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LÉRIDA (Lleida, Ilerda), city in Spain on the border between Catalonia and Aragon. In the Muslim period, the Jews of Lérida maintained close contact with those in nearby Barcelona. Their major occupation was tanning, as attested by various documents, but there were several wealthy merchants and a few farmers. The Jewish quarter, dating from the 11th century, was located to the west of the city in a place called Cuiraça. A street still called Judería, located above the quarter, attests to its subsequent expansion. Following the conquest of the city in 1149, the community began to grow.

The Order of Knights Templar had many interests in Lérida and its vicinity, and Jews were connected with its activities. In 1168, the bailiff of Lérida, a Jew named Jafia, was granted several properties in the city. In 1172 his son David was given a workshop and a house near the king's palace in the city. In 1175 Jafia mortgaged a wine cellar he owned in the Jewish quarter and a vineyard to the Templars of Gardeny near Lérida. In 1173 one of the synagogues was converted into a church. Profet Benvenist, the king's alfaquim, also owned property in Lérida, including a house in the Muslim quarter (1189). Deeds of sale of houses, gardens, and vineyards owned by Jews, dating from the beginning of the 13th century, have been preserved. One of them mentions a Jew named Abraym Cavalaria of Lérida but it is not known whether he was related to the well-known *Cavaleria family. In addition to his other offices, Benveniste de Porta was bailiff of Lérida. In the controversy over *Maimonides' writings, the Lérida community joined in the ban imposed on *Solomon of Montpellier and his followers in 1232 by the communities of Aragon. Some Jews from Lérida settled in Valencia after the capture of the city in 1238. In 1271 James I appointed a certain Nasi Ḥasdai as rabbi and dayyan of the Lérida community. He was authorized to adjudicate all disputes between Jews according to Jewish law in consultation with two of the elders who were bound to accept the rabbi's summons to sit in court. The appointment was unique in Catalonia, similar instances being found only in Castile. The taxes levied upon the community of Lérida amounted to about 5,000 sólidos in 1271, and 3,000 sólidos in 1274. The community was headed by *muqaddimūm or adelantados, a council, and magistrates (borerim). The muqaddimūm appointed their own successors in office.

In the 14th century the community became the third largest in Catalonia, after Barcelona and Gerona, with about 500 members. At the beginning of the century several *Conversos returned to Judaism in Lérida, among them a convert from Belmont near Toulouse who was apprehended in 1317 and tried by the Inquisition in Toulouse. Jews from Lérida were among those who went to bury the victims of the *Pastoureaux massacres in *Montclus in 1320, and were accused of demolishing a bridge and cutting down trees there, but were pardoned the same year on payment of a large sum to the crown. During the massacres accompanying the *Black Death in 1348, the community found refuge in the citadel. In 1350 they had to pay 350 Barcelona sólidos to the official appointed for their protection. An agreement between the community and the municipal authorities concerning the import of wine was ratified by Pedro IV in 1353; the document, in which the community undertook not to bring imported wine into the city, contains a long list of the communal leaders. Two Jews from Lérida were accused in 1383 of desecrating the *Host, and the count of Urgel was ordered by the king to investigate the charges.

During the persecutions of 1391, the community was severely hit, a number of Jews took refuge in the citadel, and 78 were massacred. Most of the survivors were baptized. The Jewish quarter was destroyed and the synagogue was converted into a church. The king ordered that measures should be taken to punish the rioters and protect the Jews. In 1400 King Martin gave permission to the survivors to take steps to rehabilitate the community. Newcomers were granted a reduction of taxes and released from their debts, and Jews from other communities were permitted to settle in the city after they had settled their taxes. If their former communities refused to allow them to settle there, the municipal authorities of Lérida would guarantee the payment of their liabilities through mortgages and assist in moving the newcomers. In addition, an electoral procedure was established in which the rights of the newcomers were safeguarded. Stringent measures were passed against *informers. The community was allowed to impose indirect taxes, and its members were permitted to live in other parts of the city until the Cuiraça district had been reconstructed. In 1408 King Martin ordered that the synagogue, which had been converted into a church, should be restored and also provided for the election of two muqaddimūm and nine councillors and regulated their authority. An agreement was concluded in 1410 between the city authorities and the community concerning the latter's status and activities. In 1421 Queen Maria wrote to the municipal authorities concerning the establishment of a new community in Lérida. John II granted the community a number of patents of protection and alleviated certain of the restrictions imposed before 1459 on some occupations. In 1490 a district tribunal of the Inquisition was established in Lérida which included Huesca and Urgel within its jurisdiction. An unsuccessful attempt was made to murder the inquisitor in 1514.

The Jewish quarter in Lérida, the Cuiraça or Coiraza, was in the fortified part of the city, in the old parish of San Andrés. It included San Cristófol Street and the Plaça Seminari, and Judería and Seminari streets. The Jewish cemetery was on the left side of the current Balmes Street. Ever since the 18th century tombstones and human remains have been found in the area covered by the streets Vallcalent, Ciutat de Fraga, Joan Baiget, and Missions square. In this area a ring with the female name Goig in Hebrew was found in 1870.


J. Pleyan de Porta, Apuntes de Historia de Lérida (1873), 135ff., 172, 400; H.C. Lea, History of the Spanish Inquisition, 1 (1907), 549; Baer, Urkunden, index; F. Mateu y Llopis, in: Hispania, 2 (1942), 407–37; J. Llandoza, La "Cuiraça" y la judería leridana (1951), 110ff.; Simón de Gilleuma, in: Sefarad, 18 (1958), 83–97; A. López de Meneses, ibid., 19 (1959), 101; D. Romano, ibid., 20 (1960), 50–65; Baer, Spain, index; Ashtor, Korot, 2 (1966), 174–6. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: F. Lara Peinado, in: Ilerda, 31 (1971), 17–24; D. Romano, in: Sefarad, 35 (1975), 158; P. Bertran i Roigé, in: Sefarad (1981), 114–20; R. Pita Mercé, La societat jueva en els calls lleidatans, (1978); idem, in: Ilerda, 43 (1982), 445–55; G. Secall i Guéll, in: Ilerda, 46 (1985), 273–88.

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.