Call is the Catalan Word for the Jewish quarter and means according to some experts the Hebrew qahal or legal community, since to others it should come from the latin callis, the “Street”. The most popular word for it, ghetto, describes the enclosure inhabited by Jews at the district of Venice of the same name, where they lived segregated. The extension of the Jewish call of Valencia corresponded to the present parish of Santo Tomás at 1240 and its enlargement from till 1390 to santo Tomas and san Andres churchs.

Tour of the Call

We start the tour by the widening of 1390, extension highlighted in blue on the Map, and we focuse on the monuments outlined in gray.

In the interior of the cloister of the University towards the entrance to the library of history, you can see on the ground the rests of the the Christian wall made up at the time of king Pedro IV of Aragon (the Ceremonious) in 1356. The present University and Patriarch’s Palace would contain the expansion of the old jewish settlement by growth of population and the immigration of new families during the 14th century, widening the former arabized narow section.

New Synagogue

According to some local historians behind the “Palacio del Patriarca” was located the Camalhesit synagogue, the last synagogue in service. The hebrew real word would be “shem-ha-hesed, “The Name of the Merciful”. The “hasidites” now are the current Orthodox line of the Jews of Jerusalem. The synagogue in Hebrew is called Beth-ha-Keneset, the House of Assembly and besides this main synagogue used to stood the religious School or “Bet-Midrash”.

If we border the present square to reach the street Margarita Valdaura, we should arrive where once stood the Market or Souk a bustling arts and craft center of the Hebrew district.

Activities and economy

Jews lived in the Souk devoted to crafts and trade with luxury items. Crafts were represented by leatehr fabrics, and gold and silver Jewelery. In the Souk workers applied to leather footwear and silk textile. Jewish merchants were intermediaries at the purchase of silks and Oriental fabrics which they exchanged by other products from from the North of Europe as leather coats. They had too small factories to prproduce the finals cloths, silk stuffs embroidered with silver, gold, and pearls.

This call was ruined at the summer of year 1391, the date of the assault to the ghetto’s wall wich should protect them, after an Archdeacon of Ecija pronounced large anti-Semitic sermons at the Cathedral of Seville and raised a wave of anti-Semitism, that lit a fire throughout the spanish peninsula.

Valencia ancient and medieval: the Jewish quarter
Supposed family House of the humanist Luis Vives

Valencia antigua y medieval: la judería

Supposed Home of Luis Vives

Three ‘Louis’ of uncertain life

According to tradition on the edge between the old sand new jewish medieval district was born the great renaissance philospher Juan Luis Vives (1492-1540) to a Jewish family. This Valencian humanist studied at the newly founded valencian University at 1508 and in Paris from 1509 to 1512. He then moved to Flanders in 1512 because of problems with concerned jews. Actually his father and grandmother had fallen meanwhile into the hands of the valencian Inquisition. His friendship with Erasmus of Rotterdam decide him not to come back to Spain and he moved to Flandes (1520). There he was Professor at the famous University of Leuven, and was also friend of Thomas Moor, which invited him to the Oxford University. Back to Flanders, he worked as a tutor of women of the nobility, families ot the environment of Emperor Carlos the Vth. Finnaly he was asked many theological questions, both from the fellows of the Reform as from the supporters of Counter-Reformation. Its classical training leads him to seek the education of the Princes and the Peace between States. His theory about the education based on the Bible and the Greek-Latin classics, focusing on nearness between master and disciple could have influenced the “Essays” of Michel de Montaigne.

His wife, Margarita Valdaura, much younger, was born in 1505 in the shelter of a wealthy Jew family, who later moved to Bruges, considered an extension of the Crown. Luis Vives was his tutor when she was only 7 years old, and Margarita was a faithful spouse and constant secretary to this intellectual model of Humanism.

Lluis Alcanys, Medicine Professor

More dramatic were the last days another born jew Valencian Academic. Lluís Alcanyís was born in Xàtiva, south to the capital, and moved then to Valencia where he studied Medicine between the years 1462 to 1467. He then joined the local cultural life and excelled at his studies on medical research and his talent for literature. He was married twice with different Jewish women. His second wife, Elionor Esparça gave him four daughters and one son, named Francesc, who became also Medicine Doctor. As a Professor, Alcanyís taught and examined between 1467 and 1477 and was the Master reader of the school of Surgery of Valencia until 1487. After the founding of the University on the year 1499, Lluís occupied the Chair of “Principles and practice of medicine” between the years 1500 and 1504 (cadira de medicina i cirugia). Apropos of this discipline, he wrote a treatise “against Epidemics” about the prevention of contagious diseases, on the occasion of the recent plague that ravaged Valencia in 1490. In spite of his services, Alcañís and Elionor were sentenced by the Inquisition and were burnt at the stake.

Valencia antigua y medieval: la judería
Original of the Map of Valencia by P. Tosca conserved at the Church of Santo Tomás de Valencia (cca. 1700)

Luis Santangel

Finally the third “Luis”, Luis de Santángel was as Vives and Alcanis born in Valencia in 1435 to a family of converted Jews of the kingdom of Aragon. His grandfather Azariah, founded the Jewish Community of Daroca, and moved to Valencia, where he installed because of commercial reasons. His son Luis became reach thanks to the taxes collected from the Genoese community to the Crown . King Ferdinand of Aragon made him Banker of the kingdom afer the wedding with Isabel of Castille. Then, Luis met Cristopohorus Colombus discouraged in his projects at 1486 and he raised for the sea-man and adventurer the sum for the expedition. Colombus itself wrote by his own hand and addressed to him the first letter with the report of the discovery of the New World to be reached to the Catholic monarchs. In 1497 he obtained a statute of clean- blood, a privilege that protected him before the Holy Office. Luis died in 1544.

Three great ‘Louises’ for a small neighborhood, don’t you think?