24 September 2015

Barcelona, the Jewish quarter

These few posts are just catching up on a long sojourn in Spain. My interest in Jewish history comes from two areas: firstly, because having spent so much time in Spain over the past 12 years I resent its deeply Christian-centric modern view of history; secondly, because more recently I found out that my great-great-great (and perhaps one more great) grandfather came over from Germany (Brunswick) sometime in the 1820s or 1830s. He settled in Bethnal Green and started a dynasty of cabinet makers. I went to his shop, now a house, in Bethnal Green, and it was opposite a synagogue that would have been there I think even then. I was there with the Photographer, and later he and I went to Siena, where we visited the synagogue, very near yet so far from the pomp and circumstance of the big churches and cathedrals. We loved it. So now I make more of an effort to see this side of European history. I also went to the synagogue in Córdoba. Again, quite tiny and beautiful.

The synagogue in Barcelona's Jewish quarter had such a low ceiling I had to almost crawl to enter! But it was worth it. There are also some even more ancient remains. The Sinagoga Major de Barcelona is supposed to be one of the oldest in Europe. It's medieval, as is the quarter where it is found. I was on the hunt to find out if Spinoza's father had worshipped here, but I think I was just having a daydream. Anyway, a tiny and marvellous hidden gem. 

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