Medieval Synagogue in Hijar, Spain
In the medieval period, there was a significant Jewish community in Hijar in Aragon and this included an early Hebrew printing press.
With the expulsion of the Jewish community in 1492, the main synagogue in the former Jewish quarter of Hijar was taken over by the Church becoming the Church of San Anton de Hijar. In recent years, there has been growing interest in the Sephardic heritage in Aragon and the Government of Aragon has been developing a strategy aiming to recover the heritage of around 30 former Jewish quarters in the region.
As a result, attention is once again being paid to the former synagogue building in Hijar which represents the only example of a medieval synagogue still extant in Aragon.
Because the building is not the main Church in Hijar, it is only used for services once a year and as a result it has been poorly maintained. A partial collapse of the roof accelerated its deterioration.
Subsequent works were carried out to stabilise the site and investigate it which revealed various elements belonging to the synagogue from the fifteenth century, including remarkable and unique medieval wall murals. These findings constitute extraordinary material testimony of the Spanish synagogues that existed in that period. As a result, the building has been formally recognised as a Site of Cultural Importance (Bien de Interés Cultural).
Nevertheless, there are no current plans for any further work on the building, which is required especially to protect the now exposed wall murals.
The Mayor of Hijar is now leading a project to preserve and develop the site.
The aim is to conduct further research to fully establish what remains from the original synagogue and explore creating a Heritage Centre that can serve as an educational, cultural and tourist hub for the developing programme on the Sephardic heritage of the Aragon region. A masterplan which will provide a roadmap for the project is being currently prepared.
In 2022, the site was shortlisted in the Europa Nostra ‘7 Most Endangered Heritage Sites of Europe’ programme.