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1. Teruel in the Fifteenth Century

The Holy Father and the King Our Lord are millers,
And their ministers are those who bring the wheat to the mill,
And the city is the grain to be milled,
And there is good reason for the grain to know
Whether it will be milled,
Or threshed,
Or what will be done to it.

The City of Teruel to the Inquisition, May 24, 1484




The Spanish city of Teruel is located beyond the mountains of eastern Aragon, to the north of the port of Valencia. On the road from Saragossa to Valencia, it is the last stop on the high plain before the road turns east, climbs through the mountains, and then descends to the Mediterranean. Today, it is a small town, and a provincial capital. Its population is augmented by the university students who come to study at the branch of the University of Saragossa located here, and by tourists who visit during Holy Week or for the raucous festival of the bulls in mid-summer.

There is a certain timelessness to many of the cities and villages of southern Aragon. A visitor who chose to walk through the oldest part of Teruel, early in the morning before the shops were open and the traffic started up, might be able to imagine the Teruel of 500 years ago.

At that time, it would have resembled a North African city from a distance. There is a longstanding debate in history over the sources of Spanish culture: some argue that Muslim Africa has influenced Spain profoundly, while others view the Muslim occupation of Spain as a long interruption in a Christan history which began wth Visigothic occupation of the Iberian Peninsula. Historians who argue for the essentially Visigothic character of Spain's culture would not, even today, sleep soundly in Teruel. Then, as now, its main street climbed from one gate to another, widening to open into market areas as city streets did throughout the Maghreb. Its torres, or towers, each standing proudly next to a church, would have been minarets in a Muslim country. Citizens of Teruel, however, would have claimed that the towers were built as defensive structures, or in competition for the hand of a fair lady, as they still do today. The towers' shining and intricate Mudejar tile work was crafted by Muslim workers living in a Christian kingdom. 1

The City, Morerias and Juderias


While it might have outwardly resembled the cities of the Maghreb, Teruel differed from them in many respects. There was no single mullah, or Jewish neighborhood, in fifteenth-century Teruel, and in this regard it differed not only from the cities of North Africa, but also from the other Christian cities around it. 2 Typically, towns in Aragon restricted non-Christians to specific neighborhoods after the Christian reconquest. These non-Christians included not only Jews but also Muslims, many of whom were artisans and city dwellers. Unlike the post-reconquest Muslims of Valencia, 3 Aragonese Muslims did not settle the countryside, but remained within the cities to build churches and towers. These Muslims, and the Jews who also lived in cities, were typically restricted to morerias and juderias, separate areas established by royal decrees or, in some cases, by treaty. 4

Separate neighborhoods, with their own internal regulations, seem to have been intended to keep individuals of different religions from fraternizing and leading each other astray. Thus, the fuero of Teruel, the charter that established the city and laid out its laws, specified the city's physical arrangement, not only in terms of neighborhoods, but also in terms of shared spaces, like the city baths, where specific days were reserved for Jews and Muslims. 5 If, however, we consider the actual details of urban space, rather than the ideal shape outlined in royal decrees, treaties, and fueros, we find that in Teruel, Christian, Muslim, and Jew lived together with apparent lack of concern. In the early fifteenth century, Teruel was a town of some 362 households, 6 with substantial Muslim and Jewish minorities. The Jews of the city had converted to Christianity at the end of the fourteenth century. 7 Vidal Muñoz Garrido lists some 100 Muslim names for Teruel at the beginning of the fifteenth century; it is possible that the Muslim population may have been as large as 25% of the town. 8

While each minority had its own designated barrio or neighborhood in Teruel, there were no physical barriers to define these separate spaces. The moreria was walled on all sides in many Christian cities of the Iberian Peninsula, 9 but this was not the case in Teruel. In fact, the entire city was surrounded by a single wall designed to protect all residents, regardless of their creed. The costs of maintaining this city wall were shared by all three groups. 10

Life within these walls was also shared by Christians and non-Christians, sometimes to the dismay of their religious leaders. For example, the Archbishop of Saragossa sent a letter to his flock in fourteenth century Teruel, concerned that they were patronizing Muslim butchers when there were Christian ones in the city. The archbishop pointed out that Christians "cheapen the Catholic faith by eating meat slaughtered according to Islamic Law and by the hand of a Muslim." 11 It does not take much reading between the lines to realize that, in all likelihood, Christians were purchasing meat from Muslim butchers for reasons that had more to do with the price and quality of the meat than with any religious conviction. The residents of Teruel were concerned with the welfare of their bodies, as well as the good of their souls, and patronizing the shop of a neighbor, whether that neighbor was Christian or Muslim, does not seem to have had the same spiritual dimension for the Christians of Teruel that it had for the Archbishop of Saragossa.

We know that the Jewish population of Teruel in this time period lived scattered throughout the city because of the work of Antonio Floriano, resident archivist in Teruel in the early 1900s. Floriano reports that there was an effort in the early fifteenth century, imposed from the outside, to move the Jews forcibly into one area of the city. 12 This effort failed. But in his work Floriano assumes that the Muslims of Teruel, in general, lived in one part of the city. The evidence refuting this was not to be found within his city archive, but rather in the cathedral archive in Teruel. 13 Records of property sales in that archive demonstrate that Muslims owned and occupied property throughout the city, following a pattern of mixed housing which was far from unique in Aragon. 14 Between 1430 and 1500, ownership of some of this urban property, both improved, and unimproved, passed freely between Christians and Muslims.

Property Sales


Sales within the City

In Teruel in 1462, according to one of these documents, some houses near the Saragossa gate changed hands. This part of the city was not near the mosque, 15 and property like this, on the main road through town and close to the market, might have been described as prime real estate. The seller, however, was the Muslim widow of Abdalla Abenyez—her name was Mariot—and the purchaser was Muslim as well. Mariot was represented in this transaction by a Muslim agent; the sale was approved by Alfaqui Mahomet de Beluys, and was conducted in accordance with Muslim law. In fact, if the property had not been encumbered by an annuity due to the nearby church of Santa Maria, 16 we might expect it to have been executed in Arabic instead of Spanish. 17 Moreover, the widow Abenyez was not the only Muslim property owner in this part of town; her property was adjacent to a house owned by the sons of Aziz de Vera. But it is clear that this was a mixed neighborhood, as the property owner on the other side of Abenyez was the Christian notary Johan de Salve. 18

Muslims were also owners of unimproved property within the city gates and, again, it was dispersed throughout the city. In 1481, another Muslim widow, the wife of Mahomet de Arcos, acting with her two sons, sold a patio within the city. 19 The buyer, Vicente Navarro, was Christian, the neighborhood was one in which Christian owners predominated, and the witnesses to the sale were Christian, except for the requisite Muslim. 20

Sales in the Countryside

This free exchange between Muslims and Christians within the city, where we might instead have expected to find restrictions, was echoed in the sale and transfer of property outside the city gates. Property owners in Teruel—and indeed, in other cities of southern Aragon—generally owned farmland outside the city walls. Such properties seem to have been composed of small, scattered holdings. An example of this pattern is seen in Bartolome Polo's purchase of the following properties, listed in a single document from the year 1499: "... buildings and corral in ... Alduhuela ... another piece in the Mazanos ... another piece in the Paloma ... another piece at the bottom of the ravine near Villel ... another near Villaspessa ... another in the valley...." 21

Documents of sale, as well as inventories of property found in the notarial records of the Jiloca valley region around Teruel, confirm that such collections of scattered holdings were more the rule than the exception. With this pattern of land holding, land was divided into many small parcels that were farmed with relatively intensive forms of agriculture. Larger holdings were built up, not by consolidating adjacent plots, but by accumulating several plots in different locations. Property holders thus diversified their holdings rather than consolidating them.


In the countryside around Teruel, this type of agricultural property moved freely from Christian to Muslim ownership and back again, much as did property in the city. In 1431, Martin Martinez de Marzilla sold land to Mahomet Abenyez, a Muslim resident of Teruel. 22 This piece of land, which was irrigated, had been held by a Christian, but its Muslim buyer (atypically) already held another plot in the vicinity. The sale document had both a Christian and a Muslim witness, as we might expect. The Muslim witness in this case was Alfaqui Abdulla—perhaps the husband of the Mariot mentioned above.


The previous year, vineyards located in Teruel's vega, or bottom lands, had been sold to Famet Acasar and Brahim de Rostella, Muslims from Teruel. Christians owned adjacent property, and eleven years later Rostella re-sold a portion of this land to a Christian. 23 Later in the century, in 1469, very Christian land indeed—property belonging to the Monastery of Piedra 24 —was sold to Ure Eldema, a Muslim of Teruel. Adjacent parcels were owned by both Christians and Muslims, including one woman, "Fatuyma."

The fact that Muslims and Christians sold property to one another does not, in and of itself, demonstrate that cordial relations existed between the two groups. Certainly, amicable social relations are not necessary for buying and selling to occur. On a larger scale in early modern Europe, for example, a state of war did not necessarily imply cessation of trade. What the documents of sale do indicate, though, is that Muslim ownership was not geographically restricted to any particular district within the city, or outside of it.

The patterns of ownership, however, do suggest some possibilities. First, we have seen that, although not all agricultural land was irrigated, some was—for example, the parcel purchased by Mahomet Abenyez. In Irrigation and Society in Medieval Valencia, Thomas Glick argues that irrigating land required cooperation between neighbors. 25 This "cooperation," however, was often antagonistic in nature, as the abundant legal documentation cited by Glick indicates.

Next, note that the tendency to own both urban property and small agricultural parcels is a pattern that holds for both Christian and Muslim. This is significant. John Boswell, whose initial work concerned Aragonese Muslims in the fourteenth century, compiled a list of occupations for his Muslims. Although not one of his sources listed farming as a primary occupation, he confidently added this to the list, commenting that all Muslims who lived near arable land were likely to be farmers, in addition to their usual occupation. 26 This was certainly true of Muslims in and around Teruel in the fifteenth century, but it was equally true that Christians were likely to be farmers in addition to their usual occupation. This, then, is a pattern that was not characteristically Muslim, but was instead characteristically Aragonese.

Religious Belief, Toleration, and Contracts


If, with the documents we have considered, we begin to see the emergence of an "Aragonese" pattern, rather than a Muslim one, could we also begin to look to the sources for hints of a shift away from traditional Muslim beliefs among the Aragonese Mudejares? The question is not as outrageous as it seems at first; in fact, Mercedes Garcia-Arenal has argued that just such a shift took place among the Muslims of Cuenca, to the south of Teruel. 27 But, in the instance of Teruel, we have evidence that this was assuredly not the case, and the evidence, surprisingly enough, comes from documents of sales of property in Teruel at the end of the fifteenth century, recorded by the monastery of Piedra.

Nuestra Señora de la Piedra, a Cistercian monastery, was a major property holder in fifteenth-century Teruel. 28 In 1495, it recorded the transfer of a number of properties, and the cathedral archive in Teruel contains some twenty of these documents. 29 Remarkably alike in their wording, the documents convey rights to various adjacent properties in the Formaguilla, Cascajares, and Val de Hoz, in the countryside, for the payment of a perpetual annuity. In the documents, the abbot, Fray Garcia de Portillo, is described as sitting in the courtyard of the monastery, approving the transfers. The dates of the documents—all were executed within a three-day period in late May and early June—and the pattern of witnessing, with one purchaser acting as a witness for the next, indicate a sort of marathon property sale.

The notary, Johan de Castillo, recorded the abbot's admonitions to purchasers of property planted in vines that they must be careful to hire good workers to care for the vines. The monastery clearly had a financial interest in seeing that the vines were kept up, but the care of vineyards undoubtedly had scriptural overtones for the monks as well. Other than this admonition, the contracts are fairly standard, except that the purchasers were not required to encumber all of their goods and possessions—the standard legal phrase was bienes y muebles—to guarantee the sale, as was usually done in Aragon at this time. Fray Garcia apparently considered encumbering the immortal soul much more effective than involving one's worldly possessions; his Christian purchasers swore by "our Lord God, by the sign of the cross, and by the four holy gospels of our Lord Jesus Christ."

Not all of Fray Garcia's clients were Christian, however. Brahim Beluys, Ali de Urla, and Eza Meniz, all Muslim residents of Teruel, acquired land in the Cascajares, and each of these individuals was also required to encumber his immortal soul, but with words which were far from Christian: "Juro pro bille la alli illeh allehna," or "I swear that there is no God but Allah." Each further swore by the words of the Quran.

It is interesting that Johan de Castillo, a Christian notary and a citizen of the town of Baguena, where there was no Muslim community, was able to write this most basic of Muslim beliefs in transliterated Arabic, and with no apparent hesitation. There were, of course, morerias in Burbaguena, 1.5 kilometers away, and in Daroca, to the north; Baguena, on the road from Saragossa to Teruel, was between these two Muslim locations. But even Christians living in a predominantly Christian community seem to have been familiar with the recitation in Arabic of this article of faith.

There are two possible explanations for the presence of this Muslim article of faith within a Christian document. The first, and more pragmatic explanation, is that Fray Garcia wanted the contract to be honored, and having each purchaser swear by his most profound belief was the best way to ensure this. If Fray Garcia were simply acting as a careful businessman might, his behavior still would reveal, from the Christian point of view, a belief that Muslim believers were sincere.

It is possible, however, that Fray Garcia, the Cistercian monk, or Johan de Castillo, whose parish priest in Baguena would have been a Cistercian from Piedra, had reached a more profound understanding of religious belief than we have allowed for in the first example. A few centuries before these contracts were drawn up, the Spanish mystic Ibn-Arabi taught that all the names of God, whether Jewish, Muslim, or Christian, pointed to the same reality, and that the sacred texts of each religion were, as Titus Burckhardt explains it, in the introduction to his translation of Ibn-Arabi's Fusus al-Hikam, "an immediate determination of the eternal Word." 30 Our notary, Castillo, chose to replace "the four gospels" in his Christian documents with "the words of the Quran" for Muslim purchasers—each was the primary religious text for the religion. He chose, in the place of the sign of the cross, Islam's primary statement of belief in one God.

Was Garcia a pragmatist, a good manager of his monastery's resources, the "careful steward" referred to in the gospels? Or had he reached an understanding of religious belief that echoed Ibn-Arabi's, transcending the differences between Muslim and Christian, an understanding which the Spanish Catholic Church in the sixteenth century would be unable to tolerate? The documents prompt the question, but fail to provide an answer.



What the documents do tell us is that in terms of the daily arrangement of their lives, Muslims, Christians, and Jews in Teruel had developed a pattern of accommodation and cooperation—a convivencia—that shines out from documents as prosaic as bills of sale.

This is not to say that life was easy or without incident for the Jews and Muslims of Teruel. Consider, for example, the Muslim Aziz de Vera. 31 De Vera's market stall had been damaged by ruffians—just the sort of incident that would have caused the Muslims living in Valencia to request protection from the Crown. 32 Aziz de Vera, however, as a resident of Teruel, expected to be treated fairly by the city. He entered a plea in the local courts, confident that his interests would be protected at the local level. When de Vera appeared before the judges in Teruel to argue his case, he reminded the council that "Jews and Muslims alike, and Christians, too," had to be treated equally by the town's judges, "according to the fuero of the shopkeepers." 33 The judges acknowledged that de Vera was correct and granted him relief. It is important that a Muslim in Christian Teruel was accorded relief. But it is more significant that he expected to be treated fairly, and so brought his case to a local court.

We have, then, in the case of Teruel, a city in which Christians, Jews, and Muslims lived together, and if their shared lives were not always peaceable, they were, at least, characterized by trust. Ruffians might destroy Aziz de Vera's market stall or, in an excess of celebration, townspeople might ruin the front door of an old Christian residence, 34 but in both cases a just remedy was sought from the city itself, from the town council of Teruel. 35 We find in the history of Teruel's fifteenth century a record of shared responsibilities among the three groups who lived within the city. The town's Muslims acted not only as craftsmen, carpenters, and merchants, but also as musicians, jugglers, and as messengers, entrusted with documents destined for the Cortes of Aragon. Those of Jewish ancestry within the town (most had converted to Christianity by 1400) had assisted the town financially with its taxes and debts more than once. 36 It is clear that those who lived within the town did see each other as neighbors, and this is an important point. The sporadic violence that occurred throughout late medieval and early modern Europe targeted individuals and groups seen as "outside" threats, rather than as a part of a community. 37 Cities that physically walled off Jews and Muslims in juderias and morerias were much more likely to wall these groups off in their thinking as well, and to regard the inhabitants of such separate neighborhoods as different, alien, and therefore not to be trusted fully.

It was the characteristic acceptance and inclusion of minorities in the city of Teruel that caused its resident historian, Antonio Floriano, to describe it as an incomparable example of convivencia. 38 This tolerance enabled all those living in Teruel to see themselves as residents of one city, protected equally by the city walls and the city's law, its fuero. When Teruel came under attack in the 1480s, it was to that sense of identity, and to the fueros, that it turned for protection.


Note 1: Muslim workers and craftsmen combined the brick and wood used in Spanish construction with the tile work and repeated patterns characteristic of Islamic art to create a unique Mudejar architecture. See Gonzalo Borras Gualis, Arte Mudejar Aragones (Saragossa: Guara Editoria, 1984). This craftsmanship, so evident in Teruel, has been recognized as the patrimony of all mankind; UNESCO considers Teruel a World Heritage Site. Also see World Heritage Committee Tenth Session Report, Paris 1986  Back.

Note 2: The term mullah is a North African one; Jewish neighborhoods in Christian Spain were juderias.  Back.

Note 3: For the conquest of Valencia and its organization post-conquest, see Robert Ignatius Burns, The Crusader Kingdom of Valencia, Volumes 1 & 2 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1967); for Valencia's Muslims in the fifteenth century, see Mark Meyerson, The Muslims of Valencia (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991).  Back.

Note 4: In The Royal Treasure: Muslim Communities under the Crown of Aragon in the Fourteenth Century (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1977), John Boswell considers some of these arrangements. See especially "The Aljama and the Moreria: The Internal Organization of the Mudejar Community," 63-106.  Back.

Note 5: El fuero de Teruel. Edicion critica con introduccion y traduccion par José Castañé Llinas (Teruel: Perruca, 1991), LXXVIII.  Back.

Note 6: The census ordered by the Cortes de Valderrobles in 1429 counted 362 households in Teruel. This number, however, is far from precise. As Maria Falcon Perez points out in her "Aportacion al estudio de la poblacion aragonesa a fines del siglo XV," in Aragon en la Edad Media (Saragossa: Universidad de Zaragoza, 1983), census figures in this period were used for tax purposes, and thus tended to represent a negotiated settlement between the Crown and those in power locally. The Cortes de Tarazona census of 1495, for example, gave Teruel 392 households, but the count ordered by the Crown in 1489, six years earlier, placed Teruel at 505 households. In Frontiers of Heresy: The Spanish Inquisition from the Basque Lands to Sicily (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990), William Monter lists Teruel's population in the 1480s as 600 households, without explaining this figure (6).  Back.

Note 7: Antonio Floriano, "San Vicente y las Aljamas Turolenses," Boletin de la Real Academia de la Historia, 84:6 (1920): 551-580.  Back.

Note 8: Vincent Muñoz Garrido, "Actividades y recursos economicos de los mudejares de la Baja Edad Media en las calles de Andaquilla y San Bernad, de Teruel," in IV Simposio Internacional de Mudejarismo: Economia (Teruel: Instituto de Estudios Turolenses, 1987), 113-121.  Back.

Note 9: This was true of the city of Valencia, where portions of the moreria wall are still visible. Minority neighborhoods in North Africa were also walled off from the rest of the town.  Back.

Note 10: Archivo Historico Provincial de Teruel, carpeta verde, 3-46. Reyes Serrano, Archivo Historico Provincial de Teruel: Guia del Investigador (Saragossa: Departamento de Educacion y Cultura, Gobierno de Aragon,1995) is not a catalog, but does provide useful information.  Back.

Note 11: AHP Teruel, concejo, caja 27, doc. 22.  Back.

Note 12: Antonio Floriano, "San Vicente Ferrer y las Aljamas Turolenses," Boletin de la Real Academia de la Historia, 84 (1920), 579.  Back.

Note 13: Cesar Tomas Laguia, Catalogo de los pergaminos, y documentos insertos en ellos, exisente en el Archivo de la S.I. Catedral de Teruel (Teruel: Instituto de Estudios Turolenses, 1953), and Indice de los documentos en papel del archivo de la catedral de Teruel, correspondientes al siglo XVI (Teruel: Instituto de Estudios Turolenses, 1976) provide a partial inventory of the contents of the archive.  Back.

Note 14: David Nirenberg, Communities of Violence: Persecution of Minorities in the Middle Ages (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1966), 26. Nirenberg writes, "In Aragon and Catalonia, Muslims tended to live cheek by jowl with Christians. Even when Mudejars were assigned a specific quarter for their habitation, as often happened in the larger towns, effective segregation was seldom achieved and Muslims could be found living in Christian neighborhoods as well."  Back.

Note 15: Teruel's mosque, which was closed in 1502, was located at the present site of the Instituto de Estudios Turolenses, adjacent to the seminary and near to the Tower of Saint Martin.  Back.

Note 16: Santa Maria did not become a cathedral church until the late 1500s.  Back.

Note 17: There is, however, good evidence that the Muslims of Aragon abandoned Arabic for Spanish fairly early. See Chapter 9.  Back.

Note 18: AIC Teruel, perg. 413.  Back.

Note 19: AHP Teruel, concejo, caja 28, doc. 92  Back.

Note 20: Boswell, 45-6. Criminal and civil litigation involving a Muslim or a Jew also required a witness of the defendant's own faith. See also Teruel's Fuero, CXXXI.  Back.

Note 21: AIC Teruel, perg. 475.  Back.

Note 22: AIC Teruel, perg. 370  Back.

Note 23: AIC Teruel, perg. 388.  Back.

Note 24: AIC Teruel, perg. 420.  Back.

Note 25: Thomas Glick, Irrigation and Society in Medieval Valencia (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1970).  Back.

Note 26: Boswell, 61-62.  Back.

Note 27: Mercedes Garcia Arenal, Los Moriscos (Madrid: Editora Nacional, 1975).  Back.

Note 28: The property within the city of Teruel owned by Piedra included the city baths, given to the monastery in 1324 by their owner, Juan Pintor. Angel Novella Mateo, La Transformacion urbana de Teruel a traves de los tiempos (Teruel: Instituto de Estudios Turolenses, 1988), 53.  Back.

Note 29: AIC Teruel, pergs. 454-473.  Back.

Note 30: Burckhardt's translation of Muhyi-d-din ibn-Arabi's Fusus al-Hikam is called The Wisdom of the Prophets (Gloucestershire: Beshara Publications, 1975).  Back.

Note 31: We have encountered the name Aziz de Vera before. His sons were the owners of the residence adjacent to that that of the widow Mariot, and near to the Saragossa Gate.  Back.

Note 32: Meyerson, 33.  Back.

Note 33: AHP Teruel, caja 28, doc. 13.  Back.

Note 34: See Chapter 9.  Back.

Note 35: The record of the town council in Teruel for an earlier period, the early 1300s, includes evidence of intolerance as well. Nirenberg (1996), 108-110.  Back.

Note 36: Floriano (1920), 554-555.  Back.

Note 37: Nirenberg provides a perceptive analysis of these events.  Back.

Note 38: Floriano (1920), 553.  Back.


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