Nineteenth century nationalism and anti-Papism made it easy to forget the extent of Spanish influence in the Low Countries during the sixteenth century. Much of this influence was literary, with translations and localisations of Spanish classics appearing rapidly and serving as models for several generations of Dutch authors, but Iberia’s greatest gift to the Provinces–like Germany’s to Britain and the States centuries later–came in the form of Jews seeking a new domicile.
David Henriquez de Castro, a Dutch Jew whose family traced it Spanish roots back to the twelth century, was a fine scholar and one of a number who, towards the end of the nineteenth century, helped debunk monocultural stereotypes of The Nation. Taken from a footnote to his obituary in the 1899 yearbook of the Society for Dutch Letters, the following selection of seventeenth century gravestones restored and documented by him in the Sephardic cemetery in Ouderkerk on the Amstel gives a small impression of Spain and Portugal’s loss and Holland’s gain:
The first corpse buried in Ouderkerk (a child of David Senior).
Don Manuel Teixeira de Mattos, representative here of Queen Christina of Sweden.
Diego Teixeira de Mattos, his son, nobleman at the court of the above queen.
Moses bar Jehudah Bebri, ambassador of Sultan Mohammed IV to the Swedish court.
Doctor Abraham Gomes de Sossa, personal physician of the Infante Ferdinand, son of King Philip III of Spain.
Doctor Benjamin Musaphia, personal physician of King Christian IV of Denmark, celebrated lexicographer etc.
Moses Machado, quartermaster general of the army of the States under Prince William III.
Baron Don Manuel de Belmonte, representative of the King of Spain in Holland.
Haham Abraham Cohen Herera, known cabbalist, ex-Spanish representative in Cadiz.
Haham Saul Levi Morteira, known preacher and writer, teacher of the philosopher Spinoza.
David Salom de Azevedo, representative of the Bey of Algiers in Amsterdam.
Doctor Isaac Oroblo de Castro, personal physician of the Duke of Medina-Celi, teacher at the University of Salamanca, later professor at the high school in Toulouse, famous apologist writer.
Haham Joseph Pardo, first upper rabbi of the Beth-Jahacob community.
Haham Jacob Sasportas, representative here of the emperor of Morocco.
Haham David Pardo, first upper rabbi of the third Beth-Israel community.
Don Samuel Palacha, ambassador of the emperor of Marokko to the States of Holland in The Hague and one of the founders of the Portuguese community here.
Haham Isaac Aboab, upper rabbi of the three communities united in 1639.
Docter Ephraim Bueno, accomplished doctor.
Docter Joseph Bueno, doctor to Prince Maurits.
Daniel Levi de Barrios, captain in the Spanish army, famouse Spanish poet and earliest historian of the Portuguese community.
Docter Eliau Montalto, personal physician of Queen Mary of Medici.
Joseph Penso Felix, excellent modern Hebrew poet.
Jacob Juda Leon (Templo), known for his portrayal of and work concerning (?) Salome’s temple. Also for his Spanish translation of the psalms.
Jacob de Pina, famous Spanish poet.
Dona Mayor Rodrigues en Francesco Nunes Homem, first Portuguese Israelite to set foot on land in Amsterdam.
David Franco Mendes, accomplished Hebrew poet and writer of extremely important writings concerning the history of the Portuguese community here.
Jacob Israel Belmonte, who gathered here the first minjan [quorum of ten men required for communal prayer].
Isaac de Pinedo, known for his famous annotated translation of the work of Stephanus de Urbibus.
Docter Isaac de Rocamora, ex-Dominican monk, later leading doctor and poet.
Uri Alevi, grandson of the well-known Moses Uri Alevi, leading Hebrew printer.
Many of the individuals are much more interesting than de Castro’s summaries suggest. Here for example is a biography of Isaac Orobio de Castro which, extraordinary as it is, still fails to mention that the man’s literary debut took place in 1637 at the age of 17 with the publication of a poem dealing with the 1636-7 plague epidemic in Malaga. Unlike some of his other tracts (the refutation of Spinoza, for example), the Epílogo de lo que passó en la peste de la ciudad de Malaga este ano 1637 sounds worth a read. Did he or did he not credit St Julian with the town’s salvation, as other accounts do?
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