Toledo Sephardic Museum - History and Facts | History Hit

Toledo Sephardic Museum

Toledo, Castile-La Mancha, Spain

The Toledo Sephardic Museum is dedicated to the history, culture and legacy of the city’s Jewish population.

Peta Stamper

13 Apr 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Toledo Sephardic Museum

The Toledo Sephardic Museum (Museo Sefardi) is a national museum dedicated to the history, culture and legacy of the city’s Jewish population. From Roman times to the 15th century Jewish expulsion, the Toledo Sephardic Museum covers the long Jewish history in Spain. The building in which the Toledo Sephardic Museum is located was itself a part of this heritage, built as a synagogue in the 14th century.

Toledo Sephardic Museum history

The Synagogue of El Tránsisto in was constructed around 1357 AD under the patronage of Samuel ha-Levi Abulafia during the Islamic period in Spain. His family had served the Castilian kings for generations and included Torah scholar Todros Abulafia, one of the last poets to write in the Arab-influenced style favoured by Jewish poets of the 12th and 13th centuries. Samuel ha-Levi had the synagogue connected to his house by a private gate, intending it as a private place of worship.

Arguably, Peter of Castile allowed the building of the synagogue to show his appreciation for Samuel ha-Levi’s service as a royal councillor and treasurer. He may also have allowed the synagogue as a type of compensation for the destruction on the Jewish community in 1348 during the anti-Jewish pogroms at the time of the Black Death.

Either way, Samuel ha-Levi eventually lost the king’s favour and was executed in 1360.

After the expulsion of the Jews during 1492, as the Reconquista ended, the synagogue was converted into a church and given to the Order of Calatrava by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella – the Catholic Monarchs. It was during this time the building gained the name of ‘El Tránsisto’.

In 1877, the building became a national monument, and became transformation into the Sephardi Museum in 1910. In 1964 a royal decree established the museum which finally opened to visitors in June 1971.

Toledo Sephardic Museum today

The majority of today’s collection was donated by sefardic families and the Israel Antiquities Authority. Yet the museum itself, housed in a beautiful former synagogue, is a central part of the museum’s exhibitions as an example of early sephardic architecture that you can spend over an hour exploring.

The layout of the museum is based on the archaeological evidence documenting sefardic communities. There are full English descriptions for the rooms and entry is only 3 euros.

Getting to the Toledo Sephardic Museum

Situated in Toledo’s historic centre, the Toledo Sephardic Museum is found via bus at stop Plaza Barrio Nuevo on lines L2 and L12, a 2 minute walk away. For those driving, there is parking at Indigo – San Miguel Corralillo only 15 minutes walk away. There is also a taxi rank around the corner on Paseo Tránsito.

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