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The Sephardic Route Segovia

The character of Segovia has been marked since the 1st century AD by its Roman aqueduct. A World Heritage Site, Segovia’s history embraces the legacy of both the Romans and the Visigoths, as well as that of the cultural melting-pot of the Middle Ages, and for centuries it was a haven for the peaceful coexistence of Jews, Moors and Christians.

The repopulation of Segovia in the 11th century, which put an end to its long period as a no-man’s-land between the Muslim and Christian kingdoms, was also when the first Jewish settlers arrived. Over the next few centuries, they joined in the monumental task of turning the city into one of the wealthiest in Castile and Spain. With just over fifty families, the aljama of Segovia was one of the wealthiest in Castile, and its Jewish inhabitants were physicists, craftsmen in a wide range of trades, surgeons and tradesmen. Some of them, such as Abraham Seneor, became administrators of the royal income, and a great many conversions took place under the auspices of the Catholic Monarchs.

There is no documentary evidence of persecution or violence towards Jews in Segovia. However, although many of them had previously lived in different parts of the city, Catherine of Lancaster’s Pragmatic Decree of 1412 obliged Segovian Jews to remain within the Jewish quarter. Then in 1481, the Catholic Monarchs decreed that the Jewry should be closed off by seven gateways with brickwork arches.

The Jewish quarter of Segovia is a large area on the south side of the city, between the churches of Corpus Christi and San Andrés, alongside the city walls. The church of Corpus Christi stands on the site of the old Greater Synagogue, and despite the fire of 1899 which reduced the building to its present structure, it still retains five of the original six or seven Moorish arches on the two arcades that divide the aisles. The 52 smaller arches on the upper floor, and the Mudejar-style decoration on the coffered ceiling of the church give some idea of the size of the former Jewish temple. The Ibañez synagogue, also known as the New Greater Synagogue, stood in the Plaza de San Geroteo. It was bought by the City Council in 1492, and then in 1507 by one Bartolomé Ibáñez, and remained in his family until the early 20th century, when it was sold to the Daughters of Jesus nuns. It is a single-nave building, and all that remains of the original is part of an ox-eye window. Besides these two, according to documents, there was also an Old Synagogue, in what is now the Plaza de la Merced, with, next to it, one of Segovia’s two Talmudic schools; and the Campo synagogue, which stood next to the San Andrés Gateway and which had an adjoining hospital.

The “Jewish Butcher’s”, in the Almuzara area, was mentioned in a document dated 1287 that was the first to accredit the existence of Hebrews in the city. There were at least two of these shops, one near the Casa del Sol and the other by the San Andrés Gateway. The streets of Judería Vieja and Judería Nueva are reminders of the former inhabitants of this district of stone, brick and wooden houses, often decorated with Segovia’s famous scratchwork façades, with a few noble houses with coats of arms over the doorway and arcaded courtyards. After the expulsion, these became the homes of rich conversos, who were reluctant to leave the home of their ancestors when this was no longer the Jewish Quarter, and as known as the Barrio Nuevo, or New Quarter.

 


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