The major transformations which have occurred over the centuries in the historic case of Oviedo have meant that today there are barely any material traces of the houses or streets in the former Jewish quarter of Oviedo, but they have not been able prevent the memory of the Jews who lived here for over centuries from remaining intact in the new city. This has undoubtedly been aided by the abundance of documents bearing testimony to the way those Jews from Oviedo lived, but also the will to incorporate this record into the common history of a city formed by the successive contribution of different cultures over the centuries. As regards the possibility of discovering a large part of the smooth and relaxed splendour of Oviedo through their Jewish references, the Asturian capital also contributes the original approach of combining the memory of the Jewish residents in the Middle Ages with the activity involved in a new synagogue, the Casina where, at present, around a hundred people are engaged in Jewish worship. Past and present thus intertwine and combine in one of the Spanish cities endowed with the most personality and with the greatest international projection, particularly through its world known Prince of Asturias awards.

The Jews of Oviedo are forced to inhabit the district of Socastiello

The Jewish quarter of Oviedo

After the Ordinances of the Council in 1274, the Jews of Oviedo were required to live in the Socastiello district, alongside the Citadel and the city walls. The Jewish quarter of Oviedo occupied the area from Castillo Gate to the Socastiello New Gate. They could also live outside the walls should they so wish. It should be borne in mind that at that time the houses had already gone beyond the walled area and it is likely that some Jews had settled outside the walls as in the 15th century in the Western area there were still estates with the nickname de los judíos (of the Jews).

The Royal Castle and the Citadel in the 13th century occupied more or less the place where today the Telefónica building is located, alongside Porlier square, the Castillo Gate was on the left of the latter and the Nueva gate of Socastiello could have been either near the former San Juan street or the end of Cimadevilla street, as both gates are called Puerta Nueva (New Gate) in documents from the time. The internal limits of the Jewish quarter inside the city are harder to define.

No material remains of this Jewish quarter have been conserved. Neither have the same, narrow streets shared by Christians and Jews in the old Oviedo for centuries and the historic documentation which enables us to reconstruct and imagine the inhabitants of said Jewish community: Bartolomé Guion, notary; Beneito, moneychanger; Adan Giraldiz, Pedro Giraldiz, moneychangers; Petro Giraldiz, weaver; Petro Michaeliz, furrier; Aben Arsar, Asur Falconis, Bartolomé Alfageme, Don Symon, Annaias Tanoz and many more.

1377 - 1389
Gutierre de Toledo preaches anti-Jewish sentiments

In the 14th century, a century in which several synagogues in the diocese were seized, the Bishop of Oviedo don Gutierre de Toledo was characterised by the strictness of his homilies and sermons against Moslems and Jews in which he even threatened the excommunication of anyone who had any kind of dealings with them, even commercial, and asking for the members of these two communities to be banned from taking any public office. In actual fact, all he achieved was to reject a popular practice of totally peaceful cohabitation which had spread throughout Oviedo society.

The construction of Oviedo cathedral begins

La cathedral

The extraordinary presence of the cathedral of Oviedo defines the profile of Alfonso II the Chaste square, the most central one in the city, located right on the heart of the medieval city. Endowed with flamboyant Gothic style, the San Salvador cathedral started to be erected in the 14th century on the site of the previous church of the same name at the behest of Bishop don Gutierre, a champion of the fight against the Jews, though the set was not completed until the 16th century.

In addition to its architecture, the cathedral of Oviedo stands out for the numerous jewels it holds in its interior such as the Holy Chamber, declared by Unesco in 1998 as Heritage of Humanity, where the relics donated to the cathedral by Alfonso II the Chaste are kept; the Lignum Cricis, or Victory Cross, a symbol of the Principality of Asturias. Wamba, the bell which can be heard every day at the top of the belltower, is said to be the oldest cathedral bell in Spain.

In addition to its status as an episcopal seat, the cathedral of Oviedo also served as the Royal pantheon of the kingdoms of Asturias and León. The Kings and Queens of Asturias buried here include: Fruela I, Bermudo I the Deacon, Alfonso II the Chaste, Ramiro I, Ordoño I and Alfonso III the Chaste; those of the Crown of León include García I, Elvira (the wife of Ordoño II), Fruela II, Urraca of Navarre (the wife of Ramiro II) and Teresa, the wife of Sancho I the Fat.

The location of the Jewish cemetery is mentioned in a purchase and sale agreement

According to the purchase and sale document of 1412, the cemetery of the Jewish community of Oviedo was situated at a plot near St. Clare´s convent, outside the walls of the city, located more or less where the Campoamor Theatre is currently to be found. The purchase and sale document for the land, owned by Mencía Fernández, the daughter of the doctor Yuçaf, and her husband Pedro Fernández Carrio, states that this plot was called la huerta de los judíos (the Jews´ garden).

Vendemos [...] por nonbre et herencia de don Yuça, físico, mi padre [...] una losa de tierra cierrada de murio [...] en esta dicha cibdat de Ouiedo cerca del campo de los omes bonos, que disen la huerta de los judíos que yas en tales términos dela parte de la cima et de anbas las frentes caminos públicos del rey et de la otra parte, huertas de contra el monasterio de Santa Clara.

circa 1490
Rúa Palace

Rúa Palace

At the confluencia of Rúa street with Alfonso II el Casto square lies the house or palace of Rúa, from the 15th century, also known as the palace of Marqués de Santa Cruz del Marcenado and regarded as the oldest civil building in the city.

Its solidity contrasts with Llanes House which stands by its side and which is dated 1740 as the residence of the Knight of the Order of St. James Menendo de Llanes-Campomanes. Opposite both constructions the statute La Regenta (wife of the Regent) displays its melancholy, a work by Mauro Álvarez from 1997, one of the numerous works of art occupying the city where the presence of the sculpture in the street has become one of its most genuine distinguishing features.

Seizure of Oviedo's Jewish cemetery subsequent to the expulsion

After the expulsion decreed by the Catholic Monarchs, the Council seized the cemetery, but left it in a state of abandonment which was taken advantage of by some residents to enter and farm the land and the Council bestowed them these rights. In the dispute the residents declared that the plot had been a tomb for the Jews and that they had seen many monuments and tombs there. One of the witnesses, Juan González de Lampajúa, was mentioned who told of a conversation with someone called Solomon, a Jew, who had said to him that the garden was a tomb for the Jews who lived in the city and that their forefathers were buried there. Another witness, Juan de la Podada, confirmed he had heard that the garden had always been a tomb for Jews and that he had seen there six or seven monuments and Pedro Menéndez del Estanco stated the same.

1574 - 1608
The University of Oviedo is built

University courtyard and monument to Fernando de Valdés

The stern look on the face of Fernando de Valdés Salas in the statue representing him at the center of the cloister of Oviedo University, undoubtedly incarnates the pompous character of the founder of this institution, but it is also, if you want to look at it that way, a certain examination of conscience after his work as the grand inquisitor between 1547 and 1566 when he was the central figure, amongst other cases, in the famous proceedings against Bartolomé de Carranza, the author of a big Índice de libros prohibidos (List of Prohibited books), but also an unflagging driving force behind cultural and charitable ventures; perhaps today don Fernando would not have been surprised to know that the volumes kept at the University library include two magnificent editions of the Ferrara Bible from 1553, a Bible in Spanish translated word for word from the Hebrew truth by most excellent academics and seen and examined by the office of the Inquisition.

Design in 1574 by Rodrigo Gil de Hontañón, the building, surrounded by the mandatory university quarry which established the higher jurisdiction of the chancellor, accommodated the faculties of Arts, Canons, Laws and Theology after its solemn inauguration in 1608 which its main promoter Valdés was unable to attend as he died a few years previously. The magnificent building which can be seen today is the culmination of profound restoration after the damage caused to the property during the October Revolution of 1934 and the subsequent Civil War.

La Casina, the synagogue of Oviedo, is opened

Opened in 1999, the Oviedo synagogue, better known as La Casina, currently serves over a hundred people and as well as serving as a prayer room, constitutes an active cultural centre with various activities all the year round. The Torahscrolls, the menorah, an up-to-date mezuzah or Rabbis´ chair lend a truly Hebrew touch in the midst of a district dominated by colour and hustle and bustle and presided over by a splendid porticoed square, rehabilitated very recently not without some controversy amongst the residents.

The statue of Woody Allen is unveiled

Bronze statue of Woody Allen

Following the tracks too of one of the most well-known Jews of our time, in Milicias Nacionales Street, opposite San Francisco park and slightly set back from the traffic on Uría street, stands the statue of the film-maker Woody Allen, a work by Antarúa from 2003, walks absent-minded as if pondering the long history of the Jews of Oviedo in the old district from where its steps appear to come... A final contemporary homage to the memory of a collective which formed part of the history of the city for a large part of the Middle Ages.

Monolith in homage to the victims of the Shoah

Monolith of tribute to Shoah victims

In 2005 Oviedo city council, at the behest of the Israeli Community of the Principality of Asturias, inaugurated a Monolith in homage to the victims of the Nazi holocaust. The Monolith, situated at Parque de Invierno, near the bread basket, is a place commemorating a historic occurrence which should never be forgotten.