Judaism in the Jewish quarter

Religious daily life can be sometimes overlooked when compared with greater events, such as the Disputation of Barcelona (1263) or the Maimonidean Controversy (Shlomo ibn Aderet taking a key part in it). But community life followed the rhythm marked by festivities and observed rites and laws, shaping the neighbourhood in the process. The mikveh, the butchery and the hospital were essential places for Jewish ritual and, at the same time, were infused with everyday life.

Shlomo ben Aderet (Rashba, 1235-1310) was one of the most reputed rabbis of his period, as well as an active member of the Barcelona society, proved by the many documents with his signature preserved or his intervention in different conflicts across the Crown commanded by the king. Among other works, more than 3000 of his responsa have been preserved. In them, he answered questions about Jewish life from across the continent. This corpus of responsa illustrates how religion and tradition marked people’s daily lives.

Listen to responsa of Shlomo ben Aderet.

The main Jewish quarter had four synagogues, also known as escoles (schools): the main synagogue, the smaller one (poca or xica), the French synagogue (established by French Jews expelled by the kingdom of France) and the synagogue of Massot Avengenà (outstanding merchant at the end of the 14th century). The smaller Jewish quarter also had its own synagogue.

This image is part of the decoration of a Hebrew Catalan Bible from the 14th century, and it belongs to a tradition of illuminated manuscripts of gothic influence. We can identify different liturgical elements in the image that were found in the Tabernacle and the Temple of Jerusalem, which were also used in everyday life in synagogues. Many of them are recognisable, how many can you identify?