THE TORANA'S ROUTE
You can follow a route which it is believed was the route made by the members of the Jewish community at their arrest in 1391. The trail begins on San Lorenzo street and continues along Força street, Pujada de la Catedral, Socors Tower, Plaça dels Lledoners, Alemanys street and finally ends at the Tower Gironela.
The cobbled alley of San Lorenzo, covered with a hinting vault, slopes deep into the Jewry. Its passage as dark as midnight; it’s calmness signaling the coming of a storm.
An eerie howl broke the silence and chilled my blood. Margarita, our hostess, whispered: “It’s the ghost of the Jew. Her wandering spirit strays these halls after dark”. Our incredulous shadows projected on the walls as we followed our own silhouettes through what was once the main street of the Jewry. As we neared Alemanys Street, Margarita told us the fascinating legend of Torana.
The legend begins on the warm morning of August the 18th, 1391, as 800 men, women and children were imprisoned by priests and Christian citizens in Girona’s Gironella Tower for moral treason. Today, a mere fence separates us from the space in which hundreds of Jews were kept in cramped conditions for 17 weeks. The space is a cave-like chapel, wet and somber, as if preserving the pain and sorrow of those forced to either convert, or spend a lifetime in captivity. For 119 days and nights, the captives were stripped of their identity and bathed in clerical sermons promising eternal peace by accepting Christianity.
Standing in this very place, it isn’t difficult to imagine the circumstances in which six centuries ago one woman would become a legend; a woman virtuous of the wisdom of the Torah, hence her nickname: Torana.
Torana was imprisoned with her husband among hundreds of Jews. Legend has it that many days into their uncertainty, her husband suggested, “Torana, let’s convert and free ourselves to live our lives in Girona, the land of our families and our ancestors. My love, let us leave in peace, as Christians”. Torana unturned, took a small wooden stick in her hand and drew in Hebrew letters Psalm 23 on the stone.
“יְהוָה רֹעִי, לֹא אֶחְסָר בִּנְאוֹת דֶּשֶׁא, יַרְבִּיצֵנִי; עַל-מֵי מְנֻחוֹת יְנַהֲלֵנִי נַפְשִׁי יְשׁוֹבֵב; יַנְחֵנִי בְמַעְגְּלֵי-צֶדֶק, לְמַעַן שְׁמוֹ”
“I want nothing, for Adonai is my shepherd: it is God who lets me lie down in pastures of grass and who leads me to calm waters to restore my spirit.” He realized that she would never convert. She’d rather die as a Jew than live as a Christian. But he would not be as strong.
Days later a priest made his conversion. His name would no longer be his. His identity would no longer be that of his ancestors’. The gate opened, and he walked out of it as a Christian. But he would come back every night, and just where we stood glancing inside the empty room, he stood, trying to convince her. “Torana, convert my love, and return to my arms.” But her resolve was robust as the Roman walls from which she read the Psalms.
Finally one night, having realized her fate, she snatched the sword from a somnolent soldier and, while saying the Shema Israel, took her own life.
A few days later captivity was ended. The few Jews who had fought for their faith were finally allowed out of the tower and back into their homes. But nothing would be the same. This would be the beginning of the end of Jewish life in Girona.
Vulnerable and tarnished, they would no longer be safe. There were eyes over their shoulders, and there was guessing at which hand would cast the first stone. It was in those nights of the new moon when the cries of a woman began to be heard around the streets of the Call. They were the cries of a woman who chose to stick to her faith. It was then that the legend of Torana was born.
We walk away from the tower, from the streets and from the darkness of the legend. Margarita tells us that during the flower festival (Temps du Flors), the fence is opened and the cells are filled with flowers. It may seem like an irony on the passing of time and its memory, but it is definitely a must for all visitors who come to Girona in May.
[accordion title=”Guided visits”]The RASGO project of the Jewries of Spain Network (Red de Juderías de España) diposes a complete list of professional guides of the Call of Girona, which visitors can contact to arrange a guided tour. The list can be founf on their official website. [/accordion]
[accordion title=”Notes”] 1. Shemá Israel (in hebrew, שְׁמַע יִשְׂרָאֵל, ‘Hear O Israel’) are the first words of one of the most important prayers in Judaism which manifests the belief in G-d as the single and only G-d. It consists of a single verse which appear in Devarim, the 5th and last book of the Torah.
2. Adonai (אֲדֹנָי), ‘my Lord’, Is one of the denominations of G-d in Judaism, used over 300 times in the Torah . [/accordion]