In the Style of Toleration: Bevis Marks and the Synagogue Architecture of Seventeenth-Century London

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Mitchell, Elizabeth, Architectural History - School of Architecture, University of Virginia
Li, Shiqiao, Department of Architecture, University of Virginia
Crane, Sheila, Department of Architectural History, University of Virginia
Nelson, Louis, Department of Architectural History, University of Virginia

This project is on the Spanish and Portuguese Jewish community living in London during the 17th century and their synagogues at Creechurch Lane and Bevis Marks. In 1656, a small congregation of Sephardic Jewish merchants emerged in the city of London. These were the first openly practicing Jews residing in England since the Jewish Expulsion in 1290. Following the Inquisitions on the Iberian Peninsula, Sephardic Jews developed an intricate network, connecting major port cities like Amsterdam and London, that allowed them to become highly successful in their mercantile practices. In London, their financial success provided them with a respectable social status and the means to construct worship spaces that were admired by the general public.

This thesis argues that the synagogue architecture of the first Jewish community in Early Modern London is testament to the growing religious tolerance that existed in English political thought as early as the mid-17th century, and demonstrates this congregation’s success in peacefully securing their social and economic status within English society. Their first synagogue in a remodeled residence on Creechurch Lane, followed by the purpose-built, still extant Bevis Marks, display the skilled independent building projects commissioned in London outside of the major patron that dominated English Architecture, the Royal Office of Works headed famously by Sir Christopher Wren. The architectural discussion is focused on design precedent for their synagogue, Bevis Marks, which includes the Esnoga in Amsterdam, and Christopher Wren’s city churches. The broader political, religious and architectural trends of the period are also discussed in depth, including the shared interest amongst Jews and Christians in physical reconstructions of Solomon’s Temple. Creechurch Lane and Bevis Marks, along with other religious spaces contemporary to the period, like Wren’s churches and the Esnoga, existed within the same climate and together tell a larger story of the trends in religious architecture of the 17th century.

MARH (Master of Architectural History)
Bevis Marks Synagogue, Menasseh ben Israel, Jewish history, synagogue architecture, Western European history, Jewish Expulsion, Creechurch Lane Synagogue, religious architecture, Sephardic Diaspora, Esnoga, London architecture, Jacob Judah Leon Templo, Christopher Wren, Joseph Avis, Solomon's Temple, Amsterdam
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