June 12, 2019
Jewish heritage in Spain: Castile
The Jewish community in Spain was once among the most prosperous in the world, and its heritage, dating back as far as the 10th century, can be seen in the monuments and Jewish quarters that remain all over the country. The regions of Castile are among those with the richest Jewish heritage. If your group is interested in this history, don’t miss out on these highlights!
Considered to be the capital of Castilian Judaism in the 13th century, Toledo is sure to be a key destination for any Jewish heritage tour in this region. At its peak, the city had ten synagogues and five Talmudic schools. Most of these were destroyed after the Jewish expulsion of the 15th century – the two synagogues that remained were turned into churches. Nevertheless, the maze-like streets of Toledo’s Jewish quarter reflect the prosperity of this community, which thrived here alongside Christians and Muslims for centuries, earning this UNESCO World Heritage city the title of “City of Three Cultures”.
One of the remaining synagogues, the Transito, has since been converted into the Sephardic Museum, and contains a wealth of information and artifacts from Jewish culture in Spain. The second synagogue, Santa Maria La Blanca, was built by Islamic architects in the 12th century for Jewish use. It is considered a symbol of harmonious co-existence of religions from the Middle Ages. In 1411, it ceased to be a synagogue and remains empty today. Other interesting sights in Toledo include the Hermitage of Christ of the Light, a former mosque built around 1000 AD, and the Gothic cathedral begun in 1227.
Segovia is also a World Heritage city with a beautifully restored Jewish quarter. Although it is most famous for its impressive aqueduct, Segovia is another important city in Spain’s Jewish heritage. It was in the Alcazar palace that Ferdinand and Isabella signed the infamous expulsion order in March 1492 – until then, Christians, Muslims and Jews had lived together without problems.
Here your group can visit the Corpus Christi church, which was once the main synagogue in Segovia; the Didactic Center of the Jewish quarter, located in Abraham Senneor’s house; and San Andres Gate, in the medieval wall of Segovia, which offers excellent views of the remains of the Jewish cemetery.
Other sites in the area
Toledo and Segovia are certainly the highlights, but there are other important heritage sites in the regions of Castile. For example, a small Jewish community lived in Leon and left behind several important sites, most notably the cemetery. More than a dozen perfectly preserved tombstones were salvaged from there, dating back to the 12th century. The village of Amusco is another interesting destination, where the old synagogue can still be visited. The upstairs has since been converted into the Synagogue Café, but the real synagogue – the actual place of worship in medieval times – is housed in the basement.
Your heritage tour in Castile
There are countless sites and monuments to visit as your group discovers Spain’s fascinating Jewish heritage. We can help you choose and organize the perfect itinerary – get in touch today!