THE PATHS OF SEPHARAD: A ROUTE TO THE JEWISH HERITAGE IN SPAIN

The Paths of Sepharad, in Spanish “Caminos de Sepharad”, is one of the most famous routes to discover the Jewish Heritage Spain has to offer. A net of 22 municipalities belong to the Red de Juderías de España, a non-profit public organisation whose members are committed to preserve the Jewish Sephardic legacy, as well as promote it through cultural, touristic and academic projects among other.

Source: Red de Juderías

Sepharad is the Hebrew word to define Spain. The history of Jewish communities in our country dates back to 218 B.C. and their footprints span more than 1000 years. Until 1492, Jews, Muslims and Christians lived together for centuries in a substantial amount of Spanish towns, giving rise to a prosperous economy and to different traditions and cultural and religious expressions. We invite you to discover history, art, traditions and a unique gastronomy at the same you time you stroll through the narrow streets of ancient Jewish quarters, enter a synagogue and visit museums that aim to preserve this legacy.

Source: Red de Juderías

HIGHLIGHTS

Let’s introduce some of the main locations that define a fascinating historic and cultural itinerary, which aims to help visitors to learn about, and better understand, the deep-rooted origins of Spain: a land of Jews, Muslims and Christians. 

Barcelona (Catalonia)

BCN International airport is a perfect starting point. Discover the old Jewish quarter, known as Call, a walk through a network of narrow streets and small squares, where a part of the old synagogue is still preserved. The Call Visitor Centre preserves objects from the 13th and 14th centuries and organises guided tours, tastings of Catalan-Jewish cuisine, conferences... One of the hills surrounding the city is of particular interest, Montjuïc, the “mountain of the Jews”, an ancient cemetery that houses the last remains of some of the most notable members of the pre-expulsion Spanish community.

Girona (Catalonia)

Barcelona visit can be combined with a tour to Girona, 90km north, which was once the home of the great Jewish sage Maimonides. Girona preserves one of the oldest and most intact Jewish quarters in Europe. Between 9th and 15th century, the community become one of the most important centres of Kabbalistic learning and also the home of the great Jewish rabbi and philosopher Moses ben Nahman – Nahmanides.

Segovia (Castille and Leon)

Listed in UNESCO’s world heritage site list, Segovia has a valuable rehabilitated Jewish Quarter. Some main sites not to be missed: the Jewish Quarter Educational Centre - located in the old house of Abraham Seneor -; the old main synagogue - now Corpus Christi Church -,  and the Gate of Saint Andrew, an exceptional viewpoint to the Jewish cemetery and its anthropomorphic tombs. Of course, do not miss one of the gems Segovia has to offer, the Alcázar, one of the most distinctive castle-palaces in Spain by virtue of its shape.

San Andrés Gate – Source: spain.info

Toledo (Castilla La Mancha)

A city declared UNESCO heritage site and one of the most visited medieval towns in Spain. Toledo’s Jewish Quarter was one of the most important of middle ages Spain. A city within a city, with a medieval urban plan that has remained preserved until today. The Sinagoga del Tránsito is considered by many the most beautiful medieval synagogue in Europe, and, no doubt, the best preserved. Only 2 minute walk away, we find Santa María la Blanca Synagogue, dating back to 12th C. Surrounding both we can find the medieval “aljama”, which preserves the urban design of the different neighbourhoods within the Jewish town: Alcava, Arriaza, Assuica …. The Casa del Judío (known also as Samuel Ha-Levi residence) is one of the Sephardic buildings that can be visited and, today, hosts as well of the Greco Museum.

Santa María La Blanca Synagogue – Source: spainisculture.com

Córdoba (Andalucía)

The cluster of beautiful streets that form the Jewish quarter will embrace you with its peculiar Andalusian charm. Visit its small synagogue – one of the few preserved in Spain –, the frescoed interior courtyards and squares, the statue of Maimonides or the Puerta de Calahorra. The Casa Sefarad hosts important collections about Sephardic past as well as a library and a register of old documents. The original funerary tombstone where Yahuda bar Akon was buried is the only material remain that testifies the presence of a Jewish community in Córdoba under the times the city was under the government of Umayyads emirs. Some events related to this culture are also of interest: the “Sephardic Autumn” or the “International Festival of Sephardic Music”. We cannot forget that Córdoba is the European city that counts with more registers in the Heritage Site list of UNESCO: the Mosque, the historic centre, the patios courtyard festival and the Caliphate city Medina Azahara.

Córdoba – Source: redjuderías.org

Jaén (Andalucía)

The first reference that can be found in Spain related to a Sephardic community dates back to 7th C, which leads us to consider this town is where the first Spanish Jews settled down, leaving behind them a 12-century legacy. On the 9th C. the town already counted with a synagogue and a yeshiva, where Talmud and Torah where taught.  The Jewish quarter, a net of small medieval streets, still keep the original plan of what was the “aljama”. Attached to the convent of Santa Clara should exist a synagogue, still a wall is preserved. The peculiar architecture of the Church of San Andrés could have been a synagogue rather than a Christian temple, a jewel that reminds to the beautiful Santa María la Blanca Synagogue in Toledo. One of the key figures was Hasday ibn Shaprut, promoter of Hispanic-Hebrew poetry and advisor to the Caliphs of Cordoba. Besides Jewish heritage, do not miss the Arab baths, the decorative Gothic frieze of the main Cathedral of Jaén and Santa Catalina fortress on the top of the hills surrounding the city.

Jaén – Source: entornoturistico.com

Curious about one of the most prosperous eras ever in the Iberian peninsula? Wish to discover why the Hebrew community contributed to forging the melting pot that was to become the Spain of the three cultures? Come and learn about the times marked by the secular war between the Muslims kingdom of Al-Andalus and the Christian kingdoms, where the Hebrew society managed to survive and achieved an own position and an own place in trade, finances, science and even as advisors to Christians and Muslims alike.

If you are interested in this historic and cultural heritage adventure, write us an email to info@across-spain.com and we will send you more information about our packages.