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Reformationes (Decisions of the Councils of the Dubrovnik Republic)

  • HR-DADU-01
  • Fonds
  • 1301-1306, 1311-1336, 1343-1353, 1356-1368, 1378-1392, 1395-1399, 1402-1404, 1407-1415

The fonds contains the decisions of the Major Council, the Minor Council, and the Senate, or of the three supreme institutions of government of the Dubrovnik commune. The books of the fonds date from the 14th and the beginning of the 15th century, and they contain various decisions on all aspects of the policy of the internal and foreign affairs of the Dubrovnik commune and are very important for the research of the earlier history of Dubrovnik.

The fonds contains very few mentions of Jewish people. The references found are from the first half of the 14th century, but they do not seem to be directly connected with the Jewish people. Namely, probably under the influence of church presentations and performances, the people of Dubrovnik would disguise themselves as Jews or Carbonos before Easter, blackening their faces and dressing up in a certain way. Disguised like this they would attack passers-by and use this as an opportunity to deal with their enemies. Authorities forbade them to disguise themselves in such a way, and the first ban under threat of a fine of 25 perpers dates to the time before Easter in 1319. Prohibitions of disguise to Carbonos or Jewish people were repeatedly issued in 1320, 1323, 1329 and 1335. In 1331, the authorities in the Republic allowed such a disguise.

Central offices of the Dubrovnik commune

Acta Consilii Maioris (Decisions of the Major Council)

  • HR-DADU-02
  • Fonds
  • 1415-1808

The fonds contains the decisions of the Major Council, the supreme body of power, in which all male adult nobles were assembled. Although the Minor Council and the Senate eventually assumed certain responsibilities of the Major Council, the Major Council retained supreme authority until the fall of the Republic (1808). The Major Council passed regulations of a permanent nature (laws), had the last word in decision-making in the most important state affairs, granted pardon and amnesty, as well as elected the Rector, members of the Senate and the Minor Council, and other state officials.

The granting of Isaac Jeshurun’s appeal is most likely the only mention of Jewish people in this fonds. In 1622, Jeshurun ​​was accused of ritual murder of a girl and, during his interrogation, was subjected to torture. When the real killer was discovered, investigations into Jeshurun's alleged complicity in the murder continued. At the end of 1622, he was sentenced to 20 years in prison. In January 1625, the Senate accepted Jeshurun's petition for pardon and forwarded the petition to the Major Council, as this was the only authority that could make decisions on pardons. The record shows that all petitions or pardon would be presented every year before the Major Council, at a session that used to be held before Easter, on Wednesday, during the Holy Week. On March 26, 1625, the Major Council accepted Jeshurun's proposal to change his prison sentence to life-time exile from the Republic (vol. 34, ff. 200v, 201).

Office of the Secretary of the Dubrovnik Republic

Acta Consilii Rogatorum (Decisions of the Senate of the Dubrovnik Republic)

The series contains the decisions of the Senate (Consilium Rogatorum) from the early 15th to the early 19th century. At the beginning of the 14th century, this administrative body became a permanent authority that primarily made decisions on foreign policy of the Republic and was named the Senate during the 15th century. The Senate became the central body of the administrative power of the Dubrovnik Republic, with a very wide field of activities: from making domestic and foreign policies and dealing with issues regarding economy and trade, to making decisions relevant for the destiny of individual citizens. Senate decisions were applicable to a vast geographical area: Europe, North Africa, the Middle East and, to a lesser extent, Latin America. The Senate was chaired by the Rector whose mandate lasted a month. The Rector presided over both: the Minor Council and the Major Council.

The series is very important for the research of the history of the Jewish people. The documents in the series include most of the key decisions made in the times of the Republic that clearly indicate the attitude of the Republic towards the Jews, as well as how this attitude has been changing throughout the history. Attempting to analyse this attitude, one can find data on the business of Jewish merchants in the Mediterranean and the Balkans, as well as on the private life of Jewish people in the Dubrovnik Republic. According to the data, the first records of the Jews can be found in the documents written ten years after the creation of the Acta Consilii Rogatorum series. Franchus Josepovich (Franius, Josep, Yosue), a Jew from an Albanian town of Vlora, addressed the Senate in 1426 because there was a danger that his goods would be confiscated in Dubrovnik (vol. 3, ff. 292, 292v). Early records of Jews include, for example, a reference to Abram, a messenger of the last Bosnian queen, Katarina (1477; vol. 23, f. 137). Another very significant, perhaps even the most significant document on Jews in this series, is the decision about the establishment of a ghetto, made on October 15, in 1546 (vol. 47, ff. 249v-150v). This specific document describes in detail residential and business premises of the ghetto, locking time of the ghetto doors and rental prices. Certain decisions, on the expansion of the ghetto, as well as on standards of living and business conditions outside the ghetto, had been made later, and continued to be made till the fall of the Republic in 1808. The documents in this series reference to many important figures of the Sephardic world. Some of them only passed through Dubrovnik and some lived in Dubrovnik and were members of the Dubrovnik Jewish community such as: Gracia Mendez and her representatives Abner Alfarin and Isac Ergas, physicians Amatus Lusitanus, Abraham and his son-in-law Joseph Salama, a poet Didacus Pyrrhus, a merchant Daniel Rodrigues (16th century), a rabbi Aron Cohen (17th century), and a merchant Raphael Cohen (18th century). Through the decisions of the Senate, we can follow the destiny of a merchant Isaac Jeshurun, accused of a ritual murder of a Dubrovnik girl (1622). There are many references to other Jews in the series, who most often were Sephardim, and the data found refer to various aspects of their lives. Among other things, the data provide information about trading, appointments of Dubrovnik Jews as Dubrovnik state brokers (sensali), or extraordinary customs duties imposed upon the Jewish community in crisis situations such as plague epidemics. The data also reveal other important facts on treatment, rights and privileges of baptized Jewish women and men. The Senate would also give guarantees of free arrival, restricted residence, and free departure (salvus conductus) to Jewish merchant debtors. Some of these decisions were made based on petitions submitted to the Senate, being, therefore, a particularly interesting source for any research of the business and private lives of Dubrovnik Jews.

Secreta Rogatorum (Undisclosed decisions of the Senate)

The series was created by a decree of the Minor Council in 1443, which stipulated keeping a record of undisclosed decisions of the Senate and the Minor Council in special volumes. The volumes consist of undisclosed state provisions that mainly concern the Ottomans, the Catholic Church, the sending of information about the Ottoman Empire to Christian countries, and the fate of those persons whom the authorities considered to be the enemies of the state.

The series covers the period from the end of the 15th to the end of the 17th century and it offers only scarce data about the Jewish people. A reference to an unnamed Jewish physician who carried a state notarial document to Istanbul in 1660 (vol. 5, f. 13v) is probably the only record of Jews in this series.

Acta Minoris Consilii (Decisions of the Minor Council)

The series contains the decisions of the Minor Council made in the period from the beginning of the 15th to the beginning of the 19th century. With the cessation of Venetian rule in 1358, the Minor Council and the Rector lost much of their authority. Since then, the Council had mostly dealt with cases related to communal life, that is, it would resolve current affairs that should not burden either the Senate or the Major Council. From today's point of view, it could be said that the Minor Council had executive authority. The Rector, whose mandate lasted only one month, was at the head of the Minor Council and he presided over both the Senate and the Major Council. The Minor council headed by the Rector represented the Republic and held audiences with ambassadors from foreign countries. In cooperation with the Senate, the Minor Council oversaw all correspondence with the consuls of the Dubrovnik Republic, ambassadors (poklisari) and other diplomatic and consular representatives of the Republic in foreign countries, mostly in the Ottoman Empire and in the countries of the Apennine Peninsula. The Minor Council was also in charge of issuing letters to foreign rulers and other dignitaries.

The series contains a lot of information about Jewish people. The data are very important to analyse the attitude of the Dubrovnik Republic towards Jews. The series also provides a large quantity of data to learn about their private lives, as well as about the business of Jewish merchants. In addition, the series is extremely important for the research of private and business lives of Jewish women. The first information about Jews in this series dates to the 20s of the 14th century with, for example, a reference about a Jew by the name of Chrisomus who sold a bell and some copper in Dubrovnik (1428; vol. 4, f. 192v). Bandit attacks on Jews who travelled to Dubrovnik using the ships of the Republic and, most likely, intended to go this way to the Ottoman Empire, at the end of the 15th century, are referenced many times. There are many references in this series to well-known figures from the Sephardic world some of whom only passed through Dubrovnik, and some lived there such as Gracia Mendez and her business representatives Abner Alfarin and Isac Ergas, physicians Amatus Lusitanus, Abraham and his son-in-law Joseph Salama, a poet Didacus Pyrhhus, a merchant Daniel Rodrigues (16th century), a rabbi Aron Cohen (17th century), and a merchant Raphael Cohen (18th century). The series also contains information about sending Jewish physicians, especially Abraham and Joseph Salama, to the courts of Ottoman dignitaries in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Through the decisions of the Minor Council, we can, for example, follow the destiny of the members of the Dubrovnik Jewish community during the court trial against a Jewish merchant Isaac Jeshurun, accused of a ritual murder of a girl from Dubrovnik (1622). If in fear for their own lives, many Jews were allowed to leave Dubrovnik with a special permission of the Minor Council. The series also contains many documents in which free arrival and limited stay to Jewish merchants who were in debt were granted (Lat. salvus conductus). This council would also issue permits for construction projects in the ghetto and for housing purposes outside the ghetto. Occasionally, the Minor Council would also make decisions on the obligation imposed upon Jews to wear a special sign. The series mentions many Jewish women, most often widows, who were given permission by the Minor Council to perform certain legal work with the consent of their guardians. Most often, these were women who wanted to appoint a certain person to represent them to conduct business either in the Dubrovnik Republic or in another country.

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