MÉRIDA

MÉRIDA, city in W. Spain, capital of the ancient Lusitania. Located at an important road junction, it had one of the oldest communities in Spain. A folk legend relates that the Jewish settlement there dated from the arrival of captives brought by Titus after the destruction of the Second Temple; the exiles were "the nobles of Jerusalem … among them there was a maker of curtains (for synagogue arks) by the name of Baruch who was also skilled in silk-work. These people remained in Mérida where they raised families …" (Ibn Daud, Sefer ha-Qabbalah, ed. by G. Cohen (1967), 79). There was a Jewish settlement in Mérida in the late Roman and Visigothic periods. A Jewish tombstone inscription in Latin, probably dating from not later than the fourth century, embodies Latin translations of Hebrew formulas commonly found on Jewish tombstones of the period. After the Arab conquest, there was an important Jewish community in Mérida. Its prominent families included those of Ibn Avitur and Ibn al-Balia. During Christian rule the Jewish quarter was situated near the Church of Santa Catalina, formerly the synagogue. From 1283 the tax paid by the community was 4,000 maravedis. The Jews in Mérida suffered during the 1391 persecutions, and a converso group existed there during the 15th century. However the amount of tax paid by the community in 1439 (2,250 maravedis) shows that it was relatively flourishing. Because of its proximity to the Portuguese border, the exiles from Mérida went to Portugal when the Jews were expelled from Spain in 1492. -BIBLIOGRAPHY: Ashtor, Korot, 1 (19662), 230–2; Baer, Urkunden, 2 (1936), index; J.M. Millás, in: Sefarad, 5 (1945), 301ff. (cf. plate between 300–1); C. Roth, ibid., 8 (1948), 391–6; J. Ma. Navascués, ibid., 19 (1959), 78–91; Cantera-Mlliás, Inscripciones, 410ff.; H. Beinart, in: Estudios, 3 (1962), 9f., 14, 27–30; Suárez Fernández, Documentos, 69, 81, 257–7; A. Marcos Pon, in: Rivista di Archeologia Cristiana, 32 (1956), 249–52 (It.). ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: L. García Iglesias, in: Revista de estudios extremeños, 32 (1976), 79–98. (Haim Beinart)

Encyclopedia Judaica. 1971.

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