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The Girona Jewish Quarter (El Call) is said to be one of the world’s best preserved Jewish quarters, although it no longer has a Jewish population.
Whilst Jews first arrived in Girona in the 9th century, it was between the 13th and 15th century that the community thrived. At this time, Girona’s Jewish Quarter was a hub of learning and the home of the rabbi Nahmanides, founder of Cabbalist teaching. Persecuted from the 11th century onwards, the decline of the Jewish community would continue until the expulsion of all Spain’s Jews in 1492.
Made up of historic winding streets, the highlight of the Girona Jewish Quarter is the Museum of Jewish History (Centre Bonastruc Ca Porta, named after the Spanish name for Nahmanides) with its detailed history of the Jewish community in the city and, amongst other things, a tombstones exhibit.
Where are Spain's Most Famous Jewish Quarters?
Spain was a land of promise for Jews in the Middle Ages, until the 1492 expulsion by the Catholic Kings (Reyes Catolicos). There is a number of towns and cities in Spain that are important to Jewish heritage in the country.
There are famous Jewish quarters throughout Spain: from those in Andalusia's Seville and Cordoba to the ones in Catalonia's Barcelona and Girona, as well as one in north-west Spain's Ribadavia, not to mention those close to Madrid in Segovia and Toledo, you can find a Jewish Quarter to explore no matter where you are staying in Spain.
What follows is a list of the cities that make up Jewish Spain, with details of what there is to see in each city.
Girona is a town situated 60 miles north of Barcelona in the region of Catalonia, Spain. In the 1970s through the efforts of one man, Jose Tarres, the Jewish quarter of Girona was re-discovered after 500 years. It had lain dormant as a very poor old district of Girona, often under plies of trash, with no one realizing its significance. The Jewish Quarter or Call existed from ca. 900 CE to 1492 when all remaining Jews were expelled from Spain, a period of ca. 600 years. During this time the Jewish presence in Girona, as in many other cities elsewhere in Spain, grew and prospered, then declined and was extinguished. It was not until modern times that the history of the Jewish presence in Girona was researched and documented.
Libi Astaire, a scholar of Jewish Spain, spoke about the history of the Jews in Girona at the Netanya AACI. Luckily the current non-Jewish leadership of Girona has taken an interest in restoring the former Jewish quarter there, unlike many other towns in Spain, and this has enabled much to be learnt. The first documented presence of Jews in Girona was found in a manuscript dated 983 CE, which mentioned a group of Jewish families who had moved to Girona a century earlier. Often evidence of Jewish activity is found in real estate and other recorded transactions. In 988 CE the existence of a synagogue is mentioned that was situated across from the Cathedral. In a manuscript of 1040 CE, which details the sale of vineyard outside the city walls, can be found the earliest known signature in Hebrew. The Jewish presence grew as the town grew and by the 13th century the area of Jewish habitation was distinct enough to call it a separate quarter, with at least another synagogue and perhaps 1,000 inhabitants. It is important to note that even though there were recorded incidents of anti-Semitism, there is no evidence that the Jews were forced to live separately from the Christians and there appears to have been amicable relations for the most part.
In 1263 CE an important event occurred in the history of the Jews of Girona, King James I of Aragon, who ruled Catalonia, ordered the renowned Rabbi Moses ben Nachman, also known by the acronym the Ramban or Nachmanides, to go from Girona to the Royal Palace in Barcelona to participate in a disputation with eminent Churchmen. King James declared the Ramban the “winner.” King James, who ruled for 63 years, was an ally of the Jews, being literally their owner and protector. He realized that the prosperity of Girona and Barcelona depended to a large extent on the mercantile capabilities of his Jewish vassals. However, the Church was very upset by the result of the disputation, and being poor losers within a few years Pope Clement IV managed to have the Ramban expelled from Catalonia, without his family and property.
By the 14th century the Jewish community in Girona was established and prosperous it had a famous school of Kabbalah and was known as a “mother city of Israel.” But then things changed for the worse: King James died and a period of chaos followed, which was made worse by the arrival of the black plague that wiped out many people. The Jews were often blamed for the plague and many were attacked and killed. In 1391 there were massacres, pogroms, throughout Spain that spread from the south. In Girona the synagogue was destroyed and shops attacked (reminds one of the Nazis 600 years later). Jews were forced to convert to Christianity (Catholicism), becoming conversos, and due to continuous persecution the number of Jews reached a low of ca. 200. In the late 1400s laws were passed prohibiting Jews from owning stores with doors and windows that looked outside of the Jewish quarter, and the Jewish quarter was eventually walled up to make a Ghetto.
In 1478 the Spanish Inquisition started. Although the Inquisition was not as popular in Catalonia as in other parts of Spain, some conversos who had remained faithful Jews (so-called “marranos” or in Hebrew anusim) were found out (often under torture) and burnt at the stake (auto-da-fe). In 1492, the year of the edict of expulsion, there were only 20 Jewish families remaining in Girona. They sold everything (there are contracts describing this) and the Jewish presence in Girona ceased.
- Узнайте историю еврейских общин Жироны и Бесалу в средние века
- Наслаждайтесь экскурсией в один из самых хорошо сохранившихся еврейских кварталов Европы
- Познакомьтесь с билетами на Микву 13 века в Бесалу и Музеем еврейской истории Жироны.
- Встреча в отеле и высадка (в городе Жирона)
- Эксперт местного гида
- Бутилированная вода
- Входные билеты в Музей еврейской истории в Жироне
- Входные билеты в Micve в Бесалу
Это мероприятие необходимо бронировать онлайн, поскольку билетная касса закрыта
The Museum of Jewish History
I’ve visited numerous Jewish museums around the world and most focus on what life was like when the Jewish people lived (and prospered) there.
This museum, while it does give an accounting of what Jewish life was like, due to the fact that Jews haven’t lived in Girona since the late 1400’s, makes giving a comprehensive history all the more difficult. Recent excavations offer tangible evidence of what life was like here in the Call (Jewish quarter). The Mikveh area was especially fascinating. When walking around the Call, see if you can spot the indentations in the doorways where mezuzahs once hung.
What this museum does differently, however, is to give the history of Jewish persecution, led by Spain’s Catholic Church and it’s political rulers. What happened in Girona’s Call and throughout the Iberian Peninsula is no different than what happened in Nazi Germany and throughout 1930’s-40’s Europe. The only difference is that Spain gave the Jews a ‘choice’ to convert.
The museum shows how lies, heresy, fear, ignorance and intolerance eventually led to the Inquisition.
I commend the museum for preserving what was once a rich history here in Girona and for educating its visitors, especially its young visitors that we must do all we can to never repeat this dark chapter in history - here in Spain or anywhere on Earth!
The Jewish heritage in Girona
El Call – Jewish Quarter – of Girona, is one of the best well-preserved medieval Jewish quarters in Europe, with beautiful old buildings and charming narrow streets.
The first Jewish families settled in the city as early as the 9th century and lived until 1492, the year of the Spanish Decree of Expulsion. Walk around the narrow cobblestone streets, discover the intimate courtyards and observe the inscriptions engraved in stone.
Street or corridor? In the Call – Jewish Quarter in Girona
How did the Jewish people live in the medieval Catalonia?
You will find the answer in the Centre Bonastruc ça Porta. It is located in what used to be, in the 15th century, the synagogue and other communal areas used by the Jewish community in Girona. It homes the Museum of the History of the Jews and the Nahmanides Institute for Jewish Studies.
Courtyard of Jewish quarter in Girona
Girona is a 2000 year old town where many cultures have left their footprint – Iberians, Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Jews, Christians. The main icon of this medieval town is the picturesque houses overlooking the Onyar river.
Travellers in Barcelona that want to know the Jewish heritage of Girona now have it easier. In Barcelona Guide Bureau we make the most of your time visiting Girona by the AVE high speed train in our Dalí Museum and Girona Tour . In only half an hour you will be at Girona and our licensed guide will walk you into the Jewish quarter.
I invite you to uncover the history of the Jewish people who lived in Girona for six centuries during the Middle Ages.
Girona’s Jewish quarter, called “Call” in Catalan, is one of the best well-preserved Jewish quarters in Spain.
Through this walking tour, we will discover where the old synagogues were located, the layout of the Call and the life of some families like Jucef Ravaya, administrator of Girona and Besalú, who served King Peter the Great and was royal treasurer.
Girona is the city where the great Cabalist and Rabbi Mosse ben Nahman called “the Ramban” was born.
Optional but highly recommended is the Jewish History Museum, which is located at the very heart of the Jewish Quarter. The visit to this museum permits us to see the “matsevot” or gravestones with Hebrew inscriptions coming from Montjuïc cemetery. It also contains medieval documents like one quetuba and notary papers. And the last mikveh of Girona’s Jewish community, in use until 1492.
Private: Girona and Besalu Jewish History Tour from Girona
Begin the day with hotel pickup, available from Girona, in a private vehicle. First, explore Girona’s old Jewish quarter, also known as the ‘Call’ and considered one of the best-preserved of its kind in Europe, remaining much as it was up until the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492.
Soak up the atmosphere as you wander winding medieval streets, poke around in unique shops, and take a break for lunch at a local restaurant (own expense). Also visit the town’s Museum of Jewish History (admission included) to learn about the area’s past and notable former residents, including prominent kabbalist and Jewish scholar Nahmanides.
In the afternoon, continue on to the town of Besalú, crossing the Fluvià River by way of a distinctive Romanesque bridge. Hear about Besalú’s long Jewish heritage, traces of which are still being uncovered today, and learn why the town was named a site of great cultural and artistic importance in 1966.
See the remnants of a 13th-century synagogue and visit the town’s most esteemed cultural treasure—an underground Mikveh (ceremonial bath) that dates back to the 12th century. Imagine what life was like during medieval times with a stroll through the picturesque narrow streets marked by stone steps and archways, and browse handcrafted goods at small local shops.
The full-day discovery tour concludes with drop-off back at your original departure point in the afternoon.
The Jewish community of Girona was flourishing by the 12th century, with one of the most important Kabbalistic schools in Europe. Because Jews could not be buried in Christian cemeteries, the authorities of medieval Girona created a special place for Jewish burials outside the city, but close to the city walls. The Jewish cemetery was on the western slope of Montjuïc,  and it existed as property of the Spanish crown. The earliest documentation of the cemetery occurs about the year 1200.  From the Jewish Call of Girona, funeral processions would travel to the graveyard along a particular route. 
In 1492 all Jews were expelled from Spain by the Alhambra Decree.  On July 14, 1492, the Jewish community gave the 400-year-old cemetery to the nobleman Joan de Sarriera, in gratitude for many favors he had done for them.  In ensuing years, the gravestones of the cemetery, often large, shaped slabs of rock bearing a Hebrew inscription, were taken and used in construction projects around Girona.  Some of these gravestones were recovered in the modern era and can be seen in the Museum of Jewish History in Girona. 
The cemetery was forgotten until 1862, when the railway line from Barcelona to France reached Girona.   The railway path passed between the river Ter and the base of the west slope of Montjuïc, and the cemetery was discovered when the railway construction unearthed 20 tombstones with Hebrew inscriptions.  The cemetery suffered further destruction in the 1960s. At the present time there are no obvious indications that the Jewish cemetery existed at the site. 
The cemetery is bounded to the north and south by two minor Montjuïc creeks. The southern creek is called Bou d'Or.  This location is just to the east of the Pont Major neighborhood and the railroad line, and to the northwest of the Montjuïc neighborhood.
Montjuïc Castle, located at the top of Montjuïc, was built by order of Philip IV of Spain in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries to protect the city of Girona. Construction of the castle began in 1653, consisting of a central fortification and four outlying defensive towers at about 500 m distance.  The towers were named Sant Joan, Sant Daniel, Sant Narcís, and Sant Luís.  The general plan of the central fortification is square, encompassed by four corner bastions. The walls between the bastions are about 150 meters in length. An additional outlying defensive tower was built in 1812, named after its builder the French Marshal Louis-Gabriel Suchet.
Montjuïc castle was used extensively in the Peninsular War (Spanish War of Independence) between Spain and France, 1808-1814. In particular, the castle was destroyed and fell to the French in August 1809 during the 7-month long Third siege of Girona.   By order of Suchet, the castle was abandoned at the end of the war in 1814. In 1843, during the Catalan popular revolt "Jamància", Montjuïc Castle and the Suchet tower were destroyed by artillery on the orders General Juan Prim. 
The area around the fortress was undeveloped at the start of the 20th century. In the 1930s the City Council of Girona planned the first urbanization of the mountain, with a school and a city-garden for the working class. Planning was interrupted by the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), however.  Under the Franco city councils, the project was abandoned. Although the mountain was declared a green zone in 1955, the Girona city council could not obtain the transfer of land from the castle, which was military property.
In 1966 Ferran de Vilallonga bought the land and prepared a definitive urbanization.  By then nearly 3000 immigrants from the rest of the Iberian Peninsula had settled on the hill in shanties. Between 1967 and 1971, after the expulsion of the squatters, a suburb was built for middle- to upper-class residents on Montjuïc. Residential buildings ultimately covered the entire mountain, surrounding the ruins of the castle. In 1986 the population of Montjuïc was 1381 inhabitants.
- Restaurant El Pou del Call
- La Vitaminica Ambulant
- Torrons Vicens Girona
- Cafe l&rsquoarc
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- Jewish Quarter Address: Calle de la Forca, Girona, Spain
- Jewish Quarter Timing: 24-hrs
- Best time to visit Jewish Quarter(preferred time): 09:00 am - 06:00 pm
- Time required to visit Jewish Quarter: 00:30 Mins
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95% of people who visit Girona include Jewish Quarter in their plan
52.53% of people start their Jewish Quarter visit around 09 AM - 10 AM
People usually take around 30 Minutes to see Jewish Quarter
82.06% of people prefer walking in order to reach Jewish Quarter
People normally club together Eiffel Bridge and Arab Baths while planning their visit to Jewish Quarter.