Also referred to as the Schealtiels-Hensor Saltiels of Crete, this extended Sephardic family, whose members served as noteworthy rabbis and scholars in the Heraklion community, are the descendants of Solomon Gracian or Graziani and his son who had left Spain for Crete after 1391.

The family achieved a degree of notoriety in the mid-16th century when one of its members overtly claimed royal Davidic descent by requesting that the Saltiel coat of arms, along with a long list of ancestral family members, and the family title Nasi be displayed above the Torah Shrine or Ehal of the “Tall Synagogue” in Heraklion to which his family had donated a large sum of money towards its renovation. The response of the community’s religious authorities was immediate; they explicitly forbade the exhibition of this white marble coat of arms depicting a lion in raised relief with the traditional attributes of the Lion of Judah with its human face, crown on its head and a sword in its raised paw because it implied idol worship. The rabbis reasoned that when the congregation ritually bowed to the Ehal, they would be, in fact, bowing before a statue which was prohibited by Jewish law. Subsequently, a settlement was reached between the Saltiels and the rabbis and the coat of arms was mounted on an outside wall above the entrance to the synagogue.

Photo 1: © Anastasios Skikos

Photo 2: © Etz Hayyim Synagogue

Detail of copy of Saltiel coat of arms at Etz Hayyim Synagogue

Copy of Saltiel coat of arms

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