The history of Jews in Spain goes a way back. Spanish Jews also known as Sephardic Jews, once belonged to one of the largest Jewish communities in the world. The Jewish community kept growing in the Middle Ages. Spanish Catholic Monarchs ordered the expulsion of Spanish Jews on March 31st 1492 also known as the “Alhambra Decree”. Over 200,000 Jews converted to Catholicism and 100,000 Jews fled the country.
Today there are a number of towns, cities and monuments remaining that there is a very important print of the Spanish Jewish heritage. Truly Spain offers, as an Experiential Travel Agency, an exclusive experience to visit several important Jewish sights. We are proud to offer our clients tailored trips that match with these expectations of exclusive destinations all over Spain and Portugal
Although there are many examples of Jewish Heritage all over Spain, the most remarkable Jewish sights that you should definitely pay a visit are the following:
- JEWISH BARCELONA
The Jewish quarter in Barcelona also known as El Call, is a small area of narrow streets and it hosts one of Europe’s oldest Synagogues. Even though, only a few houses are left standing in the Jewish quarter, walking through these narrow streets will bring back history of how the Sephardic community lived. In the 13th century Jewish community had grown so fast that a smaller Jewish quarter (Call Menor) had to be built. Today almost nothing remains of this smaller Jewish quarter. During the expulsion of Spanish Jews many remarkable Jewish buildings in the Jewish quarter were either destroyed or converted.
Just a 20 minute drive from Barcelona city center, there stands Montjuïc hill (Jewish mountain in Catalan) overlooking the sea and the city of Barcelona. Here you can visit a former ancient Jewish cemetery. After the attack on the Jewish quarter and this cemetery some of the gravestones were used as materials for buildings which can still be seen in the Gothic quarter of Barcelona.
- JEWISH TOLEDO
If you visit Toledo you should definitely pay a visit to the ancient Jewish sights. Toledo is also known as the City of Three Cultures referring to the co-existence of Muslim, Christian and Jewish cultures. Toledo offers beautiful Jewish heritages. Just before the Jewish expulsion, Toledo had one of the biggest Jewish populations in Spain. Toledo counted 10 synagogues but due to the expulsion, 8 of them including five Jewish schools, were destroyed. You can still visit the two Synagogues that were later converted into Catholic churches: The Tránsito Synagogue, that was built in 1357 has now become a national monument and is called the Sephardic Museum. The museum displays old Hebrew inscriptions and it offers a broad overview of the history of the Jews in Spain.
The second synagogue that is still standing today is Santa María La Blanca. This synagogue was built in 1180. This synagogue is unique because it is built by Islamic architects. You will certainly be impressed by the numerous of white arches in the synagogue.
- JEWISH GRANADA
Granada is the capital city of the Province “Granada”. It is located in the south of Spain, in Andalusia region. Granada has a broad Jewish history. The Jewish quarter in Granada called the Realejo, was once very important for the Sephardic community. Late 14th century the Jewish population in Granada was approximately 20,000. On December 30th 1066 a Muslim group stormed the royal palace. 4000 Jews were killed and most of the Jewish properties were destroyed.
Walking by The Jewish quarter is a worth. You can walk along the Calle Pavaneras. Many Jewish craftsmen lived and worked here. In Granada you should visit The Museo Sefardí de Granada. This museum remembers everything related to Granada Jewish community. The house in which the museum is located, belongs to one of the last four Sephardic families, nowadays still living in Granada.
- JEWISH ÁVILA
Ávila is located just one hour from Madrid and is the capital city of the Province of Ávila. Ávila was named by UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985. Ávila has many beautiful Jewish heritage sights. Former synagogues are still standing in Ávila. On Pocillo Street, a charming Spanish street, we can find the former Don Samuel Synagogue, which is now a private home. This synagogue dates back from the 15th century. If you visit Ávila you should walk down Calle de Santo Domingo, this was once the biggest street of the Jewish quarter. It has charming low houses and it is a peaceful and quiet street.
The Belforad Synagogue also known as, The Chapel of Nuestra Señora de Las Nieves, is located on the Calle Reyes Católicos. This former synagogue was reformed into a Christian church. Along the Moses of Leon garden, you will find the Gate of Bad luck. There are many theories about why this gate is called the gate of bad luck. One of them assures that this name responds to the fact that Jews were force to leave the city using this city´s wall gate. Ávila has many more outstanding Jewish heritage sights that are a must-see.