A responsum given by Rabbi Natronai ben Hilai, gaon of Sura, in the year 853, states that although the Arabs did not permit the growth of the Jewish community in Cordoba at the time, many Jews lived in the neighbouring town of Lucena:

There is not a gentile among you.

1013 - 1103
Isaac Al-Fasi

Al-Fasi was born and lived for nearly 40 years in Al Qalʼa of Beni Hammad, near Fes. In 1088, aged seventy-five, two informers denounced him to the government upon some unknown charge. He left Fes for Cordoba, eventually becoming head of the yeshiva in Lucena in 1089.

Sefer ha-Halachot extracts all the pertinent legal decisions from the three Talmudic orders Moed, Nashim and Nezikin as well as the tractates of Berachot and Chulin - 24 tractates in all. Al Fasi transcribed the Talmudʼs halakhic conclusions verbatim, without the surrounding deliberations. Maimonides wrote that Al-Fasi's work

Has superseded all the geonic codes… for it contains all the decisions and laws which we need in our day….

Alfasi brought the geonic period to a close, the last of the Babylonian geonim, Rav Hai Gaon, died when Alfasi was 25 years old. Al-Fasi himself was called Gaon by several early halachic authorities. When Alfasi was himself on the point of death, he recommended as his successor in the Lucena rabbinate, not his own son, but his pupil Rabbi Joseph ibn Migash.

1077 - 1141
Yosef Ibn Meir Ha-Levi Ibn Megas

Yosef Ibn Meir Ha-Levi Ibn Megas (1077-1141) nació en Sevilla (hay quien dice que en Granada) y se trasladó a Lucena a la edad de 12 años para estudiar bajo la dirección del renombrado talmudista Isaac Al-Fasi durante catorce años. La antigua escuela talmúdica de Eliossana estuvo a su cargo a principios del siglo XII, y entre los acontecimientos que le tocó vivir destaca el pago que tuvo que realizar como rescate de la comunidad hebraica ante la presión de los almorávides en el 1106. Es autor de unas doscientas Responsa, (She'elot uTeshuvot Ri Migash), originalmente en árabe, muchas de las cuales son citadas en la obra de Bezalel Ashkenazi Shittah Mekubetzet.

Sobre la personalidad se conocen escasos datos, pero se sabe que contó con discípulos, entre ellos el padre de Maimónides, Maymun. El propio Maimónides en uno de sus capítulos de sus Ketubot y en comentario en el tratado de erobin, habla de la gran sabiduría e inteligencia de Ibn Megas.

Su labor en la academia lucentina terminó 1141 y sus descendientes fueron testigos del final de la comunidad judía lucentina, ya que en el 1148 los almohades expulsaron a dicha comunidad.

circa 1089 - 1167
Abraham ibn Ezrá

Abraham Ibn Ezrá (c. 1089-1167) spent his youth in al-Andalus (in Córdoba, Seville and Lucena) where he trained in Jewish culture in Arab.

In around 1140 he decided to abandon Sefarad to travel around the North of Africa, probably in the company of Yehudá ha-Leví, and Europe. He thus became a wandering wise man, well received for the knowledge he transmitted to the communities he visited: those of Beziers and Narbonne in France, Rome, England etc.

We are unaware whether he returned to Sepharad or whether he died in a European country. Howver, his multifaceted figure has left a deep mark on the whole intellectual life of the Jews of Europe. His biblical comments are some of the most highly appreciated in the Jewish world; his grammars are a common summary of the philological knowledge of Al-Andalus 11th century which it had not been possible to access up to then without knowing Arab and he introduced into the West the mathematical concepts of fractions and decimals.

He died in around 1167 according to some historians in Calahorra. His fame was so extensive that one of the craters on the moon, 42 kilometres in diameter, currently bears his name: Abenezrah.

circa 1090
Bust of Al-Fasi

Bust of Al-Fasi. © Thyzzar-Lucena City Council

The Jewish room of the Archeological Museum of Lucena features a bust of another extremely prominent rabbi from the Lucena school. The bust depicts Isaac ben Yaacob Al Fasi, head of the school from 1089 to 1103.

Isaac Al-Fasi, the second gaon of Eliossana, was endowed with political and diplomatic skills, and made a significant contribution to the study of the Talmud in the lands of Al-Andalus.

to 1240
The former Lucena synagogue

The ancient synagogue and subsequent city mosque stood on the site of the church of San Mateo up to 1240, when it was adapted to the new form of worship after the Christian conquest. Two hundred and fifty years later we find documentary evidence of the reuse of the materials used to build the old temple, including possible remains of the synagogue to construct the parish church of Santiago, which clearly evokes the shapes of the basilical synagogues of Toledo and Segovia.

Work begins on the church of San Mateo on the site of the synagogue

The parish church of San Mateo. © Thyzzar-Lucena City Council

The ancient synagogue and subsequent city mosque stood on the site of the church of San Mateo up to 1240, when it was adapted to the new form of worship after the Christian conquest. Two hundred and fifty years later we find documentary evidence of the reuse of the materials used to build the old temple, including possible remains of the synagogue to construct the parish church of Santiago, which clearly evokes the shapes of the basilical synagogues of Toledo and Segovia.

Considered to be the Subbaetic Cathedral, the current church of San Mateo reflects the style of Mudejar-Gothic and Renaissance artistic canons. Work commenced in 1498 on the sanctuary, together with the doorways of the sacristy and the exterior of Nuestra Señora de la Umbría. The doorway of San Miguel, built in 1544, is typical of the transitional Gothic-Renaissance period. The remainder of the building is renaissance, three aisles with large pillars holding up Mudejar inspired arches, in addition to a main doorway of a clearly classic influence. The highlight of the interior of the church is the grand altarpiece, designed by Jerónimo Hernández and Juan Bautista Vázquez el Viejo.

The interior of the temple of San Mateo contains the magnificent Capilla del Sagrario, a chapel built between 1740 and 1772 based on the plans of local architect Leonardo Antonio de Castro and regarded as one of the treasures of the baroque era in Cordoba and Andalusia. It features a splendid doorway designed by the renowned mnaster Juan del Pino Ascanio.

The chapel is octagon shaped and four robust buttresses rise into the elevation serving as pillars to support four pechinas. Masters Jerónimo and Acisclo Ramírez de Quero were in charge of the works, whilst the ornate decorative plan for the project, rich in Eucharistic symbols, figures of the church, saints associated with devotion to the Holy Sacrament, ornamental features of a vegetal or geometric nature, mirrors, was assigned to local sculptor Pedro de Mena y Gutiérrez, who was also responsible for carving the grand tabernacle located in the middle of the chapel.

District and Parish Church of Santiago

Parish church of Santiago. © Manuel Roldán Fernández-Lucena City Council

Construction of the Gothic-Mudejar style parish church of Santiago began in 1503 in accordance with the testamentary disposition of García Méndez de Sotomayor, the Commander of the Order of Santiago. The church, built with materials from the old demolished synagogue, is rectangular in design and features three aisles separated by octagonal pillars supporting brick arches framed with alfiz. The three aisles have coffered ceilings rebuilt in accordance with the original. Today, decorated in line with the same Mudejar style as the rest of the temple, the most noteworthy exhibits in the building are the Cristo de la Columna, a 17th century work of art by the distinguished Seville sculptor Pedro Roldán, and Nuestra Señora de la Esperanza.

1730 - 1750
Palace of the Counts of Santa Ana -City Interpretation Center

Condes de Santa Ana Palace. © Thyzzar-Lucena City Council

The baroque palace of Condes de Santa Ana is one of the finest examples of civil 18th century architecture in our city. The construction of the building was promoted by the Mora-Saavedra family between the years 1730 and 1750. This family of possible converted Jews were later awarded the title of Counts of Santa Ana.

The architecture of the building, apart from its magnificent facade, is highlighted by its two courtyards, the second of which bears an archway, and its fine staircase, crowned with a dome, the style of which points to the work of the last masters of Lucena, Francisco José Guerrero and Pedro de Mena Gutiérrez.

The palace houses the LucenaCultural Centre and the Municipal Tourist Information Office, displaying a series of thematic and exhibition rooms, in addition to the sculpture of Eros from Roman times, discovered during renovations carried out on the building.

The Cultural Centre features a room called Jews displaying the different kinds of burial mode used at the Lucena necropolis and highlights of the life, literature and social organisation of Lucena's Jewish community.

Discovery of the gravestone of rabbi Amicos

Headstone of rabbi Amicos. © Heritage Department-Lucena City Council

The headstone of Rabbi Amicos is proof that the city of Lucena served as refuge for Jews in Cordoba and later in Granada, in addition to other possible locations. The gravestone was found in 1958 at number 2 calle Santiago whilst reconstructing the wall of the house.

Professor Cantera Burgos dates the type of scripture to the 11th century, and declares the inscription is dedicated to a Hebrew master from northern Spain who emigrated toLucena where he died. Based on the lettering used professor Jordi Casanovas places the gravestone between the 9th and 10th centuries.

A copy of the gravestone is currently on display in the Jewish room of the Archeological Museum in the Castillo del Moral.

The inscription on one side is unfinished, whilst the opposite side bears a text of a funeral-related nature, translated as follows:

Rabbi Amicos
sleep and rest in peace
until the coming of the Comforter,
preacher of peace at the doors to
Salem, giver of glad tidings,
and tell him: this is your home

Discovery of the Jewish cemetery in Lucena

Jewish necropolis. © Heritage Department-Lucena City Council

In 2006, the construction of Lucena's southern ring road led to the discovery of a medieval Andalusian cemetery. 346 tombs were uncovered which had adapted to the topography of the land where the burial ritual used was that of inhumation in a single or double pit, at times with a side niche or cavern covered with flat stones or Roman tiles. The remains pointed to a late medieval period between the years 1000 and 1050 which coincided with the time of the heyday of Jewish Lucena.

A gravestone was unearthed containing Hebrew lettering and dated between the 8th and 9th centuries in accordance with analyses conducted by Semitic philologist Jordi Casanovas.

Discovery of the gravestone of rabbi Lactosus

Headstone of rabbi Lactosus. © Heritage Department-Lucena City Council

In 2007 a gravestone with Hebrew lettering was found in the Jewish necropolis on the southern ring road of Lucena, the second to be discovered inthe city. The carbon 14 tests conducted on several tombs in the necropolis enabled experts to date the same at the year 1050, coinciding with the heyday of Jewish Lucena. Based on paleographical and onomatologic analyses, professor Jordi Casanovas dates the stone to the second half of the 10th or first half of the 11th century.

The inscription on the gravestone is the following:

Rabbi Lactosus sleep in peace. Rest in peace
until the coming of the Comforter
to declare peace
at the doors to peace [---]
peace Tell him:
rest in peace.