Early History.

Capital of the former kingdom of Seville; after Madrid the greatest and most beautiful city of Spain. The community of Seville is one of the oldest and largest in the country. Jews are said to have settled there, as at Toledo, shortly after the destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem ("Shebeṭ Yehudah," ed. Wiener, p. 14). When the Mohammedan conqueror Musa took the city he placed it in charge of its numerous Jewish inhabitants. As a result of dynastic dissensions at Granada, followed by a massacre, many Jews of that city fled to Seville, where they were hospitably received by King Mohammed al-Mu'tamid. Several of these Jews, including Joseph ibn Misgay, a faithful adherent of the pretender to the throne of Granada, were sent on diplomatic missions and entrusted with offices of state, while the king appointed Isaac b. Baruch ibn al-Balia, the scholarly author of a Talmudic and astronomical work, to the posts of court astronomer and prince ("nasi") over all the Jewish communities of the realm. Through Ibn al-Balia Seville became the center of Jewish scholarship, taking the place hitherto occupied by Cordova and Granada. Al Mu'ṭamid, who hanged, at Seville, Isaacibn Shalbib, the envoy of Alfonso VI. of Castile, and who absolutely refused to subject himself to the Christian kings, was deposed by the Almoravides in 1091.

Tombstone of Solomon ben Abraham Found at Seville.(From a photograph.)

The Jews of Seville lived peaceably under the Almoravides. Abu Ayyub Sulaiman ibn al-Mu'allam was physician to Ali; and Abraham ibn Kaminal occupied a high position at court, with the title of vizier, while the wealthy Eleazar b. Naḥman ibn Ashar, a pupil of Alfasi and a man of much poetic talent, was the rabbi of the flourishing community. In 1148 Seville fell into the hands of the Almohades, whose leader, 'Abd al-Mu'min, ordered the Jews to accept Mohammedanism, many who remained faithful to Judaism being either sold into slavery or imprisoned. Even those who pretended to be Mohammedans suffered greatly under the Almohades, and it was not until a century later that their condition improved.

In Nov., 1248, Ferdinand III. of Castile conquered Seville after a siege of eighteen months. The Jews, carrying the scrolls of the Law, met him as he entered the city, and presented him with the key of the ghetto, handsomely worked in silver and inlaid either with Arabic or with Hebrew and Spanish inscriptions(see illustration, Jew. Encyc. v. 363). Historians differ as to whether the key, which is preserved in the Cathedral of Seville, was given to King Ferdinand or to his son, afterward King Alfonso X., who directed the campaign as crown prince. Amador de los Rios has advanced the opinion that there were two keys, one of which was presented to Ferdinand and bore Arabic inscriptions, while the other key, with Hebrew and Spanish inscriptions, was given a few years later to Alfonso as a token of gratitude ("Hist."i. 372 et seq.).

Ferdinand was very gracious to the Jews. In dividing the land he remembered all who had rendered him any service in capturing the city, as well as the Jewish tax-collectors, physicians, and interpreters; he gave the Jews some of the mosques also, to be transformed into synagogues, and permitted them to live in the ghetto. This quarter, which was very large, was situated close to the Alcazar, the former residence of the Moorish kings, and extended as far as the Puerta de Carmona. It included several parishes, and was surrounded by a high wall with two gates opening into the city, one on the Borceguineria, as the street is still called, and the other on S. Nicolas street. A third street, the Calle de los Levies, received its name from the wealthy Jews who resided there, though this name was subsequently changed to Correo Mayor; another street was known as the Xamardana. In the ghetto were situated the shops of the Jews, the market, the Jewish court, the slaughter-houses, and the synagogues, of which there were three large and about twenty small ones. The entrance to the largest synagogue was through the Puerta de la, Carne, or de la Juderia (called also Puerta de Min Joar, after a wealthy Jew who owned land there). The Jewish cemetery was situated outside the Puerta de la Carne in the suburb of S. Bernardo, or Ben Ahvar (Zuñiga, "Anales de Sevilla," i. 140, 155; Fidel Fita, "La España Hebrea," i. 215 et seq.).

The Golden Tower at Seville. Used as a Residence by Jewish Financiers of the Kings of Castile.(From a photograph.)

Alfonso X. confirmed his father's gifts to the Jews and granted them various commercial and industrial privileges, although he assigned the tithes of the large and wealthy community to the first Archbishop of Seville and his chapter. In the middle of the fourteenth century between 6,000 and 7,000 Jewish families were living at Seville; many of them were engaged in industry and commerce. Their wealth, however, soon aroused the envy and hatred of the populace. As early as 1341 the farmers of the municipal taxes were enjoined to rent shops to the Jews only in case all the shops of the community were already occupied. The Jews were frequently exposed to attacks and maltreatment, and a special decree was issued to the effect that anyone who struck a Jew in his shop, whether wounding or killing him, should be fined 72,600, or 6,000 maravedis, according to the enormity of the offense. The hostility manifested against the Jewish population was accentuated by the execution of Don Joseph Pichon, the administrator of the royal taxes, who had been very popular at Seville; and it was especially increased by the frequent vituperative sermons of the archdeacon Ferrand Martinez, whose baneful activity the directors of the aljama repeatedly but vainly endeavored to check.

Riot of 1391.

For fifteen years Martinez incited the people of Seville to kill the Jews. A riot finally broke out on March 15, 1391, during which several Jews were slain; but the nobles, who protected them, soon quelled the uprising. Three months later, on June 6, the persecution was renewed. The infuriated populace attacked the ghetto from all sides, plundering and burning the houses. More than 4,000 fell victims to the mob's fury, although most of the Jews accepted baptism to save their lives. Women and children were sold to Mohammedans as slaves (Zuñiga, l.c. i. 238; "Shebeṭ Yehudah," ed. Wiener, p. 38, and pp. 128 et seq. [letter of Ḥasdai Crescas]). In 1396 Henry III. presented the ghetto, including all its houses, lands, and synagogues, to his favorites Diego Lopez de Estuñiga and Juan Hurtado de Mendoza, who were empowered by the deed of gift to sell, pawn, give, exchange, demolish, or otherwise dispose of this property according to their will and pleasure. The ghetto received the name of Villa Nueva, and the synagogues were transformed into churches, one, Santa Maria de la Blanca, being among the finest ecclesiastical edifices in the city. Another was called the Church of S. Cruz; a third became the convent Madre de Dios; while the fourth was not left to the Jews, as was alleged, but was transformed into the Church of S. Bartolomé, which for a long time bore Hebrew inscriptions over its doors and which still stands as originally erected (Caro, "Antiguedas de Sevilla," pp. 20a, 42b, Seville, 1634).

Old Juderia, Street in Which the Santa Maria de la Blanca is Situated.(From a photograph by Dr. William Popper.)

Despite the fact that there was now no real community at Seville, some Jews remained there even after the fearful slaughter and the destruction of the ghetto. They lived in the old Jewish quarter, as well as among the Christians; and with the permission of the municipal council, which keenly felt the loss of the Jews' taxes, they resumed their customary occupations as smiths, silversmiths, tailors, shoemakers, workers in leather, merchants, and surgeons; but they suffered so much from the fanatical populace that they were compelled to hire a guard of 300 men for their protection. There were also many Maranos who remained Jews at heart, being confirmed in their faith by Judah ibn Verga ("Shebeṭ Yehudah," pp. 94, 96); they were among the wealthiest inhabitants of the city. The tribunal of the Inquisition was first instituted at Seville, its earliest victims being the wealthy Maranos who had entered into a conspiracy against the Holy Office. The Jewish cemetery of Seville was transformed into a garden after the expulsion, but was not entirely laid out until 1580. The graves were obliterated, and the costly tombstones were ruthlessly destroyed by the populace.

Native Scholars.

Seville, the home of Abravanel and Ibn Tibbon, was the residence or birthplace of many Jewish scholars who took their names from it. Among the earliest of these were: Abun b. Sharada, the poet; Judah ibn Balaam, author of commentaries on the Bible; Abu ibn Afla, a mathematician and translator of a mathematical work; the famous Joseph ibn Migash; Moses Levi Abulafia (d. 1255), physician to the last Moorish king of Seville: the poet Judah Samuel 'Abbas; Yom-Ṭob b. Abraham, a commentator on the Talmud; and David Abudarham, author of a liturgical work. Contemporaneous with them were the physicians Moses b. Samuel (as a Christian called Juan de Avignon) and Judah Alashkar; Isaac ben Moses (whose son Joseph wrote a treatise on astronomy); David b. Solomon ibn Ya'ish and his father, the physician Solomon ibn Ya'ish (called also Don Soliman), the author of a large Arabic commentary on the canon (Caro, l.c. p. 42a; Zunz, "Z. G." p. lii; Fidel Fita, l.c. i. 276 et seq., quotes the legible portions of the inscription on Solomon's tombstone, which still exists).

Don Ephraim, called Al-Barceloni, and Don Moses b. Sacar were contemporaries of Isaac b. Sheshet, as were "Ha-Sar ha-Tafsar" and Don Moses b. R. Saadia (= "Picho"), probably a relative of Joseph Pichon (Isaac b. Sheshet, Responsa, No. 209). Judah ibn Verga, the author of the "Shebeṭ Yehudah" and of mathematical works, was living at Seville at the time when the Inquisition was introduced.

Seville has (1905) a population of 146,205, including about 200 Jewish families. Most of the latter are in poor circumstances, being immigrants from Tangier and other African cities. See Ferdinand III.; Inquisition; Pichon, Joseph.

  • Zuñiga, Anales de Sevilla, i. 140 et seq.;
  • Rios, Hist. i. 108, 116, 229 et seq., 369 et seq., 452; ii. 214, 390 et seq.;
  • Grätz. Gesch. vi. 73 et seq., 119; viii. 62 et seq.
G. M. K.
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