Immerse yourself in Toledo’s Jewish history.
The Jewish quarter of Toledo, Spain, is home to several historically significant buildings. The El Tránsito Synagogue, along with the Synagogue of Santa María de la Blanca, Baños del Ángel and Monastery of San Juan de los Reyes, help provide visitors with a window into the city’s storied past. After a day of visiting these noteworthy architectural feats, one will have been immersed in the country’s history with Sephardim.
The El Tránsito Synagogue, located on Calle de los Reyes Católicos and near the Tagus river, is one of two surviving synagogues from 1492, when King Ferdinand II of Aragon and Queen Isabella I of Castille ordered all Jews to be expelled from Spain. The structure’s origin dates back at least 130 years before then, when Samuel ha-Leví, a significant figure, authorized its construction around 1355.
After the building was used as a hospital, nursing home, Christian church and burial place at the end of the 15th century, it became exclusively a church during the 16th century and was used as such until the Napoleonic Wars in the 19th century, when it functioned as military barracks.
The El Tránsito Synagogue was then entrusted to the Board of Trustees of the El Greco Museum in 1910 and became the home of the Sephardic Museum in 1964. Featuring spaces such as the Prayer Hall and several rooms explaining Spain’s Jewish history, the museum provides a learning experience in one of the nation’s most historically remarkable structures.
Situated a 2-minute walk from the El Tránsito Synagogue and along Calle de los Reyes Católicos is the Synagogue of Santa María de la Blanca. Built in the late 12th century, it is considered to be the oldest synagogue building still standing in Europe. Less than 150 years after its construction, though, it was consecrated as a church by Vincent Ferrer, a missionary and logician who is honored as a saint of the Catholic Church.
After serving as an oratory from 1600 to 1791, the building was used as barracks. Approximately 445 years after its consecration, the Synagogue of Santa María de la Blanca was restored and declared a national memorial site in 1856. Nowadays, its Mudéjar architectural style served as one of the city’s most unique structures.
Located a 2-minute walk and three streets away from the Synagogue of Santa María de la Blanca is the Baños del Ángel. One of the best-preserved bathhouses in Toledo, the Baños del Ángel assist visitors in understanding social life in the city during the Middle Ages. The baths were restored and also contain the hypocaust, a feature rarely found in other bathhouses.
A short walk down Calle del Ángel and Calle de los Reyes Católicos leads to the Monastery of San Juan de los Reyes. Constructed in the 15th century by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, the monastery and church feature a noteworthy display of Gothic and Mudéjar architecture, represented by statuary, vaulting, pinnacles and gargoyles.
One may also see the cloister, which contains large windows with ornate tracing and a frieze of vegetal decoration. Interestingly, one can also spot chains hanging from the northeastern façade, which belonged to Christian prisoners liberated from Malaga and Baeza.
After visiting the Monastery of San Juan de los Reyes, one can say they have seen one of the most impressive structures in the quarter.