Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Spain 2-3

Today we were led by Susana...our local Barcelona guide
First the Old City. Later the more modern part of the city.
Our hotel is near some of the remnants of the medieval walls. City founded by the Romans 2000 years ago.
The Columbus Statue 1888 given by the French. 1st World's Fair. Most of this area built for 1992 Olympics.
Since 1978 Spain is "a Catholic country welcome to all."  In other words, Catholicism is the OFFICIAL religion, but all religions are tolerated and accepted -- which of course is a marked change from the past.
There are 2 ancient Jewish districts.  The main one ("Call") had 4 or 5 synagogues.
Smaller district was founded by French Jews fleeing their Inquisition in the 1300s.  (Barcelona was capital of kingdom of Aragon, 10th to 12th centuries.). In 1391, Jews from this region which is today France (Provence?) fled here and created their own smaller neighborhood.  Jews living here spoke Catalan and Hebrew (not French.  Not Spanish.) 1918 No Jews in Barcelona (resettling people after World War I is what brings a few back.  Jews have money and the capability to help rebuild the country after the WWI calamity. . . So they are considered welcome at that point.)

1716 Unification of Spain.
Synagogue may date to 3rd century
Visit to the Ancient Synagogue (in the larger Jewish Quarter).  Our host was Carmen
Discovery of this place came in the late 1970s.
In medieval times this was an important street. In 1996 this was a warehouse for electronica....Dating to 2nd 3rd century, Roman times.
Later, we visited the location of the (in)famous 1263 Disputation between Ramban  (Nachmanides) and the apostate Paulus was arranged by James I.  Publishing his arguments afterward was Ramban's downfall. Freedom of Speech? Yes. Freedom to publish? No.
(When I upload photos, look for the Barcelona foundation stone and remains of Roman Temple)

Tomorrow we'll visit Girona, Nachmanides' home town and greatest center of influence.
STEPHEN BERK Lecture #2:
1492 was good for Spanish Catholics.
End of Muslim influence (Ferdinand & Isabella come into Granada on January 1), expulsion of Jews, Columbus' journey.
All 3 were outcome of long-standing processes. In 711, the Arabs left their peninsula. Why? Jihad has traditionally meant spread of the faith by war.  Was it to spread the faith, to conquer?  Or because of something lacking at home?  Not entirely clear.  Not until Charles Martel defeats them in France in 732, do they stop. By this time, they controlled 97% of Spain.
Much better to be a Jew under Islam than under the Church.
To Muslims, we are dhimmis. Protected, but inferior.  We made God like human, describing human emotions. Islam doesn't tolerate this. We would explain that nonetheless, God speaks to us only through Torah.
Some Jews rose very high in the somewhat sometimes permissive Muslim empire.
It was a relatively good time for some Jews, but the reconquest of Spain will be the opposite. Disunity against the Arabs/Moors against the unifying and rising church.
Muslims are also expelled in the rerise of Christianity.
Matthew 27: Core text of Christian anti-Semitism. Pilate: What should I do with him? Crucify him. "May his blood be on the blood of our descendants".
When you hold a people in contempt for a period of time, the mythology develops and then inheres or adheres.
The ideas of ritual murder and host desecration begin in England and make their way here.
As long as Christian Spain needed the Jews, they were fairly well off. But when no longer crucial, it became a catastrophe for the Jews.
There is an intense fear in the Church that the Jews will subvert Christianity.
Ultimately, some Jews including Rabbis decide it's better to convert. Like us (Jews), the Church holds that conversion is full and permanent. A Rabbi could become a Bishop, a Cardinal, and did.
Crisis of Faith in Islam: Their biggest contribution to the world was science and (the rediscovery and learning of) Greek culture and learning. This leads toward rationalism, loss of faith.
In western Europe during the Crusades, most Jews will die. But in Spain, a 3rd of the Jewish population converted.
The older Christians resent the New Christians. Are they REALLY Catholics? Conversos, Marranos . How do you find out? Inquire. Leads to an inquiring. INQUISITION.
Dangerous Concept: Spain Can't Be Great Without Religious Unity.
Torquemada may have forced the hand of Ferdinand & Isabella: Don't sell out Our Lord for silver and gold.  We'll never know what was or wasn't said.
Columbus: They KNEW the earth was round. But Columbus thinks he can find a shortcut. But he's not in China. He's in the Caribbean. Then the Spaniards bring God, Gold and Glory. And smallpox.
If you kill off the indigenous population and you need workers, you're then going to need slaves. This is the source of the slave trade.
1/5 of all the gold and silver come to Spain.
After combing the neighborhood for our lunch, we continued with the afternoon tour, visiting two of Gaudi's great triumphs --the Park Guell and the basilica Sagrada Familia.
The story of these remarkable places will be told mostly and most effectively through the photographs. Look for them soon!
Gaudi worked on the Park from 1900 to 1924.
Antoni Gaudi --1852-1926
1898-1904 was a period of building of much of Barcelona's most famous architecture.
Sagrada Familia is the most important monument of the city...a minor basilica, but....a major (that's an understatement) building. . . an "expiatory" church. They bought a block in the city and started building in 1882. Gaudi replaced original architect in 1883. After finishing La Basera in 1912, he worked until his death in 1926. Private project paid with private funds, so no interference from Church or government.
Still being built today, and there are still 10 years of work left in it. 8 of 12 towers have been built. (Well, there will be 18. . . "chai" as noted by our guide. . .so I don't know if it's 8 of 12 or 14 of 18 or what.  Anyway. . . ) 70% of the construction is done. In 10 years, 100th anniversary of Gaudi's death, should be finished.
We saw the east façade first...nativity: Hope, Charity Faith l to r
To my taste, this was the most endearing side.  The eventual entrance is very modernist and not as welcoming.  The west facade has the last parts of Jesus' life -- and again, in a much more modernist (kind of Star Wars-y style).  But this isn't my religion. . . And I don't get a vote!
That's it for today.  Tomorrow. . . Off to the home of Nachmanides (Ramban).



  1. Great way of following the CA Sepharad journey, for those of us back home. Signing in tomorrow again. Kol hakavod and nesiyah tova! Barbara Haimowitz

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