Massacre of Jews in Cordoba Takes Place
Credit: JP Puerta, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

March 14, 1473

During an inauguration procession for a new association, known as the Caridad, in Cordoba, Spain, a riot against the conversos or marranos – Jews who had publicly converted to Christianity but continued to practice Judaism behind closed doors – broke out leading to a massacre of the town’s conversos.

The Caridad was established by the clergy as a special fraternity for those Christians who were not of Jewish origin. The immediate cause for the outbreak of violence occurred during the Caridad’s solemn parade which passed through the neighborhood of the conversos.  According to the Jewish Encyclopedia, “All the streets through which it passed were strewn with flowers; and all the houses – excepting those of the marranos, which remained closed – were decorated with flags and costly carpets. As the procession reached the Calle de la Herreria (“Street of the Smiths”), in the vicinity of the cathedral and the Juderia, the signal for assault was given. A Smith, Alonzo Rodriguez by name, seized the torch illuminating an image of Mary and set fire to the house of one of the richest marranos of the city – an act which he averred to have committed out of vengeance, because water had been poured from one of the windows of the house in question upon the canopy under which the image was placed.”

The event spread quickly and many of the homes of the conversos were looted and destroyed despite the attempts of the Chief Magistrate to protect the conversos from the rioters. The violence was exacerbated after the Magistrate had Rodriguez killed for his actions. By March 16th, realizing that continuing to protect the conversos from the riots was futile, the Magistrate withdrew his support and many conversos fled the city, only to suffer further violence in the countryside.

Cordoba had been one of the most important Jewish centers in medieval Spain. Hasdai Ibn Shaprut, considered to be the founder of Sephardi Jewry, had established a center of Jewish learning and culture in Cordoba in the tenth century. The great Jewish scholar, Moses Maimonides, was born in Cordoba in 1135, but his family left the city after it was invaded by the Almohads. Following the Christian reconquest of the city in 1235-1236, Jewish life in Cordoba regained some of its former grandeur. Despite a thriving self-governing community, the Jews of Cordoba were forced to pay high communal taxes and were subject to various laws and restrictions placed against them. The low point before the 1473 massacre came in 1391 when hundreds of Jews were massacred and the majority of those who survived were forced to convert to Christianity.

The photo shows the interior of the Cordoba Synagogue, which was built in 1315.