La Sinagoga del Agua / Final Reception

Dan Goldwasser Spain (2010)

It turns out that the “secret event” was cooler than I had expected.  We walked through the winding streets of Ubeda until we came to an old building with apartments – but there was a sign on one of the corner entrances: “La Sinagoga del Agua” (The Water Synagogue).  It seems that when a developer bought the building, with the intent of converting it into apartment and storefronts.  However, during the renovations, they discovered that behind the walls (which had been built in the 1800s) there were older stone arches and walls and engravings.  Once it had been cleared out, it was revealed that the understructure of the building was actually an 1,100 year-old synagogue which had been taken over by the Inquisition in the 1490s, and then covered up in the 1800s!  There were seven wells in the synagogue, two of which still had water in them.  Even cooler, using a divining rod, the guide showed us how the energy of the water started at the entrance to the temple, and made a direct path to where the altar was situated.  We then went downstairs, where he showed us the “mikvah”, or spiritual cleansing pool.  This was discovered when the builders were cleaning out the canteen, which had been filled with rubble, and noticed that the ceiling was of a different shape and quality than the underground canteens typically found in Ubeda.  The ceiling was not a circular arch, but rather a pointed one, and the stones were placed with care, instead of the rough cellars that one normally finds.  As they were cleaning the roof of the canteen, the builders noticed the scaffolding in the center of the room was tilting – so they cleaned down, and revealed seven steps going down into a hollow.  The next day, they came back to find that the hollow was filled with water, perfectly to the level of the seventh step – a natural spring was revealed.  Even cooler, the room itself was clearly made from a more Neolithic cave, with round water erosion indicating the circumference of the original room.  Taking things a step further into “holy crap that’s awesome”, there was a hole in the ceiling (the floor of the synagogue) – and during the summer equinox, the sun shines directly through a door, into the synagogue, through the hole, and right into the center of the bathing pool.  If that doesn’t evoke imagery of Indiana Jones, I don’t know what does. But that was still one of the coolest things I’ve seen in Ubeda.

All of this was restored over the past 2.5 years, and the Synagogue just opened up four months ago.  So they are still waiting for the leaders of the Jewish community in Spain to authenticate the place, as well as the antiquities people in Israel (who already sent someone from the Israeli embassy to check it out) so it remains to be seen what will happen – but this seems to strongly suggest that Ubeda had a large Jewish population prior to the Inquisition, and I’m very glad that I got to check it out.  Oh, but no photos were allowed inside, so I don’t have any. Sorry!

After the tour, we headed to a private residence which was filled with Moorish arches (again, a sign of the various influences that have permeated southern Spain over the millennia) and we had a final evening reception.  The tapas were (once again) identical to those that we had the previous night (same caterer, I guess), and so when the morcilla came out, I once again went for it. Eventually people all went home to pack, and some others were going off to a bar – but I was tired, and was back in my hotel room at 12:30am to pack up and go to bed.