Friday, January 23, 2009

Spain: Inauguration of Exhibition "Lorca, Lights of Sepharad"

Spain: Inauguration of Exhibition "Lorca, Lights of Sepharad" on January 29th, 2009
by Samuel D. Gruber

(ISJM) Next week, the government of the Spanish Region of Murcia will open a new exhibition about the medieval synagogue and Jewish quarter of Lorca. The exhibition presents and interprets the archaeological evidence and material finds of excavation that began in 2003 in the precinct of Lorca’s 15th-century castle. Archaeologists, led by Ana Pujante Martínez and Juan Gallardo, uncovered the remains a synagogue and of houses of the surrounding Jewish quarter. Remains of the synagogue and one of the houses are being conserved to be incorporated into a museum.

The Jewish quarter, the synagogue and the many identifiably Jewish objects found in their rubble constitute one of the most important Jewish archaeological finds in recent decades. Plans are being discussed to have the exhibition travel abroad after 2010.

The synagogue consisted of a main prayer hall 134 square meters in size with built in benches around the perimeter, large enough to accommodate 70 worshipers. An Aron ha-Kodesh was situated on the east wall, and foundations to support a bimah were found in the center of the room. The prayer hall was preceded by an open courtyard, which led to a small vestibule with a place for washing. Above this was a small gallery of 8 square meters – presumably for women - which had collapsed into the vestibule area. The small space makes one wonder, however, whether women may have been accommodated elsewhere in the hall, perhaps separated by a temporary divider – now gone.

The museum of the synagogue will be part of the future luxury Parador hotel which will open in the castle, situated up the hill from the former Jewish quarter The remains of the synagogue and surrounding buildings were found when construction began on the luxury hotel which will be situated in the castle. Published plans call for the synagogue to be protected by a structure 43 meters long and 27 wide, with a total area of over one thousand square meters and a height ranging between five and 2'10 meters. This protective cover will keep a constant temperature to prevent thermal changes affecting the archaeological remains. I will be visiting the site next week in conjunction with the exhibition opening and will learn more about its future.

In 2006, some of the glass finds from the Jewish quarter and synagogue excavations were presented at the conference "The glass of the Middle Ages and Andalusí" held at the Royal Factory Crystals of La Granja. The synagogue lamps dating from the 15th century have been restored for the new exhibition. These glass lamps are considered among the most important recent archaeological finds in Spain. At least 15 lamps have been reconstructed using nearly 3,000 shards of glass uncovered in the excavation. These lamps are a tangible link to the appearance of medieval synagogues previously known Conservation work was funded by the Patrimonio Histórico de la Dirección General de Cultura y del Museo Arqueológico Municipal (Heritage Service of the Directorate General for Culture and the Municipal Archaeological Museum).

A video view of the excavation can be seen on youtube

To read more see:

Un 'tesoro' excepcional entre los muros de la sinagoga

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