The Sinagoga Major de Barcelona (Ancient Synagogue of Barcelona) is located in the Gothic Quarter, in the old city of Barcelona. It is the oldest synagogue of Spain and one of the oldest synagogues of Europe. It was built approximately in the 6th century. Between the 11th and 13th centuries it was the main synagogue of the Jews who lived in Barcelona (at that time four synagogues were operating in the city). This old building can be considered to be a memory of the significant Jewish community that existed once in the Catalan city.
After the massacre of the Jews of Barcelona, which took place in 1391, the Sinagoga Major was abandoned for several hundred years and it fulfilled different, unreligious, functions (it served mainly as a store, for additional information about the History of Barcelona). Due to this, people forgot about its original function, and only in the last years of the 20th century the fact that this ancient building was once an important synagogue was discovered. An evidence for that the building was a synagogue the two large windows on the construction’s east wall which faces Jerusalem).
Nowadays, the synagogue serves as a museum and a cultural center for the Jewish community of Barcelona. Religious events are also organized there. In 2003 the first wedding in the synagogue was held after more than 600 years.
What do you see in the Synagogue?
Actually, the structure of the Sinagoga Major de Barcelona did not remain in its original form. Visitors can admire an ancient Roman building with typical characteristics of roman public buildings (for example serial construction of stones alternating with bricks). This Roman construction served as base for later structures.
There are not too much archeological remains from the Jewish period. That is why we know just a few things about the synagogue. At the entrance of the building you can see the following inscription: “Hekdesh R’ Shmuel HaSardi”. In the past the street level was a little bit lower than today, so there will be a need to go down a stair to get to the synagogue.
The synagogue consists of two small rooms. In the first one you can admire some recently uncovered archaeological relics. The second one is actually the synagogue, there you can participate in a guided tour which presents the site and its history (the tour is available in English, Spanish and Hebrew, in weekends also in Catalan, French and Russian). There many glass cupboards full of Jewish objects such as the menorah and different holy books (for additional information – Jews in Barcelona).