The Sinagoga del Transito was constructed in 1360 by the Mudejar mason Don Meir Abdeil for Samuel Halevi Abulafia, the Treasurer of Castilian king Peter I ("The Cruel") and a prominent member of Toledo's Jewish community. The synagogue served as Halevi's own personal prayer hall and was attached to his house through a private gate. Its use of intricate decoration recalls Nasrid design; King Peter I had close political ties with the monarch Muhammad V, a chief patron of the Alhambra, the most famous example of Nasrid architecture.
Rectangular in plan, its grand open sanctuary measures approximately twenty-three by nine-and-a-half meters. Off of the prayer hall to the north is a separate chamber for women while to the east three niches shelter Torah scrolls. Its ceiling is finely carved and in the rest of the space beautifully detailed Hebrew and Arabic inscriptions are expressed in stucco relief. Displayed onto panels and friezes, these inscriptions integrate Quranic verses, lyrical psalms, and narratives of the Hebraic Temple with winding floral and vegetal motifs and symbols of Castile. In addition, a band of alternating seven-lobed arched windows and blind-arches of the same scale extends across the sanctuary directly beneath the ceiling.
The use of Arabic and Islamic motifs in the synagogue is not surprising. Arabic was for centuries a common language in Spain and Jews were accustomed to using it. Furthermore, Jews in Spain considered Islamic tradition as part of their own cultural history and during this period the use of Islamic decoration signified sophistication and refinement.
While it was discontinued as a synagogue in the mid-fifteenth century, today the Sinagoga del Transito is part of the Sephardic Museum in Toledo. It includes a library and important Jewish archives.
Dodds, Jerrilynn D. 1992. Mudejar Tradition and the Synagogues of Medieval Spain: Cultural Identity and Cultural Hegemony. In Convivencia: Jews, Muslims, and Christians in Medieval Spain. Edited by Mann, Vivian B., Glick, Thomas F., Dodds, Jerrilynn D. New York: George Braziller, Inc., 113-132.
Prince, Danforth and Porter, Darwin. 2003. Frommer's Spain 2003. New York: Wiley Publishing, Inc., 167.
Yeomans, Richard. 1999. The Story of Islamic Architecture. Reading, UK: Garnet Publishing, 109.