The cohabitation for centuries of Jews and Christians at different sites in the city, with the sole exception of the segregations of 1412-1420 and 1480-1492, means that following the tracks of the Jewish collective from Plasencia also means discovering, on the way, a large part of the monumental wealth of the walled city, from the main square to the gates of Trujillo and Berrozana, passing via the cathedral or the magnificent St. Vincent Ferrer convent and the palace of Marqués de Mirabel. The map of Jewish Plasencia is thus overlaid onto the traditional segmentation of the city between the districts of Los Caballeros, Los Clérigos and Los Mercaderes, allowing a route to be followed which combines the traditional monumental area with other hitherto unheard of or less well-known spots.

Founded in 1186 by the Castilian King Alfonso VIII on the Banks of the river Jerte under the motto tu placeat Deo et hominibus (so it will please God and men), since its very outset Plasencia has enjoyed the presence of a major Jewish community as is confirmed back in 1189 in the charter granted by the monarch to the city. Although its first site was in La Mota, in the higher part of the city, protected by the citadel and the powerful wall of Plasencia, during the 13th and 14th centuries many of them settled in other parts of the city, essentially between the main square and Zapatería and Trujillo streets.

After the establishment of the episcopal seat in 1189, the Jews settled in the towns of Béjar (Salamanca), Trujillo (Cáceres) Medellín (Badajoz) and Plasencia (Cáceres). These four settlements were fortified and guaranteed the physical well-being of their Jewish and Christian inhabitants in the face of the constant dangers raised by the Almohad infiltration into the border territories of Alta Extremadura. These town halls also enjoyed a special legal provision granted by the monarchs and based on the strict legal dependence of the Jews on the Crown, falling outside the jurisdiction of the institutions of the urban council and the diocese of Plasencia.

Of the four aljamas in the diocese in the late 13th century, set up in Plasencia, Béjar, Medellín and Trujillo, that of Plasencia is the most economically powerful though without attaining the demographic development of the large urban aljamas of Castile. Alfonso VIII of Castile legislated in a wide range of areas governing the living conditions of the Jews and hence the aljama of Plasencia enjoyed legal autonomy to settle civil and criminal disputes between Jews at the bet din or Jewish court, administrating justice according to the laws of the Torah. By contrast, mixed trials would be settled at a court of arbitration formed by a Jewish judge and another Christian one who would meet in the vestibule of the church of San Nicolás. The charter of Plasencia ensured the Jewish resettlement, «Mosaic» cultural practice and equality before the law in inter-religious conflicts. The charter would also regulate the conditions for Jewish lending at interest, the contracting system and the receipt of usury interest rates, limiting by abuses by the lenders.

The protection provided by Alfonso VIII of Castile to the Jews of Plasencia continued under the reign of Fernando III (1217-1252). However, the sovereign had to bear in mind the discriminatory ordinances laid down by Pope Honorius III on January 27th 1217 after the Lateran Council (1215) such as the mandatory use of a distinguishing emblem on the attire of Jews. The anti-Jewish stipulations of the Pope are contested by the Archbishop of Toledo, Rodrigo Jiménez de Rada and Honorius III derogates the order of November 7th 1217, placing the Spanish Jews under apostolic protection. Subsequently, on the suggestion of Fernando III, on April 13th 1219 the pontiff suspended the anti-Jewish stipulations of the Lateran Council.

The reign of Alfonso X (1252-1284) was characterised by an initial period favourable to the Jews covering until 1280. In August 1262 the sovereign granted the royal charter to the council of the city and land of Plasencia, a charter which Sancho IV (1284-1295) would confirm in 1290, adding twelve lays to the legal body. The tax division of Huete (1290-1291) confirmed the operation of four Jewish aljamas in the diocesan jurisdiction of Plasencia and that of Plasencia was the most economically and demographically powerful with a contribution of 16.244 maravedis.

The reign of Fernando IV (1295-1312) marked the start of an age of social instability and outbreaks of Anti-Judaism in Castile. After the ratification of the charter of Plasencia by Fernando IV and the Queen Mother, María de Molina, in November 1297, the courts of Medina del Campo of 1305 launched a new attack on the private property of the Jews, forbidding them to take part in the auction and collection of royal taxes. The directive was conveyed to the councils of the cities and towns of Extremadura and, in particular, to the municipality of Plasencia. The proxies of the Courts of Valladolid of 1307 asked for the Jews to be excluded from the rental and collection of tax contributions whose legislation is received by the city of Plasencia, but the ordinances barely have any social impact.

In the first decade of the reign of Pedro I the Cruel (1350-1369), the sovereign sets out a protectionist policy towards the Jews which bears the hallmark of the royal favourite Juan Alfonso de Alburquerque. Enrique II (1369-1379) continued the protectionist policy towards the Jews despite the pressures of the courtly oligarchy. His policy in favour of the Jewish people is characterised by the crown´s interest in re-establishing the decimated coffers of the aljamas in order to be able to stoke up the reduced royal finances.

It was against this backdrop that the collaboration of the Jews of Castile with the new political regime developed, with Jews from the city of Plasencia participating. On April 24th 1376 don Iguda Dalva, a resident of Plasencia and don Çag Abenafla, born in Plasencia, rent for three hundred maravedis that part of the rent of right of way of Plasencia and its land, whose amount they pay to Gómez García, the treasurer of the kingdom of Toledo and to don Çag Abengariel, the ain tax collector in the bishopric of Plasencia.

In January 1412 with the ins and outs of the crisis surrounding the succession of the Crown of Aragon, the friar Vincent Ferrer and the regents of the Crown of Castile in Ayllón (Segovia) interview took place. On the suggestion of the friar, stipulations against the Jews are planned. The anti-Jewish ordinance of the courts of Ayllón, promulgated on January 2nd 1412 by Queen Catalina, the mother and guardian of Juan II, is intended to straggle the economic life of the Jews, suppress their privileges, the political freedom of the aljamas and put a brake on any kind of relationship with the Christians by means of segregation, thereby intending to achieve their conversion into Christianity. Friar Vincent Ferrrer arrived at Plasencia and preached, calling for conversion at the synagogue in around 1412. His evangelizing sermons would lead to the first conversions to Christianity.

In Plasencia the political efforts were leaning towards the isolation of the community in a Jewish quarter segregated in the La Mota area in around 1412 at the same place as where the synagogue and Jewish quarter of the city had been located since the days of Alfonso VIII. Generally speaking, the ordinances of 1412 decreed the segregation of Jews and Moslems into specific urban separate from the Christian districts «e que sean çercados de una çerca en derredor e tenga una puerta sola», confiscating the assets of whosoever failed to obey the decree. They were forbidden from selling or buying assets from Christians but they were allowed to stage markets for the buying and selling of products by Jews and to Jews within the enclosure of the Jewish quarter.

Along with segregation, Jews were also forbidden from carrying out the trades of spice traders, pharmacist, surgeon, doctor, tailor, cloth shearer, jubetero, carpenter, trapero and cobbler, work activities carried out by the Jews of Plasencia. They were also forbidden from selling food for share consumption with Christians. Jewish craftsmen and doctors were also forbidden from carrying out their professional activities for Christians and they were not allowed to use the honorary title of «don».

The laws of Ayllón of 1412 imposed severe measures such as the regulation of clothing, the obligation to wear a golden or silver circle sewn into their attire, growth of the beard and hair, the use of long cloaks, the women dressed with their heads covered etc. Furthermore, Jews were forbidden from fiscal rentals and they were not allowed to hold public office and posts in the administrative bodies of the State. Neither did the laws allow the emigration of Jews to other cities or towns on threat of being reduced to slaves and having their assets confiscated. Finally, the directive withdrew the legal autonomy of the aljama as regards civil and criminal matters whose function was delegated to Christian judges, respecting the Jewish ordinances in force and limiting the administration of their own taxes. Essentially, the laws of Ayllón of 1412 set out to suffocate the Jews economically and achieve their social exclusion to facilitate conversions to Christianity.

In the Jewish quarter of La Mota of 1412 the following families were confined, inter alia: Abençur, Abenhabibe, Aloya, Castaño, Daça, Haranón and Pardo. It´s highly likely that the distribution of houses in the Jewish quarter was carried out according to family affinities or perhaps for purchasing power and influence in the aljama. To this small group we should add other Jewish families linked with the aljama as has been recorded in documents from around the date subsequent to segregation in 1412 such as the Albelia, Almale, Ancho, Arruestre, Caçes, Çerfaty, Escapa, Garco or Sarco, Haruso and Molho.

Nevertheless, the segregation law of 1412 was not implemented too stringently in the aljama of Plasencia. The documentation leads us to believe that there was certain political laissez-faire in the relations between Jews and Christians only four years after the segregation occurred. In 1419 the segregation had already ceased to be effective. The deed of the assets of Tel Díaz de Vega, received by Alfonso Rodríguez de Paradiñas in the name of Count Pedro de Zúñiga in 1425, reveals that the former house of the Almaraz is mow inhabited by Olalla González, the wife of Alfonso de Salamanca. However, the rest of the dwellings occupied by the Jews who lived in La Mota were uninhabited.

In 1439 the aljama of the Jews of Plasencia had to pay the royal coffers 10,200 maravedis in old money by way of tax per head. Owing to the serous crisis affecting the Jewish quarter, the sovereign set the price at 3,500 maravedis. The Jewish aljama of Plasencia was to remain in this precarious situation until the taking possession of the manor of Béjar by the Zúñiga family in January 1442 under whose control Plasencia experienced an economic boom, perhaps as a consequence of the demographic surge.

In the bishopric of Plasencia we come across don Samuel Toledano, a resident of Castronuevo, who transfers to don Israel Saulí, a resident of Coria, the excise and taxes of the bishopric of Plasencia in 1459. Don Yuçaf Albelda or Albelia, the son-in-law of don Israel Saulí, a resident of Coria, takes the rents of Plasencia in 1452 and those of Trujillo in 1453, as well as the fiscal rentals of Plasencia in 1452 and 1455-1458, Ciudad Rodrigo in 1453 and 1454 and half of the rents of Guadalajara between 1453 and 1458.

In the courts of Ocaña of 1469 the proxies ask Enrique IV to forbid the Jews from holding office in terms of rentals, tax collection, almojarifazgo (tax on goods) and administration of the Crown and the houses of the nobility and participation in the rental and collection of ecclesiastical rents and tithes, but the Crown makes no comment in this regard leaving the way open for the Jews.

The end of the Jewish quarter of La Mota de Plasencia occurred in 1477 when the synagogue, the Jewish and Christian houses, as well as part of the isolation enclosure, was confiscated by the counts of Plasencia to expand outbuildings of his palace (today the Palace of Mirabel) and of the St. Vincent Ferrer Convent (today the National State Tourist Hotel). Headstones were used to construct the convent which were from the Jewish cemetery of Berrocal. The consequence of the confiscation of the Jewish quarter of La Mota, along with a new Jewish segregation decreed by the Courts of Toledo in 1480, is the construction of a second synagogue and Jewish quarter on Trujillo street. The new synagogue was built on the current Ansano square and operated until the final expulsion in 1492, at which time it became the Church of Sant Isabel, burned in the Revolt of the Comuneros in 1521. After this date the plot was occupied by Carvajal Palace.

In 1490, two year before the expulsion, the conflict latent since the start of the 13th century between Christians and Jews finally broke out. Aldermen, knights, squires and good men of Plasencia intended to get the Jews out of Trujillo street, claiming that their segregation failed to respect the Toledo Law of 1480. The King had to cut the situation short by taking the Jews under his protection, thereby ending the humiliations to which lawyer Segura had subjected the Jewish community.

In 1492, the date of the expulsion from the Christian kingdoms of the Peninsula decreed by the Catholic Monarchs, the Jews of Plasencia sold their properties at a loss and were exiled to Portugal. To protect them from any sacking, Captain Francisco Hernández Floriano accompanied the group of Jews who left Plasencia to the Portuguese border, but the problems encountered in the neighbouring country obliged some of them to return such as Simuel Alegre, Moses Cohén, Don Mayr etc. in 1493 and 1494 who had to be christened to remain in Castile, taking the surnames Chamizo, González, Gutiérrez, López, de Paz, Pérez, Plasencia, Tapia, Vargas etc. Some of these converts Judaized in secret such as the doctor Tomás de Paz.

Ancient synagogue of La Mota

Convent of St. Vincent Ferrer, built on the old synagogue of La Mota

The only synagogue operating in the aljama of Plasencia since the foundation of the city by Alfonso VIII until its devastation in 1477 is situated in the area of La Mota. The rabbinic court of the aljama had its headquarters at the La Mota synagogue, classified by the Jewish community in 1488 as the best and oldest in all of Extremadura.

The church of St. Vincent Ferrer, which the residents of Plasencia call Santo Domingo (St. Dominics) as it belonged to the Dominicans, occupied the place where the old synagogue of La Mota used to be located, confiscated in 1477 by the Counts of Plasencia to expand the outbuildings of the palace and the future convent. Its situation shows in the historic documentation. In 1455 the synagogue of La Mota is near the houses of the buult by Count Pedro de Zúñiga in the vicinity of the old house of Tel Díaz. A document from 1477 states that the demolished house of Rabbi Abraham de Aloya is situated near the de la casa que se agora faze e fazía mi palaçio e casas of the Count of Plasencia.Un documento de 1477 refiere que la casa derruida de rabí Abraham de Aloya se halla cerca de la casa que se agora faze e fazía mi palaçio e casas del conde de Plasencia.

In the archaeological excavations undertaken by Cristina Sánchez Hernández and Pedro Matesanz Vera in the Jewish quarter of La Mota and in the area of the St. Vincent convent material remains were found linked to worship at a synagogue such as a possible janukiya and a bronze pointer (in Hebrew, yad, currently at Cáceres Museum). In the construction of the church of St. Vincent Ferrer some headstones from the neighbouring Jewish cemetery of Berrocal were also used.

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.


New cathedral of Plasencia

Santa Clara street gives out into the spacious triangle formed by Cathedral square, also connected with the Jewish universe by the figure of the converted bishop Gonzalo de Santa María and the carvings of Rodrigo Alemán who sculpted in the choir stalls of the old cathedral images which are very unorthodox front Christian standpoint, including some rabbis giving instructions to the Baby Jesus in the portrayal of the Birth of Christ.

In actual fact, Plasencia Cathedral is the interrupted superimposing of two temples: the lack of financing left the remodelling commenced a century below incomplete in the 16th century which had been designed to reuse the materials of the old cathedral to build a new one which was much more monumental.

The old cathedral, or St. Mary´s Cathedral, is a good example of the transition from the Romanesque (with its shafts and chapters) to the Gothic (with its arches and large windows) and it began to be built in the 13th century under the orders of the masters Remondo, Diego Días, Gil de Cislar and Juan Francés to be completed in the 14th century. Three naves remain (the apse gave way to the new construction), the cloister (Cistercian with Gothic arches), the Romanesque Gateway from the western façade and, in particular, the extraordinary chapel of San Pablo, its old capitulary room, miraculously saved from absorption by the new structure. In the northern wing of the cloister you can perfectly see in an image which has stood still in time, the unfinished fusion of the two cathedrals.

The new catedral is from the 15th and 16th centuries and it has its own head and the arms of the Latin cross, but it doesn´t have the development of the naves. Designed at the initiative of don Gutierre Álvarez de Toledo, the son of the first Dukes of Alba, its first features were by Juan de Álava with subsequent interventions by Francisco de Colonia, Rodrigo Gil de Hontañón, Diego de Siloé and Alonso de Covarrubias. The upshot of this new Project are the northern and southern façades which allow us to imagine the spectacular nature of the new project.

The set of monuments in the cathedral square is complemented by the buildings of the Episcopalpalace (from the 18th century), the St. Mary´s cultural complex (from the 14th century) and, at the confluence with Blanca street, of the set forming the house of the Deán (from the 17th century), now the Palace of Justice and the magnificent house of Doctor Trujillo (from the 15th century) in which the beautiful Gothic windows and the high gallery stand out with segmental arches.

Church of St. Nicholas

The church and square of St. Nicholas

Via the narrow street of Santo Domingo el Viejo and Caldereros street you will reach San Nicolás square, a vast space which today is very different from that which existed during the Middle Ages when, in the place the steps and the fountain currently occupy, there stood some of the houses of the old Jewish quarter of La Mota between the 13th and 15th centuries.

St. Nicholas´ church was famous for carrying out at its doors the mixed trials between Christians and Jews at a court of arbitration formed by a Jewish judge and another who was Christian. In this way, the Jews enjoyed legal cover against any possible attacks from Christians. Nevertheless, this legal situation underwent major changes in the late 13th century.

The temple, Romanesque from the 13th century and having undergone major remodelling in the 15th century, is a free-standing building whose civil tower stands out, as well as the Loaisa chapel and the magnificent tomb of the Bishop of Coria don Pedro Carvajal-Girón from the 15th century in the interior.

Former Jewish quarter of La Mota

The Jewish quarter area of La Mota, currently occupied by the Mirabel palace and the St. Vincent Ferrer Convent

The Jewish quarter of La Mota is a vast space in the northwest of the walled city occupied by the Jews since the 12th century after the Alfonsine Foundation and subsequently converted into segregation in the 15th century. Of the four aljamas belonging to the diocese (Plasencia, Béjar, Medellín and Trujillo), that of Plasencia was the most powerful. The documents tell us that the Jews frequently outperformed the Christians in the bids for excise rents of the Zúñiga family in the second half of the 15th century as well as the fact that some of them owned land and others rented vineyards to the Chapterhouse.

Although no bloody events were recorded in Plasencia in 1391, the widespread climate of anti-Jewish violence in Spain in the final years of the 14th century and the first of the 5th did lead the Plasencia council – following the guidelines of the laws of Ayllón - to establish in 1412 the segregation of the Jewish community in a closed district to which end a wall was erected from the current San Nicolás square to the Coria gate, closing with a fence the land currently occupied by the Parador, the St. Vincent Ferrer Church and the Mirabel palace, with the exception of the garden.

The fence, called new to differentiate it from the stretch of the old city wall, commenced its trajectory at the pass of La Mota «questá a la parte de la yglesia de la Madalena», near Coria Gate and the old wall. It followed its course round the back of the houses on Coria street whose stretch was occupied by the wall of the Dominican convent. The new fence continued as far as the white wall-walk and the house of the alderman Tel Díaz:

Çerca do se dize que está el pozo de las casas caydas que fueron de rebí Abrahén [de Aloya]
integrating the present Cañón de las Bóvedas del Marqués street in the Jewish quarter area. At the foot of the flight of steps at Vincent Ferrer square was the only gate of access to the Jewish quarter, closed when segregation ended.

The construction of the fence left without rights of way some of the streets within the segregation of La Mota and which ended up being absorbed by the construction of the Dominican convent. In 1451 in the immediate vicinity of La Mota, Esparrillas street, an alley which rises from Berrozana Gate and goes to the steps of the fence above said gate is cut off by the construction of the new fence.On July 23rd 1541 the council gave the Dominican order a street which crossed via the convent yard to Coria street with a view to house making more cells for the community. It could be the final stretch of Esparrillas street which would connect with the flight of steps of St. Vincent Ferrer square and Coria street.

Not all the area near La Mota and the upper part was urbanized in 1412. The Count of Plasencia granted Juan de Pineda a plot in the upper part of Coria street near San Nicolás to build a house. Another plot was granted to Rodrigo de Soria at the same Coria gate. And a third to Pedro Carpintero at Coria gate to build a dwelling in 1464.

The segregation of La Mota would remain in place until 1419 when the Jewish families started leaving the confinement of La Mota to settle on the outskirts of the Main square and Zapatería street. In the second half of the 15th century the Duchess of Arévalo, doña Leonor de Pimentel, the wife of don Álvaro de Zúñiga, the Count of Plasencia, decided to build a convent here dedicated to Saint Vincent Ferrer in thanks for curing his son (Juan de Zúñiga y Pimentel who would later become the grand master of the Order of Alcántara) who had been seriously ill. With this in mind, with the aid of King Enrique IV and Pope Sixtus IV, he expropriated those Jews who were owners and commissioned the new works to Pedro González and his son Francisco, both from Plasencia.

Main square

The Main square and the Town Hall

The main nucleus of the city, commercial centre and point of connection between the different districts of Plasencia (to the north, that of Caballeros; to the southwest, that of Clérigos and to the southeast that of Mercaderes), the Main square had, during the course of the 14th and 15th centuries, different Jewish tenants, some of whom undoubtedly took part in the secular market which, since the Middle Ages, is still held at this site and which has given rise to «Great Tuesday» (the first Tuesday in August) being declared a Festival in the Regional Tourist Interest of Extremadura.

The colonnades, the benches, the terraces, the newspaper stand and, in particular, the unique presence of the Town hall building, lend the square a delicious air of a talking shop or popular main square right in the heart of the old city. The current Town hall building is a historical reconstruction by the architect José Manuel González Valcárcel in 1966 about the Renaissance building designed by Juan de Álava in 1523, modified at the behest of the mayors with arcades and hallways. All that remains of the old building are the side buttresses in one of which the imperial arms of Charles I stand out. Grandfather Mayorga, the popular articulated dolls which climb up the belltower, originates in 1743, though the original was destroyed by the French in 1811.

Marquis of Mirabel Palace

Marquis of Mirabel Palace

Alongside the convent and the church, the set of monuments is complemented by the Maruis of Mirabel palace from the 14th century, a fortress which belonged to the Almaraz and the Zúñiga, transformed into a palatial residence where, in addition to don Álvaro and doña Leonor, other illustrious members of the family lived such as the aforementioned Juan de Zúñiga y Pimentel, his son, or don Luis de Ávila y Zúñiga, the Marquis of Mirabel who accompanied Emperor Charles I to his retreat in Yuste. The Renaissance tower and courtyard or the curious Hunting museum are just some of the treasures held by the palace.

New Jewish quarter

Esparrillas Street and Cañón de las Bóvedas del Marqués street

Cañón de las Bóvedas del Marqués street which crosses under Mirabel palace, and Esparrillas street which follows the wall-walks of the wall for a stretch, lead to the new Jewish quarter, established after the end of segregation in 1419, though rather than the Jewish quarter, more is said about Jewish settlements in sectors where the Jews once again cohabit with the Christians. Arenillas and Zapatería streets, alongside the outskirts of the Main square and Ansano square, formed the nuclei of this new Jewish district.

The narrowness of Esparrillas street, amongst the houses backing onto the Wall and the thick wall of the palace gardens, prolongs as far as the Berrozana gate which provided access to the Jewish quarter via the northwest and which conserves a noble coat-of-arms of the Catholic Monarchs. Arenillasstreet is one of the most charming in the whole of the Jewish quarter with its arches which support passageways which cross to the other side from the Palacio del Marqués gardens.

New Synagogue

House of the Carvajal-Girón where the new synagogue is located

As occurred with the Jewish quarter of La Mota, the new Jewish quarter also ended up becoming a ghetto after the segregation decreed by the Law of the Courts of 1480 which would be prolonged until the expulsion of 1492. Ansano square, alongside Santa Isabel street, as far as the present St. Clare´s convent and Trujillo street were the limits of the new enclosed space for the Jews. The new synagoguewas built between Ansano square and houses 12-14 of Trujillo street which had an entry via both streets (men accessed via the square and women via Trujillo street) and which was in operation until 1492, having been granted to the Chapterhouse in the following year by the Catholic Queen to build in it´s the church of Santa Isabel.

As the house was set fire to in 1520 during the course of the Revolt of the Comuneros, the building became part of the structure of the house of the Carvajal-Girón, a beautiful palace whose dressed stone ashlar follow the precepts of the Italian Renaissance.

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.

Remains of the original Jewish quarter

Remains of the original Jewish quarter

However, the first placement of the Jewish quarter of La Mota in the 12th century took place in the area in which the St. Vincent Ferrer was built, now reconverted into a splendid State Tourist Hotel. In one of the gardens and in the car park of the Tourist Hotel, the remains of a street and different buildings of said originalJewish quartercan be clearly made out, complementing the beauty of the cloister, the capitulary room or the famous open-air staircase by Juan de Ezquerra and Juan Álvarez.

The aljama of Plasencia enjoyed legal autonomy to settle civil and criminal disputes between Jews at an exclusively Jewish court (bet din). Said court administered justice according to the laws of the Torah and in accordance with the legal decisions of the contemporary Rabbinic authorities and the ordinances of each community. The rabbinic court of Plasencia used to meet at the outbuildings of La Mota synagogue. The Jewish community also had its own prison overseen by the «Albedín».

St. Clare´s Convent

St. Clare´s Convent

From the Main square, and after passing alongside the church of San Esteban from the 15th century, the guardian of the magnificent Christ of the Insults (14th century) and the main feature in 1898 of the wedding of the poet Gabriel y Galán, the itinerary starts via Santa Clara street where St-Clare´s convent is located, now reconverted into a cultural centre. The rough crosses engraved in the stones of the pretty façade of the old convent recall the New Christians´ custom of marking their houses with this sign and also the fact that the monastery was erected on two previous Jewish houses.

Built in the 15th century, the convent was occupied by the Order of St. Clare until in 1836 it was transferred to the Ildefonsas, before being disentailed and put to the most diverse uses: in 1972-73 the City Council acquired it.

The rehabilitation undertaken in the 21st century has allowed the recovery of some parts of its original structure such as a series of arches, esgrafiat and coffered ceilings or the cistern. At present the convent, which serves as the Municipal House of Culture (with an entrance via Trujillo street), also houses the Municipal Tourist Office and the Jewish Study Centre.

The Berrocal Cemetery

The Berrocal cemetery

From the gardens of the Parador there is a magnificent view of the Berrocal, the promontory where the Jewish cemetery was located. As Friar A. Fernández says, the cemetery limits «con los exidos e tierras concejiles desta cibdad» without reaching the River Jerte nor the San Lázaro bridge.

The Berrocal is located opposite the Jewish quarter of Plasencia, with direct access via the Berrozana Gate, to avoid crossing the spaces occupied by Christians.

As from the foundation of Plasencia, the references to the Jewish quarter and to the Jewish cemetery are constant, at least between the 12th and 15th centuries. However, the majority of documents referring to the Berrocal are dated during the course of the expulsion of the Jews which culminates in 1492. Numerous historic sources refer to the sale of the cemetery by the aljama of Plasencia by Yuçé Caçes to the Dean of the cathedral, Don Diego de Jerez for 400 silver reales on May 21st 1492. The deed details the sale of:

Los honsarios de los judios de la dicha aljama asy viejos como nuevos que tenemos y la dicha aljama tiene en el Berrocal desta çibdad, con toda la piedra e canteria que en ellos esta e en cada vno dellos labrada y por labrar, asy sobre las sepolturas e burials que esta en los dichos honsarios.

On the same day May 21st don Yuçé Castaño makes a public reading of the contract of sale and donation before the four vendors of the aljama, in addition to don Mayr Cohen, Master Moses, Gabriel Moxudo, the scribe Rabbi Abrahan, Yuçé and Sento Haravon, Abrahan Caçes, Rabbi Yuçé Abenabibe and many other Jews of the aljama, stressing that the real value of the graveyards and stone materials:

Son en mayor suma e cantidad que no es el valor de la tal demasya de los dichos quatroçientos reales [de plata] lo qual nos asy conosçemos, cuya propiedad incluye toda la piedra dellos e canteria labrada e por labrar e con su tierra e sitios deslindados.

In 1496 the dean Diego de Jerez sells the cemetery to the city to which, says Friar A. Fernández, its revenue from pasture and farming are worth a good sum of money. In 1510 the Jewish cemetery forms part of the fallow land of the Town hall.A description of the condition the Jewish cemetery was in can be found thanks to A. Matías Gil in 1877:

Hoy mismo pueden verse unos veinte y tantos [sepulcros] abiertos y agrupados... presentando la forma del cuerpo humano envuelto en el sudario hebreo; son una caja abierta desde los pies á los hombros en la forma de ataud, y otra caja abierta en la misma piedra y unida á la anterior recibia la cabeza del cadaver, que luego se cerraba con una losa que cubria este deposito para lo que tenia sus rebajes en todo el borde.

The headstones which covered some tombs were granted or bought by private individuals who mainly used them in construction. Once the site had been cleared and with the passage of time, almost nothing remained visible on the surface except for the memory of that place which had been the Jews´ cemetery.

The cemetery, musealized and opened to the public in September 2009, has enhanced this historic site which is unique in the autonomous community of Extremadura where some anthropomorphous tombs can be seen.

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.

Trujillo Gate

The Trujillo gate

Obispo street leads to Trujillo street at whose western end of which the Trujillo gate is situated, one of those which were traditionally used by the Jews to enter and leave the city. The gate, transformed when Our Lady of Health was erected on it, conserves the arch and the coat-of-arms of the Catholic Monarchs, as well as the famous Headstone of Freedom which recalls the oath of Fernando the Catholic before the doors of the cathedral to defend freedom and the people from Plasencia were after the unrest brought about by the granting of the city in 1492 to the Manor of Zúñiga.

Trujillo Street

Trujillo Street

From Ansano square, Santa Isabel street and Blanca street, where the house of Two Towers or Monroy Palace from the 14th century was erected, lead again to Trujillo street at the end of which until the Main square are the rear access to St. Clare´s Convent- Municipal House of Culture and Abastos square.

At a block of houses on Trujillo street, from the rear of the Carvajal palace to Imprenta Heras the following people lived from 1482 to 1492 in this order: Rabbi Moses Caçes, Yuçé de Medellín, Yuçé Haruso the kid, Abrahám Cohén, Yudá Caçes, Isay de Oropesa, Isay Pachen, Abrahám Lozano, Jacob Lozano, Leví Alegre, Yudá Alegre and Pedro Gutiérrez who lived in house of the Imprenta Heras.

The Jews segrated on Trujillo street comprising around one hundred families, around ten per cent of the population of Plasencia, still had to suffer attempts by some of their neighbours in 1490 to find them a new site, further away from the city centre, something which they did not manage owing to the King´s disagreement and an attack on the synagogue was thus feared.

Zapatería Street

Zapatería street

From the Main square, Zapateríastreet follows in a straight line the Jews´ path via the Coria gate through which many Jews had to pass who had refused to convert after the decree by the Catholic Monarchs in 1492.

To protect them from any sacking, Captain Francisco Hernández Floriano accompanied the group of Jews who left Plasencia to the Portuguese border, but the problems encountered in the neighbouring country obliged some of them to return who had to be christened to remain in Spain. Some, like the Doctor Tomás de Paz, would later be persecuted as Judaizers.