La pràctica del lloguer de bèsties entre els jueus targarins a la fi del segle XV


  • Josep-Xavier Muntané i Santiveri


Allowing for obvious changes with regard to form, although perhaps less significant changes with regard to content, one of the usual items of expenditure in medieval towns and villages which has survived to our own day was the hiring of beasts of burden that either the local officials or private individuals appointed by them used in order to travel on business outside the municipal boundaries. In the medieval town of Tàrrega, regular comings and goings between the town itself and various parts of Catalonia on the authority of the municipal council was common practice. Among the delivery notes from the period that have survived to this day, under the heading “lloguer de besties” (animal hire) several entries contain specific details of the sums of money paid by the council to the owners of animals thus used. In some documents dating from the end of the 15th century, members of the Jewish community are listed alongside Christians suppliers of animals.

In the country, on those occasions when more than one animal was needed for work in the fields, it was customary for the poorer peasant farmers to lend each other their animals. Ownership of several animals was restricted to the financially better off. So, who were the Tàrrega Jews who, in the years immediately before their expulsion, were able to earn enough money to be in a position to hire out their animals to the local council as a means of transport? One of the columns in the table contained in the Appendix lists the names of Jewish animal owners from whom the town council hired animals. Although it is almost impossible on the basis of the data available today to restore the missing name and identify with absolute certainty the six individuals in question, the author attempts to provide the maximum biographical detail concerning each of the animal owners.

The sums of money paid varied from year to year and even, occasionally, within a given year, the minimum amount being one solidus and three denarii per day and the maximum being two solidi per day, as shown in the table corresponding to the years 1480-1489. A comparison of these figures with the amounts paid to Christians in Tàrrega for the same service reveals that there was no appreciable difference between payments to Christian and Jewish for the hire of animals, as demonstrated by the above-mentioned documents. With one or two exceptions, there was no difference in the sum paid, irrespective of the type of animal hired, whether mule, ass or nag.

Most of the documents also give the name of the person to whom the town council had entrusted the out-of-town business. On two occasions, it is stated that the emissary is a Tàrrega Jew. One of these official errands on behalf of the town council was in connection with an affair involving a local Jew: at the beginning of November, 1484, one Bellsom was assaulted and robbed as he was going along the road; soon afterwards, it came to the attention of the Tàrrega town council that the thief responsible was being held prisoner in Sant Cugat. Since the Tàrrega authorities wished to try the thief in the municipality, it took steps to ensure that the prisoner be transferred “swiftly and without delay” to Tàrrega.