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Maghrebi Jews – Jewish Genealogy in Sicily – Caggegi Chagegi – The monopoly of the coral craftsmanship – 15th century Jewish crafts & stonemason Family of Trapani.


Caggegi
Chagegi
Chayegi
Chagebi

Chagegi e` probabilmente una modificazione di Chagebi, dall’arabo hajib “custode della porta e/o ciambellano” e ancora Chacha o Chanca sembrano modificazioni della parola araba Hakka¯k che significa “tagliapietre o artigiano che lavora la pietra”.

Chagegi is probably a modification of Chagebi, from the Arabic hajib “guardian of the door and / or chamberlain “and again Chacha or Chanca seem modifications of the word Arab Hakka¯k meaning “stonemason or craftsman who works the stone”.

1438, gennaio 24, Ind. I
Andrea de Pirino vende agli ebrei Sabeth de Chagegi e Galluffo de
Minichi quattro salme di mosto per il prezzo di 13 tarì a salma.

1438 AD, January 24, Ind. I
Andrea de Pirino sells Sabeth de Chagegi and Galluffo de to the Jews
There are four remains of must for the price of 13 tarì a salma.

1438, marzo 17, Ind. I
Marchonus de Ramundito vende all’ebreo alcamese Sabeth Chagegi
quattro salme di mosto da consegnarsi alla prossima vendemmia per il
prezzo di 14 tarì a salma. (c. 3 r.).

1438 AD, March 17, Ind. I
Marchonus de Ramundito sells to the Jew from Alcamo Sabeth Chagegi
four remains of must to be delivered at the next harvest for the
price of 14 tarì a corpse. (c. 3 r.).

It was customary for craftsmen to buy rough coral from fishermen and, after working it, they would employ merchants to sell it, mainly Jews. There are dozens of Jewish names among the coral buyers among the notaries’ documents: Cuyno, Muxa, Ysirael, Nissim Levi, Machalufus, Samuele Maires, Xalomo, Nissim de Nissim, Isacco Daguaf, Iosep de Mordachai, Elias de Sansone, Abramo Abras, Ayeti Chagegi, Sadia de Sansono, Iacob de Sadono, Charono Saidi, Braca lu Presti, Gaudius Milecha, Moyses de Isep and many others. In 1418, after the discovery of the first coral deposits in the Trapani area, Lya Cuyno bought from Nicola Riczu of Trapani 6 rolls and 4 ounces of “curallo comu nexi de mari”.

Era consuetudine che l’artigiano acquistasse corallo grezzo dai pescatori e, dopo averlo lavorato, incaricasse della vendita mercanti in massima parte ebrei. Decine sono i nomi ebraici degli acquirenti di corallo che appaiono negli atti notarili: Cuyno, Muxa, Ysirael, Nissim Levi, Machalufus, Samuele Maires, Xalomo, Nissim de Nissim, Isacco Daguaf, Iosep de Mordachai, Elias de Sansone, Abramo Abras, Ayeti Chagegi, Sadia de Sansono, Iacob de Sadono, Charono Saidi, Braca lu Presti, Gaudius Milecha, Moyses de Isep e molti altri.

It was customary for the craftsman to buy raw coral from the fishermen and, after having worked it, to charge merchants for the most part Jewish. Dozens are the Jewish names of the coral buyers that appear in the notarial deeds: Cuyno, Muxa, Ysirael, Nissim Levi, Machalufus, Samuele Maires, Xalomo, Nissim de Nissim, Isaac Daguaf, Iosep de Mordachai, Elias de Sansone, Abramo Abras, Ayeti Chagegi, Sadia de Sansono, Iacob de Sadono, Charono Saidi, Braca lu Presti, Gaudius Milecha, Moyses de Isep and many others.

The early days of coral working as a craft

As previously mentioned, the monopoly on crafting coral was in the hands of Jewish craftsmen, who monopolized the activity throughout the XV century. There were, however, some isolated attempts by Christians to open workshops “ad laborandum corallo”. For example, a certain Nicola Terragrossa had a factory from 1426 to 1429, where Jewish apprentices also worked78, and in 1435 another Christian, Girono de Nino, worked coral together with another young Christian. It is interesting to note that, only in this short spate of time, Trapani had no Jewish master coral workers owning workshops, except in 1455 there was one belonging to the Jew Raffaele, son of Bracha Chagegi, which opened in the same year that Federico La Matina, an able coral merchant, opened his laboratory, appointing Jewish assistants to do the crafting. From 1418 to 1460 Trapani boasted more than 70 coral workers including masters (27 Jews and 3 Gentiles), workers and apprentices (40 Jews and 3 Gentiles) who handed down their craft from father to son for four generations, as happened in the case of the Cuynos (or the Lo Prestis, i.e., the Cohens) who had 10 master coral workers owning a workshop

Gli inizi della lavorazione artigianale del corallo

Come precedentemente accennato, il monopolio della lavorazione artigianale del corallo era nelle mani di maestranze ebraiche, che ne monopolizzarono l’attività per tutto il XV secolo. Emerge, tuttavia, qualche isolato tentativo da parte cristiana di inserirsi nell’attività delle botteghe “ad laborandum corallo”. Ad esempio, un certo Nicola Terragrossa tiene dal 1426 al 1429 un opificio dove lavorano anche apprendisti ebrei, nel 1435 un altro cristiano, Girono de Nino, lavora corallo insieme ad un altro giovane cristiano. Interessante è notare che, solo in questo breve lasso di tempo, a Trapani non sono presenti maestri corallari ebrei titolari di bottega, ad eccezione nel 1455 di quella dell’ebreo Raffaele, figlio di Bracha Chagegi, aperta nello stesso anno in cui Federico la Matina, abile imprenditore nella compravendita di corallo, apre un suo laboratorio, incaricando però garzoni ebrei per la lavorazione.

The beginnings of coral craftsmanship

As previously mentioned, the monopoly of the coral craftsmanship was
in the hands of Jewish workers, who monopolized its activity throughout the 15th century. However, some isolated attempts by the Christian to enter the activity of the “ad laborandum corallo” workshops emerge. For example, a certain Nicola Terragrossa held from 1426 to 1429 a factory where also Jewish apprentices work, in 1435 another Christian, Girono de Nino, works coral together with another young Christian. It is interesting to note that, only in this short period of time, there are no Jewish coral masters holding shops in Trapani, except in 1455 for the Jew Raffaele, the son of Bracha Chagegi, opened in the same year that Federico la Matina, a skilled entrepreneur of coral, he opens his own workshop, but he hires Jewish laborers for processing.

Around 1416, the first coral reef was located and began to attract travellers, especially from the North African Maghreb (Maghrebi Jews).  Sicilian fishermen began to fish the corals, which became the mainstay of the local economy, and Trapanesi craftsmen soon became renowned for their ability to create beautiful jewellery and ornaments out of the raw material. Maghrebi Jews(Moroccan Jews, Algerian Jews, Tunisian Jews, and Libyan Jews) often refers to Egyptian Jews as well.