Andalucia 2012 – Cordoba’s Jewish Quarter

The Jewish Quarter in Cordoba is one of the largest and best preserved in Europe. There are two homes of note here, across the street from each other, as well as the Synagogue.

The first home is Casa de Sefarad. The first room is filled with stunning metal worked textiles.

  • Sephardic Jews introduced the production of Golden Thread from North Africa to Europe via Morocco, Turkey and the Mediterranean. Gold and silver were smelted in specialized furnaces and was then spun with silk to make it pliable. Golden Thread production contributed to the social structure of single and widowed Jewish women, who were the chief creators of both the thread and the textiles it embellished.

I admire cases of jewelry, including a pair of silver cloak brooches, and a metal wedding cap similar to those I saw in Bursa. A selection of Hamsa, which Muslims call the Hand of Fatima, symbolizing the five pillars of Islam. Jewish people call it the Hand of Miriam, symbolizing the five books of the Torah. Note the tughra (Islamic signature) on the blue piece …

Hands of Fatima (Muslim) / Hands of Miriam (Jewish)

The Casa de Sefarad was very distinctive from other houses I saw in Cordoba. It was built at the same time as the synagogue across the street (circa 1315). The rooms here are painted in vibrant shades of blue and red, with wood planked floors rather than tile.

The home was furnished with remarkable porcelains and glassware, much of which I was unable to photograph successfully due to the low light levels.

The most stunning thing to find here was the doppelgänger of a close friend, whom many know as Kate O’Guinn. The portrait is of Lubna, a 10th century Cordoban woman with extensive knowledge of calculus, metrics and math. She worked in the library of Caliph Al-Hakim II, the most important collection of knowledge at the time. It was also a rare place for a woman to work at the time.

Across the narrow street is a small family synagogue, built in 1315. It was used until the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492. In 1588 it became the property of the shoemaker’s guild, who added a chapel dedicated to St. Crispin, the patron saint of shoemakers. There’s a timeline here of Jewish prosecution dating from the 12th – 18th centuries. It was pretty gut-wrenching.

Across the street is Andalucia House, whose claim to fame is a scale model of one of the first paper making factories in the Western world. Paper was invented to China, and carried by Muslims during the 10th century to Europe via Bagdad, Sicily and Spain.  I have boarded that series of photos to Pinterest.

An alcove in the Andalucia House featured a fountain, the surface of the water was covered with a carpet of fresh flowers, mostly chrysanthemums and roses.

A pair of carved doors reminded me of those I had seen in the Ethnic Museum in Istanbul. I would see similar doors a few years later in Fez, Morocco.

Household goods upstairs, the chair is child sized. The goods at center were in the cellar. The bowl with tongs was filled with coal, possibly to fuel a cooking stove or brazier. The view at far right is from the well, looking up to the cellar.

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