Legends of Santa Cruz: Calle Vida (Life Street)

If you visit the Royal Alcazar of Seville, on your way out you will find yourself in the Patio de Banderas. If you do not take another step and, still inside the courtyard, you go to the right, you will find the entrance to the Judería Street. Narrow and with air of being enchanted, it takes us to a door of access to the old Jewish district: Santa Cruz.

After crossing those doors, we find ourselves in a street named in contrast with its parallel called Calle de la Muerte (Street of the Death), this street is called Calle Vida (Life Street).

Today, with this post, we want to explain one of the legends of this mysterious neighbourhood. But, you know, legends are based in part of true history.

Let's travel to the end of the 14th century, specifically to 1390. Henry III of Castile, known as 'The Mourner', climbs to the throne. Scarcely 30 years ago, King Pedro I (legitimate king of the throne of Castile) and Henry Trastámara (Henry II, bastard king) had engaged in a mortal dispute over the throne of Castile.

The political situation was somewhat complex, since Henry II had made many promises to the Clergy and the Nobility, to return their privileges. This plunged the kingdom into a huge crisis.

This situation improved during the reign of Henry III, but it was too late. So many years of crisis and discontent produced an explosion: anti-Jewish Revolt of 1391.

This anti-Jewish movement provoked attacks against Jewish neighbourhoods throughout the kingdom, highlighting those of Seville, Cordoba, Toledo and Barcelona. During these, there were looting, fires, massacres and forced conversions.

It is considered that the main reason was the discontent of the people before their situation of poverty and the constant opulent wealth of the Jews, who lived at pleasure, according to the Christians. What they didn’t consider is that the Jews lived in those neighbourhoods by obligation, surrounded by walls, with curfews and locked up all night long. If there was a fire, Jews could not leave the neighbourhood, all accesses were closed at night.

However, the reason for superstition is also shuffled. What does this mean? For the Christians, it did not make sense that the Jews did not suffer as many diseases as they did: leprosy, black plague, scurvy, tuberculosis, smallpox, gout ... etc. Many of these diseases are caused by lack of hygiene, but that is something that was not known in the middle ages.

The Jews had hygienic customs as well as the Muslims, Romans and Greeks: daily or almost daily personal hygiene, keeping the streets clean and burying the deceased on the outskirts of the city.

The Christians did not maintain those hygiene habits. According to the doctors, washing often could take away the natural protection of the skin, so that some of them bathed less than two or three times a year. The faeces and urine were thrown out the window into the street, people had to move away if they did not want to end up smelling of excrement. Like the waste of meat and fish, they were thrown into the streets.

Not only that, but the deceased, if the funeral could not be paid, they were buried in the patio of the house or, as with the homeless, their remains were left to rot in the streets.

If we think about it from a current point of view, it is logical that the Jews did not suffer these types of illness. But, in the eyes of the Christians, it was about witchcraft or that the Jews had been poisoning the water.

 

What does all this have to do with the Legend of Life Street? Well, it is said that when Christians entered the Jewish Quarter of Seville in 1391 to destroy the community, they did so at night, stealthily entering and closing all the exits of it so that not one of them could escape. On each of these doors, a guard was placed.

Well, tells the legend of this macabre night, that one of the guards forgot, on purpose or not, to close one of the doors and, through it, some of the Jewish families managed to escape the fateful end.

That door still exists today, and it is the one that connects Judería Street with Santa Cruz neighbourhood. For that reason, the street receives the name of life, because all those that managed to escape from that cruel destiny obtained: The Life.

 

Well, we hope you liked this post. In the next we will talk about other legends of Santa Cruz such as Death Street, Pepper Street or Santa Cruz Square

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