Sagunto Jewish Quarter

After the storming to the Jewish quarter of Valencia in 1391, the aljama of Sagunto took over for the Valencian one, becoming the most important of the Kingdom.

Sagunto is not only the Spanish city where better preserves the layout of its ancient Jewish quarter but which also has more remains of objects, as well as spaces or buildings that day were part of the daily life of this minority community.

 

A bit of History     

 

For its strategic location between two natural corridors or routes of communication (from the coast -via Augusta- and inside -the way that reached up to Cesaraugusta), Sagunto was from Ancient times a trading city from its Iberian origins. Its port, already running in the 5th century B.C.E. was a point of exchange of products and ideas that served to integrate the inhabitants of Arse (Sagunto) in the field of Mediterranean culture. The first news that we have about the presence of a Jewish community in Sagunto are through the Roman epigraphy.

The existence of two spells, studied by J. Corell, “of blessed memory”, in 2002, found on the hill of the Castle where it appears the name of Jao (name of God for the Hebrews) seems to confirm the existence of a Jewish community at the end of the first century or early second century at Saguntum, which would mainly be devoted to trade. From the Visigoth period, in Sagunto, only have some gold coins perhaps associated with the presence of a military garrison that would control the limes or border against the Byzantines. In these historical moments, Sagunto loses the city status since it doesn't have the rank of a bishopric and become the great unknown for documentary sources both Archaeology. We assume that took place as well as in the rest of the peninsula and the fact is that Jewish community of Sagunto would suffer the intransigence and persecution arisen from the conversion to Catholicism of the Visigothic ruling class and that it lasted up to the presence of the Muslim world in the peninsula.

In the Islamic period, we know that there was a Jewish quarter as it is deduced from the Llibre Repartiment since donations of houses were located in the Vico Judeus. Sagunto Jewry was located in the upper part of the city between two power spheres: ecclesiastical, in the lower part, defined by the Church of Santa Maria and the real power through the fortress located at the top of the hill .

Their situation in this environment is not by chance that the first inhabitants of this community chose this area because of the proximity to a royal fortress that could defend them if necessary; similarly, they were also controlled by the ecclesiastic hierarchy.

 

Location of the aljama

Tenor of recent archaeological finds, Jewry was established in a former Islamic suburb, with narrow alleys and atzucats from 1248, a suitable space, connecting with the taste of the Jewish community.

The western boundary of the Jewry would be shaped by the Teatro Romano Street, where there are still traces of a small stretch of closing wall of the aljama and western door wall.

The Jewry was defined by Castillo Street on its eastern side. In this area, there was the main gate opened -named "Portal Juhería" in the Middle Ages , currently "Portalet Sang"-  which is accessed to the current street Sang Vella, which was the main artery of the aljama and where were located both the synagogue and the butcher's. Along the axis of the same toward the West, the Mikveh (ritual bath) and the western gate are placed. These are all the places and the most emblematic buildings of the Jewry. Other streets that were part of the Jewish Quarter are the current Segovia, Pedro Ramos and Cartagena. It is possible that in the 15th century, a period of great economic activity and population growth, the limits of the Jewry were beyond the enclosure walls, occupying the outskirts Roman Theater and Castillo Street. Nowadays, part of the space which was used as a cemetery for the Saguntine aljama inhabitants of the 14th and 15th centuries is being enhanced.