CE27 - Culture, créations, patrimoine

Visibility and invisibility of minorities on the public scene at the end of the Middle Ages – VISMIN


Visibility and invisibilization of minorities in the public space at the end of the Middle Ages.<br />6 towns in the Iberian Peninsula serve as the study site: Barcelona, ??Girona, Perpignan, Zaragoza, Palma de Mallorca and Valencia. The cities of Toledo and Granada provide a counterpoint. We analyze the evolution of Jewish neighborhoods between 1200 and 1492, from a «Golden Age« to the expulsion.

Spatialize medieval archivística data

The VISMIN project proposed to approach the question of the visibility or «invisibilization« of the minority fact in the public space at the end of the Middle Ages, by examining the evolution of the Jewish quarters of some emblematic cities of the Iberian Peninsula. , against a background of growing segregation. Designed as multidisciplinary, it intended to exploit the resources and methods of palaeography to gather data from archival documentation, archeology to highlight the witnesses of the soil, and geomatics to spatialize and locate this data. The analysis of the textual documentation was to lead to the completion of a relational and spatial database, which, coupled with the georeferenced cartographic funds, the cadastres and the old historical maps of the cities considered, was to allow the development of a geoportal. web.<br />It was therefore a question of collecting archival data, building a database, building a website that would house the geoportal, geo-referencing and vectorizing the old maps that will be used to produce the geomatic layers and plans.<br />Most of these objectives have been achieved: the website is created, as well as the collaborative database on Heurist and the export of data on Arcgis.

The spatial dimension of the tension between visibility and “invisibilization” of minorities is dynamically apprehended thanks to Geographic Information Systems technology, using ArcGis software.
The Vismin team, complementary in its expertise, was formed to develop this collaborative project. The database was designed and created collectively during frequent and regular meetings and exchanges. The team was also trained in GIS in order to be able to collaborate in the production of geomatics results.
The strong technical coloring of the project must be recalled: the archival investigation has produced and continues to produce data which feeds a database created on the Heurist system accessible online. The data on Heurist is exported on Arcgis and can therefore be mapped after the vectorization of the old maps of the localities studied. The information drawn from the textual documentation is confronted and compared with the oldest maps of these same localities. At the heart of the specifically geomatics issue lies spatio-temporal modelling.

-The “Vismin” Database on Heurist.
After some hesitation, the choice was made to build the database on Heurist, relational database software backed by the Very Large Research Infrastructure Huma-Num. The Heurist software was chosen because it allows the linking of actors, places and objects, a feature that meets the challenges posed by the project. The development of the database was done in a collaborative way during regular meetings (about once a month remotely) of the members of the Vismin project throughout year 1 of the project. The Vismin database was stabilized in December 2021, ten months after the start of the work. Several hundred data have already been entered into the database thanks to the work of the Post-doctoral student recruited at Ulco in September 2021 (for one year) and the members of the project who are collaborating in the completion of the database. This will continue to be fed throughout the project.
-The creation of the Vismin Website at the address vismin.huma-num.fr
The project website was created in the spring of 2021 and is also backed by the TGIR Huma-Num. It presents the objectives and partners of the project, makes public the news of the various participants, allows the posting of story-maps, in particular the work carried out by Jean Passini assisted by Éric Mermet and Angelo Odore.
- Data vectorization.
The geomatician research engineer recruited by the EHESS (project partner) in September 2021 (for 18 months) carried out the vectorization of the old maps of the cities selected for the project (Barcelona, ??Girona, Perpignan, Puigcerda, Palma de Mallorca , Castillon d'Empurias, Zaragoza, Toledo) from the cadastral maps of these towns. The limits of the Jewish quarters have been identified using the various scientific works available. The data taken from the Base will be spatialized there.

-The field survey and the multiscalar approach.
Following the work of Jean Passini (EHESS), a very detailed study of the terrain is carried out by Jean Passini, Éric Mermet and Angelo Odore to analyze the buildings of the Jewish quarters or what is left of them, and thus make it possible to visually reconstruct elements of neighborhoods and houses. This part of the project had not been planned as such initially, but the possibility of using a 3D laser-scan made it possible to take full advantage of it. Initially, the city of Toledo was the subject of several missions, which will have to be extended in particular to the cities of Perpignan and Girona. This construction site makes it possible to reinforce the multi-scalar dimension of the project, from the micro scale of the house, to the macro scale of the city or even of the kingdoms.

The work on the project reveals new sources, even about the cities for which the corpus was already firmly established. The possibility of comparison between the cities is further improved by the discovery of contemporary inventories of each other, which make it possible to follow the social and spatial evolution of the districts of the end of the 14th century. to that of the fifteenth century. Interpretations of classical texts, such as the letters of Queen Violante about the concentration of settlement in Jewish quarters and about conversions after the violence of 1391 can now be better understood and contextualized.
Finally, this project proves that a systematic work on already known spaces brings a lot to the interpretation and should improve the understanding of the neighborhoods dedicated to a minority (religious, but not only).
The coming months will be devoted to completing the database, producing maps and plans, designing the traveling exhibit and preparing for the final symposium.

1. Ingrid Houssaye Michienzi, Sarah Maugin, Claire Soussen, « La frontière interconfessionnelle, un concept pertinent dans l’espace urbain de la Couronne d’Aragon des XIIIe-XVe siècles ? », dans Frontières spatiales, frontières sociales, Actes du 51e congrès de la SHMESP, Paris : Publications de la Sorbonne, 2021, p. 313-331. [hal-03040296]
2. Claude Denjean, chapitre2 de la partie 2 dans Les juifs et les pouvoirs. Des minorités médiévales dans l’Occident méditerranéen (XIe-XVe siècles), Paris, Cerf, Patrimoines, Collection de la Nouvelle Gallia Judaïca, 11, 2020, ISBN : 978-2-204-13486, 400 p. Prix Diane Pottier-Boès de l’Académie Française 2021.
3. Claude Denjean et Ghislaine Jay-Robert, éd. Quartier, quartiers : images et perceptions, Colloque international Visa pour l’Image de septembre 2020, Perpignan, Presses Universitaires de Perpignan, octobre 2022. (introduction de Cl. Denjean)
4. Jean Passini : La judería de Granada : El urbanismo de la judería Estudio para una investigación prospectiva II Congreso internacional juderías hispanas para el siglo XXI. 7/10 junio 2022 Granada

Séminaires, Journée d'études et colloques:
1. Claude Denjean, Pierre Savy et Claire Soussen, « Appartenir à la cité, faire communauté. L’inclusion politique des juifs en Occident (Antiquité tardive-Moyen Âge) », 7 juin 2022, Journée d’étude au Mahj.
2. Claude Denjean, coord., - Les villes et les juifs, études spatiales, École d’hiver franco-allemande [UPVD, LEM NGJ, U de Heidelberg] 28-30 janvier 2020.
3. Claude Denjean, coord. 8-10 septembre 2021, Perpignan et Gérone, École doctorale internationale Perpignan-Heidelberg-Gérone, Ventes, échanges, mutations… De la reconfiguration des maisons entre juifs et chrétiens [XIIe-XVIIe siècles]
4. Claire Soussen, Organisation d’une session intitulée « L’histoire des juifs et les Humanités Numériques » au 2ème Congrès de la Société des Études Juives, 12-14 décembre 2021, Campus Condorcet, Paris.

Story maps par Jean Passini:
1. La juiverie de Grenade
2.La synagogue de los Golondrinos
3.3D, Lidar, Photographie laser de plusieurs site dans la juiverie de Tolède

The VISMIN Project proposes to examine the matter of visibility or invisibility of minorities on the public scene at the end of the Middle Ages, through the evolution of the Jewish minority’s place in a few symbolic towns of the Crown of Aragon. During the last three centuries of the Middle Ages, the powers in the Western territories constantly hesitate between two contradictory attitudes : on the one hand they erase the differences between majority and minorities in an integrative logic corresponding to the Societas Christiana ideal ; on the other hand they distinguish the minorities from the majority to prevent the growing danger they seem to represent in their eyes. Thus the project will focus on the stakes and the tensions between visibility and invisibility in the urban area. Conceived as truly multidisciplinary, the Vismin project will take from paleography, cartography, archeology, anthropology and will use the means of geomatics.
The archivistic investigation will lead to the constitution of an open access database which will be performed on PostGreSQL software (in which an extension for the PostGis data will be integrated). The spatial dimension of the tension between visibility and invisibility of the minorities will be grasped in a dynamic manner through the Geographic Information System technology, using ArcGis software, to produce maps and layers.
The VISMIN project is a PRC whose main partner is the University of Littoral Côte d’Opale at which Claire Soussen, the scientific coordinator of the project, is full Professor. Historian in Medieval History, her researches are dedicated to the relations between Jews and Christians in the Iberian Peninsula.
The other partners of the project are : the University of Perpignan-Via Domitia with Professor Claude Denjean, a specialist of the History of the Jews in the Crown of Aragon and her Phd students who work on the documentation that will be analysed through the VISMIN project ; the EHESS with Jean Passini, member of the CRH, « Directeur d’étude » emeritus, who has produced innovative works about Toledo’s Jewish Quarter, Éric Mermet project engineer at the CNRS (member of Cams) and head of a digital platform at the EHESS, Philippe Blanchard, archaeologist at INRAP and Phd student in history at the EHESS, specialist in funerary archaeology of the Middle Ages, Maurice Kriegel member of the CRH, « Directeur d’études » emeritus, specialist of the History of the Jews in the Middle Ages ; and the Casa de Velázquez that will support the French and Spanish researchers involved in the project : Ingrid Houssaye, researcher at the CNRS and a specialist of the history of trade in the Mediterranean, who works on the Jews of Mallorca, Javier Castaño, researcher at the CSIC and specialist of the History and archaeology of the Jews in Medieval Iberia, Miguel Ángel Espinosa Villegas Professor at the University of Granada with a few members of his team.
The project also foresees to hire several people to strengthen the skills of the team : a Phd student in history for 1 year and a half (whose task will be to investigate the archivistic documentation –royal and notarial- in Valencia, Zaragoza and Girona) under the direction of Claire Soussen at Ulco for 1 year, and under the direction of Claude Denjean at UPVD for 6 months ; a project engineer in geomatics for 1 year and a half at EHESS, a post-doc in archaeology (to do researches in surface archeology) for 6 months at Casa de Velázquez. The ANR funding will also finance the missions of staff in the archives in Spain, the purchase of computers for the people hired in the project, the semestrial consortium meetings, the organisation of a final conference at the Casa de Velázquez in Madrid, the publication of a monography dedicated to the spatial governement of the minorities and a traveling exhibition presenting the maps and layers produced through the geomatical process and pictures of the Jewish Quarters.

Project coordinator


The author of this summary is the project coordinator, who is responsible for the content of this summary. The ANR declines any responsibility as for its contents.


CRESEM Centre de Recherche sur les Sociétés et Environnements en Méditerranée
CRH Centre de recherches historiques
CVZ Casa de Velazquez

Help of the ANR 246,925 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: - 36 Months

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