There was a time when Spain was an amalgamation of three cultures. Christians, Muslims and Jews lived together in a large number of locations in our geography. The first Sephardic communities had already emerged in Phoenician and Roman Spain, and they continued to flourish until the expulsion of the Jews in 1492 by the Catholic Monarchs.
Despite the exile and the diaspora, the mark of the Jewish people in our country has not disappeared five centuries later. Their mark is still present not only in the synagogues and Jewish quarters, but also in the traditions, festivals and cultural meetings of all kinds that are held every year in both large cities and small towns. It is a fascinating legacy worth discovering. Come with us on a journey to the most spectacular places in Sephardic Spain.
We start in the south with one of the most cultural cities in the Andalusian community. Córdoba not only stands out for its richness as a medieval Muslim city, but also for its Sephardic corners. We recommend you get lost in its white-walled Jewish quarter, enjoy the city’s interior courtyards and contemplate the Castle of the Jews, the old synagogue and the city’s cemeteries. Do not forget to visit the statue of Maimonides to remember the great intellectual and political influence that this town had in the old Al-Andalus.
Another essential stop to understand and enjoy Sephardic Spain. We will start our tour by the famous Tránsito Synagogue and its interesting Sephardic Museum to continue by the Jewish quarter of the city. Afterwards, we recommend you to visit the curious Mudejar temple of Santa María la Blanca, which, due to its aesthetics, reminds more of a mosque than a synagogue. And if you want to immerse yourself in the multicultural atmosphere of the city, don’t hesitate to sign up for one of the many tours of the Toledo of the Three Cultures.
This small town in Extremadura is one of the places of Sephardic Spain with more personality. On the banks of the River Ambroz is its charming Jewish quarter, a stony, rustic 15th century sector with a unique character. The Jewish quarter, one of the best preserved in Spain, is an incredible place to get lost. But Hervás has even more to offer: in addition to its great civil architectural heritage, we recommend you take part in its popular Festival de los Conversos (Festival of the Converts) if you visit in summer.
Besides being the home of the Sephardic Museum of Galicia, Ribadavia is one of the most beautiful corners of Sephardic Spain. And if there is an optimum time to visit it, it is in August, when the Festa da Istoria is held, a colourful period festival in which traditions of medieval origin are represented and recovered, including a Jewish Wedding. If you come to this town, do not forget to stop by the town’s bakeries before you leave: you will want to take home all their delicious Hebrew pastries.
We finish our review by returning to Andalusia, where we find the beautiful town of Lucena, known as the Pearl of Sepharad. This is one of the most unique corners of Sephardic Spain, since for several centuries it was inhabited exclusively by Jews. This gave it a very special character, which you will be able to perceive when you walk through the Santiago quarter, visit the synagogue and go to the Jewish cemetery. A beautiful experience that will immerse you in the past of one of the most important centres of the old Spanish Jewish community.
Text: Marta G. Coloma