Rabbi Hasdai Crescas gives an Account of the Spanish Massacres of 1391
IN the summer of 1391 lawless mobs in Seville, Toledo, Valencia, Barcelona, and many other Spanish cities, incited by Ferrand Martinez, the fanatical archdeacon of Seville, attacked and massacred the Jewish population of these cities. Some months later a report of the events and of the Jewish losses was made to the community of Avignon by the celebrated writer and philosopher Hasdai Crescas, Rabbi of Saragossa, who lost his only son in the outrages. The letter records in its brief compass the ghastly prelude to the disaster which befell the whole Spanish Jewry a hundred years later.
'Among the many who sanctified the name of the Lord was my only son'
[ Saragossa, 19 October 1391 ]
If I were to tell you here all the numerous sufferings we have endured you would be dumbfounded at the thought of them; I will therefore set before you only in brief detail the table of our disaster set with poisonous plant and wormwood, giving you a bare recital of the facts so that you may satiate yourselves on the bitterness of our wormwood and drink from the wine of our grief.1 As I suppose that you have been told the story already, I will recount it as briefly as possible, commencing as follows:
On the day of the New Moon of the fateful month Tammus in the year 5151 [ July 1391 ] the Lord bent the bow of the enemies against the populous community of Seville where there were between 6,000-7,000 heads of families, and they destroyed their gates by fire and killed in that very place a great number of people; the majority, however, changed their faith.