During the 7th and 8th centuries Iberia (Spain and Portugal), was a divided kingdom ruled by the Catholic Visigoths, the region was home to a Jewish minority who suffered intolerable persecution under these Christian rulers.
In 558 Ferreol, Bishop of Uzes ordered the Jews of his diocese to convert to Catholicism, those that didn’t abandon their faith were expelled from the region
In 694 Catholic bishops issued a decree that the Jews were traitors and should have their wealth confiscated and face perpetual slavery.
In 654 King Recceswinth of Toledo forbade Jews from keeping the Sabbath, dietary laws, marriage laws and circumcising their young
In 633 the Fourth Council of Toledo even describes the Jews, who were allegedly proselytizing their beliefs, as “the Antichrist‟s ministers.”
In 633 the Fourth Council of Toledo declared that all Jews must be baptized.
In the spring of 711, a Muslim army invaded Iberia led by Tariq ibn Ziyad, serving the Arab governor Musa ibn Nusayr, at Guadalete they swiftly defeated Roderick (Luthariq) the Visigoth King and then marched northward to the Visigoth capital of Toledo. Both Latin and Arabic chroniclers record that the Jews of the city “opened the gates of Toledo” to Tariq, who conquered the city. With more cities to take Tariq left Toledo and entrusted its protection to a garrison of Jewish soldiers, whom had rose up against the Catholic Visigoths and opened the gates.
When Tariq’s master, Musa ibn Nusayr, arrived in Iberia with a large Arab force he seized Seville and like Tariq before him, he entrusted the city to its Jewish inhabitants until his return.
Had the Jews of Iberia not been the victims of such continuous barbarity from their Christian neighbours it is unlikely they’d have turned on them, but with the Muslim invasion this oppressed people tasted a freedom they hadn’t for centuries. There is no greater example of Jewish and Muslim coexistence than al-Andalus, the Jews not only fought side by side with their Muslim cousins, but under the caliphates born out of the conquests the Jews lived as a free and protected people who were able reach the highest of positions in this new society.
Hispanic edicts against the Jews were sporadic in nature and observance, but this one was indeed upheld, certainly in Toledo
On November 9, 694, C.E., the Seventeenth Council of Toledo convened, in the eponymous capital of Visigoth Spain, and passed a wide-ranging series of restrictions on the Jews of the kingdom. The rules and prohibitions were a continuation of an ongoing effort to lessen the influence of Jews and their religion on society, but ratcheted the pressure on the Jews up a notch by adding a new, political rationale for the measures.
The Visigoth kingdom of Hispania lasted from the fifth century to 712, when an army of Arabs and Berbers defeated King Roderic at the battle of Guadalete.
Currying favor with the church fathers. Initially, these German tribes subscribed to a form of Christianity defined by its “Arian” theology, which distinguishes between Jesus Christ the son of God and the figure of God himself. This is as opposed to belief in the unified nature of the Trinity – the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost – as adopted by all mainstream forms of Christianity at the Nicene Council in 325 C.E.
In 589, Visigoth King Reccared embraced the trinitarian Nicene Creed, and declared Arian doctrine to be heresy. From here on, the Visigoth monarchs cooperated with the Church Fathers to strengthen the faith and limit the influence of Jewish beliefs.
One principal source of information about the kingdom is the detailed records kept of the Councils of Toledo, which were synods convened by the king that dealt with matters of both spirit and state. The first was held in 400, and the 18th, final council was held in 702.
The restrictions on Jews had intensified and lessened depending on the hostility of the particular king who convened a particular council. At times, all Jews were commanded to convert; at other times, they were not permitted to hold slaves or to give testimony in civil courts. Intermarriage was also prohibited. These measures were observed and disregarded to different degrees over time and in different locales.
Conspiracy theory In Egica, the monarch who called the 17th Council of Toledo, the Jews of "Hispania" (as the Visigoth realm in Iberia was called) encountered a king who was determined to finally rid his domain of Jews. He imposed a set of especially severe anti-Jewish decrees.
Egica (c. 610 – c. 702) ruled from 687 until his death. When he opened the 17th Council of Toledo, he began by revealing that he had learned of a conspiracy between the Jews of his kingdom and their brethren across the narrow straits dividing Spain from North Africa, who were then under Muslim control. According to the intelligence that had come into his hands, the Jews of both continents were preparing to make common cause with the Muslim armies that were poised to conquer Iberia.
This Jews’ readiness to enter into such a traitorous alliance demanded harsh measures against them. Thus the 17th Council of Toledo declared that all Jews, other than those residing in Narbonensis (that part of Hispania to the northeast, in modern-day France), should be made slaves, and given into possession of Christian masters in different parts of the kingdom. Those masters would now be responsible for insuring that they no longer observed any Jewish customs.
Their property was also to be confiscated by the crown. Any Jewish-born children under age seven would be taken from their parents and raised as Christians.
Aside from the records of the Councils of Toledo, which were frequent, historical material on the Visigoth period in Spain is hard to come by. But historians suggest that the measures ordered by Egica were indeed in part implemented, certainly in Toledo, the capital.
But it was also clear by now that the Visigoth empire was on its last legs, and in fact it was only 18 years later that it collapsed altogether, with its lands conquered by Muslim invaders.