The Jewish Population of the Kingdom of Castile

Despite changing conditions, from the 13th to the 15th centuries, the Hispanic kingdoms of the Iberian Peninsula were home to the largest Jewish communities of the entire European continent. Jose Hinojosa Montalvo estimates that near the end of the 13th century 100,000 Jews lived in Castile alone. By the latter part of the 14th century, the population had grown to somewhere between 180,000 to 250,000.

Such a population represented between 3-5% of the overall population of the kingdom of Castile. In certain towns the percentage of the population may have been even higher. The most populated Jewish quarters consisting of 3,000 or more people were concentrated in the cities of Toledo, Barcelona, Zaragoza, Valencia, Majorca, Seville, Córdoba, Tudela, Granada, and Lucena.

In these cities, Jewish may have constituted up to 10% of the population. The violence of 1391 had a devastating impact on Jewish population so much so that José Hinojosa Montalvo argues that by 1480, 70,000 to 100,000 Jews remained in Castile, a decline which highlights the aftershocks of 1391 born by deaths and conversions.

1. José Hinojosa Montalvo, “Los judíos en la España medieval: de la tolerancia a la expulsión.” (lecture, Universidad de Alicante, 1998),ña.pdf. p. 35.
2. ibid., 34.

By Rabbi Juan Bejarano-Gutierrez the director of the B’nei Anusim Center for Education and author of What is Kosher?

About rambam442013 108 Articles
Rabbi Juan Bejarano-Gutierrez is a graduate of the University of Texas at Dallas where he earned a bachelor of science in electrical engineering. He studied at the Siegal College of Judaic Studies in Cleveland and received a Master of Arts Degree with Distinction in Judaic Studies. He completed his doctoral studies at the Spertus Institute of Jewish Learning and Leadership in Chicago in 2015. His doctoral dissertation is titled “Complex Identities: Christian and Jewish Attitudes Towards Conversos” and was accepted in September 2015. He also studied at the American Seminary for Contemporary Judaism and received rabbinic ordination in 2011 from Yeshiva Mesilat Yesharim.