Architecture Around the World

Synagogue of Santa Maria La Blanca
Original name: Ibn Shushan Synagogue
Toledo, Spain

Founded in 1203, the Sinagoga de Santa Maria La Blanca in Toledo is considered the oldest synagogue building in Europe which is still standing. It is nearly two centuries older than the more elaborate Tránsito Synagogue nearby.

The synagogue of "St. Mary the White" was designed and decorated by Mudejar architects. The Islamic influence is readily apparent in the horseshoe arches and other features.

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, b
ut the round windows and relatively plain exterior are in keeping with most European synagogues.


Islamic decorative pattern. Cf., the Alhambra

The interior is divided into five aisles by four arcades of seven horseshoe arches, supported by twenty-four octagonal columns and eight engaged columns.

Plaster   cinquefoil   blind arcade

Arcade:    Spandrels feature Islamic decoration .....    Horseshoe arches

Spandrels feature Islamic decoration

The column capitals feature finely carved pine cones and other vegetal imagery. These capitals are Mudéjar in style and are derived from Classical Corinthian and Byzantine precedents.

Photos and their arrangement © 2010 Chuck LaChiusa
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