The old Jewish quarter of Barcelona, located in the city’s Gothic quarter. Although few vestiges remain, in the Centre d’Interpretació del Call visitors can get a good idea of what life was like for the Jewish community of Barcelona during the Middle Ages.
The Call or Jewish Quarter forms part of what is now the Gothic Quarter. It was one of the city’s centres of culture in the Middle Ages and home to two synagogues. One of them, the Sinagoga Major, is one of Europe’s oldest, as it is believed to date back to the 6th century.
The Jewish Quarter was home to schools, baths and hospitals, but now only a few houses are left standing. It was surrounded by two city walls on the limits of the old Roman settlement. The Jews, however, did not close themselves off from the rest of city as they had houses and workshops outside of these city walls. In the early 13th century the population had grown so much that the Call Menor, the smaller Jewish quarter, was created. Now practically nothing remains of it.
The Call Major, the larger Jewish quarter, is home to the Sinagoga Major or Shlomo ben Aderet Synagogue, as it is also known, after the man who was the 13th-century leader of Catalan Judaism, the Rabbi of Barcelona and a banker to kings like James I (the Conqueror). It was the centre of Jewish life in the city until the start of the attacks on the community, the most serious of which, in 1391, ended with the death of 300 Jews. In the following years Jewish cemeteries and synagogues were destroyed and Jews were forced to convert to Christianity. Due to the expulsion decreed by the Catholic Monarchs in 1492, the quarter fell into decline and its buildings were converted. The Sinagoga Major became a dye works and the Sinagoga Menor was transformed into a Trinitarian convent, of which today only the parish church on Carrer de Ferran dedicated to Saint James remains.