Seneor, Abraham

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SENEOR, ABRAHAM (c. 1412–c. 1493), one of the most prominent Jewish courtiers in Spain during the expulsion period. During the reign of King Henry iv (1454–74) he acted as chief tax farmer of Castile. In 1468, in appreciation of his numerous services, the king appointed him albedin of the Jewish community of *Segovia, where he lived. In 1474, when Spain was united under the Catholic Monarchs, they expressed their gratitude to Abraham Seneor for his numerous services and did not forget his favorable stand in their struggle for power. From 1476 he appears as the rabbi and supreme judge of the Jews of Castile and the assessor of the Jewish taxes throughout the kingdom. He enjoyed the special protection of the kings, who allocated him an income of 150,000 guilders for life (1475) and exempted him from the restrictions on dress which had been imposed on the Jews of Spain (1479). In 1488 he was appointed treasurer of the Hermandad, a military organization which was established to maintain order and security in the country. Since Jews were not admitted to this office, his involvements were registered in the name of one of the Christian courtiers.

Criticisms have been voiced against Abraham Seneor by Jewish scholars and authors of contemporary Hebrew chronicles, claiming that he was an unbeliever and that he had become rabbi of the Jews because of royal patronage without the consent of the Jews. During his period of office, however, he did much to assist the Jewish communities, and in a letter which the Jews of Castile sent to their coreligionists in Rome in 1487 they referred to him as the "exilarch over us." On many occasions he protected the Jews of Spain from violent incitements by monks and the cruel hands of the *Inquisition. After the conquest of *Malaga by *Ferdinand and Isabella in 1487, his efforts were directed toward the redemption of Jewish captives. The authors of Jewish chronicles describe his position and wealth at length: "He rode together with 30 mules," "he rode a mule and wore a golden necklace… all the dignitaries of the kingdom accompanied him."

Pressure by Ferdinand and Isabella that he should convert to Christianity finally prevailed and he decided to abandon Judaism, together with his son-in-law Meir *Melamed and the members of his family. At a public ceremony, which the sovereigns arranged in honor of the event, at *Guadalupe on June 15, 1942, they themselves served as godfathers for the baptism. Seneor then changed his name to Fernando Nuñez Coronel. A few days later he was appointed regidor of Segovia, a member of the royal council, and chief financial administrator of the crown prince.


Baer, Urkunden, 2 (1936), index; Baer, Spain, 2 (1966), index s.v.Abraham Seneor; Suarez Fernández, Documentos, index. add. bibliography: E. Gutwirth, in: Michael, 11 (1989), 169–229.

[Joseph Kaplan]