The Jewish legacy

Besalú stands out from the towns that have a Jewish quarter because it nearly is the only one in Spain to have a Mikvah, the ritual-bathing house. "El Miqvé" de Besalú is, toguether with Girona, the only Jewish bathhouse discovered so far in the Iberian Peninsula. It is a typically Romanesque 12th century stone building with vaulted ceilings.

El Miqvé, an underground construction that is entered down a stone stairway, was where women went to bathe after menstruating, a Hebrew rite of purification continued from ancient times.

The Jewish community that thrived from the end of the 9th to the 15th century is a case in point and its valuable historical legacy can be appreciated on this route through the call, Besalú’s Jewish quarter that has it origin in the Jewish community who lived there in centuries past.

This route begins in Plaça Llibertat and heads up Carrer Comte de Tallaferro and then Carrer Rocafort: on entering the latter, try and image the conversations that must have once taken place here between two of Besalú’s illustrious Jewish doctors, Abraham des Castlar and Bendit des Logar.

From Carrer Rocafort, drop down towards the old bridge: look out on your right for a mezuzah (a symbol identifying a Jewish house) on the side of the doorway into the house situated opposite the alley leading down to the mikvah.

From here you could continue onto the Pont Vell (old bridge), but we will instead take the narrow alley down to visit the Synagogue, the purification baths (mikvah) and archaeological remains in the heart of the call.

If from here you head down to the river and then turn right, the path will take you alongside the medieval wall and to the Cúrial Real Cultural Space. Here, another audiovisual provides an excellent overview of the history of Besalú; as well, you can visit the building’s gothic hall that was once home to the Astruc family, an important Jewish family that lived outside the call. Visitors can also watch an audiovisual with a virtual reconstruction of the medieval synagogue. Details from the town’s tourist office.

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Besalú, vila jueva

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