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Waves of Anti-Semitism and their Consequences in late medieval Castile.
Revolution, Reaction, and Reform concerning the status of Jews in Castile

Korean Minjok Leadership Academy
International Program
Kim, Seohee
Term Paper, AP European History Class, January 2012

Table of Contents
I. Introduction
I.1 Define revolution, reaction, reform
I.2 Definition of terms
II. Background
II.1 Iberian Peninsula in the 1300s
II.2 The Castilian kingdom
II.3 The Influence of Jews
II.3.1 Political
II.3.2 Academic
II.3.3 Economical
III. Legislative change
III.1 Revolution : Invasion of Henry II in 1355
III.2 Reaction : Massacres of 1366
III.3 Reform : Laws of 1371-1385
IV. Expulsion of Jews
IV.1 Revolution : Massacres of 1390-1391
IV.2 Reaction : Large numbers of Conversos
IV.3 Reform : Official attempts to Eradicate Jews
IV.3.1 Reform : Start of the Inquisition
IV.3.2 Reform : Edict of Expulsion
V. Conclusion

I. Introduction

I.1 Define Revolution, Reaction, Reform
            The position of the Jews in Castile changed greatly during 14th and 15th century. The Jews, once economically and socially important groups in Castile, after two revolution-reaction-reform cycles, were finally expelled from the kingdom. This paper will introduce the two major revolutions that contributed in such change. There was a legislative change after the first revolution, the invasion of Henry II in 1355, which caused Castilian Civil war. As the reaction, massacre happened during the civil war and the Jewish community eventually lost its autonomy.
            The second revolution can be defined as massacres of 1390-1391 which brought as reaction, large numbers of Conversos, in Iberian Peninsula. As the growing numbers of crypto Jews became the problem of the combined kingdom (after 1479), the government took the official action, start of inquisition and edict of expulsion, to strengthen their authority.

I.2 Definition of terms
            Sephardic Jews refers to the descendants of Jews lived in Iberian Peninsula, the region where the modern Spain and Portugal is located, before the Spanish inquisition.
            Also, 'Sephardi' refers to the descendents of Jews lived in the Iberian Peninsula before the Spanish inquisition. And ¡®Sephardim¡¯ means the Jews who left Spain or Portugal after the expulsion. (1)

II. Background

II.1 Iberian Peninsula in the 1300s
            The Iberian Peninsula was comprised of Christian kingdoms in the North (2) and Center and there was only on Muslim Emirate left; Granada located in the South.
            Portugal was a new kingdom created by the result of second crusade. The 13th century was the victorious era for Castile in the civil war against Muslim emirates. Aragon, located eastern side of Spain had a long tradition of crusading and the people were involved in trading looking eastward.
            By the 14th century, the Iberian Peninsula was mostly dominated by Christian kingdom by ¡®Reconquista¡¯. Granada, the last Muslim state in Iberia, fell in 1492. (3)

II.2 The Castilian Kingdom

II.3 The Influence of Jews

II.3.1 Political
            Historically, the Jews held important social position on the Iberian Peninsula. An example of a Jew exerting political influence was Samuel ha Levi who was a diplomat and tax-collector under Peter I of Castile. Being exalted by the king, Samuel erected the Synagogue in Toledo called the Transit Synagogue. (5) The Hebrew inscription in this synagogue reads that "The king of Castile has magnified and exalted to Samuel Levi, and raised his throne above all the prices who are with him¡¦. Without him, no one raised hand or foot" (6)

II.3.2 Academic
            Jews held strong positions as scientists and philosophers in the Iberian Peninsula. They served as translators in the courts and transmitted the knowledge of Arabs. Some of the Jews strengthened their religion by writing books or visiting foreign countries. Samuel Abulafia, born in 1240, was the founder of "Prophetic Kabbala" that seeks the nature of human beings combined with Jewish religion and philosophical terms. He travelled to Rome to affect the Pope who ordered conversion to the Jews in Italy. In Sicily, he served as a prophet to the Jews. Translated in Latin in Italy, his works impacted the formation of Christian Quabbalah. (7)
            Jews were academically dominant even after the expulsion. Issac Abrabanel, born in Lisbon, Portugal, and whose family escaped from Castile during massacre 1391, was a prominent statesman, philosopher, bible commentator, and financier. He wrote the original of natural elements when he was 20 years old. His academic abilities attracted King Alfonso V of Portugal and became a treasurer of the Kingdom.

II.3.3 Economical
            The Jewish community was one of the richest and crucial parts of economy in the Iberian Peninsula. Since the Jews performed as tax collectors and the state treasuries, they were close with the nobles and the prelates. The king also defended the importance of the Jewish states in the economy. However, there is some claim that the Jews drew the hatred of lower classes. (8) The envy raised by the wealthy and successful Jews also contributed the various measures to repress the Jews from Castile and Aragon.

III. Legislative Reform

III.1 Revolution : Invasion of Henry II in 1355
            As anti-Semitism increased in the Iberian Peninsula in the beginning of the fourteenth century, the Jewish inhabitants were threatened and some of them emigrated from Castile and Aragon. However, Alfonso X of Castile (1252-84) improved the condition of Jews. Peter I (1350-69) especially favored Jews. (9) However, Henry de Trastamara (r.1366-79), an illegitimate brother of Peter, stirred up the population to invade the part of Juderia in Toledo and murder about 12,000 people without any distinction (1355). However, the Jews defended themselves bravely. (10) In 1360, Henry, with his supporters, attacked his brother Peter and his supporters and murdered all the Jews living in the city called Najera and exposed other Jews to robbery and death. However, Peter kept advocate toward the Jews and Henry had antagonistic feeling toward Peter.

III.2 Reaction : Massacres of 1366 - during the First Castilian Civil war (1366-69)
            As Henry's forces gradually gained the upper hand, the civil war developed into the fights among the towns that each king supported. In 1366, the Jews were put into a great danger. There were massacres of Jewish communities who supported Peter. (11) Many towns including Villadiego and Aquilar were destroyed and the Jewish inhabitants there were taken prisons by the Henry¡¯s force.
            Also, the inhabitants of Valladolid that supported Henry attacked Jewish houses, destroyed the synagogues and robbed the Jews. In 1369, Peter I was murdered by Henry and Henry became the king of Castile. During the war, according to a contemporary writer, more than 8000 people from famine and hardship rather than as a result of massacres. (12)

III.3 Reform : Laws of 1371-1385; Anti- Jewish enactment
            Although Henry had agitated for pogroms against Jews during the Civil War, he employed Jews as financial councilors and tax-collectors. However, under the Henry¡¯s rule, the position of the Catholic clergy had grown in importance and the clergy stirred Anti-Jewish prejudices that were expressed in the Cortes of Toro (1371). The Jews were restricted in the region they stay, had to ride cheap mules and clothes, should wear badge and should not use Christian names.
            The year of 1380 was influential to the Jews. The Jewish society that was independent and maintained autonomy was destroyed. In the Cortes of Soria (1380), Castile, the laws were enacted to prohibit Jews from judging their own criminal cases- they were still allowed to choose their own judges in civil proceedings. The law also required penalties of death, mutilation, expulsion, or excommunication if there are rabbis, heads of aljamas. Since the Jews were accused of cursing the Christians, the king required them to rather pay 3,000 maravedis (13) or to remove their prayer-books. (14) They were even threatened to become a slave if they didn't follow the order. In 1385, the Cortes reaffirmed the King Enrique III's forbidding and the king prohibited giving important positions to Jews such as financial agents, tax-farmers. All these measures were adopted for the separation of Jews and Christians preventing any associations with them.

IV. Expulsion of Jews

IV.1 Revolution : Massacre of 1390-1391
            IV.1.1 Background
            Ferrand Martinez was a respected clergyman among the Christians for his piety and philanthropy. He continuously expressed hatred toward Jews in his sermon. Since he was also a vice-general of Archbishop Barroso of Seville, he punished and injured Jews without certain reasons, holding the right of jurisdiction in his diocese. The Jewish community, one of the richest and the most important communities in Castile, appealed to King Henry II and the king requested Martinez to stop inciting in Aug. 25, 1378. However, even the king could not stop Martinez. In 1385, John I of Castile attempted to conquer Portugal but died and his nine year old son Enrique III (1390-1406) became a king when he was eleven (1390). (15) There was a lack of government as authorities were divided. (16) The Jews once again complained to King John I, but there was no effect. Even issuing a new edict against Ferrand Martinez did not refrain the latter from inciting the Christian population of Sevilla to massacre the local Jews. (17)

IV.1.2 Spread
            The persecution of the Jews began in November 1390 in Andalucia. Then, on June 4, 1391, the anti-Jewish disorders broke out in Seville. Under Martinez¡¯s sermons, the crowd lost their temper and the riots began. The rioters in Seville, including soldiers and sailors, incited against the Jews and moved place to place teaching others to incite. Also, the three main synagogues located in the Seville were destroyed. Jews who had to leave the place were disturbed by the mob rushing through the only two gates in Juderia (18), The Jews were violently killed in their houses and in synagogues. After the persecution, the synagogues were changed into churches and Saint Bartholomew was built. The newly built churches controlled the real estate which belonged to Jews such as charitable trusts, workshops, and houses. (19)
            A few years later, when the king became able to control the power, the King punished Martinez. Gil Gonzalez Davila, the chronicler wrote "And so the king punished the Archdeacon, for no one should incite the people under pretence of piety" With the king's help, the Sevillian Jews started recovery from near-extermination. The Juderia, originally had more than 5000 inhabitants, had a few dozen after the massacre. (20) IV.2 Reaction : Large Numbers of Conversos
            After the massacres of 1391, Christians forced Jews to convert to Christianity. In 1391, almost 20,000 Jews converted being offered the choice of death or conversion. There was no education of Catholicism for the Conversos. In the early 15th century, there were campaigns run by Dominican and a large number of Jews were persuaded to convert.
            Some Jews converted to Christians in order to participate in a society for economical reasons. They were fascinated that Conversos could become the mainstream of Catholic society with the new opportunities given to them. As the time passed by, the reason gradually changed; a lot of Jews converted after falling love with Christians, so that they could marry them. (21)
            The Spaniard tried to have official rules for assimilation of Conversos from adherent to Jewish customs but the rules had a little impact since the Conversos were not educated in Catholic way and there was no legalized way to ban the coalition. (22) The attempts to ghettoize the Jews by force also failed. By 1450s, the Conversos became urban middle class, dominant in business. The assimilation of Conversos and their attempts to get along with the Jews more and more concerned the Spanish government.
            As the children and grandchildren of the Conversos who were forcibly converted grew up, they attended Jewish traditional events such as Bar Mitzvahs, the age ritual of Jewish society and Easter day.

IV.3 Reform : Official Attempts to Eradicate the Jews

IV.3.1 Start of the Spanish Inquisition
            After Castile and Aragon combined (1478) after the marriage of Ferdinand and Isabella(1469), inquisition was introduced (1478) to purify Spain. (23) The combination of envy by the prosperity of Jews, religious excitement also contributed to inquisition. (24) People engaged to science such as physicians and apothecaries were also accused of poisoning Christian patients since the science was particularly dominated by the Jews.
            In 1476, Spanish inquisition was legally approved by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella. The main reasons were to protect Conversos from their original fellowmen and relapse and to find out the Jewish converts called Marranos. (25) The inquisition began operating in Castile in 1480. (26)

IV.3.2 Edict of Expulsion
            Edict of Expulsion, a related project of Spanish inquisition, was issued on March 31, 1492 several months after the fall of Granada. The reason of expulsion is well shown in the document itself.

            Since it is clearly demonstrated that they always try by all means at their disposal, to destroy and draw away the Christian believers from our Holy Catholic Faith, to separate them from it, to bring them near to their faith...
            Theirfore, we have agreed to order the expulsion of all Jews and Jewesses in our kingdom. Never should any of them return and come back. And if they are found living in our kingdoms and domains they should be put to death.

            Being allowed to bring their property except gold and silver, The Jews were ordered to leave the kingdom by July 31st regardless of their age, sex, and occupation.(28)


            The Jews had to suffer greatly finding their place to settle. There were many ships that came to the port to bring the Jews but unfortunately, the captains sold their passengers and took the belongings. (30)
            According to the Colombus¡¯ diary, he had to delay embarking day of his historical journey since so many Jews had left that day. (31)
            Also, the record of writing in Hebrew that Italian Jew wrote depicts the circumstances of expulsion


            The treatment of the expelled Jews depended on the place that the Jews moved to. The Jews who escaped to neighboring Portugal; King John II of Portugal permitted temporarily for 2 months and around 120,000 Jews set; was the most unfortunate. In 1496, King Manuel of Portugal declared to marry with daughter of Spain¡¯s monarch in condition of expelling the Jews. Being reluctant, the king agreed and the Jews were expelled or forced to convert to Christians and those who declined to convert, chief rabbi, Simon Maimi, for example, were painfully murdered. Actually, there is claim that only 8 Jews were expelled and the rest of them were converted. (33) However, the Jews arrived at The Ottoman Empire was welcomed by Sultan Bajazet.(34) The expelled Jews finally ended up in the Ottoman Empire, Northern Africa, Italy and Arab world. The Sephardim imposed informal ban to forbid Jews from ever again living in Spain. (35)


            As a result of such hard journey, the Jews formed the general sense of introspection and melancholy that were mainly expressed through Jewish writers. The grownup sixteenth century Jewish were preoccupied with historical writings. Joseph ha Kohen who wrote vale of tears is the one example. In his book, he described the persecution that Jews suffered from the eleventh through the sixteenth century. By the gloom of persecution repeated in staccato fashion (37) provide how the Jews were educated and how the Jewish creativity came from. Also, Samuel Usque¡¯s consolation for the tribulations of Israel shows similar characteristic. (38)

V. Conclusion
            The waves of Anti-Semitism in the Castile can be explained by the two revolutions; invasion of Henry II in 1355 and the massacres of 1390. As the result of the first revolution, there were fights among the towns that supported Henry and Peter; it was the street mob who dictated politics. The Jewish communities had lost their autonomy in the aftermath of the First Revolution. After the second revolution, the massacres of 1390, there were a large number of Conversos which became a great source of concern of the kingdom. After the Castile and Aragon were combined, the government finally established inquisition and issued the Edict of Expulsion
            In conclusion, there were no official movements of the government concerning about growing animosity between the Christian and the Jews in Castile until the late 15th century. Even though the kingdom took the autonomy of the Jewish community after the first revolution, the problems remained. The second revolution - some clergyman treated the Jews harsh - resulted a large number of Conversos and the government, on 1478, started the official attempts to solve the problem by issuing inquisition.

(1)      Article: Sephardi Jews from Wikipedia
(2)      There were Portugal, Castile, Navarre and Aragon
(3)      Article: Reconquista from Wikipedia
(4)      Article: A History of Spain and Portugal from The Library of Iberian Resources Online
(5)      Article: Samuel ha levi from Wikiclopedia Spanish edition
(6)      Article: Historia de los Judios en Espana from Wikipedia Spanish edition
(7)      Article: Abraham Abulafia from Wikipedia
(8)      Ruiz 2007
(9)      Peter of Castile (1350-69), the son of Alfonso XI (1312-50), also called Pedro in Spanish
(10)      Article: History of Jews in Spain from Wikipedia
(11)      Pelner Cosman 2008 p88
(12)      Ibid.
(13)      maravedis is the name of Iberian coin
(14)      Article: History of Jews in Spain from Wikipedia
(15)      Pierson 1999 pp.45-46
(16)      Article: Seville from Jewish Virtual library
(17)      Article: Martinez, Ferrand from Jewish Encyclopedia
(18)      The two gates are Mateos Gago and the Puerta de la Carne (Meat Gate).
(19)      Article: The Spanish Expulsion 1492 from Jewish Virtual Library
(20)      Article: The Massacre of the Seville Juderia, from Sefarad (21)      Prescott 1838, p.135
(22)      Raphael 1992, pp.137-138
(23)      Article: The Jewish Community of Spain from European Jewish Congress
(24)      the Conversos who were usually at the middle position of society in 1450s, also impacted start of inquisition
(25)      Article: The Spanish Inquisition from Medieval History@suite101
(26)      Viault 1991 p.11
(27)      Luis Suarez Fernandez, Documentos Acerca de la Expulsion de Los Judios, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cientificas, Patronato Menendez Pelayo Valladolid, 1964 quoted by Raphael 1992
(28)      Article: History of Jews in Spain from Wikipedia
(29)      Image Alhambra Decree from Wikipedia
(30)      Gerber 1992, p.314
(31)      Ibid.
(32)      Article: The Expulsion from Spain from Fordham University
(33)      Article: Sephardim from Jewish Virtual Library
(34)      He said that "the same Ferdinand who impoverished his own land and enriched ours" and threatened those who treated Jews badly.
(35)      Article: The Spanish Expulsion, 1492 from Jewish Virtual Library
(36)      Picture: Expulsion of Judio from Wikipedia
(37)      Staccato fashion is the repeat of one after another
(38)      Chazan 2010, pp.32-34

Bibliography The following websites were visited in December 2011 to January 2012

1.      WHKMLA : Castile,
2.      Article : Sephardi Jews from Wikipedia,
3.      Article: Reconquista from Wikipedia,
4.      A History of Spain and Portugal from The Library of Iberian Resources Online,
5.      Article: Historia de los Judios en Espana from Wikipedia Spanish edition
6.      Article: Abraham Abulafia from Wikipedia
7.      Ruiz, Teofilo F. Spain's Centuries of Crisis : 1300-1474, John Wiley & Sons, 2007, quoted after Google Books,
8.      Article: History of Jews in Spain from Wikipedia,
9.      Pelner Cosman, Mandeleine, G.Jones, Linda, Handbook to the life in the medieval world, 2008
10.      The History of Spain. Pierson, Peter. Greenwood Press, Westport, 1999
11.      Article : Samuel ha Levi from Wikipedia Spanish edition
12.      Article: Seville from Jewish Virtual Library,
13.      Article: Martinez, Ferrand from The Jewish encyclopedia
14.      Article: The Spanish Expulsion 1492 from Jewish Virtual Library
15.      Article: The Massacre of the Seville Juderia from Sefarad
16.      Prescott, William H., History of the reign of Ferdinand and Isabella, American Stationers' Co, 1838
17.      David Raphael, The Expulsion 1492 Chronicles, N. Hollywood, 1992
18.      The Jewish Community of Spain from European Jewish Congress,
19.      Article : The Spanish Inquisition from Medieval History@suite101
20.      Viault, Birdsall S., Modern European History, NY,1991
21.      Image Alhambra Decree from Wikipedia
22.      Gerber, Jane S., The Jews of Spain - A history of the Sephardic experience, The free press, 1992
23.      Article: Sephardim from Jewish Virtual Library
24.      Picture: Expulsion of Judio, from Wikipedia
25.      Robert Chazan, Robert, Reassessing Jewish Life in Medieval Europe, Cambridge University press, NY printed, 2010
26.      The Expulsion from Spain from Fordham University

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