MADRID — A 15th century mikvah was discovered at the location of the last synagogue in the old Jewish quarter of Girona in Catalonia, Spain.

The discovery of the Jewish ritual bath is significant since there are very few preserved mikvahs left in Europe and it further highlights the importance of Girona’s rich Jewish heritage.

Girona is a town near Barcelona which was known for its thriving Jewish community before the expulsion of Spain’s Jews in 1492.

A recent archaeological dig permitted the discovery of the mikvah at the site of the synagogue, which was founded in 1435 and abandoned in the summer of 1492.

The expulsion decree carried out by King Fernando against the Jews of Spain forced the community of Girona, consisting of about twenty families, to sell the synagogue, along with the surrounding community spaces, before fleeing the country. Thanks to records of the sale, the exact location of the synagogue, which now houses the Museum of Jewish History in Girona, is known.

Ancient mikveh in Colonia. (photo credit: Natalie Schachar)

Ancient mikveh in Colonia. (photo credit: Natalie Schachar)

Yesterday the Israeli ambassador to Spain, Alon Bar, attended the public presentation of the finding, along with the Minister of Culture of the Government of Catalonia Ferran Mascarell, and Girona Mayor Carles Puigdemont.

“I commend the discovery of more evidence of a Jewish presence and want to encourage this cultural treasure in order to maintain links between our peoples,” said Bar.

According to officials at the museum in Girona, very few ritual baths of this type have been preserved in Europe and in the Mediterranean area; they have been found in Sicily, Montpellier, and Besalu which is also in Catalonia.