The 1901 Jewish Encyclopedia
James I. Makes Presents to the Jews.
Capital of the former kingdom of the same name. During the dominion of the Moors, Valencia had a Jewish community eminent for its size and wealth. When James I. of Aragon made his entry into the conquered city on Oct. 9, 1238, the Jews went out to meet him with their rabbis and delegates at their head, and presented him with a roll of the Law in token of homage. As a reward for the important services which they had rendered him in the conquest of the strongly fortified city, he presented to some of them houses belonging to the Moors, as well as real estate in the city and its precincts. Among those who received such gifts after the "repartimiento de Valencia" were the secretaries and interpreters of the king, Maestros R. David, R. Solomon, and R. Moses Bachiel; David Almadayan, secretary to the infante D. Fernando; Maestros (or Alfaquins) R. Joseph, Abraham ibn Vives (probably the father of the wealthy Joseph ibn Vives who in 1271 held a lease of the salt-works of Valencia, and who, as Amador de los Rios believes, was the ancestor of the Spanish hero Luis Vives, after whoma street in Valencia is named), and R. Samson. Besides, presents were received by the gold-workers, merchants, and money-changers Moses Alconstantini (probably the same who in 1271 indiscreetly exhibited certain letters of the king), G. ibn Ya'ish, Simon Abenpesat (certainly a relative of Moses and Joseph Abenpesat of Tudela), and Astruc de Tortosa (without doubt the same that had possessions on the island of Majorca).
In 1239 King James assigned the Jews a commodious quarter for residence, extending from the wall Aben Xemi to 'Abd al-Malik; thence to the Puerto d'Exarea or Puerto de la Ley (= "gate of the law"); and from this gate to the "horno de Aben Nulid" and to the wall of Ibrahim al-Valenci. The Juderia or ghetto was first surrounded by a high wall in 1390, and was provided with three gates which were closed at night. The main gate was at the entrance of the long street which cut through the Juderia, hard by the Place de la Figuera (Higuera), where now the monastery of S. Thecla stands. Another gate, D'Exarea, was at the termination of the long street of the Jews; and a third gate led to the Place de la Olivera, now called "De Comedias." This restriction of the Jews met with opposition on many sides, especially from the Dominican friars, because by the establishment of the ghetto their church was wholly isolated.
Restrictions in 1283.
Otherwise the Jews of Valencia enjoyed for a long time perfect freedom. They were not restrained in their trade or commerce; and they were not required to appear before the magistracy. They were subject solely to the city "baile," the representative of the crown. For several decades the baile-general was R. Judah (Jehudano), the king's confidant. The Jews were permitted to hold public office; but they were not allowed to execute justice upon a Christian. In 1283, however, this freedom was materially restricted. King Pedro decreed that no Jew should thenceforth hold any public office with which jurisdiction over Christians was connected. Moreover, Jews were to be admitted as sworn witnesses only in disputes involving sums not exceeding 5 sueldos. The Jews in Valencia had a special formula, in Catalan, for an oath, which was not very different from that in Barcelona (see Rios, "Hist." 1:576 et seq.). They were not permitted to kill cattle in the public slaughter-house, and they were required to pay a special tax on the necessaries of life, merchandise, etc.
The Valencian Jews, who engaged in industrial pursuits and largely in commerce, aroused the envy of both nobles and citizens through the wealth and luxury displayed in their houses and apparel. In 1370 loud complaints were raised to the effect that the Jews had built houses outside the Juderia; and although they protested that this had been done with the consent of the king and by special permission of the queen, who received the Jewish taxes for rent, the king nevertheless decreed that the Jews should thereafter live only in the Juderia.
The inner government of the aljama was conducted by deputies ("adelantados"); and this body by royal permission had erected a school in 1264. Near the Jew street stood the large synagogue; and not far distant from this was a smaller one. The Jewish cemetery was outside the Juderia but within the city wall; and leading to it was the Puerta de los Judios, or Gate of the Jews.
Massacre of the Jews.
The year of terror (1391) saw the abrupt dissolution of the flourishing Jewish community of Valencia. In the last third of the fourteenth century the city had sunk to a low level both morally and materially. The nobles wasted their property in excesses and indulged in the most extravagant luxury. Valencia, the beautiful garden of Spain, became the refuge of vagabonds and adventurers from all parts of the country. People were attacked, robbed, and even murdered in broad daylight; and the time was one of complete anarchy, the conditions being such that the Jews of Valencia trembled when they heard of the massacre in Seville in 1391. They sought protection from the magistracy and the city council, who took energetic measures for their defense. Quite unexpectedly, however, at noon on Sunday, July 9, 1391, St. Christopher's Day, a mob of between forty and fifty half-grown youths gathered in the market-place and formed themselves into a procession carrying a banner and several crosses. They marched to the main gate of the Juderia on the Place de la Figuera, shouting," The Archdeacon of Seville comes to baptize all Jews," and tried to force their way into the quarter. The Jews hastily closed the gates, accidentally pulling in some of the youths. In an instant nobles and citizens, knights and clergy, strangers and the rabble generally made a rush upon the Juderia. In vain did the infante D. Martin, Duke of Montblanch, try to force back the crowd. The Jews defended themselves valiantly; and one of the youths was killed in the struggle. As soon as this became known the revengeful mob forced its way into the Juderia from the walls and roofs of the surroundinghouses. A frightful massacre ensued. Two hundred and thirty (according to another source, several hundred) Jews were killed, their wives and daughters dishonored, and their houses plundered. Many, to escape death, accepted baptism. Don Samuel Abravallo, one of the richest Jews of Valencia, had the Marquis de Lombay as sponsor and took the name "Alfonso Fernandez de Villanova," from property belonging to him. Joseph Abarim, or Juan Perez de S. Jaime, as he called himself after baptism, declared in the criminal court (July 21, 1391) that notes due to him amounting to 30,000 gold gulden had been destroyed, that force had been used against his niece and against his son's nurse, and that his brother had been wounded.
Dissolution of the Community.
After the catastrophe the magistracy did its utmost to punish the rioters; and ninety were taken prisoners. An order was issued to deliver up to the city all goods taken from the Jews; and soon the churches, the town-hall, and the neighboring houses were filled with the most costly objects. The city council demanded an exemplary punishment of the guilty parties; but owing to the fact that the most influential families of the city were implicated, the suit dragged along, and finally King John I. granted an amnesty to all concerned.
The Juderia was not reestablished. The community was destroyed: the large synagogue became a monastery (S. Cristobal); the smaller one was turned into a chapel; and the eight slaughtering-pens in the Juderia were sold (1393 and 1394). No Jew might enter the city without the permission of the baile; and even with this permit he might not stay longer than eight days. Each Jew entering the city without permission was liable to a fine of 50 maravedis. Only in places near Valencia, S. Thomas, S. Andres, and S. Esteban, might Jews reside even temporarily.
Scholars and Rabbis.
Several Jewish scholars lived in Valencia, among them Solomon ibn Gabirol, who also died there, and Joseph Caspi. Isaac ben Sheshet was rabbi in Valencia for several years; and Amram ben Nathan Efrati occupied the rabbinate for four decades. The latter was widely respected for his learning, but was not on good terms with Ḥasdai ben Solomon (a friend of Isaac ben Sheshet), called from Tudela about 1380. Isaac Rocamora was born in Valencia. Several Jews adopted the name "Valensi," or "Alvalensi," after Valencia as the original home of their families; e.g., Samuel ben Abraham Valensi, a pupil of R. Isaac Campantons.
- Rios, Hist. 1:404,413 et seq.; 2:18 et seq., 363 et seq.; 3:400,411;
- Jacobs, Sources, Nos. 315, 477, 483, 880, 1123;
- Isaac b. Sheshet, Responsa, Nos. 371, 387, 485.
- A plan of the Juderia is given in R. E. J. 14:264 et seq.
- On the massacre see the official report given in Rios, Hist. 3:594 et seq. and in V. Boin, Historia de la Ciudad de Valencia, 1:440 et seq.;
- Boletin Acad. Hist. 8:358 et seq., 16:435;
- R. E. J. 13:239 et seq.;
- Grätz, Gesch. 8:66.
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Singer, Isidore, Ph.D, Projector and Managing Editor. Entry for 'Valencia'. 1901 The Jewish Encyclopedia. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tje/v/valencia.html. 1901.