As soon as it was discovered, the Jewish Monument of Rouen was the subject of a fierce controversy concerning its identity. This controversy did not, of course, facilitate the patrimonial enhancement of this treasure of our medieval heritage. Three hypotheses were put forward at the time:
This thesis was developed at length by Bernhard Blumenkranz, research director at CNRS, and by some archeologists in charge of the excavation, in Jewish Art and Archeology in Medieval France.
The private dwelling
This thesis was for a time defended by Michel de Boüard, a distinguished medievalist, historian and archeologist, in an article entitled Synagogue or Talmudic Academy? Reflections on a Controversy. He stopped supporting this view one year later (see below).
The rabbinic school
Presented from the start by Professor Norman Golb, this thesis has ultimately come to outweigh the other two. It is
detailed by him in a special study entitled Nature and Purpose of the Hebraic Monument Discovered in Rouen.
Commenting in the journal Études Normandes (Norman Studies) on N. Golb’s book Les Juifs de Rouen au Moyen Âge just after it was published, Michel de Boüard for all practical purposes put an end to the debate when he wrote: Whereas some people immediately jumped to the conclusion that it was a synagogue, without sufficient reflection, N. Golb set about proving that it could only be the Yeshibah, whose exact site he had already determined; there ensued a controversy that lasted for eight years and triggered further research.
Since that moment, neither historical documentation nor scientific evidence has been adduced to disprove this thesis -quite the contrary!- and no other interpretation can be reasonably considered plausible.
The arguments which enable us to identify the monument as a Jewish School are therefore presented here, without, of course, excluding the possibility of new discoveries being made that might serve to challenge this interpretation.