Catalan Historical Review, No 2 (2009)

Some clarifications on several aspects of the history of Jews in Medieval Catalonia

Eduard Feliu i Mabres

Abstract


The settling of Jews in the Catalan Countries is prior to the year 1000. In the 12th and 13th centuries many Jews acted as
administrators and financiers at the service of the Catalan kings, as well as emissaries to the Moslem governments. In the
13th century Jewish communities spread over a great number of Catalan towns where they devoted themselves intensely
to crafts and commercial activities.
At that time the Hebrew denomination of Sepharad indicated the Moslem lands; it never included Catalonia, which
formed a political, linguistic and cultural continuum with the Provençal territories. The modern denomination sephardim
is, therefore, anachronical when it refers to the times preceding the 1492 expulsion.
Jews, considered from antiquity as a separate ethno-religious group, were allowed to apply their own laws in questions
concerning private rights, as well as to teach the Hebrew language and culture, although they always used Catalan as their
spoken language. Catalonia gave birth to eminent figures of the medieval Hebraic culture: Judah ben Barzillai, Abraham
ben Hasday, Solomon ben Adret and Hasday Cresques, from Barcelona; Nissim ben Reuben and Moses ben Nahman,
from Girona; Isaac ben Sheshet Perfet, from Barcelona but living in València; Simeon ben Tsemah Duran from Majorca;
and Menahem ha-Meiri, from Perpinyà.

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ISSN: 2013-4088 (electronic edition); 2013-407X (print edition)