Museu Luso-Hebraico de Abraham Zacuto (Abraham Zacuto Luso-Hebrew Museum) - Toma (...)
Museums and Palaces
The Tomar Synagogue is the only Jewish religious building that has remained intact, almost unchanged and fully preserved, from the mid-15th century, when it was built, until today. It is a Renaissance building, erected at a time when the Jewish community of Tomar was very close to Prince Henry the Navigator (1394-1460), who commissioned the work when the city grew in population and wealth.
With a very discreet façade, like almost all Jewish temples in the Christian world, the interior is a surprise. The ceiling is supported by four columns, each with capitals decorated with geometric and vegetal motifs, representing the Mothers of Israel: Sarah, Rachel, Rebecca and Leah. Between the columns 12 arches are connected, symbolising the 12 tribes of Israel, and in the upper corners of the worship room are two holes, corresponding to the mouthpieces of eight clay amphoras placed inverted in the masonry, creating the amplification of the sound of ritual chants.
In 1496, with the expulsion of the Jews from the national territory, the synagogue was closed, having gone through various uses; until it was acquired in 1923 by Dr. Samuel Schwarz (1880-1953), who donated it to the State in 1939, on the condition that the Luso-Hebrew Museum he had founded would remain there. It presents an important collection of gravestones from various parts of the country and attests to the importance of Hebrew culture in Portugal. The collection also includes books and objects of Jewish tradition and worship.
Recently, after archaeological excavations, an adjoining room was found, intended for the mikveh, the ritual purification bath for women.
October / June: 10am - 1pm / 2pm - 6pm (everyday) July / September: 10am - 1pm / 2pm - 7pm (everyday) Closed: 1 January, Easter Sunday, 1 May and 25 December