Barcelona's Jewish district (El Call)

The walk can begin or end at the MUHBA, and the Museum’s displays on mediaeval Barcelona will help visitors to find out more about the Jewish community that lived in Barcelona's Call district.

This guided walk explains the life and history of the Jewish community that lived in the Call district of Barcelona in medieval times, and who disappeared following the disturbances of 1391. Nowadays, Barcelona's Jewish communities are completely integrated into the city. This guide has been drafted in collaboration with them.

As one begins the Call route it should be pointed out that the signposts does not make any reference to any concrete visible point, as unfortunately virtually nothing of the old Call neighbourhood has survived. Even so, these walks have been devised to awaken the curiosity and imagination of walkers, experts and others interested in finding out about the history of the Barcelona district where the Jewish community lived between the 12th and 14th centuries.

Map of the Call district

Carrer del Call

The Call was the neighbourhood where the Jewish community lived in mediaeval Barcelona, and was known by this name from the 12th century onwards. The word “Call” means “small road” or “alley”, and the term began to be used for any streets occupied by Jews; meanwhile, the district containing the Jewish community was termed the "Jewish quarter". Call Major occupied the north-west quadrant of the Roman city. Of the Roman layout, a few remains of the wall have survived, hidden among houses, and on the streets of Sant Domènec and Sant Honorat, or La Volta (now the streets of Sant Sever and Davallada de santa Eulàlia ) and Carrer del Call, which continued on to the Roman gate, and which at some point was diverted, and crossed the Roman Wall. Remains of this can still be seen on the corner of Carrer Sant Domènec.

Carrer de Sant Honorat

The eastern limits of the neighbourhood. At the end of the street stood one of the access gates to the Call, and in an alley that has now disappeared there were the Font (fountain), the Sinagoga Poca (small synagogue) and other mediaeval constructions, which now lay beneath the courtyard of Pati dels Tarongers in the Palau de la Generalitat.

Carrers de sant Sever i Baixada de santa Eulàlia

The northern limits of the Call. These two streets were known as la Volta del Call. On the right it adjoined Episcopal properties, while on the left it was closed off by the Roman wall and was not opened up until the end of the 14th century, towards Carrer de la Palla. Silos and remains of mediaeval constructions have also been found in the building on the corner of Carrer de sant Felip Neri.

Placeta de Manuel Ribé

A modern square in the centre of the old Call. The building on the corner with Carrer de l’Arc de sant Ramon del Call, built in the 16th century and featuring remains from the 13th and 14th centuries, is the Call Interpretation Centre, where visitors can find information and sign up for some of the activities on the programme.

Carrer de Marlet

One of the best known streets in Barcelona's Call, owing to the polished stone panel in the wall of house no. 1 which bears the inscription: “Foundation of Rabbi Samuel Ha-sardi. His light will burn forever”. It is a reproduction of the original stone that commemorated this Jewish institution. Walking along Carrer de la Fruita, visitors can get a very good idea of what the streets were like in the old Call – small, narrow and winding and with buildings that seem to be blocking the way.

Carrer Sant Domènec del Call

The main street of the Call. This was where the Main Synagogue used to stand (inside the block bordered by the streets of Sant Domènec, Marlet, Arc de sant Ramon del Call and what is now the Placeta de Manuel Ribé), and also some of the houses of the most important members of the Jewish community. The access gate to the neighbourhood and the butcher’s stood at the beginning of the street, on the corner of Carrer del Call.

Carrer de Sant Ramon del Call

The street follows the inside edge of the Roman Wall. It did not have an access route onto Carrer del Call, but a raised bridge linked it directly with Castell Nou, a mediaeval fortress built onto the Roman gate. It has a very irregular, quartered layout. At the end of the street there used to be an alley that ran down to the Baixada de santa Eulàlia

The four corners of the Call

These four streets (the crossroads of Banys Nous, Boqueria, Avinyó and Call), at the foot of Castell Nou on its outer side (that is to say, outside the Roman compound) were first developed in the mid-13th century, when the king ordered that doors and windows should be opened up in the old Roman wall. Before then, however, an important building stood on the corner of the streets of Banys Nous and Boqueria: it was Banys Nous (New Baths), the city's mediaeval public baths. This space is now occupied by a building decorated with eye-catching baroque serigraphy. The Banys Nous were founded in 1160 by Abraham Bonastruc, a Jew who was an associate of Count Ramon Berenguer, and they remained in use until the 16th century. The building was constructed in accordance with the Arab tradition of bathhouses, but with Romanesque techniques and decorations added. It had a number of different rooms and spaces, including one used for the Jewish ritual of Mikveh. The building is still standing, though not in use; it was concealed beneath the house until 1835.

Call Menor

This is a 13th century development, planned and organised, and made up of five blocks with a synagogue and a square in the centre. It did not communicate directly with the Call Major, which we have just visited. It was bordered by the streets of Boqueria, Raurich, Lleona and Avinyó, and had two gates, one at the foot of Castell Nou and the other on Carrer de la Boqueria. This street was later occupied by conversos (Jews who converted to Christianity) who set up their businesses here: gold and silversmiths, veil weavers, tailors and cobblers. Entering La Volta del Remei from Boqueria, visitors can see a mediaeval tower that has survived from the 13th century. The Arc de santa Eulàlia (also entering from Boqueria), is comprised of a mediaeval tower from the mid-14th century called the Torre de santa Eulàlia. The synagogue was converted into the church of La Trinitat by a group of conversos; it was later enlarged to become a monastery, and is now the church of Sant Jaume.