In the Islamic World
The following images present important elements of Jewish heritage in areas that became predominantly Islamic cultural areas.
I have had the opportunity to visit these sites during my travels as I have studied the movement of Christianity from Spain into the New World, and later during a project to provide visual resources for teaching Islamic cultural history. In Spain and elsewhere the Jewish presence was an important part of the overall history and cultural evolution, and as these images demonstrate, one can find common threads in the examples of the material cultures of Jewish, Christian, and Muslim traditions.
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This synagogue was built in 1350 and is the only synagogue in Andalusia to survive the forced expulsion of the Jews from Spain after 1492. It was converted to a Roman Catholic chapel in 1588, and later became a hospital. It is maintained today as a museum. These images were taken in the 1990s during the restoration of the building.
Toledo: El Transito Synagogue
Toledo: Santa Maria La Blanca Synagogue
This was once the principal synagogue of Toledo, rebuilt in 1250 on the site of an earlier structure. The octagonal brick columns, rendered in plaster are characteristic of Mudejar building technique. The use of the ultra-semicurcular arcade is another attribute of Mudejar taste. The capitals using vegetal ornament, in this case pine cones, again shows how ornamental strategies often seen in Islamic buildings can serve here in a Jewish temple to add beauty that does not conflict with ideological boundries. The use of the multilobular blind arcade above is another example of how ornamental elements commonly found in Islamic buildings of Al-Andalus could be incorporated prominently in a Jewish building. Even though this building has clear similarities with the hypostyle mosque construction of Muslim Spain and North Africa, it nevertheless was built, almost certainly by Muslim artisans, to serve a vibrant Jewish community as a place of worship, no doubt in accordance with their functional and ornamental program. After the forced expulsion of the Jews, the building was later used for centuries as a Christian Church.
Fez, Danan Synagogue
This is one of the oldest and most important synagogues in North Africa. For more information please see: http://www.bh.org.il/Communities/Synagogue/Fez.asp
Fez, Private Museum of Jewish religious art
This private collection of Jewish religious art, including many artifacts hundreds of years old, belonged to a couple who had spent a lifetime collecting it. Upon their deaths, their son came from Paris to make arrangements for the disposition of the collection. I happened to meet him during his stay and was permitted to make these images. I do not know what has happened to this collection since January 2006 when I saw it.
This is a large modern synagogue in Sfax, an important commercial center on the coast. The building enjoys a prominent location just outside the old city walls in the modern city center.
This is the Chaar-Hachamaim Synagogue in the financial district of Cairo. It was built in 1905, during a period of great economic activity and florescence in Egypt, by the Mosseri family. It is an outstanding example of the Art Nouveau style, then at the leading edge of international design. Other examples of this style make up the surrounding urban fabric.