El Call, the old Jewish Quarter of Barcelona
In the heart of Barcelona’s Roman Quarter lies El Call. This hidden enclave of narrow, labyrinthian streets; stone-cold, blackened lop-sided walls hide the ghosts of its principal inhabitants throughout most of the city’s history. For El Call [pronounced: El Kai] means the brethren. El Call was the Jewish neighbourhood.
It seems a Jewish community had existed since the earliest beginnings of the city, the testament of the synagogue was probably built from the 3rd century and at its height scholars estimate there were 4,000 inhabitants (comprising 25% of the total population). El Call would be teeming with Jewish merchants, money –lenders, doctors and the all – important intermediaries between rival Christian and Muslim factions.
But then came the pogroms. By early 16th century fundamentalist catholic Spain made forced conversions, expulsions, tortures. The Jewish community was forced to wander once more. By the late 19th century they started to return but not in significant numbers.
You can still see the remains of the female Jewish public baths nearby in the basement of the pleasant Café Caleum at the intersection of Carrer Banys Nous (which means New Baths) and Carrer Palla.
The men’s baths are hidden at the back of the furniture shop “Oliver”, in Carrer dels Banys Nous 10.
Looking for the Synagogue? It’s in Carrer Marlet, no 5.