Andalucia 2012 – The Jewish Quarter…

I leave the Mezquita and admire the palms, as they filter shade onto the hard-packed clay that paves the public spaces here. I am off to the Jewish Quarter, one of the best preserved and largest urban Jewrys in Europe. There are two homes of note here, across the street from each other, as well as the Synagogue.

The first home is Casa de Sefarad. The first room of this house is filled with absolutely stunning metalworked textiles as well as jewelry and household objects.

  • Sephardic Jews introduced the production of Golden Thread, from North Africa to Europe via Morocco, Turkey and the Mediterranean. Gold and silver were smelted in specialized furnaces to produce this thread, which was then spun with silk to make it pliable. Golden Thread production contributed to the social structure of single and widowed Jewish women, who were the chief creators of both the thread and the textiles it embellished. Sephardic Jews had a leading role in the production of this thread up to the 20th century.
Shown here is a section of a heavily worked jacket.

I admire cases of jewelry, including a pair of silver cloak brooches, and a metal wedding cap similar to those I saw in Bursa. A selection of Hamsa, which was a cross-cultural piece. Muslims call it the Hand of Fatima, symbolizing the five pillars of Islam. Jewish people call it the Hand of Miriam, symbolizing the five books of the Torah. There are several mediums represented here, including metal piercework, enamelwork, and one piece that displayed a Sultan’s tughra (calligraphed signature) on its palm.

The rooms here are painted in vibrant shades of blue and red, with wood planked floors rather than tile. I am stunned to find a full size painting of Lubna, a 10th century Cordoban woman with extensive knowledge of calculus, metrics, and math. She worked in the library of Caliph Al-Hakim II, considered the most important depository of knowledge at the time. She is also a doppelgänger for a friend of mine, Kate O’Guinn.

Additional photos of the Casa de Sefarad are boarded on Pinterest

Nearby is a synagogue, built at about the same time as the house. Its small size indicates that it was a private space, built for the family. Built in 1315, it was used until the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492. In 1588 it was the property of the shoemaker’s guild, who added a chapel dedicated to St. Crispin, the patron saint of shoemakers.

There is a timeline here showing the persecution of the Jews over the centuries, starting with the Roman inquisition of 1184, the destruction of the Jewish Quarter by fire in 1391, and the Inquisition of Cordoba in 1482. The most wrenching reference is to the night of December 22, 1504, when 107 Jews were burned in a single night. By the mid-18th century, the burning of people stopped, but was replaced by the burning of books…

Across the street is Andalucia House, whose claim to fame is a scale model of one of the first paper making factories in the Western world. Paper was invented to China, and carried by Muslims during the 10th century to Europe via Bagdad, Sicily and Spain. Clicking on my previous photo link will bring you to a step-by-step photo expose of the papermaking process and the medieval tools that were employed.

To learn more about the Jewish Quarter, visit this website. I have boarded the papermaking process on Pinterest.

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