The Kennicott Bible and other remains of the Jewish Community in La Coruna, Spain

Ceti's graveyard found in 1869 in La Coruña harbour.

A masterpeace and other remnants

The masterpiece of  the Spain’s Jewish past is the Kennicot Bible, made in the city of La Coruña in 1476.  In this article  we try to discover  everything that reminds us of the once flourishing community of that city in Northwest Spain.

 Sadly, after the Spanish Jewish Community’s expulsion in 1492 nearly everything we know as  remnants of that past has disappeared from the area. 

Nowadays the Bible remains in the Oxford library.  There were also three funeral stelae located in the 19th century on the Palloza pier . They are said to be located  in the Madrid Archaeological Museum but the whereabouts of two of them have been unknown for years.

 Finally, there is the certainty that a house containing  a Mikvé, or Jewish ritual bath, was located on Sinagoga street,  in the center of La Coruña. Even though we know about some old documents proving its existence, we have not been able to confirm whether  this MIkvé still exists today or not.

The Kennicott Bible

Pictures of the Kennicott, Bible, Boldeian Library, Oxford

The Kennicott Bible is currently in the Boldeian library, it owes its name to the Scottish Priest who found the book in the 18th Century from an acquisition in Gibraltar in the 18th century. It is a book written and decorated by hand, in 1476, finished  in La Coruña for a wealthy member of the Portuguese Jewish community living in the city called Isaac de Braga.

We presume that after the expulsion of the Jewish community from Coruña, the Bible followed the journey of the Sephardim Community from Galicia to Portugal. After 1506 all sephardic communities had to move to Northen Africa,  where the book would remain for some centuries until it was sold in Gibraltar.

The Mikveh in Synagoge Street in La Coruña

In one of the corners of the square of Synagogue street in La Coruña City Centre there is an old house, now uninhabited, with two annexed buildings. The building has a heraldic shield of the Villouças family, placed  on an austere facade with just a few windows. The origins of this house can be traced back to the 16th Century .

It seems that the house had a cistern, as it is written in a sale agreement from  the 19th century. The document  indicates that it had «a large stone cistern.» In addition, that cistern had a spring of clear water, according to what the Countess of Pardo Bazán  (XIX Century famous spanish writer)  reported in her memories.

 Although other writers suggest different functions of that  cistern, undoubtedly the situation of the house, the secular name of the street and the type of construction lead us to think about the existence of an old  Mikveh, the Jewish ritual bath of the community. 

The photo that we attach on the right  shows  the perfectly preserved Mikvé of the city of Besalú, in Girona, Catalonia.

Breaking news: news: September 2023: The Mikvé has been rediscovered,  restaured  and photographed as it can be seen in this article (text in Spanish)

the perfectly preserved medieval Mikveh in Besalu, Catalonia
House in Synagoge Street in La Coruña where a medieval Mikveh is said to be placed

The jewish tombstones of La Palloza

Stella of Donna Ceti.

The Jewish tombstones of A Palloza were found in 1869 at a depth of several meters on the Coruña harbour of the same name, which was located in front of a rocky island called “illa dos judeos”   the Isle of the Jews. According to some writers, that island  used to be the burial area of the city’s Jewish community in medieval times. The tombstones were transferred to the Archaeological Museum of Madrid where one of them was exhibited. The rest was stored.

 The text on one of the tombstones reads: «Donna Ceti, wife of Don Isaac del Carril, rest in Eden,» thesecond one says: Abraham bar Mayr ben Perez  and finally the last one  «Donna Justa.» A short time later, the Count of Pardo Bazán, husband of the famous writer,  made the drawings of these three pieces, the image of which we offer above.


La Palloza harbour in La Coruña, pictured in 1920
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