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Encyclopedia Judaica:
Burgos, Spain


Spain: Virtual Jewish World | Malaga | Toledo


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BURGOS, city in Spain, formerly capital of Old Castile. Information about Jewish settlement in the neighborhood of Burgos dates from 974, and in Burgos itself from the 11th century. The Jews then resided close to the citadel of Burgos, while in the 12th century they moved to the fortified enclosure of the castle. It was here that the emissaries of the Cid raised a loan

Jewish centers of population in the diocese and province of Burgos at the period of maximum settlement, before 1492. Sefarad, vol. 8, 1948. Jewish centers of population in the diocese and province of Burgos at the period of maximum settlement, before 1492. Sefarad, vol. 8, 1948.

from certain Jews to finance his campaigns. In 1200 a Burgos Jew was acting as almoxarife (collector of revenues) and Todros b. Meir *Abulafia , also connected with the court, lived there too.

During the 13th century the Burgos community became the largest Jewish center in north Castile, and together with Toledo the most flourishing Jewish cultural center. The literary sources indicate clearly that Burgos was a very lively and productive seat of Jewish learning. Some of the greatest Jewish scholars of 13th century Castile came from Burgos. These include R. Meir Halevi *Abulafia , R. Todros ben Joseph Halevi *Abulafia , the poet Todros Halevi *Abulafia , and others. The large number of Hebrew manuscripts written in Burgos indicate clearly the prominent place the Jews of Burgos played in Jewish culture in Castile. Future generations referred again and again to the very precise manuscripts produced in Burgos. Burgos also occupies a major position in Hebrew book illumination. The question of the relationship between Burgos and Toledo poses no problem. Many of the great scholars whom we find in Toledo began their careers in Burgos. This should in no way mislead us into thinking of the Burgos Jewish center as a center of secondary importance. Quite the contrary, Burgos should be seen as part of the foundation of the Jewish scholarship that developed in Toledo in the 13th century and as a necessary and vital stage before Toledo reached the peak of its cultural efflorescence. Some 120–150 families lived there at the end of the century, occupied as merchants, tax farmers, and physicians, and owning real estate and vineyards. During the reign of Ferdinand III (1217–1252) they paid a regular tax of 30 denarii to Burgos cathedral, and from 1282 also a tithe to the Church. The rabbis of Burgos appointed the administrative officers (muqaddimin) of the Sahagun community, a day's journey distant, and the bet din of Burgos also served Sahagun. The non-Jewish authorities assisted in enforcing adherence to Jewish observances by the community when necessary, and sometimes imposed fines on offenders. In the second half of the 13th century the kabbalist R. Moses b. Solomon b. Simeon, a disciple of R. Jacob ha-Kohen, was living in Burgos, while many kabbalists were to be found in the small towns of the vicinity. Some of the important kabbalists of the second half of 13th century in Castile were born in Burgos, lived there, or stayed there for a while. In 1325 Alfonso XI bestowed an annual grant of 4,000 maravedis on the convent of Santa Maria la Real, out of the yearly tax paid by Burgos Jewry; the grant was subsequently increased by a further 1,000 maravedis from the same source.

During the civil war for the crown of Castile (1366–68) the city supported Pedro. When Henry captured Burgos he exacted a sum of one million gold maravedis from the Jews; to meet this demand the community was forced to sell the crowns and ornaments on all the Torah scrolls, except the celebrated "scroll of Ezra the Scribe." In addition Henry declared a moratorium on Jewish loans to Christians, ruining the Jewish creditors. When Henry was forced to leave Castile, Burgos again passed to Pedro, and on Henry's second entry he was attacked from the Jewish quarter and the fortress, which only surrendered after the walls had been destroyed. In 1379 new restrictions were enforced and Jewish trading outside the Judería was prohibited.

During the persecutions of 1391, the Jews of Burgos took refuge in the houses of the Christian merchants. A small number were martyred. Some were baptized and later settled in a special quarter for Conversos. The best known convert from Burgos was its rabbi, Solomon Halevi, who assumed the name *Pablo de Santa María and the position of the bishop of Burgos. He joined several other converts on the Iberian peninsula who led the campaign against the Jews. In 1414 many Jews became converted through the activities of Vicente *Ferrer . During the 1440s only 23 heads of families are recorded as liable to pay tax. Several Jews are known to have practiced as physicians in the 1450s and 1460s. In 1485 the Jews of Burgos and district paid 56½ castellanos toward the cost of the war with the Moors in Granada, and both Jews and Moors were forbidden to engage in commerce, ostensibly in order to keep prices low. Toward the end of the 1480s even more severe restrictions were imposed on the Jewish residents, until the municipality was directed by the crown to alleviate their condition. The majority of the Jews of Burgos adopted Christianity after the Edict of Expulsion of 1492; those who remained in the faith left, presumably for Portugal. The Conversos in Burgos adapted themselves to Christianity, and few were tried by the *Inquisition .

 


BIBLIOGRAPHY:

Baer, Urkunden, 2 (1936), index; Baer, Spain, 2 (1966), index; P. Luciano Serrano, Los Reyes Católicos y la ciudad de Burgos (1943), 187ff., 209, 255; F. Cantera, Alvar Garcia de Santa Maria (1952); idem, in: Sefarad, 6 (1946), 135ff.; 12 (1952), 59–104; 18 (1958), 99–108; N. González, Burgos la ciudad marginal de Castilla (1958), 116–21; Suárez-Fernández, Documentos, index; P. León Tello, in: Instituto Tello Téllez de Meneses, 25 (1966), index; Roth, Dark Ages, 364, 368, 374. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: G. Sed-Rajna, in: Journal of Jewish Art, 2 (1975), 6–21; L.V. Díaz Martín, "Estructura social," in: Á. Montenegro Duque and S. Nebreda Pérez (eds.), Historia de Burgos, 2:1 (1985– ), 247–93 (on the Jews, pp. 282–93); V. de la Cruz, ibid., 2:2, 387–432 (on Halevi fam. Santa María, etc., pp. 422–32)

[Zvi Avneri / Yom Tov Assis (2nd ed.)]


Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.

 

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