Duchy of Aragon in the north-west of Spain. Jews settled in Catalonia (which included originally the county of Barcelona; the following cities of Tarragona, viz., Ciudad de los Judios, Vich, Manresa, Gerona, Besalu, Peraleda, Confleut; and many other places) as early as the eighth century. Kaula ha-Jehudi ("the Jew") and his army fought the emir Al-Horr on Catalonian territory; and after the former had fallen in combat the Jews under his command, who were harassed by Al-Horr, were hospitably received in those Catalonian cities inhabited by their coreligionists. Contemporary Christian chroniclers deny the allegation that the numerous Jews resident in Barcelona, the capital of Catalonia, surrendered (890) the strongly fortified city to the commander 'Abd al-Karim.
Often the Jews had to suffer cruelties inflicted by Crusaders in Catalonia, who came to assist the Christians against the Moors. The pope, in a letter to the bishops, forbids these excesses. He says that a difference exists between Jews and Moors: "Against those who persecute the Christians and drive them from their cities and possessions, war is waged rightly; but the former [the Jews] are everywhere ready to serve."Legal Position.
In early times the Jews of Catalonia secured property rights. Under Count Ramon Berenguer I. it was decreed in 1068, and again at the third Council of Gerona in 1078, that those Jews who bought lands were to pay a tithe to that parish in which the lands were situated, "quemadmodum si a Christianis coleretur" (Florez, "España Sagrada," xliii. 477). Moreover, here the Christian spirit soon got the upper hand. According to the old "Codigo de los Usatges," in a litigation between Jew and Gentile the Jew had to take an oath to the Christian, but never the latter to the former. Neither Jews nor Saracens were admitted as witnesses against a Christian. In 1024 the lands of a Jew accused of adultery with a Christian woman were confiscated and sold. The conversion of Jews to Christianity was favored here as early as the eleventh century. He who insulted a converted Jew, by calling him trimmer, deserter, or renegade, was punished by a fine of twenty ounces of gold.
In Catalonia, connected as it was for a long time, with southern France, the French spirit was altogether dominant; and this continued in all phases of development up to the union with Aragon. The condition of the Jews was on the whole, quiet and peaceful; they engaged in trade and industries, and studied the sciences, particularly medicine; they attained to honors and respect; medical knowledge opened the doors of princes and counts to them. The Jews of Barcelona, Gerona, Tarrega, Tarrasa, and Manresa were noted for their thrift not less than for their prosperity; and they contributed materially to the dissemination of Catalonian commerce. Many of the Jews whom the Almohades persecuted found safety and protection in the cities of Catalonia.Relation to King.
The Jews living in Catalonia were, like the Saracens, the property of the ruler; they bore a direct relation to the king, and, with all of their goods, stood under his special protection. At the same time they could not be called slaves ("servi"); for they had free right of residence by law. The king gave them a special interest, or usury, law, and regulated their congregational relations.
Gradually, however, the clergy gained supremacy. Even before the reign of King Jaime I. the Jews on Catalonian territory were deprived of their right to act as judges or to exercise corporal punishment. Under Jaime I. Catalonia was united to Aragon and Valencia in one great kingdom. Henceforth the history of the Jews in Catalonia is that of their brethren in Aragon (see Aragon, Barcelona, Gerona, Manresa, Spain).
The connection between Catalonia and southern France is also shown from a religious standpoint, as later the question was discussed whether Gershom's arrangement forbidding polygamy for Germany and France was binding also on Catalonia. Catalonia had its own rite; and this generally coincided with that of Provence (Maḥzor Catalonia) in its principal points. "Kol Nidre" was not recited in Catalonian congregations.
- Vict. Balaguer, Historia de Cataluña, i.;
- Amador de los Rios, Historia, i. 243, 254;
- Ersch and Gruber, Encyc. Section ii., part 28, pp. 210, 393;
- Zunz, Ritus, p. 41.