Closed by seven gates as from 1481, the Jewish quarter of Segovia comprises a space which is totally delimited on the southern side of the walled city, a district now made up of the remains of synagogues, palaces, museums and buildings which evoke its Jewish past, distributed amongst a set of streets rife with medieval mystery. A walk through the Jewish quarter – revealing a city quite distinct from that of the conventional routes through Segovia of the Aqueduct and the Citadel – is further complemented by a visit to the Jewish cemetery of Pinarillo on the other side of Clamores stream where there are some remains of burials which are of great value.

The first indications of the presence of Jews in the city of Segovia date back to 1215 when Giraldo, the bishop of the city, placed a ban on gambling between Jews and Christians in the parish of San Miguel right in the centre of the city. This reveals a context of daily cohabitation between the two groups and the settlement of the Jews in the centre of Segovia since at least slightly before this time. Forty years later in 1252, the presence of the Jews in the city is a wholly consolidated fait accompli as can be gathered from the mandate set by Pope Innocent IV to the Segovian bishop Raimundo de Losana in which he requires Jews to wear a distinctive sign on their attire:

Con el fin de evitar que los judíos puedan unirse, con grave daño, con las mujeres de los cristianos y éstos con las de los judíos.

Except for this and one or other item of information, during the 13th century the evidence conserved affords very few references to the Jewish community of Segovia. However we do know that prominent Kabbalists lived in the city such as the native of Soria Jacob ha-Cohen who, according to tradition, died in Segovia or Yosef ben Abraham Chiquitilla (1248-1325), indicating unequivocal evidence of the vitality of the aljama of Segovia.

During the 14th century the Jewish community of Segovia was made up of around fifty or a hundred families who had two synagogues, the Mayor (Main) and the Vieja (Old). After a visit in 1326 the Archbishop of Toledo, Juan de Aragón, spoke out against the fastof bread and water observed by Jewish and Christian women on the eve of the celebration of Easter. This denouncement clearly suggests a climate of cohabitation which had overcome the barriers in place between the members of both religious communities which is not accepted by the authorities. At the start of the reign of Enrique II as from 1369, there were altercations in Segovia and Ávila against the Jews by dint of the general moratorium that the King had imposed on debts taken out with Jews. The Christians attacked their Jewish neighbours to take back the documentary evidence of their debts.

At this time, with the exception of some brief altercations, the Jewish community maintained a fluid relationship with the main civil and ecclesiastical institutions. The episcopal seat did not intervene in Jewish matters except to apply the rules governing the separation of the communities which the Church ordered. In actual fact, the Jewish community maintained close relationship with the Chapterhouse of the catedral in view of the fact that it became the main renter of the Jews´ houses and employed many of them in the works carried out at the cathedral. Only one dispute is known of in which Çag de Cuellar brought proceedings in 1370 against the Chapterhouse owing to the rental of a house situated in the parish of San Esteban, finally reaching an agreement before two arbitrators, the Segovian bishop Martín de Cande and the Jew Çag Abudacham. The Chapterhouse was the main proprietor of real estate in Segovia in the 14th century and it obtained major profits from renting out these properties. The proportion of this income deriving from Jews was considerable as is borne out by the fact that in 1373 almost a third of tenants of tenants of capitulary houses were members of the Jewish community.

After the death of Juan II in 1390, the political instability instigated in Castile affected the Jews in the kingdom putting an end to cohabitation once and for all. The power vacuum brought about by the death of Juan I and the absence of firm authority were exploited by the Archdeacon of Écija, Ferrand Martínez, to stir up and instigate the attack on the Jewish quarter of Seville. At the end of 1390 the Archdeacon had managed to instigate attacks and massacres on the Jewish quarters of Écija and Alcalá de Guadaira and on June 6th 1391, inspired by him, that of Seville. For two months this wave of popular violence against the Jews affected other Jewish communities such as those of Córdoba, Cuenca, Toledo, Madrid, Burgos and Logroño in Castile.

The chronicle of Enrique III recounts the arrival at the court of news of what was happening, but it fails to say whether the city was affected by the violence too:

Partieron de Madrid e vino el rey a la cibdad de Segovia. E estando allí ovo nuevas cómo el pueblo de la cibdad de Sevilla avía robado la Jewish quarter e que eran tornados cristianos los más judíos que y eran, e muchos de ellos muertos. E que luego que estas nuevas sopieron, en Cordoba e en Toledo ficieron eso mesmo e así en otros muchos logares del regno.

In 1412 the guardians of King Juan II promulgated provisions known as the laws of Ayllón which were very restrictive for the Castilian Jewish community. Generally speaking, this legislation limited the legal and administrative independence of the aljamas, forbade Jews from performing certain professional activities and established the social segregation of the Jewish community.

Specific measures set out in the Laws of 1412 included the obligation of Jews and Moslems to live in separate districts. It was thus stipulated:

Que de aquí adelante todos los judíos e moros e moras de los mis regnos e señoríos sean e vivan apartados de los cristianos en un logar aparte de la çibdad, villa o logar donde fueren vecinos. E que sean çercados de una çerca de derredor e tanga una puerta sola por donde se manden en tal çírculo. En que en el dicho çírculo, e lo que ay fueren asignados, moren los tales judíos e judías e moros e moras e non en otro logar nin casa fuera de él.

On October 1412 the council of Segovia had already grouped together the Jews of the city on certain plots and land belonging to the Mercedarian convent of St. Mary of Mercy. This Jewish quarter, the first to exist in the city, was located between the Almuzara, in other words, the current Merced square, and puerta de San Andrés (St. Andrew´s Gate). The segregation was strictly adhered to for years. However, with the passage of time some exceptions began to emerge such Rabbi Yucef, the main book-keeper of Prince Enrique, who had his residence at the central St. Michael´s square in 1453. Other known cases of Jews who lived outside the Jewish quarter show how the pressure on the Jewish community had relaxed somewhat and how they had gradually began to regain the social space they had lost in Segovia.

Friar Vincent Ferrer visited Segovia between the end of 1411 and 1412 to exhort Jews and Moslems to conversion and stirred up a great sense of expectancy in the city, but no further information has been conserved about his activity in Segovia. We only know that at its session held on October 24th 1411 the Chapterhouse of the cathedral stipulated that:

Por quanto fray Veçente venía, e con él, mucha gente de pobres, que del día que él entrare en la dicha çibdat fasta el día que partiere, que den de comer de la mayordomía del común a quarenta pobres cada día pan e vino e carne. E el día de ayuno, pan e vino e pescado, conveniblemente lo que les fisiere menester. E que ge lo den en el palaçio cada día a la mañana e a la noche. E que los repartan a dormir cada noche en las casas de los sennores beneficiados.

This would all lead us to believe that the Dominican managed to achieve some conversions amongst the Segovian Jewish community at that time, though it is not possible to speculate on a figure nor on their relevance.

Likewise, during the regency of Catherine of Lancaster (1406-1419) the events of Corpus Christi occurred in which a group of Jews were accused, including Meir Alguadex, the doctor to Enrique III, of having profaned a consecrated host at the Main synagogue. The reporting of this event along with the punishment of the alleged guilty parties led to the expropriation of the synagogue which became a church dedicated to Corpus Christi. All these episodes of violence and anti-Semitism in Segovia in the late 14th century and the early 15th century led to a considerable increase in conversions to Christianity.

Despite this gloomy backdrop, the aljama of Segovia was one of the most prosperous and populated in Castile in the late 14th century. Under the reign de Juan II, Segovia entered another cycle of prosperity which was extended with the reign of Enrique IV into the 15th century. The strengthening of the aljama in the middle of the century had an urbanistic, economic and social impact and Jews gradually began to settle outside the narrow space of the Jewish quarter, registering a growing participation in the payment of royal taxes and their institutional presence in the city. Between 1464 and 1482 the aljama of Segovia was the main contributor to the tax on service and half service. This is a clear reflection of the strong demographic growth experienced by the aljama as well as of its economic prosperity.

On December 13th 1474 princess Isabel was proclaimed Queen of Castile and León in the city of Segovia where she happened to be upon the death of Enrique IV. Although the aljama did not take part in the organised public acts, we do know that Abraham Seneor played a major role in the Quenn´s accession to the throne and her subsequent consolidation on it.

The Catholic Monarchs continued to protect the Jews but adopting certain restrictive measures against Jewish community. At the Courts of Madrigal in 1476 the aljamas´ capacity to judge criminal cases was withdrawn and at the Courts of Toledo of 1480 Jews were again required to live in a segregated district, thereby confirming the Laws of Ayllón of 1412. The segregation decreed by the Courts of Toledo of 1480 was put into effect in Segovia on October 29th 1481 under the supervision of Rodrigo Álvarez Maldonado who was obliged to temper the excessive zeal of the city authorities when placing the eight gates which were to close the sites one of them was too narrow for carts to get through and thus made it difficult to supply the Jewish quarter. Furthermore, the Catholic Monarchs maintained their protection of the Jews and their interests with great firmness during their reign until the time of their expulsion.

In around 1486 the Inquisition Court was set up in Segovia, bringing about a complete convulsion which led to the breaking out of the social, economic and political tensions which had been latent since the start of the century. The growing conflicts between the Christian and Jewish communities now ran so deep that it proved very hard for any understanding to be reached.

During this period the municipal aldermen of the city of Segovia maintained an aggressive attitude towards the Jews of Segovia. For instance, in 1485 bakers were forbidden from baking matzoth in their ovens as was their wont. This decision, which does not seem to have any objective justification, was a serious insult to the Jewish community as Easter was very close.

The religious and social opposition to the Jews focused on Segovia at the Dominican monastery of Santa Cruz whose prior, Friar Tomás de Torquemada, was appointed by the Monarchs as the Grand inquisitor in 1483. At around the same time one of the friars of the Santa Cruz monastery, friar Francisco de la Peña, was holding public sermons around the city in which he turned the population against the Jews with statements like «sy non ponen fuego al monte, que non podría echar los lobos fuera». In March 1485 the Monarchs ordered Alvar Fernández to prevent Friar Francisco from continuing with his incendiary sermons. However, it seems he was unable to stop him as one month later the Chief Magistrate Ruy González was asked to act in this regard.

Concurrently, the aljama was in a state of serious tension because of the different interests of their leaders and the rest of their members. In 1490 the monarchs look at a complaint lodged by Abraham Alboer and they ordered the Chief Magistrate in the city to do whatever was necessary to ensure that all the members of the aljama made a fair contribution to the payment of taxes. In this same year the Segovian Jew Jacob Cachopo, a proxy for the aljamas of the kingdom, asked the monarchs for a letter of safe passage to protect him from Abraham Seneor and other members of the Jewish community of Segovia.

This was the situation when the edict of expulsion of the Jews was delivered. In Segovia this decree was proclaimed in public one month after it had been written in Granada. As we are told by an anonymous witness of the events:

Martes, primero día del mes de mayo, día de los bienaventurados apóstolos San Philipe e Santiago, anno de Nuestro Señor y Salvador Ihesu Christo de mill e quatrocientos e noventa y dos annos, reinantes en Castilla los muy serenísimos don Fernando e donna Isabel, reyes de Castilla e de Granada, fue publicado en Segovia e en toda Castilla de mandado de sus altesas cómo vacassen de sus reynos todos los judíos que estavan en suys reynos. Dioles seguro con que saliesen dentro de tres messes de sus reynos e que no llevassen consigo oro ni plata ni moneda amoneda[da] ni armas ni otras cosas vedadas, salvo mercadorías etc. Publicose el día susodicho en el monasterio de Sancta Cruz desta çibdad estando ay todo el pueblo desta dicha çibdad, que fueron y concurrieron allí con muy devota e notable processión. Demos a Dios Nuestro Señor infinytas graçias, que permitió ser echados los infieles de nuestros reynos.

Faced by the dilemma of getting christened or liquidating their assets some, like Abraham Seneor, open for christening. On June 15th 1492 the old financier was christened as Fernán Pérez Coronel at the Cáceres monastery of Santa María de Guadalupe at a ceremony in which the Catholic Monarchs themselves served as the godparents.

The aljama was forced to liquidate the communal assets. At the time of the expulsion these properties consisted of two synagogues, the new Main synagogue and the Campo synagogue with its annexed hospital, the cemetery, a butcher´s, an oven and some baths.

The fact there no news was coming out of Segovia about the Jews, prevents us from knowing, even approximately, the number of Jews who left the city and of those who decided to convert to Christianity. The only reliable data is provided by a census of converts in 1510 eighteen years after the expulsion which affirmed that there were 788 converts in Segovia spread around 209 families. In any case, bearing in mind this data, we should bear in mind that the figure does not solely refer to those christened in 1492, but also to all the converts residing in the city.

The converts, having converted to become New Christians, kept living in the same streets as their forefathers. The old Jewish quarter thus became the Barrio Nuevo (New District) whose urban layout whose essential lines have remained unchanged until today.

'Corralillo' in Almuzara Street

New Jewish Quarter Street and Almuzara Street, where the small Jewish yard is situated

Almuzara street goes right into the heart of the Jewish quarter of Segovia from Merced square. The small yard at number 3 of this street is one of the few testimonies to the architecture of the Jewish district located in an area which underwent major remodelling work over the centuries. Another Jewish butcher´s was situated on this street according to a document from 1287.

Burgos synagogue

Escuderos street at the place where the Burgos synagogue was located

Burgos synagogue was located in the parish of San Miguel alongside a fortified house as set out in a document from 1358. Its name appears in 1410 in another document, la sinoga que disen de Burgos. Its location has been given as number 17 Escuderos street.

There is a theory that this was the temple of a community of Jews from Burgos which set up in Segovia in view of the fact that no Segovian Jew seems to have borne the surname Burgos.

What does seem clear is that the Synagogue was expropriated in 1412 when the Jews were segregated to the Jewish quarter following the laws of Ayllón.

The synagogue

The synagogue (place of congregation, in Greek) is a Jewish temple. It faces Jerusalem, the Holy City, and it is a place for religious ceremonies, communal prayer, studying and meeting.

The Torahis read at the ceremonies. This task is conducted by the Rabbis aided by the cohen or singing child. The synagogue is not only a house of prayer but also an instruction centre as it is there where the Talmudic schools are usually run.

Men and women sit in separate sections.

The synagogue interior contains:

  1. The Hejal closet located in the east wall, facing Jerusalem, stored inside the Sefer Torah, the scrolls of the Torah, the Jewish sacred law.
  2. The Ner Tamid, the everlasting flame always lit before the Ark.
  3. The menorah, a seven-armed candelabrum, a habitual symbol in worship.
  4. The Bimah, place from where the Torah is read.

Campo synagogue

The start of the wall-walks at Martínez Campos street where the Campo synagogue was located

Campo synagogue was located very near the Main new synagogue at the start of Martínez Campos street. No remains of the building have been kept, but in all likelihood its entrance was via the courtyard called corralillo de los huesos (boneyard) alongside which was the butcher´s. It was built in around 1456 in the first few years of the reign of Enrique IV and paid for by Elvira, the wife of the convert Diego Arias. After the expulsion, it came into the possession of the major of the citadel Diego del Castillo because in 1506 it was owned by his heirs.

The synagogue

The synagogue (place of congregation, in Greek) is a Jewish temple. It faces Jerusalem, the Holy City, and it is a place for religious ceremonies, communal prayer, studying and meeting.

The Torahis read at the ceremonies. This task is conducted by the Rabbis aided by the cohen or singing child. The synagogue is not only a house of prayer but also an instruction centre as it is there where the Talmudic schools are usually run.

Men and women sit in separate sections.

The synagogue interior contains:

  1. The Hejal closet located in the east wall, facing Jerusalem, stored inside the Sefer Torah, the scrolls of the Torah, the Jewish sacred law.
  2. The Ner Tamid, the everlasting flame always lit before the Ark.
  3. The menorah, a seven-armed candelabrum, a habitual symbol in worship.
  4. The Bimah, place from where the Torah is read.

Former Old synagogue

Merced square where the former old synagogue was located

The Old Synagogue appears documented for the first time in 1412, a year in which it was granted by the guardians of King Juan II to the convent of St. Mary of Mercy to compensate for the plots which this community had handed over for the segregations of the Jews. The guardians of Juan II specified that the monks had to set up at the building of the old synagoguea hospital to shelter the poor but there is no record that they did so.

At present nothing remains of the Old Synagogue; the plot taken up by the convent of Mercy was used in the 19th century to open a square opposite St. Andrew´s Church.

Alongside the Old Synagogue at the current Merced (Mercy) Square there stood one of the two religious schools of Segovia. In 1412 it starts belonging to convent of St. Mary of Mercy, as well as the synagogue.

The synagogue

The synagogue (place of congregation, in Greek) is a Jewish temple. It faces Jerusalem, the Holy City, and it is a place for religious ceremonies, communal prayer, studying and meeting.

The Torahis read at the ceremonies. This task is conducted by the Rabbis aided by the cohen or singing child. The synagogue is not only a house of prayer but also an instruction centre as it is there where the Talmudic schools are usually run.

Men and women sit in separate sections.

The synagogue interior contains:

  1. The Hejal closet located in the east wall, facing Jerusalem, stored inside the Sefer Torah, the scrolls of the Torah, the Jewish sacred law.
  2. The Ner Tamid, the everlasting flame always lit before the Ark.
  3. The menorah, a seven-armed candelabrum, a habitual symbol in worship.
  4. The Bimah, place from where the Torah is read.

House of Abraham Seneor

House of Abraham Seneor

Having left behind Sol Street, on the next stretch of Juderia Vieja Street there lies what was the house-palace of Abraham Seneor, the main book-keeper of Castile and a man who had the trust of the Catholic Monarchs. This is a large property which was modified in the 16th and 17th centuries. Until very recently its first stretch was occupied by a small community of Franciscans who closed the convent in 2006 after over a century right in the heart of the Jewish quarter. Another part of this palace then became famous as it was the home of the illustrious Doctor Andrés Laguna, descended from a family of Jewish converts.

Endeavouring to make the case a model for the process to be passed through by all Jews who wished to remain in Spain after the decree of expulsion, the Catholic Monarchs themselves were the godparents at the christening held at the Extremadura monastery of Guadalupe on July 15th 1492 of their protégée Abraham Seneor, thereafter known as Fernán Pérez Coronel, and his son-in-law, Mayr Melamed, thereafter called Fernán Núñez Coronel. The rotten coat-of-arms of the Coronel on the façade of the house-palace bears testimony to the vengeance of Charles I on the comuneros of Castile as María Coronel, Abraham´s grand-daughter, was the second wife of Captain Juan Bravo.

Abraham Seneor

Abraham Seneor (circa 1412-1493) is one of the most influential characters of the final stage of the Segovian aljama thanks to his political talents and his great capacity for economic management.

In 1477 don Abraham was the peace officer of the aljama and he later took up the post of the chief justice of the Jewish aljamas of Castile. He stood out as a lessee and administrator of royal rents and as from 1488 he held the office of royal treasurer of the Brotherhood. After his conversion, he was appointed member of the royal council, accountant of the Prince of Asturias and councilor of the city of Segovia. Also he has obtained a chivalry execution, extended to his descendants.

Along with the figure of Abraham Seneor we also find that of his son-in-law Mayr Melamed, another of the leaders of the Castilian Jewish community. Both converted to Christianity after the edict of expulsion of 1492.

House of Simuel Denan

House of Simuel Denan

On Martínez Campos street, recalling the famous general who was born there, what was the house of Simuel Denan has been conserved whose interior conserves one of the best courtyards of the time, further embellished by the views over the Jewish cemetery. This house was mentioned in the Cédula de los Sres. Reyes catholicos D. Fernando y Doña Isabel para que el Sr. Rodrigo Alvarez Maldonado pasase á la ciudad de Segovia, á que los Judíos y Moros residentes en ella viviessen separados de los christianos. La fecha, en Calatayud á 24 de Abril de1 1481 :

É mandó que non pase la dicha Juderia nin sitios della desde la esquina de una torre de la çerca de la dicha çibdad, que está armada sobre ella una casa de Simuel Denan...

Ibáñez de Segovia's synagogue

The synagogue of the Ibáñez de Segovia

Almuzara street extends into Refitolería street where the old palace of Gensol is located and this in turn into San Geroteo street, again on the circuit of the former calle Mayor (main street). The college of the Jesuit Mothers occupies the space of the old synagogue of the Ibáñez of Segovia, also known as the New Main synagogue, which in 1419 replaced the one known by that name until then the church of Corpus Christi.

The documentation is confused as regards the fate of this synagogue at the time immediately subsequent to the expulsion of 1492, but we do know that in 1507 it became the property of Bartolomé Ibáñez with the family keeping it until the late 19th century when it came into the hands of the Daughters of Jesus.

It was a temple with just one nave of whose original decoration today only practically all of an oculus has been conserved as well as the coffered ceiling, the walls and the head. The Mikveh or ritual bath which was at this synagogue and disappeared in the 1980´s demonstrates the relevance as regards the Jewish community.

The bulk of the catedral between the Jewish quarter and the Main square was erected as from 1525 on part of the houses of the former Jewish quarter and St. Clare´s convent, with its large dimensions closing the space of a private district which still conserves the atmosphere and air of mystery of that old Jewish aljama.

The synagogue

The synagogue (place of congregation, in Greek) is a Jewish temple. It faces Jerusalem, the Holy City, and it is a place for religious ceremonies, communal prayer, studying and meeting.

The Torahis read at the ceremonies. This task is conducted by the Rabbis aided by the cohen or singing child. The synagogue is not only a house of prayer but also an instruction centre as it is there where the Talmudic schools are usually run.

Men and women sit in separate sections.

The synagogue interior contains:

  1. The Hejal closet located in the east wall, facing Jerusalem, stored inside the Sefer Torah, the scrolls of the Torah, the Jewish sacred law.
  2. The Ner Tamid, the everlasting flame always lit before the Ark.
  3. The menorah, a seven-armed candelabrum, a habitual symbol in worship.
  4. The Bimah, place from where the Torah is read.

Jewish Quarter Educational Centre

Main entrance to the Jewish Quarter Educational Centre

At number 12 of Juderia Vieja street there stands the Jewish quarter Educational Centre, also known as the house of Andrés Laguna in memory of one of its most illustrious residents, an eminent doctor and humanist from the 16th century, the descendant of converted Jews, who travelled throughout Europe and translated Aristotle, Dioscorides and Galeno, being regarded as one of the most cultured men of his time.

This large house, a symbol of the power of the New Christians in Segovia, accommodates a Jewish quarterEducational Centre which is accessed via the courtyard, organized by means of panels, touchscreens and interesting holographic projection which reproduces in full detail the celebration of the Jewish Shabbat in a virtual synagogue.

All kinds of products related with the Jews and the Segovian Jewish quarter can be bought at the shop.

Jewish butcher´s

The former Jewish butcher´s alongside Casa del Sol

In 1287, in a book of notarial records of the catedral the carneçería de los judíos (Jewish butcher´s) is named for the first timesituated in the Almuzara. This document is also the first testimony in which it states that the Jews of Segovia were already totally settled and endowed with their own institutions.

In the 15th century there is record of a further two butcher´s. The first, going by the name of the old butcher´s, alongside Casa del Sol, the place where the city abattoir was located. And the second butcher´s, mentioned in 1493, was located opposite the lateral at St. Andrew´s gate and alongside the corralillo de los huesos (boneyard), a courtyard which may have been the entrance to the Campo synagogue. In other words, the location of these two butcher´s was alongside two of the wall drainage points to facilitate the evacuation of blood and the remains of slaughtered animals.

Rather than just a building, the butcher´s is one of the essential institutions in a Jewish quarter. The consumption of meat and the slaughtering of animals is subject to a whole series of religious stipulations and rituals.

The butcher´s

The meat eaten by the Jews had to be slaughtered according to a very strict religious ritual. This was carried out at the slaughterhouse and the meat was sold at the butcher´s.

The slaughterhouse, market or scaffold was a space which acquired a certain ritual nature by dint of the liturgy ( shejitah ) undertaken there whilst slaughtering animals whose meat was intended for human consumption (kosherfood). The norm was for the slaughterhouse to be located in an area on the outskirts of the Jewish quarter to avoid unpleasant odours in the city.

The meat was sold at the butcher´s where sales points were erected which were let out. The income obtained was used for certain needs of the aljama.

Jewish cemetery

The Jewish cemetery

The Jewish cemetery is situated outside the walls on the southern slope of the alley of the River Clamores, opposite the stretch of the wall, which runs from the former Jewish abattoir to the Main Synagogue (current Church of Corpus Christi) and where the Jewish district was said to have been rooted since 1481.

The exit from the walled site from any of the synagogues existing at that time was via the San Andrés Gate and from there, going down the Hontanilla to the Puente de la Estrella (Star Bridge) – now rebuilt – which crosses the River Clamores and leads us to the actual Cemetery at spot commonly known as El Pinarillo.

It is not possible to establish chronological dating with a minimum degree of precision in view of the absence of gravestones which could provide us with information.

When carrying out burials, the Jewish community took advantage of the limestone nature of the rock of this part of Clamores to carry out two types: the first consists of using caves formed by nature, once enlarged and conditioned; the second model corresponds to those of the anthropomorphic type.

The tombs are oriented from east to west and at all of them the skeletons were found intact in supine position and facing east. Some outline the head and shoulders of the corpse whilst in others the form of the cavity is simply trapezoidal.

Access to the cemetery is unrestricted and it is signposted from the Jewish district and new information signs and new lighting have been placed by Segovia city council. Here is located La Casita Blanca, a place recovered by the Department of Historical Heritage and Tourism of the City of Segovia. Inside there is an exhibition, some items and objects donated by the Jewish Community of Madrid, which help us to understand the death ritual in Judaism.

The cemetery

The cemetery was located outside the walls at a certain distance from the Jewish district. The chosen site:

  • Must be on virgin soil
  • Must be on a slope
  • Be oriented towards Jerusalem

The Jewish quarter had to have a direct access to the cemetery to prevent the burials from having to pass through the interior of the city.

After 1492 the monarchs authorised (in Barcelona in 1391) the reuse of stones from Jewish cemeteriesas construction material. It is thus not unusual to find fragments of Hebrew inscriptions in several subsequent constructions.

Despite the pillaging they suffered from the late 14th century, the memory of these cemeteries has remained in the name in certain places, for instance, Montjuïc in Barcelona or Girona. We are aware of the existence of more than twenty medieval Jewish cemeteries. Others are only known of thanks to the documentation or the headstones conserved. The one in Barcelona at Montjuïc was excavated in 1945 and 2000, the one in Seville in 2004, the one in Toledo in 2009 and the one in Ávila in 2012.

Jewish quarter Bakery

The wall-walks of Martínez Campos street where the 'Corralillo de los huesos' (graveyard) was located

The Jewish quarter bakery was also located at Campo synagogue alongside St. Andrew´s gate, forming part of the corralillo de los huesos (graveyard). Ruiz Hernando indicates that this oven was located at 8, Martínez Campos Street.

Its existence is not documented until after the expulsion when its new proprietor, the Jeronium monastery of Santa María del Parral, has brought proceedings involving the building.

The rental contract of 1506 describes a property to us in great detail. It comprises:

Unas casas con un horno de poyo dentro en ellas, con un corral junto con ellas e una casilla ençima del corral [...] cabo la que solían llamar la synoga del Campo.

The oven

During the Middle Ages the ovens of the cities were of a public nature and could only be built or used under royal license. It was the norm for there to be at least one oven in each Jewish quarter at which bread was baked for daily consumption.

From an architectonic perspective, the Jewish oven had to be similar to those raised in other parts of the city: Making bread was not subject to any specific kind of ritual and hence the oven was not subject to any different aspect in its construction. This also means that a Jew could buy bread from a Christian or use a Christian oven to bake bread without transgressing any rules.

During the Passover unleavened bread was baked (matzah), without yeast, whose dough bore a seal. As it was a special kind of bread, in Jewish quarters where there was no oven, temporary ones could be built to bake it.

Jewish quarter Gate

Juan Bravo street. At the bottom was the site of the Juderia Gate

At the confluence of the square with Juderia Vieja street, coinciding with the eastern limit of the district, was the first of the seven gates enclosed the Jewish quarter after the decree of 1480, applied in the following year. The order by the Catholic Monarchs was certainly more successful than the previous Pragmatic by Catherine of Lancaster in 1412 whereunder Jews and Moslems were obliged to be concentrated in closed districts: between 1481 and 1492 when the expulsion of the former was decreed, the population of the district quadrupled, illustrating how dispersed they were throughout the city up to that date.

Jewish quarter Hospital

The wall-walks of Martínez Campos street where the 'Corralillo de los huesos' (graveyard) was located

We know that the Segovian Jewish quarter had a hospital annexed to the Campo synagogue, but unfortunately we are unaware of its regulations nor do we have any references to the tasks developed on a daily basis thereat.

We are unaware of the existence of this institution and of the building it occupied owing to the donation that the Catholic Monarchs made thereof to the council of Segovia in September 1492 a few months after the Jewish community had abandoned the city.

Jewish quarter gates

Façade of the catedral where three of the Jewish quarter gates were located

The Jewish quarter was closed off in 1481 by decree of the Catholic Monarchs though the placement of seven gates with brick arches.

The Jews were forced to reside and locate all the buildings and outbuildings specific to the aljama within the delimited space, but they were not forbidden to move around the rest of the city nor to continue to exercise their professional activities as they had done up to that juncture: Juçef Biton, a Jewish blacksmith who had spent many years working for the canons of the cathedral of Segovia, continued, after 1481, to practice his profession in total normality.

The seven arches which closed off the Jewish quarter, of which there is no trace, were erected in the side streets bordering Christian houses and they were situated at the following points, from East to West:

  • The first was located at the access to Juderia street from Corpus Christi square.
  • A further three in the blocks demolished in 1525 to build the cathedral
  • The fifth at the corner of Nueva Juderia street with Daoiz street
  • The sixth at the corner of Almuzara street with Nueva Juderia street
  • The seventh at the end of Socorro street alongside Casa del Sol (former Jewish abattoir).

The wall, which closed off the whole of the South side of the Jewish quarter, afforded a further two exits: St. Andrew´s gate and Sol gate.

Main synagogue-Church of Corpus Christi

Main Synagogue. Façade

The ancient Mainsynagoguewas the religious centre of the Jewish community of Segovia in medieval times. Located between Juderia Vieja street and the wall, it ran parallel to Puerta del Sol street. The current entrance was via Corpus Christi square, crossing a typical Segovian yard which forms part of the Convent of the Order of St. Clare, the owners of the temple.

Due to the absence of documents it is not possible to know the time and conditions in which the Jewish community built the Mayor Synagogue in Segovia. Researchers have analyzed this synagogue architectural and artistically agree in indicating their strong resemblance to the so-called Santa Maria la Blanca in Toledo.

The orientation of the Main synagogue in Segovia suggests, according to some authors, that it could have been erected on a previous mosque. With documentary evidence of its existence going back to 1373, it is known that it served as a Jewish temple until its confiscation en 1410 and that nine years later it had already been consecrated to Christian worship.

Alongside these large horseshoe arches, supported on octagonal pillars which culminate in beautiful chapters decorated by closed circles, the 40 smaller arches of the upper floor and the Mudejar decoration of the coffered ceiling of the current church afford an idea of the dimensions of the old Jewish temple, one of the five synagogues registered in the city, and there could even be anything up to seven.

After terrible fire of 1899 which reduced the building to its structural lines, at the start of the last decade Segovia city council carried out the restoration of all the plasterwork, stained glass and chapters forming the original ornamentation by means of the original photos of the day of the fire in 1889 which were available and the remains conserved of the plasterwork originals.The artists involved were José María García Moro (Sculptor), José Luis Silveira (Restorer), Carlos Muñoz de Pablos (Stained glass designer) and Valero Herrera Ontañón (Municipal Surveyor).

The events of Corpus Christi

In 1410, whilst Juan II was still a minor (between 1406 and 1419), several Segovian Jews were accused of having profaned at their main synagogue a consecrated host. The only account of these events was found half a century after the even in the work written by the Franciscan Friar Alonso de Espina.

The narration, which must be considered with caution, in view of the ill will of the author to the Jewish collective, and included in his Fortalitium fidei contra iudeos, sarracenos aliosque christiane fidei inimicos, recounts that a group of Segovian Jews bought from a sacristan a consecrated host to profane it in the synagogue. After unsuccessfully trying to burn it and fearful of the consequences, these Jews decided to hand over the host to the prior of the Dominican monastery of Santa Cruz de Segovia. The latter then reported them to Bishop Juan Vázquez who, in turn, informed Queen Catherine of Lancaster, the mother and guardian of Juan II about what had happened as she was in the city at that time. The authorities arrested the accused and they were tortured.

Those held included Meir Alguadex, the doctor of the deceased Enrique III who in his testimony states that he killed the monarch too.

After being declared guilty, the defendants were dragged through the city and dismembered. As the Segovian bishop - so continues the narration of Alonso de Espina – wished to investigate the facts further, the Jews bribed their governor to poison him. Once the conspiracy had been uncovered, the governor and some Jews were executed too and some other parties involved fled the city.

Merced Square

Merced square

The confluence of Nueva Juderia street with Almuzara street at a corner of Merced square, indicates the northwest end of the aljama where another of the famous arches was situated which established the limits of the Jewish quarter.

The square owes its name to the convent which used to be here of the friars of Merced who in 1412 received from the Queen regent Catherine of Lancaster what used to be the Old Synagogue of the Jews, alongside which was one of the two Talmudic schools of the city, as well as a butcher´s.

Opposite the Mercedarian convent, the converted Jew Diego Arias Dávila (Ysaque Alboer) was to erect the Pilgrims´hospital thirty years later whose chapel existed until 1946.

Midrash of Cayón Yard

The building at the corner where Talmudic school was located

The second Talmudic school which is said to have been situated in the Almuzara, bordering the Old Synagogue. The community had erected this educational centre on a plot which belonged to Segovia cathedral and this institution was thus paid an annual amount of fifty silver reales.

In 1412 the Old Synagogue was expropriated from the Jews and given to the convent of St. Mary of Mercy so that the friars could set up a hospital there. The terms of the donation by the King included the fact that the Mercedarians must take on the responsibilities pertaining to the old synagogue.

Hence, in 1414 the convent renewed the lifelong rental of the old Talmudic school, undertaking to pay a censo every year of forty silver reales, the less than the Jewish community had paid.

In this contract the property is described as some houses and a yard with the whole building fecho e edeficado. The registration of the cathedralic stewardship of food for the years 1419-1420 has a book entry including the first conserved payment of those made by the convent:

El corral de Cayón con el midrás tienelo el comendador de la Merced por quarenta rreales de plata, que son doscientos e sesenta maravedís, contando el rreal a sys maravedís e medio. CCLX.

Midrash of Rehoyo street

Main square, looking towards Infanta Isabel street where the Talmudic school was located

On the former Rehoyo street, now Infanta Isabel street, there was a Talmudic school midrash of which there are no further references than those appearing in two rental contracts from 1364 and 1366 in which it is referred to as a boundary with another property.

New Jewish quarter street

New Jewish quarter street

The start of Juan II street symbolically establishes the western limit of the Jewish district. Another of the arches was erected here which delimited the aljama as from 1481. As it is not possible to cross this imaginary threshold without leaving the Jewish quarter, you must retrace your steps along Socorro street, as far as puerta de San Andrés (St. Andrew´s gate), then taking on the left the steps of Juderia Nueva street where the coat-of-arms of the Madrigal is the reference to locate the so-called Casa del Judío (House of the Jew).

Old Caño square

Plaque in the plaza del Rastrillo (Rastrillo square)

Via Santa Ana street (before Solana street) and Rastrillo street (before Los Mesones), the confluence of Barrionuevo and Martínez Campos streets is reached where Caño square was located in an area of the Jewish quarter in which many of the humble old houses of the Jews became, as from the 16th century, the elegant mansions of the Segovian converts with their coats-of-arms and porticoed courtyards.

Old Jewish quarter street

Old Jewish quarter street

Juderia Viejastreet forms part of the urban thoroughfare which comprised the old Mayor de Segovia street which ran parallel to the wall. Despite the remodelling which has occurred over the centuries, the popular atmosphere of this road allows us to imagine what the houses of the Jews were like in the Middle Ages, built, in the main, from brick with wooden frameworks, many of them whitewashed; what´s more, almost all of them, having a small courtyard or yard where a large part of private family life took place. Although humble, except in the cases of some important dignitaries, the majority of these houses were inhabited by families who were involved in the major commercial success of Segovia in the 13th and 14th centuries with a population of slightly more than fifty families which increased considerably in the 15th century.

Rabbi Mayr Melamed's House

Rabbi Mayr Melamed's House

Rabbi Mayr Melamed, Abraham Seneor’s son-in-law, was converted taking the christian name of Fernán Núñez Coronel.

Professing even his old religion, and due to the important social status of this character, he was allowed to have access to his house both the Jewish and the Christian area.

Preserved rafters are very important. Currently is a hotel-restaurant.

Santa Ana Street

Santa Ana Street

Santa Ana street, previously known as Solana street which can be accessed via a lean-to from Sol street, is one of the most charming in the Segovian Jewish quarter. It is worth mentioning the suggestive brick building with a wooden beam framework which is on the left, as you leave the passage.

Segovia Museum

Segovia Museum

Socorro street stretches from the square of the same name to Casa del Sol, the former bulwark of the wall over the Clamores stream. During the time of Enrique IV, as is borne out by a document dated 1452, the houses of the Jewish quarter which had been set up here became an abattoir.

Con dos corrales que son al espolón en los que los carniceros de dicha mi çibdat de los muros adentro encerraren e mataren e desollaren los ganados que menester suelen para las canicerías.

This is how it was remembered too by Francisco de Quevedo in El Buscón. The Works carried out between 1986 and 1990 by the architect Manuel Manzano-Monís allowed the transformation of the former abattoir into Segovia Museum after the building was granted to the State by the City Council in 1980.

The visit to the museum is organised in six rooms distributed around the central courtyard where archaeological, ethnological and artistic pieces are gathered which reconstruct the historic trajectory of the Segovian province.

Sol Wicket Gate

Sol wicket gate

The first street on the left crossing Juderia Vieja street is Sol street which leads to the gate or postigo del Sol (Sol wicket gate), one of the two accesses (along with St. Andrew´s gate) to the walled city via the Jewish quarter.

The Sol wicket gate, known in the 15th century as the Jewish quarter gate or Corpus Christi gate, the Sol wicket gate, at the end of Sol street, is one of the exits outside the walls of the Jewish quarter. From the part exterior to the city the head of the Main synagogue can be seen which fits on the city wall.

St. Andrew´s Gate

St. Andrew´s Gate

The outskirts of St. Andrew´s Gate constituted another of the major nuclei of the Segovian aljama. At the end of Martínez Campos street was the access to the steps which led to parapet of the wall, about 200 meters accesible, within the old guard it is shown the history of the bastion around three kilometres long erected on masonry limestone and founded on the very natural defences provided by the site. As well as getting to know the wall and the defensive system of its gates, the visit allows a tour around part of the wall-walks, whilst enjoying priceless views of the surroundings with the Jewish necropolis on the other side of the valley. Next to San Andres Gate it is located the Tourist Information Point La Muralla.

Near Socorro square, where the monument to the folklorist Agapito Marazuela has now been erected, was the Campo Synagogue of which there is documentary evidence that it was built in 1459 at the site known as the «Boneyard», at the behest of doña Elvira, the wife of the Jewish convert don Diego Arias Dávila. One of the three Jewish butcher´s of the aljama was also located here.

The 'House of the Jew'

Entrance to the House of the Jew

At number 12 Nueva Juderia street is the so-called House of the Jew. It is here that popular tradition situates the house of Meir Alguadex who was executed in the context of the Corpus Christi events. The granite façade which can currently be seen is from the 16th century and a coat-of-arms is situated on it which has been identified as that of the Madrigal family.

The Jewish quarter of Segovia

The Jewish Quarter

The Jewish quarter of Segovia extends via the south side of the city between the old Main synagogue, now the church of Corpus Christi, and the streets of Juderia Vieja, Santa Ana, Rastrillo, the square and streets of Socorro, Nueva Juderia and Almuzara. There were also Jewish houses in the blocks outside St. Andrew´s gate and immediately adjoining it. Opposite the gate on the other side of the Clamores stream there stood the cemetery.

The Jewish quarter was closed in 1481 by decree of the Catholic Monarchs, putting up seven gates with brick arches.

The Jews were forced to reside and locate all the buildings and outbuildings specific to the aljama within the delimited space, but they were not forbidden to move around the rest of the city nor to continue to exercise their professional activities as they had done up to that juncture: Juçef Biton, a Jewish blacksmith who had spent many years working for the canons of the cathedral of Segovia, continued, after 1481, to practice his profession in total normality.

The houses of the Jewish quarter were made of stone, brick and wood. They were small houses with two or three floors which took up a plot of around thirty or forty square metres and had courtyards and yards. Currently the façades can perfectly be seen with wood framing and brick courses and verdugadas. As seen in many small windows which correspond with the stairs.

In the 13th century, Jews, Christians and Moslems too part together in community tasks like the sale of land or trials. Neither do we have any testimony to the effect that the Jews of Segovia suffered any attacks or persecutions as occurred in other Spanish Jewish quarters. However, access to the kingdom by John II, the grandson of Henry III, marked for the Castilian Jewish community the start of a time of growing tension which culminated a century later in the expulsion decreed by the Catholic Monarchs in 1492.

Glossary