Shaaré Tikva Synagogue

Lisbon, Portugal

Background

In 1871, 50 years after the Portuguese Inquisition ended, the Jews of Lisbon were granted permission to build a synagogue. The building was originally designed by Miguel Ventura Terra, borrowing significantly from Roman and Byzantine architecture. Important artists of the period contributed to the decoration of its interior, including paintings, a set of scrolls, and a symbolic silver chandelier. The synagogue served as th¬¬e center of Jewish life in Lisbon after its inauguration in 1904 and was a sanctuary for the thousands of Jewish refugees who passed through Portugal during World War II. The marble Torah ark is inscribed with the Ten Commandments and encrusted with gold leaf. Shaaré Tikva is also the home of a collection of documents dating from the seventeenth through the twentieth centuries.

How We Helped

Shaaré Tikva Synagogue has been undergoing restoration work since a three-phase plan was proposed in 1999. In 2000 and 2001, the first phase, which focused on the building’s exterior, was completed. The roof and exterior walls were repaired, and the latter were also re-painted. In 2002, WMF supported work to restore parts of Shaaré Tikva’s interior. The building’s second phase focused on the temple area, the mikveh (ritual baths), the synagogue entrance, and the toilet facilities. New electrical and plumbing systems, as well as improved security measures, were also installed.

Why It Matters

Shaaré Tikva Synagogue was the first synagogue to be built in Portugal since the late fifteenth century. Although there had been a Jewish community in Lisbon since the Middle Ages, the Portuguese Inquisition that began in 1536 and continued through the early nineteenth century destroyed most of its native Jewish population, focusing especially on those who had converted to Christianity. The synagogue symbolizes the re-establishment of a Jewish community in Lisbon. Repairing the synagogue also gives new life a structure designed by one of the country’s best-known architects, Miguel Ventura Terra.

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