moorish style

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Prague’s Spanish Synagogue is a wonder for the eyes. Built in 1868 in the Moorish Revival style, it isn’t the largest synagogue in Europe, but it’s definitely one of the most ornate.

Lisbon is a city of plazas, parks, overlooks and gardens. For more than a century, these beautiful public spaces were graced by Art Noveau and Moorish-style kiosks — small, ornate structures that provided chairs and shade and served traditional Portuguese snacks and drinks.

These quiosques de refrescos (refreshment kiosks) were the heart of public life in the city. But, under the long dictatorship of Prime Minister António de Oliveira Salazar, which started in the 1930s, laws actually discouraged public gathering and conversation. Many restaurants closed down and the kiosks ­­fell into disrepair and all but disappeared.

That was, until Catarina Portas, a native of Lisbon, former journalist and entrepreneur stepped in.

“From the 19th to the 20th century, there were some hundred different kiosks in Lisbon. The city was full of them in different colors, different designs,” says Portas. She used to take walks around the city and see these “sad, abandoned structures,” she says. “I started to think, How could we bring this to our times?”

So Portas began hunting down these kiosks — some still in place but boarded up or neglected, others in storage. She teamed up with architect João Regal to restore the buildings – not just to their former glory, but to their former place of prominence in Lisbon’s public spaces.

History, Horchata And Hope: How Classic Kiosks Are Boosting Lisbon’s Public Life

Photo: Paul Arps/Flickr

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Plum Street Temple was designed by James Keyes Wilson, a prominent American architect and first president of the Cincinnati Chapter of the American Institute of Architects, the building reflects a synagogue architectural style that had emerged in Germany in the nineteenth century, a Byzantine-Moorish style. It hearkens to a previous era of the Golden Age of Spain in Jewish history, and reflects Rabbi Wise’s optimism that the developing American Jewish experience would be the next Golden Age. All other examples of such architecture in Germany were later destroyed by Hitler. Only one other synagogue of similar style exists in America, namely, in New York. The complex design of Plum Street Temple mirrors many cultures: from the outside the tall proportions, three pointed arched entrances, and rose window suggest a Gothic revival church; the crowning minarets hint of Islamic architecture; the motif’s decorating the entrances, repeated in the rose window, and on the Torah Ark introduce a Moorish theme; the 14 bands of Hebrew texts surrounding the interior were selected by Rabbi Wise and were chosen primarily from the Book of Psalms.

(Photos and commentary taken from the wise temple website, and from me.)

If you ever have the chance to be in Cincinnati, Ohio, I urge you to visit Plum Street Temple. It’s a beautiful piece of history, and an under appreciated one.