Cavalleria (Caballeria), De la

views updated

CAVALLERIA (Caballeria), DE LA

CAVALLERIA (Caballeria), DE LA , family in Aragon, Spain, prominent from the second half of the 13th century. There is information about its early connections with the Order of the Knights Templar, especially during the second half of the 13th century when its members are even referred to as "homines templi." Hence the name "Caballeria" (Knights) that the family bore. The family was also known by the name Ibn (Abu) Lavi (Heb. אבן לביא): a document of 1370 makes explicit mention of "[Salomonem] de la Cavalleria, alias cognominatum Abenlavi." Members of the family lived in Saragossa, Barcelona, Villafranca, and Lérida. The family experienced many changes in fortune. The earliest document in which it is mentioned is a letter from the Saragossa community dated 1232 dealing with the controversy over the writings of Maimonides, bearing the signature "Abraham b. R. Judah of blessed memory b. Lavi." After the death of Judah de la Cavalleria, the family lost part of its fortune and influence. After the Black Plague, under Pedro iv members of the family rose again to prominence at court. In the 14th century members of the family belonged to the "francos," the free men, who were not subject to the communal jurisdiction. During the 15th century a family schism occurred after a large section of its members adopted Catholicism without, however, changing their surname. Their baptism was the result of the growing pressure exerted by the Church and by King Ferdinand i, who was ready to prove his Christian fervor. Some members of the family were baptized in February 1414, during the *Tortosa Disputation. As a result some families were split, when one of the spouses and some of the children remained Jewish. The privileges of those remaining faithful to Judaism, including Judah de la Cavalleria and his son Vidal, were renewed by King Alfonso v in 1419. After this time, however, they had little influence in Jewish life. Towards the middle of the 15th century there was hardly any member of the family who remained Jewish. The will of Tolosana, the widow of Benveniste de la Caballeria, illustrates the situation well.

Prominent members of the family include the following:

(1) judah de la cavalleria (d. 1276) is already mentioned as bailiff of Saragossa in 1257. In 1260 the king empowered him to collect the crown revenues for the kingdom of Aragon and to deal with the royal expenditure. All royal bailiffs were ordered to submit to him a report of their activities, while he himself had to account to the royal exchequer. In 1263 James i granted him a special privilege allowing him to keep a hired Jewish or Christian huntsman to provide him with up to 30 game birds a day. In the same year Judah provided the king with a large sum for constructing a fleet to be used against the Muslims. Subsequently, when James i attacked Murcia, Judah assisted him in garrisoning the border fortresses of Valencia. Judah was also appointed bailiff of Valencia. He owned real estate and flocks of sheep both there and around Saragossa. Despite his high position, he was accused in 1266 of concealing a crucifix bearing the figure of Jesus, and it was alleged that his household had mocked the agony of Christ. Judah's wife, daughter, and son-in-law Astruc Bonsenyor, as well as others were also implicated. The king, however, acquitted them of the charge, and Judah retained his influence. He was also active in the leadership of the Saragossa community, where, as at court, he had rivals in the *Alconstantini family. At his request James i prevented a member of the Alconstantini family from being appointed chief dayyan of the Kingdom of Aragon in 1271. Judah had four sons, solomon, bailiff of *Murviedro in 1273, abraham, Ḥasdai, and astruc. Their privileges were confirmed by James ii in 1273.

(2) vidal de la cavalleria (d. 1373), son of Abraham and Bonosa and grandson of Judah (1). Vidal served as a tax farmer in Aragon and held important positions in the Jewish community and the state. From 1361 on, he collected on behalf of the king the payments that were approved by the Cortes for the military equipment of the cavalry. He and his brother Salomon had business interests in the towns of Fuentes and La Almunia de Doña Godina. In 1372, he and Perpinyan Blan were granted the right to mint the gold coin of Aragon and currency for Castile. In addition to his business activities, Vidal was well versed in Jewish law and kept vigilant religious discipline in the Saragossa community. His will, drawn up by a Christian notary, as then customary, has been preserved. His children included his sons judah and Bonafos (8) and a daughter Bonfilla, who married Joseph *Benveniste.

Vidal was learned in Jewish sources and supported the policy of maintaining religious observance in the Jewish community.

Vidal's versatile wife (3) orovida was associated with her husband in his projects, sometimes collecting taxes and imposts in his name. Her signature appeared on various documents. She conducted her husband's affairs after his death.

(4) salomon (Solomon), Vidal's brother, was a partner in his tax-farming projects. In the 1380s he leased the customs dues on the Aragon-Castile border with his son Judah Benveniste (5). He was active in communal affairs and acted as dayyan in complicated cases. He was specially authorized by the king to deliberate problems of Jewish law with contemporary scholars. Salomon also wrote poems, and his liturgical hymns in Hebrew have been preserved. He was a leader in the movement to regenerate Hebrew culture.

(5) judah benveniste (d. 1411), son of Salomon (4), was active in many spheres in Saragossa and in the kingdom of Aragon. He is not to be identified with Benveniste de la Cavalleria (son of Bonjuba) of Barcelona who was fined in 1341–42 because he had traveled to the Orient (Ereẓ Israel) in defiance of a prohibition issued by the king. Judah developed large-scale commercial activities and had trading connections with Christians in Barcelona, Gerona, and elsewhere. However, his most important activity was in the royal administration. From the late 1370s he engaged in banking and also farmed the church revenues of the archdiocese of Saragossa and of the Order of St. John. After the death of his father, Judah Benveniste continued to lease the customs dues on the Aragon-Castile border from 1383 to 1387, and his influence on the customs administration and on commerce in the border areas was also felt in economic policy. Apparently his official activities ceased in 1391 but he is again mentioned in 1396 as a banker and as tax farmer of the archdiocese of Saragossa. In 1401 he represented King Martin in discussions with the representatives of a council of the estates of Catalonia and Aragon on tax questions. He also took part in marriage negotiations between the royal families of Aragon and Navarre. His signature in Hebrew appears on official documents. Judah Benveniste is also known for his numerous activities as a leader of the Jewish community. In 1381 he arbitrated tax questions in the community of *Alcañiz. He also acted as dayyan and authority on Jewish law in the affairs of the smaller communities in the neighborhood of Saragossa. His home was a meeting place for scholars and poets, and his letters in Hebrew testify to his profound Hebrew learning and wide knowledge of the Bible, the Talmud, and Jewish philosophy. Like his father Salomon, he was on friendly terms with Nissim *Gerondi and he seems to have supported *Isaac b. Sheshet in his controversy with members of the Saragossa community. Joshua *Lorki was friendly with him for some time, and produced several works and translations from Arabic to Hebrew at Benveniste's request. During the anti-Jewish persecutions of 1391, his home became a haven for the refugees from attacks of the mob. The poet Solomon Da *Piera was also welcomed there, continuing his literary activities and acting as teacher to Vidal (9), his benefactor's son.

His wife (6) tolosana (d. 1443), daughter of Bonafos (8) and granddaughter of Vidal (2), was a woman of wide interests, and continued her husband's activities after his death. She witnessed the conversion to Christianity of most of her children. King Ferdinand i prohibited Tolosana and her two daughters who had remained faithful to Judaism from leaving Saragossa. By her will, Tolosana distributed her possessions among the five children who had become Christians and the two who had remained attached to Judaism, and left a fund for the communal charitable institutions: the burial society, the talmud torah, and the bikkur ḥolim, for the salvation of her soul and that of her husband.

(7) bonafos (d. 1402), son of Abraham and brother of Vidal (2) and Salomon (4), was a physician in Saragossa. His son Judah became converted to Christianity, taking the name Gaspar, and attempted to induce the rest of the family to accept baptism. A daughter Reina remained attached to Judaism.

(8) bonafos (ferdinand), son of Vidal (2), continued to administer his father's affairs. His marriage in 1380 was a widely publicized occasion and Pedro iv issued a special order authorizing Jews from various localities to attend the ceremony. From this marriage he had a son Leonardo, who became converted and held a high position at court, and a daughter, Tolosana (6). Influenced by the course of the disputation of *Tortosa, Bonafos adopted Catholicism on Feb. 2, 1414. He changed his name to Ferdinand and divorced his wife, who remained faithful to Judaism. His second wife, Leonor de la Cabra, bore him nine children, several of whom rose to leading positions of state. On Feb. 8, 1414, he was appointed treasurer (thesaurarius) to the king of Aragon, the highest office in the kingdom. He lived to an old age, and until his death continued to hold important official posts and to organize the collection of taxes.

(9) vidal joseph (c. 1370–c. 1456), son of Benveniste (5) and Tolosana (6). His teacher Solomon Da Piera had a favorable influence on him after he took up residence in Benveniste's house. Vidal exchanged poems in Hebrew with his teacher, and translated several works into Spanish, including Cicero's De officiis and De amititia. At the disputation of Tortosa, he represented the community of Saragossa. During September–October 1413, when the disputation was suspended, Vidal was one of the Jewish representatives whom Pope *Benedictxiii refused to allow to return home. Vidal was then ordered by King Ferdinand to present himself together with Bonafos (8) to help organize the siege of Balaguer. Vidal's subsequent conversion to Catholicism caused much pain to the Jewish community, several of whom (Bonastruc Desmaestre and Solomon *Bonafed) expressed their grief in poems. After his conversion he took the name Gonzalo.

(10) pedro (c. 1415–c. 1461), elder son of Bonafos (8) and his Christian wife Leonor de la Cabra. Pedro won a reputation as a jurist, advocate, and adviser to Alfonso V. He was also comptroller general (maestre racional) of Aragon. In the 1440s he made great efforts to obtain a certificate signed by Christian notables that he was of pure Christian descent, even though it was impossible to deny his origin. In 1450 he completed an anti-Jewish polemic entitled Zelus Christi contra

Judaeos, Saracenos et infideles. The work demonstrates a profound acquaintance with Hebrew literature which few born Christians were likely to possess. He was killed at the beginning of the Catalan revolt.

(11) pedro, a Converso, not to be confused with Pedro (10). He was sent in 1469 on a special mission by the infante Ferdinand with the chronicler Alfonso de Palencia to convey the famous pearl necklace which served as guarantee for the marriage contract with Isabella of Castile.

(12) alfonso (d. c. 1506), probably the son of Pedro (10). Alfonso, also a jurist, became a counselor at the court of Aragon and procurator fiscalis. In the early 1480s he was appointed vice chancellor of Aragon. His brother James also held important posts at court. Another brother, Pablo, became a monk and subsequently bishop of Malta. Ferdinand ii entrusted Alfonso in 1479 with the administration of the kingdom and its reorganization. In 1486 Alfonso participated in establishing the Inquisition in Barcelona. His philosophy was summed up in a remark recorded by his contemporaries: "In this world one has only to be born and to die. There is no other Paradise." Despite these Averroist opinions Alfonso may be considered an outstanding humanist for his time. Immediately after the assassination of the inquisitor Pedro de *Arbues in Saragossa Cathedral, the Inquisition there began to gather evidence to incriminate Alfonso. From the testimony, some given by Jews a few weeks before the expulsion from Spain, it emerged that he had a close relationship with Isaac de *Leon, the celebrated rabbi of Ocaña. It was alleged that Alfonso had supported R. Isaac in an argument on halakhah against R. Isaac Zayet, a scholar of Saragossa, who in turn was supported by another Converso, Luis Sánchez. Alfonso had stayed at R. Isaac's home in Ocaña, had read the Bible in Hebrew with other Conversos, and partaken of the food of the Jews. By 1488 the case had been transferred by order of the pope to the jurisdiction of the archbishop of Seville, where the trial reached a standstill. The defense maintained its formal denial, and it was only in 1501 that Alfonso was finally acquitted. His friendly attitude toward the Jews can be deduced from several sources indicating his opposition to the expulsion decree of 1492.


Baer, Spain, index; Baer, Urkunden, index; F. Bofarull y Sans, Los judíos en el territorio de Barcelona bajo el reinado de Jaime I (1910); Serrano y Sans, Origenes de la dominación española en América (1918), 180–2 (on Vidal), 180ff. (on Benveniste), 186–7 (on Tolosano), 190ff. (on Bonafos), 189–90 (on Pedro); Vendrell Gallestra, in: Sefarad, 3 (1943), 115ff., 130ff. (on Vidal); 124ff. (on Orovida); 122–4, 126–9 (on Benveniste); 133–5, 139–41 (on Tolosano); 145ff. (on Bonafos); 116ff. (on Salomon); A. Lopez Pacios, La Disputa de Tortosa, 1 (1957), 51ff. (on Vidal); H.C. Lea, History of the Inquisition in Spain, 1 (1904), 295ff. (on Alfonso).

[Haim Beinart]

About this article

Cavalleria (Caballeria), De la

Updated About content Print Article