Position Under Jaime I.

An independent medieval kingdom, later a province of Spain, in the northeastern part of the Iberian peninsula. Its population included Jews as early as the ninth century. In Saragossa (which until 1118 was under the rule of the Moors), in Jaca, Huesca, Barbastro, Daroca, Tarazona, Calatayud, Monzon, Lerida, and other cities of Aragon, the Jews in early times lived under special fueros or laws. Aragon passed through the same phases of church development and culture as southern France, until the time of Jaime I.; and the circumstances of the Jews there corresponded exactly with those of their French brethren. Their industry, learning, and wealth secured for them the protection and favor of their rulers. Pedro II. of Aragon, who, owing to his frequent wars, was usually in debt, was often compelled to borrow money of his Jewish subjects, and to mortgage the greater portion of his possessions and revenues to them. Under Pedro's son and successor, Jaime I., surnamed "el Batallador" (the Fighter) and "el Conquistador" (the Conqueror), the political and legal position of the Jews was an enviable one. Jaime I. issued the following decree: "All Jews and Saracens dwelling in our domains belong to the king and are, with all their possessions, under the king's especial protection. Any one of them who shall place himself under the protection of a nobleman shall lose his head; and all his possessions, wherever they be, shall be forfeited to the king." As a consequence, no Jew or Saracen could become a bondman to any nobleman; nor could Jews or Saracens be called prisoners or serfs (captivi or servi) even of the king, because, according to the law, they had full liberty of movement.

The Jews of Aragon thus stood in direct relation with the king and under the jurisdiction of the crown, as represented by the baile-general, under whose authority stood the bailes of all the towns and hamlets of the country. They were permitted to buy and sell among themselves; but for trade with Christians a special permission from the baile was necessary. Similarly, Christians were prohibited from buying or taking in pledge the goods of Jews. The Jews lived in the "Juderías," or Jews' quarters, outside of which they could not dwell without royal permission; norwere they at liberty to change the city of their abode. The permission of the king was also necessary to build synagogues, establish cemeteries, open schools, purchase or export wheat, and even to bake Passover bread. Besides the poll-tax, Jews were required to pay special taxes and to contribute toward the repair of walls and fortifications as well as to the equipment of the fleet and the general expenses of war. Whenever the king visited a city, the Jews there had to provide beds for him and his retinue. The assessment of individual taxes was made by the representatives of the Jews, chosen by themselves and confirmed by the king. The division of the taxes among the various congregations was determined by the king, upon consultation with these representatives of the synagogue. Sometimes the king remitted these taxes for a time, as in the cases of Uncastillo and Montcluz, to which a respite was given by Jaime I. Some Jews received special privileges from the king. They were permitted to take four denarii per pound as weekly interest (about 86 per cent. per annum). But they were forbidden to lend to students. Frequently the king released all debtors of the Jews from their obligations, and declared the Jewish claims void. There existed for the Jews of Aragon two special forms of oath: one, upon the law of Moses; the other, much more formidable, called "the oath of curses." All such oaths had to be taken in the synagogue or other places of worship.

Enforced Social Isolation of Jews.

In their social relations a sharp line of demarcation was drawn between Jews and Christians. Jews were forbidden to keep Christian slaves and servants, or to have Christian women in their houses in any capacity whatever. Christians and Jews were not permitted to dwell together; even Jewish prisoners were separated from Christians. Jaime I., whose confessor was the zealous missionary Raymundo de Peñaforte, ardently favored the conversion of the Jews to Christianity—conversion to Islam was prohibited—and gave his assistance to the work in every way. In 1249 he repealed an ordinance, then operative in many provinces, to the effect that Jews embracing Christianity must surrender their property, or most of it, to the treasury. The law protected those who had embraced Christianity from insult at the hands of their former coreligionists; and it was forbidden to call them renegades, turncoats, or any such disparaging names. Whenever a prelate, or a brother of one of the orders, announced a missionary sermon in a place where Jews resided, the latter were compelled by the king's officers to listen to it; and no excuse for absence was accepted, save a special royal dispensation, such as was granted to the Jews of Lerida. Baptized children of Jews could not reside with their parents.

Religious Disputation at Barcelona.

In 1263, in order further to facilitate the conversion of the Jews, Jaime I. arranged a public debate at the royal palace in Barcelona, under the presidency of Peñaforte, between the missionary Fra Paolo (or Pablo Christiani), a baptized Jew, and the eminent Spanish rabbi, Moses ben NaḦman (Bonastruc de Porta).

Jews in High Public Offices.

Aside from these clerical annoyances, the position of the Aragonian Jews under Jaime I. was not an unhappy one. They owned houses and estates, were permitted to farm the royal grist-mills, and to follow agriculture and trades, and, though they could not occupy judicial positions, other honorable posts were open to them. When Jaime conquered Majorca he was attended by Don BaḦiel as his private secretary; and when he besieged Murcia he employed Don Astruc Bonsenyor as his interpreter of Arabic to negotiate with the inhabitants of the town. Jehudano de Cavallería, the wealthiest and most influential Jew of Aragon, was head bailiff and royal treasurer; Bondia and a certain Abraham were bailiffs in Saragossa, and Vidal Solomon was bailiff of Barcelona. Maestros David and Solomon were the king's body-physicians; and Maestro Samson was physician to the queen. Pope Clement IV. in vain requested Jaime to remove Jews from all public offices; but his son, Pedro III., yielding to the stormy demands of the Cortes in Saragossa, decreed that no Jew should thenceforth occupy the position of bailiff. Pedro and his successors took the Jews under their protection, possibly for their own interests. In the wars of Africa and Sicily the material aid of the Jews was indispensable, and large sums were exacted from them for the equipment of the fleet and the conduct of the war.

Although Jaime II., like his grandfather, earnestly desired the conversion of the Jews, he showed himself tolerant toward them. He permitted a certain number of Jewish refugees from France to settle in Barcelona and other places; and, in recognition of their liberal contributions toward the equipment of the fleet, he released the Jewish congregations for several years from all taxes, according at the same time special privileges to the congregations of Barcelona, Saragossa, and Huesca. The king protected them, but the populace, repeatedly aroused by the clergy, continually annoyed them. In Barcelona in 1285, one Berenguer Oller, supported by several other ordinary citizens, instigated a serious riot against the Jews. On a certain day of Passover he announced that he would kill all the barons and the Jews and plunder their houses; but he was prevented from carrying out his plans through the timely intervention of the king.

The Jews of Aragon proved themselves generous and self-sacrificing in every emergency. When in 1323 the Infante Alfonso (afterward Alfonso IV.) embarked upon the conquest of Sardinia, they placed large sums of money at his disposal; and the congregation of Tortosa hired sailors to man the galleys furnished by the city. Alfonso IV. in return showed himself favorably inclined toward his Jewish subjects. He accorded special privileges to the Jews of Fraga, Barcelona, and Gerona, and put down the insurrection of the shepherds, which had extended to parts of Aragon. When a large number of Jews desired to leave the country, he attempted to retain them by reducing their taxes. Under his successor Don Pedro IV., who was devoted to astrology, which he studied under his body-physician Don Rabbi Menahem, the condition of the Jews was a very painful one, owing to the contest between the Aragonian Unionists and the king, and to the war between Aragon and Castile. The congregations ofMurviedro, Gerona, Tarazona, Daroca, and Calatayud were especially ill-treated.

Massacre of 1391.

The great persecution of 1391, which began in Seville, affected the Jews of Aragon and Catalonia severely; entire communities, such as those of Valencia, Lerida, and Barcelona, were wiped out; thousands of Jews were slain; and 100,000 professed to embrace Christianity. The resulting large number of pseudo-Christians, or Maranos, was materially increased twenty years later by the exertions, of the fanatical preacher Vicente Ferrer. All Jews who remained faithful to their ancestral religion were ordered by King Martin of Aragon to wear a mark of identification. Another public disputation took place between the rabbis of the more important congregations of Aragon, on the one side, and Joshua ha-Lorḳi, named after his conversion Jerome de Santa Fé, assisted by the converts, Andres Beltran and Garcia Alvarez de Alarcon, on the other. This discussion, which had the effect of still further increasing the number of pseudo-Christians, was held at Tortosa in 1413 in the presence of Pope Benedict XIII. Severer sufferings were in store for the Jews of Aragon in the last eighty years of their sojourn in the province.

Persecutions Under Pope Benedict XIII.

After the Tortosan disputation, Pope Benedict issued the bull, "Etsi Doctoribus Gentium" (see De los Rios, ii. 627), which was promulgated throughout Aragon in 1415. It interdicted the study or the reading of the Talmud and similar works, every copy of which was to be surrendered and destroyed. Jews were not allowed to possess antichristian literature. They were debarred from holding any office or from following the vocations of physician, surgeon, accoucheur, apothecary, broker, marriage-agent, or merchant. Christians were forbidden to live in the same house with Jews, to eat or bathe with them, to render them any services, such as the baking of Passover bread, or to buy from or sell for them meat prescribed by the Jewish law. Each congregation was permitted to have only a small and scantily furnished synagogue, and new synagogues were not allowed to be built or old ones repaired. Finally, all Jews of either sex over the age of twelve years were compelled to listen to three Christian sermons every year.

To all these sufferings were added the terrible epidemics of the plague which scourged Aragon in 1429, 1439, 1448, 1450, 1452, and 1457. Commerce and trade in the formerly flourishing cities of Saragossa, Huesca, and Daroca came to a standstill; the Jewish merchants and their trade became impoverished and could no longer pay taxes. In order to prevent their emigration, however, Queen Maria, consort of Alfonso V., and queen regent in his absence, reduced the royal imposts considerably. For instance, the Jewish congregation of Barbastro had only 400 sueldos jaqueses to pay; Calatayud and Monzon, 350; Saragossa and Huesca, 300; and Fraga and Tarazona, 200. The very wealthy Marano families of Saragossa, Huesca, Calatayud, and Daroca—the Caballerías, Santangels, Villanovas, Paternoys, Cabreros, Zaportas, Rivas, and others—occupied influential positions in the Cortes, in public life, and at the court of Juan II., and often intermarried with aristocratic families, and even with the Infantas. After Juan's death in 1479, the two kingdoms, Aragon and Castile, were united into one under the rule of Ferdinand and Isabella; and henceforward the history of the Jews of Aragon becomes one with that of all the other Jews of Spain.

The Aragonian Jews possessed a special ritualliturgy (MaḦzor Aragon), which was preserved for a long time in several cities of the Orient by communities of fugitive Jews from Aragon. (See MaḦzor.)

  • J. Amador de los Rios, Historia de los Judíos de España, passim;
  • Ersch and Gruber, Encyklopädie, ii. 27, 210;
  • Tourtoulon, Jaime I., le Conquérant, Roi d' Aragon, vol. ii. Montpellier, 1867;
  • Swift, James I. of Aragon, Oxford, 1894;
  • Zunz, Ritus, p. 41.
  • On the many documents relating to the Jews of Aragon now in the "Archiv. de la Corona de Aragon" in Barcelona, see Jacobs, Sources of Spanish-Jewish History, xv. 9 et seq.
G. M. K.
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