Salomon (Samuel) Levy

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Salomon (Samuel) Levy

Immediate Family:

Son of Antonio Ha Levy, Abulafia and N.N. Levy
Husband of Clara Levy
Father of Solomon Levy

Managed by: David Castro-Blanco
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Immediate Family

About Salomon (Samuel) Levy

Samuel Levi, naci 1320 y a fayece 1360. (Samuel Ha-Levi Abulafia;

1320-60), Tesorero di Rey Pedro e Cruel di Aragon. Fam Levi ta 
 descendiente di Levi, yiu di Jacob di testament bieu. Esakinan ta miho 
 conoci como e Levitanan.

///////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////// Ha-Levi, Samuel ? - 1361 Ville de Tolède

Bust of Samuel ha-Levi

Work of Rosa Hidalgo. Paseo del Tránsito

It is the most known Jew of Tolède. He was the treasurer of Pierre I the Cruel one (Pedro I el Cruel) since 1350. He made build the synagog of the Transit (Sinagoga del Tránsito) in 1357 and he was the most influential man of the royal court from Seville of Pierre I.

Samuel ha-Levi represents contradictions of the time well: an intelligent, ambitious, generous man with its community of Tolède. But he is not appreciated in Seville, he always worked for king de Castille while always remaining in danger of death.

Its end was tragic: the king Pierre I made it decapitate in 1361 because it had accumulated a doubtful fortune.


SPAIN (print this article)

By : Richard Gottheil Meyer Kayserling Joseph Jacobs


 Early Settlement.
 Under Recared.
 Under the Visigoths.
 The Arrival of the Moors.
 Under 'Abd al-Rahman I. and Al-Ḥakim.
 Samuel ibn Nagdela.
 Under the Almoravides.
 Under the Almohades.
 In Castile and Leon.
 The Battle of Zallaka.
 Under Alfonso VIII.
 Under Ferdinand III. of Castile and James I. of Aragon.
 Disputations and Translations.
 Bull of Innocent IV., 1250.
 Social Position.
 Population and Dispersion.
 Opposition of the Cortes.
 Under Alfonso XI.
 Gonzalo Martinez.
 Pedro the Cruel.
 Samuel Levi.
 Massacres of 1366.
 Anti-Jewish Enactments.
 The Massacre of 1391.
 The "New Christians."
 Vicente Ferrer.
 Number of Converts.
 Disputation at Tortosa.
 Effects of the Persecutions.
 Under John II.
 Restrictions on Autonomy.
 Culture and Education.
 Karaites in Spain.
 In the Second Half of the Fifteenth Century.
 Spread of the Jews in Spain.
 The Cortes of 1462.
 Edict of Expulsion.
 Number of the Exiles.
 The Maranos.

Early Settlement.

Jews lived in Spain in very early times, although the legend that Solomon's treasurer Adoniram died there, as well as the story that the Jews of Toledo, in a letter addressed to the Sanhedrin at Jerusalem, declared against the crucifixion of Jesus, can not be credited. Yet it is certain that the apostle Paul intended to visit Spain to proclaim his new teaching to the Jews living there, and that Vespasian, and especially Hadrian, who was himself a Spaniard, transported several Jewish prisoners to Spain. Several passages in the Talmud and in the Midrash (Leviticus Rabbah) which treat of refer undoubtedly to Spain (Levy, "Neuhebr. Wörterb." i. 128; Kohut, "Aruch Completum," i. 188); and the Jewish coins unearthed in ancient Tarragona give evidence of an early settlement of the Jews in Spain, either voluntary or involuntary.

The earliest Jewish tombstone with a Latin inscription and discovered in Spain is that unearthed at Adra; it is of a Jewish girl, and dates back to the third century (Hübner, "Inscriptiones Hispaniæ Latinæ," p. 268, Berlin, 1869; Rios, "Hist." i. 68). The Jews spread rapidly over the Pyrenean peninsula, and were well treated under the sovereignty of the Arian Visigoths; they lived on an equality with the other inhabitants, engaged in trade and agriculture, and were often entrusted with judicial offices. The first attempt to disturb the friendly relations that existed between Jews and Christians originated with the Council of Elvira (303-304), which consisted of nineteen bishops and twenty-four presbyters, the bishops being chosen from Cordova, Seville, Toledo, Saragossa, and other cities inhabited by Jews. This council under pain of excommunication prohibited the Christians from living with Jews or eating in their company; it forbade also the blessing of the produce of Jewish fields "in order that the ecclesiastical benediction might not appear fruitless and vain."

Under Recared.

The position of the Jews became even less favorable when King Recared (586-589), for political reasons, abjured the Arian faith before the third Council of Toledo and entered the Catholic Church. In order to confirm the converted Arians in the Catholic faith and to win the clergy over to his side, he endeavored to prevent the Christians from associating with the Jews, who, as the allies of those opposed to his conversion, might have proved dangerous opponents of his religious plans. At the Council of Toledo in 589 he issued an order to the effect that Jews might not acquire or own Christian slaves, nor fill public offices, nor have intercourse with Christian women; the circumcision of a slave or of a Christian was punished with confiscation of property. Recared did not, however, succeed in enforcing his laws. The Arians, recently converted to the Catholic faith, were true allies of the Jews, who were oppressed like themselves; and the Jews were therefore protected by the Arian bishops and by the independent Visigothic nobility. The successors of Recared were, as a rule, better disposed toward the Jews, King Sisebut being the first who endeavored to enforce fully the laws enacted by Recared. He ordered that the Jews, on pain of the loss of their property, should release all their Christian slaves within a short time, and that in the future they might not hold any slaves.

Under the Visigoths.

Sisebut decreed the first persecution of the Jews in Spain. Whether he was influenced by Emperor Heraclius, or whether the clergy brought it about, is unknown, but he ordered that within a year all Jews should either submit to baptism or leave the Visigothic kingdom forever. Many Jews fled; but the greater number, more than 90,000, saved their property and their homes by embracing Christianity, though at heart they remained Jews. On account of this forcible conversion the king was severely criticized by Isidor of Seville, the most learned Spaniard of the time. During the reign of Suintala the fugitives returned to their country and the baptized Jews openly professed Judaism again. Forced to abdicate his throne, Suintala was succeeded by Sisenand. The latter was the tool of the clergy, and at the fourth Toledan Council (633) he ordered that the children of baptized Jews should be taken from their parents and given to Christians or to the cloisters for education. He ordered also that all Jews who had been forcibly baptized and who practised Jewish ceremonies should be given away as slaves.The council called at Toledo by Chintila not only confirmed all the previously enacted anti-Jewish laws, but it ordained that no Jew might remain in the country, and that in the future every king at his accession should promise on oath to proceed with the greatest severity against all relapsing baptized Jews. The pseudo-Christians presented to the king a written statement declaring that they would live as good Catholics; but under Chindaswind they openly returned to the fold of Judaism. King Receswind was more severe than any of his predecessors. He ordered that Jews who practised the rites of their faith should be beheaded, burned, or stoned to death. The Jews of Toledo promised (653) to observe the Church regulations, including that ordering them not to abstain from eating pork. Nevertheless, they continued to observe the Jewish festivals and to ignore the Christian, so that the clergy at length insisted upon their celebrating the Christian holy days under the supervision of the Church authorities.

The severe measures taken by the Visigothic civil officers as well as by the councils were mainly directed against the secret Jews, whom the clergy considered more dangerous than the unbaptized ones; the latter were, therefore, left in peace. Erwig, however, attempted to force these to accept baptism, threatening them with the confiscation of their property or with expulsion if they refused; he pronounced the severest punishments for the reading of anti-Christian writings and for practising the rite of circumcision. All the anti-Jewish laws proposed by this king were accepted by the twelfth Toledan Council, presided over by Archbishop Julian of Toledo, who had published several writings against the Jews, although he was himself of Jewish origin and kept a Jewish servant.

Egica, the son-in-law and successor of Erwig, in the beginning of his reign showed himself mild toward the Jews. When, however, they allied themselves with the Arabs, who threatened the kingdom (which already was suffering from internal disturbances), the king confiscated all their property, and, in order to render them harmless for all time, declared all Jews, baptized or not, to be slaves and distibuted them as gifts among Christians. Jewish children over seven years of age were taken from their parents and similarly dealt with (end of 694).

The Arrival of the Moors.

Witiza, the son of Egica, is described sometimes as a paragon of virtue and sometimes as a veritable fiend; the latter description of him is the one generally given by ecclesiastical writers. Lucas de Tuy, Archbishop Rodrigo, Ambrosio de Morales, Juan do Mariana, and other Spanish historians hold that this king, to further heretical ends, misused the previous decisions of the councils, that he recalled the exiled Jews, granted them privileges, and even entrusted them with public offices. Whether this be true, or whether, as is more probable, he oppressed them as his predecessors had done, it remains a fact that the Jews, either directly or through their coreligionists in Africa, encouraged the Mohammedans to conquer Spain and that they greeted them as their deliverers. After the battle of Jerez (711), in which African Jews fought bravely under Kaula al-Yahudi, and in which the last Gothic king, Rodrigo, and his nobles were slain, the conquerors Musa and Ṭariḳ were everywhere victorious. The conquered cities Cordova, Malaga, Granada, Seville, and Toledo were placed in charge of the Jewish inhabitants, who had been armed by the Arabs. The victors removed the disabilities which had oppressed the Jews so heavily, and granted them full religious liberty, requiring them to pay only the tribute of one golden dinar per capita (Adolf do Castro, "Historia de los Judios en España," pp. 33 et seq.; Rios, "Hist." i. 106 et seq.; G. van Vlooten, "Recherches sur la Domination Arabe," Amsterdam, 1894).

A new era now dawned for the Jews of the Pyrenean peninsula, whose number had been considerably augmented by those who had followed the Arab conquerors, as well as by later immigrants from Africa. Hardly a decade after the conquest, however, many Jews left their new home in order to follow a man named Serenus (Zanora, Zonaria) who had appeared in Syria and had proclaimed himself the Messiah (721); the governor, Anbasa (Ambisa), who was collecting enormous sums for the fiscus, confiscated the property of the emigrating Jews for this purpose. Under the Ommiad 'Abd al-Raḥman I., whose greatness is said to have been foretold by a learned Jew who became his adviser, a flourishing kingdom was established, of which Cordova was the center. During 'Abd al-Raḥman's reign the Jews devoted themselves to the service of the califate, to the study of the sciences, and to commerce and industry, especially to trading in silk and slaves, in this way promoting the prosperity of the country. Southern Spain became an asylum for the oppressed Jews of other parts. Bodo-Eleazar, a convert to Judaism, went to Cordova, where he is said to have endeavored to win proselytes for Judaism from among the Spanish Christians; but that the mass of the Spanish Jews of the period in question hated the Christians and aimed at making proselytes is not correct.

Under 'Abd al-Rahman I. and Al-Ḥakim.

The reigns of 'Abd al-Raḥman I. (called Al-Nasir; 912-961) and his son Al-Ḥakim were the golden era for the Spanish Jews and Jewish science. 'Abd al-Raḥman's court physician and minister was Ḥasdai ben Isaac ibn Shaprut, the patron of Menahem ben Saruḳ, Dunash ben Labraṭ, and other Jewish scholars and poets. During his term of power the scholar Moses ben Enoch was appointed rabbi of Cordova, and as a consequence Spain became the center of Talmudic study, and Cordova the meeting-place of Jewish savants. After the downfall of Al-Ḥakim, who likewise favored the Jews, a struggle for the throne broke out between Sulaiman ibn al-Ḥakim and Mohammed ibn Hisham. Sulaiman solicited the assistance of Count Sancho of Castile, while Mohammed, through the agency of wealthy Jewish merchants in Cordova, obtained the aid of Count Ramon of Barcelona. For this Sulaiman took fearful revenge upon the Jews, expelling them mercilessly from city and country (1013).

With the overthrow of the Banu Amir the power of the Mohammedan state in Spain came to an end,the mighty califate of Cordova being divided into twelve minor states under different califs. The Abbadites ruled in Seville, the Hammudites in Malaga, the Zayrids in Granada, the Beni-Hud in Saragossa, and others in Almeria, Toledo, Valencia, Niebla, etc. Several Jews left Cordova for Malaga, Granada, Toledo, Murcia, and Saragossa.

Samuel ibn Nagdela.

Among those who fled from Cordova was the Talmudist and linguist Samuel ha-Levi ibn Nagdela (Nagrela), who went to Malaga, which, together, with the towns of Jaen, Ronda, etc., belonged to the kingdom of Granada, founded by the Barbary tribe of Sinhagah. Samuel won the favor of the vizier of King Ḥabus of Granada; he appointed him his private secretary and recommended him to the king as counselor, and upon the death of the vizier the king made Samuel his minister and entrusted him with the administration of diplomatic affairs. Samuel, who resided in Granada, officiated as rabbi also, and took an active interest in the sciences and poetry. He retained his court position under King Ḥabus' son Badis, whom he aided against his elder brother Balkin. Samuel remained the protector of his coreligionists, who in Granada enjoyed full civic equality, being eligible for public offices and for service in the army.

A position similar to that of Samuel's was occupied, though only for a short time, by Jekuthiel ibn Ḥasan in Saragossa. Jekuthiel shared the fate of Samuel's son Abu Ḥusain Joseph ibn Nagdela, who succeeded his father as minister upon the latter's death (1055); Abu Ḥusain was accused by his enemies of treason after having held office for eleven years, and was crucified before the gate of Granada on Dec. 30, 1066. On this occasion all the Jews of Granada who had not sought salvation in flight, fifteen hundred families in number, fell victims to the rage of the populace. This was the first persecution of Jews on the Peninsula while under Islamic rule. All Jews were compelled to leave Granada, several finding refuge in Lucena. In the year of the persecution in Granada the talented philosopher Abu al-Faḍl ibn Ḥasdai was appointed vizier in Saragossa; he was the son of the poet Joseph ibn Ḥasdai, who had fled from Cordova in 1013, and he held the office of vizier until Abu Amir Yusuf al-Mu'tamir ascended the throne. The scholar Isaac ibn Albalia, who had escaped the butchery in Granada, was appointed astronomer to Mohammed al-Mu'tamid in Seville, who was a patron of science and poetry; Isaac was appointed also rabbi of all the congregations in that city. At the same time Al-Mu'tamid employed Joseph ibn Migas on diplomatic missions.

Under the Almoravides.

Terrified by the conquests of King Alfonso VI. of Castile, Al-Mu'tamid, heedless of the remonstrances of his son, called to his aid the ambitious Yusuf ibn Tashfin of North Africa. In the terrific battle of Zallaḳa (Oct., 1086), in which Jews fought bravely both in the Christian and in the Moorish army, Yusuf won a victory and the sovereign power. The Almoravides, a warlike, fanatical religious sect, now became the rulers of southern Spain; they did nothing to improve the welfare of the Jews. Yusuf ibn Tashfin endeavored to force the large and wealthy community of Lucena to embrace Islam. Under the reign of his son Ali (1106-43) the position of the Jews was more favorable. Some were appointed "mushawirah" (collectors and custodians of the royal taxes). Others entered the service of the state, holding the title of "vizier" or "nasi"; among these may be mentioned the poet and physician Abu Ayyub Solomon ibn al-Mu'allam of Seville, Abraham ibn Meïr ibn Ḳamnial, Abu Isaac ibn Muhajar, and Solomon ibn Farusal (murdered May 2, 1108). The old communities of Seville, Granada, and Cordova prospered anew.

Under the Almohades.

The power of the Almoravides was of short duration. A fanatic of North Africa, Abdallah ibn Tumart, appeared about 1112 as the upholder of Mohammed's original teachings concerning the unity of God, and became the founder of a new party called the Almohades, or Muzmotas ("Shebeṭ Yehudah," p. 3, gives the correct date as 4872 [= 1112]). Upon the death of Abdallah, 'Abd al-Mu'min took the leadership and endeavored with sword and brand to exterminate the Almoravides as political and religious enemies. In North Africa he won victory after victory. In the same year in which the Second Crusade brought new distress to the German Jews, 'Abd al-'Mu'min passed over to southern Spain in order to wrest that country from the Almoravides. He conquered Cordova (1148), Seville, Lucena, Montilla, Aguilar, and Baena, and within a year the whole of Andalusia was in the possession of the Almohades. As in Africa, so in Spain, the Jews were forced to accept the Islamic faith; the conquerors confiscated their property and took their wives and children, many of whom were sold as slaves. The most famous Jewish educational institutions were closed, and the beautiful synagogues every where destroyed.

The terrible persecutions by the Almohades lasted for ten years. On account of these persecutions many Jews made a pretense of embracing Islam, but a great number fled to Castile, whose tolerant ruler, Alfonso VII., received them with hospitality, especially in Toledo. Others fled to northern Spain and to Provence, in which latter country the Ḳimḥis sought refuge. Various attempts on the part of the Jews to defend themselves against the Almohades were unsuccessful; the courageous Abu Ruiz ibn Dahri of Granada especially distinguished himself in such a conflict (1162; see "Al-Maḳḳari," ed. Gayangos, ii. 23). The part taken by the Jews in the struggle against the Almohades must not be underestimated; the latter's power was broken in the battle of Navas de Toledo on July 16, 1212.

In Castile and Leon. (see image) Interior View of St. Maria la Blanca, Formerly a Synagogue, Toledo, Spain.The first Christian princes, the counts of Castile and the first kings of Leon, treated the Jews as mercilessly as did the Almohades. In their operations against the Moors they did not spare the Jews, destroying their synagogues and killing their teachers and scholars. Only gradually did the rulers come to realize that, surrounded as they were by powerful enemies, they could not afford to turn the Jews against them. Garcia Fernandez, Count of Castile, in the fuero of Castrojeriz (974), placed the Jews in many respects on an equality with Christians; and similar measures were adopted by the Council of Leon (1020), presided over by Alfonso V. In Leon, the metropolis of Christian Spain until the conquest of Toledo, many Jews owned real estate, and engaged in agriculture and viticulture as well as in the handicrafts; and here, as in other towns, they lived on friendly terms with the Christian population. The Council of Coyanza (1050) therefore found it necessary to revive the old-Visigothic law forbidding, under pain of punishment by the Church, Jews and Christians to live together in the same house, or to eat together.

Ferdinand I. of Castile set aside a part of the Jewish taxes for the use of the Church, and even the not very religious-minded Alfonso VI. gave to the church of Leon the taxes paid by the Jews of Castro. Alfonso VI., the conqueror of Toledo (1085), was tolerant and benevolent in his attitude toward the Jews, for which he won the praise of Pope Alexander II. To estrange the wealthy and industrious Jews from the Moors he offered the former various privileges. In the fuero of Najara Sepulveda, issued and confirmed by him (1076), he not only granted the Jews full equality with the Christians, but he even accorded them the rights enjoyed by the nobility; this fuero was applied also in other cities, as Toledo (1085), Leon (1090), Miranda de Ebro (1099), etc. The example set by Alfonso was followed in Aragon and Navarre, as is evidenced by the fueros of Jaca (1100), Tudela (1115), Belforado (1116), Carcastello (1129), Calatayud (1131), and Daroca (1142). To show their gratitude to the king for the rights granted them, the Jews willingly placed themselves at his and the country's service. Alfonso employed Jews for diplomatic errands, as, for example, the scholar Amram ben Isaac ibn Shalbib, whom the king sent with a delegation to Mohammed al-Mu'tamid at Seville (1082; according to some sources, not before 1085). A prominent position at Alfonso's court was held probably by the otherwise unknown Samuel ben Shealtiel ha-Nasi, who died on the 16th of Elul (Aug. 27, 1097), or by his father, whose tombstone has but recently been discovered in Arevalo ("Boletin Acad. Hist." xxv. 489 et seq.).

The Battle of Zallaka.

Alfonso's army contained 40,000 Jews, who were distinguished from the other combatants by their black-and-yellow turbans; for the sake of this Jewish contingent the battle of Zallaḳa was not begun until after the Sabbath had passed. Before the battle the king sent not only to the bishops, but to the Jewish scholars and astrologers also, to hear their predictions for the future (Fernandez y Gonzalez, "Las Mudejares de Castilla," pp. 41 et seq.). The king's body-physician and confidant was the Jew Cidelo (Cidelus), who placed before the king a petition from the counts and grandees of the kingdom which neither of these ventured to address to his majesty. The king's favoritism toward the Jews, which became so pronounced that Pope Gregory VII. warned him not to permit Jews to rule over Christians, roused the hatred and envy of the latter. After the unfortunate battle of Ucles, at which the infante Sancho, together with 30,000 men, were killed, an anti-Jewish riot broke out in Toledo; many Jews were slain, and their houses and synagogues were burned (1108). Alfonso intended to punish the murderers and incendiaries, but died before he could carry out his intention (June, 1109). After his death the inhabitants of Carrion fell upon the Jews; many were slain, others were imprisoned, and their houses were pillaged.

Alfonso VII., who assumed the title of Emperor of Leon, Toledo, and Santiago, curtailed in the beginning of his reign the rights and liberties which his father had granted the Jews. He ordered that neither a Jew nor a convert might exercise legal authority over Christians, and he held the Jews responsible for the collection of the royal taxes. Soon, however, he became more friendly, confirming the Jews in all their former privileges and even granting them additional ones, by which they were placed on an equality with Christians. Considerable influence with the king was enjoyed by Judah ben Joseph ibn Ezra (Nasi). After the conquest of Calatrava (1147) the king placed Judah in command of the fortress, later making him his court chamberlain. Judah ben Joseph stood in such favor with the king that the latter, at his request, not only admitted into Toledo the Jews who had fled from the persecutions of the Almohades, but even assigned many fugitives dwellings in Flascala (near Toledo), Fromista, Carrion, Palencia, and other places, where new congregations were soon established. In recognition of his faithful services Judah received, a year after Alfonso's death (1157), from his son Sancho, five yokes of land in Azaña (Illescas) for himself and his children (Fidel Fita, "La España Hebrea," i. 20 et seq.).

Under Alfonso VIII.

After the brief reign of King Sancho III. a war broke out between Fernando II. of Leon (who granted the Jews special privileges) and the united kings of Aragon and Navarre. Jews fought in both armies, and after the declaration of peace they were placed in charge of the fortresses. Alfonso VIII. of Castile (1166-1214), who had succeeded to the throne, entrusted the Jews with guarding Or, Celorigo, and, later, Mayorga, while Sancho the Wise of Navarre placed them in charge of Estella, Funes, and Murañon. During the reign of Alfonso VIII. the Jews gained still greater influence, aided, doubtless, by the king's love of the beautiful Jewess Rachel (Fermosa) of Toledo. When the king was defeated at the battle of Alarcos by the Almohades under Yusuf Abu Ya'ḳub al-Manṣur, the defeat was attributed to the king's love-affair with Fermosa, and she and her relatives were murdered in Toledo by the nobility (Rios, "Hist." i. 336 et seq.; Grätz ["Gesch." vi. 228] does not accept the traditional belief concerning the murder of the king's paramour). After the victory at Alarcos the emir Mohammed al-Naṣir ravaged Castile with a powerful army and threatened to overrun the whole of Christian Spain. The Archbishop of Toledo summoned the Crusaders to the aid of Alfonso. In this war against the Moors the king was greatly aided by the wealthy Jews of Toledo, especially by his "almoxarife mayor," the learned and generous Nasi Joseph ben Solomon ibn Shoshan (Al-Ḥajib ibn Amar).The king's debt to the latter amounted in 1204, shortly before Joseph's death, to 18,000 golden maravedis ("Vida del Santa Rey D. Fernando," iii. 233). Joseph stood high in the king's favor, and his sons Solomon and Isaac benefited thereby after their father's death.

The Crusaders ("Ultrapuertos") were hailed with joy in Toledo, but this joy was soon changed to sorrow, as far as the Jews were concerned. The Crusaders began the "holy war" in Toledo (1212) by robbing and butchering the Jews, and if the knights had not checked them with armed forces all the Jews in Toledo would have been slain. When, after the sanguinary battle of Navas de Tolosa (1212), Alfonso victoriously entered Toledo, the Jews went to meet him in triumphal procession. Shortly before his death (Oct., 1214) the king issued the fuero de Cuenca, settling the legal position of the Jews in a manner favorable to them.

Under Ferdinand III. of Castile and James I. of Aragon.

A turning-point in the history of the Jews of Spain was reached under Ferdinand III. (who united permanently the kingdoms of Leon and Castile), and under James I., the contemporary ruler of Aragon. The clergy's endeavors directed against the Jews became more and more pronounced. The Spanish Jews of both sexes, like the Jews of France, were compelled to distinguish themselves from Christians by wearing a yellow badge on their clothing; this order was issued to keep them from associating with Christians, although the reason given was that it was ordered for their own safety. The Jews did all in their power to secure the repeal of this order. James I. of Aragon and Theobald I. of Navarre, however, compelled them to wear the badge, and Innocent IV. admonished Ferdinand III. to see that no Jew appeared in public without it.

But in spite of papal bulls and royal decrees the Jews were often freed from this degradation. Pedro III. of Aragon granted some Jews in Valencia, Tarragona, Barcelona, and other cities exemption from wearing the badge, this privilege being especially extended to physicians ("R. E. J." vi. 91 et seq.). Ferdinand III. of Castile and James I. of Aragon (each called "the Conqueror," the former with reference to Cordova and Seville, the latter with reference to the Balearic Isles, Valencia, and Murcia) were religiously inclined, and did not feel particularly friendly toward the Jews, whose conversion they favored. Nevertheless, they made use of the Jews in time of war, and rewarded them for the important services they rendered as secretaries and dragomans, tax-collectors, and tax-farmers. In the cities conquered by him Ferdinand confirmed the Jews in their existing rights and privileges, and after the conquest of Seville he distributed land among them; moreover, in spite of the objections of the clergy he allowed the Jews of Cordova to erect a new and magnificent synagogue. James acted similarly after his conquest of Valencia.

Disputations and Translations.

That Ferdinand's death was mourned by the Jews is evidenced by the Hebrew epitaph which appears on his tombstone, together with inscriptions in Latin, Castilian, and Arabic (the Hebrew epitaph is reprinted in Kayserling's "Ein Feiertag in Madrid," p. 12). The death, also, of James I. (1276), who had arranged a religious disputation between Moses ben Naḥman (the "Rab de España") and the neophyte Pablo Christiano, and who had compelled the Jews to listen to conversionist sermons, was publicly mourned by the Jews. Ferdinand's son, Alfonso X. (the Wise), who was a lover of the sciences, maintained relations with the Jews even before his accession to the throne (1252). He had astronomical and astrological writings translated from Arabic into Spanish by Judah ben Moses (Mosca) Kohen, a physician of Toledo, and by the physicians Abraham and Samuel Levi. Zag (Isaac) ibn Sid, the ḥazzan of Toledo, was the editor of the famous astronomical tables called, after the king, the Alfonsine Tables (regarding the astronomical congress see Steinschneider in "Magazin für die Literatur des Auslandes," 1848, No. 58; idem, "Cat. Bodl." cols. 1356 et seq.; idem, "Hebr. Uebers." pp. 979 et seq.; Grätz, "Gesch." vii. 467). According to his nephew Juan Manuel, Alfonso did not have the Talmud translated (Rios, "Hist." i. 450); but, probably, he had a translation made of "Toda la Ley de los Judios," as he had the Koran rendered into Spanish. The version of the Bible in that language, the subsequent "Ferrarian Bible," was made probably in the thirteenth century (see Bible Translations).

Alfonso, who employed Meïr de Malea and his sons Isaac (Zag) and Joseph as treasurers, and Todros ha-Levi, Solomon ibn Albagal, and other Jews as tax-collectors, granted to the Jews of his domains several privileges and other favors. He permitted the Aljama in Toledo to build a magnificent synagogue, the largest and most beautiful one in Spain; he gave all Jews permission to visit the yearly market in Seville; and in 1264 he assigned houses, vineyards, and lands to the Jews who settled in St. Maria del Puerto (Rios, "Hist." i. 451 et seq.). Notwithstanding this he subjected the Jews to the strictest limitations, especially in his Fuero Real or Fuero Juzgo, as well as in other laws, contained in the large collection "Siete Partidas," which was issued in the Castilian language and in which the influence of the Lateran Council is unmistakable.

Bull of Innocent IV., 1250.

The bull issued by Innocent IV. in April, 1250, to the effect that Jews might not build a new synagogue without special permission, was placed on the statute-books by this king (reprinted in Rios, "Hist." i. 557). To make proselytes was forbidden to the Jews under pain of death and confiscation of property. They might not associate with the Christians, live under the same roof with them, eat and drink with them, or use the same bath; neither might a Christian partake of wine which had been prepared by a Jew. The Jews might not employ Christian nurses or servants, and Christians might use only medicinal remedies which had been prepared by competent Christian apothecaries. Every Jew should wear the badge, though the king reserved to himself the right to exempt any one from this obligation; any Jew apprehended without the badge was liable to a fine of ten gold maravedis or tothe infliction of ten stripes. The Jews were forbidden to appear in public on Good Friday. Alfonso, called "the Wise," was so deluded that he not only used as a theme for his "Libro de las Cantigas" the false legend that the Jews every year on Good Friday crucified a Christian child, but he ordered that every Jew accused of such a crime should be brought before him and, if convicted, slain. Alfonso requested the Jews to live peacefully in their Juderia and to observe conscientiously their religious laws; he ordered that they should not be disturbed in their religious ceremonies or summoned before courts on Sabbaths or festivals; that their synagogues and their sacred furniture should be in every way respected; and that they should be neither forced nor bribed into embracing Christianity.

The last years of Alfonso's reign were sad ones, as well for himself as for the Jews in his dominion. The king condemned to death his faithful "almoxarife" Zag de Malea, because the latter had given to the infante Sancho, who had quarreled with his father, a large sum of money which the king had intended to use in the subjugation of Algeciras (see Malea). Incensed by the act of Malea, the king, in direct opposition to his previous enactments, ordered that on a certain Sabbath all Castilian Jews should be taken prisoners while in their synagogues; he levied upon them a tribute of 12,000 gold maravedis, imposing an additional fine of the same amount for every day the tribute remained unpaid (Rios, "Hist." i. 494). Four years later (1281) the king was dethroned by his son Sancho, with the sanction of the Cortes. Alfonso died in 1284, forsaken by his children, and even by the clergy to which he had made liberal concessions.

Social Position.

The Jews in Spain were Spaniards, both as regards their customs and their language. They owned real estate, and they cultivated their land with their own hands; they filled public offices, and on account of their industry they became wealthy, while their knowledge and ability won them respect and influence. But this prosperity roused the jealousy of the people and provoked the hatred of the clergy; the Jews had to suffer much through these causes. The kings, especially those of Aragon, regarded the Jews as their property; they spoke of "their" Jews, "their" Juderias, and in their own interest they protected the Jews against violence, making good use of them in every way possible. The aljamas of Catalonia, Aragon, and Valencia, for example, were in 1281 ordered by King Pedro III. to furnish 185,000 sueldos in subsidies, and, three years later, a further sum of 130,000 sueldos (order reprinted in Rios, "Hist." ii. 530). In addition to these extraordinary disbursements, the Jews of Aragon and Castile had to pay very large taxes, the money thus obtained being often expended by the kings in gifts to queens, infantes, knights, and bishops, as well as to churches and cloisters.

Sancho IV., the son and successor of Alfonso X., was the first king who, with the aid of his Jewish tax-collectors, levied and regulated the taxes payable by the aljamas to the crown of Castile, under which belonged the provinces of Old and of New Castile, Leon, Galicia (sparsely inhabited by Jews), Estremadura, Murcia, and Andalusia. All Jews of twenty—according to other sources, sixteen or fourteen was the age limit—were required to pay a tax of thirty dineros to remind them of the "thirty pieces of silver" alleged to have been paid by their ancestors to bring about the death of Jesus. This tax, called the "servicio," was not imposed upon the Jews of the archbishopric of Toledo, the bishoprics of Cuenca and Plasencia, the provinces of Murcia and Leon, and the frontier district of Andalusia. The Jews paid also the "encabezamiento," or poll-tax. The apportionment of the taxes among the various communities was entrusted by the king to a committee consisting of Jacob ben Yaḥya (not Jahjon) of Niebla, Isaac ben Azor of Jerez, and Abraham Abenfar of Cordova (the representative from Jaen did not appear), which met in Huete in 1290. If these failed to agree upon the apportionment, David Abudarham the Elder and the aljama of Toledo were to decide.

Population and Dispersion.

The total yearly taxes paid by the Jews of Castile amounted to 2,801,345 maravedis. To base upon this amount any calculation as to the number of Jews then living in the kingdom is not possible; the total of 854,951 given by Rios, or that of 850,000 by Grätz, is surely too large, while 233,784, the estimate of Loeb, must be considered too small. There were about 120 Jewish communities, of which the following were the most important: Toledo, Hita, Almoguera, Burgos, Carrion, Avila, Medina del Campo, Valladolid, Cuenca, Huete, Atienza, Paredes de Nava, Logroño, Almazan, Soria, Villanueva, Ucles, Pancorbo, Sahagunt, Sepulveda, Olmedo, Murcia, Osma, Najera, Talavera, Villa Real, Guadalajara, Arevalo, Plasencia, Villa Diego, and Sant Estevan. Among the communities of lesser importance were the following: Maqueda, Briviesca, Alcaráz, Calahorra, Aguilar, Ayllon, Belforado, Badajoz, Alcalá, Zurita, Vitoria, Buitrago, Albelda, Peñafiel, Trujillo, Roa, Bejar, Miranda, Cea, Castiello, Lerma, Medina de Pomar, Olmeda, Pedraza, Alfaro, Fuendidueña, and Verlanga (the "Repartimiento de Huete," reprinted from the original in Rios, "Estudios," pp. 40 et seq., and "Hist." ii. 53; the foregoing list, with some deviations, is found in "Hist." ii. 531 et seq.; a faulty list is given by Asso y del Rio and Manuel y Rodriguez in "Discorso Sobre el Estado de los Judios en España;" p. 150, Madrid, 1771, which work has been followed by Lindo, "History of the Jews of Spain and Portugal," p. 109, where the names of the towns are misspelled; see also "R. E. J." xiv. 161 et seq.; Grätz, "Gesch." vii. 168 et seq., where some incorrect statements are made).

Catalonia, Aragon, and Valencia were more sparsely inhabited by Jews. The largest congregations were found in Tortosa, Gerona, Barcelona, and Valencia; then followed Saragossa, Calatayud, Monzon, Lerida, Teruel, Jaca, Fraga, Huesca, and Barbastro. Smaller congregations existed in Exea de los Caballeros, Tauste, Besalu, Cervera, Tarragona, Ruesca, Manresa, and Villafranca. (see image) Iberian Peninsula, Showing Places Where Jews Resided Before the Expulsion.The Jews were burdened with various other taxes in addition to those already mentioned. Whenever the kings of Aragon or Castile stayed in a city in which a Jewish community existed, the Jews were required to provide the royal household with beds and other furniture; this duty involved many hardships and led to ill treatment of the Jews by royal servants; it could be escaped, however, by the payment of a specified sum, which was called "yan tares" in Castile, "cenas" (= "table expenses") in Aragon. The taxes were so oppressive that in 1354 the representatives of the Jewish communities of Aragon resolved to petition the king to relieve them of this burden ("He-Ḥaluẓ," i. 25). On the occasion of a royal visit to a city inhabited by Jews they paid a tribute to the royal guard, the "Monteros de Espinosa"; for a long time this payment amounted to twelve maravedis for each copy of the Torah; later it was fixed at four silver reals. In addition to all these taxes the Jews paid a coronation-tax ("coronaciones"), pasture-tax, tithes on houses for the bishops and their households, special customs duties and bridge-tolls, etc.


Although the Spanish Jews engaged in many branches of human endeavor—agriculture, viticulture, industry, commerce, and the various handicrafts—it was the money business that procured them their wealth and influence. Kings and prelates, noblemen and farmers, all needed money, and could obtain it only from the Jews, to whom they paid from 20 to 25 per cent interest. This business, which, in a manner, the Jews were forced to pursue in order to pay the many taxes imposed upon them as well as to raise the compulsory loans demanded of them by the kings, led to their being employed in special positions, as "almoxarifes," bailiffs, tax-farmers, or tax-collectors. Jews were employed as "almoxarifes" by Sancho, as well as by the infante Manuel and by the latter's consort Beatriz. Among Jews holding such positions may be mentioned Samuel, Abraham al-Barchilon, and Cag and Abraham ibn Susan. Without the material assistance of the Jews King Sancho, whose secretary was Cag de Toledo, would hardly have succeeded in collecting the taxes.

Opposition of the Cortes.

The "almoxarife mor," or treasurer, of King Ferdinand IV., the son and successor of Sancho, was Samuel, who exercised unlimited authority in diplomatic affairs, thereby incurring the animosity of the queen-mother, Maria de Molina, to such a degree that he narrowly escaped assassination. Queen Maria had full confidence in Todros Abulafia, and her "almoxarife" was Isaac (Samuel?) ibn Ya'ish. Judah Abravanel was for several years financial adviser to Infante Pedro. The jealousy and hatred witḥ which the Christian population regarded the Jews were often openly revealed at the meetings of the Cortes in Aragon, as, for example, in Lerida (1300), and in Saragossa and Alagon (1301). Upon the motion of the Cortes in Valladolid (1293) Sancho IV. decreed that Jews might no longer acquire or own real estate; the Cortes of Burgos (1301) and that of Medina del Campo (1305) demanded that they be no longer employed as tax-farmers or -collectors; and complaints of the usury practised by Jews were frequent. Whenever their own interests were at stake the kings of Aragon protected the Jews, and for extraordinary services rendered by the latter (as, for example, by the aljamas of Tortosa) they often conferred special privileges upon them. On account of the accruing taxes a number of Jewish families that had been expelled from France were admitted into Aragon. Actuated by similar motives, Ferdinand IV. of Castile also protected the Jews of his domains, whom he termed "his own Jews," against arbitrary oppression by the clergy, since he could not dispense with their assistance at the conquest of Gibraltar.

Upon Ferdinand's death (1312) Maria de Molina assumed the reins of government. She employed Jews as tax-collectors, and she even had a Jew, Rabbi Don Mosse (Moussi), as "despensoro" (steward of the household) as late as 1320. At the request of the Cortes of Burgos, the queen, with the infante and the guardians of the young king, and under the direct influence of the Council of Zamora, decreed that Jews might no longer bear Christian names, nor associate in any way with Christians, and that Jewesses might wear no ornaments whatever, whether pearls, gold, or silver. The claims of Jewish creditors were reduced, but no Christian debtor might appeal to a papal bull for the cancelation of his indebtedness to a Jewish creditor. The queen put a fine on usury, and she limited the rate of interest that might be charged. She ordered also that all processes, civil as well as criminal, should be brought before the local magistrate for adjudication. Infante John Manuel, who, like Ferdinand IV., employed the Jew Abraham as his body-physician, restored criminal jurisdiction to the rabbinate; this he did at the request of Judah b. Isaac ibn Waḳar of Cordova, who stood high in the royal favor (Asheri, Responsa, xvii. 8).

Under Alfonso XI.

Complaints against the Jews continued to be made in the Cortes, and in the beginning of the fourteenth century their position was precarious throughout Spain; many Jews emigrated from Castile and from Aragon. It was not until the reigns of Alfonso IV. and Pedro IV. of Aragon, and of the young and active Alfonso XI. of Castile (1325), that an improvement set in. The last-named king protected the Jews against arbitrary enactments and violence, especially in the archbishopric and city of Seville, where Jew-hatred had been nurtured for a long time and where the Jews had been oppressed in every imaginable way by the clergy. The king ordered that in those places every Jew of sixteen or over should pay a tax of thirty dineros, or three maravedis. As his "almoxarife" the king selected Joseph ben Ephraim Benveniste ha-Levi; he was the king's confidant and used his influence with him in favor of his coreligionists in such a manner that the Cortes of Madrid complained bitterly about it. The hatred of the populace grew still deeper, especially against Joseph Benveniste, who, through the intrigues of a lady of the court, came near losing his life (1326).

When, therefore, one of the king's favorites, Garcilaso de la Vega, had been murdered in Soria, and another, Count Alvar Nuñez, had been deposed from office, the grandees of the kingdom endeavored to bring about Joseph's downfall. But instead, he was raised to a higher position; the title of"almoxarife" was abolished, and that of "tesorero" (treasurer) substituted; and it was resolved that thenceforth no Jews should be employed as tax-collectors. Quarrels, which finally led to their ruin, broke out between Joseph Benveniste, who had retained his place in the king's confidence, and Alfonso's body-physician and favorite, Samuel ibn Waḳar, who had obtained permission to mint coins of small denominations. A nobleman and minister of state, Gonzalo Martinez, whom Joseph had helped to obtain high positions, brought against both the accusation that they had enriched themselves while in his Majesty's service, imprisoned them, and confiscated their fortunes. Joseph died in prison, and Samuel suffered torture on the rack. Two other Jews, Moses Abudiel and Ibn Ya'ish, who stood in high favor with the grandees, succeeded in disproving the same accusation by sacrificing large sums of money; Ibn Ya'ish is probably identical with the above-mentioned "almoxarife" of Maria de Molina.

Gonzalo Martinez.

Gonzalo Martinez was contemplating the extermination of all Castilian Jews when Alfonso XI. unexpectedly found himself involved in war. The Emir of Granada, who had declared war against the King of Castile on account of a decree issued upon the advice of Ibn Waḳar, and prohibiting the importation of cereals from Granada, called to his assistance 'Abd al-Malik, the son of Abu al-Ḥasan (Albohacon), King of Morocco, who came to his aid with a large army. Alfonso appointed Gonzalo Martinez commander-in-chief, and as money for carrying on the war was lacking, the latter advised the confiscation of the property of the Jews and their expulsion from the country. The Archbishop of Toledo, however, opposed this proposition, as did, probably, the king himself. In this war, which ended with the victory of Salado and the conquest of the fortress of Algeciras (1339), the Jews rendered very important services, for which the king highly praised them. Gonzalo Martinez, the arch-enemy of the Jews, was sentenced to death as a traitor and burned at the stake. When King Alfonso returned triumphantly from the war the Jews greeted him everywhere with great enthusiasm ("Shebeṭ Yehudah," ed. Wiener, pp. 30 et seq.; Rios, "Hist." ii. 133 et seq.; see Martinez).

Alfonso XI. favored the conversion of the Jews, and upon the appeal of the apostate Abner of Burgos (Alfonso de Valladolid) he forbade the Castilian Jews, on pain of a fine of one hundred maravedis, to continue the reading of a prayer directed against the slanderer; the king did not, however, as Grätz ("Gesch." vii. 344) writes, declare canceled the promissory notes held by the Jews, but he released the Christians of one-fourth of their indebtedness to the former, and he forbade all Jews of his kingdom to practise usury in any form. On the other hand, the king allowed the Jews to acquire real estate—to the value of 30,000 maravedis beyond the Douro, and to the value of 20,000 maravedis on cisriparian soil ("Ordenamiento de Alcala," 1348).

Pedro the Cruel.

Pedro I., the son and successor of Alfonso XI. (according to his enemies Pedro Gil, the substituted child of a Jewess), was favorably disposed toward the Jews, who under him reached the zenith of their influence. For this reason the king was called "the heretic"; he was often called "the cruel." Pedro, by nature passionate and impetuous, spent his youth in seclusion in Seville, together with his mother, the Portuguese infanta Maria, who, humiliated by Leonora de Guzman, Alfonso's paramour, had been put away by the king. In the meantime Pedro's half-brother and Leonora's illegitimate son, Henry de Trastamara, was being brought up under his father's supervision, and gave, while still a boy, evidence of his courage. Pedro, whose education had been neglected, was not quite sixteen years of age when he ascended the throne (1350). From the commencement of his reign he so surrounded himself with Jews that his enemies in derision spoke of his court as "a Jewish court." The Jews remained ever his true adherents. On the recommendation of his educator and all-powerful minister, the hated John Alfonso de Albuquerque, the king appointed the latter's former agent Samuel Levi as his own "tesorero mayor" (chief treasurer), and Samuel soon became the king's confidant and companion.

It can not be ascertained to what extent Samuel favored Pedro's infatuation for the beautiful Maria de Padilla after the young king had been married against his inclination to the Bourbon princess Blanca, who hated the king's Jewish confidant and would have banished all the Jews from the country. When Pedro, two days after his marriage, left the bride that had been forced upon him, and hastened to his mistress in Toledo, the minister, Albuquerque, prepared to set out with a large retinue and bring back the deserting bridegroom, but he was stopped by Samuel Levi, who brought him a message from the king advising him to desist from his plans. Blanca, who had taken sides with Pedro's half-brother, was kept in confinement, and Albuquerque was deposed from office.

These unhappy family relations, which were primarily brought about by Alfonso XI., resulted in the bloody civil wars that brought disaster to Castile and especially to the Jews. With the alleged intention of freeing Queen Blanca, who was being held prisoner in Alcazar, Henry de Trastamara and his brother, at the head of a rapacious mob, invaded (Sabbath, May 7, 1355) that part of the Juderia of Toledo called the Alcana; they plundered the ware-houses and murdered about 12,000 persons, without distinction of age or sex. The mob did not, however, succeed in overrunning the Juderia proper, where the Jews, reenforced by a number of Toledan noblemen, defended themselves bravely.

The more friendly Pedro showed himself toward the Jews, and the more he protected them, the more antagonistic became the attitude of his illegitimate half-brother, who, when he invaded Castile in 1360, murdered all the Jews living in Najera and exposed those of Miranda de Ebro to robbery and butchery.

Samuel Levi.

The days of Samuel Levi were numbered. He was ever active in the interests of the state and the king, and his skilful financial operations placed large sums at the latter's disposal. But he had manyenemies, and the animosity engendered toward him soon extended to all the Jews. A malicious satire, "Rimado del Palacio," by the contemporary poet and historian Pedro Lopez de Ayala, gives evidence of the deep hatred toward Samuel Levi and his family. Together with many other favorites of the king, Samuel was suddenly deposed from his exalted position, but not, as has been asserted, because Maria de Padilla withdrew her favor from him; the king's paramour remained for several years in the cloister in Astudillo, near Castrojeriz, to which she had been sent, and where she maintained communication with Jews ("R. E. J." xxxiii. 147 et seq.). Whether envious coreligionists accused him before the king, whether he was involved in the detected "Ricos hombres" conspiracy, or whether Pedro desired to win the favor of the clergy is not known; the fact remains that in 1360 Samuel was seized and taken to Seville, where, in November of that year, he died on the rack. His enormous fortune, consisting of 70,000 doubloons, 4,000 marks in silver, 20 (according to some sources 120) chests filled with jewelry and costly garments, and 80 Moorish slaves, was confiscated by the state. All Samuel's relatives, several of whom were tax-collectors, were arrested with him, and their property, to the value of 300,000 doubloons, seized. Samuel's successor in the office of treasurer, Martin Yañz de Sevilla, claimed to have found vast hoards of silver and gold in the underground cellars of the former's palace, which is still known as the "Palacio del Judio."

Pedro did not lack the means for carrying on warfare, but good fortune had deserted him. In order to win the Castilian throne, Henry called to his aid the dreaded "Grand Company," led by the valiant Bertrand du Guesclin. Wherever his ferocious soldiers went they fell upon the Jews; in Briviesca, near Burgos, not one living soul was left of the 200 Jewish families which had lived there. Having been proclaimed king in Calahorra, Henry entered Burgos triumphantly on March 31, 1366, the city surrendering willingly. The king levied a tax of 30,000 doubloons on the Jews there, who, in order to raise this enormous sum, were compelled to sell all their property, even the ornaments on their Torah scrolls. The Jews of Segovia and Avila also were bereft of their property, while those of Toledo, who had remained loyal to Pedro, were punished by being saddled with the maintenance of the troops in addition to being fined 1,000,000 maravedis. In his distress Pedro solicited aid from the Prince of Wales, the victor of Poitiers. Henry was forced to flee, but soon returned to Castile with fresh troops; and the Jews of Burgos, who for a long time had defended their Juderia against his attacks, were forced to pay 1,000,000 maravedis for permission to remain in the city.

Massacres of 1366.

Everywhere the Jews remained loyal to Pedro, in whose army they fought bravely; the king showed his good-will toward them on all occasions, and when he called the King of Granada to his assistance he especially requested the latter to protect the Jews. Nevertheless they suffered greatly. Villadiego (whose Jewish community numbered many scholars), Aguilar, and many other towns were totally destroyed. The inhabitants of Valladolid, who paid homage to Henry, robbed the Jews, destroyed their houses and synagogues, and tore their Torah scrolls to pieces. Paredes, Palencia, and several other communities met with a like fate, and 300 Jewish families from Jaen were taken prisoners to Granada. The suffering, according to a contemporary writer, Samuel Ẓarẓa of Palencia (see Joseph ha-Kohen, "'Emeḳ ha-Baka," ed. Wiener, Appendix, p. 131), had reached its culminating point, especially in Toledo, which was being besieged by Henry, and in which no less than 8,000 persons died through famine and the hardships of war. This terrible civil conflict did not end until the death of Pedro, to whom the victorious brother said, derisively, "Dó esta el fi de puta Judio, que se llama rey de Castilla?" Pedro was beheaded by Henry and Du Guesclin on March 14, 1369. A few weeks before his death he reproached his physician and astrologer Abraham ibn Ẓarẓal for not having told the truth in prophesying good fortune for him.

When Henry de Trastamara ascended the throne as Henry II. there began for the Castilian Jews an era of suffering and persecution, culminating in their expulsion. Prolonged warfare had devastated the land; the people had become accustomed to lawlessness, and the Jews had been reduced to poverty. The king, who began his reign by having new coins minted, considerably reduced in value (Isaac ben Sheshet, Responsa, No. 197; Rios, "Hist." ii. 307), was unable to meet his obligations to Du Guesclin and his troops. For this reason, on June 6, 1369, two months and a half after his accession, he levied a tribute of 20,000 gold doubloons (about 10,000,000 dineros) on the plundered and poverty-stricken Jews of Toledo, as a punishment for their loyalty to Pedro; he ordered his treasurer Gomez Garcia to sell at public sale all property, movable or immovable, belonging to the Toledan Jews, and to imprison all the latter, women as well as men, and starve and otherwise torture them until they had raised this immense sum (see Toledo).

But in spite of his aversion for the Jews Henry could not dispense with their services. He employed wealthy Jews—Samuel Abravanel and others—as financial councilors and tax-collectors. His "contador mayor," or chief tax-collector, was Joseph Pichon of Seville. The clergy, whose power became greater and greater under the reign of the fratricide, stirred the anti-Jewish prejudices of the masses into clamorous assertion at the Cortes of Toro in 1371. It was demanded that the Jews should be kept far from the palaces of the grandees, should not be allowed to hold public office, should live apart from the Christians, should not wear costly garments nor ride on mules, should wear the badge, and should not be allowed to bear Christian names. The king granted the two last-named demands, as well as a request made by the Cortes of Burgos (1379) that the Jews should neither carry arms nor sell weapons; but he did not prevent them from holding religious disputations, nor did he deny them the exercise of criminal jurisprudence. The latter prerogative was not taken from them until the reign of John I., Henry's son and successor; he withdrewit because certain Jews, on the king's coronation-day, by withholding the name of the accused had obtained his permission to inflict the death-penalty on Joseph Pichon, who stood high in the royal favor; the accusation brought against Pichon included "harboring evil designs, informing, and treason."

Anti-Jewish Enactments.

In the Cortes of Soria (1380) it was enacted that rabbis, or heads of aljamas, should be forbidden, under penalty of a fine of 6,000 maravedis, to inflict upon Jews the penalties of death, mutilation, expulsion, or excommunication; but in civil proceedings they were still permitted to choose their own judges. In consequence of a slanderous accusation that the Jewish prayers contained clauses cursing the Christians, the king ordered that within two months, on pain of a fine of 3,000 maravedis, they should remove from their prayer-books the objectionable passages—which did not exist. Whoever caused the conversion to Judaism of a Moor or of any one confessing another faith, or performed the rite of circumcision upon him, became a slave and the property of the treasury. The Jews no longer dared show themselves in public without the badge, and in consequence of the ever-growing hatred toward them they were no longer sure of life or limb; they were attacked and robbed and murdered in the public streets, and at length the king found it necessary to impose a fine of 6,000 maravedis on any town in which a Jew was found murdered. Against his desire, John was obliged (1385) to issue an order prohibiting the employment of Jews as financial agents or tax-farmers to the king, queen, infantes, or grandees. To this was added the resolution adopted by the Council of Palencia ordering the complete separation of Jews and Christians and the prevention of any association between them.

The Massacre of 1391.

The execution of Joseph Pichon and the inflammatory speeches and sermons delivered in Seville by Archdeacon Ferrand Martinez, the pious Queen Leonora's confessor, soon raised the hatred of the populace to the highest pitch. The feeble King John I., in spite of the endeavors of his physician Moses ibn Ẓarẓal to prolong his life, died at Alcalá de Henares on Oct. 9, 1390, and was succeeded by his eleven-year-old son. The council-regent appointed by the king in his testament, consisting of prelates, grandees, and six citizens from Burgos, Toledo, Leon, Seville, Cordova, and Murcia, was powerless; every vestige of respect for law and justice had disappeared. Ferrand Martinez, although deprived of his office, continued, in spite of numerous warnings, to incite the mob against the Jews, and encourage it to acts of violence. As early as Jan., 1391, the prominent Jews who were assembled in Madrid received information that riots were threatening in Seville and Cordova. A revolt broke out in Seville in 1391. Juan Alfonso de Guzman, Count of Niebla and governor of the city, and his relative, the "alguazil mayor" Alvar Perez de Guzman, had ordered, on Ash Wednesday, March 15, the arrest and public whipping of two of the mob-leaders. The fanatical mob, still further exasperated thereby, murdered and robbed several Jews and threatened the Guzmans with death. In vain did the regency issue prompt orders; Ferrand Martinez continued unhindered his inflammatory appeals to the rabble to kill the Jews or baptize them. On June 6 the mob attacked the Juderia in Seville from all sides and killed 4,000 Jews; the rest submitted to baptism as the only means of escaping death.

At this time Seville is said to have contained 7,000 Jewish families. Of the three large synagogues existing in the city two were transformed into churches. In all the towns throughout the archbishopric, as in Alcalá de Guadeira, Ecija, Cazalla, and in Fregenal, the Jews were robbed and slain. In Cordova this butchery was repeated in a horrible manner; the entire Juderia was burned down; factories and ware-houses were destroyed by the flames. Before the authorities could come to the aid of the defenseless people, every one of them—children, young women, old men—had been ruthlessly slain; 2,000 corpses lay in heaps in the streets, in the houses, and in the wrecked synagogues.

From Cordova the spirit of murder spread to Jaen. A horrible butchery took place in Toledo on June 20. Among the many martyrs were the descendants of the famous Toledan rabbi Asher ben Jehiel. Most of the Castilian communities suffered from the persecution; nor were the Jews of Aragon, Catalonia, or Marjorca spared. On July 9 an outbreak occurred in Valencia. More than 200 persons were killed, and most of the Jews of that city were baptized by the friar Vicente Ferrer, whose presence in the city was probably not accidental. The only community remaining in the former kingdom of Valencia was that of Murviedro. On Aug. 2 the wave of murder visited Palma, in Majorca; 300 Jews were killed, and 800 found refuge in the fort, from which, with the permission of the governor of the island, and under cover of night, they sailed to North Africa; many submitted to baptism. Three days later—Saturday, Aug. 5—a riot began in Barcelona. On the first day 100 Jews were killed, while several hundred found refuge in the new fort; on the following day the mob invaded the Juderia and began pillaging. The authorities did all in their power to protect the Jews, but the mob attacked them and freed those of its leaders who had been imprisoned. On Aug. 8 the citadel was stormed, and more than 300 Jews were murdered, among the slain being the only son of Ḥasdai Crescas. The riot raged in Barcelona until Aug. 10, and many Jews (though not 11,000 as claimed by some authorities) were baptized. On the last-named day began the attack upon the Juderia in Gerona; several Jews were robbed and killed; many sought safety in flight and a few in baptism.

The last town visited was Lerida (Aug. 13). The Jews of this city vainly sought protection in Alcazar; seventy-five were slain, and the rest were baptized; the latter transformed their synagogue into a church, in which they worshiped as Maranos (see bibliography, at end, for sources for the persecutions of 1391).

Thousands of Jews had perished, many of their communities had been annihilated; but the countryitself was the main sufferer. The Archdeacon of Ecija, the instigator of this butchery—which even as late as the nineteenth century was described as a "guerra sacra contra los Judios," or as a social eruption—although he was imprisoned four years later, after the accession of Henry III., was soon set free; and from then until his death (1404) he was honored as a saint on account of his piety. In the whole of Castile the agitators remained unpunished. More justice was exercised by John I. of Aragon, who caused twenty-five of the ringleaders—merchants, apothecaries, and tradesmen—to be taken to Barcelona from Palma, Lerida, and other towns, and publicly executed.

The "New Christians."

The year 1391 forms a turning-point in the history of the Spanish Jews. The persecution was the immediate forerunner of the Inquisition, which, ninety years later, was introduced as a means of watching the converted Jews. The number of those who had pretended to embrace Christianity in order to escape death was very large; Jews of Baena, Montoro, Baeza, Ubeda, Andujar, Talavera, Maqueda, Huete, and Molina, and especially of Saragossa, Barbastro, Calatayud, Huesca, and Manresa, had submitted to baptism. Among those baptized were several wealthy men and scholars who scoffed at their former coreligionists; some even, as Solomon ha-Levi, or Paul de Burgos (called also Paul de Santa Maria), and Joshua Lorqui, or Geronimo de Santa Fé, became the bitterest enemies and persecutors of their former brethren.

After the bloody excesses of 1391 the popular hatred of the Jews continued unabated. The Cortes of Madrid and that of Valladolid (1405) mainly busied themselves with complaints against the Jews, so that Henry III. found it necessary to prohibit the latter from practising usury and to limit the commercial intercourse between Jews and Christians; he also reduced by one-half the claims held by Jewish creditors against Christians. Indeed, the feeble and suffering king, the son of Leonora, who hated the Jews so deeply that she even refused to accept their money ("Sumario de los Reyes de España," xlii. 77; "Shebeṭ Yehudah," p. 87), showed no feelings of friendship toward them. Though on account of the taxes of which he was thereby deprived he regretted that many Jews had left the country and settled in Malaga, Almeria, and Granada, where they were well treated by the Moors, and though shortly before his death he inflicted a fine of 24,000 doubloons on the city of Cord


The Sinagoga del Tránsito (or Synagogue of Samuel ha-Levi) was once an important house of worship for Toledo's large Jewish population. A 14th-century building, it is an excellent example of Spanish Jewish art especially noted for its superb stucco Hebrew inscriptions. History

Founded and financed by Samuel Levi, the Sinagoga del Tránsito was built in 1357. Samuel ha-Leví Abufalia was treasurer and advisor to King Pedro I of Castile, and it is said that Levi imported cedars from Lebanon for the building's construction - à la Solomon when he built the First Temple in Jerusalem.

The bell tower was added by the Christian religious order of Alcántara, who took over the building after the Jews were expelled from Spain in 1492.

In the 18th century, it was a hermitage dedicated to the Tránsito de Nuestra Señora (Our Lady's Transit, meaning Mary's assumption into heaven), which accounts for its present name.

During the war against Napoleon, the synagogue became a military barracks. In 1977, it was declared a national monument and it is now a museum. What to See

The exterior of the rectangular synagogue is relatively austere but attractive, made of creamy-colored brick and stone. The street-facing facade is pierced by seven round windows enhanced by blind arcades and wooden balconies.

Inside, the main prayer hall is covered with intricate Mudéjar decoration and Hebrew inscriptions glorifying God, Peter the Cruel, and Levi himself. The inscriptions include psalms inscribed along the top of the walls and a poetic description of the Temple on the east wall.

Adjoining the main hall is the Museo Sefardí (Sephardic Museum), a small but excellent museum of Jewish culture in Spain. The museum opened in 1971 and contains a variety of Jewish art, ritual objects and tombstones with Hebrew epitaphs, many of them quite ancient. Labels are in Spanish only.


Samuel ha-Levi Abulafia

(or Al-Levi, but erroneously Allavi): Spanish financier; born at Toledo about 1320; was treasurer to Don Pedro the Cruel of Castile. In 1350 he was recommended to the king as chief treasurer by the minister Juan Alfonso de Albuquerque, whose estates he managed. He soon became privy councilor of his new master, and was the most influential man in Castile. Through his friendship for Doña Maria de Padilla, the mistress of Pedro, he drew on himself the hatred of the legitimate queen and of the grandees who adhered to her cause. In 1354, while with the king in the fortress of Toro, he was suddenly seized by the enemies of the monarch and thrown into prison. He succeeded in procuring his release through the payment of a large ransom and escaped, together with the king, who had also been seized. Don Samuel ha-Levi restored the thoroughly disorganized finances of the state, and by rigorous control of the tax-collectors, on the one hand, and by an arrangement which he made with the creditors, on the other, he managed to accumulate a large amount of money in the royal treasury. He appointed a number of his relatives collectors of taxes. His nephew, Don Joseph ha-Levi, became tax-collector of Seville. Don Samuel ha-Levi occupied a mansion in Toledo, which is still known as Palacio del Judío ("Jew's Palace"). Several synagogues were built at his expense in various parts of Castile, among them a magnificent one in Toledo. This synagogue was finished in 1357, and was afterward converted into a church under the name of El Tránsito. Hebrew inscriptions, still preserved on the side walls of this edifice—to-day a national monument—perpetuate the memory of his good deeds. Samuel maintained himself nearly twenty years in his high position. In 1360 Don Pedro discovered the existence of a widespread conspiracy in which the archbishop of Toledo and Don Samuel were said to be implicated. The archbishop was expelled, but Don Samuel, who, it is said, had been denounced by envious coreligionists, was dragged to Seville and imprisoned, together with his wealthy relatives. His entire fortune and that of his relatives, consisting of 190,000 doubloons ($950,000 or £195,737), twenty boxes filled with jewelry and silk and velvet clothing, and eighty slaves, were confiscated by the king. He died under torture in Seville, November, 1360. "From the prison, in which his king caused him to be afflicted, the Lord summoned him to a heavenly habitation."

Bibliography: Amador de los Rios, Historia de los Judios, ii. 223 et seq.; Grätz, Gesch. d. Juden, vii. 411 et seq.; Kayserling, Don Pedro und sein Schatzmeister Samuel Levi, in Monatsschrift, vi. 365 et seq.

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"El Transito" Synagogue in Toledo, Spain Print Haim F. Ghiuzeli

The El Transito Synagogue in Toledo, Spain, was built by Samuel (Shmuel) Ben Meir Ha-Levi Abulafia (also spelled Al-Levi and Allavi) (c.1320-1360). Scion of an old Jewish family, Samuel Ha-Levi Abulafia was advisor and treasurer (tesorero real) to King Pedro I of Castile (1350-1369) (also known as Pedro the Cruel) from 1350. Samuel Ha-Levi Abulafia is remembered as the founder of a number of synagogues in the Kingdom of Castile, but the one constructed on the grounds of his palace in Toledo was by far the grandest. The entire complex was located inside the medieval Jewish quarter, juderia, at a central location within the walls of the city of Toledo. The synagogue was intended to serve as a private house of worship for Samuel Ha-Levi, who was a prominent member of the Jewish community of Toledo, and was connected to his house by a private gate. The synagogue was built to the plans of the master mason Don Meir (Mayr) Abdeil and was dedicated in 1357. The original name of the synagogue is not known; some modern authors tend to call it after the name of its founder instead of El Transito, the name given by the Christians and by which name the building has been known for the last three hundred years.

Paseo Samuel Levi leading to El Transito Synagogue, Toledo Beit Hatfutsot, the Visual Documentation Center Courtesy of Matilde Gini Barnatan

Exterior view of El Transito Synagogue, Toledo, early 20th century Beit Hatfutsot, the Visual Documentation Center

Samuel Ha-Levi Abulafia's fate took a turn for the worse in 1360, when King Pedro arrested and imprisoned him in Seville, having accused Samuel of taking part in a conspiracy against him. Whilst in prison Samuel was tortured to death and all his possessions were confiscated by the king including his house and the synagogue. The synagogue was spared when the Jewish district of Toledo was attacked by the mob in 1391, during a wave of anti-Jewish massacres. When the Jews were expelled from Spain in 1492, "the great synagogue that the Jews used to have in Toledo" was granted by the king and queen of Spain, Ferdinand and Isabella, to the religious order of Calatrava. Two years later the complex was turned into the San Benito priory with the former women's section and the study rooms serving as hospice for the knights of the order while the main prayer hall was converted into a church known as the Iglesia de San Benito. During the 16th century some minor alterations were made in order to fit the needs of Christian worship and a bell tower was built on to the exterior. From the 17th century the San Benito church was known as Ermita del Transito, shortened popularly from El Transito de Nuestra Senora ("Our Lady's Transit"), the title of a well- liked painting by Correa, now in the collection of the Prado Museum in Madrid, which used to decorate the altar. During the 18th century the complex housed a monastery, then during the Napoleonic wars in the early 19th century it was converted into a barracks, and then reverted to being a monastery for most of the 19th century. In 1877 the former synagogue was declared a National Monument. The structure underwent a series of restorations until 1910, when it passed into the care of the Museo del Greco in Toledo, of the Vega-Iclan foundation, and it remained in its custodianship until 1968. During the 20th century the building of the synagogue and the adjacent buildings underwent a number of restorations. During the thorough renovation of the 1960's, the building received new furnishings, including tapestries donated by the Pinto-Coriat family.

Women’s section of the El Transito Synagogue, Toledo Beit Hatfutsot, the Visual Documentation Center Courtesy of Dani Ophir, Israel


Eastern Wall of El Transito Synagogue, Toledo Photo: David Gari Beit Hatfutsot, the Visual Documentation Center

In 1970 the synagogue, along with the neighboring Sephardi Museum (Museo Sefaradi), established in 1964, became the National Museum of Judeo-Spanish Art, a state institution under the control of the Spanish Ministry of Education and Culture.

The El Transito Synagogue has a rectangular prayer hall of about twenty-three metres by twelve metres and a high of nine and a half metres. The exterior walls, which are of mixed stone and brick typical of Muslim architecture in Spain, are quite plain, with an aljima type of window (consisting of a pair of horseshoe arches) above the entrance door. In contrast, the interior displays one of the most splendid examples of mudejar architecture in Spain. The design of the synagogue recalls the Nasrid style of architecture that was employed during the same period in the decorations of the Alhambra palace in Granada as well as the Mesquita of Cordoba, and parts of the Alcazar palace in Seville that were constructed at the same time at the initiative of King Pedro.

A two-storey women's section was located in a separate room adjacent to the northern wall of the synagogue. The eastern wall still has three niches that used to shelter the Holy Ark (heikhal) with the Torah scrolls. During excavations conducted in 1987 by Spanish archaeologists, remains of what appears to have been a trapezoidal room with blue tiled floor were unearthed at the exterior of the eastern wall. The assumption is that the room served as a separate heikhal. No indication has been preserved of the location of the bimah inside the prayer hall. The interior walls of the prayer hall are decorated with colorful geometric and floral motifs in plaster characteristic of the mudejar art of the age. It is possible that their pattern might have been inspired by the lavish textiles imported from the Muslim ruled regions of southern Spain. The most elaborate decoration was reserved for the eastern wall. Its upper section features an arcade of septfoil arches, and the central section is covered with arabesque patterns. The artesonado ceiling is made of cedar wood and is divided into six sections by large pairs of beams. Tradition has it that the wood was brought by Samuel Ha-Levi from Lebanon in imitation of King Salomon. The original floor was covered by mosaics, of which only fragments have survived. Light enters from a number of windows in the upper section of the walls.

Upper section of the eastern wall, El Transito Synagogue, Toledo Model - Beit Hatfutsot, the Core Exhibition


Decorations and Hebrew inscription on Eastern wall of El Transito Synagogue, Toledo Model - Beit Hatfutsot, the Core Exhibition

Perhaps the most impressive elements of the interior decoration are the numerous monumental Hebrew and Arabic inscriptions that adorn the walls, the arches around the windows and some column capitals. The Hebrew inscriptions of the El Transito Synagogue are undoubtedly the most remarkable example of medieval Jewish monumental epigraphy. Most texts are taken from the Bible, especially from the Book of Psalms, Chronicles, and Habbakuk, while others glorify King Pedro I, Samuel HaLevi Abulafia, the patron and builder of the synagogue, and Meir Abdeil, its architect. The frieze of the upper section of eastern wall above the windows boasts the Hebrew inscription: "Behold the Sanctuary that is consecrated in Israel and the House that Samuel built"1. The inscriptions in Arabic bear witness to the high status enjoyed by the Arabic culture among the Jews of Spain, even amongst those living under Christian rule. The coat of arms of the Kingdom of Castile is repeated a number of times on the walls of the synagogue as a proof to the loyalty of the local Jews to the King.

The style of the El Transito synagogue as well as other surviving Jewish medieval monuments in Spain served as source of inspiration for numerous synagogues that were built in Europe during the 19th century. The richness of the decoration was considered by the post-emancipation Jews of Europe as a proof of the high social status that the Jews of Spain enjoyed prior to their expulsion.

A replica of part of the upper section of the eastern wall of the El Transito Synagogue is displayed in the Faith Section of the Core Exhibition of Beit Hatfutsot.


1. English translation by Esther W. Goodman (1992:61) Address Sinagoga del Transito Paseo Samuel Levi s/n Toledo 45002 Spain Phone: 34-925-22 3665 Fax: 34-925-21 5831 Bibliography

GOODMAN, Esther W. Samuel Halevi Abulafia's synagogue (El Transito) in Toledo. Jewish Art, 18(1992):58-69

PALOMERO PLAZA, Santiago. Excavations around the Samuel Halevi synagogue (Del Transito) in Toledo. Jewish Art, 18(1992):48-57

RALLO GRUSS, Maria Carmen. Restauración de las yeserias de la Sala de Mujeres de la sinagoga de El Transito (Toledo). Sefarad, 49:2(1989):397-406


Synagogue of Samuel Levi / Transito Toledo, Spain

The Sinagoga del Tránsito (or Synagogue of Samuel ha-Levi) was once an important house of worship for Toledo's large Jewish population. A 14th-century building, it is an excellent example of Spanish Jewish art especially noted for its superb stucco Hebrew inscriptions.


Founded and financed by Samuel Levi, the Sinagoga del Tránsito was built in 1357. Samuel ha-Leví Abufalia was treasurer and adviser to King Pedro I of Castile, and it is said that Levi imported cedars from Lebanon for the building's construction - à la Solomon when he built the First Temple in Jerusalem.

The bell tower was added by the Christian religious order of Alcántara, who took over the building after the Jews were expelled from Spain in 1492.

In the 18th century, it was a hermitage dedicated to the Tránsito de Nuestra Señora (Our Lady's Transit, meaning Mary's assumption into heaven), which accounts for its present name.

During the war against Napoleon, the synagogue became a military barracks. In 1977, it was declared a national monument and it is now a museum.

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Salomon (Samuel) Levy's Timeline