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TARRAGONA, Mediterranean port in Catalonia, N.E. Spain. The Jewish settlement there was of ancient date; Jews apparently established themselves in the harbor town during the Roman era. A laver discovered there bearing the inscription "Peace over Israel, over ourselves, and our children" probably belongs to this period. Coins with Hebrew inscriptions also testify to the existence of a Jewish settlement under the Visigoths. During the period of Arab rule, Jews in Tarragona engaged in commerce and agriculture, and some owned lands and properties. Apparently for this reason it was known as a "Jewish city" (al-Idrisi, 1152). In 850, the Jews of Tarragona aided the Arabs in the capture of Barcelona, but it was later reconquered for the Christians by Ramón Berenguer. Tarragona passed to Christian rule in the 11th century. Its proximity to *Tortosa must have influenced the size of the Jewish population in Tarragona since a number of Jews had already moved to Tortosa under Arab rule.

Jewish Quarter

Most of the Jewish population lived in the upper town which was surrounded by a wall, to the northeast of the present built-up area. In the course of time, the quarter was transferred to the southern part of the town, to the streets now called En Granada, and En Talavera, including some of the alleys in this area, and the square now known as Plaza de los Angeles. The square of the Jewish quarter is in the central part of En Tala-vera. This district was recently restored. In 1239 there were 95 houses in the quarter. Deeds of sale drawn up in Hebrew for lands situated in the "Quarter of Israel" near the city wall, and for lands and houses beyond the wall, have been preserved. On the road known as dels Fortins in the vicinity of the "Beach of the Miracles" (Playa de los Milagros), a Jewish cemetery existed for many generations; several of its tombstones have been preserved from the 13th to 14th centuries. Apparently the stone of a washing well which was probably situated in the courtyard of the synagogue should also be attributed to this period; it bore the inscription: "He brought streams out of the rock [cf. Ps. 78:16] to minister in the sanctuary [cf. Ezek. 44:27]." A unique seal for endorsing the kashrut of maẓẓot shemurot was discovered in the neighborhood of Tarragona.

After the Reconquest

In Tarragona, as in other places of Catalonia, Jews held the position of bailiff (Vidal bar Judah, 1187; Bonafos bar Judah, 1192); several deeds of sale bearing their signatures are extant. In 1235 delegates of the Church convened in Tarragona to discuss the interest rates charged by Jewish moneylenders. At this convention the rates which had been fixed in 1228 (20%) were ratified, but Christians were still authorized to take an interest rate of 12%. Any Jew who disobeyed this order was to be condemned to servitude and confiscation of his property. It was then also decided that any Jew who adopted Islam would be condemned to servitude for life; the same sentence would be applied to a Muslim who adopted Judaism. This anti-Jewish policy is also expressed in a bull which Benito de Rocaberti, archbishop of Tarragona, obtained from Pope Urban IV in which the Jews were ordered to wear a *badge to distinguish them from Christians. On frescoes in the cathedral of Tarragona paintings are found in which Jews are distinguished from the other personalities by a white circular sign. In 1267 Pope Clement IV ordered the archbishop of Tarragona to collect the books of the Jews throughout the kingdom of Aragon and to hand them over to the Dominicans and Franciscans; Pablo *Christiani was proposed as his assistant in this activity.

In its relations with the monarchy, the community of Tarragona obtained from James I in 1260 an exemption from the obligation to accommodate the royal house and to provide it with linen and other objects at the time of his visit to the city. The king even authorized the community to close the gates of its quarter. In taxation matters, Tarragona belonged to the collecta of Barcelona; the regulations by which the community was governed were also modeled on those of Barcelona (Solomon b. Abraham Adret, Responsa, pt. 3, no. 411).

In 1313 the archbishop of Tarragona and the inquisitor Juan Llotger issued a decree ordering that Jews of Tarragona and Montblanch who had been involved in assisting proselytes and Conversos to return to Judaism should have their properties confiscated and be banished for life from the kingdom. However, the expulsion order was limited by James II to the region of Tarragona. The order was issued against ten Jews. A heavy fine was imposed on the community and one of its synagogues was confiscated and converted into a church. Even Jews who had been forcibly converted at the time of the *Pastoureaux persecutions (1320–21) and later returned to Judaism were called to account by the *Inquisition. Many of them fled, while others were condemned to death and their houses to be destroyed by fire. The king, however, ordered an alleviation of their punishment; he fined them and permitted their heirs to redeem their confiscated property for a sum of 15,000 sólidos.

In the persecutions which followed in the wake of the *Black Death in 1348, 300 Jews of Tarragona and neighboring Solsona were massacred. The Jews of the town were nevertheless ordered to pay 150 sólidos in Barcelona currency to the royal treasury. In 1363 Pedro IV demanded a further 1,000 livres in Barcelona currency. Despite this grave situation, a Jew was still holding the position of municipal physician in 1374. In 1388 King John I of Aragon granted the community of Tarragona the same rights as those of Barcelona.

The 1391 Persecutions and Subsequent Period

Shortly before the outbreak of the anti-Jewish persecutions which swept Spain in 1391, the archbishop of Tarragona instituted legal proceedings against a number of works of *Maimonides "because it is said that certain errors against the Christian faith had been found in them." When the persecutions broke out, the Jews of Tarragona took refuge in the citadel in fear of attack by the rioters. They addressed a letter of appeal to the king, asking for his protection, and John I notified the community (July 24) that he had placed them under special protection of the archbishop, the royal officials, and the municipality, and ordered that rioters and agitators be tried and condemned as rebels against the royal authority. On September 22, however, he commanded the vicarius of Tarragona to gather information on the heirless Jewish property which had remained after the disorders and to transfer it to him. He expressed a particular interest in the property of those who had been martyred and the property of the community.

After the persecutions, measures were taken to reestablish the Jewish settlement in Tarragona. Queen Violante promised the Jews "who lived there or who would settle there in the future" a tax exemption for a duration of five years (Aug. 13, 1393). On October 27 she authorized the Jews who had settled there to raise funds in other communities for the erection of a synagogue, the purchase of a Torah scroll and other books, and for the redemption of the cemetery.

During the second half of the 15th century – a difficult period for the Jews of Aragon, as for the whole of Spanish Jewry – Isaac *Arama held rabbinical office in Tarragona. He maintained a yeshivah and fostered observance of the precepts within the community. At the time of the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492 Tarragona was a port of embarkation for the exiles from the kingdom of Aragon.


MUSLIM PERIOD: B. Hernández Sanahuja, Tarragona bajo el poder de los árabes (1882). CHRISTIAN PERIOD: Baer, Spain, index; Baer, Urkunden, index; Neuman, Spain, index; H.C. Lea, A History of the Inquisition of Spain, I (1906), 553; J.M. Millás Vallicrosa, Documents hebraics de Jueus Catalans (1927), 7ff; J. Sánchez Real, Boletín Arqueológico de Tarragona, 49 (1949), 15–39; idem, in: Se-farad, 9 (1949), 476ff. (includes plan of the quarters); 11 (1951), 339–48; F. Cantera-Burgos, ibid., 15 (1955), 151–4; J.M. Millás Vallicrosa, ibid., 26 (1966), 103–6; Cantera-Millás, Inscripciones, 264ff., 350ff.

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