Santa María la Blanca Synagogue

Toledo, Spain

The Synagogue of Santa María la Blanca  was erected in 1180, according to an inscription on a beam, it is disputably considered the oldest synagogue building in Europe still standing. It is now owned and preserved by the Catholic Church.

Its stylistic and cultural classification is unique among surviving buildings as it was constructed under the Christian Kingdom of Castile by Islamic architects for Jewish use. It is considered a symbol of the cooperation that existed among the three cultures that populated the Iberian Peninsula during the Middle Ages.

The synagogue is a Mudéjar construction, created by Moorish architects for non-Islamic purposes. But it can also be considered one of the finest example of Almohad architecture because of its construction elements and style. The plain white interior walls as well as the use of brick and of pillars instead of columns are characteristics of Almohad architecture. There are also nuances in its architectural classification, because although it was constructed as a synagogue, its hypostyle room and the lack of a women's gallery make it closer in character to a mosque. Though it does not have a women's gallery today, an early twentieth century architect suggested that it did at one time have a one.

The synagogue was turned into a church in 1405 or 1411, but without any major renovations. It took at that time the name of Santa María la Blanca (Saint Mary the White) and today it is most commonly known by this name.

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Founded: 1180
Category: Religious sites in Spain

Rating

4.2/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Brazen One (10 months ago)
Beautiful synagogue in mosque-style off the beaten path in fantastic old town Toledo. Definitely worth the 4€ to see the symmetry, elaborately carved column caps and ceilings. If you can avoid the tour group, you’ll have the place to yourself
Susanna SS (11 months ago)
This synagogue is located in the old Jewish quarter of Toledo. It was constructed by Jews in a Moorish or Mundejar style. It was later converted to a Catholic Church. Presently, it functions as a museum and is a popular wedding venue. Our guide told us that there is a 2 year waitlist.
Song (12 months ago)
If you bother to go you must have already known some history of this “church” that was originally a synagogue, which is a unique testimony to the intense Jewish-Christian history in medieval Spain. It is run by a Catholic church—no wonder there is no decent explanation of, or even a leaflet guide to its history and interior remains. Luckily I joined a tour and our guide was excellent.
Julia SH (2 years ago)
A beautiful 12 century synagog that has symmetrical architecture. If you purchase a €12 wrist band which includes all entry to the 7 biggest sights in Toledo, it’ll be worth it. The ceilings at the end of this synagog are precious with paintings.
howard mcfarland (2 years ago)
One of the most singular interiors I have ever experienced. Is it a mosque? Wait, it's Catholic Church with sublime Moorish design? I'm so confused? Don't be! Just be amazed and enjoy the sublime, calming beauty of this architectural wonder that began life as a synagogue. It's a dazzling jewel, a fever dream of light and lightness, a place to contemplate and rejoice. One of Toledo's most beautiful sites, don't miss it.
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