The Institute, which bears the name of the illustrious Girona-born Rabbi Mossé ben
Nahan, or Nahmanides (b. Girona 1194 d Acre 1270), was created in 1997 with the
aim of rehabilitating, studying and promoting the history of Girona's Jewish community.
The aims of the Institute are pursued specifically through research and education
and are complemented by the library, which allows free rights of access and consultation
to its range of specialized material.
The Institute operates in two main areas: education and promotion. Academic and scientific
programmes, including international conferences, lecture cycles, courses on cultural
or historical themes, seminars intended for different professional groupings (such
as those working in education or tourism), Hebrew language classes, workshops and
activities for families and for children of all ages are held. There is participation
in activities organized by other entities and institutions so as to publicize the
Jewish history and culture of the city of Girona.
Research and study projects are undertaken relating to Jewish Girona, the reconstruction
of family trees and lineages, and the history of Jewish women. Information is processed
into databases available to all researchers and all those who are interested in these
subjects. Finally, so as to make the results of our research and studies available
to the public, we publish them in specialized books and journals both in Spain and
List of outstanding figures in the history of Judaism in Girona
Rahel (11th century)
Rahel was a Jewish woman who in 1040 sold in her own name a vineyard that she had
inherited from her parents, situated outside the city walls near the abbey of Sant
Daniel. She signed personally, in Hebrew, the deed for the sale of the land to Elies,
a Christian. Since Rahel apparently knew how to read and write, a rare ability at
the time, this enabled her to sign the deed of sale in her own hand. Most significant
of all, however, is that Rahel acted on her own behalf and in her own name, and did
not require male authorization to conduct a legal and legally recognized transaction
concerning her own property. Hers is the oldest recorded signature in Hebrew in the
Azriel of Girona (12th century)
A cabbalist and philosopher, he was a very well-known member of the cabbalistic circle
of Girona, and was both a direct disciple of Isaac the Blind and the philosophical
master of Mossé ben Nahman. Spoke several languages. Noteworthy among his large number
of writings is the Sa'ar ha-so'el, an intelligible explanation of the theory of the
10 Sefirot in the form of questions and answers following the rules of logic, intended
as an initiation for beginners. Other writings include Commentaries on the Sefer
Yesirah or Book of Creation, on the Aggadot of the Talmud, and on the daily Liturgy.
In the latter case it can be noted as a curiosity that the work includes numerous
Catalan terms written in Hebrew characters.
Messullam ben Selomoh de Piera (13th century)
A cabbalist, poet and philosopher. Also known as "Vides of Girona", he was a friend
of Mossé ben Nahman and Azriel of Girona, and together with them was one of the leaders
of the Jewish community in 13th century Girona. Formed part of the city's circle
of cabbalists. He used poetry to express his philosophical ideas, and was against
the philosophy of Maimonides. He wrote two poems dedicated to Mossé ben Nahman, whom
he looked upon as a great sage and master.
Mossé ben Nahman (13th century)
A philosopher, cabbalist, talmudist, poet, physician and rabbi, he is the most important
and outstanding figure in the Judaism of the Iberian peninsula in the 13th century,
and was the greatest talmudic authority of his generation. Known to his contemporaries
as "the Master of Girona" or "Ramban", he is referred to today as Nahmanides or as
Bonastruc ça Porta.
He was born in Girona in 1194, and died in the Holy Land in 1270. He was the rabbi
of Girona and the keenest intellect and spiritual leader of the whole of Catalan
Judaism. He was the most illustrious and prestigious member of the city's cabbalistic
circle. In 1263, summoned by King James I of Aragon, with whom he had ties of personal
friendship, he defended Jewish beliefs against Pau Crestià, a Jewish convert to Christianity
who was confessor to the King, in the so-called Disputation of Barcelona. Shortly
afterwards he left voluntarily for Jerusalem so as to comply with the Talmudic precept
to "die at the mother's bosom". In 1270 in the city of Akko, he preached a New Year
sermon which is still read in some synagogues all over the world even today.
Shortly before his death, he wrote a number of letters to his children in Girona,
in which we can see how much he missed his family and the city. His personal seal
in bronze was unearthed in the 1970s near Akko, and its inscription reads: "Mossé,
son of Rabbi Nahman, of Girona, have courage!". A copy of the seal can be seen in
the Museum of the History of the Jews.
Among his works that are particularly outstanding for their exceptional quality are
his Commentary on the Torah, the Torat ha-Adam, various Talmudic treatises, monographs
about Jewish legal terms, and his poems, with their profound and cryptic content.
Astruc, Mossé and Jucef Ravaya (13th century)
Members of one of the most powerful Jewish families in the history of Girona, they
each held high office in the royal and local administration in the late 13th century.
They had enormous influence both within the Jewish community and in the general administration
of the kingdom. The father, Astruc Ravaya, was the King's Bailiff for Girona and
district, having succeeded his son Jucef Ravaya in this post. His other son, Mossé
Ravaya, was Bailiff-General of Catalonia, and as such signed the Royal Charter of
Palamós in the name of the King in the late 13th century.
Bonafilla (13th century)
A member of the Ravaya family, one of the most important and powerful families in
13th century Jewish Girona. She was a businesswoman who negotiated sales and loaned
money against the payment of interest, all in her own name and at her own risk. In
April 1288, she was accused of fraud before the ecclesiastical courts by a Christian
resident of La Bisbal. Judged by the Bishop of Girona, she had her sentence commuted
after paying bail to the value of 260 sous in the coinage of Barcelona.
Jacob ben David Bonjorn (14th century)
A scientist and physician. The son of Ester Caravida and David Bonjorn de Barri.
Court physician and astronomer to King Peter IV "the Ceremonious", he calculated
astronomical tables commissioned to him by the King in 1361. He lived in Girona and
Ester (14th century)
The daughter of Astruc Caravida, a powerful Jew of illustrious lineage, and of Bonadona.
Her parents arranged her marriage to David Bonjorn de Barri. During her marriage
she lived in Perpignan. Her husband was apparently a bad-tempered individual who
treated her so badly that she repeatedly asked him for a divorce. The royal astronomer,
however, refused to give her the necessary document of repudiation or to return her
dowry. In order to gain her freedom and recover her personal and family assets, Ester
caused her husband's books and tools to disappear from his study. She thus provoked
him to repudiate her, since only the husband could request and grant a divorce. She
then returned to Girona and had to struggle for a long time more to recover her dowry,
which the husband refused to return. For this reason she named a lawyer to represent
her. It would seem that she finally succeeded in obtaining the full return of the
assets that had been given as her dowry.
Nissim ben Roven Girondi (14th century)
A Talmudist, physician, jurist and rabbi (i.e., spiritual leader) of the Jewish community
of Saragossa in the 14th century. Originating from a family from Cordoba, he was
born and trained in Girona, although he lived almost all his later life in Barcelona,
where he was a spiritual master and leader and directed the Talmudic school created
by the Grand Rabbi Shlomo ben Aderet, a disciple of Nahmanides. He was known for
his rationalist opinions, contrary to the mystical currents of the Cabbala. He wrote
a commentary on the Halakot of Yishaq al-Fasi, Sermons, and a very important work,
Responsum, used as an instrument of consultation by numerous communities all over
Blanca (15th century)
A Jewish woman who had converted to Christianity and was the widow of the convert
Bernat Falcó, the Falcó family being one of the most powerful families in the Jewish
and convert community in the Girona of the 14th and 15th centuries. Blanca made her
will in 1437, before a Christian notary. Nothing in her will indicates her Jewish
ancestry, and she shows herself as a devout Christian and a lady of the Girona middle
class of her day. A reference, however, to her son David, who is Jewish, and to the
inheritance that she leaves him in her will provide irrefutable proof of her own
Jewish past. She was a woman who was rich and influential, and she divided her inheritance
between her children: three sons (two of whom were converts and one who was a Jew)
and two daughters, who were both converts and married to converts in Perpignan and
» Feliu, Eduard. La cultura hebraico-catalana. Barcelona, 1992.
» Planas Marcé, Sílvia. Filles de Sara, dones jueves de la Girona medieval. Girona,
» Romano, David. Els jueus de Girona als segles XII-XIII. Simposi Mossé ben Nahman
i el seu temps, Girona, 1995.
» Sáenz-Badillos, Ángel; Targarona, Judit. Diccionario de autores judíos. Sefarad
s. XI-XV . Córdoba, 1988.