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Jewish quarter of Jaen

Jewish quarter of Jaen

Judería Jaén

Jaén is a key place on the routes of the Jewish quarters of Spain. And it couldn't be any other way, since the Jews lived and influenced this city for more than twelve centuries. If we want to follow in their footsteps, we must go to the Jewish quarter, where the stars of David continue to remind us of the history of this city.

The streets of Rostro, Santa Cruz, Martínez Molina and Huertas, among others in the old quarter of the city of , lead to a network of small narrow streets that take you back to the Middle Ages and to the limits of the old Jewish quarter: the Santa Cruz neighbourhood. Inside this interesting maze that you'll definitely want to explore, you'll find the Santa Clara convent. The synagogue was built here and it later became the Church of Santa Cruz. There is just one wall that is preserved as evidence of this.

On Calle San Andrés we find evidence of another of the possible synagogues of the old Jewish quarter, under the chapel of the same name. Whether or not it was a Jewish temple is a matter that experts are still debating today, but no one can deny that its beautiful arches are reminiscent of those of ancient synagogues, such as Santa María la Blanca, in Toledo. Its orientation to the east, the geometry of the patio, its austere appearance and a lower height than the Christian churches are also features that make us think it was truly a place of worship for the Jews. 

And if we talk about Jewish Jaén we shouldn't miss one of the brightest figures of Sepharad: Hasdai ibn Shaprut. Physician, diplomat and adviser to the Cordoba caliphs —Abd-al-Rahman III and Al-Hakam II—, such was his importance and influence in the society of the time that he is considered the precursor of the great golden age of Jewish culture in Spain and in the world . What was possibly his house, in the Plaza de la Magdalena, proudly displays a Star of David. If you want to know more details about his incredible life, be sure to read the novels inspired by him: The Cypresses of Cordoba, by Yael Guiladi, and Calendar of Cordoba, by Ives Ouahnon.

Other items, like the great menorah of Puerta de Baeza gate or the "mona" figure on the gothic frieze of Jaén Cathedral —according to experts it was a symbol against Jews to and prevent Christians and converts from practising Judaism—recall and highlight the importance that Jewish culture had for the development of the city of the Holy Kingdom.

Still in the heart of the old town, we find various baths that Muslims and Jews used at different times and one of them even seems to have been for the exclusive use of the Jewish population: Hamam Ibn Ishaq or ben Isaac baths. On the fringes of the old Jewish quarter, in Plaza de los Caños, we find the Orange Baths. Built in the 11th century and operating right until the Castilian conquest, they were used as a bakery, fishmonger, butcher and even as a school. 

And in the heart of the city you can find Villardompardo Palace, property of the former count of the same name and viceroy of Peru: Fernando Torres de Portugal. In the basement you can find one of the greatest treasures of Jaén: some wonderful 11th century Arab baths that were a meeting point for Jews, Muslims and Christians. Their restoration in 1984 earned the Europa Nostra award. Three religions united around a social meeting space, a place where light penetrates through the starry skylights creating an atmosphere of peace and mysticism like no other.

Jewish quarter of Jaen