Little by little the enigmas that hides the hermitage of San Antón de Híjar are dissipating. The first results of the tastings made in just two weeks of January are already known and corroborate that, indeed, the present building is based on a Jewish synagogue.
“In Spain there are only two medieval synagogues with such obvious signs. After Lorca (Murcia), the Híjar is the clearest example. These are the words of Antonio Hernández, the archaeologist director of the tastings who, without hesitation, affirmed that “this is a finding of international importance”.
The evidence is based on the finding of the base of the bimá, the tribune from which the Torah was read. There are also two of the four pillars on which the tribune itself rose. It was raised to facilitate hearing and visibility and was eliminated when the temple was Christianized. This was the element of greatest interest and ended up having a great symbolic and social burden.
The hermitage, whose roof of the bell tower sank in 2010, will begin its restoration soon. At the International Congress of Jewish Heritage promoted by the Center of Studies of the Bajo Martín in October, it was emphasized the need to undertake previous tastings to avoid the loss of any element of value with the works.
“At the beginning of the year 2000, some tastings were made that were already pointing to the presence of remains. They were very superficial and needed to be deepened, “he added. Hernández belongs to Acrotera, a company specialized in heritage management. He worked in Híjar with a team made up of supporting archaeologist Jesús Franco; The specialist in photography, Cristina Bazán; And the historian Hijarano, Almuayad Royo.
After delivering the preliminary report to Soil and Housing so that the Government of Aragon can continue with the procedures of the works of the next restoration, currently focuses on closing the scientific memory. Another immediate step will be to publish the finding in national and international specialized magazines.
However, what is found does not remain there. Under the remains of the synagogue have been detected findings of Roman times. “I am skeptical of the forecasts because until you open you do not know what there is. In fact, we did not expect this because in the archives of DGA there is no record of Roman presence in the urban area, “he added.
Almuayad Royo, who is also a historian and president of the Alantansi Cultural Association, created to protect the Jewish legacy, is currently working on the study of the only document that accredits a synagogue in Híjar.
It is written in Latin and dates from 1410. “It is a license of works requested to expand it, so we find a synagogue prior to that extension and a later one,” he said.
This division is fundamental since the next step will be to try to find out if the current building was raised new in the sixteenth century or on the contrary, belongs to the synagogue of the fifteenth century.
When does the hermitage date?
This finding will guide and limit the restoration plan to conserve the remains. However, specialists agree that during the works there should be protection of walls, walls and ceilings to see if the hermitage is new or is the synagogue reconverted.
In this sense, Royo pointed to the House of the Rabbi and to the hypothesis that has maintained for some time. “Both the house and the hermitage are two rooms but really, a single building because both were intercommunicated through doors as well as having an interaction,” he explained and added that the synagogue was more than a place of worship.
“They were places of meeting that used to have a courtyard, classrooms for Talmudic schools, warehouses to keep the oil they made with a specific ritual, … We are talking about a series of stays and that is what we have to find out,” he added. Highlighted the role of a wall in particular, the adjoining with the House of the Rabbi.
The hijarano also stressed the importance of more details being discovered during the works, such as opening blinded windows with plaster that could conceal some type of molding.
Betting to recover the patrimony
The restoration of the hermitage of San Anton was announced at the October International Congress. The two towns that hosted the activities for being the ones that preserve a greater legacy were Albalate of the Archbishop and Híjar. For the works, the City of Híjar allocated a total investment of 370,000 euros from FITE.
The first mayor, Luis Carlos Marquesán, emphasized the importance of preserving the remains that could be found and spoke even of creating a specific route. “We have neither beach nor mountain but a Jewish heritage that we must promote together among all the institutions,” he said.
In the absence of the definitive report, from the City Hall celebrate the relevance of the findings. “They corroborate the Jewish past of the town and with an importance that supposes a greater accolade than we expected for the future project that includes reforming the whole neighborhood,” said the mayor, who stressed the need for all administrations to work in an integrated way. «Revitalizing the neighborhood and attracting specialized tourism will have repercussions beyond Híjar», he concluded
It is noteworthy that between DGA and Universidad San Jorge a web of juderías of Aragon is being elaborated, in addition to the Network itself in which the Autonomous Executive works. Some visits to the latest findings have already been made and some are not discarded due to the presentation of the relevance of what was found.