The Sinagoga Mayor, the oldest of the existing ones in Barcelona, dates back to the 9th century despite the fact there are no documentary references to its existence until the 13th century. It is located at number 7, Sant Domènec del Call street, inside the block lying between the streets Sant Domènec, Marlet and Arc de Sant Ramon del Call and the current Manuel Ribé square. It had tree access doors: via Marlet street, via an alley which has since disappeared which left number 8 of Arc de Sant Ramon del Call street and the entrance at number 9 of Sant Domènec street. At the start of the street there was the entrance portal, the doorkeeper´s house and the Jewish butcher's which, although not an institution, it was the place where kosher meat was sold.
The presence of Jews in Barcelona has been documented since the existence of the Jewish quarter in the city, though it is not known whether they already formed a community. In around 850, tradition has it that there is a letter from the gaon Amram de Sura (Babylon) to the Jews of Barcelona. In 877 the Jew Judacot served as an emissary between Charles II, the Bald, of France, and the people of Barcelona and the handing over to the bishop Frodoí of ten pounds of silver to repair their church. During Almanzor's attack on Barcelona (985) several Jews died and the properties of those who had no heirs passed into the hands of the count.
circa 1000 － August 7th, 1391
Just because the call was a closed space this does not necessarily mean the Jews lived isolated. In Montjuïc, the mount of the Jews, as well as the cemetery they possessed farmland and some houses and towers. On the Barcelona plain they owned a lot of land, in the main vineyards, gardens, farmland and fruit trees; some of this land they cultivated themselves and others loan collateral. The plain area where they had the most properties were, inter alia, Magòria, Bederrida, Les Corts, at Collserola, the outskirts of Rec Comtal... They also had houses and workshops in Sant Jaume square and stalls at the Plaza del Blat market. Around Miracle (the current space of Paradís Street where the Roman temple used to be) was the abode in the 11th century of the Jewish money-changers Bonhom, Enees and David in a space which recalled a residential area and which later was left outside the Main call area.
Main call occupied the north-eastern quadrant of the Roman city. Some remains of the wall can still been found from the Roman urbanisation inside the houses situated between the Bany Nous and Arc de Sant Ramon del Call streets. The Roman streets conserved are those of Sant Domènec and Sant Honorat, former decumani minori; Volta street, the current Sant Sever street and Bajada de Santa Eulàlia; a former cardo minimus and Call street, the former cardo maximus which stretched to the Roman gate and which was diverted at some point and adopted the shape it still has today. Traces can still be found of another cardo minimus, which has now disappeared, and other medieval cul-de-sacs. The limits of Main call were Call street and Castell Nou street to the south; Sant Honorat street, to be precise the line of houses between Sant Honorat and Bisbe street, to the east; Sant Sever street and Bajada de Santa Eulàlia as far as the Roman wall to the north and a dividing line between the streets of Arc de Sant Ramon del Call and Banys Nous to the west. However, in the mid-13th century the King authorised doors and windows to be opened in the Roman wall and the limits were expanded with the urbanisation of Avinyó and Banys Nous streets.
The Jews of Barcelona grouped together in Main call between the 12th and 14th centuries, though in stricter fashion as from the 13th century. In 1275 King Jaime I received a reminder from Pope Gregory X of the need to delimit the Jewish districts which was apparently not being fully complied with in Barcelona.
circa 1200 － August 7th, 1391
In medieval Barcelona there were two Jewish districts: Main Call and Minor call, also called Sanahuja or Àngela. The two calls were not connected to each other, but we believe that when the streets of Banys Nous, Boqueria and Avinyó began to be urbanised - in other words, after the opening of the Roman wall - the communication was much more direct. In between the two Jewish quarters was Castell Nou (New Castle). And also equidistant between the two districts was the Banys Nous or New Baths building which were public and not restricted on religious, racial or gender grounds.
Minor call is also known as Call de N´Àngela or Call d´En Sanahuja, names which refer to the plot owners. The district is an urbanisation planned in the 13th century formed by five blocks with a synagogue and a square and situated alongside Castell Nou via its external part, in other words, on the exterior of the Roman wall. Minor call had no direct connection to Mayor. Its limits were the streets of Boqueria, Rauric, Lleona and Avinyó. It had two gates, one near Castell Nou, via the exterior side, and the other on Boqueria street, next to Rauric street which was possibly a gate mentioned in 1255. Boqueria street was the street which led to the quarter. Several alleys came out from the latter as far as Trinitat square (which disappeared when Ferran street was opened). This street was later occupied by converts who set up their businesses there: goldsmiths, veil weavers, tailors, cobblers...
Volta del Remei street, entering via Boqueria, also conserves a medieval tower from the 13th century; it had previously been called Arc d´en Sanahuja street. If observed from Ferran street the rear of the so-called tower-house can be seen, much less reworked than the front.
Minor Call Synagogue-Sant Jaume Church
At the opening out of Volta del Remei into Ferran street there used to be Trinitat square and this was the site of theCall menor synagogue, later turned into a church by the converts themselves after the Jewish quarter slaughters of 1391.
The Synagogue may have been built in 1263, the year in which Jaime I granted permission to Bonanasc Salamó to do so at this site. In 1394 the Trinidad church arose at this site. It is very different from the neoclassical profile of the current church, dedicated to Sant Jaume, with the architecture of said synagogue or the Trinidad church, but the stones have withstood the lashings of time, maintaining a space for praying right in the heart of the hustle and bustle of this major city.
July 23rd, 1263 － July 27th, 1263
The Disputation of Barcelona
In 1263 King Jaime I, at the behest of the preaching friars, convened and presided over at his Barcelona palace the religious disputation between Moses ben Nahman, the Rabbi of Girona, on the Jewish side, and Friar Pau Cristià, a convert, on the Christian side. In addition to the King, San Raimon de Penyafort and many other personalities were present. The debate about the two religions would last for several days and dealt with various themes such as the coming of the Messiah. Versions of this disputation, which took on a European bearing, are kept in Latin and Hebrew which, elf-evidently, differ in their conclusions. However, the disputation culminated in the censuring and burning of Hebrew books, the obligation to listen to the sermons of the Dominicans and the exiling to Jerusalem of Moses ben Nahman.
The Sinagoga Mayor, the oldest of the existing ones in Barcelona, dates back to the 9th century despite the fact there are no documentary references to its existence until the 13th century. It is located at number 7, Sant Domènec del Call street, inside the block lying between the streets Sant Domènec, Marlet and Arc de Sant Ramon del Call and the current Manuel Ribé square. It had tree access doors: via Marlet street, via an alley which has since disappeared which left number 8 of Arc de Sant Ramon del Call street and the entrance at number 9 of Sant Domènec street. At the start of the street there was the entrance portal, the doorkeeper´s house and the Jewish butcher's which, although not an institution, it was the place where kosher meat was sold..
Escuela de los Franceses street or Banys Freds (Cold Baths) street, the former name of Arc de Sant Ramón street, earned its name from the synagogue for Jews of French origin taking refuge in Barcelona who in 1306 received royal permission to build it. The name Banys Freds - in contrast to Banys Nous built in 1160 which was also located on the street - perhaps refers to the existence of a Mikveh in the area.
The Fountain of Call
The fountain was built in 1357 alongside the current Sant Jaume Square and it gave its name to the current Sant Honorat street as from the 14th century. Until the time of its construction the Jews had to fetch water from outside the call according to that set out in the municipal ordinances of 1356 which forbade Christians from harming Jews coming to and from the fountain to fetch water:
The fountain's construction inside the call was supposed to solve the problem reflected by this municipal ordinance and, in actual fact, it was a further step in the segregation process in view of the fact that it was no longer necessary to leave the call nor form queues alongside the Christians.
The figure of Massot Avengená is not particularly well known and has never been the main object of any study. The Financier of Peter the Ceremonious and a member of the Casa del Infante Juan (Prince John House) was a major figure in the Barcelona Jewish community in the second half of the 14th century and the final owner of the main house of the corn exchange, situated at Sant Honorat street, 3, before the disintegration of the aljama as a consequence of the slaughter of 1391.
The prestige of Massot Avengená amongst the other members of the Jewish community in Barcelona can be seen by the fact that he was the aljama secretary on various occasions.
His status within the community led the King to grant him permission to put up a private synagogue, not in the corn exchange house on Sant Honorat street, but at the current number 15 of Arco de San Ramón street.
The call butcher's was situated at the entrance to the Jewish quarter at Sant Domènec street or, according to the designation of the time, at Carnicería or Sinagoga Mayor street. The cutting of meat was carried out at two workshops in the building located at the Sant Domènec gate and owned by David de Bellcaire since 1369. At this time the butcher was Jaume Rifós who had the premises rented for ten pounds a year. In 1387 the aforementioned David de Bellcaire had both workshops rented to another Christian butcher Ferrer Maiell.
Jew David de Bellcaire rents out two bakeries to a Christian butcher
David de Bellcaire had both workshops rented to another Christian butcher Ferrer Maiell.
August 7th, 1391
The Jews take refuge in the Castell Nou
Although during the 14th century it was used as a prison, Castell Nou's history is bound up with the slaughters of 1391 when it was used as a refuge for hundreds of persecuted Jews and when it was attacked on August 7th by those critical to the Jews.
The Hebrew headstone is discovered in calle Marlet
Marlet Street starts at number 1 with a headstone recalling on its façade the figure of Rabbi Samuel Ha-Sardi and which was found in 1820 during the construction works on the current buildings. On the transcription which appears on the headstone from 1826, a modern reinterpretation would probably run something like:
It is a replica in any case as the original is on show at the City History Museum of Barcelona.
175 tombs are discovered in the Jewish cemetery of Montjuïc
The Montjuïc mountain, one of Barcelona's universal symbols, bears its unforgettable name, a reminder of those Jews who formed part of the city's life for six centuries. In addition to their tombs, 175 of them were discovered in 1945, in Mons Judaicus and its outskirts the Jews had houses and farmland.
- bar mitzvah, l. heb: Initiation ceremony (13-14 years old). From this age, young men were regarded, according to halakha or Jewish law, as responsible for their acts.
- hanukkah, l. heb: Festival of the lights. Celebrated for eight days, and commemorating the defeat of the Hellenites and the recovery of Jewish Independence by the Maccabees from the Greeks and the subsequent purification of the Temple of Jerusalem of pagan icons in the 2nd century B. C.
- jewish quarter: Traditional name given to the Jewish district or part of a city where the Jews´ homes were concentrated. In some cases it was determined by law as an exclusive place of residence of the members of this community. By extension, the term applies to any area known to be inhabited by families of Jewish culture.
- kashrut, l. heb: Part of the precepts of Jewish religion which stipulates what the faithful can and cannot swallow based on the biblical precepts of Leviathan, 11.
- mikveh, l. heb: Ritual bathing. Space where the purification baths prescribed by Judaism are taken.
- passover: Jewish Easter.
- purim, l. heb: Lit. Lucks; Jewish festival about the history of Queen Esther.
- sefarad, l. heb: Name given by Jews to the Moslem and Christian kingdoms of the Iberian peninsula. Today it means Spain.
- shavuot, l. heb: Festival of weeks, commemorates the handing over of the Torah to Moses at Sinai.
- sukkot, l. heb: Feast of the tabernacles or booths.
- talmud, l. heb: Oral law; collates the Rabbinic discussions of the laws, customs...
- alfaqui, l. ar: Doctor specialised in a knowledge of Islamic law essentially based on the Koran. The alfaqui´s duties included taking care of teaching and religious duties in the community, providing advice to those who need it and applying justice in line with Koranic law.
- aljama, l. heb: Specific institution of the Medieval Hispanic kingdoms which dealt with the governance and internal administration of the Jewish community.
- bailiff: A charter of the kingdoms of the former Crown of Aragón. The one was called the General Bailiff though there were Bailiff with jurisdictions in more specific areas. Its responsibilities include judging cases between Moslems and Jews.
- call, l. cat: Jewish quarter in the cities and settlements of Catalonia and the Balearic islands.
- circle: Discs which appear as a decoration, frequently coloured, in chapters of Jewish origin.
- collection: self-governing Jewish organisation which brought together several aljamas for economic reasons the distribution, valuation and collection of taxes to be submitted to the king.
- converts converts: A christened Jew who has converted to Christianity.Jews converted to Christianity who returned to their place of origin after expulsion.
- corn exchange: Place where grain was stored and traded.
- gaon: Chairman of the major Jewish academies of Babylon, Sura and Pumbedita (from (circa) 589 to 1040) and they were generally accepted as spiritual leaders in the Jewish community worldwide during the Early Middle Ages. It means «pride» or «splendour» in biblical Hebrew and «learned» in modern Hebrew.
- kosher, l. heb: This means ‘suitable´ and it designates the set of dietary laws and standards on foodstuffs deemed to be pure and which could be eaten according to Jewish law.
- mezuzah, l. heb: rolled parchment containing a Jewish prayer and the word Shaddai. It is placed inside a tube or box and is embedded in the framework of the doors of Jewish homes.
- neemanim, l. heb: Secretaries of the aljama.
- rabbi, l. heb: A man instructed and ordained in the law who can spiritually lead a community. It literally means ‘master´.
- synagogue, l. gr: Gathering place for faithful Jews and the place of worship and studies. The term comes from the Greek synagogē which means place of congregation.
- taqqanot, l. heb: Ordinances regulating a community´s life.