The Jewish Quarter of Girona
Key tourist attractions, history of the neighborhood and community influence
The oldest evidence that proves the passage of the Jewish community in Girona is a preserved document dating from the year 888 in which the presence of 25 families is mentioned for the first time. However, it was not until well into the twelfth century when this community really settled on Carrer de la Força, formerly known as Carrer de Sant Llorenç. It was there where most of the families who lived around the Cathedral settled, forming a small community of up to 800 neighbors. On the other hand, several places in Catalonia also received the first aljama, such as Barcelona (1244), Castellón de Ampurias, Besalú, Figueras, Banyoles or Torroella de Montgrí.
Over time, their economic solvency and acquisition of real estate made the Christians uncomfortable, as they could no longer live off their rents. This fact caused the Christians to confront the monarchs of the time, who accepted the presence of Jews, charged them high taxes and in exchange offered them protection. In Girona the community had an extension of virgin land in the north of the city, at least since 1207, specifically in Montjuïc (mount of the Jews), where they could bury their deceased, properties located in Ballesteries street, al Mercadell (space currently occupied by the Pia Almoina building), and in the pseudo-industrial area of Mercadal, where they had rights over several mills.
”The narrow and wet stone streets that Gerona preserves allow us to delve into the city's Jewish past.
The last decades of Jewish presence in Girona were characterized by the strong pressure to which the community was subjected: they were not allowed to live outside their neighborhood, and if they went out, they had to identify themselves with a red circle. From that centenary legacy remains the current Jewish Quarter of Girona, one of the best preserved in Europe with the economic collaboration of the State of Israel.
Museum of Jewish History
From Hotels Ultonia Girona you can comfortably walk to the exhibition center Bonastruc ça Porta. On the floor of the courtyard, we can find illustrated a large Star of David, very close to where the last Jewish synagogue of Girona was erected, used until its followers were expelled from the city and the peninsula in 1492. Today, the 15th century synagogue houses the Museum of the Jews and the Institute of Nahmanides Studies, a facility that attracts thousands of tourists to the city every year, and is located between Carrer de la Força and Carrer de Sant Llorenç, in the heart of Girona’s old quarter.
This museum is dedicated to all medieval Jewish communities, but makes special reference to Girona. It brings us closer to their history, culture, gastronomy, customs, trades … in short, the character that allowed the splendor of the Jewish community in the thirteenth century, despite the existence of strong movements of rejection. It also contains the most important Hebrew lapidary collection in Spain. The museum is open every day from 10 am to 6 pm except Sundays and holidays when it closes at 3 pm, the entrance fee is 2 euros and allows the use of an audio-guide. To gain access you must enter through the Bonastruc ça Porta Center, at 8 Força Street, a house owned by the doctor and philosopher after whom the center is named, one of the most prominent members of the community, with an echo in Catalonia and with a street named after him in Jerusalem.
The Jewish Quarter of Girona
Within the Força Vella, one of the most emblematic spaces is the Jewish Quarter, formed by a labyrinth of narrow streets and courtyards that maintain the aura of medieval times. It is one of the best preserved in the world, a labyrinthine stone neighborhood that speaks to the visitor of the city’s past and connects it with its present.
Its social, political, religious, economic and cultural influence in Girona, especially between the twelfth and fourteenth centuries, is indisputable. Today the Jewish Quarter of Girona continues to be an economic engine in terms of tourism, is one of the most visited in the world and has become a sign of identity of the city and an inseparable part of its brand. It has also been a source of inspiration for multiple cultural manifestations, and has generated a huge amount of literature, photography, painting, sculpture or engravings; and has influenced the architecture, urban planning, gastronomy, shaping the traditions and customs of the people of Girona.
Other key points of the route of the Jewish community in Girona
La pujada de la Mare de Déu de la Pera: it is located on the right side of carrer de la Força and ends in one of the porticoes of the old town of Girona, following it we can reach the upper limit of the Barri Jueu.
La Pabordia: this is a set of buildings where the public baths were located between the 13th and 14th centuries. It can be reached by following the Verge de la Pera path.
Placeta de l’Institut Vell: located almost at the end of carrer de la Força, where there are several very significant buildings regarding the passage of the Jews through Girona in medieval times. In the square there is the Canonja Vella, a 12th century building, inside there is an old street parallel to the carrer de la Força, which is currently walled up.