A Jewish City

The Jewish quarter in Granada is known as Realejo, which is right in the town centre.

This district was the Jewish quarter at the time of the Nasride rule. The Jewish population was once so important that Granada was once known from the Al-Andalus Country under the name of Granada of the jews (in Arabic, غرناطة اليهود gharnāṭah al-yahūd).

Realejo Neighbourhood

The jewish history of Granada goes back as far as the year 135 although some historians prefer the year 70 when jewish settlements may first have been present. Either way this period was a time when new lives in Spain were sought, leaving their native Israel behind. The first time anything was properly recorded was 303 in the cannons of the Elvira Concilio.

The Realejo quarter began to take shape from the year 711 when the muslims came to Granada. Particularly from 912 onwards when Abd ar Rahman III ruled the Jews really prospered in Al-Andalus. They studied Science, commerce and industry and also traded in the cotton and silk trade.

The jewish community and the visir Samuel Ibn Nagrella played an important role in the Kingdom of Granada. Around the time of the first Ziri King in 1013.  When Samuel Ibn Nagrella died he was buried in the jewish cemetery. This cemetery is thought to have been situated in the area where the Arch of Elvira now stands.
Puerta Elvira granada spain

Joseph Ibn Naghrela

Depending on the time in history the Jews in Granada were treated differently. Just fifty years on from that date, 1013, the Granada massacre took place. On 30 December 1066, a large group of Muslims stormed the royal palace and killed Joseph Ibn Naghrela, who was key Jewish minister at the time.  1,500 Jewish families died that day.

A city of Translators

As you move along from Plaza Nueva square in Granada up to Calle Colcha into the Realejo neighbourhood, you see the statue of Yehuba Ibn Tibon. A Doctor who was also known for being an important Translator, Philosopher and Poet. He was born in the year 1120. A highly cultured man with an important library and named Father of translators. Still to this day his legacy remains, in the translation school at Granada University. This prestigious faculty there attracting many students each year.
It is recorded that by the end of the fifteenth century the jewish population in Granada was close to 50,000. Working mainly as tax collectors, doctors, ambassadors or as tradesmen. Along Calle Pavaneras in Granada many Jewish craftsmen such as cobblers and leather tanners had their workshops. In the same area there were traders in wool, linen, cotton and silks. Also silver and gold traders too. It was quite common that they could speak several languages.

Missing synagogue

It is unsure at the height of the Jewish quarter in Granada where the main synagogue was really located. It may have been on the site on San Matias (where it meets Pavaneras) although nothing reamins of this previous history. Hundreds of years ago a Christian church was built  on the site (now it is the MADOC headquarter no longer a religious building) Another possibility is that it could have been on the site of the current Church of San Cecilio (in the Antequeruela area) although it is not too clear.

Jewish Legacy in Granada

We have to carefully piece together the clues in the city´s history to be able to see the Judaeo-Muslim buildings which have been left behind. If you want to take a walk around streets with the typical layout head to Calle Jazmin, Calle Laurel or Calle Horno de San Matías, just off the Calle San Matías. This is the area where I noticed this door decorated with the Star of David. Further clues lie in some Spanish surnames and in recipes using aubergines which was typical in Sefardi cuisine.
You may visit the Museo Sefardi (behind Casa de los Tiros on Pavaneras street) which is a small museum, open from 10-2pm and 4pm -8pm. Closed Mondays and Saturdays. This shows an old house with typical Granada layout and gives you some idea of how this area may have been historically.

Museo Sefardi Granada Spain by piccavey.com

The Alhambra Decree of 1492

The majority of Jewish buildings were demolished around the time of 1492 when the Catholic Kings, Fernando & Isabel were increasing in power throughout Al Andalus. In the year 1494 King Fernando ordered the destruction of homes of 20,000 jews to build a new hospital and Cathedral.
The Alhambra Decree of 1492:
We have decided to give order to all jews, men and women to abandon our kingdom and never return. With the exception of those who have been baptized, all the rest must leave our territory by 31 July 1492 to not return, death penalty and confiscation of belongings will be applied.
During the same period the jewish community was considered by the Catholic Kings as Moriscos (Catholic converts) and they were banished from the Kingdom of Granada together with the Christian converted moors. Many fled to Tetuan at this time.
From 1492 onwards many of the buildings in Granada dramatically changed. The previous mosques were demolished or drastically altered to become Catholic churches. How the city of Granada looked before 1492 is practically invisible to the visitor today. We have to conjure up an idea of the past by reading about it.