History of the Synagogue of Santa Maria La Blanca
The Synagogue was one of the ten Synagogues that existed in Toledo. At the end of the XIVth century revolts in Toledo and other areas of Spain against Jews implied a reduction in that number. The ultimate challenge for Jewish culture came in 1492 when Isabella and Ferdinand requested the expulsion or conversion of the Jews that live in Spain at the time. Today only two Synagogues are still in place in Toledo: The Synagogue of Santa Maria de la Blanca and the Transito Synagogue. This last Synagogue holds an interesting Sephardic museum.
The other Synagogues of Toledo
As we have mentioned, up to ten Synagogues provided service in Toledo during the 14th century. Santa María la Blanca was at that time known as the New Synagogue (in opposition to the Old temple which it did not replace) Amongst the other ten Synagogues we find: Syanogue of Samuel Ha-Leví, Synagogue of ben Zizá, Sinagogue of Cordobes, Synagogue of Suloquia or the Synagogue of Algiada.
Only a few of the ten Synagogues survived the different pogroms that underwent the Jewish quarter. The 1391 pogrom was probably the toughest and most decoration and ornamentation elements of the Synagogues were destroyed (when not the whole building). Today it is not possible to place where most of these Synagogues were located. The Spanish government launched a project to offer Spanish citizenship to those descendants of Jewish families who were forced to exile in the XVIth century.
Following the history of the Synagogue, during the XVIth century, it was used as a beaterium for public women who desired to change their lives. And during the XVIIIth century, it was used by the army as barracks. Only in the XIXth century, it recovered as what we find today.
Which Synagogue is best to visit in Toledo?
This is not an easy question. Not everybody is the same and tastes differ. The ideal option is to visit both Synagogues! Having said this, we would recommend if there is only time for one Synagogue to pay a visit to El Transito Synagogue, which also hosts the Sephardic museum.