publisher colophon

52. Seal of Seneor Son of Master Don Samuel

Seneyor ben Harab Don Shemuel

Dimensions: 35 × 27 mm. Matrix.

Location: Provincial Museum of Archaeology, Seville, No. 3063.

Bibliography: Cantera y Burgos and Millás Vallicrosa, 1956, No. 251.

This mysterious seal mixes the Spanish word Don or “Sir” with the Hebrew letters of the name, followed by a series of crude Latin letters of an almost indecipherable nature. The oblong seal is in bronze and still has a hoop on the reverse. In the center shield, set within a heavy border, a stylized tree with seven branches and with pods or seeds at the tip of each of the branches appears. Close to the base of the tree is a nodule from which, on both sides, hang what appear to be hooks. Around this central shield, closed in on the rim by another heavy border, are the legends. The point from which the legends start is directly above the apex of the tree, where a crude star appears. Reading to the left in Hebrew is the legend shown above. To the right is a weird mixture: Latin letters written forwards and backwards, upside down and in upper and lower case. Cantera y Burgos and Millás Vallicrosa translate this inscription as Seneor Filº Bona, or Seneor Son of the Virtuous One.

Cantera y Burgos and Millás Vallicrosa suggest that this seal belongs to the illustrious family of Abraham Seneor (or Senior) and his descendant Solomon Seneor. Don Abraham Seneor was the last chief rabbi and supreme judge of the Jews of Castile before their expulsion from Spain. Originally from Segovia, he was the main tax farmer of Castile toward the end of the reign of Henry IV and one of the men who persuaded the commander of Segovia to turn over the fortress to the newly married couple Ferdinand and Isabella, an act with such horrible consequences, namely, their expulsion, for Spanish Jewry. Cantera y Burgos and Millás Vallicrosa mention as possible owners of the seal a Don Seneor Corcos, living at Briviesca at the beginning of the fifteenth century, and a Seneor Bivas, mentioned in the year 1485.

The Hebrew lettering of this seal is relatively easy to read except for the , or Seneyor ben Harab David Shemuel. No matter what interpretation is followed, there are difficulties. Distinguished Spanish Jews in this period already had family names, and commencing an inscription with Seneor as a last name would be most unusual. A man of the eminence of Don Abraham Seneor would have put his first name on his seal; furthermore, all known documents with his signature show it in Latin letters; there is no evidence that he had a Hebrew seal. The writer has not been able to discover the exact genealogy of Don Abraham Seneor, nor indeed of Seneor Corcos or Seneor Bivas, so we cannot trace the connection to a Master Samuel.

The Latin inscription, puzzling in itself, is no help even presuming that the translation of the letters is correct. In Spanish Jewish tradition, Tob, when used as a name, was sometimes translated as Bono or Bueno, as in Shemtob or “good name.” No Shemtob is known in the Seneor family.* The primitive quality of the lettering, particularly of the Latin letters, would seem to rule out ownership by an important person. Even the representation is odd. The stylized tree with pods might be a fanciful depiction of the palm tree appearing on ancient shekels or, more likely, the image which appeared on false shekels from the sixteenth century on. But this is mere guesswork, and the seal of Seneor remains a mystery.


*Bon was also related to surnames in Sephardic tradition, as Bonastrung, Bonafos, and Bonjudah. There is even a Bonsenyor family, most fitting in this case; Astrug Bonsenyor was a well-known Jew in the Aragonese realm and son-in-law of Judah de la Cavalleria, bailiff of Saragossa and Valencia for King James I of Aragon.

*Bon was also related to surnames in Sephardic tradition, as Bonastrung, Bonafos, and Bonjudah. There is even a Bonsenyor family, most fitting in this case; Astrug Bonsenyor was a well-known Jew in the Aragonese realm and son-in-law of Judah de la Cavalleria, bailiff of Saragossa and Valencia for King James I of Aragon.

Additional Information

ISBN
9780814344859
MARC Record
OCLC
1055142843
Pages
128-129
Launched on MUSE
2018-10-02
Language
English
Open Access
Yes
Creative Commons
CC-BY-NC-SA
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.