It is thought to date from the end of the twelfth century, which makes it one of the very few such buildings still standing in Europe.
The staircase descending into Besalú’s Mikveh has 36 steps and gives access to the main body of the baths (5.5 x 4.5 m) and the actual bathing area (2.5 x 1.5 m).
The purification ritual involved descending the final seven steps and the immersion of the whole body three times (nayim). Women purified themselves at various times in their lives, including before and after giving birth and on their wedding days. Men, on the other hand, bathed on Fridays to prepare for the Sabbath, the day devoted to worship.
The story behind the discovery of this mikveh is peculiar: in 1964 during work to excavate a well on the site, a large chamber was discovered. After all the soil and earth had been removed from inside, expert council was asked of Rabbi Mordoc from Perpignan and Rabbi Chilli, who came all the way from Paris to certify that this was indeed a mikweh. At the same time it was realized that for many years – either through need or ignorance – its main chamber had been used for storing dyes for clothing.
The best way of visiting this mikveh is to join one of the guided walks organized regularly by the town’s tourist office.
- GR 2