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SALAMANCA, city in western Spain. The Jewish settlement of Salamanca seems to have been one of the oldest in the kingdom. From its start at the time of Christian rule, the Jewish quarter was close to the old citadel. The first documents mentioning Jews in Salamanca date back to the end of the 12th century. In the Fuero granted to the city by Fernando II, the Jews enjoyed judicial equality with the Christians. Following the death of Alfonso IX of León, the Jews of Salamanca were severely attacked but soon recovered, and the community became one of the strongest and most prosperous in the area. In the middle of the 13th century a barrio de iudeis is mentioned. Later the quarter was called iuderia. In the second half of the 13th century three synagogues are mentioned: the vieja (old), the menor (small), and the nueva (new). At that time many of the streets in the Jewish quarter were well known; one of the synagogues was situated in that leading down to Calle Postigo Ciego, where the Jewish shops and workshops of the Jews were located. At the beginning of the 13th century the city was granted a charter (fuero) which included important sections relevant to the local Jews, and full rights of protection and justice equal to those of the other natives of Salamanca, Christians and Moors. At each feast of the nativity the Jews of Salamanca had to pay 15 gold pieces to the crown. The charter also regulated several matters regarding the slaughter of kasher meat and its sale in the town and Jewish quarter. In 1285 the community was made to pay 1,800 maravedis as a special war tax. At that time there were some 300 to 500 Jews in Salamanca. The Jews were merchants, moneylenders, physicians, shoemakers, and parchment makers.

From the 14th century several resolutions of the town council regarding the affairs of its Jews are known. In 1335 the council forbade Christians to receive medical aid from Jew or Moor; it was forbidden for Jewish or Moorish wet nurses to tend Christian children; Christians were forbidden to serve in Jewish houses; Jews and Moors were forbidden to rent houses in the neighborhood of the Christian churches and cemeteries. Four years later (1339) *Alfonso XI confirmed the privilege of the Jews of the town, dispensing them from appearing before Christian judges, lay or ecclesiastic, in matters concerning the collection of debts owed them by Christians, though, in principle, they had to be judged by Christian judges in mixed lawsuits. Toward the end of the 14th century R. Menahem b. Ḥayyim he-Arukh (d. 1425) was active as rabbi of the community. He approached *Isaac b. Sheshet Perfet (Responsum 251) in regard to the sentencing of two murderers who attacked a member of the community under orders from the alcalde (mayor) of the town. Isaac b. Sheshet permitted him to sentence them to death and execute them, but at the same time pointed out that the whole affair belonged to the jurisdiction of the king. In 1389 the Jews requested permission to erect a new synagogue, as one of their synagogues had been confiscated.

The sparing of the community of Salamanca during the persecutions in 1391 was accomplished by Vicente *Ferrer, who came to the town and preached in its synagogues in 1411–12. He succeeded in persuading many to convert, and one of the synagogues was turned into a school named "The True Cross." In 1413 Juan II conferred upon the University of Salamanca the bet midrash with its courts and all that belonged to it, most of the community having left Judaism by then. In place of the bet midrash, a hostel for pupils of the university was set up.

It would appear that the community recovered in the course of the 15th century. Yet instead of the yearly tax of 14,740 maravedis in the old coinage, it only paid the sum of 1,200 maravedis in 1439. In 1456 the community was accused of murdering a Christian child (Joseph ha-Kohen, Emek ha-Bakha (1895), 93). However, Henry V intervened in time, and the Jews of the town were saved from the danger. Abraham b. Samuel *Zacuto, who was born there, was engaged in 1480 in astronomical work by the bishop of Salamanca. His Sefer Yuḥasin is the most important chronicle written by a Jew from Sefarad.

In 1490 the community participated in the sum of 208,600 maravedis toward the redemption of the Jewish captives of *Málaga. When preparing to fulfill the order of expulsion, the community sold its synagogues and cemeteries. But on June 25 the crown forbade the sale or purchase of all congregational property. On July 30 the old synagogue was handed over to the head of the Church in the town, and he converted it into a residence. Abraham *Seneor, together with Luis de Alcalá, received the right to collect the debts which the Jews left behind. There were many Conversos in Salamanca, and there is also knowledge of Conversos who went there in order to revert to Judaism. On Oct. 25, 1490, theologians and jurists gathered there at the instigation of the monk Fernando de Santo Domingo to hold a consulta de fé in the matter of the child *La Guardia. Upon the expulsion, the Jews of Salamanca crossed the border to Portugal near Ciudad Real. Even after the expulsion the University of Salamanca continued to be a center for Hebrew studies, and in the 16th century some of the best intellects of Spain were concentrated in it.

The Jewish quarter in Salamanca, which was in the southwest of the city, was not exclusively inhabited by Jews, some of whom lived outside it.


Baer, Spain, index; Baer, Urkunden, index; L. Serrano y Sanz, Origenes de la dominación española en América, 1 (1918), 68; M. de la Pinta Llorente, Proceso criminal contra el hebraista salmantino Martin Martinez de Cantalapiedra (1946); F. Cantera, El Judio salmantino Abraham Zacut (1931); idem, Abraham Zacut (1935); idem, Sinagogas españolas (1955), 271–82 and bibliography; Cantera-Millás, Inscripciones, 331–2; Suárez Fernández, index. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: C. Carrete Parrondo, Fontes iudaeorum regni Castilla, I, Provincia d Salamanca, (1981); idem, Hebraístas judeoconversos en la Universidad de Salamanca (siglos XV–XVI), (1983); F. Ferrero, in: Elpasado histórico de castilla y León, Actas del I Congreso de Historia de Castilla y León, 1 (1983), 401–18; M.F. García Casar, El pasado judío de Salamanca, (1987); idem, in: Las tres culturas en la Corona de Castilla y los Sefardíes, (1990), 59–64.

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