One of “most important medieval synagogues in the Iberian Peninsula“, built in the 13th century, was rediscovered in the municipality of Utrera, in the Seville region of Spain. The building, buried one meter above the ground in its block El Niño is goneresisted the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492. In recent years it was “the most recognized nightclub” in Seville, having served as a hospital, orphanage and school, says El País.
In an interview with the Spanish newspaper, the archaeologist Miguel Ángel de Dios, deputy director of the team in charge of the research, reveals that the two years of work allow us to envision “a complex that goes beyond the prayer hall and will include the house of the rabbi , the rabbinical school and an inn.”
Necessary for the research were the descriptions of the priest, poet and historian Rodrigo Caro, published in 1604 in Monument of Villa de Utrerawho writes: “There were only foreigners and Jews there, that’s why they called it Valley of Judios, who had the synagogue where the Hospital da Misericórdia is today”.
Another defining element was pottery, “the guiding fossil that gives the most absolute chronological information.” During the excavations, fragments of this material as well as of thin glass were found, elements related to “lamps that would illuminate the synagogue”, explains the archaeologist.
The manuscript and the material coordinates complement Miguel Ángel de Dios’ scientific certainty of the “partial but excellent preservation” of the site, whose original surface and volume, as well as the total elevation, are inferences.
At the end of four studies, the expert does the the country the characterization of the prayer hall of the synagogue, built in the fourteenth century on top of the central temple and adorned by the “Hekhál – the sacred space where the parchments with the Torah scrolls are kept –, the perimeter bench where the faithful pray and bimah – office where the scrolls are unrolled”.
The research project, funded by the council of Utrera, intends to analyze its urban area El Niño is gone, in order to demarcate the perimeter of the Jewish quarter, possibly “one of the most important in the kingdom of Seville” before the expulsion of the Jews, in the 15th century, according to the archaeological report. In the short term, the goal is to determine the area reserved for women and mikvehthe “pool” used in the purification bath ritual, reveals Miguel Ángel de Dios in an interview with alphabet from Seville.
The property where the synagogue was discovered was acquired by the council of Utrera in 2018. In a press conference, the president, José María Villalobos, admitted the intention to promote tourist visits during the excavations. The Utrera synagogue is the fifth known in Spain. The rest are in Segovia, Córdoba and two in Toledo.
Text edited by Ana Maria Henriques