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Monforte de Lemos

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Monforte de Lemos


Basic Information

Location Galicia, Spain
Country Spain
City Monforte de Lemos

General Information

Open to visitors yes
Need appointment no
Handicap accessibility yes
Geographical Coordinates 42.57506,-8.13386


Monforte de Lemos, an important communications center, is located in the region of the same name, in an area of plains and hollows in central Galicia.

Monforte has been inhabited since ancient times, and has been known by several names: Castro Dactonium, San Vicente del Pino or Monte Forti. There are a great many archaeological remains from the Bronze Age and the hill-fort culture in Galicia.To the North, and to a very distinct community in Galicia. The Jewish community of Monforte de Lemos were known for their silk and silverware trades. Unusually, the community were permitted to come and go as they pleased, unlike other Jewish Calls throughout medieval Spain.


In town, there are several emblematic buildings, sights, streets and squares of interest which make up the historic quarter. The tour could begin with the monumental site of San Vicente do Pino. In the convent school, also called the 'Galician El Escorial' because of its Herrera-influenced Renaissance style from the 17th century, is a museum which contains paintings by, among others, El Greco. Among the many leisure activities on offer in Monforte de Lemos are hunting and fishing, canyoneering, cycle touring, paragliding and above all hiking, the main route being the southern Pilgrim's Route to Santiago de Compostela.

History and time period

Passing through the various milestones related with the Jews and converts of Monforte also means discovering step by step a large part of the history of this population, refounded in 1104 at the same place as the oestrymniosy, the saefes and the forefathers of the Celtic lemavos. The first documentary evidence of the Jewish presence in the area of the future Monforte de Lemos is a document from 915 in which a certain Ismael is mentioned, a Jew who resided in the city. Before this date the first mention of the Jews of Galicia is in the 4th century at which time they are linked with commercial activity. During the Swabian domination, the religious tolerance of this people promoted their presence, facilitating the cohabitation between the different confessions to such an extent that there were marriages between Jews and Christians. In the early 7th century with the reign of Sisebut, and complying with the stipulations of the III Council of Toledo, an expulsion edict was issued for all Jews in the Visigoth kingdom who had not been christened. Many Jews took flight and sought protection and land in the neighboring settlement of the Franks and others remained in the Peninsula, being christened and thereby giving in to the pressures of the Visigoths. Once Sisebut had died, the Jews who had been christened went back to Judaism which led to an age of social frictions and persecutions. The persecutions brought the boom and prosperity of Monforte to a standstill, but the expulsion did not greatly alter the demography of the Jewish community of Galicia, in view of the scarce number of Jews residing in Galicia. The Jews kept on pursuing commercial activity and practicing medicine in monasteries, hospitals and hostels along the Way of St. James. The Almohad intolerance meant that Galicia became a destination of choice for the Jews in the south. In this regard, the Jewish quarters of Galicia, as in the case of Extremadura, were luckier than the Castilian-Aragonese Jewish quarters and the obstacles which periodically obstructed cohabitation did not appear in Monforte.

During the course of the 14th century different Lords of Lemos put members of the Jewish community in posts of confidence and important positions. After the slaughters of 1391 in Castile and Aragón, Monforte had to increase its population with Jews fleeing from other Jewish quarters in the Peninsula who were seeking refuge. Contrary to what happened in the rest of the peninsula, the Galicians in the 14th century, lorded over by the local nobility, did not see the Jews as enemies as they were involved in anti-noble social movements which were finally resolved in the «revueltas irmandiñas» peasant revolts of 1467-1469. Although the Jews had their own district where they situated their synagogue, Mikveh and the rest of their communal facilities with the blessing of the Council, they were mixed with the Christians in various medieval streets in Monforte. The original Jewish quarter may have been located, as tradition would have it, at la Calesa, today Abelardo Baanante Street in the former suburb alongside the Town Hall, from where there is an ascent to the high part or walled monumental area of the city.

After the expulsion of Jews in 1492, the majority of the Jews who did not wish to convert to Christianity were exiled to Portugal until 1496, when the edict of expulsion from this country was issued. This forced many Jews to go back to neighboring Galicia, now converting to Christianity but the majority under false pretenses. This was to be the start of a long period stretching from the 16th century to the 18th when the Inquisition launched an attack on many Jewish converted or new Christian families settled in Galicia.

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