In the 17th century there were a large number of Sephardic Jews in the Dutch city of Amsterdam, a population that had been expelled from the Iberian Peninsula, both from Spain as well as from Portugal, and in the Netherlands they had found a much more tolerant environment, as well as the best opportunity to do important business given the flourishing economic period in that territory.
The Inner Snog
The fact is that all that community undertook the construction of various synagogues and some of them have survived to this day such as the Esnoga or Portuguese Synagogue which was built in 1675, being its architect one of the most important builders of those years in the city, Elias Bouman. In fact, this architect had previously participated in the design of the Great Synagogue of Amsterdam, which had been promoted by the Ashkenazi Jews, present here before the Sephardim.
Bouman raised an enormous building from the outside, but that does not translate its true function neither through its symbology nor through its form. Although there are certain inscriptions to identify it as a Hebrew temple. It is a large building with a rectangular base and its walls open with 72 wrought iron windows that bathe the interior in light. Although inside there are also some huge chandeliers where thousands of wax candles were lit.
TheThe powerful dimensions of the building indicate the power that the Sephardic community had reached, capable of erecting such a large building, which like many others in Amsterdam is raised by means of wooden piles that save the mud from the subsoil of the city.
The Outside Snog
There is also wood in the upper part, since it is a roof made of wooden beams. While there is sand on the floor of the prayer room, something that has to do with the absorption of the humidity of the place, but also with the idea of walking without making noise.
At one end of the temple is the Ark, while at the other is the pulpit or teibáh. And the 12 columns that support the women's gallery, and that represent the twelve tribes of Israel, are also striking.
The exterior and the prayer hall is enormous, and of course the intention to link its grandeur with the disappeared Solomon's Temple in Jerusalem is clear. However, in addition to its architecture and history, there are other elements of great value. For example, in a basement the treasure chamber is preserved, where there is an extraordinary collection of liturgical objects, manuscripts and textile pieces. In addition to the fact that here is the oldest Jewish Library in the world, the Ets Haim or Livaria Montezinos, with bibliographical treasures listed as World Heritage by UNESCO.