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Massacres of Jews in Spain

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Spanish Massacres- Persecution of Jews in Spain dated back to the Visigothic rule, when they had been expelled. However, under Muslim rule, Jews had prospered in Spain despite occasional pogroms or massacres.  hey attained an estimated population of half a million, but as Spain was reclaimed by Christians, their fortunes fell. The persecutions of Jews and Muslims in Spain culminated with the expulsion of 1492 and the Inquisition, but in Christian Spain, massacres of Jews were initiated about about 150 years earlier.

The problems of the Jews began in the conflict between King Pedro, a protector of the Jews and Henry of Trastamara. Wherever Henry or his supporters triumphed, Jews were murdered. In the Alcana part of the Juderia (ghetto) of Toledo, Henry's supporters plundered the warehouses and murdered about 12,000 persons about 1355. However, the Jews defended themselves, with the aid of nobles, and succeeded in stopping the massacre. In 1360, Henry  invaded Castile. He  murdered all the Jews living in Najera and pillaged and murdered and plundered the Jews of Miranda de Ebro.

In 1366, the situation of the Jews became yet more serious, as Henry's forces began to win victory after victory. Villadiego, Aguilar, and many other towns were totally destroyed. The inhabitants of Valladolid, who paid homage to Henry, robbed the Jews, destroyed their houses and synagogues, and desecrated the Torah scrolls . Paredes, Palencia, and several other communities were likewise attacked, and 300 Jewish families from Jaen were taken as prisoners to Granada. 

By 1369, Pedro had been beheaded and Henry was victorious. Henry himself was less than sympathetic to the Jews. However, he recognized that he needed them and tried to protect them. During the civil war (literally fratricide, since Pedro and Henry were half brothers) the clergy had become more powerful. Various anti-Jewish decrees followed.

A revolt broke out in Seville in 1391. The fanatical mob, still further exasperated by attempts to punish its ringleaders, and under the influence of preachers,  attacked the Juderia in Seville from on June 6 and reportedly killed 4,000 Jews; the rest submitted to baptism as the only means of escaping death.

The riots spread to Alcalá de Guadeira, Ecija, Cazalla, and in Fregenal, the Jews were robbed and slain. In Cordova the entire Juderia was burned down; factories and ware-houses were destroyed by the flames. About 2,000 people, the entire Jewish population, were killed.  In Toledo there as a pogrom on June 20. Most of the Castilian communities suffered from the persecution. Likewise the Jews of Aragon, Catalonia, and Marjorca were attacked. On July 9 a pogrom occurred in Valencia. Over 200 Jews were killed, and most of the Jews of Valencia were baptized by the friar (Saint) Vicente Ferrer, who had probably helped incite the riot. On Aug. 2 rioting and murder reached Palma,  Majorca.  300 Jews were killed, and 800 found refuge in the fort. Under cover of night, they sailed to North Africa; many submitted to baptism. On Saturday, August  5, a riot began in Barcelona. On the first day 100 Jews were killed. Many took refuge in the citadel. On Aug. 8 the citadel was stormed, and more than 300 Jews were murdered.  The rioting continued for two more days and large numbers of Jews were baptized or murdered. On August 10, just as the fury of the Barcelona rioting abated, the mob attacked the Juderia (Jewish quarter) in Gerona; several Jews were robbed and killed; many sought safety in flight and a few in baptism. The last riots took place in Lerida, on August 13. Seventy five Jews were murdered and the rest were baptized. Spain was relatively quiet after that for nearly a hundred years, until the Inquisition ((Perez, Joseph, The Spanish Inquisition: A history, TR Janet Lloyd, Yale, 2006.  Encyclopedia Judaica, Jewish Encyclopedia.)

One Andres Bernaldez wrote a chronicle (Recollections of the Reign of the Catholic Kings)  that covers some of these events:

Heretical Mosaic depravity reigned for a long time, hidden away in corners, not daring to show itself, and it was allowed to exist through the negligence of the prelates--namely the archbishops and bishops of Spain--who never acknowledged it or denounced it to the kings or the popes as they were obliged to do.

The Mosaic Heresy had its start in the year of Our Lord 1390, at the beginning of the reign of King Henry III of Castile, when the plundering of the Jewish quarted occurred as the result of the preaching of Friar Vincent Ferrer, a holy, Catholic, and learned man, of the Order of St. Dominic. At that time, Ferrer wanted to convert all the Jews of Spain through preaching and proofs from the Holy Law and Scripture, and to put an end to that obstinate, stinking synagogue. He and other preachers preached a great deal to the Jews in the synagogues, churches and fields; the Jewish rabbis, completely convinced by teh Scripture of the Law and its prophecies, did not know how to reply. But they were deceived and misled by that gloss called the Talmud... made after the birth of Our LLord, in the year 400. [The  Jews have] ten times as many copies of the Talmud as they do the Bible, and they sent it throughout the world, wherever there were Jews to strengthen themm.. There were very great lies and intricate arguments in that Talmud ... The Jews deny the truth and are ignorant of it; thus it is said, "There is no argument against those who deny the truth." [Contra negante veritasem nulla est disputatia.]

As a result, Friar Vincent Ferrer could convert only a few Jews, and the people spitefully put the Jews in Castile to the sword and killed many, and this occurred all over Castile in a single day, Tuesday. Then the Jews themselves came to the churches to be baptized, and so they were; and very many in Castile were made into Christians. After their baptism, some went to Portugal and to other kingdoms to be Jews; others, after some time had passed, returned to being Jews in places where they were not known. Many unbaptized Jews and synagogues still remained in Castile, and the lords and kings always protected them because of their great utility.

The baptised Jews who stayed were called Conversos, that is this is the origin of the name, "converso," which means those converted to the Holy Catholic Faith. The conversos observed the Faith very badly ... for the most part they were secret Jews. In fact, they were niether Jews nor Christians, since they were baptized, but they were heretics, and [yet] without the Law [of Moses.]. Thus this heresy was born, as you have heard... LU ANN HOMZA, ed. and trans. The Spanish Inquisition 1478-1614: An Anthology of Sources. Indianapolis, Ind.: Hackett, 2006, pp 1-2.

Vincent Ferrer was not lacking in his exertions, and in 1415 he helped incite anti-Jewish legislation in Castile. Vincent Ferrer was canonized in 1455. Many Catholic institutions are named in his honor.

Ami Isseroff

March 31, 2009


Synonyms and alternate spellings:

Further Information: pogrom Inquisition anti-Semitism Time-Line: Anti-Semitism

Hebrew/Arabic pronunciation and transliteration conventions:

'H - ('het) a guttural sound made deep in the throat. To Western ears it may sound like the "ch" in loch. In Arabic there are several letters that have similar sounds. Examples: 'hanukah, 'hamas, 'haredi. Formerly, this sound was often represented by ch, especially in German transliterations of Hebrew. Thus, 'hanukah is often rendered as Chanuka for example.

ch - (chaf) a sound like "ch" in loch or the Russian Kh as in Khruschev or German Ach, made by putting the tongue against the roof of the mouth. In Hebrew, a chaf can never occur at the beginning of a word. At the beginning of a word, it has a dot in it and is pronounced "Kaf."

u - usually between oo as in spoon and u as in put.

a- sounded like a in arm

ah- used to represent an a sound made by the letter hey at the end of a word. It is the same sound as a. Haganah and Hagana are alternative acceptable transliterations.

'a-notation used for Hebrew and Arabic ayin, a guttural ah sound.

o - close to the French o as in homme.

th - (taf without a dot) - Th was formerly used to transliterate the Hebrew taf sound for taf without a dot. However in modern Hebrew there is no detectable difference in standard pronunciation of taf with or without a dot, and therefore Histadruth and Histadrut, Rehovoth and Rehovot are all acceptable.

q- (quf) - In transliteration of Hebrew and Arabic, it is best to consistently use the letter q for the quf, to avoid confusion with similar sounding words that might be spelled with a kaf, which should be transliterated as K. Thus, Hatiqva is preferable to Hatikva for example.

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This work and individual entries are copyright 2005 by Ami Isseroff and Zionism and Israel Information Center and may not reproduced in any form without permission unless explicitly noted otherwise. Individual entries may be cited with credit to The Encyclopedia and Dictionary of Zionism and Israel


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