Historically, Toledo is noted in Spain for having once flourished as a cultural crossroads, with three religions – Judaism, Islam and Christianity – coexisting together peacefully. And there is perhaps no better physical representation of this time than the Santa María la Blanca Synagogue. Claimed to be the oldest synagogue in Europe, it was built during Christian times by Moorish architects for Jewish use.
You can see this complex intersection of history and styles all represented in the small space. For example, there are the Mudejar horseshoe arches, the 16th-century Christian altarpiece, and the layout, which, while it has elements reminiscent of a mosque, was constructed as a synagogue. Though its original purpose was, of course, to be a synagogue, come the early 14th century, it was converted into a church, serving various purposes since. The space may be small and simple compared to some of Toledo’s grander sights, but there’s certainly more than meets the eye here in terms of history, making it a worthwhile place to see and contemplate.
The synagogue is located in the Jewish quarter, which sits in the western part of the old town. If you plan on visiting the synagogue and other popular attractions, consider buying a pulsera turística (tourist wristband), which gains you discounted access to 6 of the city’s top sights. Wristbands can be purchased at attraction entrances.