Popularly known as Rúa (street), located under the old Suda or Moslem fortress, today the Episcopal Palace and at the very feet of the extraordinary hanging houses in the high zone of the city, the Old Jewish Quarter of Tarazona constitutes a closed space, away from the modernity and traffic, running between narrow streets and steep steps which adapt as best they can to the lay of the land. A historically strongly-rooted Jewish district which develops around the two thoroughfares comprising Rúa Alta and Rúa Baja, today dedicated to the poet Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer whose legends are alive and kicking in this land.

A tow-thousand year old city whose rich heritage with a pronounced Mudejar leaning means it is well worthy of the title of Historic- Artistic Site, Tarazona uses the legend behind its foundation on its municipal coat-of-arms: Tubal Cain me aedificauit. Hercules me reaedificauit. Tubalcaín me edificó y Hércules me reedificó. It was settled by the Celtiberians who called it Triasu or Driasu, Romans who gave it the name of municipium Tvriaso, Visigoths, Moslems and Jews who called it Tirasone and Christians who named it Tirasona, from which the modern name of Tarazona derives. The urbanistic layout of the city still bears the marks of the passage of these last three cultures in medieval and modern times.

Pliny the Old in his NaturalHistory informs us that Tarazona was a city under Roman law and that it forged high-quality iron tools. Although the Roman urbanism of the city is still not known in detail, it would seem that in the late century I B.C. the urban area was situated on the left bank of the River Queiles around Tudela street as far as Alta street, from Carmen street to Visconti and Marrodán, Quiñones and Cañuelo street. Nevertheless, the city also extended on the right bank of the Queiles as is borne out by archaeological findings discovered in Pradiel at Eguarás Palace, in the Cathedral, the Zaragoza Road, Borja street, Faceda street, Cinco Villas street and in the Industrial Estate. This prolongment could be related with the layout of the road which went from Caesaragusta (Saragossa) to Asturica Augusta (Astorga).

As from the 3rd century the city was progressively abandoned owing to the political instability of the Roman Empire, attacked by the Barbarians and the Barbarians. The latter are documented in Tarazona in 449 when Bishop León was murdered.

In any case, it is likely that the Jewish presence dates back to Visigoth times or even the LateEmpire, consolidating under Moslem rule, though there are far more references after the city capitulated to Alfonso I the Battler in 1119. Once Tarazona had been integrated into the Visigoth defensive apparatus, the minimum conditions for an episcopal city were restored whose dynamism was borne out by the minting of gold coins in around the 7th century during the reign of Recaredo (586-601).

In 713 Tarazona fell to the Moslem armies and the town planning of the city adapted to Islamic features. Its inhabitants converted to Islam, public baths and cemeteries were created and the Zuda was erected, a palace or fortress which served as the headquarters of the military governors consisting of a rectangular surface dug out of a very high sedimentary rock on the terrace of Queiles which would form part of a larger walled enclosure, situated in the Cinto district.

To be precise, when Benjamín of Tudela commenced his journey in 1165 the aljama of Tarazona had already been fully formed after the conquest of the city by Alfonso I, King of Aragón and Navarre, in 1119. After the conquest, the King donated to the bishop the tax and commercial rights of the aljama which allowed him to levy taxes on the Jews of his diocese. This privilege was of paramount importance as the Jewish quarter of Tarazona was one of the most significant in Aragón in the first half of the 13th century. The power of its Jewish quarter at this time is borne out by the hefty taxes it paid to the Military Order of the Temple until 1312 when it was dissolved. Amongst the members of its Jewish quarter there were intellectuals and men of great importance such as doctors and builders as architects used to be called. There were also – not common in the Jewish area – plastic artists such as the painter of retables Juan Leví at the end of the 14th century whose works can be seen at Tarazona cathedral.

Since the taxation of property of 1271 Tarazona features amongst the sixteen royal communities in Aragón with mean taxation of 3% of the ordinary and 2% of extraordinary subsidies in a situation similar to that of Ejea de los Caballeros, whilst the local Mudejar community paid half of these values. In the Hearth tax carried out in 1386 and 1404, the city (excluding nobles and ecclesiastical staff) was attributed a total of three hundred houses with jews and Moors. Thanks to an internal accounting record or pinqas conserved at the National Library of Jerusalem, we now that the Jewish quarter at this time was made up of fifty two homes with around two hundred and twenty five people, in other words, 15% of the total population of the city which amounted to 1,300 people. In the late 15th century the Jewish population had risen to more than seventy families.

After the city´s integration into the Crown of Aragon, Tarazona experienced its so-called Golden Agebetween 1213 and 1283, decades in which the Jews of the city proved to be a key element, contributing to the workings of the administration and finances of the city. It was here that Moses de Portella was born who liked to sign with his Arab first name Muça in view of the prestige que the Arab language had as a language of culture. Moses de Portella came from a wealthy family familia that had got rich from the cereal grain trade, money-lending and the royal rents. The position of the Portella family was such that it paid a fifth of the total taxes of the aljama as from 1267. It was largely because of the Portella that Pedro III showed interest in organising the aljama and in 1285 he ratified a general ruling establishing the payment procedures for taxes on real estate and personal property and which stipulated the nature of the people exempt from said encumbrances. The decline of the Portella was concurrent with the decline of the Jews of Tarazona, brought to their knees by the Black Death of 1348 with further outbreaks in 1362 and 1369. This, combined with a string of poor harvests, led to a fall in the numbers of the Jewish and Christian communities. In actual fact, the Jewish quarter of Tarazona would have disappeared if not for immigration from France after the expulsion of the Jews from that country and the attacks suffered by the Jewish quarters in Navarre, circumstances which brought new inhabitants to the Jewish quarter.

In the war between Pedro I the Cruel, King of Castile and Pedro IV, King of Aragón, (which was fought over commercial dominance in the Mediterranean between the Castilian-Genovese fleet and the Aragonese fleet), the city was sacked by the Castilian troops on several occasions between 1357 and 1360. The Jewish district fared no better as soldiers came into the Jewish quarter unopposed as there were no Cinto walls, a well-fortified place which could be defended against any army, however big. When the war with Castile ended in 1378, Pedro IV throughout about whether it would be worth dismantling the Jewish quarter in view of the level of destruction it had suffered during Castilian sacking, but he decided its repopulation would be more to his advantage. In the license to rebuild the synagogue granted in Tarazona by Bishop Pedro Pérez Calvillo on May 10th 1370 the state of the temple was described:

Fuisse et esse dirutam et destructam ex eo quod in occupacione dicte civitate Tirasone jacta per dominum Petrum, quondam, regem Castelle, castellani subditi dicti regnis ipsam sinagoga conbursserunt et destruxerunt.

The rebirth of the Jewish district was boosted by the arrival of the Rabbi from Tudela Shem Tov ben Shaprut, a doctor and Talmudist who was seeking asylum after the disputation of Pamplona with Cardinal Pedro Martínez de Luna (1375). It was here where he wrote his «Eben bohano Piedra de toque». Along with Rabbi Jehudá Saladín, they were consulted about legal matters and a modest centre was formed where works were translated from Arab to Latin and Hebrew.

The aljama of Tarazona promulgated hordinamientos y secamas a proveyto et utilidad de los ditos jodios. The one issued in 1285 forbade, inter alia, bright clothes from being worn and that of 1378 banned children from wearing new clothes when circumcised. Their autonomy was established in the act of taking office of the bailiff, committed to loyally serving and protecting said aljama according to Jewish law. The internal organisation, created in the 14th century, was based on the Assembly of the aljama, the Council and the military governors as well as various functionaries assigned to administrative tasks (the tax collector, responsible for receiving taxes and accounting), judicial staff (albedín) and religious staff (Rabbis, shamashim etc.). The internal documents were issued by the sofer or notary.

The attacks on other Jewish quarters in the Crown of Castile, such as those of 1391, barely impacted Tarazona thanks to the protection of the council and the financial support the Jews were providing to the reconstruction of the city. This is why in said same year of 1391 the chapters of protection of the Jewish quarterwere signed in which it defence and the application of the rights of the charters are ensured, in addition to the active protection of the Crown. However, nothing would ever be the same again. Some powerful families in commercial life now took a back seat such as the Laquef, Abençahadía or the Abjoxar and their presence on the lending market fell from 50% to 10%. After the Disputation of Tortosa (1413-1414), conversions to Christianity were not on a large scale like in Daroca or Calatayud, but they did diminish the strength of the Jewish quarter. In 1430 the situation had calmed down and the communication between Jews and converts was good.

Thanks to the fiscal policy of Alfonso V and the attribution of a more participative institutional framework, the Jewish quarter of Tarazona attained a certain social equilibrium which would result in something of a boom. At the request of the Jews, in 1457 Alfonso V granted exemptions to relieve the tax burden of the Jewish quarter. The King´s aim was to boost commercial life and the economic activity of the cities of Aragón and he believed that the Jewish quarters had a major role to play to achieve this buoyancy. Juan II continued these policies, creating the New Jewish quarter. The extent of new neighbourhood was reflected by the gift carried out at the celebration of Christmas to the justice offices, jury, provosts and the cathedral´s chapterhouse, comprising around sixty pairs of hens and capons.

The setting up of the Court of the Holy Office in 1484, with its headquarters at the Episcopal Palace, spelled the end of cohabitation in the city. During the 16th century members of the convert families Santa Fe, Santángel and Santa Cruz were brought to court, but also other families from the diocese such as the Aibar, Andrés, Casado, Cortés, Cubero, Liñán, López and Pomar. The converts retained their Jewish festivals and customs, believing that both religions were valid, as good Jews could be saved according to their laws just as good Christians could be under theirs. Once the expulsion had been decreed, part emigrated to Tudela or Cascante whilst others were to disperse from the ports of Tortosa and Barcelona all around the Mediterranean, with Italy being the most popular port of call. Concurrently, the 40 or 50% who remained agreed to be christened and converted to Christianity.

Ancient synagogue

Façade of the old synagogue

Near the end of the Rúa, almost at the crossing with Aires street, there was an old building which scholars believe to be connected with the main synagogue, set in a block of the structure which is very different from the current one and perhaps also connected with the current Arcedianos square.

Despite being the most important property in the Jewish quarter, the synagoguedid not visibly stand out from its surroundings as this could have been construed as a challenge to the Christian churches which wished their supremacy to be quite clear at all times. As regards its size, two historic references are conserved about the two most numerous assemblies of which we have documentary evidence: That held on August 17th 1391 attended by forty people and that which took place in September 1491 by sixty seven.

The synagogue consisted of a single nave oriented towards Jerusalem, a sloping wooden roof which was accessed via a courtyard or azara, one of whose arches is still blinded. The loggia of windows is still conserved, now blinded, where light came in. It had a collection plate for the needy as well as the women´s synagogue with its own sisterhood, segregated by way of a gallery on the upper storey. The construction, which bordered the rabbi´s house, was subject to various conditioning works in the 15th century. Nothing is known about the Mikveh.

The first evidence of its existence dates back to 1367 when the material desolation of Tarazona, involved in frontiers clashes with Castile, attained alarming levels. The situation was so bad that Pedro IV consulted the court which met in Saragossa in 1367 about the possibility of its demolition in view of the threat raised by the advance of the Castilian troops. The King changed his mind and on September 20th 1368 the first permission is received to rebuild the main synagogue and five days later the small synagogue.On September 8th 1371 Bayel Constantin, a Jewish doctor, obtained the episcopal blessing to open up an oratory or midrashwhich could be attended by those its owner allowed just like the old synagogues of the city.

The two synagogues of Tarazona

The Jewish quarter of Tarazona had two synagogues, at least since the end of the 14th century as borne out by the pastoral visit made on February 11th 1410 in whose text reference is made to two Jewish synagogues. There are many references stating that one of them is the main synagogue. This is the case of the license for its rebuilding in 1370 or in the aljama held on May 10th 1412. This denomination remains for years after the expulsion as in the perpetual census letter submitted on September 30th 1499 by the chapterhouse of the cathedral to Juan de Agreda regarding houses in the Jewish quarter or Barrio Nuevo (New District) adjoining the houses of Juan Royo and the main synagogue.

It is worth asking whether the second synagogue may be that called the women´s synagogue, even though it is the same architectonic outbuildings as the main one, though perfectly delimited and outlined or maybe it is a yeshivaor a midrash.

Arcedianos square

Ceramic sign at Arcedianos square, signposting the Jewish quarter

A short stretch of Aires street on the right leads to Arcedianos square, a crossroads of profoundly medieval bearing. Arcedianos square was wider than now because of some posteriors backyards. It was that for one week the tents were put up in celebration of the sukkot or Feast of Booths like those which were put up in the desert after their departure from Egypt.

Sukkot. The Festival of Booths

Although it was subsequently transferred to the New Jewish quarter, the festival of sukkotwas traditionally heldat Arcedianos square, also known as the Festival of Booths or of the Tabernacles whereby the Jews remembered the exodus of its people in the desert after leaving Egypt, constructing, to this end, a Sukkah presided over by the three major Jewish patriarchs, Abraham, Jacob and Moses, at which the community meals were celebrated. During the prayers characteristic of this feast which took place a few days after Yom Kippur, branches of etrog, lulav, hadas and arava were waved.

Cathedral of Nuestra Señora de la Huerta

Panoramic view of Tarazona with the cathedral in the 15th century in the centre

The Cathedral, dedicated to Nuestra Señora de la Huerta, brings together a range of different styles from the early Gothic of the 13th century to its latest manifestations in the 15th century, to connect with the Renaissance of the 16th century, fitting in with the architectonic tradition of the Aragonese Mudejar. It was declared a Historic-Artistic Monument in 1931.

The oldest part is the head from the second quarter of the 13th century, designed in line with the Gothic models of Northern France.

The vault of the main chapel is decorated with a cycle of grisaille carried out by Alonso González in 1562-1565, following the example of the Sistine chapel. The main retable in Roman style was put up between 1608-1614.

The dome, implemented by the architect Juan Lucas Botero in 1543-1545, has interior decoration comprising plasterwork by Alonso González in 1546-1549.

The main access to the temple is situated at the Northern arm of the transept. It is presided over by a masonry gateway by the sculptor Bernal del Fuego (1578-1585), protected by a vast Baroque portico built between 1733 and 1735 according to a design by the Carmelite architect Friar José Alberto Pina. The cloister is erected on the southern flank of the church. Put up between 1500 and 1529, it is one of the masterpieces of Aragonese Mudejar architecture at its final stage. The most prominent element is the complex system of plasterwork lining the large windows, largely reworked in the past century.

It is worth noting that its archives hold an interesting collection of parchments found in the covers of codices and manuscripts, mainly biblical, without forgetting a miscellaneous section (a page of the Haggadah, verses of the Moed Katan in the Talmud of Babylon, an annotated Midrash Rabbah and a treatise on medicine in Arab with Hebrew characters).

Episcopal Palace

Façade of the Episcopal Palace

The complexity and variety of the Episcopal Palace, developed in line with different architectonic programmes on each of its sides, also complies with the sum of the constructions sharing space after the Christian conquest at the site of the old Moslem fortress. On the defences of the Zuda, at the highest point of the city, the residence of the monarchs of Aragón was erected which gradually added different medieval constructions and rebirths with an important enlargement in the 18th century. Alongside the solid façade, a façade arising from the confluence of Juderia street with Alta street, one of the palace gates opens, the one giving access to the Tarazona Study Centre, the Fernando the Catholic Institution, dependent on Saragossa County Council, up the street, the steps cross, via a passageway, as far as the vantage point of the Palacio square where the Zuda gate established another of the limits of the Jewish quarter, at its connection with the upper district. Rom the square where the Episcopal Palace, the church of Magdalena and the Arch of Cadena have their confluence, there are some wonderful views over the Plaza de Toros Vieja (Old Bull Ring square) and the cathedral of Tarazona.

España Square

The Town Hall is a Renaissance building from the 16th century

At the access to España suare via the narrow Pasaje del Comercio which opens out as from Bonifacio Doz street at the site of Merced street, the monument to Cipotegato stands out against the spectacular façade of the town hall. The square, also known as Mercado (market) square, established the limit of the Jewish quarter and represents an age-old commercial and meeting place between the three cultures that lived side by side in Tarazona for centuries. The «El Cipotegato» festival, declared as being in the National Tourist Interest, is held on August 27th as the start of the patron saint feast in honour of San Atilano in which this odd-looking character, dressed as a jester, is taken through the city under a shower of tomatoes thrown by the crowd. At the Town hall building, erected on the old wall in the 16th century to be used as a fish market and public granary, worthy of mention are the gallery of arches, a replica of the high cloister of the monastery of Veruela, the coats-of-arms and characters adorning the façade (including Hercules, Kakos and Pierres) and, in particular, the striking frieze portraying Charles V in Bologna, a real history lesson sculpted in plaster. The cavalcade of the emperor, based on the engravings by Robert Péril and Nikolas Hogenberg from the Netherlands, not only affords the testimony of a complete programme of de imperial exaltation with examples in various countries in Europe, but which also attests to the importance and power of Tarazona in the Renaissance.

Hanging houses of the Jewish quarter

The Hanging Houses from Juderia street

The northern limit of the Old Jewish quarter is marked out by the barbacan which rises in Conde street and at whose rear there are a series of overhanging constructions called the Hanging Houses and occupied by the lower nobility and lineages like the los López de Gurrea, Señores de Torrellas, los Fayos and Santa Cruz.

Jewish butcher´s

Baja street where the butcher´s was located on the Selcos irrigation ditch

According to a document from July 1492, the Jewish butcher´s was situated opposite the brotherhood of the aljama whose cameras adjoin Nueva Juderia square (the current Nuestra Señora square). It location was also near some houses and an orchard belonging to the chaplaincy of García Ruiz, situated on the Selcos irrigation ditch. In this way, the water course crossed the premises of the butcher´s which, along with the slaughterhouses, included a yard to keep the animals.

In 1503 a dispute arose about the ownership of some houses attributed at the time of the expulsion to the chaplaincy of Canon García Ruiz and which the bailiff Pedro de Talavera improperly sold at a later date.

If we assume that this property, bordering the entrance to the synagogue, is the same as that mentioned in the text from 1492, the Jewish butcher´s would be where today Rua Baja street is located, on the stretch on Selcos near Arcedianos square.

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 church of Carmen convent where the old Jewish cemetery was located

The Jewish cemetery was situated at the current site of the Carmen Convent and the old Spanish Match Factory along with some plots and small gardens behind Hoyas street. In other words, it was situated between Caldenoguea street and Mataperros way, on a gentle promontory bordering Almehora square whose fountain is recorded since at least the 1380´s, near the Carrera de Cervera gate and the Era Gate in the parish of Losilla. Owned by the aljama and limited by a fence, it was located on virgin earth, on a slope, with the tombs facing Jerusalem.

The burial was carried out in trapezoidal coffins such as those found in Calatayud and Teruel with an approximate length of 2.3 metres in which squared-section iron nails were used to assemble the framework. Sometimes there was only a prism-shaped, carved stone was sufficient without any inscription, with a view to indicating its location.

At the time of the expulsion the cemetery was attributed along with the orchard and nearby plots – properties valued at 1,025 sueldos jaqueses (currency)– to the bailiff Pedro Talavera. It would appear that the latter decided to divide the space into parcels as in 1494 a purchase agreement pertaining to a courtyard to be used as a plot states its location in Montiver, in that part of the city in the graveyard where Jews are usually buried.

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.

Juderia Street

Juderia street

Just symbolically slide past the Plaza de España gate and the first on the right is Juderia street. The closed narrowness of the first stretch whose layout is purely medieval, does Little to prepare the traveller for what is to come: the street opens out at the foot of a slope at whose upper end, hanging and overlooked on the houses of the Jews, were the houses of the nobles who settled the high district or Cinto de Tarazona district. What in the plan is barely a discontinuous line separating the Conde street from the Jewish quarter, in the field is a drop on which the barbican was situated and which marked the differences between the inhabitants of one district and the other. The structure of these houses raised on the rock itself with projected façades and walls secured by solid buttresses, constitutes a real architectonic catalogue in which the more modest Jews resided, mainly craftsmen. Juderia street turns at a bend on the left, forming a broad space where it is possible to behold, on the one side, the fortress and the height of the Episcopal Palace, settled on the old Moslem Zuda, and on the other, the imposing presence of the Hanging Houses.

Moses de Portella Interpretation Centre

Door of the Moses de Portella Centre

At number 9 a 16th century gateway marks the start of Baja street in an area encompassing the Moses de Portella Interpretation Centre for Jewish culture of Tarazona, a space dedicated to the Sephardis of Tarazona which includes audiovisuals, reconstructions of the Jewish quarter in 3D, a memorial with the main Jewish surnames in the area and panels about the Jews and their customs.

Moses of Portella

Moses of Portella, along with his brother Ismael de Portella, was the typical model of a Jew at the Court with a striking, meteoric career. From being and officer or private advisor of the King, he became an administrator of the Crown´s income under Pedro III who commissioned him to collect, maintain and repair the fortifications with Castile and Navarre. Previously, during the reign of Jaime I the Conqueror, he held the post of baiulus or bailiff of Tarazona in 1273 and in early 1276 he took on the same responsibility for Sagunto, Onda, Peníscola, Morella, Segorbe, Villareal and Vall dʼUxò, later adding the cities of Malón, Santa Cruz, Borja, Luceni and Ejea de los Caballeros. In the last few years of the reign of Jaime I in the three-year period from 1279-1281, he would govern the merindads of Tarazona, Ejea de los Caballeros and Jaca as well as the bailiffs of Sariñena.

His brother Ismael de Portella also played a major role in Aragón. Until 1289, he was, by royal decree, the executor or administrator of the house of Prince Don Pedro, the son of Alfonso III. Jaime II entrusted diplomatic missions to him and granted him the privilege of not paying taxes. He was a rab or Main Rabbi for all the Jewish quarters of Aragón.

Upon the death of Pedro III in 1285, Moses fell from grace. When the Courts demanded his dismissal in 1286, his influence extended throughout Aragón, a position of power in the hands of a Jew which had not gone unnoticed. After his death in suspicious circumstances in 1293, his fortune was confiscated to contribute to the conquest of Menorca, though a subsequent agreement was reached if his family left Tarazona and moved to Borja. The decline of the Portella was concurrent with that of his followers, struck down by the black death of 1348 (with further outbreaks in 1362 and 1389) and a series of poor harvests, partly offset by the contributions made by Jews who had emigrated from France and the attacks suffered in Navarre.

New Jewish quarter

The Cuesta de los Arcedianos at night

The steps of cuesta de los Arcedianos connect the Old Jewish quarter to the New Jewish quarter, created in the early decades of the 15th century. It is a narrow, steep alley which crosses a considerable height to go down to river level and its route continues to hold a certain air of mystery. Once you have descended, on the left there is the passageway connecting with Marrodán street and on the right the Nuestra Señora or Nueva Juderia square around which a new Jewish district was developed. At the same square a narrow passageway has the rights of way of an old street in the district, passing underneath a contemporary building and slightly further on, between numbers 20 and 22 of Paseo de los Fueros de Aragón, an iron gate cuts off passage to an old medieval alley, now out of use; the remains of what was the last residence of a collective based in Tarazona for centuries.

The first documentary mention of the New Jewish quarter dates back to 1440 and at its origin there are demographic and public hygiene factors, as certain unhygienic activities such as the tanneries, abattoirs etc. could only be carried out at a minimum distance of fifty cubits from the residential district.Whilst the butchers were located in the parish of Santa Cruz, the problem did not exist which was caused in 1417 when the King requires the Jews to have their own macellum. It was located in the outskirts of the channel of Selcos stream and constructed near Nuestra Señora square.

Hence, at a second stage, the urban occupation was extended via Cuesta de los Arcedianos to join around Santa María or Nuestra Señora square, protected in the part nearest the River Queiles by a barbacan. Its effective segregation was achieved by means of a gate situated on the last stretch of Marrodán street by means of a gate and arch dual-locking system known as the Arch of Santa Ana which had previously only been used as a sewer and we would be right in thinking that it coincided with the limestone of the oven. A second gate was opened at the western end of the square in the vicinity of the flour mill of Cubo.

The square became a place for celebrations (coronation, birth, betrothals of the monarchs) and manifestations of pain (the death of Juan II). As the wife of Pedro Lamata declares before the inquisitors against the mother of Ximeno Cabrillas when:

Hun judio hovo a preycar en la plaça de la juderia nueva, y ahí fueron muchos a oyr el sermón, vido como en un mirador con ella estava una judia, y quando el judio dezia ciertas palabras en ebrayco y alçava y baxava la cabeça.

When they removed the Torah she retorted:

Mirat con que magnificencia hazen sus cosas y las mueven, que no lo fazen asi entre nosotros, que quando algun finado llevan, los nuestros tan presto como lo sacan de casa lo tienen en el cimenterio.

Old Jewish quarter

Alta Street at the height of Mata square

The name Old Jewish Quarter was coined in the 15th century in contrast to the New. During the Late Middle Ages, from the end of the wars between Castile and Aragón (1357-1369) until the time of the expulsion, the Jewish community of Tarazona occupied an urban area near the Zuda fortress, the prime symbol of Moslem power and then of Christian power. In the last three decades of the 14th century the district was extended between the exterior of the city barbacan, the Selcos irrigation ditch and the Zuda. This area can be specified more precisely thanks to two documents: the purchase agreement carried out in 1376 by Fernando Pérez Calvillo pertaining to the several properties owned by Jordán Pérez de Urries, including twenty one censos on properties in the Jewish quarter and the donation made by said clergyman and his brother Bishop Pedro, in favour of the city for a slightly greater figure. Both texts record the limits of the Jewish quarter between the city barbacan, the Selcos irrigation ditch, the crag of the Zuda, the market and the gate of the city. This solace corresponds to the streets currently called Juderia, Alta street, Aires street, Baja street and Arcedianos square.

The enclosure of this Old Jewish quarter, closed off at the Selcos irrigation ditch, can be accessed by several gates. There is documentary evidence for those located at Nueva Square (the current España square) at the intersection of the Juderia and Aires streets with España square and the so-called Porticiella on the road between the Zuda and the Selcos irrigation ditch known as Baja street, on the lower stretch occupied until recently by a tower of the wall which enclosed the so-called Cubo mill. Under the Zuda, on Alta street, opposite the Tarazona Study Centre, there was a third gate.

The northern limit is marked out by the barbacan which is situated on Conde street at the rear of which there are a series of overhanging constructions called (Hanging Houses) and occupied by the lower nobility and lineages like the los López de Gurrea, Señores de Torrellas, los Fayos and Santa Cruz.

The southern boundary follows the course of the Selcos irrigation ditch on whose left bank was a brick wall or adobe wall coinciding with the rear of the alignment of houses on Baja street. It was accessed from here thanks to a ponticiello or bridge of boards as the irrigation ditch was not covered. The blinded arches of the building which has a façade both on Baja street as well as on Arcedianos square demonstrates that the street level was considerably lower than the current one.

Rúa Alta

La Rúa Alta (High Street)

Down the road lies the Alta street, formerly known as Sinagoga street, which forms the main thoroughfare of the Jewish quarter. Between its old houses it is still possible to find some closed up alleys revealing a more complex, maze-like medieval structure. Near the end of the street, almost at the crossing with Aires street, there stands an old building which scholars relate with the main synagogue, located in a block whose structure is very different from the current one and perhaps also connecting the current Arcedianos square. According to the documents, the Jewish quarter of Tarazona had a main synagogue and a minor synagogue, the former having been set on fire during the War of the Two Pedros and rebuilt afterwards as from 1371. It was in this area, near Mercado square, where the houses of the most prosperous Jews in the aljama were located.

Rúa Baja

Baja street

Back in the direction of the old Zuda, Bajastreet completes the route via the Old Jewish quarter. On its course, stop at the Mata or Corderos square on which the rear of the Episcopal Palace is located to continue in the direction of Recodos street at whose intersection the third of the district´s gates must have been located, the one known as Porticella.

San Francisco square

San Francisco square with the 15th century convent

San Francisco square – where the Oficina Municipal de Turismo and the church of San Francisco are located – allows you to behold Tarazona as a whole from the other side of the River Queiles and locate the space occupied by the Jewish quarter on the right of the Mudejar tower of the church of Magdalena which breaks up the profile of the city in the heights. The church, endowed with a beautiful cloister and a 15th century convent, is currently occupied by the Official Language School. The ascent to the Jewish quarter starts at Visconti street which emerges on the other side of the river where there are some houses of great nobility such as the building of the hotel Condes de Visconti, carefully recovered as accommodation with charm. Visconti street connects to Bonifacio Doz street where the church of Our Lady of Mercy is situated with a beautiful, non-polychromed wood Baroque retable; the outbuildings of the old convent of the same name currently house the Professional Music Conservatory. Just off the route, particularly indicated for literature lovers, just a few metres from the church of Our Lady of Mercy, on Baltasar Gracián street, there stands the church of Hogar Doz were the Aragonese author of El Criticón (The Critic) isprobably buried.

Santafé Palace

Detail of the façade of Santafé palace

In Barrio Verde street in the New Jewish quarter there stands the large house remodelled upon the order of Moser Santafe by the MudejarMohamed Darocano in 1502. The Santafé were the first convert family of great merchants to achieve noble status. Currently called the Santafé palace, it still conserves part of the heraldic coat-of-arms on its façade.

This is a building put up only two years after almost all the Santafé of Tarazona were convicted by the Inquisition (with the exception of those nearest the canon of the cathedral who was the grandchild of Moser Esperandeu, called Ezequiel Azaimel before 1414). As recently as fifty years people were living there who still bore this surname.

The converts of Tarazona

In 1414 there was much talk in the city about the conversion of Ezmel Azamel after the celebration of the famous Disputation of Tortosa who took on the name of Esperandeu de Santa Fe as a New Christian. The arrival in 1484 in Tarazona of the court of the Holy Inquisition, later absorbed by Saragossa, definitively marked the beginning of the end of cohabitation, prolonging the agony of the Jewish collective until the coming into force of the decree of expulsion in 1492 which brought about the conversion of half of the Jewish population and the exiling of the other half, largely to Navarre, where the order of the Catholic Monarchs would take a few years to become effective. Some of those left for Tudela or Cascante later came back as converts as from 1498. The Old Jewish quarter then began to be called La Rúa (street) and the New Jewish quarter the Barrio Nuevo (New District).