BESALÚ (Latin Bisuldunum, Bisuldum ; Heb. ,ביואלרו, ביסאלו, בסלו), town in Catalonia, N.E. Spain. Its Jewish community was one of the oldest in Catalonia, a tombstone dating from 1090 having been found there. In 1258 James i gave permission to the Jews of Gerona and Besalú, then forming a single collecta ("tax administrative unit"), to appoint five representatives to act in financial and administrative matters. In 1258 the two communities together paid a tax of 15,000 sólidos. In the 13th century there were 18 Jewish families (about 130 persons) in Besalú, and in the 14th century between 38 and 49 families (170–220 Jews). The Zabara and Corvida families were among the leading members of the community of Besalú in the 13th through 15th centuries. Several of their number were baptized in 1391. Other important families were the Monells, the Payrusa, the Astrucs, the Caracausas, the Bonanasms, the Bellcaires, and the Benvenists. As in the rest of Catalonia some rich Jews were moneylenders, very often in addition to their occupations or financial enterprises. Considering the size of the community, there were many Jewish physicians in Besalú – in the 14th century there were no fewer than 15. Among the best known there were the Castlars, Abraham and David, who were father and son, Bendit Deuslogar, Belshom Maymon, Moshe Abraham de Portal, Samuel Cabrit, Salamon Caravida, and Ishaq Adret. In 1271 the Jews of Besalú were empowered by the Infante Pedro to execute legal contracts in the same way as Christians and Moors. During a heresy hunt in Besalú in 1292 the Dominicans tried to interfere in Jewish affairs, but were prevented by the king. An outbreak against the Jews at Gerona during Easter 1331 had repercussions there. During the anti-Jewish outbreaks that swept Spain in 1391 the Jews were protected by the local authorities. Thus between 1392 and 1415, a period of general decline of the Jewish population in Catalonia, 36 Jewish families, around 160 Jews, lived there. Nevertheless the number of Jews who converted to Christianity increased significantly in the 15th century. A small Jewish community continued to exist in Besalú in the 15th century, until the expulsion from Spain. It had its own synagogue, cemetery, and mikveh. The mikveh was discovered in 1964 in the old Jewish quarter.
Baer, Studien, 42ff.; Neuman, Spain, index; Cantera, in: Sefarad, 9 (1949), 481–2; Millás Vallicrosa, ibid., 25 (1965), 67–69; Cantera-Millás, Inscripciones, 264. add. bibliography: M. Grau Montserrat, in: Revista de Girona 82 (1978), 49–54; idem, in: Anuario de Filología, 5 (1979), 125–83; 7 (1981), 285–307; idem, in: Annals [Olot] (1978), 49–120; (1979), 91–115; (1980–1), 111–24; X. Barral I. Altet, in: M. Mentrú (ed.), L'art juif au moyen âge (1988), 127–28; E. Lourie, in: Michael, 11 (1989), 62–78.
[Haim Beinart /
Yom Tov Assis (2nd ed.)]