The province of Girona is home to some of the most important landmarks and relics that bear witness to the time the Jewish community lived in Catalonia. In the capital, Girona, you’ll find the Museum of Jewish History and the Nahmanides Institute for Jewish Studies, as well as places that are unique to the Iberian Peninsula, such as the sacred mikveh in the beautiful town of Besalú and important archaeological finds dating from Roman times in Castelló d’Empúries. The area is an absolute must to visit. Create your own route!
After 1492, when the last of the Jews had been driven out of the kingdoms of Castile and Aragon, the traces of a community who, until that time, had played an important and active role in their history, were gradually erased. Five centuries have elapsed and now, at last, we have reclaimed the legacy of all the families who had to leave their homes because they belonged to a religion different to Christianity. Girona and the Costa Brava had a particularly vibrant Jewish culture. In Girona, the Jewish Quarter – the part of the old town where the Jews once lived –, the Museum of Jewish History and the Nahmanides Institute for Jewish Studies, which is dedicated to research and reclaiming the city’s Jewish heritage, bear witness to the time they spent in the city. The nearby town of Besalú preserves some of the most iconic elements associated with Jewish culture, such as the mikveh and the Gate of the Jews. And Castelló d’Empúries provides a unique opportunity to visit archaeological ruins from the Roman era which bear witness to the arrival of the Jews in Catalonia. These visits will allow you to rediscover and reclaim unique heritage sites that are part of the Network of Spanish Jewish Quarters.
The Centre Bonastruc ça Porta de Girona is home to the Patronat Call de Girona, the trust responsible for restoring Girona’s physical and cultural Jewish heritage , as well as bringing the Jewish Quarter to life. The centre is named after one of Girona’s leading rabbis, who was also a world-renowned Talmudist, Kabbalist and scholar, and is also home to the Museum of Jewish History and the Nahmanides Institute for Jewish Studies.
The Museum of Jewish History helps preserve the history of the Jewish community in Catalonia through documents, archaeological landmarks and insights into its iconic figures. Its collections mostly come from Jewish Girona and its eleven galleries give visitors a glimpse of the everyday lives of the Jewish community during the Middle Ages and focus on their decisive contribution to the cultural and scientific development of the country.
Given Girona’s rich and varied heritage, it was only logical to set up an institute for researching and studying Girona’s Jewish history . It was founded in 1997 and named after the eminent rabbi, Mossé ben Nahman, or Nahmanides, who hailed from the city. Through its endeavours, the institute has traced Jewish ancestry and families as well as the history of Jewish women, and brought its findings into the public domain. The institute also has a specialised library that is open to the public.
Enrich your experience with the Museum of Jewish History’s audioguides. You can download and listen to them while you visit the most iconic sites that bear witness to Girona’s Jewish legacy.
Here you’ll find all the events and activities associated with the dissemination of Girona’s Jewish culture, history and heritage. Don’t miss them!
Besalú oozes history from every corner: every street, square and building provides clues to the town’s past and the people that have lived there through the centuries. The Jewish community that thrived from the end of the 9” to the 15” century is a case in point and its valuable historical legacy can be appreciated on this route through the call, Besalu’s Jewish quarter that has its origin in the Jewish community who lived there in centuries past.
The Mikvah was discovered by chance. The entrance was found during the excavations to find a well.After doing the archeological studies, Rabi Mordoc of Paris and Rabi Salzer of Marseille were asked for their help in order to discover the exact characteristics and function of the building. Following investigations, Rabi Chilli of Paris concluded that the building was a Mikvah or Jewish Purification Baths, because it complied exactly with the requirements for these building ; possessing a capacity of 40 saha, a direct access to natural spring water and an access into the baths with determined number of steps. In 1966 Besalú was declared a national historic and artistic monument because of its great architectural value; thanks in part to the discovery of the Mikvah, nowadays in Spain there are only two buildings with these characteristics.
The Jewish Quarter, or Call, in Castelló d’Empúries, was the most important in the diocese after the one in Girona. Most of what we know about it comes from the wealth of surviving documents that have enabled us to locate the two synagogues, cemeteries, the extensions of the Jewish quarter, and learn about the running and structure of the Aljama and the appointment of its secretaries.
The town of Castelló d'Empúries reached the pinnacle of its splendour in the Middle Ages. In the 11th century, it became the capital of the county of Empúries and the legal, administrative, political and economic centre under its feudal jurisdiction.