Spanish Expulsion of Jews and Moors (1492)


Figure 1.--.

Father Tomas de Torquemada, the Grand Inqisitor, concluded that if the Jews remained in Spain, then they would influence the Marranos, the new converts to Christianity. He reached this conclusion in part because he had participated in the disputations (debates) with Jews and was frustrated that he could not convert Jews by his arguments. With the fall of Granada (1492), the last Moorish outpost in Spain had been reduced. Father Torquemada advanced the idea with the Catholic monarchs (King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella) that the Jewish religion should be banned in Spain. Ferdinand and Isabella obtained financial support for the operation against Geanada from Don Isaac Abravanel and Don Abraham Senior, Senior Comptroller of Castile and Chief Rabbi of the kingdom. The Catholic Monarchs, none the less, were drawn to Torquemada's advice. Queen Isabella in particular was a fervant Catholic. Ferdinand may have been more attracted by the money to be made. Torquemada concinced the two soverigns to expel the Jews. They issued the fateful Edict of Expulsion on March 31, 1492. Don Isaac Abravanel pleaded for mercy, but his pleas were rejected. The order allowed the Jews 4 months to leave Spain. Those who refused to convert had to sell their homes, businesses, and other possessions at low prices. There are no definitive records, but scholars believe that about 100,000 Jews remained true to their religion and fleed fom Spain. The expulsion is today commemorated on the holiday of Tisha B’Av. The expelled Jews became known as Sephardic Jews. They played an important role in the economic success and cultural life in Muslim North Africa, the Ottoman Empire, the Netherlands, and other countries. The descendants of the Jews expelled by the Spanish and subsequently the Portuguese are referred to as Sephardim. "Sephardim" is the Hebrew word term for Spain and it appears in the Old Testament, one suggestion that Jews in Spain predate the Roman era.

Spanish Jews

Jews have a long history in Spain. After the Roman supression of the Jewish Revolt (70 AD), exiled Jews established communities in Spain. There they were tolerated for centuries in both Islamic and Christian kingdoms. Jews developed a sophisticated culture in Spain. Many individuals made important contributions. Perhaps the best known is Moshe Ben Maimon (Rambam), a noted scientist, physician and a Torah Scholar. With Christian domination of Spain, the Spanish soverigns and the Inquisition pressured Jews to convert. Spain's Jews were expelled by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella after the fall of Grenada and the completion of the Reconquista (1492). The expelled Jews became known as Sephardic Jews. They played an important role in the economic suucss and cultural life in countries like the Ottoman Empire and Netherlands. The expulsion of Jews and Moslems by Ferdinand and Isbellaoccured at the same time that Spain burst on the world scene with Columbus' discoveries. The gold and silver which poured in to Spain with the conquest of Mexico and Peru made Spain for a time a European super power. Spain's subsequent decline is in part due to the decling shipments of bullion. Many histoians believe that the impact of repressive policies such as the use of the Inquisition to curtail discent (and free thinking) and the expulsion of the Jews and Moslems were major factors in Spain's decline. Jews who converted were called Marranos. Many who did so continued to secretly peactice their faith. The Inquisition attempted to ferret out the false confesos. Eventually Spain's Jewish community was totaly destroyed.

Moors

The Moors were Nomadic peoples of North Africa. They were converted to Islam in the ealy 8th century and became fanatical fillowers of the Prophet. They crossed the Straits of Gibraltar (711). They achieved stunning military successes against the crumbling Visogothic kingdom in Spain. The Moors crossed the Pyrenees, but were turned back by Charles Martel at Tours (732). Abdu-r-Rahman I established the Omayyas dynasty. The Moors, however, failed to maintain a strong, centalized state and divided into small, often warring kingdom. Moorish culture made medieval Spain the most advanced region of Europe. Cities like Córdoba, Toledo, and Seville became recognized centers of culture and learning. The contribution to Western learning in agriculture, art, astonomy, mathematics, medcine, and science is encaluable.

Historic European Expulsions of Jews

Spain's expulsion of the Jews was not something unique in European history. Most European countries had expelled Jwes at some point in their history. Several countries had multiple expulsions. These included England (1290), France (1394), and Hungary (???). The Spanish expulsion was somewhat different in that the Jews were given several months to convert and was not conducted as a pogrom. And they were allowed to take valuables with them.

Reconquista

The Arab armies fired by Islam reached Western Europe in the 8th century, sweeping over the Iberian Peninsula, but turned back by the Franks at Tours. One small Christian kingdom remained unconquered--Asturias. Here the Visigothic claimant held out. What followed was the reconquest of the Iberian Penninsula by a long series of Christian kings. It is a complicated story. It is not entirely clear why the Moors tolerated a Visigothic Christizn kingdom south of the Pyrenees. But within only a few years, Asturias established itself and expanded to an extent that the Moors were unable to dislodge it, What followed was not a war between Christians and Moors. Several Chiistian kingdomes emerged (Asturias, Castile, Catalonia, Navarre, Leon, and Portugal). King Sancho of Navarre united most of the Christian kingdoms, but they did no stay united. The Iberian Peninsula at the time was very different than the intolerant regime dominated by the Inquisition. Iberia was the most tolerant and progressive area of Europe where the people of the Book lived in close contact and harmony with one another. Spanish universities were rare centers of learning in the European medieval Dark Age. The Reconquista was not a simple straightfoeward matter. Not only were their wars between Moors and Christaians, but wars among Moors and Christians. Also both Moors and Christains sought allies from their co-religionists as well as princes and nobels of the other faith. Finally with the growing power of Castile, Christians moved south and one Muslim principality after another fell. The last Muslim kingdom to fall was Granada (1492)

Ferdinand and Isabella: Unifying Spain

Queen Isabella I of Castille and King Ferdinand II married (1469). Castille at the time was the dominant force in Spain. The marriage thus made substantial forces available to Ferdinand, beyond the polential of Aragon. The marriage was one of corulers. Isabella did not defer to Ferdinad in matters of state, but was in every sence a ruling monarch. Upon their marriage, Spain did not become a unified state. Rather each monarch continued to rule in their own state. The marriage, however, began the process of unification. The first step was to centarlize administration. Isabella covoked a great Cortes (insipient parliament) at Toledo, which was at the time the seat of government (1480). The Cortes recodified and reformed the judicial system. Through the process Ferdinand and Isabella with considerable success worked to make the Spanish themselves absolute monarchs and reduce the power of the Spanish nobility. This seems to have been achieved to a far greater extent than in many other European countries with guarelsome nobility. There was no civil war in France resisting the monarchy's efforts as there was in other countries (the Fronde--France, Thirty Years War-Germany, and the Civil War--England). We are not entirely sure why this was, but the Inquisition must have been a factor. Surely Spanish Inquisitors saw royal absolutism under Isabella an oportunity to tarnsform and purify the Spanish people. The Catholic sovereigns for their part were determined to have a united country. They like other European monarchs did not believe that could be achieved without all their subjects being of one religion. (It should be remembered that the wars associated with the Protestant Reformation were not fought for religios freedom, but for the right of the monarch ro select the state religion.) Thus both Ferdinand and Isabela, especially Isabela, were determined to refashion Spain as a Christain kingdom. This was to be persuasion, if possible, but if not, by force. Thus Spain including the monarchy, the Church, and the people were ready for actions against the Jews and Moors as well as the Conversos. [Plaidy, p.86.] Isabella the Católica was fanatical about the Christain religion promoted the adoption of repressive measures against the Jews by the Cortes which helped to fill the monarchy's coffers. She established the nortorious Spanish Inquisition (1478) which was to operate under her authority rather than that of papacy which had earlier created the less fanatical Inquisition. After the meeting of the Cortes, Aragon and Castille were politically joined. Ferdinand's armies took Grenada, the last Moorish kingdom (1492). In the same year, Isabella and Ferdinand expelled the Jews from their kingdom. It was a fateful year. It was also the year Columbus discovered the Americas. Partly with the loot extracted from the Jews, Ferdinand invaded and conquered much of southern Italy. Ferdinand also obtained Navarre south of the Pyrenees.

Inquisition (about 1480)

King Ferdinand and Queen Isabel established the Spanish Inquisition as separate from the Roman Inquisition (about 1480). They and suceeding Spanish monarchs appointed the officers of the Spanish Inquisition and they were not responsible to the Church in Rome. After finally defeating the Moors in 1492, the Spanish monarchy embarked on an effort to purify Spain. Spanish authorities dealt harshly with suposedly insincere converted Moslems and Jews ( conversos ) as well as illuminists. The Spanish Inquisition with its massive public autos-da-fé became notorious throughout Europe. Unlike tge Roman Inquisition. death sentences in the Spanish Inquisition were quite common. Here there are no precise numbers. Estimates range from 3,000 to more than 40,000 individuals. The wide range results from the competing claims of Catholics and Protestants during the Reformation. The most notorious Spanish Inquisator General was Tomás Torquemada. The Spanish Inquisition was persued with great ferocity in thec 16th century, throughout Spain and Spain's colonies in America and Europe such as the Netherlands. The Spanish Inquisition not only pursued heretics but became involved in not only politics, but other crimes including some without any religious connotations (polygamy, seduction, adultury, smuggling, usury, and other offenses). The barbarous methods used to extract confessions from the acused as well as witnesses apauled even contemporary Europe. While not as lurid as the enemies of Spain and the Church aleged, they were indeed apaling, especially for an arm of the Church. The intebnsity of the Inquisition relacked in the 17th century. Eventually inquisators were required to obtain rotal authority for an arrest (1770). The Spanish Inqusition was finally abolished until the 19th century (1834).

Marranos


Motives

Historians debate the motives of the Catholic Soverigns. Ferdinand and Isabella obtained financial support for the operation against Geanada from Don Isaac Abravanel and Don Abraham Senior, Senior Comptroller of Castile and Chief Rabbi of the kingdom. The Catholic Monarchs, none the less, were drawn to Torquemada's advice. Queen Isabella in particular was a fervant Catholic. Father Tomas de Torquemada, the Grand Inqisitor, concluded that if the Jews remained in Spain, then they would influence the Marranos, the new converts to Christianity. He reached this conclusion in part because he had participated in the disputations (debates) with Jews and was frustrated that he could not convert Jews by his arguments.

Expulsion Order (1492)

With the fall of Granada (1492), the last Moorish outpost in Spain had been reduced. Father Torquemada convinced King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella that the Jewish religion should be banned in Spain. Spain's Jews and remaining Moors were thus expelled by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella after the victory at Granada completing the Reconquista. The Edict was publicised (April 29, 1492.) The charter declared that no Jews were permitted to remain within the Spanish kingdom, and Jew who wished to convert was welcome to stay.

Jewish Pleas

Influential Jews were permitted to plead with Catholic Soverigns, but to no avail.

Goal

The goal was not really to expel Moors and Jews, but to force their conversion. The Crown ordered Spanish Jews to convert or leave Spain.

Leaving Spain

The Catholic Kings ordered their Jewish sibjects to convert or leave their domains. They allowed the Jews 4 months to convert or leave Spain. Those who refused to convert had to sell their homes, businesses, and other possessions at low prices. The actual deadline for the expulsion by accident fell on the 9th of the Jewish month of Av. This was the date of the destruction of both Temples. The last exiles were led by orchestras to help raise their spirits and they were forced onto small boats in Spanish ports.

Social Class

Historians believe that the conversos who chose to remain in Spain were drawn largely from the upper classes. They of course had their comfortable lives to lose. Some historians argue thst their Judaism was largely philosophical and intellectual and less emotional and faith-based than the working class. The upper class probably considered their options more rationally and thought that the Spanish monarchy's excesses would be a temprary matter and would over time be reconsiderd. Some certainly thought that vthat they could outwardly convert. The wirking classess were less likely to consider the matter rationally. Faith was a central part in their existence and personal identity.

Refugees

The Jewish population of Spain has been estimated at about 0.6 million peoole. There are no definitive records and historians provide widely varied estimates of the number who left Spain. we have moted estimates ranging from 0.1-0.4 million Jews remained true to their religion and fled Spain.

Ferdinand and Isabella Shocked

This came as a shock to both Ferdinand and Isabella. They expected most Spanish Jews to convert.

Tisha B’Av

The expulsion is today commemorated on the holiday of Tisha B’Av.

Places of Refuge

ronically some of the Separdic Jes returned to the Middle East where th earlier diasporas had occured. Most of the Sephardic Jews found refuge in the Islamic lands of North Africa and the Ottoman Empire. In North Africa their treatment varied. They were better received by the Ottoman Sultan. They also found refuge in some corners of Christian Europe. The most notable was the Netherlands which was about to begin its own struggle with the Spanish monarcy.

Sephardic Jews

The expelled Jews became known as Sephardic Jews. They played an important role in the economic success and cultural life in Muslim North Africa, the Ottoman Empire, the Netherlands, and other countries. The descendants of the Jews expelled by the Spanish and subsequently the Portuguese are referred to as Sephardim. "Sephardim" is the Hebrew word term for Spain and it appears in the Old Testament, one suggestion that Jews in Spain predate the Roman era. The Sephardic community which arose because of the earlier Jewish diaspora from the Middle East had a diaspora of its own. Ironically some of the Separdic Jes returned to the Middle East. Most of the Sephardic Jews found refuge in the Islamic lands of North Africa and the Ottoman Empire. In North Africa their treatment varied. They were better received by the Ottoman Sultan. They also found refuge in some corners of Christian Europe. The most notable was the Netherlands which was about to begin its own struggle with the Spanish monarcy.

Conversos in Spain

A factor with the expulsion order was that Muslim or Jews were largely outside the reach of the Inquisition. Once converted, however, they came within the perview of the Inquisators. Demographers estimate that perhaps 90 percent of the modern SZpanish population has Jewish ancestors.

Spain

The expulsion of Jews and Moslems by Ferdinand and Isbella occured at the same time that Spain first appeared on the European secene as a unified nation. And that burst on the world scene with Columbus' discoveries. The gold and silver which poured in to Spain with the conquest of Mexico and Peru made Spain for a time a European super power. Spain's subsequent decline is in part due to the decling shipments of bullion. Many histoians believe that the impact of repressive policies such as the use of the Inquisition to curtail discent (and free thinking) and the expulsion of the Jews and Moslems were major factors in Spain's failure to become a major modern European nation..






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Created: 9:43 PM 10/11/2009
Last updated: 10:34 AM 11/20/2011