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Caceres Jewish Quarter
Caceres Jewish Quarter
|Location Caceres, Spain|
|Open to visitors yes|
|Need appointment no|
|Handicap accessibility no|
|Geographical Coordinates 39.47528,-6.37242|
The beauty and typicality of the Old Jewish Quarter of Cáceres, with its narrow streets, its whitewashed, luminous houses and flowers in their windows or on the balconies is only comparable with the monumental nobility of this ancient city: all serving as a symbol of the protection always sought by the protective aljamas of kings or lords. The trip from the New Jewish Quarter to the other side of Plaza Mayor also gives you a chance to visit a large part of this city which is Heritage of Humanity, following the medieval traces of its Hebrew residents.
After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, the city was occupied by the Visigoths, and entered a period of decline until the Arabs conquered Caceres in the 8th century. The city spent the next few centuries mostly under Arab rule, although power alternated several times between the Moors and the Christians. During this time, the Arabs rebuilt the city, as well as a wall, palaces, and various towers, including the Torre de Bujaco. Caceres was reconquered by the Christians in the 13th century (1229).
During this period the city had an important Jewish quarter. In the 15th century when the total population was 2,000, nearly 140 Jewish families lived in Caceres. The Jewish population was expelled by Queen Isabella and Ferdinand of Aragon in 1492, but many remains of the Jewish presence of the period can still be seen today in the Barrio San Antonio.
Caceres flourished during the Reconquista and the Discovery of America, as influential Spanish families and nobles built homes and small palaces there, and many members of families from Extremadura participated in voyages to America where they made their fortunes. In the 19th century, Caceres became the capital of the province, marking a period of growth which was halted by the Spanish Civil War. Today, the headquarters of the university as well as several regional government departments are to be found in Caceres.
History and time period
It is not known exactly when the Jews settled in Cáceres as we have no written or archaeological sources confirming a Jewish presence in Roman times. What is for sure, as this is the interpretation given to a reading of the Charter of Cáceres of 1229, is that during the long Moslem domination of the city then called Hizn Qazris, the Jews maintained a reasonably large presence in the society of Cáceres.
The first documentation about this community dates back to the Charter of Cáceres of 1229, granted by Alfonso IX de León, but there is little doubt as to the existence of a Jewish population in the centuries of Moslem domination. The Charter of Cáceres was ratified in 1231 by Fernando III the Saint and it urged Jews, Moors and Christians to inhabit the recently reconquered city. By confirming the rights and prerogatives of the charter, the Saintly King granted Cáceres the right to organise and celebrate a fair in late April and the first fortnight of May, a market at which Jews, Moors and Christians were invited to take part as resettlers. In actual fact the Charter devoted eight chapters to the Jews who at that time barely numbered a hundred largo residents, a population which was to multiply in the two subsequent centuries. What's more, the Charter of Cáceres granted Jews' right, thanks to the royal concession, to prove their innocence by swearing on the Torah at the synagogue:
Et fasta I morabedi iure el iudio per paraula. Et de morabedi arriba iure por carta. Dentro ena sinagoga teniendo la Torá enos brazos. Si la Torá non ovieren tengan el libro de los X mandamientos. Et si ita non fecerit por hy caya. Nevertheless, although a Jew could prove his innocence by swearing on the Torah, litigation between Christians did not accept a Jew's testimony. From the Charter we can seem to deduce that in the late 13th century Jews and Christians in Cáceres not only lived physically apart, the could not enter into a mixed marriage nor was any relationship permitted between people holding different beliefs.