserved in Arabic was translated into Hebrew and the vernacular. The Kabbalah is taught here, the Talmud, the Torah and the Book of Formation are commented on, and the Bible is translated from Hebrew and Aramaic.

Lunel was a hotbed of intellectual and cultural reflection, and the site of philosophical clashes between the orthodox and rationalist clans (based on the Greek thought of Aristotle). Major controversies arose over Maimonides' "Guide to the Lost", and numerous letters found in Cairo's Guenizah attest to this.


And yet, despite these numerous testimonies, it is difficult to identify any architectural remains linked to this past: few excavations have been undertaken to date. There is, however, a "presumed synagogue" in the Hôtel de Bernis - on Rue Alphonse Ménard, a private residence in Lunel - noted on a 14th-century document as "l'escola dels juis".

Despite its renown, the Lunel Jewish school was abandoned following the expulsion of the Jews by King Philippe Le Bel of France in 1306. Rehabilitated in 1315 and 1359, the Jews never returned to Lunel. They were definitively banished from Languedoc-Roussillon in 1394. In the meantime, some settled in Montpellier, an important center of medical knowledge, where a medieval mikveh, a house of learning, an almshouse and a synagogue still stand today.

We are thus at the very roots of Judeo-Christian Europe.