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C. 1131 - 1209 SHESHET BEN ISAAC BENVENISTE, aka "Perfect de Pratis " (France -Spain)

Physician, adviser and poet; grandson of Sheshet ha-Nasi of Barcelona. He served the kings of Aragon Alfonso II as well as the count of Barcelona Pedro II as physician, translator into Arabic, political adviser, and diplomatic envoy. He also wrote texts on medical subjects.

1279 April 19, PEDRO III (Aragon)

Following the pronouncement of Nicholas III's bull of 1278, he ordered all Jews to attend conversion sermons in the synagogues. This soon led to excess’ on the part of local mobs led by church officials. In order to keep order he banned anti - Jewish demonstrations. Pedro (1239-1285 ) on one hand appointed Jews to his administration, yet on the other slowly gave in to the rising tide of religious fanaticism within the church. By 1283 there were new incidents of anti-Jewish legislation throughout the kingdom. With his death, the position of Jews in service to the king was more or less, a thing of the past.

1300 - 1350 SANTOB DE CARRION (Spain)

Famous troubadour and poet to Don Pedro and his predecessor, Alfonso X.


Despite his reluctance to appoint any Jews to the court he had many strong personal relationships . During his reign (1336-1387) although their financial position (and help to the crown) was greatly reduced the Jews were allowed a great amount of autonomy. He tried to protect the Jews against the worst of the inquisition and anti- Jewish ferment.

1328 March 5, NAVARRE (France)

After the death of Charles the Fair (Charles IV), Philip's brother and successor, Pedro Olligoyen, a Franciscan friar, used the Jews as a scapegoat against French rule. Charles was the last of the French Capet dynasty which had inherited Navarre. Local militias tried to defend the Jews but were outnumbered. All Jewish houses were pillaged then destroyed. Approximately 6000 Jews were murdered. There were 20 survivors. Those that took part were fined but the fines were later cancelled.

1334 - 1369 PEDRO (Peter) OF CASTILE (Spain)

Known as "the Cruel", he (r.1350-1369) was in general friendly to the Jews. When he was overthrown by his step-brother, Henry, the Jews were forced to wear the Yellow Badge in penance for their loyalty to Pedro. They also had to renounce their Spanish names, the use of which was considered a privilege.

1350 - 1396 JOHN I (Aragon, Spain)

Son of Peter(Pedro)IV, known before his coronation as the Infante(crown prince) Don Juan. Although prior to his reign (1387-1396) he was in the forefront of anti-Jewish agitation, he adopted a somewhat less belligerent policy as king.

1355 May 7, TOLEDO (Spain)

Henry de Trastamasa, step-brother of Peter the Cruel, invaded Toledo on the pretense of rescuing the Queen Blance from Peter. Twelve hundred Jews were killed. His hatred for his brother, Jews, and his brothers good relationship with Jews, were ostensibly part of his reasons for his attacks against him. Bitter fighting within the Jewish quarter repelled the attack. As a reward for the courage of the Jews and loyalty of his advisor, Samuel ben Meir Halevi (Abulafia), Pedro allowed him to construct a beautiful synagogue (1357) which was later converted into a church under the name of El Tránsito. A few years later despite his service, Abulafia lost favor with the king and he was painfully murdered.(see 1360).


The Spanish financier, diplomat and Jewish leader was arrested by King Pedro without any reason being given. He was tortured to death and all his great wealth was confiscated by the king. His house still stands today as the El Greco museum.

1360 MIRANDA DEL EBRO (Castile, Spain)

Furious after a massacre of the Jews, Pedro I roasted one of the perpetrators alive, boiled another and executed eight others with an axe.

1369 March 23, MURDER OF PETER ( Pedro) OF CASTILE

Near Toledo by his half brother Henry, soon to be known as Henry II. Pope Urban V upon hearing the news exclaimed The church must rejoice at the death of .... a favorer of the Jews...”. During his 10 year reign he did his best to persecute and impoverish the Jewish community which included forcing Jews to wear distinctive clothing , and not being allowed to hold public office . This marked the worst anti Jewish policies in Spain since the Visogoths and a harbinger of things to come. In the battle for Toledo some 8000 Jews had been killed, and all of their property sold for the benefit of the new king. Henry ostensibly took the Jews under his "protection" using them to his benefit .


The famous Majorcan cartographer to Pedro IV of Aragon. He sent a map of the world as a gift to Charles VI of France. He is also credited from creating the famous Catalan atlas. Many of the maps of this era - which were known as Portolanos - charted coastlines and oceans (mostly of the Mediterranean area). Many Jews from the island of Majorca - as well as from Alexandria - have their names signed to these early maps.

C. 1440 - 1510 GASPAR DA GAMA (Goa, India - Portugal)

A Jew, whose real name and origins are unknown, though some claim he was originally from Poland. He was captured and sold as a slave in India. While he was serving the ruler of Goa in 1498, the visiting Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama took him prisoner, forced him to convert, and gave him a new name. Using his vast knowledge of languages, Gaspar accompanied many Portuguese voyages, meeting Amerigo Vespucci and Pedro Cabral.

1449 June 5, PURITY OF BLOOD Limpieza de Sangre TOLEDO (Spain)

In the aftermath of the converso trial in January of that year, the council decided not to allow New Christians to hold any public office. The Sentencia-Estatuto de Toledo, composed by its mayor Pedro Sarmiento, states" " all the said conversos descended from the perverse line of the Jews, in whatever situation they may be...." This is considered by many to be the earliest reference to Jewish blood rather than Jewish faith and the first example of racial rather than religious discrimination. Pope Nicholas V condemned the decision, claiming that all Catholics constitute one body.

C. 1475 - 1554 BENVENIDA ABRAVANEL (Naples -Ferrara)

International business women, banker , and philanthropist. Daughter of Jacob (d.1528), and niece of Isaac Abravanel (see 1437). She married his son Samuel (1473-1551), a scholar in his own right and financier to Don Pedro de Toledo. Bevenida helped raise the daughter of Don Pedro, Leonora (1522–1562), which later proved a useful connection. When Donna Gracia ( see 1510) proposed the boycott of Ancona for their anti Jewish policies, Abravanel, who had extensive ties at the port, refused. She was also supportive of the controversial David Reuveni (see 1523. Benvenida together with her husband were active in financing Jewish scholarship, redeeming Jewish captives and using their connections to defend other Jews.

1485 September 17, PEDRO ARBUES (Spain)

The infamous inquisitor of Aragon was slain. Appointed by Torquemada, he was zealous in finding lapsed "new Christians" to bring before the Inquisition and have them burned alive. He was murdered in church by a group of Conversos which included the elderly Jaime de Montessa the deputy chief justice, in retaliation for his actions against their families. The perpetrators were caught, had their hands cut off, and were then beheaded and quartered. Other leaders such as Francisco de Santa Fe, the grandson of Joshua Ha-lorki (see 1413) ,committed suicide, or as in the case of Juan de la Sanchez (brother of the treasurer Gabriel Sanchez), fled to France. Arbues was canonized in 1867.

C. 1502 - 1578 PEDRO NUNES (Portugal)

Influential mathematician and royal, cosmographer. His book De arte atque ratione navigandi - On the art and science of navigation was one of the important contributions of his day. He is considered the inventor of the marine navigational rhumb line (loxodrome) which is a line crossing all meridians of longitude at the same angle. Nunes was not bothered by the inquisition, since he was the teacher of the Inquisitor General Cardinal D. Henrique but in 1620 his grandchildren were questioned.

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