With its Christian cathedral whose heart is Jewish and Moslem, its old city set between a Moorish quarter and two Jewish quarters, its famous Al-Andalus and Hebrew figures renowned worldwide, Tudela is a unique city endowed with three cultures and situated right in the heart of the Kingdom of Navarre. The Old Jewish quarter and the New Jewish quarter, with an intermediate path spattered with constant evocations of the time when the Hebrews inhabited the city, today afford a surprising tour which allows a major part of the historic city to be discovered through its Jews.

Founded by the Arabs in 797, in Tudela there is no Jewish presence mentioned until the reconquest of the city in 1119, but it is widely accepted that the first Hebrew settlers arrived in Tudela in around 802, almost concurrently with the Moslem foundation of the city as a stronghold in the Marca del Ebro at a point equidistant between Saragossa, Logroño, Pamplona and Soria. The Muladi from Huesca, Amrus ibn Yusuf, the deputy of the emir Al Hakán I, was commissioned to build a bridge over the Ebro and set up the first population core which, as the years go by, was converted into a prosperous city surrounded by a fertile, mild environment as related by the Arab geographer Al Razí in his Crónica del moro Rasis (Chronicle of the Moor Rasis) in 919,.

For over three centuries the Moslem Tudela formed an important commercial and cultural nucleus in northern Spain, an aspect which was further stepped up after the fall of the Caliphate of Córdoba and the binding of the city to the taifa of Saragossa under Banud Hud. From this time we have the famous 23 biographies of famous personalities from the Moslem world of Tudela and this melting pot was also inhabited by the great Jewish names whose fame had survived until today.

Around the year one thousand, as the Cordoban Caliphate fell into ruin and extinction, the ruler Tuybíes of the great taifa of Saragossa became the lords of Tudela when the Omeya Caliphate of Córdoba ended. The first three rulers had as their deputy or Caid of Tudela and Lérida Sulayman ibn Hud, of Yemeni stock who, at the age of twenty, drove them out of power (1038). One of his sons, Mundir ibn Sulayman «al-Zafir» (the Triumphant), governed with sufficient autonomy to coin currency in the small taifa kingdom of Tudela (1046- 1051) until he was usurped by his brother the brilliant Abu Chafar Ahmad al-Muqtadir (1046-1081), the builder of the Saragossan palace of Aljafería and patron of wise men and scholars. With the aid of the enlightened environment of the Hudí court of Saragossa, the great personalities known by everyone flourished: the excellent poet Yehuda-ha-Leví (circa 1070-1141), the polygrapher Abraham ibn Ezrá (1089-1164) and the illustrious traveller Benjamín of Tudela (circa 1130-1175). In the eyes of its contemporaries, Tudela was a prestigious centre of Judeo-Arab culture.

The taifa fell after the defeat and death in Valtierra of Ahmad Al-Mustain, the grandson of Al Muqtadir, killed by knights from Pamplona of Alfonso I the Battler. The fall of Saragossa in 1118 precipitated that of its satellite cities like Tudela. After the taking of the city on February 22nd 1119, Alfonso I saw to the reorganisation of the space and its human groups. Despite the scant information available, it would seem that this population as a whole recorded major growth during the course of the 9th century and the first decades of the subsequent century. Hence, this initial urban nucleus, arising between the citadel and the Mediavilla ravine, unfolded until reaching the River Queiles. Its framework is furrowed by steep, winding alleys at right angles (many of them culs-de-sacs, others closed off by gates or wall-walks), forming a real tangle, something of a maze, very characteristic of Islamic town planning. In the centre of the city was the Medina with the Main Mosque and around it there were other elements: the market place, the corn exchange and the market for outside merchandise, baths, souks etc. The city, with two gates, one around the Ebro bridge in the direction of Saragossa, the other in the south around the «souk» or old market, accommodated a varied population: Christians (Mozarabs), in the north-western district, with its Church of Santa María Magdalena; the Jewish quarter in the north-eastern sector as far as the Queiles and in the rest, the Moorish quarter.

In the surrender sign don March 15th 1119 the King offered those Moslems who had not succumbed or fled (illos bonos moros) to respect their assets, way of life and legal status. Notwithstanding, a year later they were required to resettle outside the walls in the suburb going towards Velilla. The Jews, initially fleeing, returned without violence, undoubtedly attracted by the granting of the traditional Charter of Nájera; contrary to the Moslems, they were allowed to remain in their old houses and plots in what would later be called the Vetula Jewish quarter. In 1170, Sancho VI the Wise allowed the Jews to sell their houses and settle alongside the Castle in the New Jewish quarter which would replace the Vétula or old Jewish quarter. Self-evidently, the simultaneous occupation of the two districts, even temporarily, illustrates the booming population of this community, perhaps coinciding with the almost permanent presence of the King and his Court in the Ribera capital.

The New Jewish quarter was consolidated at the time of Sancho VII the Strong, a monarch who, like his father, wished to have them as serves and a royal possession, commissioning them to ensure the conservation and custody of the enclosures and walls. Around that time, as borne out by the Charter of Nájera, the Jews of Tudela had freedom of residence, enjoyed legal security on an equal footing with Christians and the freedom to hold posts and offices related with the fabrics and food trade, activities which were profitable during Letas importing fish from the Bay of Biscay was a sure bet in view of the ban on eating meat for the Christians.

With the arrival of the new monarchs of the Count´s residence in Champagne after the death of Sancho VII without any heirs in 1234, the Navarre monarchy began a more distant relationship with the Jews. Teobaldo I (1234-1253) remained at loggerheads with the council of Tudela, inter alia, because of the abuses committed against the Jewish community settled there. Various theories have been put forward to explain the causes of and reasons behind this alarming outbreak of anti-Jewish feeling, including the possible leaning of the population of Tudela towards the King of Aragón Jaime I. A truce had to be reached negotiated between the Seneschal and the twenty jurors of the council; once it had been completed in barely six months, an agreement or remembranza was reached which is set out in the famous text of June 1237 in which the climate of mutual suspicion and hostility is all too clear. The document includes a step-by-step list of the insults and faults committed between the contesting parties and some rules are laid down to re-establish a harmonious atmosphere. By dint of this and other testimonies we known that there were two fences on the wall: one made of stone and the other of adobe which would provide protection to the Moorish quarter. Inside the castle the Jews also had a second closure, possibly also made of the same material.

Teobaldo I swore in the charters in May 1234 and started to draft the new General Charter in which he restricted the freedoms and rights of the Jews. He required them to dress in such a way that they would be identifiable as Jews and demanded the servitude of having to hand in any copies of the Talmud they had to the Franciscans for their revision. In the mid-13th century the tax burdens were also increased in the Jewish community and they were forbidden from lending money with interest. As regards the Jews who lived in the castle, they could remain there but they were stripped of the ancient privilege of its custody. Despite these progressive restrictions, during the 13th century the Jewish quarter of Tudela was the most important in the Kingdom of Navarre with the largest Jewish presence, even than that of Pamplona. Its prime geographic position attracted many Jews who were fleeing from intolerance and hostility.

Teobaldo died in 1253 leaving his widow as the regent in view of the tender age of the heir. The situation in the kingdom was further exacerbated by the attitude of Alfonso X the Wise, King of Castile, who threatened to invade Navarre, whilst Jaime I the Conqueror, King of Aragón was opposed, with the ensuing tension and instability tis generated. The death of Teobaldo II in 1270 brought his brother Enrique II the Fat to the throne but, despite his moderation, the relationship of the Jews with the Crown in Navarre did not change.

In 1274 Enrique I died, leaving the throne to his daughter Juana I of Navarre who was one year old, whilst his widow, Blanca de Artois, became regent of the kingdom. The reign of Juana II brought with it a revolt of the French pastorelos who, after crossing Somport, attacked the Jewish quarters of Estella and Tudela in 1321. During the attacks which devastated the Jewish communities of Navarre in 1328, the regents of the kingdom were able to prevent any attack on the Jewish quarter but not the death of some Jews. The defence of the Jewish quarters of Tudela was not free: Remember that the Jewish quarter paid as pecha (head-tax) more than any other Navarre town or city, even the capital.

Barely seven years had elapsed since the slaughter of 1328 when the Franciscan Friar Pedro Olligoyen stirred up the population during Easter Week and, bringing together a crowd on the outskirts of the Jewish quarter, tried to attack the Jewish quarters to kill its inhabitants. In 1358 during Passover during the reign of Charles II the Bad, the synagogue was attacked. The Jews were aware that this brutal craze derived from the preachers and the indifference or even connivance of the civil authority which, seeking to save the ever more impoverished Jewish population, managed to increasingly isolate it further.

The family was the fundamental unit on which Jewish social organisation was based. United by economic, legal and religious interests, it was a patriarchal entity. Notwithstanding, women played prominent role in upholding the religious tradition and, in certain economic and commercial activities, enjoyed full legal rights. In 1366 Mira ben Menir, the wife of Nathan del Gabay, a Jew from Tudela, features as the holder of various purchase and sale documents. In terms of the moneylending business the ratio of women as creditors stood at 8.4%. Religious life was a vital element of cohesion for the Jewish family. The family unit adopted were caring towards orphans, ensuring them protection and guardianship with the knowledge and blessing of the community. The law regulated the smallest details of daily life. Synagogues, cemeteries, baths, butcher´s etc. constitute essential elements of the life and topography of the Jewish quarters. The legislation and policy of the monarchs of Navarre established close dependence with their Jews who they granted official recognition for religious practice. Their legal standing was twofold: the moral obligations of mosaic law and the stipulations of the General Charter and its Improvements. Within this social, religious and legal framework, between 1279 and 1305 the taqqanotwere drawn up or ordinances of the aljama to organise the life in common of a society made up of traders, craftsmen, doctors and diplomats, also carrying out notable activity in farming and wine production and commercialisation.

The 14th century crisis and the coming of the new King in the shape of Charles II (1349-1387) was the occasion chosen by the representatives of the kingdom´s aljamas to request a reduction in their contributions and thereby put a halt to the constant increases by the treasurers. The King dealt with these requests and Tudela began paying 1,142 pounds of pecha (head-tax). In view of the growing needs of the monarch, negotiations with the Jewish aljamas were sometimes tense; despite the initial generosity, the flipside was an increasing tax burden. In 1366 the payment of an overall pechawas agreed for the five aljamas and the so-called French Jews, included under that of Tudela: their amount was set at 4,000 pounds. Bearing in mind that in the census of 1366 the Jewish population recorded in Tudela stood at two hundred and seventy families, the pecha per Jewish family stood at almost 3 pounds per year or around 1,800 maravedis of Navarre. The same was imposed by Charles III the Noble when he came to the throne in 1390. He not only endeavoured to consolidate the pro-Jewish stance adopted by his father but he entrusted his royal income to a Jew. The King ordered that the amount owed to them from lending should be repaid, signalling the start of a slight recovery of the Jewish quarter.

Although cohabitation was the general norm between Moslems, Jews and Christians, as from 1348 on the grounds of the black death swept through Tudela and Jewish rights began to be increasingly restricted. The physician (doctor), jurist and moralist from Tudela Sem Tob ibn Shaprut (circa 1340-1410) was one of the participants in the famous Disputation of Pamplona in 1375, a city which, like Barcelona or Tortosa, had undergone a serious theological debate between Jews and Christians about the arrival of the Messiah, in this case chaired by don Pedro de Luna, the future pope Benedict XIII. After the disputation, Ibn Shaprut, who had studied medicine in Montpellier, published his work Eben bohan, (The Touchstone), which describes the atmosphere at that time in great detail.

During the reign of Juana II and Philip III of Evreux (1328-1349) a migratory flow becomes evident from the domains of the House of Evreux. This circumstance has an impact on the records of the Treasurer under the item: Pecha de los Judios of Ultrapuertos (head-tax on Jews from overseas). Thanks to these records it has been possible to outline the geography of the moves by French Jews to Navarre. There are families bearing anthroponyms of París, Chartres, Pont-Audemer, clearly denoting their origin. Others from Provins and Troyes undertook a huge exodus destined for the towns of Olite and Estella. Other contingents of émigrés come from the lands of the county of Angouleme and its outskirts: Bona de Saint Maixent and Niort de Sangüesa are the best known examples. The small villages of Poitou, Périgord, Berry and Auvernia (Auvergne) are the places of origin of a number of other families. Toponyms like Saint Pourçain-sur-Sioule, Neufbourg, Orthez and Tonneis are combined with the forenames of Jewish stock from Navarre. Neither was there a lack of Jews from Provence originating from Beaucaire and Perpiñán.

Estella and Tudela seem to be the preferred destinations for those exiled as it was here that almost 65% of the population from overseas settled. The arrival of craftsmen and new capital helped to kick start the economic, social and cultural contacts between the communities from both sides of the Pyrenees. Wars and persecutions led to diversions of Jewish population from the Crown of Castile into the kingdom of Navarre.

This role of the Jewish quarters in Navarre as the receiving destinations fell away in the second half of the 15th century. During the civil struggles the aljama of Tudela saw its population decline alarmingly. In 1490 the aljama of Tudela was estimated at one hundred and one houses, the lowest demographic level of its history. Nevertheless, despite the increase in restrictions, the Jewish quarter in Tudela retained its vitality and its attraction. After the decree of expulsion by the Catholic Monarchs in 1492, major contingents of Jews arrived in Tudela. The suburbs of outsider Jews represented a compensatory income for municipal finances: two hundred pounds a year in the six-year period between the decrees of banishment of one kingdom and of the other.

The decree of expulsion in Navarre must have brought about many conversions of Jews in 1498 whose descendants would see their names exposed as from 1610 in the «Manta» (roll) or wall in the cathedral. By contrast, with the expulsion of the Mudejars (1516) 200 houses were left empty in the Moorish quarter whose main mosque was used to erect the parish church of San Juan Bautista. Here the convent of the Dominicans was built (1517). Years before the Antonians had settled at the bridge (1480). There were already clear signs of renovation and urban growth when the population capitulated on September 9th 1512 before the army of Fernando the Catholic and swore on October 4th «the charters and privileges used and to be used, exemptions, gifts and graces» of the city of Tudela and its Moorish quarter.

The Jews of Tudela were the last to leave Spain.

Ashlar with mezuzah traces

Ashlar with mezuzah traces

This is an alabaster stone ashlar in L, corresponding to a door jamb. It was located in 2003 at a plot on Magallón street where important archaeological levels of the Islamic era were located between the 9th to the 12th centuries and this may have been the first time that excavations were carried out in the Old Jewish quarter area. The ashlar was situated in a landfill with material from the 16th century, but it could well have been used on any other structure as a further stone.

Contrary to the known examples in Besalú and Gerona, which are narrow, long and deep, the one in Tudela is circular, broad and shallow. What´s more, all known ones are situated on the lateral of the door and the one in Tudela seems to have been at the front on the façade. This may be justified by the limited surface provided by the door jamb between the bracket and the façade, eleven centimetres, less than what was usual on walls at the time.

Ashlar with rosette

The ashlar fragment with a star and a rosette

This is a fragment of an ashlar made of limestone, one of whose faces has been decorated by a six-pointed star inscribed in a circle and with a rosette at the centre of the star. This rosette, found in Padre Ubillos street in 1986 when the wall of a lean-to was being knocked down backing onto one of the stretches of the Islamic wall, may have been placed on the now disappeared Calahorra Gate to protect the city from the evil genies which come from the northwest, facing the area from where the prevailing winds come («north wind»). Similar examples can be found at the Gormaz Fortress (Soria).

The ashlar is currently on show to the public at the Synagogue.

Benjamín de Tudela street

Benjamín de Tudela street. The houses were able to take advantage of the same arches in the streets to grow in height in view of the lack of extendable land

The current Benjamín de Tudelastreet is located at the north-western limit of the Vétula Jewish quarter and it pays homage to one of the sons of this city who has become best known worldwide over time. The Book of Journeys (Sefer Masaot) by Benjamín of Tudela, first published in Constantinople in 1543, is still a masterpiece as a first-hand account of the daily life of the Jews in the 12th century. Crossing an arch, Benjamín de Tudela streets connects to Vida square onto which the Windows of the cathedral look out and via the square we reach Portal street which, on the left, features the beautiful Arch of the Virgin to continue, on the right, en route to the New Jewish quarter.

Benjamin of Tudela

Benjamín of Tudela (c. 1130-1175) is the most famous of the medieval travellers and along with Abraham ibn Ezrá and Yehudá ha-Leví, he is one of the most famous Jews.

He was cultured, wise man; multilingual (he was fluent in Hebrew in Aramaic and understood Arab and perhaps Greek and Latin), well-versed in the Torah and in the Halakha, he knew classical and medieval history. He was an expert in business and trades which may have been the reason behind his journeys.

His journey started in Tudela in 1160 and ended on his return to Paris. The key parts of the route were Rome, Constantinople, Jerusalem, Baghdad and Cairo. In his Book of Journeys(Sefer Masaot) he provides an accurate description of the situation of the Jewish community in each place, their economy and a political and religious overview. His eye for detail is a main source about the Mediterranean world in the second half of the 12th century; the distances, the number of inhabitants in each city, the climate etc. Worthy of special attention are his notes about Islamic sects and the descriptions about the ruins of the old Babylonia and the antiquities of Rome, Constantinople and Alexandria.

His journey must have lasted for between five and fourteen years. The first edition of the Book of journeys (Sefer Masaot) by Benjamín of Tudela appeared in 1543 in Constantinople. Since that time its editions have appeared in many languages.

Biblical texts in the Municipal Historic Archive

Session of the bet din (Rabbinic court) on December 27th 1468 in which the widow of Selomón Malaf demands that her Ketubah and dowry be paid

The Jewish religion was difficult to observe. Any infringements committed by the members of each community were set out in the accounts of the bailiff, the King´s representative before the aljama. The executive agent is the albedín, a member of the Jewish court who received a ninth share of the fines. These lists of fined parties bear faithful testimony to life inside the walls of the Jewish quarter: a closed universe where there were strong tensions. Squabbles, rapes, tax offences etc. were set out in this documentation.

The aljama appeared as the holder of those judicial functions contained in Talmudic law. The general assembly would meet at the synagogue. In Tudela the elected synagogue was that of the Tejedores (Weavers) in the district of the same name. This community had a Council of the Twenty which acted by delegation of the general assembly and, in actual fact, it was the executive body. For any further actions there were forty two governors who were quite similar to the chiefs of Christian councils. Governance of the Jewish quarter often fell into the hands of just a few families who comprised a kind of urban oligarchy. In this regard, the lineages of the Menir, Falaquera and Orabuena are known in Tudela. By contrast to other peninsular kingdoms, until 1390 the figure of the Great Rabbi did not exist in Navarre, known as the maximum representative of the Jews of the kingdom. Said appointment was made by the Orabuena family of Tudela. This family held said office until the mid-15th century. In the last third of said century another from Tudela, the Malach, replaced it.

The Taqqanot

The internal life of the communities is regulated by the agreements of each assembly, set out in the famous taqqanot or ordinances of each Jewish quarter. Only those of Tudela and Puente la Reina are known and through these it is known that all aspects of the life of the aljama were regulated with detail and precision. Observance of the religious feasts (Passover, Yom Kippur, the Feast of Palms and Sukkot); marriages held outside the kingdom; the administration of justice; the rules for commercial practice etc. There were severe measures against the denouncers or malshins.

The ordinances of the aljama of Tudela from 1287 and 1305 are one of the most important to reach us. By contrast to the taqqanot of Valladolid in 1432, which are of a general nature for all Jewish quarters in Castile-León, these only affect the aljama of Tudela.

To draw up its rules the interpretation of Maimonides was followed, except for two exceptions which are stipulated in the introduction:

No verdict will be issued in any trial , whatever its subject, if it fails to follow the opinion of our master Maimonides, whose memory be blessed, as regards any matters in which his opinion can be sought, except for these two in which the aljama agreed that they must be resolved in jurisdictional terms according to its opinion, to wit: the forgiving of the debts on the sabbatical year and the reduction of the debt owing to the pledging of the houses by dint of the use of said houses granted by the debtor to the creditor.

Tudela had a large Jewish quarter which, since the 12th century, stood out not only as it was the most populated in Navarre, but also for its own prestige and organisation.


Between the uneven, winding alleys of the medieval town, Tudela cathedral emerges majestically

Via Roso street we reach the Tourist Office, the strategically located meeting point alongside one of the cathedral gates. Before entering the Tudela museum where you can make a joint visit to the cathedral and the Romanesque Cloister, the archivolts of the Judgement gate already provide a glimpse of the controversial relations between Jews and Christians over the centuries: if you look carefully amongst the people sentenced after the Final Judgement you will soon find a Jewish couple selling their cloth on a chest, symbolically representing all those of their kind.

Until 1783 Tudela cathedral was the collegiate church of Santa María la Blanca, with the latter having been erected in 1119 on the site of the main mosque of the Moslems from the 9th century. In addition to the Judgement gate, prominent on its exterior are the Santa María gate to the north and the Virgin gate to the south in Romanesque style. Inside, the choir is regarded as one of the greatest works of flamboyant Hispanic-Gothic style in Navarre and the Flemish-style main retable was carried out by Pedro Díaz de Oviedo.

Decanal Palace

The Decanal palace

The Decanal Palace is a building originating in the final quarter of the 15th century which serves as a house of the deans of the collegiate church of Santa María, enlarged and remodelled later by the dean Pedro de Villalón. It was also used as a residence by monarchs and popes in their stays in Tudela; it houses works of religious art local and archaeology: the tomb of Prince Don Fernando, the son of Sancho VII the Strong and it has access to the view of rich chapters of the cloister, these being some of the most important pieces in the collection.

Hanukkah Oil Lamps

Hanukiah found at Cerro de Santa Bárbara

Indispensable pieces in all Jewish homes are the oil lamps called hanukiahwhich were lit for the festival of Hanukkah. In Tudela several fragments of these oil lamps have been found dated between the 13th and 14th centuries at the Cerro de Santa Bárbara (hill) on the Castle hillsides.

The majority of these oil lamps would have been made in Tudela. They take the shape of ceramic inscription with a pointed front formed by the different picks of the oil bowls and in one of the pieces there are still fire markings. The bowls and the upper part of the whole piece have been surface treated with honey-coloured and green varnish and they bear a small incised decoration on a small cordon which goes right round the piece and the edge of the bowls.

Jewish cemetery of El Palenque

Jewish burial. Haggadah of Sarajevo

Nothing is known about the necropolis pertaining to the Vétula Jewish quarter, prior to the 12th century, but the theory has been put forward that it may have been located under the new part of the city, on the other side of the River Queiles. The necropolis of the New Jewish quarter, on the other hand, is said to have been situated at El Palenque dating from the 12th to the 15th centuries.

In 1984 three tombs were excavated in an emergency intervention which estimated that the successive works in the area had destroyed between 60% and 80% of the necropolis, with the rest having been left in dispersed areas with varying degrees of integrity. In 1998, on the occasion of the fifth centenary of the Expulsion of the Jews from the Kingdom of Navarre, there was a more extensive excavation which uncovered twenty seven burials in an intact surface measuring 30 square metres.

The tombs at the necropolis, very close to each other, having made the most of the cemetery surface, are oriented in a West-East direction with the bodies lying in supine position with their arm parallel to their bodies. The burial was carried out with or without a wooden box which usually rested on the grave or, in some cases, on sandstone covered by slabs.

The burials uncovered at the necropolis do not have any trousseaus and are extremely austere. Although Jewish burials are not usually very lavish, some important findings have been made as is the case of the necropolis in Seville. This poverty is one of the reasons which has safeguarded the cemetery from the sacking which other sites have suffered.

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 square

Monument to Benjamín of Tudela at Juderia square

Alongside the ObispoFountain, now set below the raised square, the monument to Benjamín of Tudela is perhaps the only Hebrew reference at the modern Juderia square, a place of meeting and expansion at the limit of the broadening of the new city. Very nearby at the end of Verjas street stood the Zaragoza gate at which the existence of a third synagogue is documented. Following Vueltas street and Parra street you reach Magallón street where the palace of the Marqués de San Adrián is located, a fine example of the civil Renaissance architecture of Navarre which currently houses the outbuildings of the UNED (National University of Distance Education).

Ketubot in the Municipal Historic Archive

Ketubah establishing the marriage of Selomó, son of Yom-Tob Alparga (or Alfarga) and Soli, the daughter of Hayim ben Kelaf

The first contract of marriage written in Hebrew establishes the marriage of Selomó, the son of Yom-Tob Alparga (or Alfarga) and Soli, the daughter of Hayim ben Kelaf, signed on Thursday the second of Elulof year 5060 since the Creation of the world (August 18th 1300). The document sets out the habitual formula for the groom to ask for the hand of his promised one:

Sé mi esposa según la Ley de Moisés e Israel, y yo te serviré, honraré mantendré y sustentaré a la manera de los varones judíos que sirven, honran, mantienen y sostienen a sus mujeres fielmente...
It is the oldestKetubah conserved. The text is framed by a coloured band in red ink and, on each side, there is the figure of a small bird and this is the only Ketubah preserving its zoomorphic ornamentation. The form of decorating this manuscript can be related to that defended by Rabbi Simeón ben Zerah Durán de Mallorca (1361-1444) who recommended the decoration of all the blank spaces in a document to avoid the manipulation of the clauses and hence the alteration of the marriage.

The second marriage contract, also drafted in Hebrew, stipulates the marriage of Moses del Gabay and the widow Solbella, daughter of Samuel Sarsalom, signed in Tudela on Friday 14th of Marheshwan 5247 (October 13th 1486). The bride provided a dowry in garments, jewels and trousseaus valued at 100 florins. In turn, the groom donated to her as a tosefet 10 florins and as a mohar a house in Cascante free of encumbrances and a vineyard, also in Cascante, with a tax to the church of Santa María of the same place of 16 sueldos per annum. In addition to the groom, the ketubah is signed by two witnesses: the notary of the aljama, Jacob de la Rebiza and Jacob Gormezano.

The ketubah (marriage contract)

The ketubah is the marriage contract. It is a document which, in the case of important people with great wealth, may contain very complex clauses.

This type of contract is drawn up for a patriarchal society in which the woman is brought up in an atmosphere of submission to men. The document states how the groom asks a young lady to be his wife and in compensation undertakes to «a serve her, honour her, keep her and support her». As well as mohar (payment in cash) for her virginity, he undertakes to pay. The commitment also includes maintenance, clothing and any other needs involved in marital life.

Medieval house on Dombriz street

Jewish house on Dombriz street

Between the New Jewish quarter and the Old Jewish quarter stop off on the way to discover at number 16 of the Dombriz cul-de-sac a high, narrow medieval house which seems to be a model followed at the time by many Jewish houses: broad eaves on the roofs protecting a brick structure with a wooden framework.

The house is dated in the 15th century and owing to the fact that its upper storeys jut out slightly more than half a metre from the door façade, it could have belonged to a Jewish family chronologically speaking if the Old Jewish quarter had existed in this place as well as on the castle hillsides.

Monument to the twinning with Tiberiades

Monument to the twinning with Tiberiades

Returning to San Miguel square, after going along part of Paseo del Castillo, where the humble nature of the district seems to remind us of the final moments of the Jews in Tudela, with a debilitated, impoverished aljama, the route leads to Salvador square where the monument to twinning between Tudela and Tiberiades is situated, a work by Beatriz Lasry donated by the Sephardi Community in Spain, bearing the words of Benjamín of Tudela:

Adiós río Ebro. Regresaré aunque sólo sea para morir en tus orillas.

From here Granados street, allowing us to see remains of the former medieval wall which defended Tudela, leads to Mercadal square, already outside the Jewish quarter, where the Castel-Ruiz is located, a former Jesuit convent with a beautiful cloister and some splendid wineries and, by its side, the Baroque church of San Jorge el Real. Before completing the journey it is worth walking a few metres along Pasaje street in an area of the city which again reminds us of the original cohabitation of Moslems and Jews before the Christian conquest and, finally, overlook Herrerías street, erected on the same moat which the Tudela had, on the other side of which the multi-coloured display of houses in the Moorish quarter closes the cycle of the three cultures.

New Jewish quarter

Guerreros street. Over time, the initial limits of the New Jewish quarter spill out onto the streets coming down perpendicularly from the current Paseo del Castillo

The creation of the New Jewish quarter of Tudela is linked to the name of Sancho VI the Wise who promoted the development of this new district which cohabited for a while with the previous one as from 1170 under the protection of the castle which dominated the city from the Santa Bárbara hill. The orography characterises the peculiar structure of the district, developed from the two parallel thoroughfares formed by San Miguel and Paseo del Castillo. Via Caldereros street and Guerreros street the route goes into the heart of the New Jewish quarter by means of steps and narrow roads which maintain the layout of the medieval district. Sotarraño street connects to San Miguel street in a popular district where the last spell in the lives of the Jews of Tudela was played out until their expulsion in 1498, six years after the decree of the Catholic Monarchs was signed.

Sancho VI the Wise allowed the Jews in 1170 to sell their houses and set up alongside the Castle in the New Jewish quarter which replaced the Vétula or old Jewish quarter. It is highly likely that said move was made very slowly and that for years until the plots of the new site had been prepared, both sites coexisted. In the middle of 1177 mention is made of the Jewish synagogue at its former plot when mentioning the boundaries of a purchase (aliam albolelcan que se tenet cun illa sinagoga iudeorum que fuit de Jacob Suabi medico). It would seem that in the first few years of the 13th century the move had to be made to the New Jewish quarter inside the citadel; at this time this was the only space of the topography of Tudela referring to where the Jews live as an organized community. This new district soon spilled over the fence of the Wall and extended round the mound until almost reaching the gates of the parish church of San Salvador, to the south, and via the east to the walls of the Moorish quarter in the direction of La Planilla.

Some illustrious families like the Abenpasat gained the privilege of remaining on the original plot of the Old Jewish quarter, now reduced to the immediate vicinity of Huerto del Rey street. Self-evidently, the simultaneous occupation of the two districts demonstrates the high population of this community, perhaps coinciding with the almost permanent presence of the King and his court in the capital of the Ribera.

With the passage of time and in more permissive situations, such as the reigns of the last Evreux (1350-1425), the Jewish quarter, as an inhabited space, gradually began to move towards the plots of Christians situated outside the castle such as the district of Aljuneyna – near the Church of San Miguel – and as far as the outskirts of the parish of San Pedro were houses of Jews are recorded since the early years of the 14th century. The references in the 15th century to the gates of the Jewish quarter could refer to those already in place inside the castle or to new openings in the new enclosure, outside the walls of the fortress. In any case, the limits of the Jewish district were very diffuse and imprecise. The gradual loss of members left many spacious empty which had previously belonged to the Jews and many of them were living amongst the Christians.

Old Jewish quarter

On the southern limit of the Old Jewish quarter the gate of the cathedral known as Portal or Peones. It was built in the early 12th century in Romanesque style

From San Jaime square neighbouring the cathedral, part of Merced street which leads to the Old Jewish quarter or Vétula Jewish quarter. The Jewish district occupied the south-eastern section of the walled site, in other words, the space falling between the plot which would later be occupied by the cathedral and the River Queiles with an exit to the south via the Zaragoza Gate. Its site would be furrowed by Rúa Mayor (main street) from which various winding alleys would depart. José Luis Lacave identified it in 1992 with the current San Julián street; and the surrounding streets would be: Verjas, Tornamiras, Horno de la Higuera, Merced, Hortelanos, Arbollones and Fuente del Obispo. Recent studies have shifted the site of the Vetula Jewish quarter to the environs of the current Juderia square in Miguel Servet, Huerto del Rey and Magallón streets.

An original building endowed with ceramic plates incorporated in its whitewashed façade, at the crossing with Tornamiras street it marks the start of the Jewish district which already existed at the time of the Moslem domination and whose limits were more clearly stipulated after the conquest of the city in 1119 by Alfonso I the Battler. The Aragonese King, who entered Tudela under an agreement, signed with the Moslems the Charter of Sobrarbe and with the Jews the Charter of Nájera, recognising its rights and properties and establishing the limits of the districts. The care and the didactic sense in naming the streets with beautiful tiling which illustrates the meaning of each name, allows the route to be followed via a sector which is notably medieval in nature, marked out by inns and restaurants and with a certain Bohemian atmosphere. On Merced street the Ezquerra Palace, dated 1690, has a magnificent coat-of-arms on its façade, finished at its base with the shell of the Way of St. James.

Recent studies situate the Vetula Jewish quarter in the environs of the current Juderia square on Miguel Servet, Huerto del Rey and Magallón streets.

Old synagogue

Entrance to the synagogue

Unique of its type as it is located in the same cloister of the cathedral, the Mudejar Chapel of Sant Dionís, also known as the Escuela de Cristo (School of Christ), has been identified as the main synagogue or Vétula synagogue of Tudela with classical morphology of the Jewish temples with its prayer room and gallery for women on the upper floor. Before going inside, in the cloister there is a permanent display of a series of panels explaining the origin and main rites of the three major religions which cohabited in Tudela for centuries: Moslem, Jewish and Christian. Inside the latticework of the high gallery provide a new reference to the Jewish rite which required women to follow the religious ceremony in the background and the decoration with slabs, in polychromated white, black and red, provides a direct link to the Almohad tradition of medieval Aragonese art; also worthy of note is the magnificent coffered ceiling which covers the nave and a menorah which presides over the central space of the temple in whose display stands there is a rich series of facsimile documents and books and utensils from Hebrew liturgy, along with a reproduction of the famous Kennicott Bible and examples of El Kuzari by Yehudá Ha-Leví or the Book of Journeys (Sefer Masaot) by Benjamín de Tudela, both represented in the room along with Abraham ibn Ezrá and his biographic profiles and portraits.

In 1992 José Luis Lacave and, more recently, Juan José Bienes have raised their doubts about the attribution of the synagogue to this place, particularly from a chronological viewpoint. According to the archaeologist, all the decoration is dated in the 14th century when the Jewish quarter was based on the castle hillsides as from 1170 and if both Jewish quarters had been maintained concurrently, the Christian religious power in the Middle Ages would never have allowed the existence of an element of Jewish worship in the outbuildings of what was then the Collegiate.

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.

Privilege to the Jews in the Municipal Historic Archive

Confirmation of privileges to the Jews of Tudela by King Francisco Febo in 1482. In Castilian Spanish

San Miguel square

San Miguel square

San Miguel square takes its name from the church which was dedicated to the archangel at this place and where one of the synagogues of the New Jewish quarter may have been located. In addition to the latter, the district may have incorporated a further two, the Mayor (Main) and Menor (Minor or Small synagogue) which have been attributed different locations. The weavers´ neighbourhood was traditionally located around the square. Pelaires street, on the eastern side of the square, connects to Paseo del Castillo which constitutes the oldest siting of the New Jewish quarter with its houses supported on the same defences of the fortress and at the foot of the hill, presided over by Corazón de Jesús which was erected on the ruins of the medieval castle. In the late 15th century a census in the city recorded 160 homes or dwellings, leading us to believe here was a population at that time of around seven hundred people.

The «manta» (roll) of Tudela

The «Manta de Tudela» at the old synagogue

At the synagogue there is a copy of the famous roll that the old Christians had put on display between 1610 and 1738 with the names of the converts from Tudela,

To conserve the cleanliness of the blood and be able to distinguish the quality of noble men.

In other words, so as to be able to take them off the manta (roll) where necessary.

By contrast, this did not rule out the long-standing resistance of the population to the Holy Office: in 1481 the city of Tudela refused to provide information about the murder in Saragossa of the inquisitor Pedro de Arbúes.From Córdoba, on May 4th 1486, the Catholic Monarchs a letter was written to Tudela ordering the handing over of any heretics arriving from Aragón to the inquisitors. The people of Tudela replied that any officer of the Inquisition who had the nerve to enter the city would be hurled into the river. Two years later, taking advantage of the Monarchs´ stay in Daroca, two commissioners from Tudela protested about the way the catholics submitted to the inquisitors so they would cancel the censorships against Tudela. They asked for the inquisitors not to interfere with the assets of the convicts and for their tasks to be limited to the absolution and penitence imposed. Although the monarchs accepted the proposal, the people of Tudela did not get on with the inquisitors and in 1510 its town hall commissioned the proxies in Courts to take from here this friar who says he is an inquisitor.

Tower of the Jewess

La Torre de la Judía (Tower of the Jewess)

This must have been of paramount importance in the medieval era as there are various documents which refer to it. It is now suspected that it is the same watchtower as that known as Torre del Campo de Navadebel (Field of Navadebel Tower).

It has traditionally been regarded as dating from the Moslem era, perhaps built in the 9th century with the fortification of Tudela by Amrús ben Yusuf. Notwithstanding, recently there is a tendency to think it has a Christian origin, probably from the 13th century.

Between 1998 and 1999 there was a systematic surveying of the district of Tudela by the Provincial Government within the programme of the Archaeological Inventory of Navarre.

On a small hill situated near the crossroads on Murchante road with that of Corella the work team identified the remains of a construction at its highest part. Its chronology is from the Early Middle Ages, brick walls and the remains of a paved floor as well as its position seemed to indicate that it was a small surveillance post. The work report indicated that it could belong to the so-called Torre de la Judía (Tower of the Jewess).

Yehudah Ha-Leví square

Floor tile plaque with words by Yehuda-Ha-Leví situated in the square

Yehudah ha-Leví

Yehuda Ha Leví (1070-1141) is the prince of Hebrew-Al-Andalus poets according to a phrase by Menéndez Pidal. He was adept at all kinds of poetic genres: panegyrics, poems of friendship and love, nuptial poetry, moaxajas, elegies etc. His friendly nature would bring him the friendship of the most illustrious men of letters of Jewish-Span9sh society with whom he exchanged letter poems. Abraham ibn Ezrá could have been his co-father-in-law.

His poetry features his Messianic hopes and the idea that the redemption of the Jewish people involved their return to the promised land:

My heart is in the East whilst I live
in the far West.

With the passage of time his work tended towards philosophy and the apology of Judaism. The Kuzari is regarded as a vital work. Written in the form of a dialogue in Arab, it was translated into Hebrew and in the 17th century to Castilian Spanish. From the Kabbalist circles and anti-rationalists it becomes the reference work for the national consciousness of the Jewish people in exile.

In 1141, nearing seventy, after living in Córdoba for a few years, he died on the way to Alexandria and we are unaware whether he managed to reach Jerusalem.