THE HERMITAGE AND SAINT ANTHONY NEIGHBOURHOOD

This was the original location of the old synagogue and Cáceres’ Jewish Quarter. Throughout the Middle Ages there was a sizable Jewish community in the Extremadura region. It seems that after being expelled from Jerusalem by the Roman emperor Titus in the 1st century, a number of Jews chose the town of Mérida to settle. The importance of Jewish Cáceres is in evidence throughout the 15th century, an era which came to an end when the Catholic Monarchs signed for their expulsion in 1492. At that time, it is estimated that the community consisted of around 2,000 people. In 1474 Cáceres’s Jewish Quarter contributed 8,200 maravedí coins to Spain’s Royal Treasury, from which we can gather it must have been amongst the fifth largest communities of its kind in Castile. This was the district where they lived until a new quarter emerged on the edge of the Main Square. A few clues make this area easily identifiable. The lime whitewashed walls and irregular alleys and small squares contrast with the Christian zone with its palaces and immense towers. Today, the neighbourhood is known as Saint Anthony of the Gully for the sharp and abrupt nature of its terrain. In the centre we find the Saint Anthony of Padua Hermitage which stands on the area once occupied by the old synagogue. After the Jews were forced out to the new Jewish Quarter, the building came into the hands of Alfonso Golfín who ordered for the synagogue to be demolished and in its place, a hermitage to be built. Supported by the old medieval wall, it opens out onto a square via a three-arched porch. This is a simple, religious building with a rectangular base – typical of old synagogues and a Rococo altar dedicated to Saint Anthony of Padua. It was revamped in 1661 and later restored in 1993 and 1994.