The ‘Spanish Masters from the Hermitage. The world of El Greco, Ribera, Zurbarán, Velázquez, Murillo & Goya’ exhibition can be admired in the Hermitage until 29 May. This exhibition draws attention to the broader context of painting in the Spanish Golden Century (second half of the sixteenth and the seventeenth century) and the echoes and continuation in subsequent centuries.
Spanish masterpieces were created during the reign of Philip II, the absolute monarch of a colonial empire who enforced strict rules for Catholic paintings. The period that followed was dominated by artists including Francisco de Zurbáran, also known as the Spanish Caravaggio.
A great many aspects of Spanish history are highlighted in this collection, such as the horrors of Napoleon’s conquest in 1808, bullfighting and Mediterranean pub life. The variation of the exhibition is also expressed in the alternation of Spanish painting styles: Baroque, Rococo, dramatic realism and spiritual minimalism.
Nowhere else in Amsterdam can you witness such a grand building with a completely intact seventeenth century interior. Built in 1671 to resemble the legendary temple of Salomon in Jerusalem, this synagogue was for a long time the biggest in the whole of Europe. Up to this day it is still in use and visitors are welcome on all days except Saturdays and certain feast days. Combine it with a visit to the other institutions of the Jewish Cultural Quarter and you’ll get wonderful chance to experience the extensive Jewish history of Amsterdam.
In the seventeenth century synagogues were allowed to be visible in Amsterdam, but the entrance was not supposed to be noticeable. That is why there are a number of annexes surrounding the enormous prayer house that draw the eye away from it.
The treasure rooms beneath the synagogue hold a vast array of ceremonial objects.
The library of the synagogue, called Ets Haim, is a cultural pearl of the highest order. Its the oldest functioning Jewish library in the world and is listed on the Unesco heritage list. You can visit it with a tour.
Download the free iPad app Esnoga Quest. With the iPad in your hand, discover the history and contemporary life of the Portuguese Jews in Amsterdam. Meet rabbis, the exiled philosopher Spinoza and a Jewish bride.
Try to go to one of the candle light concert at night. They are listed on the website and make for a truly unique experience. Because there is no electricity in the building the synagogue is lit with only candles. Hundreds of them turn the synagogue into an enchanted fairytale.