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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Details

Founded: 1180
Category: Religious sites in Spain

Rating

4.2/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Tony Sentinella (3 years ago)
for 3euros, absolutely criminal. buy yourself a fridge magnet instead or give to the homeless. lots of bemused faces when you walk in, as everyone realises they've just been robbed. on the flip side, if this architecture floats your boat, then sure, by all means, but for me.. no gracias.
Andrew Holley (3 years ago)
Peaceful place, beautiful in a different way to the cathedral. Intricate carvings on the pillars, nice to see to appreciate differences in places of worship.
Karine B (3 years ago)
Beautiful place that was a synagogue then a church then return back to its original purpose. I have never seen something so simplistic for a place of worship that is as beautiful as this synagogue. Make sure to not miss it if you go to Toledo (45 min. drive out of Madrid) and visit the Jewish Quarters. And if you can, go with a tour guide as there are a lot of history to listen to and a lot of stories.
Bob Plunkett (3 years ago)
Interesting, although the visit is brief. The interesting point is the history and what it means. So you need to be ready to pull the past and present together. Then you will find it moving.
David Maddison (3 years ago)
I read the lower score reviews and think to myself ‘how naive are some people?’ - I mean, what are you expecting to see in a synagogue that’s several hundred years old especially after the Spanish expelled the Jews? It’s amazing that this place exists at all and despite is obvious lack of furnishings, the architecture is still intact and completely unique for the city and more typical of something from the south of the country from the moorish occupation. If you don’t have any historic understanding of Spain, you probably wouldn’t appreciate this place but I think it’s wonderful
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