Doctor Benardout

This chapter was started quite a long time ago, towards the very beginning of the research into our Family, because the "Benardout Medical Dynasty " popped up on the Internet every time I looked for the name, - it just couldn't be ignored. I was frankly staggered that none of us seems ever to have heard of such a thing considering our Family arrogance but there you are. Admit it, - you hadn't. So this became ipso facto a subject worthy of deeper research.

But so much about the family world-wide was yet to be sought out and sorted that other challenges over-rode and the Dr.'s chapter remained fallow. Still, now [2015] its time has come.

In the meantime, much more material had come to hand. This is not difficult if you're sitting in a University Library and have all the time in the world but works out to be a little slower for an old-age Pensioner sitting in the desert alone with his computer, although Marlene Shternbach has been looking out and finding items and sources on this subject too.

I felt that as a first step one had to choose what can be termed "a central authority ", one respected historical source which can be relied upon and quoted from without fear of error and which would take centre stage in any tale to be told.

The book chosen as our "central authority " is Joseph Shatzmiller's "Jews, Medicine, and Medieval Society " [JS] thanks to the fact that it is relatively up to date, [1994], is in English, covers more than just the current subject, includes more detailed authorities and indexing almost than it does content and, - devotes a good 4 pages to the Benardout Dynasty (his word, not mine), which it would be churlish not to honour.

Shatzmiller determines that our dynasty is "the best documented case in Reconquisista Spain " of doctors who successfully reached "the princely courts " and attained wealth fame and political power. Well now, - ain't that something ?!!

It is only right to stress here and now that this is not a declaration that we were the greatest, the best, the most famous, but we are the best-documented which, as a Lawyer, I fully appreciate to be the most important thing since only with evidence can you present a Case - and we seem to have the best evidence available.

But this is not the only concentrated Doctor Benardout material available however. One cannot avoid coming across a great number of references to a Paper published in Spain in 1947 by Cardoner and Vendrell [C V] described by Shatzmiller as "this rich study " and entitled : "Aportaciones al studio de la familia Abenardut, medicos reales " and much quoted from by him and by others.

One general fact is very clearly laid down in CV - that the medical Benardout Family came originally from Navarre, from Tudela, established and later went on to maintain what we will call "medical centers " in Zaragoza, Huesca, Lerida and Valencia. Evidence of this "distribution " can already be found in other chapters of this Survey. As to their medical or even other activity in Navarre itself I have - alas - found very little but what there is can be read in the "Navarre " chapter on this Site.

It is clearly possible today (March 2017), to reach a tentative conclusion that the Navarre Branch of the Family, (the earliest date we have for their Iberian presence is at Tudela in 1146), was originally from Southern Spain, - coming North long before even the Reconquisista of Tudela in 1121. For one Muca Benardout was already well established in Tudela by the time the Christians arrived although he is not recorded as having been a Doctor. Medicine was of course no less a definite Moorish and Jewish profession in southern Spain than it was a Jewish and Christian one in the north, and seems by all accounts to have fused quite successfully with the practice of both Tudela and Perpingnan.

If you go through the JS Index you will find four main references to the Abenardout dynasty of Aragon - El'azar, Joseph, Moses and Salomon. Some of these, together with a Chaim, (my spelling), appear under the variant of Abin Ardut and one as Avenarduc too, (a true form of the Family name at that time and possibly with a French inflection), but names of other family Doctors have been brought from published sources and many more variants of the name have been uncovered.

This all incidentally provides further confusion thanks to the general practice of inter-changeable names and surnames in those days.


The medical dynasty was not unique to us let it be said, nor was ours alone in its medical success, riches and social upgrading, but all sources do treat our family as having been somewhat different to the others. What certainly seems to be different is the manner in which the family physicians succeeded over the earlier years to avoid or to become exempt from the broad "ecclesiastical prohibition " upon Christians against accepting treatment and medicines from Jewish medical hands. From a reading of the material it is clear that this rule was honoured only in its breach where the Benardout's were concerned, - a talent we seem to have brought down through the ages !!

Another such dynasty was that of Ibn Tibbon, (no doubt fierce competitors), and JS states : "Historians have no difficulty in discovering such Jewish dynasties, as study of the south of France by Isaac Alteras has shown ".

Kindly note again the reference to Southern France giving further support to the idea that we - or part of us - may well have come south from there to Navarre and then to Aragon, even if that is still an open question. The "massive " expulsion of Jews southwards from France towards the end of the 13th century did result, quite definitely, in an influx crossing over into Catalonia and beyond [MCV].

Sources are listed at the end of this Chapter and referred to by initials.


I have attempted to cobble together a readable story with batches of detail as to time and place, something like a tool of learning, in the same way we once learnt that Richard I came after William II and who did what and to whom......

The family physicians were regularly and notably Court physicians, historically famous for it and that is without any doubt whatsoever. Much more detail can be obtained from the original sources upon which the authors themselves rely but did not bring in full of course, but as usual that requires translation from the Spanish and a visit to the Archives themselves in Spain. But what is brought here from records is quite illuminating I would say.

First Mentioned - Name - and Short History

Sources : JS, MCV, AC, AH, BL

1178 Salomon Avenardusi, from Navarre

Taken verbatim from JS - "The first Abenardut physician we know about was Salomon Avenardusi, referred to as 'medicus' and as 'alfaquim', who was in King Sancho of Navarre's retinue in 1178 [BL].

A strange and unexplained gap now appears until the Medical dynasty showed itself again, but now in Aragon 140 years later.

1319 Moshe Abenardout, from Huesca

already had a wide reputation in the Christian world, - "was in receipt of a yearly grant of wheat from the abbot of Montearagon for medical services and was sent to Luesia by Queen Blanca of Aragon to treat the daughter of the Lord of Ayabe. By 1319 was in the service of infante Alfons and in 1322 physician to his consort, Teresa. In 1321 he attempted the cure of Ruggerio II de Loria and in 1323 accompanied his Patron, Alfons, on the conquest of Sardinia, where Moshe died ".

Another source provides some of the above detail but adds a reference to "the Arabic Version of the Calendar from Cordova to which is attached "an incomplete copy of the pharmacopoeia of Moshe who was physician to the Infante Alfonso of Aragon " and adding that this was probably added by Moshe himself for his own use. A document full of Family history indeed !

JS expresses regret in his Work that so little is known of Moshe, one of the dynasty's first acknowledged successes.

1323 El'azar Abenardut, also from Huesca and Moshe's Son

is said to have "soon surpassed his father's achievements ". He is seen by all as the prime personality of the Dynasty. When Moshe left for Sardinia in 1323, El'azar, (then physician to the infante Blanca, prioress of Signa, south east of Huesca), was sent to give his opinion on the health of young Ruggiero II. King James II began to give him administrative responsibilities and exemptions and El'azar then followed his father as physician to the infante Alfons, physician to Teresa and later to Alfons himself once he had become King.

Elazar's position allowed him to collate great power and influence in all that concerned the Jewish community of Aragon - He soon became, in effect, the crown's principal minister for matters having to do with the Jews of the Crown of Aragon. In 1328 he was the Jewish member of a three-man committee appointed to raise "thirty thousand shillings on the occasion of the marriage of the king's daughter ". This service was rewarded when his brother Salomon had monetary troubles and El'azar was able to influence the king "to impose a light and reasonable program of repayments " that not true Benardoutism or is it not ? It's awfully familiar.

After Alfons died, El'azar continued under King Pere III (1335). In that year he treated the king for a fractured leg although it is not at all clear whether it was Alfons who then passed away after treatment or Pere who lived happily through it. In 1336 El'azar was again able to use his influence in favour of a group of six Jews from Huesca, including his own son, Juce, who had allegedly assaulted a Muslim.

As royal physician he was not a resident at Court but was at its inevitable disposal. On 29th August, 1337, the king ordered him to Zaragossa to take care of the daughter of a royal counselor, Miguel Pedro Capata.

Two serious diplomatic missions are known of, - in 1331 "a secret mission to Tarragona ", and in 1333 to the Knights of St. John in Catalonia concerning Moorish Granada's preparations to attack Valencia. In that same year El'azar represented the king personally in a dispute with Aragon's financier, Isma'el Ablites, "with unlimited powers of representation ".

He accompanied Pere in the conquest of Mallorca and Roussillon in 1343-4, and in 1344 was seconded to the Archbishop of Zaragossa to care for the prelate and the infanta Yolanda, wife of Leopold de Luna. He continued supplying medicines at the siege of Argelers in 1345.

El'azar had two sons trained as physicians, Juce (Joseph) and Vidal - and he died in around the year 1350.

1333 Juce (Joseph) Abenardut of Huesca, El'azar's brother or son

I have come across three doctors from Huesca of this name. The earliest was already practicing medicine at this date, and did so until at least 1360, although by 1351 he had himself received the post of royal physician, and according to another source as physician to the Infant , Joan. A second of that name was apparently born 29 July, 1351, died 4 July, 1414), and a third Juce, also of Huesca, seems to have born 21 June 1405, died 10 May, 1434.

1348-52 Vidal Abenardut of Huesca, El'azar's son

Vidal served the King at least during the period 1348-1352. He is described as Maestro when referred to in a Notarial document (and there seem to be many more there relating to the Family generally), held at the Huesca Municipal Archives, [Mateo Perez de Riglos, 1351, folio 346v], just one example from those Archives.

This run of three generations of doctors in the same town holding the same posts and positions, - even if restricted to Jewish community matters in their political appointments, - is notable for the way in which on the medical side they succeeded in routinely, and profitably, serving the Christian aristocracy, - including the religious one.

1391 Moshe Abenardut of Zaragoza

(not Huesca, an entirely different Moshe), is recorded in a few places as having had medical business with a Christian patient in the year 1390, concerning a "curious " incident over money - (Trust Us !). An Alazar is mentioned there as Moshe's son and although one would assume that this is clearly a different couple to the Huesca one, caution as to dates, places and names is always recommended.

1397 Joseph - In a publication by Nathan Koren [NK]

there is a short reference to a Joseph as having been exempted from taking an examination for a medical licence in 1397 - perhaps indicating the privileged position held by the Dynasty, - but more meaning that he actually received his licence that year, - (translators differ). But since a Joseph was already well established in 1351, this would indicate a fourth generation, perhaps the brother of Haym next following and Ela'zar's grandson.

1397-8 Haym Avenardut, also from Huesca

who has
the same comment against his name and from the same year of 1397. This too indicates a fourth generation and another source gives this as the year of his birth - died 8 March, 1452.


There are, by the way, references to one Bernart de Pomar practicing
in Zaragossa in this year, alongside Jewish doctors and who, in view of this proven converso name obtaining in our Family, might well be worth further attention. However this material is in Spanish and, one should add from the little I do understand, that he is always referred to there as a Christian but never as a "converso ".

1415 Duran Gudiol, Juderia de Huesca pp. 76-77

writes that "the Benardut family could boast physicians as late as 1415 ", although we are now able to bring here even later examples. This source refers to an El'azar Ibn Ardut dictating his last Will in Huesca that year, although unlikely, in view of the dates, to be the famous one.

1457 Astruch Avinardut from Huesca

Born 9 September, 1457, died 1 May 1478. Whilst I came across this name quite often as being a man of medicine, all attempts to learn more had produced nothing until he was shown as having an alias : Cohen of course !! That has not taken us much further however, and to date very little seems to be known about him. The name does appear amongst 158 Jewish Families - (with 13 family members), - in what appears to be a male name-list or census presented to King James II at the City of Lleida on the 27th September, 1315, but clearly indicating much earlier members of the Family. This particular document is in Latin which my own school-boy level of knowledge does not allow me to translate. There does not yet seem to be any medical aspect to that 1315 list however.

1472 -1481

References to Benardout doctors in two documents brought by Antonio Duran Gudiol in his : "La Juderia de Huesca ".


The first fact usually sought out is the answer to the question : When and where was our presence first established ?

Everyone wants to know that and to tell you the truth, everyone has a somewhat conflicting version to offer. For example, in the "Before Aragon - Navarre ? " chapter there is well-based reference to the first Benardout in that Kingdom, described as being himself one of the original founders of its Jewish Community there. In terms of period therefore, and since Alfonso the Battler took Tudela from the Moors only in 1121 with a Jewish Community already in place, this means that the Benardouts were also already there and of Moorish background and culture, from some time before 1121. And as we can now see, the very first known Doctor Benardout was there at the latter end of the 12th century, (see above).

By way of support for this, an Article based on 15th century Notarial records of 36 Jewish physicians in the city of Huesca [AH], states authoritatively that the Avinardut medical dynasty had its origins in Tudela - Navarre indeed, - not in Huesca itself and even though the Article deals only with the later period - post 1300 - and only with that Aragonese city.

The same Article also mentions a Benardout medical presence in Zaragoza, in Larida and in Valencia, (where the rich Salomon Benardout died, he who was the grandfather of our first known and well-documented converso, - David de Rau). But was Salomon a Doctor too ? Not known.


El'azar Abenardut, the most famous of the Family doctors, was described as "not only famous - presumably also rich ", not only from the practice of medicine but because he was also a courtier and close confidant to Kings as we have seen.

But as is the way of Kings, they promise much but are very slow to deliver, and El'azar's master is described as such, - there were "long delays " in reimbursing the Court physician, (a true euphemism if ever I saw one), the Treasury was always empty and other ways of reimbursement for services had to be found.

Assigning the physician feudal rights and revenues owing to the monarch himself was a simple method and El'azar enjoyed that too. Whilst this method of payment applied to all, Jewish doctors usually received such where the monies to be collected already had a Jewish taint. Christian money generally would go to Christians, - Jewish money to the Jewish doctor. Reasonable enough, I suppose.

But other assets could be offered, desirable posts within the State hierarchy dealing with Jews only were also much appreciated, - such as that of supreme judge over all the Jews in the Realm, (a position equivalent to the "alcalde major " who judged the Moslem community and itself termed the "rav major "), which El'azar received in 1332.

El'azar indeed held that post in Aragon, thought to have originated from the post of Head of Diaspora Jewry from the early middle-ages, - the exilarch "having responsibility for the revenue due to the state by the Jews and for the orderly management of Jewish Communities ".

This appointment carried with it "emoluments " or in other words, - all that could be squeezed out of it as fees for permits, appointments within the Jewish community itself and anything else that produced money and was no doubt made to do so !!

The other way of becoming rich, - as El'azar also did, - was by receiving an exemption from all the taxes applied specifically to Jews, - first he received this in 1336 for 7 years and then the whole family's income-tax rate was limited to 9 shillings on every 500 shillings, - a very desirable rate for any period of history !! In 1340 he and his family were declared "francos ", - perhaps the cheapest of all methods employed to pay the royal medical bills.

And even when King Pere revoked all such privileges, El'azar and his family were exempted and spared its effects.

brings some detail of El'azar's income from the royal hand : in 1326 - 1,000 shillings, confirmed in 1328, 1333 and 1340. In 1326 he received exclusive notarial rights in Huesca where Jewish affairs were dealt with, an income also confirmed in 1328 and 1340. His post of Appeal Court Judge from 1332 also generated work as paid Arbitrator in inheritance and other lucrative disputes.

In a book called : "Studies of Joseph Ibn Caspi " [E.J. Brill, Leiden, Netherlands, 1975], there is a footnote describing how Caspi, a wealthy man perpetually searching for fellow-philosophers amongst the Jewish Communities of Europe, but who "unfortunately never really succeeded in this quest ", recites in the introduction to his "Geliley Kesef " that on a visit to Majorca, - (about 1330) - and as a possible exception to that failure :

"And I have dwelt here in the company of the Doctor Elazar ibn Ardut, may his Maker have mercy on him, and have "delighted in the love " {Proverbs 7:18} of the many honored residents of the city. And I have seen fit to leave a small blessing in this place for the entire community is holy ".

Caspi refers to El'azar as "the distinguished scholar " and "the priest - HaCohen " and JS comments that he apparently expected his broad readership throughout Western Europe and the Middle East, "to know who the great man was ".

One may be permitted perhaps to see in all this evidence that here and there and from time to time Benardouts really have brought joy to others not only to themselves, as befits a family of medical men. Something to be modestly proud of.

AND NOT TO FORGET les autres

Most of the material come across which gives any modicum of detail is usually by way of reference, - to notarial protocols and the like. In the chapter on Tarazona, for example, such protocols have been edited by M.S. Dolader, but in these "medical " cases I have found such work only in EBG but still, of course, in the ancient Spanish.

However, that does not prevent listing such as seem to be clearly on the point from this chapter's point of view. In the cases of Tarazona and of Huesca at least, those Protocols are also available for review to anyone visiting the Archives.

The very useful list of the Jewish doctors at Huesca to be found in EBG even if clearly relying on other published works, allows us to cross-check the scattered detail already accumulated.

For example, four Avinardut doctors are listed by EBG with references to documents concerning them and I bring these in full. The dates are those of the Protocols themselves. The Protocols need to be translated from the Spanish of course, - which, alas, I am unable to do, - but the material is there, waiting for another Benardout to take up the task.

Juce Avinardut
- mentioned on 29.07.1351 and 04.07.1414. The dates might seem to confuse since if Juce was already qualified and took over El'azar's role as royal physician in 1351, (third generation), the last date of 1414 would make him at least 90 at the latter date. However, there is no mention as to this being the date of his death nor has the nature of that second notarial document been ascertained. It may well relate historically to Juce's Estate or relatives, or to a property originally owned by him.

Haym Avinardut
mentioned in January, 1398 and on the 08.03.1452. As the latter date refers to a date of death, then we have the answer that Haym was a young man in 1397 when he was exempted from the need to take medical examinations, - or qualified as a practioner as the case may have been, (translators offer both possibilities). In the case of an exemption it would presumably have been upon the strength of the Family name alone (together with the proper sweetener, no doubt !!). Anyhow, - pretty clearly the fourth generation.

Juce Avinardut
mentioned on 21.06.1405 and 10.05.1434. Again, this would seem to be the fourth generation since in 1397 he was also "exempted " from taking his medical examination, - apparently together with Haym - and they would seem to have been brothers.

Astruch Avinardut
mentioned on 09.09.1457 and 01.05.1478. It was from this source we learnt why we could not find detail of Astruch - he simply went under the "alias " of Cohen.

One wonders why he is the only one to display the "Cohen " formally, but I must tell you that my own Father did exactly the same thing in the 1920's-30's when he was a young man in the UK waiting for his naturalisation. Perhaps like Astruch he though "Cohen " was an easier name to live under - and to spell correctly - than "Benardout " !


Obviously one has been prompted to wonder if we could not possibly be watching the early makings of a modern dynasty and you are implored if you know of any others throughout the World, - to please, please, let us know.

One also has to wonder whether that spread of western education which our own grandparents took up with such enthusiasm in Salonika itself, - did it not encourage the genes to come through ?

In other places in this Survey mention has been made of a Doctor in Salonika who reached the USA where two of his sons became practicing Doctors, - one in his Father's own new New York home-town and seen by the local patients as "the young Dr. Benardot ", - thus returning to a fine tradition ?


During these researches, I incidentally came across a source - [JGS] - which contains the following sentence :
The Catalan name Ardut, Bonardut or Ardit (dynasty of doctors of X in XV century) was Italianized in Venice to Arditti or Arditi, the name spread in Salonique, Istanbul and Smyrna
in its Italian form.

This might be seen as throwing a little light upon the question as to if and when Benardouts may have become Arditis or vice-versa. Or whether we were originally two entirely separate Families within the Jewish Communities of Spain, North Africa or the Balkans ?

It seems clear that this was far from being a modern creation. The period being referred to by the author is from those years shortly after the Expulsion with the reference to Venice making it clear, - in your collator's humble opinion, - that the change which came about during the subsequent traipse eastwards over the 16th century was one of language, not one of substance.

However, there are plenty of references to the Ardit family in MDM for example, describing them as silversmiths in Aragon and elsewhere, already members of professions other than medicine during the 14th and 15th centuries in Spain and very well established but without any openly stated connection there with any Benarduts who, as a family name, were no less noticable.

Although, therefore, the author determines the form of Ardit, extant in Catalunya, as having a connection to Benardut, - a point never come across before in all our other researches into the Spanish background to date, - even if hinting that they were always the same family, - he brings no evidence to support this. And if what he says about the Italianisation of the name is correct, then why are there so many Benardouts who appear in Salonika's history over the centuries since - and so few Arditis ?

As to the origins or meaning of our name, I have again come across Articles evidencing possibilities we raised at the start of the Survey, - as also that one basis for it may well be the Arabic ardu which has the meaning of Slave, - for why should we not have been the sons of slaves in the Moorish mines of northern Spain ? Or slave owners ? Long before the Reconquest ?

And then, if it is a totally Catalan name, there is the Catalan "ardu ", an adjective meaning : arduous / difficult / grueling, and even more interestingly : "ardit ", a noun meaning : scheme or an adjective meaning : bold, (from the Latin), a possibility also raised before.

And here is another item concerning the name. In Natan Koren's book, [NK] the name is followed by what may well be a Basque or Catalan version of it : ABENDARGOT - cross-referencing it with three other better-known versions. This is shown consistently by him and of course raises possibilities we have not looked into before. However, it was not possible to learn what the base was for this determination, so we have to leave that over for the time being !

Sources :

JS - Joseph Shatzmiller : Jews, Medicine, and Medieval Society - University of California Press, 1994.

C V -
CARDONER IPLANAS ANTONIO y VENDRELL FRANCISCA : Aportaciones al estudio de la familia Abenardut, medicos reales - Sefarad VII, 1947 p. 304-348.

- Archivo Historico Provincial de Huesca

Joseph Maria Roca - L'estudi general de Lleyda [
Barcelona - 76].

AC -
Ann Christys - Christians in Al-Andalus 711-1000 - [
Routledge, New York, 2002 - Page 123].

The Jewish Genealogy Association - Jews in Italy by Lionel L eacute;vy, site 2015.

NK -
Natan Koren - "Jewish Physicians - A Biological Index ", - [
Israel Universities Press 1973].

Feel free - I will always relate to what you say