PERPIGNAN, city in S. France, near the Spanish border. Formerly the capital of the counts of *Roussillon, in 1172 it passed to the kings of Aragon. The earliest mention of Jews in Perpignan dates from 1185; they are said to have owned real estate around this time. Toward the middle of the 13th century, King James I of Aragon offered the Jews of Perpignan land to settle which they would own in freehold. Endeavoring to attract Jews from France, he granted those of Perpignan a number of privileges and exempted them from the payment of various indirect taxes and tolls (1269). Autonomy in civil law was also granted. In 1271 the annual tax of the community amounted to 15,000 sólidos in Barcelona currency. Noteworthy among the scholars of Perpignan were R. Menahem b. Solomon *Meiri and R. Abraham *Bedersi, pupil of Joseph *Ezobi. In response to R. Abraham's petition (1274), the king granted the community a privilege to protect them against the threats of *informers. He renewed it in 1275, also forbidding the clergy to expel the Jews or summon them before the Church tribunal. At that time the community leadership consisted of 20 to 28 counselors who were appointed for life. Infante John authorized them to convene and issue regulations, appoint procurators and other communal officials, to enforce obedience to the regulations within the community, and to punish offenders.
Some members of the community engaged in maritime commerce (in partnership with Jewish merchants of *Barcelona, *Seville, and other places); others were local merchants; an appreciable number practiced moneylending (including several of the community's trustees). Most important of the crafts was the textile industry, but there were also several silversmiths during the 14th century.
When the Kingdom of *Majorca was created after the death of James I and the seat of the monarchy established in Perpignan, the government began to oppress the local Jewish community. From the close of the century, a series of decrees were issued which sought to restrict relations between Jews and Christians; the Jews were ordered to wear special dress (1314). Restrictive decrees issued for the Kingdom of Majorca were also applied in Perpignan. A poll tax was imposed and around 1317 the king of Majorca seized the promissory notes of the Jews. There is no doubt that living conditions in Perpignan were influenced by the presence of the royal court in the town and the Jews were particularly conscious of the severity of the crown's persecution of the Jews of the kingdom. During the *Pastoureaux persecutions (1320), copies of the Talmud found in the town were burnt. Conditions improved during the reign of Pedro IV. In 1347 he appointed his physician Maestre Crescas as a trustee of the community so as to prevent any inequalities in the financial and tax administration.
At the time of the *Black Death (1348–49) several of the community's notables converted in order to escape persecution. In 1363 Perpignan contributed toward the levy of 10,000 livres in Barcelona currency imposed to further the war against Castile. When the vessel containing the Host was stolen from a church and pledged with a Jew, the infante ordered the bailiff to conduct an inquiry in order to prevent an attack on the Jewish quarter (1367). On June 29, 1370, anti-Jewish riots broke out in Perpignan and the king appointed a procurator to investigate the damage.
During the 1360s and 1370s, Perpignan became renowned as a center of astronomers. The astronomical tables prepared by Jacob b. David Yom Tov were translated into Catalan there in 1361. In 1372 Crescas David was made physician to the king and a year later Bonet Maimon of Perpignan was appointed to the same office. The rabbis of this period included Samuel Carcossa, who was invited to Barcelona for debates with the rabbis of Aragon and Catalonia. In 1372 the king authorized the Jews of Perpignan to travel to France on business, and in 1377 protection was also granted to Jews who came to trade in Roussillon and Cerdagne from the exterior. In 1383 Pedro gave the community of Perpignan a privilege which prohibited apostates from entering the Jewish quarter in order to engage in disputes on religious questions. He also granted it permission to try informers. Anti-Jewish riots broke out on Aug. 17, 1391. During their course the Jews were given refuge in the fortress, while the inhabitants looted Jewish property. When representatives of the town demanded the conversion of the Jews, the king replied that forced conversion was prohibited. He nevertheless forbade the Jews to leave Perpignan, where refugees from other parts of Catalonia had also arrived. On September 22 John I ordered the bailiff to draw up a list of property to which there were no heirs, especially that of Jews who had been martyred. On December 19 he ordered the Jews who were in the fortress to return to their homes and decreed that they were not to be molested or forced to accept baptism. The Jews of Perpignan undertook not to leave the country and in practice continued to live in the fortress until 1394.
Although the community was declining, at the beginning of the 14th century there were still 200–250 families living there, but it had lost its importance and most of the members were poor. In 1408 King Martin ratified the administrative arrangements for the election of trustees. Christians were forbidden to interfere in the affairs of the community and extensive rights were given to the trustees. In 1412 Pope *Benedict XIII wrote to the community of Perpignan on the subject of the propagation of Christianity among the Jews, writing his instructions in Hebrew so as to leave no doubt about his intentions. The community was called upon to send two delegates to a disputation
The Papal *Inquisition was active in Perpignan at the close of the 14th century. In 1346 a *Converso, Johanan David, a butcher by trade, was condemned to the stake. Many others were condemned during the 1420s and 1440s. After the Spanish Inquisition had been set up, 22 Conversos were sent to the stake in 1485. The French Army led by Louis XI and Charles VIII invaded Roussillon in 1462 and conquered Perpignan in 1475. Following the edict of expulsion from Spain (1492), a number of Jews sought refuge in Perpignan, then under Charles VIII of France; but an expulsion decree was issued against the Jews of the town in September 1493. The remnants of the large community, 39 families, sailed from Marseilles to Naples and from there to Constantinople.
At the beginning of the 20th century, there were several Jewish families living in Perpignan.
R.W. Emery, Jews of Perpignan in the Thirteenth Century (1959), includes documents: 134–95; Baer, Spain, index; Baer, Studien, 142f.; Baer, Urkunden, 1 (1929), index; I. Loeb, in: REJ, 14 (1887), 55ff.; P. Vidal, ibid., 15 (1887), 19–55; 16 (1888), 1–23, 170–203; J. Miret i Sans, Itinerari de Jaume I "El Conqueridor" (1918); J.E. Martínez Fernando, in: Analecta Sacra Tarraconensia, 26 (1953), 94–95; A. López de Meneses, in: Sefarad, 14 (1954), 108, 275, 283, 285; J.M. Millás Vallicrosa, ibid., 19 (1959), 365ff.; F. Vendrell de Millás, ibid., 20 (1962), 331f.; A. Pons, in: Hispania, 79 (1960), 209ff.
Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.