Ken's Korner: 16th century synagogue discovered in Portugal

Ken’s Korner: 16th century synagogue discovered in Portugal – The Journal of Antiques and Collectibles – March 2006
Workers renovating a building in Porto, Portugal, on the Atlantic coast, have discovered a 16th-century synagogue. It was built at a time when Portugal’s Jews were forced to become Catholics or risk being burned at the stake. In 1492, Spain expelled all Jews who refused to convert. About 60,000 of them went to Portugal and many prospered. Later, King Manual I, looking to forge an alliance with Spain’s King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, forced Portugal’s Jews to convert.
The house of worship just found was hidden behind a false wall inside a four-story house. A carved granite repository, 5 feet tall, was arched at the top and built facing east, towards Jerusalem. It was the ark where the medieval Jews kept their Torah scrolls. Experts removed pieces of decorative green tiles and dated their glazing techniques to a 16th-century method. Only two other arks from the period have ever been found in Portugal. This one has been authenticated as the third.

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