On March 31, 1492, the Decree of the Alhambra was signed in Granada. It established the expulsion of Jews from the Hispanic kingdoms. The edict of expulsion by the Jews from the Crown of Castile was signed by Queen Elizabeth, while King Ferdinand II of Aragon signed the one corresponding to the Crown of Aragon.
This royal certificate, dated in Granada, was given to the rectors of the Aljama, the jewish community of Girona on April 30, 1492. It set a period of three months to leave the kingdom, which means 31st of July, but deadline was extended until August 1. Columbus departure is on 2nd August, 1492.
At that time, the Jewish community of Catalonia was very small, since the Progrom of 1391, when the Jewish community of Barcelona disappeared, the pressures against the Jews had been increasing, to the point that in some places the they had been forced to convert.
As an example, we could say that in the Jewish community of Girona, in April 1492, there were only about 200 people left, and at the end of the period to leave, no more than 10 families did so.
The decree of expulsion forbade Jews taking gold, silver, coins, and horses out from the country.
Since they could not take their fortune, the Crown offered them the possibility of exchanging their value for bills of exchange. However, the urgency of the march and the large number of movable and immovable property for sale, made prices very low.
Some Catalan Jews went to Navarre, and from there they marched to North Africa, Naples, Venice, Greece, Romania… Others marched to Roussillon, settling in Perpignan, but in 1493 the king of France forbade them to remain there, and they embarked for the East, many of them settled in Thessaloniki.
Wether to stay and convert or go
It is clear that many of the Jews living in the Hispanic kingdoms at the time converted to Christianity which was the other option given to them by the decree.
In fact, many had already done so in masse since the late fourteenth century. From the conversion, and as new Christians, they were under the jurisdiction of the Holy Inquisition, established in Catalonia since 1487 and responsible for verifying that the conversions were authentic.
Despite their status as Christians, converts also suffered much discrimination; still in the seventeenth century they were asked to be a 5th generation Christian in order to hold public office.
If you want to know more about the footprint of the Jews in Barcelona, come and walk with us through the Gothic Quarter. And if you want to delve further, we can accompany you to Girona, to visit the Call, the old Jewish quarter of the city or Besalú, a charming medieval town where we can find a micvé built in the s. XII.