Spain/Castilla La Mancha: Toledo Synagogues
Toledo is famous for having one of the most ancient Jewish quarters in Europe. It was one of the largest such communities in the continent and prospered until the 15th century. Two synagogues – El Transito and Santa Maria la Blanca – are preserved as museums (neither is a functioning synagogue anymore, and one is owned by the start while the other is under the Catholic Church). They are the second most visited museums in Toledo after the Cathedral. From the outside, both are totally unremarkable buildings – simple stone structures with little decoration or any sign of them being places of worship. Inside, it’s a totally different story – wide open and atmospheric, they are intricately decorated with carvings and stucco work. The Santa Maria la Blanca is particularly amazing – with white pillars and unique, Islamic-looking designs. Interestingly, the synagogues were built during the Christian Castille kingdoms by Islamic architects for the Jews of Toledo – an amazing symbol of cooperation between the three faiths.