Tortosa was home to one of the peninsula’s oldest communities, as attested by a seventh-century headstone discovered in the nineteenth century and now on display in the cathedral cloister. Its incription is in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek and features two Stars of David and a candelabra.
The community thrived under Arab rule, its illustrious sons including the grammarian Menahem ben Saruq and the poet Levi ben Ishaq ibn Mar. After the town’s reconquest by Berenguer IV in 1148, the Jews obtained fiscal privileges and were granted land to build houses. The community flourished during this century thanks to the trade from the port, and its population rose to 300.
Tortosa was the setting of a debate between Jeronimo of Santa Fé and various rabbis. It was ordered by the antipope Benedict XIII, who hoped to persuade the Jews to convert to Christianity. Visitors can imagine the scene by going to the room where it took place, the chapter house of the Aula Mayor.
The narrow streets around the parador and calles Mayor de Romlins, Jerusalem, Vilanova, Gentildones, and Figuereta still evoke the old call.