The Jewish community of Madrid is as old as is the city. The first Jews settled in Madrid in the ninth century, but the earliest historical records date back to the mid-eleventh century only, specifically, to the year 1053. The community had begun to grow and prosper a couple of centuries before, and in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, the Jewish population increased considerably. Nevertheless, the Fuero de Madrid statute of 1202 refers to a small Jewish community that wasn’t held in high esteem, which forced them to dwell in the Jewish quarter, known as the judería.
In 1085, Madrid saw the birth of the old judería, which lay near the present-day Teatro Real opera house and Calle del Arenal. It comprised around twenty homes distributed across four irregularly shaped blocks. Adjoining this quarter was the cemetery, located where today is Plaza de Oriente.
Three centuries later, after the Black Death outbreak, the local Jews were forced to move to the new judería, adjacent to Campo del Rey (Plaza de la Armería), on the site where La Almudena Cathedral currently stands. The new Jewish quarter was made of some twenty homes and a synagogue, scattered across six blocks.
Archaeological findings have given evidence that in the fourteenth century, the new judería adjoined the Royal Palace and La Almudena Cathedral. There are written documents that place the new Jewish quarter and synagogue near Campo del Rey, which is actually close to the Cathedral. Well-off converts used to live around Plaza de Ramales, Plaza de Santiago and Calle Bailén.
Scholars claim that in Lavapiés, on the location of the Church of San Lorenzo, there used to be a synagogue, and the burial site unearthed near Calle del Salitre might be a Jewish cemetery, as no crosses or other Christian symbols have been found in it.
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