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Point of heritage interest

The Mikvah

  • The Mikvah
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The mikvah is a Jewish purification bath located under the synagogue. The stairs to access it consist of 36 steps and, nowadays, the small room (5,5 metres per 4,5 metres) can also be visited. Although there are no documents which prove it, the mikvah dates from the 12th century and it is one the few left in Europe. There is only a loophole on the east side of the wall. This ritual purification consists in going down the last steps and immersing oneself three times inside the water – a process called nayim. Jewish women were forced to take part in this ritualseveral times throughout their lives, mainly on special dates, such as weddings or after giving birth. Religious men purified themselves on Fridays to get ready for the Sabbath, a weekly day dedicated to Jehovah. The story of how it was discovered is curious; in 1964 the place was being dug to build a well when the room was found. After removing the soil, Rabbi Mordoc of Perpinyà was asked for advice and Rabbi Chilli of Paris as well, to confirm it was a mikvah. They also found out that it was used for many years as a storage room to keep clothes dye.