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Encyclopaedia Judaica

Jews in Spain 01: Legends - Visigoths until 711

Tolerant and anti-Jewish laws in the Visigothic kingdom up to expulsions

Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971: Spain, vol. 15, col.
                223-224, map of the Jewish communities of the 11th
                century
amplify Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971: Spain, vol. 15, col. 223-224, map of the Jewish communities of the 11th century

from: Spain; In: Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971, vol. 15

presented by Michael Palomino (2008)

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<SPAIN,

country in S.W. Europe.

[Jews in Spain - the legends since biblical times]

According to various legends, there were Jews living in Spain in biblical times, but no proof exists in support of such stories. Most probably, the first group of Jews settled there under the Roman Empire and the communities grew rapidly. A tombstone inscription attests the presence of Jews in Adra (the ancient Abdera) in the third century C.E. They thus witnessed the conversion of the inhabitants of the Peninsula to Christianity, which is probably why the Council of *Elvira (305) attempted to effect or maintain a separation between the members of the two faiths by forbidding Christians to live in the houses of Jews, or to eat in their company, or to bless the produce of their fields.

Under Visigothic Rule.

[The court in Toledo and the Catholic Visigothic kings]

The weakening of the empire and the arrival of the Visigoths changed the face of Spain. From their court in Toledo they attempted to restore the shattered Hispanic unity, initially on the religious plane, through the conversion of their king Reccared, originally an Arian, to Catholicism (587). Subsequently, in the political sphere, King Sisebut (612-21) broke down the last Byzantine stronghold in Spain. It is therefore hardly surprising that the *Church councils of Toledo, which were as much political as religious assemblies, should have played so important a role in the Visigothic state, and thus in the determination of its policy toward the Jews.

[Forced Catholicism - forced conversions or expulsion under King Sisebut - more tolerance under King Swintila - reversion law under King Sisenand - anti-Jewish law under King Chintila]

As in the case of all other subjects, the policy was to have them adopt Catholicism, which had by then become the state religion. Reccared approved the decision of the third Council of Toledo (589) laying down that the children of a mixed Jewish-Christian marriage should be baptized by force. Going even further, Sisebut inaugurated a policy of forcible conversion of all the Jews in the kingdom. From 613 they were ordered to be baptized or leave the kingdom. Thousands of Jews then left Spain, while others were converted.

Most of the latter, however, took the opportunity of returning to Judaism under the rule of his more tolerant successor Swintila (621-31). They were joined at this time by a number of exiles returning to Spain.

At that period the official Church doctrine on conversion was formulated: Jews must not be baptized by force, and the fourth Council of Toledo (633) accepted this. King Sisenand (631-36) supported this attitude but, like the council, insisted that those Jews who had been converted by Sisebut and reverted to Judaism under Swintila must return to Christianity.

However, this relatively moderate attitude was revoked again under King Chintila (636-39) who compelled the sixth Council of Toledo (638) to adopt a resolution proclaiming that only Catholics might reside in the kingdom of Spain; he even anathematized those of his successors who did not hold to his decrees against the Jews. (col. 220)

Numerous Jews accepted baptism and signed a declaration that they would respect Christian rites; others chose exile.

[King Chindaswinth: tolerance - King Recceswinth: prohibition of Jewish laws - dominating Jewish law]

Under Chintila's successor, Chindaswinth (641-49), the application of these laws had been neglected to such an extent that his successor, Recceswinth (649-72) complained to the eighth Council of Toledo (653) about the presence of Jews in the kingdom. Probably some of the exiles had come back and some of the converts had returned to Judaism. The king commanded that they be brought back within the fold of Christianity, by force if necessary. Those who had relapsed had to sign a new declaration, promising to be good Catholics, to reject all Jewish rites, and to execute themselves those of their erring brethren who backslid into Judaism.

However, they were permitted to abstain from eating pork, which they abhorred. The king decided not to drive the unconverted Jews to the font but to make it impossible for them to practice Judaism by prohibiting circumcision and forbidding them to celebrate the Sabbath and the festivals. However, these ordinances were honored more in the breach than in the observance and, thanks to various allies, even among the clergy, the Jews were able to survive in Spain; so much so that the tenth Council of Toledo had to remind Christians that they were obliged to observe the laws relating to the Jews.

[King Wamba expelling some Jews - King Erwig: forced baptism - expelled Jews - punished helpers - clergy as anti-Jewish instrument of the king]

The next king, Wamba (672-80), expelled the Jews from Narbonne and probably also from Septimania (then part of Spain), but they did not all leave the Visigothic kingdom. They were there when Erwig (680-87) convoked the 12th Council of Toledo to obtain in spite of the traditional ruling of the Church, the forced baptism of the Jews. Within a year every Jew had to forswear Judaism, accept baptism for himself and his family, and pledge his fidelity to the Christian faith. Those who refused were to be penalized by having their belongings seized, by corporal punishment, and finally by exile.

Similar penalties were to be imposed on those who, baptized or not, observed Jewish rites. The priests were to gather all the Jews in the churches to read out to them the text of the law so that none could claim he was unaware of it. Any noble who helped the Jews to evade these laws was to lose his rights over the Jews and pay a heavy fine.

The execution of the laws was the task of the clergy, the king reserving several penalties for them if they were lax in carrying out his orders. Yet the Jews continued to Judaize and even to attack Christianity on some occasions for the king could not count on the assistance of his people in carrying out the whole of his anti-Jewish policy.

[King Egica: forced baptism and enticements to become a Christian - anti-Jewish laws - forced sale of slaves, land, and good - prohibition of trade with Christians]

His successor, Egica (687-702), reversed his attitude, restating once more the prescription on forced baptism and suppressing those disqualifications which oppressed converted Jews, while at the same time increasing the benefits to be gained from becoming Christian. He passed several measures tending to impoverish the Jews and make it impossible for them to buy protection from powerful nobles. They were forced to sell, at a price fixed by the king, all slaves, buildings, lands, and vineyards which they had acquired from Christians. On pain of perpetual servitude and confiscation of their goods, they were forbidden to conduct commercial transactions with Christians or overseas. At the same time their taxes were considerably increased.

[Rumors that Jews would welcome the Muslim invaders - Jews given into hands of Christian "masters" - slavery]

In spite of its ratification by the 16th Council of Toledo (693), this policy was unsuccessful. Soon it was rumored that the persecuted Jews were thinking of appealing to the Muslim invaders, who had shown themselves to be decidedly more tolerant than the Visigoths. Alarmed, Egica convened a 17th council on Nov. 9, 694, accusing the Jews of treason and demanding that the severest measured be taken against them. Declared as slaves and their possessions confiscated, all the Jews of Spain were given into the hands of Christian masters in various (col. 221)

provinces. Their masters were charged to see that they did not practice Jewish rites and to take their children to be brought up from the age of seven by Christian tutors and later married to Christians. Those Jews who were able to, escaped; the rest were taken into servitude.

[S.SCH.]> (col. 222)
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Sources
Encyclopaedia Judaica: Spain, vol. 15,
                          col. 220
Encyclopaedia Judaica: Spain, vol. 15, col. 220
Encyclopaedia Judaica: Spain, vol. 15,
                          col. 221-222
Encyclopaedia Judaica: Spain, vol. 15, col. 221-222
Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971: Spain, vol.
                          15, col. 223-224
Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971: Spain, vol. 15, col. 223-224
Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971: Spain, vol.
                          15, col. 225-226
Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971: Spain, vol. 15, col. 225-226
Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971: Spain, vol.
                          15, col. 227-228
Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971: Spain, vol. 15, col. 227-228
Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971: Spain, vol.
                          15, col. 229-230
Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971: Spain, vol. 15, col. 229-230
Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971: Spain, vol.
                          15, col. 231-232
Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971: Spain, vol. 15, col. 231-232
Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971: Spain, vol.
                          15, col. 233-234
Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971: Spain, vol. 15, col. 233-234
Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971: Spain, vol.
                          15, col. 235-236
Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971: Spain, vol. 15, col. 235-236
Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971: Spain, vol.
                          15, col. 237-238
Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971: Spain, vol. 15, col. 237-238
Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971: Spain, vol.
                          15, col. 239-240
Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971: Spain, vol. 15, col. 239-240
Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971: Spain, vol.
                          15, col. 241-242
Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971: Spain, vol. 15, col. 241-242
Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971: Spain, vol.
                          15, col. 243-244
Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971: Spain, vol. 15, col. 243-244
Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971: Spain, vol.
                          15, col. 245-246
Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971: Spain, vol. 15, col. 245-246





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