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Jewish quarter

Visit the ancient Jewish quarter of Palma

written by Es Príncep / April 29, 2024

The city of Palma was, for a long time, land of the three most important civilizations of the ancient world: Greece, Phoenicia, and Rome. Later came the Muslims, followed by the Christian conquest, and during the medieval period, the city was organized like any other, complete with a Jewish quarter.

These were walled spaces that could only be accessed through certain gates guarded from the inside. Today, the route through the Jewish quarter of Palma is one of the most well-known and visited, due to its cultural and historical richness.

Jews in medieval Palma

During the Middle Ages, the Jewish quarters were protected by the king, as the Jews were considered his property and provided services that were not available in other neighborhoods.

They did not pay taxes because they lent money to the crown, and, moreover, since they could read and write Hebrew and Mallorcan, their neighborhoods were very different from those of the Christians: there were signs and indications.

In the 15th century, there were clashes between Muslims, Christians, and Jews all over Europe. Christians invaded the Jewish quarters and forced the Jews to renounce their religion or be expelled. In Palma, the Call Maior, as the Jewish quarter was known, was burned down and practically reduced to a few memories.

The evolution of the Jewish quarter in Ciutat

In Palma, there were three Jewish quarters, or one that was moved three times from its original location. The first location was in the current plaza of Santa Eulalia.

Each Jewish quarter consisted of a main street or "Calle Mayor," which served as the neighborhood's artery, connecting to all the others. It was a wide street through which horse-drawn carts had to pass, and in the 12th century, that artery was the current Calle Santa Eulalia.

Over time, the most enduring Jewish quarter was established, starting on Calle Sol, a name that, although it may seem modern, was the name for money in Mallorcan at the time. Here was the entrance gate to the Call, which was walled and operated as a small independent city with its schools, shops, doctors... and everything needed for daily life at that time.

Very close to the old entrance of the Call is the luxury hotel Es Príncep, a perfect place to stop for a drink, enjoying the best views of the city.

Within the Jewish quarter, there were various professional guilds, and we can still find them in the names of some streets. There is the street of the tinsmiths, the street of the child-rearers, the furriers, the silversmiths, or the street of the button-makers.

This last profession was highly valued by the king because at that time the buttons were made with stones from other parts of the known world. They were valuable and exotic objects that were also an indicator of the economic status of those who wore them.

The church of Montisión, the former synagogue

The synagogue was located where the church of Montisión stands today, and what remains of it can be seen in part of the base, extending from the entrance, along the right facade, and to the rear.

The stones at the base of the old synagogue are original, and for this reason, it is a tradition among some sectors to write their wishes on a piece of paper and place them among the stones, hoping that they will be fulfilled at some point.

San Francisco, San Nicolás, San Miguel... the journey is extensive, and the mix of cultures is also present. So, if you ever need to make another stop... we recommend visiting this blog entry to learn about the best places in the center of Palma.