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.

The oldest evidence of correspondence between the gaons of Babylon and the Jewish rabbis of Lucena and Barcelona dates back to the mid 9th century.

It is the late 9th century when Eleazar ibn Samuel Hurga, one of the most prominent Spanish Jewish scholars of the time, conducts his work in Lucena.

He corresponded with the gaons of Babylon from Lucena on a regular basis. He travelled there to join the circle of the most important Hebrew intellectuals of the age and resided for a time in Sura, where he was given the titles of alluf of Spain and resh kalla, in recognition of his science and learnedness. The rise to power of caliph Abd al-Rahman III (912) brought with it a phase of growth and prosperity for the Jews living in Cordoba and perhaps implied a certain dependence or relegation of Lucena's Jewish community in relation to the Cordoban capital, as it was here that the talent of Hasday ibn Saprut shone in all its splendour, believed to have died in 976. The supposed secondary role performed by Lucena's Hebrew community in relation to that of Cordoba changed as a result of the persecution of the Berbers ordered by Suleiman in April 1013 and the subsequent expulsion of the Jews from the capital of Cordoba. A large number of those expelled sought refuge in Lucena. Furthermore, it is highly likely that emigrants from Castile arrived in Lucena, as the Hebrew gravestone discovered in calle de Santiago in 1958 implies, and which covered the tomb of the rabbi Amicos, a name of an obvious romantic nature, although other scholars date the gravestone in question to the 9th century. After the fall of the Caliphate of Cordoba, Lucena became part of the Taifa kingdoms, more specifically in Granada under the Berber leader Zawi ibn Ziri. Lucena was for all effects and purposes a Hebrew population governed politically, militarily and administratively by a zaim. The Jews of Lucena had signed a treaty with Habus ibn Maksan, nephew of Zawi, for having given him the populations in southern Cordoba in the division of the lands of the Taifa conducted between himself and his uncle. After the death of Habus in Granada in 1038, his son and successor Badis ibn Habus appointed the Merida-born Jew Samuel ibn Nagrella as his chief advisor, entrusting the economic and financial management of the Taifa to the same. However, Granada's Jews felt harassed by the taxes and an atmosphere of hostility arose against Nagrella; and furthermore, the most fanatical wing of the Muslims also expressed their antagonism towards the first Jewish minister. On the death of Samuel in 1056, his son Josef continued his father's work as administrative head of the Taifa of Granada. Josef, whose outspoken attitude included praise of anti-Judaism, attempted to overthrow Badis, but the Muslims rose up against him and his associates in 1066, causing the death of around 4,000 Jews, including Josef himself, who was crucified. A large number of Jewish houses were plundered and the survivors of the persecution fled Granada, most of them taking refuge in Lucena. Amador de los Ríos states that Josef's wife and son were among those who fled and sought shelter in the city of Lucena, the centre of Hebrew trade at the time. It is from this moment on, that of the destruction of the Jewish quarter in Granada, when the important Jewish community of Lucena joins the most prominent Hebrew intellectuality of Granada, becoming the centre of studies of the Talmud. The memoirs of Habus' great-grandson, the emir Abd Allah, the last Ziri Monarch of Granada, include a description of the uprising of the population of Lucena against him towards the end of his emirate (1075-1090), when Al-Mutamid of Seville was harassing the kingdom of Granada from Cordoba, a text which contributes considerably to the knowledge of the Jewish community of Lucena. The Jewish community of Lucena in the second half of the 11th century intended to take full advantage of its location on the border of the taifas of Granada and Cordoba, the latter annexed by Al-Mutamid of Seville.

The fear of Al-Andalus falling into the hands of the Christians led Al-Mutamid and other governors of the taifas to consider requesting the help of Almoravid leader Yusuf ben Tasufin. The people viewed this request for help in a positive light, as they were faced with enormous tax burdens and the threat of Christian attacks; on the other hand, the intellectuals disagreed based on the illegal policies of the kings of the taifas. As it happens, the Almoravid allies proved to be an invasive and dominating presence. Lucena's Jews, in a display of intelligent foresight, offered the North-African leader their allegiance before any other settlement could surrender to the Almoravids.

Lucena welcomed Yusuf in the first decade of the 12th century. He was fully aware Lucena had for some time been an important Jewish settlement. The relevance of the aforementioned statement is summed up in a quote by Julio Caro Baroja:

Whilst the western Caliphates lasted, including the kingdoms of the Taifas, their prosperity [that of the Jews] was so great that the Jewish population of entire cities such as Lucena almost formed an independent republic.

Whilst under the domination of the Almoravids, Lucena achieved its greatest economic prosperity and cultural development, and as mentioned previously, the city was the centre of the knowledge and study of the Talmud.

In 1122, the North-African leader Tumart began to rebel against the Almoravids, forming a group called al-mohade, that is, the monotheist. His religious fundamentalism led to him attacking the Almoravids and other religious faiths. Abraham ibn Daud said the following about him in relation to the Jews:

We will finish with them and the name of Israel will be forever forgotten.

Tumart died in 1130 and was succeeded by Abd al-Mumim, who began the conquest of Al-Andalus in 1146 after proclaiming the Almohad Empire in Morocco and taking advantage of the internal conflicts in Al-Andalus against the Almoravids. In 1148, due to the presence of the Almohads, the Jews of Lucena found themselves faced with the predicament of choosing between islamisation and death, which resulted in the official disappearance of Judaism in Lucena with the closure of their prestigious school, the quest for asylum among the Christians by those fleeing the persecutions and the more than likely conversion of the synagogue into a mosque on the site now occupied by the church of San Mateo, although everything points to the construction material used to build this church having been used to build the church of Santiago (1503).

Families of converts, attracted by the fame of Lucena in times past and the desire to live in the land of their ancestors, settled in Lucena during the 16th century and beforehand, and who from the late 1500s to the early 1600s held a considerable number of important positions in local society such as members of the city council and clerks. Many of Lucena's elite families in the following centuries owe their success to those converts. Remnants of that power are the building housing the current public library, the former Palacio de los Condes de Hust, and the city's Cultural Centre, the former Palacio de los Condes de Santa Ana.

The main economic activity conducted by the Jews of Lucena in their heyday was commerce. The principal outlet for Lucena's commerce was the port of Pechina (Almeria). Speaking of the Jews during the time of the Almoravids, Amador de los Ríos declares how Lucena had been branded for some time:

Not merely due to the wealth of its fields, teeming with pomegranates, corn, and plentiful vineyards and olive groves, but also due to the prolific industrial and commercial activity.

The closure of Lucena's rabbinical school was the endpoint of the intellectual Hebrew greatness which had really begun to take hold under the prodigious figure of Ishaq ibn Gayyat. The core of Lucena's intellectual Jews had enjoyed immense prestige, dealing with inquiries from all over the world. The rabbinical school of Eliossana, the Hebrew name for Lucena, received substantial contributions from Cordoba and Granada to subsequently influence and continue, after the disappearance of the same, in Toledo (Jews from Lucena formed the basis of the celebrated School of Translators) and Egypt.

Lucentine poets prior to ibn Gayyat (10th and 11th centuries) were Ishaq ibn Mar Saul and Ishaq ibn Chiquitilla (Chicatella), both philologists and scholars of the scriptures. Saul was an innovative poet in the use of new composing techniques. Chiquitilla, holder of a vast knowledge of Arab culture, is famous for his Azharot, in which he lists the 613 Jewish commandments.

On the death of ibn Gayyat the presidency of the Lucena school was assigned to Ishaq ibn Yacob al-Fasi, born in Algeria in 1013 and a resident of Fez for many years, hence his surname. Al-Fasi is considered to be the most prominent Talmudist after Maimonides. Under his leadership, the Jewish intellectual scenario in Lucena became a star attraction for scholars and men of learning. Al-Fasi enjoyed considerable fame as a judge, and wrote a summary of the Talmud titled Halakot (Laws), on which Maimonides based his work. He died at the age of 90 and was buried in Lucena in 1103. Mosé ibn Ezra composed the following epitaph:

Here lies the source of wisdom.

Another of the poets associated with the Lucena school and worthy of mention is Abraham ibn Ezra (1089-1164), from Tudela, who took to travelling around Europe and the East after the Almohad invasion. More than merely due to the quality of his works, he is of interest for having left hisfamous song praising the decline of the greatness of Jewish Lucena in his Ahad yarad. We also know of the presence of Lucena de Yehudá ha-Leví (around 1070-1141), like ibn Ezra, also from Tudela. He was a renowned doctor and enjoyed considerable fame as a poet. Cordoban Yoná ibn Yaná, born around the year 990 and a student in Lucena, was also a doctor and poet, and worked on the first translation of the Bible into Arabic.

On the death of Al-Fasi in 1103 the management of the Lucena school was entrusted to Yosef ha-Levi ibn Mair ibn Migash, believed to have been born in Seville in 1077. He was the son of Mair ha-Levi ibn Migash, who in turn was the son of Yosef ibn Migash, who had fled from Granada to take refuge in Seville when Badis was proclaimed king of the taifa, as he was a follower of Boluggin, brother and contender to Badis.

At the age of twelve, in 1089, Yosef arrived in Lucena to study with Al-Fasi, who had just taken over as head of the Lucena school. On the death of al-Fasi in 1103, Yosef was appointed his successor, serving as head rabbi of Lucena for thirty-eight years until his passing in 1141. His fame spread as far as Egypt and Babylon. Among his disciples were his son Mair, his nephew (son of a brother) also called Mair, and Maimon, the father of the highly acclaimed Maimónides; the latter attended rabbi Yosef's classes from the age of three or four, making his precocious intelligence known.

The most commonly used description of Jewish Lucena is that from the Almoravid era used by geographer Xerif al-Idrisi (born in 1099) in his Geography. This book, besides referring to Lucena as the city of Jews, stated that the Muslims and a few Jews lived in the fenceless suburb, home to the great mosque; the city was inhabited by rich Jews who refused the Muslims entry; the city was surrounded by fine walls and a deep moat through which the waters from the canals flowed.

The most important material finding in recent Lucena history in relation to Jewish culture was the discovery of the Jewish necropolis in 2007, from which 346 tombs were excavated in the southern ring road area. A further 50 tombs were discovered in a neighbouring area in 2011. The first excavation revealed a gravestone with an epitaph dedicated to rabbi Lactosus, similar to that of the aforementioned rabbi Amicus, discovered in a stone wall at calle Santiago, 2, in 1958. In late 2011, remains from the Jewish necropolis of Lucena were exhumed by the Spanish Federation of Jewish Communities and the Lucena City Council.

Luis Fernando Palma Robles, official columnist of Lucena
Technical BoardJewish Lucena

Aguilar Square. Ancient Cordoba Gateway

Ancient Cordoba Gateway. Aguilar Square. Alejandro López Valle © Touristic Department. Lucena City Council

The ancient Cordoba gateway, another area flanked by towers, was located in the northern part of the walled fort. The wall ran along part of the current calle Canalejas and after the opening to accommodate the Cordoba gateway, continued behind the houses in the current calle las Tiendas. In days gone by, a fountain built in 1675 bearing the coats-of-arms of the Royal House and House of Lucena stood on this site.

Ancient Blanca or Peso Gate

Ancient Blanca or Peso Gate. Alejandro López Valle © Touristic Department. Lucena City Council

In line with the central calle las Torres ran the western part of the wall of Lucena, now lost, the line of defence for the Jewish quarter.

This street was home to several defensive structures, including the towers which flanked the Puerta del Peso de la Harina, also known as Blanca, which gave its name to one of the city's main streets.

Ancient Gateway to the Town

Ancient Gateway to the Town. Alejandro López Valle © Touristic Department. Lucena City Council

The old gateway to the town, one of the most important of the walled enclosure, used to stand in the central section of calle Plaza Alta y Baja, right at the entrance to calle Flores de Negrón.

The eastern wall ran along calle Plaza Alta y Baja and housed the gateway known as the town gateway, and later as Arco de San Jorge, due to a small chapel built next to the wall dedicated to the saint of the same name, closely associated with the city. This gate led onto calle de las Flores de Negrón and the district of Santiago, one of the oldest in the city and a possible medieval suburb around the time of the heyday of Jewish Lucena.

Ancient Granada Gateway

Barahona de Soto Street where was located the ancient Granada Gateway. © Pablo Roldán

The wall stopped at the entrance to calle Barahona de Soto on the corner of Plaza del Coso after running along calle del Jardín, now named calle Barahona de Soto, which at the time was narrower and flanked by towers either side of the Granada gateway.

Ancient Jewish Quarter

Aereal view of Lucena with the Jewish Quarter in the foreground. © Miguel Cabeza-Lucena City Council

Calle Flores de Negrón leads into Santiago, one of the oldest districts in the city and a possible suburb from the time of the heyday of Jewish Lucena.

This parish church is traditionally believed to have been an old Jewish synagogue, but it may have been built using materials from the recently demolished old temple of San Mateo, which may well have been the former synagogue and mosque.

The sculpture in honour of one of the most important rabbis of the old Pearl of Sefarad, the city of the Jews, sits in Santiago Square. The bust depicts Yosef Ibn Meir Ha-Levi Ibn Megas.

Ibn Daud writes the following in relation to the end of Lucena's Jewish quarter:

The death of rabbi Yosef ibn Migash was followed by years of war, evil decrees and the persecution of the Jews, who were forced to abandon their homes, fleeing from the sword, famine and captivity; the abandonment of their faith was now an addition to the prophecy of Jeremias.

All this occurred under the sword of ibn Tumart, born in 873, who declared a campaign of apostasy against the Jews on saying: Come and let us put an end to a nation; that the name of Israel be a mere memory; and thereby annihilated all Jews from the Empire, names and remains from the city of Silves at the end of the world to the city of al-Madhiya. In light of this situation, the children of rabbi Yosef ibn Migash, incapable of keeping their schools, were the first to flee the city of Toledo.

Beyond the parish of Santiago lies Llano de la Tinajerías, home to most of Lucena's potter's and earthenware stores. This where you can visit artisan potteries, a traditional which has been lost in time. The pottery industry in Lucena thrived during the Middle Ages, particularly in the Jewish era (9th to 12th centuries), when the aforementioned exploitation of the abundant vineyards and olive groves around Lucena required not only large containers to preserve the rich must and extremely popular local oils, but an entire range of products vital to construction and domestic use.

Abraham ibn Daud

Despite having been surpassed by Maimonides, Abraham ibn Daud (1110-1180) is the real father of Jewish rationalist thought. A philosopher and a historian, he was famous for introducing Aristotelian thought into the knowledge of Judaism and he was the first Jewish thinker who was an apologist of Aristotelian rationalism, before Maimonides. Up to that time the Jews had tended towards Neo-Platonism as is the case of Ibn Gabirol.

As far as his life was concerned, we know that, like many Jews — including Maimonides and his family—, he fled from the city after the invasion by the intolerant Almohads in 1148 and took refuge in Toledo. Whilst there he wrote his philosophical work Al-Akidah al-Rafiyah (The sublime faith) in Arab in 1160 which was subsequently translated into Hebrew, and in around 1161 his most famous work, Sefer ha-Kabbalah (Book of tradition), a detailed list of the generations of Jewish spiritual leaders, from Moses to the contemporary Rabbis.

He died in Toledo in 1180. In 2010 the ninth centenary of his birth was celebrated.

Ancient Torre de la Vela

Las Torres Street. Alejandro López Valle © Touristic Department. Lucena City Council

The old medieval Torre de la Vela stood until the second half of the 20th century and was located at the entrance to the current calle Juan Valera on the corner of calle Julio Romero de Torres or de las Torres.

It formed part of the old city wall, inside which stood Lucena's Jewish quarter. The wall extended from calle Juan Valera and then along calle de las Torres at an angle, named thus due to the existence of several defensive towers. Torre de la Vela, perhaps the most important tower on the wall, formed part of the cloistered convent of Santa Clara.

Note should be made of the nearby Palacio de los Marqueses de Torreblanca, Círculo Lucentino, a palace built in the mid-19th century. The palace features a courtyard with an archway decorated with traditional tiling, and the Hall of Mirrors on the upper floor, adorned with splendid mirrors acquired in France by the illustrious Cordoban painter Julio Romero de Torres.

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.

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.

Castillo del Moral. Archeological Museum

Castillo del Moral. © Alejandro López Valle-Lucena City Council

The Castillo del Moral, a medieval fortress and cultural attraction, stands right in the centre of the city. Its central and oldest part was probably built between the 11th and 12th centuries during the time of Jewish Lucena, but the current fortress underwent significant modifications after the Christians conquered the city.

Its original square structure featured turrets in the corners, the most striking of which was the Torre del Moral, octagon shaped and with a Baroque finish, the facade of which features a shield depicting a blackberry vine which lends it name to the fortress. The Torre del Homenaje is also worthy of note, and may have been used as a cell to imprison the last king of Granada, Boabdil el Chico, captured during the battle of Martín González in 1483 by the governor of Lucena Martín Hurtado. In the 16th century the castle was transformed into the residential palace of the lords of Lucena, the Marquis of Comares, and later into the Palace and Castle of the Medinacelis.

The building now houses the city's Archeological and Ethnological Museum, with a series of exhibition rooms displaying the evolution of life on earth, the cultural and physical evolution of mankind, ceramics, the Jewish room, the ideological world, and the topography and evolution up to the modern times of the city of Lucena.

Coso Square-España Square

Coso Square. © Miguel A.Cabeza-Lucena City Council

The nerve centre of the city, the Plaza del Coso is the oldest in the city and was used to hold markets, festivals, races, executions and military parades up to the construction of the Plaza Nueva in 1618.

Plaza del Coso was located alongside the walled belt which belonged to the old town and which formed part of the Palace and Castle of Medinaceli.

The southern corner of the square features the bronze statue of a boy with a shell dating from the late 18th century, depicting the god Attis, originally adorning a corner of the gardens of the Palace of Medinaceli. The paving of the square also features an image of the city's coat-of-arms, a work from around the year 1953.

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.

Former synagogue. The parish church of San Mateo

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.

The synagogue

The synagogue (place of congregation, in Greek) is a Jewish temple. It faces Jerusalem, the Holy City, and it is a place for religious ceremonies, communal prayer, studying and meeting.

The Torahis read at the ceremonies. This task is conducted by the Rabbis aided by the cohen or singing child. The synagogue is not only a house of prayer but also an instruction centre as it is there where the Talmudic schools are usually run.

Men and women sit in separate sections.

The synagogue interior contains:

  1. The Hejal closet located in the east wall, facing Jerusalem, stored inside the Sefer Torah, the scrolls of the Torah, the Jewish sacred law.
  2. The Ner Tamid, the everlasting flame always lit before the Ark.
  3. The menorah, a seven-armed candelabrum, a habitual symbol in worship.
  4. The Bimah, place from where the Torah is read.

Headstone 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

Headstone 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.

Jewish necropolis

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.

The cemetery

The cemetery was located outside the walls at a certain distance from the Jewish district. The chosen site:

  • Must be on virgin soil
  • Must be on a slope
  • Be oriented towards Jerusalem

The Jewish quarter had to have a direct access to the cemetery to prevent the burials from having to pass through the interior of the city.

After 1492 the monarchs authorised (in Barcelona in 1391) the reuse of stones from Jewish cemeteriesas construction material. It is thus not unusual to find fragments of Hebrew inscriptions in several subsequent constructions.

Despite the pillaging they suffered from the late 14th century, the memory of these cemeteries has remained in the name in certain places, for instance, Montjuïc in Barcelona or Girona. We are aware of the existence of more than twenty medieval Jewish cemeteries. Others are only known of thanks to the documentation or the headstones conserved. The one in Barcelona at Montjuïc was excavated in 1945 and 2000, the one in Seville in 2004, the one in Toledo in 2009 and the one in Ávila in 2012.

Lamp of Lucena

The lamp of Lucena. © Thyzzar-Lucena City Council

The first floor of the Archeological and Ethnological Museum of Lucena features an image of a typical original Lucena lamp.

The type of lamp used in Lucena was basically the same as that used in Roman Lucena, and also as a possible reinterpretation of the types of medieval oil lamps used in the Al-Andalus age in the houses of so many inhabitants of Lucena in the Middle Ages.

It is said Miguel de Cervantes wrote Don Quixote, one of our most important literary works, under the light of a lamp from Lucena.

Although reliable news on the existence of lamp makers only dates back as far as the late 18th century, it is certain this item so vital to the domestic household was produced in Lucena long before, and exported, together with other common bronze, brass and copper utensils such as hooded lamps, mortars, braziers, chocolate pots, and stills for producing liquor.

Of all this traditional industry, the oil lamp represents one of the defining symbols of Lucena, forming an essential part of the items identifying the city.

The 19th century saw a notable increase in the lamp industry, whose products were exported to France, Portugal and Morocco, with a special mention for the popular figure of the travelling lamp seller, who went from town to town offering his merchandise. On the advent of electricity in the early 20th century, the oil lamp became a decorative article, its traditional design having being refined and given unquestionable artistic qualities, different styles, and practical improvements such as brackets and lampshades, traditionally bearing the coat-of-arms of Lucena.

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.

Sculpture of Rabbi Ibn Megas

Bust in honour of Joseph Ibn Meir Ha-Levi Ibn Megas. © Thyzzar-Lucena City Council

The bust in honour of Joseph Ibn Meir Ha-Levi Ibn Megas, one of the most important rabbis of the old Pearl of Sefarad, the city of the Jews, sits in Santiago Square.

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.