After 11 years, archaeological excavations at a site directly adjacent to the historic medieval synagogue in Cordoba, Spain should be completed next month, allowing plans to go forward toward creating there a long-planned museum and interpretation center anchored by the synagogue.
Cristina Casanueva Jiménez, director of the Andalusian Regional Council’s department for Cultural and Historical Heritage announced the allocation of approximately €53.000 for a final stage of excavations following a visit to the site earlier this month.
“The knowledge we have of the Synagogue as a complex goes beyond the synagogue itself, so the Ministry of Culture and Heritage intends for it to be exhibited and museumized,” she said in a statement quoted by local media.
Casanueva was accompanied to the site August 7 by the director of the excavations, archaeologist Maudilio Moreno.
According to the statement, the final phase of work should last around six weeks and is aimed at confirming and conserving the data collected to date, preparatory to moving ahead with the museum project. It will entail the participation of an architect, an archaeologist, a restorer, and a team composed by two construction supervisors, and two specialized bricklayers.
Excavations at the 220-square-meter site began in 2009, the year after it was acquired by the Andalusian region for around €460.000.
Discoveries include remnants of a Roman wall ; a mikveh and the remains of a small medieval “Jewish house” that was demolished in the 20th century.
In a Facebook post announcing the new allocation, Casanueva posted a video of the excavations.
Built in 1314-1315 and used until the expulsion of the Jews from Iberia in 1492, the synagogue is located in the heart of what was the Jewish quarter of Cordoba. The rich Moorish-style decorations of the interior contrast the sober and simple external façade; they are a typical expression of the Mudejar art, characteristic of the period between XIII and XV-century Spain.
The Synagogue was listed as a National Monument by the Spanish government in 1885 and is part of the Historical Center of Cordoba, which was declared a UNESCO heritage site in 1994.
Since 1985, the synagogue has undergone conservation and restoration work aimed at the consolidation of the building, the recovery of the murals and plasterwork, anti-xylophage treatments, the adaptation of the accesses, the provision of facilities, and the like.
Most recently, the building and its complex have undergone major work in the context of a project largely funded by the EU called “Conservation and Enhancement of the Cordoba Synagogue.”
The work began in 2014 — ahead of a series of events in 2015 that marked the synagogue’s 700th anniversary. Further work took place in 2018; this included resolving humidity problems, new windows to permit better ventilation, and the repair of the plasterwork.
The studies carried out on the monument in 2013 revealed the need to consolidate and restore the plasterwork in the prayer room, to solve the problems of humidity in the building and to integrate it into all the remains of the adjoining lot acquired by the Ministry in 2008. The works executed in 2014 solved part of the problems that affected the main body of the building and allowed its reopening to the public.
Currently the project called “Conservation and enhancement of the Córdoba Synagogue” includes the pending actions, also on the adjoining site, where important archaeological remains were found that can now be visited. The intervention aims to protect the remains found in the annexed site with a cover and expand the archaeological campaign confirming the presence of the Roman wall and a Jewish ritual bath (mikveh) for its enhancement. It includes the cleaning of a well, the excavation of the Roman wall, and the cleaning and consolidation of the mikveh and [another] wall. The site will serve as a reception space for visitors to the Synagogue.[…]
To visit the remains, a perimeter pedestrian path is built through ramps with double handrails (accessible route) and paved walkways made of wood and transparent glass windowsill. The project also includes the refurbishment of the doorman’s house and, in the prayer room, the replacement of the existing windows in the upper part with fixed glass with permanent ventilation opening and exterior grilles.
The total cost was €307.536, around 80 percent of which — €246.029 — was allocated by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). The other 20% was covered by the Andalusian Regional Council, owner of the complex.
Last year, 619.110 tourists visited the synagogue, making it the second most visited cultural site in the Andalusia region. In July 2020, despite the pandemic, the synagogue had more than 6.000 visitors — surpassing last year’s numbers.