Sanctuary and Synagogue

Interior of the First Synagogue of Congregation Talmud Torah (1639-1675)

Drawn and engraved by I. Veenhuysen
From Tobias van Domselaer, Beschryvinge van Amsterdam...
Amsterdam, 1655
PNT A41.32.1c

Interior of the First Synagogue of Congregation Talmud Torah (1639-1675)

This print depicts the first synagogue building of Congregation Talmud Torah which was established in 1639 upon the unification of three smaller Portuguese congregations. To accommodate the greatly expanded audience, one of the existing synagogue buildings was remodeled and enlarged. Modeled after contemporary churches in Amsterdam, the interior was designed with barrel vaulting and upper galleries. The similarity of design may have stemmed from the parallel needs of these houses of worship. Squeezed into narrow, converted homes, the architects built balconies to supply the much needed seating. This building is one of the earliest known European synagogues with a galleried space. Interestingly, a portion of the gallery seems to have been reserved for men, as evidenced by the lack of a lattice-work screen on a section of the left-hand gallery. After the congregation moved into its new building in 1675, the old synagogue was sold to a member of the congregation and utilized as a wedding hall until it was demolished in 1931.

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