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The Sepharad Route - Spain

The Sepharad Route. The Network of Spanish Jewish Sites was created in 1995 and is currently made up of 15 member cities: Avila, Barcelona, Caceres, Cordova, Girona, Hervas, Jaen, Leon, Oviedo, Palma de Mallorca, Ribadavia, Segovia, Toledo, Tortosa and Tudela, along with six other associate members: Besalú, Calahorra, Estella-Lizarra, Monforte de Lemos, Plasencia and Tarazona. These places all together forms The Sepharad Route in Spain.

The main purpose of The SepharadRoute in Spain is to protect and highlight urban, architectural, historical and cultural Sepharadic heritage, reclaiming it as an undeniable part of Spanish cultural identity, and developing its potential as a tourist attraction. It is a fascinating historic and cultural itinerary, that helps people to learn about, and better understand, the deep-rooted origins of Spain: a land of Jews, Muslims and Christians.

The Middle Ages in Spain were marked by the convulsions of secular war between the Muslims, who turned al-Andalus into their promised land and the splendid heart of their culture, and the Christian kingdoms, who never tired in their mission to recover, inch by inch, the territory they had lost due to the weakness and internal divisions of the Visigoths.

In this world of warriors and religious confrontation, the Hebrew community, who had arrived on the Iberian Peninsula at a much earlier date, not only managed to survive, but acted as an important “hinge” between these eternal rivals, and greatly contributed to forging the melting pot that was to become the Spain of the three cultures. In the towns and cities of Sepharad, Spanish Jews had both a presence and their own place. They worked as craftsmen or tradesmen, and as financiers or advisors to Christians and Muslims alike. But they also developed their own science and literature, their own religious studies and their own culture, based on ancient traditions. And they stayed in Spain as long as they were able, until the Catholic Monarchs’ Edict of 1492 forced them to abandon the land of their forefathers. Many left on a new diaspora, but many others remained, obliged to convert to Christianity and becoming an essential part of the genetic map of the Spanish people.


The Sepharad Route Avila

The Sepharad Route Avila. Avila is a World Heritage Site, and has been keen to include the Sepharadic legacy in its standard tourist and cultural itineraries, such as the Sepharad Route of the Mystics, the Romanesque Church Route, its 16th-century palaces, or its impressive medieval city walls. The earliest documentary evidence of the Hebrew presence in Avila dates from 1144, when Alfonso VII bestowed a tenth of the annual income of the Jews on the Cathedral. However, Jews were present in Avila when it was founded as a Christian city in Roman times. According to legend, it was a Jew who built the first Basilica to the martyred saints, Vincent, Sabina and Cristeta, who were tortured and executed during the 4th century persecutions.

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The Sepharad Route Barcelona

Among the many topographical features relating to Jews in Barcelona, one of the most memorable is the Monjuich, the Mons Judaicus or Mountain of the Jews, where for centuries, the Hebrew community buried its dead.

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The Sepharad Route Caceres

Declared a World Heritage Site in 1986, Caceres has one of the most well-preserved and charming old medieval town centres in Europe. The ancient Norbensis Caesarina was founded in the year 34 BC by the Roman Proconsul, Caius Norbanus Flaccus. The flourishing Hizn Qazris, which was an Almohad stronghold in the 12th century, that resisted attack by Christian kingdoms, had a Jewish quarter that should not be missed by tourists visiting this city full of ancient tales and history.

In the lower part of the walled town, spreading upwards to meet the sheltering walls of the noble houses of Las Cigüeñas and Las Veletas, the aljama, or Jewry, of Caceres was home to some 130 families in the 13th century. They lived in modest dwellings that stood on narrow, sloping alleys. It was a popular neighbourhood, still filled with bright flowers and light even today, and it stands on either side of the Calle Barrio de San Antionio.

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The Sepharad Route Cordoba

The Sepharad Route Cordoba. Until the Attack on the Jewish Quarter, in 1391, when both Jews and converts were dispersed all over the city, the limits of the Cordova aljama were clearly defined: it ran from the Almodóvar Gateway to the Mosque, which later became the Cathedral. Separated from the rest of the town by its own wall, there were two entrances to the Hebrew quarter: the Judería Gateway, near the Mosque.

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The Sepharad Route Gerona

The Sepharad Route Gerona. A stronghold on the way from Tarraco to Gaul, founded by the Roman general Pompey Magnus in the 1st century AD, Gerona in the Middle Ages was already considered the “Key to the Kingdom” and, metaphorically, the gateway to Sepharad for Hispanic Jews. With its treasure trove of wisdom over the centuries, today Gerona has an enviable combination of respect for the past and vision of the future, making it one of the cities with the best quality of life in Spain.

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The Sepharad Route Hervas

The SepharadRoute Hervas - Spain: Located in the north of the province of Caceres, Hervas in the Ambroz river valley, is an area that was occupied in succession by Celts and Iberians, Phoenicians and Greeks, Hervás emerged towards the end of the 12th century with the advance of the Castilian king Alfonso VIII and the recovery of a region devastated by the Almohads, whose early population were the Knights Templar.

Very soon, in the 13th century, coinciding with the first documents mentioning it by name, Hervás saw the arrival of the first contingent of Jews from various different aljamas in Andalusia and Castile. They soon built their own neighbourhood on the banks of the river, forming an unusual group of buildings that has been preserved until now, and which was declared a Historical and Artistic Site in 1969.

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The Sepharad Route Jaen

The Sepharad Route Jaen - Spain: Jaen’s strategic position on the upper Guadalquivir, standing at the entrance to Andalucía from the east coast and the Castilian plateau, has meant there has been a permanent cultural exchange between many different civilisations. This traditional spirit of tolerance explains the early presence of Jews in this Andalusian provincial capital. It was documented for the first time in the year 612, but probably dates from much earlier. Since early times, the Hebrews of Jaen presumably lived alongside Romans, Visigoths, (first the Arians, then the Christians), Muslims and then again with Christians, until they were expelled in the 15th century.

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The Sepharad Route Leon

The Sepharad Route Jaen - Spain: Jaen’s strategic position on the upper Guadalquivir, standing at the entrance to Andalucía from the east coast and the Castilian plateau, has meant there has been a permanent cultural exchange between many different civilisations. This traditional spirit of tolerance explains the early presence of Jews in this Andalusian provincial capital. It was documented for the first time in the year 612, but probably dates from much earlier. Since early times, the Hebrews of Jaen presumably lived alongside Romans, Visigoths, (first the Arians, then the Christians), Muslims and then again with Christians, until they were expelled in the 15th century.

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The Sepharad Route Oviedo

King Alfonso II chose Oviedo as the capital of the Kingdom of Asturias in the year 808 AD. The city, which stands on the site of an ancient monastic settlement on the Oveto hill, has continued to grow ever since, until it has become the political and administrative centre of the Principality of Asturias, and one of the most charming cities in Spain. It is a city full of historical features that housed a Jewish quarter that was part of its social and economic life for centuries.

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The Sepharad Route Palma de Majorca

The capital of the Balearic Islands, a secular maritime college and a reference for Mediterranean culture over the centuries, Palma de Mallorca can pride itself on being one of the Spanish cities with the earliest Jewish settlements, dating from the 5th century, when Jews lived alongside Christians long before Moorish rule. The xuetes, or chuetas, which was the name given to Majorcan Jews even today, were experts in astronomy, astrology, mathematics, medicine, philosophy and science, and contributed greatly to the cultural prestige of Palma de Mallorca in the Middle Ages.

When the Christians re-conquered Palma (1229-30), they found the Jewish quarter lay inside the Moorish fortified town, north of the Almudaina castle, and the first transfer of the Hebrew population took place, to the Call Menor, or Smaller Jewish Quarter. It stood at the top of the San Nicolás neighbourhood, along Calle San Bartolomé and Calle Argentería, but no original buildings remain.

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The Sepharad Route Ribadavia - Galicia

Ribadavia, strategically placed between Orense and Vigo, and “the mother of high-carat wine” according to the 16th-century scholar Molina, is the capital of the Ribeiro district. Over the centuries, its Jewish community - the largest and wealthiest in Galicia - had much to do with Riberio wine-growing and wine trade.

The creation of the capital of the Kingdom of Galicia in 103 by Don García, and the immediate prosperity of Ribadavia meant that, in the 11th century, many Jewish families settled in the town, and the Jewish quarter in the heart of the medieval town has now been declared a Cultural Heritage Site. The Jews of Ribadavia owned the vineyards and were fully integrated into the society of the time.

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The Sepharad Route Segovia

The character of Segovia has been marked since the 1st century AD by its Roman aqueduct. A World Heritage Site, Segovia’s history embraces the legacy of both the Romans and the Visigoths, as well as that of the cultural melting-pot of the Middle Ages, and for centuries it was a haven for the peaceful coexistence of Jews, Moors and Christians.

The repopulation of Segovia in the 11th century, which put an end to its long period as a no-man’s-land between the Muslim and Christian kingdoms, was also when the first Jewish settlers arrived. Over the next few centuries, they joined in the monumental task of turning the city into one of the wealthiest in Castile and Spain.

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The Sepharad Route Toledo

There is documentary evidence of the presence of Jews in Toledo since Roman times, in the 4th century, but their arrival much earlier is linked to the legendary foundation of the city. This was the Toletum of the Carpetans and Romans; the civitas regia capital of the Spanish Visigoth Kingdom; the Muslim Toleitola that was such an example of peaceful coexistence between the three cultures; the Toledo of Alfonso X the Wise and the School of Translators; the city of El Greco and the leading Episcopal Cathedral of Spain. But this Castilian city was also the great Jewry of the West, a spiritual centre that, for centuries, was a reference for all the Jews of Europe.

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The Sepharad Route Tortosa

In the early 13th century, the New Jewry was formed, between Calle Mayor de Remolins and the old medieval walls in Tortosa. The outside of the walls in Tortosa was reached through the Hierro Gateway, which was also known as the Jews Gateway. It is the only one that remains from the old Jewry in Tortosa today, and it leds to the Hebrew cemetery. Both the Old and the New Jewry have maintained their charm, with their maze-like street layout and many topographical features that serve to remind us of the longstanding presence of the Jews in Tortosa. In the 14th century, there were quite a number of eminent inhabitants of the call, such as the brothers Isaac and Jafudá Marçili or Abraham Mair, who were bankers that financed a number of the King’s enterprises.

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The Sepharad Route Tudela

Tudela: A strategic enclave in the Kingdom of Navarre, overlooking the river Ebro and at an equal distance from Zaragoza, Logroño, Pamplona and Soria, Tudela was founded by the Muslims in the 8th century, around the fortress built by Yusuf, a lieutenant of Emir Al Hakan I, in order to to consolidate the Northern frontier of al-Andalus. The Jewish presence there dates from this period, when the first town grew up around the alcazaba.

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