And before Aragon, Navarre ?
We constantly seek to go back in time in our search for traces of the Family, - for that is what this Site is partly about, looking to find evidence of a definite presence and in this Chapter as to our as yet undetailed doings in the one-time Kingdom of Navarre originally founded in the 9th century.

One of the sources relied upon here is an Article headed: "Names of Jews in Medieval Navarre " written by Lidia Becker and itself based upon a collection entitled "Navarra Judaica. Documentos para la Historia de los judios del reino de Navarra " [J.Carrasco Perez, F.M. Garcia, E.R. Vaquero 1994-1999 - Pamplona, Govt. of Navarre, Dept. of Education and Culture].

Although today an integral part of Spain, Navarre's national identity had a chequered past. After release from the Moors at the beginning of the 12th century, (Tudela - 1121), it became an independent kingdom but in 1274 fell under French sovereignty later to again become an independent Kingdom. As a result, and whilst under the French anti-semitism was to a degree policy, Navarre's independent monarchs adopted a much milder one as the years went by and towards the end of the late medieaval period the Country presented attitudes towards the Jews differing from those of its other Christian neighbours.

We have already seen this in the position and attitudes of its cities, - and Tudela in the main, - as a regular refuge for persecuted Spanish Jewry. And indeed, the regular expulsions of Jews from Valois France throughout the whole of the 14th century were granted refuge and taken in by the French/Burgundian and still Capetian Kings of Navarre.

True, the Expulsion was eventually applied in Navarre too, (in 1498), but only under fierce pressure from Castile Aragon which then proceeded to conquer Navarre's own lands south of the Pyrenees, (between 1512-1524), so that presumably even the memories of that safe-haven could be destroyed.

This chapter inevitably raises questions about the Benardouts' arrival into Aragon and the possibility that, - remembering too the "French connection " often mentioned in this Survey, - that arrival could well have been via or in parallel to Navarre, a country which was far closer politically to France than to Spain, for Navarre included both the Basque country and territories north of the Pyrenees.

Ms. Becker brings this clear statement : "according to Rother 2001, 332 [Bernd Rother, 2001, Die Iberische Halbinsel] the first Jews in Christian lands of the Iberian Peninsular moved there from France " - i.e., in a southerly direction but on the other hand she refers to the Jews of Southern Spain, long under Visigoths and Moors - who clearly moved northwards. This northwards movement began in the 9th and 10th centuries. Thus we now have the possibility that the first Benardouts came northwards from Moorish controlled - and preferred - parts of Spain, a firmly based alternative route in answer to the question: Where were we immediately before Aragon ? "Southern Spain " seems to be a clear answer, since, - after all - Jews had been there from the earliest years of the Diaspora, if not from earlier as Roman citizens, traders and slaves.

References at the opening of Ms. Becker's Article, based upon the appearance of Jewish names, indicate a firm Benardout presence in Navarre from the 12th century. The Article refers to the origins of Navarre's own "established " community of Jewry as having been founded in the 12th century in Tudela, Pamplona (the capital city), Estella and Sanguesa, along the Ebro Valley, (with the Jewish population making up some 5-6% of the whole in the later 13th and 14th centuries).

Indeed, we now know with certainty that the celebrated Benardout Medical Dynasty had its origins in Tudela, the first Dr. Benardout known of having been recorded there as long ago as 1178, (see the "Dr. Benardout " Chapter). What we do not know, however, - even from Beatrice Leroy's subsequent Work, - (See later for the reference), - is how they came to own land from even before then in Navarre's main towns, nor for how long they had done so.

It seems to be fact that the Benardouts moved away from Navarre into Aragon itself quite early on, eventually joining the Court of the Kings of Aragon, since little mention of the name is found in Navarre after 1200. The Medical family seems to have moved on in this way, reappearing in Aragon's historical records after about 100 years, - perhaps they simply went where their services were more needed - a matter of grasses green.......

The only additional mention of a family member in Leroy is from 1361, when the Cistercian Monastery of Fitero, on the Navarre-Castile border, took a very substantial loan from a Navarrian magnate, one Ezmel Ablitas, against 7 guarantors with one of the three required witnesses to the notarialised transaction being a certain "Jew from Tudela, Ezmel Cohen Avenardut ". This certainly places that particular family-member amongst Navarre's higher ranks of society, but we do not learn more than that.

But, on the other hand, there is no Benardout included in Lists of registered money-lenders, court actions, criminal affairs and the like, nor as borrowers, witnesses, Rabbis or otherwise. If they were still there they kept a quite uncharacteristicly low profile !!

Ms. Becker notes that : "In the valleys around Tudela the concentration of Jews reached 20% ". This is not particularly surprising to us perhaps, since we are well aware of the Jewish concentration in that part of Iberia. You may recall that Tarazona itself, sitting in Aragon on a tributary of the Ebro had a stable 15% Jewish population, - only 21 kilometers from Tudela.

In Ms. Becker's Article there are only en passant references to the Abenardut Family recorded as having been amongst the very first clearly-named families of the "established community " and one of the "earliest prominent Jewish Families of Navarre ". But again - no follow-up !!

The first and original name corpus brought by her for Navarre actually starts with Muca Abenardud [1146 !!], and that of course is a more Moorish form of the name making him possibly from the south originally ! Later there is the statement :
"As early as in the 12th century some originally individual bynames started to be inherited from generation to generation within the same family. Some of the earliest prominent Jewish families of Navarre are : Abenardut.......... " - [Source : Beatrice Leroy [1985 - 14], The Jews of Navarre in the Late Middle Ages, - Jerusalem, The Magnes Press, Hebrew University Hispania Judaica 4].

There are two other points which need to be made here. The one is that if - and that is Ms. Becker's view, - if individual surnames/bynames started to be established and inherited in and about the 12th century, then there seems little prospect of finding the Benardout name in Navarre, Aragon, Southern France, Valencia or anywhere else from an earlier period - simply because the surname, as such, did not yet exist, was not in common usage.

The Family did, but it may have been known simply as - Cohen perhaps ? The Cohen-Levi naming was strongly maintained always and everywhere. And to this would have been added, in the Hebrew fashion, those first names which we have carried down to latest generations, - Aharon son of Joseph, (apologies), Joseph son of Solomon, Moshe son of Azriel, Samuel, El'azar son of Chaim (and we see these examples recurring throughout our history).

Then there is also the distant possibility that those who later bore the name Alfaquim - Don Samuel Alfaquim - were in fact Benardouts of the medical family who had not taken the relatively new surname but remained with the Arabic "trade-description " name.

The other point is again in reference to what has already been raised in the Survey, - what is the actual meaning of the surname - Ardut ? We once indicated that it may possibly have come from the Hebrew word for bronze metal - indicating perhaps an origin in northern Spain (See: the mining items in the Tarazona chapter), and simply because it would seem to have been possible, perhaps even natural to adopt a Hebraic word as the Family name in a friendly and protective Country. Ironically, Navarre was famous more for its lead-mining......

The alternative suggested has been the Latin Ardit, meaning brave, courageous. fearless..... (fair enough !).....with the thus stronger possibility that it had been adopted in the then Moorish South of Spain. The "Dr. Benardout " Chapter also has something on this. I believe that in the Arabic though, the word implies submission or surrender..............

But it would take so much research to follow up these questions that one must leave it to a future generation. I hope it is enough to have laid down reasonable boundaries to that research.

The study of naming and the analysis of mediaeval names is a total science in itself and in practical terms may often lead one into something of a dead-end, - as here. But the joy is in the search not in the discovery, and it is to be hoped that a few of you will find in this short chapter on Navarre reason for delving deeper by yourselves.
Feel free - I will always relate to what you say