The Jewish quarter of Seville included the current districts of Santa Cruz, Santa María la Blanca and San Bartolomé and it was separated from the rest of the city by a wall which came down from the start of Conde Ibarra street, passing through Mercedarias square, as far as the city wall. In general, there is a consensus amongst historians that since very distant times the children of Israel set up commercial relations with the Iberian tribes. Since that time, the Jewish ships started to arrive at the famous Tarsis, in other words, the magnificent Spanish region which owes its name to Tartesus or Guadalquivir.

circa 1089 - 1167
Abraham ibn Ezrá

Abraham Ibn Ezrá (c. 1089-1167) spent his youth in al-Andalus (in Córdoba, Seville and Lucena) where he trained in Jewish culture in Arab.

In around 1140 he decided to abandon Sefarad to travel around the North of Africa, probably in the company of Yehudá ha-Leví, and Europe. He thus became a wandering wise man, well received for the knowledge he transmitted to the communities he visited: those of Beziers and Narbonne in France, Rome, England etc.

We are unaware whether he returned to Sepharad or whether he died in a European country. Howver, his multifaceted figure has left a deep mark on the whole intellectual life of the Jews of Europe. His biblical comments are some of the most highly appreciated in the Jewish world; his grammars are a common summary of the philological knowledge of Al-Andalus 11th century which it had not been possible to access up to then without knowing Arab and he introduced into the West the mathematical concepts of fractions and decimals.

He died in around 1167 according to some historians in Calahorra. His fame was so extensive that one of the craters on the moon, 42 kilometres in diameter, currently bears his name: Abenezrah.

1248
The Jews from the district of Santa Cruz establish there after the conquest

Juderia street

Santa Cruz is the name currently given to part of the old Jewish quarter. Before 1248 the Jewish quarter of Moslems already occupied the Santa Cruz District as far as Carne Gate. References from the Almohad stage lend their names to the areas extending from Jerez gate to Carne Gate such as Barrio del Alcázar de la Bendición. A wall erected in medieval times granted the Jewish quarter a certain degree of independence. There is no record of said area being occupied by Jews since the Moslem time in the city though there is a tradition which tells us that when the city was conquered by Castile in 1248 the Almohads handed over the key to the city and the Jews the key to the Jewish quarter to King Fernando III. Although it is no more than a legend, the two keys kept in the Treasure of the cathedral do seem to confirm it. What is for sure is that once the city had been conquered, all the mosques were handed over to the church except for three which were granted to the Jews.

The relations between Jews and Christians were not always peaceful. The practice of usury brought about fear and suspicion in the rest of the population. The major attack which took place in 1391 put paid to the Jewish character of the district. The houses seized from the Jews were handed over to the Christians and the synagogues were converted into Christian churches which were given the names of San Bartolomé, Santa María la Blanca and Santa Cruz. The parish church of Santa Cruz where Murillo was buried was knocked down in the 19th century during the short period of French occupation. It was located in the current Santa Cruz square.

1248
San Bartolomé District

San Bartolomé District

An important part of the former Jewish quarter, in the San Bartolomé district you can enjoy suggestive streets packed with attractions. The artistic and sentimental aspects of San Bartolomé can be found in its temples and convents, its intricate labyrinth and its alleys. Time could not escape from this neighbourhood and underlies in every courtyard, gushing forth and emptying out its flow of history.

The fence at the old Jewish quarter commenced at Tintes street, went through Mercedarias square, Conde de Ibarra and Federico Rubio street until attaining Mateos Gago. It took in the two halves of the Jewish quarter which are the district of San Bartolomé and the district of Santa Cruz. To allow transit, the walls opened up at two or three wicket gates which connected with the other districts; at the other end the Perlas Gate looked out onto the fields and the cemetery of the community which may be located at the site of the current market at the Carne Gate.

Santa María la Blanca and San José streets are the backbone of the district which branches out into small alleys rife with charm such as Cano and Cueto, San Clemente, Céspedes or Levíes. The lungs of San Bartolomé are two guild squares which have a lot in common, Curtidores and Zurradores, as well as Mercedarias square. After the conquest Fernando III granted three mosques for synagogue worship. In addition to the one which existed at the plot of Santa Cruz square, in the district of San Bartolomé Santa María la Blanca and San Bartolomé were opened.

1252 - 031391
Former synagogue of Santa Cruz

Detail of the Santa Cruz square

From Alfaro square we reach Santa Cruz square. This square is surrounded by a small gardened, tree-lined area and around it there are numerous manor houses including the old house of the architect Juan Talavera, one of the most important figures in the regionalist architecture of Seville.

In the past the parish church of Santa Cruz was in the square which lent its name to the district. The Mudejar style church took advantage of one of the three synagogues which was in the Jewish quarter in Seville and it was converted into a Christian church after the events of 1391. The church was in ruins when it was knocked down in 1811 by the occupying French government which put into a reurbanisation plan for the city. The square occupies the church plot. Three of the columns of the synagogue-church are conserved at La Rábida street, supporting a large screen.

Murillo was buried at this old church and his remains have been buried in the rubble as is borne out by a plaque at la western façade of the square.

In 1921 the Cruz de la Cerrajería (locksmith´s cross) is placed in its centre. This monument dates from 1692 and is the work of the grate maker Sebastián Conde and it was originally situated at the confluence of Sierpes and Cerrajería streets (hence its name). Owing to the disruption it caused to circulation it was dismantled and re-assembled on numerous occasions until finally, in the 19th century, it was taken to the Museum of Fine Arts. In 1921, owing to the urbanistic remodelling of the Santa Cruz district, it was placed permanently presiding over the garden of this square.

1252 - 1391
Former synagogue-Church of Santa María la Blanca

Santa María la Blanca

Built in the 13th century as a synagogue, it was transformed into a Christian temple in 1391 after the slaughters in the Jewish quarter of Seville. King Alfonso X in 1252, after the taking of Seville by his father, granted a synagogue for their use to the Jews inhabiting the San Bartolomé and Santa Cruz area. And so it continued until 1391 when it was converted into a Christian church. The name and dedication of Santa María de las Nieves was imposed on it by the cathedral´s chapterhouse.

The side gateway, which can be accessed from Archeros street, conserves two Roman shafts crowned by several Visgoth chapters which correspond to the old synagogue.

The current church of Santa María la Blanca was built in 1662 in Baroque style and it has a structure divided into three naves which, in turn, is split into red marble columns. The vaults are decorated in plasterwork and attributed to the Borja brothers. Murillo was probably involved in the church decoration Works and it was he who painted the midpoints, plundered by Marshal Soult during the French invasion, subsequently being replaced with copies.

1252 - 1396
Former synagogue-Church of San Bartolomé

Façade of the Church of San Bartolomé

In the Jewish quarter of Seville there were three synagogues; one, in the area of what today is Santa Cruz square which later became the Parish church and disappeared in the early 19th century; the other, in the current temple of Santa María la Blanca and the third would occupy part of what today is the Parish church of San Bartolomé.

On January 9th 1396 King Enrique III confiscated the assets of the Jews and the three synagogues, granting them to his Chief Justice, Don Diego López de Zúñiga and his Butler, Don Juan Hurtado de Mendoza. These concessions were not actually implemented because the Secular Chapterhouse seized them and handed them over to the Cathedral´s chapterhouse, which stipulated that Santa Cruz and Santa María la Blanca should be assigned to the Cathedral of Seville as chapels and that which in the future would become the church of San Bartolomé was the only one which would continue as a synagogue.

The old synagogue must have been erected where the Salesas convent is situated today and which used to be called San Bartolomé El Viejo (The Old). This convent, which already existed before the expulsion at that site, appears in a concord dated September 15th 1410 between the Chapterhouse of the cathedral of Seville and the Incumbents of the Church of San Bartolomé and whose original can be found on the Cathedral Archives.

In around 1470 the former Parish church of San Bartolomé El Viejo, was moved to what was the synagogue of the Jewish quarter, near the wall of Seville and situated between the so-called Carne gate and the Carmona gate. In its conversion to a Christian temple, a series of adaptation and enlargement works were carried out as can be verified in the documents of the time. The remodelled temple was called San Bartolomé El Nuevo (The New) and opened for Christian worship in 1490.

The church was knocked down in 1779. In its stead a new temple was built in 1786 in accordance with plans by José Echamorro which is the one that can be seen today.

circa 1320 - 1361
Samuel Ha-Leví

Samuel Ha-Levi Abulafia, a public employee, a High Court Judge and Royal Treasurer with Pedro I of Castile, was a member of an influential family who acted as a fully empowered administrator for the Portuguese knight Juan Alfonso de Alburquerque before coming under the orders of King Pedro I to reorganise Castile´s finances.

A refined man with a knowledge of astrology and divination, he held different posts in the Court and played a decisive role in the establishment of Pedro I the Cruel against his bastard brothers Trastámara.

The notable influence and rapid growth of wealth meant that the treasurer obtained the King´s permission to build another synagogue despite papal prohibition.

His greatest recompense was the returning to the Jews of assets they had lost after the sacking of the Jewish quarter of 1355 by the supporters of the Trastámara and, in particular, the construction of the splendid synagogue which bore his name. However, this powerful magnate barely lived three years to enjoy his achievements as, accused of swindling the royal treasury, he didn´t survive the torture he had to endure in 1361.

1345
Rabbi Salomón dies

The 14th century saw Rabbi Salomón shine, a doctor, astronomer and exegete of great worth, born in Seville where he also died in 1345. His funeraral stele, engraved on a fragment of Roman column, was discovered in 1580 in the Jewish cemetery at Carne Gate.

? 1350
Former synagogue-Church of the Convent of Dominican nuns

Convent of the Dominican Nuns

A fourth synagogue was the Church of the Convent of Dominican nuns at the bottom of San José street. It was compared with the Transit synagogue of Toledo and some even say it was actually Samuel Ha-Levi who ordered its construction, the treasurer of Pedro I and builder of the Toledan synagogue. The convent was founded in 1447 but it was not occupied until forty years later. As regards the old structure of the synagogue, the Mudejar reinforcements of the coffered ceilingcan still be recognised.

from March1391
There are hardly any Jews in Seville

After the slaughter in 1391 of over four thousand Jews at the hands of Sevillians driven on by the Archdeacon of Écija, there were barely any Jews left in Seville.

January 9th, 1396
Henry III confiscates the assets of the Jews

On January 9th 1396 King Enrique III confiscated the assets of the Jews and the three synagogues, granting them to his Chief Justice, Don Diego López de Zúñiga and his Butler, Don Juan Hurtado de Mendoza. These concessions were not actually implemented because the Secular Chapterhouse seized them and handed them over to the Cathedral´s chapterhouse.

1490
The synagogue is renovated and opened for worship as the church of San Bartolomé

In around 1470 the former Parish church of San Bartolomé El Viejo, was moved to what was the synagogue of the Jewish quarter, near the wall of Seville and situated between the so-called Carne gate and the Carmona gate. In its conversion to a Christian temple, a series of adaptation and enlargement works were carried out as can be verified in the documents of the time. The remodelled temple was called San Bartolomé El Nuevo (The New) and opened for Christian worship in 1490.

1575
Teresa de Ávila founds the Convent of San José del Carmen

Gateway of San José del Carmen Convent

Alongside the San José del Carmen Convent, where valuable personal objects of Theresa of Ávila are kept, or Jewish-convert origin, who founded it in 1575, such as the original manuscript of Las moradas.

1580
The Jewish cemetery of Carne Gate is vandalised

In 1580 owing to the famine brought about by a major drought, some unfortunate and destitute people profaned some of the tombs on the outskirts of the Carne Gate.

1580
The funeral stele of Rabbi Salomón is found

Funeral stele of Rabbi Salomón. Sephardi Museum of Toledo

The 14th century saw Rabbi Salomón shine, a doctor, astronomer and exegete of great worth, born in Seville where he also died in 1345. His funeraral stele, engraved on a fragment of Roman column, was discovered in 1580 in the Jewish cemetery at Carne Gate.

The column, broken into three parts, was later taken to the door of the cathedral Campanilla; then it went to the flight of steps of the Colombine library and finally to the Seville Archaeological Museum where it is currently conserved.

1662
The church of Santa María la Blanca is built on the site of the old synagogue

The current church of Santa María la Blanca was built in 1662 in Baroque style and it has a structure divided into three naves which, in turn, is split into red marble columns. The vaults are decorated in plasterwork and attributed to the Borja brothers. Murillo was probably involved in the church decoration Works and it was he who painted the midpoints, plundered by Marshal Soult during the French invasion, subsequently being replaced with copies.

1811
The Santa Cruz synagogue demolished

it was converted into a Christian church after the events of 1391. The church was in ruins when it was knocked down in 1811 by the occupying French government which put into a reurbanisation plan for the city. The square occupies the church plot.

1811
The columns from the old Santa Cruz synagogue are placed in the Jardin de la Aclimatacion

The architecture of this temple rested on four unequal columns. With the destruction of the temple the Church of Santa Cruz ended up setting up on Mateos Gago street and the columns were moved to the Jardín de la Aclimatación, near the Delicias gardens. This site was bought by Antonio de Orléans, the Duke of Montpensier, to annex it to the gardens of the Palace of San Telmo.

1843
Jewish graves are discovered in the vicinity of the Carne Gate de Seville

When the Carne gate was fortified in 1843, many tombs were found there when excavating the moat which defended the fort, some of them still containing human bones.

2001
The House of Memory of Al-Andalus is opened

Flamenco show at Casa de la Memoria

Cultural centre situated in the Santa Cruz District, Casa de la Memoria de Al-Ándalus organises exhibitions and concerts and throughout the year a musical cycle focused on the art of flamenco. The headquarters is an old house-palace which conserves elements of the original Jewish house (15th century) as well as other elements from the 16th and 17th centuries. The house and the shop can be visited where exclusive craftsmanship of the Al-Andalus and Sephardi tradition can be bought.

2004
Excavations in the Jewish necropolis of Seville

On Cano y Cueto street, the area outside the walls of the medieval city, stood the Jewish necropolis which covered a large zone. This can be surmised from the findings of tombs during different excavations carried out to construct the car park on Cano y Cueto street and the Diputation building. Proof has also been found as far as Marqués de Estella street in the San Bernardo district, around 500 metres from the wall. The size of the necropolis illustrates the importance of the Jewish community in Seville.

Glossary