The Girona's Jewish Community . Six centuries of settlement in Catalonia
Between the dates of the year 898 and 1492 the Jewish community settled in the Catalan city of Girona. An important rabbinic school was held there, something that proves the very high cultural level of this city. The contribution of this and other nearby Jewish communities, such as Besalú, was basic for the economy and commercial development of the Aragonese and Catalan areas in the Middle Age
Where was located the Jewish Community in Girona's city center?
The call, or place of settlement of the Catalonia’s Jewish communities, was located a few meters from the Cathedral of Girona. In the model whose photo we attach to the left, 30 shaded buildings in the period of maximum splendor of the community , fourteenth Century.
The Aljama of Girona
The aljama was the organizational structure of the Jewish communities in the Crown of Aragon. It was basically a council of elders with autonomy in each city. There was a close dependence with the royal power since the Jews were considered servants of the King.
The Aragonese kings protected the Jewish communities due to the big amount of tributes paid by them.
The house of the Call, former synagogue, current Museum of the History of the Jews
The building in which the current museum is located was the seat of the last synagogue in Girona between the end of the 14th and 15th centuries. Other surrounding properties have been annexed to the original building in order to expand the rooms of the Museum. In one of these Girona’s Call buildings the meetings of the Jewish community were held, according to the system of the Aragonese crown of the aljamas.
In the last excavations carried out, in 2014 the Micveh or ritual bath was located, which we will talk about later.
The building currently houses the Bonastruc Saporta Center for the interpretation of Jewish culture and history in Girona. Moshe ben Nahman, one of the most important Rabbi in Jewish history, was also known in Spain as Bonastruc Saporta or Nahmanides . He was a 13th-century Rabbi from Girona, related to other great figures of Jewish thought and politics in the Catalan area.
The Micveh or Ritual Bath, a 2014 discovery
Tombstone of Estelina Saporta and the plaque of the Synagogue of Girona
Within the heritage that remains of the flourishing past of the Jewish community of Girona, there are a good number of plaques and tombstones. Many of them are found in a room of the Museum of the History of the Jews.
We attach photos of a tombstone, located in the Montjuic area of Girona, dated in the fourteenth century and that of a plaque that was shown on the east wall of the Girona synagogue, from the end of the fourteenth century, carved in limestone. We include a transcription of the text of the latter.
The plaque was found far from its original location, in Sant Francesc’s street in the city of Girona, at the end of the 19th century
The tombstone that we can see below indicates the grave of the honored Estelina Saporta and was found in the Montjuic area, where the Jewish cemetery was located.
1492 expulsion, conversions and buildings sale
As in the rest of the cities of the crowns of Aragon and Castile, in 1492 the expulsion of the Jews from these kingdoms was decreed. Above, facsimile of the decree used for Girona.
About the name of Sefarad
Mr. Eduard Feliu, a catalan Sephardic history specialist, states that «in Middle Ages, Catalonia, or rather the counties that formed Catalonia, weren’t part of Sefarad in Hebrew literature». During the Medieval times, the word «Sefarad» refered to the south of the Iberian Peninsula, the muslim territories of al-Andalus. The north Christian kingdoms were usually called «Edom land», but at the same time every kingdom was described with their specific name: Castilla, Aragon, Mallorca… It was until 15th and 16th centuries that Sefarad became the common Hebrew name to designate Spain.»
Many families converted to Christianity to prevent their exodus. The building owners who were forced to leave had to agree to their sale in order to obtain money for their trips. An example of this is the record of the sale of the site of the Girona synagogue that we show below.
We provide an external link with a list of people belonging to Girona’s jewish community in fourteenth century . This work is in Catalan but contains an interesting list of names and surnames in page 612