Santa Maria la Blanca – One of the Oldest Synagogue Buildings in Europe:
The Santa Maria la Blanca in Toledo (Literally translated as “St Mary the White”) is one of the oldest synagogue buildings in Europe and one of the most beautiful that I’ve seen. Its rather plain exterior is a huge contrast to what lies within – lovely horseshoe arches, white pillars with ornate Mudéjar decorations and decorative tiles offseting the dark red flooring.
This former Toledo synagogue has a rather unusual background. It was designed by Moorish architects for Jewish use and its construction took place in the 13th century, during the time of the Christian Kingdom of Castile.
Toledo is known as the city of three cultures and Santa Maria la Blanca is a fine example of the co-existence of the Islamic, Christian and Jewish cultures in the Iberian Peninsula during the Middle Ages.
Originally known as the Ibn Shushan Synagogue or “The Congregational Synagogue of Toledo” Santa Maria la Blanca was converted into a church in the 15th century. In the following centuries, it had various other uses, including as a carpenter’s workshop, barracks and a refuge for former prostitutes.
Fortunately, Santa Maria la Blanca has retained the Mudéjar characteristics of Toledo and has been beautifully restored. The interior is divided into five aisles with four rows or horseshoe arches supported by octagonal pillars. The capitals are decorated with plant motifs.At the end of the central aisle is a 16th century altarpiece. During the times of Cardinal Siliceo, changes were made to the church and three chapels were constructed.
Santa Maria la Blanca is now a museum and a National monument. It is open to the public on Monday to Sunday and holidays from 10.00 – 18.00 (open until 19:00 in summer)
This old synagogue building is certainly worth visiting on your Toledo trip. You can also see more photos of this Toledo synagogue building at Travelsignposts photo gallery HERE.
Calle Reyes Católicos
4 – 45002 Toledo