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SEGOVIA:

In the Fourteenth Century.

City of Spain in Old Castile; situated between Burgos, Toledo, and Avila. When conquered by Alfonso VI. it already had a considerable Jewish community, which in 1294 paid 10,806 maravedis in taxes. In 1303 the Jews failed to pay the 30 dineros which each Jew of fourteen years and upward was required to contribute to the bishop of the diocese; but the next year, on the complaint of the bishop, a special order was issued (Aug. 29) by King Ferdinand III., and they were forced to make immediate payment. The Jews of Segovia, who engaged in commerce and manufactures, and especially in tanning and the production of cloth, were very wealthy. They suffered severely during the fratricidal war between D. Pedro and Henry de Trastamara, being plundered of their goods and of all the notes and pledges which they held from Christians. Envy at the influence which certain Jews, e.g., the king's physician, D. Meïr Alguades, exercised at court brought upon the Jewish inhabitants a charge of desecrating the host (1410). The bishop, Juan de Tordesillas, believed the malicious accusation, and caused several Jews—among them D. Meïr Alguades—to be arrested as participants in the crime; and two of the most distinguished were executed. Not satisfied with this, the bishop wrongfully accused the Jews of attempting to wreak their vengeance upon him by bribing his cook to place poison in his food. As a result of this charge many Jews were killed, and numbers fled from the city. This incident is recorded by Alonso de Spina, the author of "Fortalitium Fidei," who deeply hated and defamed his former coreligionists, and who in 1455 entered the monastery of S. Antonio in Segovia; by S. Usque, "Consolaçam as Tribulaçoens de Yisrael," No. 23, p. 191a; by Joseph ha-Kohen, "'Emeḳ ha-Baka," pp. 78 et seq.; and by Colmenares, "Historia de Segovia," ch. xxvii.; while Alvar Garcia de S. Maria, who was the author of a history of the reign of Queen Katharina, and Paul de Burgos make no mention of the occurrence.

Synagogue Converted into a Church.

A further result of this accusation was that the Jews, by an edict issued by Queen Katharina in the name of her minor son, Juan II., were ordered to leave the old Juderia. Both their synagogues were taken from them; the larger one was transformed (Oct. 16, 1412) into a church known first as "Iglesia Nueva" (New Church) and later as "Corpus Christi," and the smaller one, in the Calle de la Almuzura, was given (April 12, 1413) to the S. Maria de la Merced monastery, for use as a hospital. The new quarters assigned to the Jews as their Juderia were situated on territory belonging to the above-mentioned monastery. After the death of the hostile Queen Katharina, however, the Jews were permitted to dwell outside the Juderia; but from Oct. 29, 1481, they were, by order of the Catholic regents, restricted absolutely to a new Juderia completely separated from the dwellings of the Christians. It was located between the former large synagogue and the present slaughter-house.

Massacre of Maranos in 1474.

On May 16, 1474, a terrible massacre took place among the Maranos, who, since 1391, had been quite numerous in Segovia. It was instigated by the ambitious Juan Pachecho, himself of Jewish origin, and other noblemen. In the same year the number of Jews in Segovia was still so large that their taxes amounted to 11,000 maravedis.

The Jewish cemetery was situated on the slope of the mountain near the Juderia, on the hill now known by the name "Cuesta de los Hoyos"; in 1886 complete skeletons were found there, especially in two large grottoes hewn in the rock. To these cavẹs the Jews of Segovia are said to have fled when in 1492 the time-limit for their compulsory emigration expired; and from them they addressed a petition to the regents asking for a respite. Many found their death in these places of refuge, while others, to save their lives, submitted to baptism. For this reason the place for a long time bore the name "Prado Santo." After the expulsion the Juderia was called "Barrio Nuevo."

Among the wealthiest Jews in Segovia were various members of the Galhon family. Jacob Galhon, Judah Caragoçi, and Jacob Batidor acted in 1480 as representatives of the community. D. Juce Galhon de Pediaza sold his tannery before the expulsion, and left the country together with Rabbi Feayme (Ḥayyim or Ephraim) de Vidas, a son of Meïr de Vidas; whereas his son Gabriel remained in Spain and was baptized, assuming the name "De la Fuente." Another rich tanner was Judah Salero; whose son took the name "Juan Lopez." Abraham Senior, who stood in high favor with the court, was a native of this town.

Segovia was the birthplace or place of residence of many Jewish scholars. It numbered among its residents at the end of the thirteenth century the brothers Isaac and Jacob Cohen, cabalists, and Meshullam ben Ḥunain, author of a grammatical work; in the middle of the fifteenth century, the authors Joseph ben Shem-Ṭob and Joseph and Moses Benveniste.

The only existing (1905) memorials of the once flourishing Jewish community are the ruins of the large and handsome synagogue which was erected simultaneously with the old synagogue in Toledo (later transformed into the Church of S. Maria la Blanca) and in the same architectural style. This, as mentioned above, was transformed into the Corpus Christi Church and given to the monks of Parrades. From 1572 it was in the possession of the Franciscan nuns, and served as a church until in later days, owing to its beauty, it was included among the national monuments. The monastery was located next to the church, on the spot where the rabbis' house formerly stood. On Aug. 3, 1899, the synagogue was destroyed by fire, nothing remaining of the old building but its massive walls and two beautiful arcades. The walls were found to be without crack or crevice or sign of repair, thus disproving the statement made by Alonso de Spina and others 500 years before, when the accusation of host-desecration was lodged against the Jews, that on account of the supposed crime "the synagogue trembled and its walls and pillars shook."

Remains of the Ancient Synagogue at Segovia.(From a photograph.)
Bibliography:
  • Colmenares, Historia de Segovia;
  • Carca, in Shebeṭ Yehudah, ed. Wiener, p. 131;
  • Rios, Hist. ii. 194; iii. 8 et seq., 139, 162;
  • Lindo, History of the Jews in Spain, p. 123;
  • Grätz, Gesch. vii. 253, 427; viii. 103 et seq., 358;
  • Kayserling, Gesch. der Juden in Portugal, p. 65;
  • Boletin Acad. Hist. ix. 265 et passim, x. 76 et seq., xxxv. 319 et seq.;
  • R. E. J. xiv. 254 et seq., xxxix. 209 et seq.
S. M. K.
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