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?

Model of Girona City Center buildings in Fourteenth Century

Girona’s Call

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

Courtyard of Museo de Historia dels Judeus, Girona

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

On the left, dependencies of the Micveh and picture of it's current state
Picture of the Mikveh that was found in 2014, it made part of the City's Sinagogue
On the left photo, the feminine ritual bath of the Synagogue of Girona.
According to the museum, «The remains of the mikveh (ritual bath) used by the Jewish community of Girona between 1435 and 1492 were found on the second floor, across the courtyard. Their  discovery  has been possible thanks to the excavations carried out in February 2014 in around the space of the old cistern. It is a small Mikveh that collected rainwater, which reached it through a pipe that was found  during excavations

Tombstone of Estelina Saporta and the plaque of the Synagogue of Girona

Museum rooms where tombstones and plaques are located
Medieval Jewish wisemen pictured while discussing Torah

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.

This plaque was hanging in the western wall of the last Girona's Synagogue. It was found far from there in the ruins of a building in San Francesc street in Girona in 1885. On the left, translation of the carved text

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

Sinagogue was sold in this agreement (text in latin) 1492,

Girona's Museum courtyards

Courtyard of Girona's Museo de la cultura judia
Pictures of the courtyards of former jewish buildings in Girona's Calla before 2014
Current state of courtyard after excavations
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