The MEZUZOT ROUTE
Despire the hundreds of year which have passed, ayou may still find among the Jewish quarter of Gironaque markings of medieval mezuzot. Some of the most prominent markings can be found at the Museum of Jewish History of Girona, in the Institut Vell square , in Casa Cundaro's inner garden and in Casa Laporta.
On June the 6th, 1391, a large mass of people led by the religious Ferran Martinez, also known as the Archdeacon of Ecija, attacked the Aljama of Seville, killing hundreds of men, women and children and forcing thousands to convert to Christianity.
Were these events an act of spontaneous brutality? Unfortunately not. Hostility had begun years before in the form of accusations of heresy by Christian clergy, expressed in the 1302 unexplained attacks of Jewish settlements and in 1331, when the Jewry of Girona and its members suffered a vicious stoning by a clergy of youths. These events made daily life so untenable in the Jewries that the ceremonious King Pedro the IV (1336-1386) had to personally hand down stringent orders for the protection of the Jewish people, punishing such behavior with penalties and punishments; but to little avail.
Only weeks after the attacks of the Aljama in Seville, the wave of hatred arrived at the Call of Girona. The Cresques family, the Saltells, the Ravayas, the Desmestres, the Avinais, the Rovens; families which had enjoyed considerable status and excellent relationships with the great Christian lineages, were suddenly forced to wear a badge on their clothes and live in horridly crowded medieval “ghettos”; watching through the curtains with sadness, looking into the town which once was theirs.
August the 10th, 1391: The festive day of San Lorenzo’s Fair in Girona. The city’s inhabitants exploit the festive atmosphere to plot an attack on the Call. This would be one of the bloodiest and saddest days for the Jewish community of Girona. Hasdai Cresques, a prominent Jew and a direct eyewitness described the events:
“An angry crowd approached the Call’s boundaries with burning torches. They burned the gates, entered, stole and slaughtered… Blood wept over the boulders of Jewish homes. Some found refuge in the homes of merchant Christian friends; others fled to Castelló de Empúries; many converted to Christianity…”
Coincidentally, the next day the priests had made preparations to perform mass baptisms. That day, a new type of citizen was registered in Girona: the convert.
The Jews of Spain lived through 101 years of attacks, forced conversions and clerical control which ended in what is known today as ‘Diaspora’, while those who converted stayed in their estranged cities as distrusted “Marranos” (‘swines’).
In April 1492 the infamous Edict of Expusion arrived into Girona, and by July the 31th, 1492, the expulsion’s deadline, only a small number of Jews had remained in the city. These few, sold off their property and quietly loaded up their dearest objects.
It is said they left together very early in the morning; leaving behind an identity which would always remain in Girona, half-empty, like the vacant rectangular boxes fixed in the lintels of many of the doors of the Call.
[accordion title=”Historical notes”]1. Hasdai or Chasdai ben Judà Cresques – חסדאי קרשקש – (Barcelona, 1340 – 1410/1411) Rabbi of Barcelona and Zaragoza, reknowned philosopher and expert in the Halacha (interpretation of the Jewish law). His rationalist writings, in hebrew and catalan, on law and the free will make him one of the greatest thinkers of his time.
2. Ferrán Martínez (Fernando, Ferrand, or Ferrant), know as the Archdeacon of Écija, was a 14th century spanish clerk. He became it’s outmost antisemitic leaders through his sermons which incited hatred against Jews; his followers were known as “matadores de judíos” (“Jew killers”). He dies after the events of Seville in 1391 and proclaimed a saint.[/accordion]