Friday, 5 October 2012

Postcard Challenge and Paint Party Friday

Hi you all, it's Friday, and that means time for Darcy's Postcard Challenge,where the theme this week is Portugal, and PPF, hosted by Eva and Kristin.

Jason and Shannon have been invited by a friend to visit the Portuguese Synagogue in Bevis Marks, in the city of London. It’s a nice evening, so they decide to walk there, as it is not far from where they live. They have seen the building from the outside, as they often pass by, but this is their first time inside.
Jason is a bit glum; cultural visits are not really his thing, but Shannon insists. ‘You can’t go to the pub or watch telly every night, can you?’ She asks. Jason answers, ‘Well, actually I could!’ but ducks quickly before Shannon can cuff him.

Jason has to wear a kippa (skull cap) on his head, which sits strangely on top of his spiky hair. They hear a very informative talk about the history of the Synagogue, and learn that it is the oldest purpose built one in England. There are much older buildings in other towns, like the Jew’s Court in Lincoln, dating from Norman times, but it has not been continually in use since then, due to the expulsion of the Jews from England in the 13th Century. A number of synagogues that predate the expulsion of the Jews from England have been discovered by archaeologists or  historians in buildings that have been in use for other purposes for many centuries. A second set of synagogues post-dates the legal return of Jews to England in the seventeenth century. Some synagogues have been destroyed or demolished and rebuilt on the same site, so that, while the site or congregation may be very old, the building may be modern. Still other old synagogue buildings exist, but were sold by the congregation and are now used for other purposes, some as churches or mosques, others for everything from residences to school recital halls. And some very old synagogues have been in continuous use as synagogues for many centuries.
Bevis Marks Synagogue, called the ‘Sha’ar HaShamayim’ (Gate of Heaven) community was built to house the congregation of Sephardic Jews from Spain and Portugal, and has been known since then as the Portuguese Community.

In 1698 Rabbi David Nieto took charge of the congregation who met in a small synagogue in Creechurch Lane, in the city. A considerable influx of newcomers made it necessary to obtain more spacious quarters. Accordingly a committee was appointed which investigated matters for nearly a year, and on February 12, 1699, signed a contract with Joseph Avis, a Quaker, for the construction of a building to cost £2,750. Avis later declined to collect his fee, on the ground that it was wrong to profit from building a house of God. On 24 June of the same year, the committee leased a tract of land at Plough Yard, in Bevis Marks, for 61 years, with the option of renewal for a further 38 years, at £120 a year. Avis began building at once, reportedly incorporating in the roof a beam from a royal ship presented to the community by Queen Anne. The structure was completed and dedicated in 1701. With the exception of the roof (which was destroyed by fire in 1738 and repaired in 1749), it is today as it was over 300 years ago. The interior decor and furnishing and layout of the synagogue reflect the influence of the great Amsterdam Synagogue of 1677.
In 1747 Benjamin Mendes da Costa bought the lease of the ground on which the building stood, and presented it to the congregation, vesting the deeds in the names of a committee consisting of Gabriel Lopez de Britto, David Aboab Ozorio, Moses Gomes Serra, David Franco, Joseph Jessurun Rodriguez, and Moses Mendes da Costa.

The entrance

The Bevis Marks Synagogue was the religious center of the Anglo-Jewish world for more than a century. As the Spanish and Portuguese Jewish community grew and moved out of the City and East End of London to the West End and the suburbs, other synagogies were built. Attendance at Bevis Marks declined so much that in 1886 a move to sell the site was contemplated; a "Bevis Marks Anti-Demolition League" was founded, under the auspices of H. Guedalla and A. H. Newman, and the proposed move was abandoned.
Thus Bevis Marks exists today, and still looks exactly as in former days. The synagogue's most prominent feature is undoubtedly the beautiful Renaissance-style ark (containing the Torah scrolls) located at the centre of the Eastern wall of the building. Both in its location and in its design, it is like the reredos of the churches of the same period. Painted to look as though it is made of coloured Italian marble, it is in fact made entirely of oak.

An old print of the interior

Seven hanging brass candelabra symbolise the seven days of the week, the largest of which - hanging in the centre of the synagogue - represents the Sabbath. This central candelabrum was donated by the community of the Great Synagogue in Amsterdam, upon which Bevis Marks' interior is largely based. The candles are still lit today for weddings and the Jewish Festivals. The rest of the year the Synagogue is lit by the electric lights added in 1928.

The Ark (where the Torah scrolls are kept)
(Pictures 1 and 3 courtesy of Wikipedia Commons)

Twelve pillars, symbolising the twelve tribes of Israel, support the women's gallery.
The synagogue contains benches running parallel to the side walls and facing inward, leaving two aisles for the procession with the Torah scrolls. In addition, backless benches at the rear of the synagogue, taken from the original synagogue at Creechurch Lane, date from 1657 and are still regularly used.
A number of seats in the synagogue are roped off as they belong or have belonged to notable people within the community. Two seats are reserved for the most senior officials of the congregation's publishing arm, Heshaim. Those that hold the positions are welcome to sit in them when visiting the synagogue, but they are otherwise kept vacant. A third seat, fitted with a footstool, has been withheld as it belonged to Sir Moses Montefiore, a very notable Jewish philanthropist. It is the seat nearest the Ark on the central row of the left half of the benches. It is only ever occupied by very senior dignitaries and it is considered a high honour to be allowed to sit in the seat. In 2001 Prince Charles sat in the seat during the tercentenary service, and Prime Minister Tony Blair for the service celebrating the 350th anniversary of the re-settlement of the Jews in Great Britain.

The synagogue is the only one in Europe which has had continuous services for over 300 years.
Jason and Shannon find their visit very interesting, and even Jason is really impressed. This is one of the postcards they take home to show Cissie and Thelma:

Cissie and Thelma were rather astonished when they heard how the kids had spent their evening.
'I think Jason is growing up;' sighs Cissie. 'Marriage seems to be making a man out of him. About time, too!'
'Yes, well, he's married to my daughter!' answers Thelma.

For Paint Party Friday I have another WIP. There wasn't much painting time this week, as I have been helping my neighbour a lot. I have worked here with tissue paper, mod podge and gesso, and then different paint sprays and Inka gold. I think I will add some more layers to it, and then use it to make another journal cover.

I think that was more than enough for one day, congratulations if you have managed to stay with me to the end! Have a great day, take care, and thanks for visiting!


  1. You show such range in the last two images!
    Happy PPF,

  2. Very interesting article, glad Shannon and Jason are on a culture trip! Lovely painting, too. Hugs, Sarah

  3. thanks for the cool tutorial on London's synagogues! amazing structures. love the drawing - how did you do those falling leaves? neat!

  4. Hi Valerie, Wow your drawing on the postcard is amazing. It will be interesting to see how your painting comes out. x

  5. Interesting history and cultural visit for them. Your postcard is great. A xx

  6. What a wonderful tour through History, love all the photos, too!! :]
    Great postcard, such a fantastic illustration, Valerie.
    I also, really, really, like these tissue-paper creations... super rich in texture. Can not wait to see what you create with these!!
    Take care. ~xx

  7. It's great to catch up with the adventures of Jason and Cissie... I missed them :)

  8. Valerie that was so interesting... what a good job it didn't get demolished. The entrance is stunning.

    Shannon and Jason are turning into a pair of 'culture vultures' - good for them!

    I love the texture on your soon to be journal cover.... and the gold. Gorgeous!

    Have a great weekend


  9. Fascinating history... I love to know about old buildings :D...though I was looking forward to seeing Jason with the Kippa perched on his spikes :D XXX

  10. Love that textured background and a fantastic postcard! :)

  11. Great post Valerie. I really enjoyed reading it. Hope Jason doesnt grow up too much I will miss his antics! Fabulous artwork. Have a lovely weekend.
    Regards Florence x

  12. Thank you for such an interesting read. Brilliant sketch of the synagogue. Like the autumn leaves falling on your blog!

    Janet xx

  13. Loving your beautifully drawn and coloured buildings and your wip. Happy PPF, Annette x

  14. I love all the history that you share with your postcards! I feel like I have been on a trip with them! Happy PPF!

  15. Awesome WIP and gret postcard! Love the new autumnal feeling of your blog! HPPF!

  16. Great post Valerie, beautiful drawing for the post card and I love your tissue paper marvel! I loved reading all of the history, so many things I had no idea of!

  17. What an interesting read Valerie and your postcard sketch is amazing. Your WIP is very colourful and textural! xx

  18. love the look of your tissue and paint on your new journal covers!

  19. Creative, creative and creative ~ the story, photography and your art work ~ love the colors ~ (A Creative Harbor)

  20. Love the new painting! This will make a beautiful journal cover.

    We all learn so much from your Postcard visits!

  21. A wonderful post Valerie - very informative. Love the postcard and artwork.
    xxx Hazel.

  22. what an educational post and a beautiful synagogue!

    Love the texture in your PPF piece!

  23. Hi Valerie. Hope you are doing well. Loved your story and the beautiful buildings, etc. Spain and Portugal is where my Great Grandparents were from. My Grandfather's from Spain and Grandma, Portugal. Someday I would love to go there. Your work is very nice. Loving the texture and colors. Looks icy, sort of. Good job and I hope Jason didn't squash all his spiked hair. tee hee.:) I like that Spanish comment you left on my blog.:) tee hee again.:) Have a great weekend.

  24. Oh Valerie! LOVED the history lesson - such a beautiful building and had no idea it was there let alone the long and colourful history. Thanks for sharing that, I must say I found it most interesting. Your painting is going to make fabulous journal covers. The colours and all that texture are gorgeous. hugs, Donna

  25. simply a Fabulous card! love the brick texture!!!

  26. Thanks for the very interesting history lesson! Such fun to follow along every Friday!

    I am awed by the layers, texture and dimension you have already achieved in this WIP--looking forward to your progress!

  27. Wow Valerie, it amazes me that a building can have such a story and history. Your postcard and WIP are both wonderful x

  28. wonderful postcard art...
    and the texture of the next piece is beautiful.

  29. Great postcard, thanks for all the history, it looks a wonderful place to visit.
    Love the textures and colours of your paintings.
    Yvonne x

  30. Wow! That was a history lesson and a half Valerie - thanks for sharing it and the lovely pics.
    Love your WIP pics too, colours are gorgeous and can't wait to see the finished creation.
    Hugs, Fliss xx

  31. Wonderful WIP filled with tissue paper texture! Lovely with the metallic inks!
    Happy PPF!!
    Mixed-Media Map Art

  32. Packed with the most amazing amount of information Valerie.
    Love those intense colours with those metallics shining through.

  33. Great post!! I love the history lesson and your postcard is fantastic. Love your WIP!!! Those colors are dynamic :0)

  34. a really interesting read, love reading about old buildings and the history behind them. a great drawing..

  35. Well what a nice way to get an education! I enjoyed learning about the synagogue and seeing the photos and drawing of it. I love the falling leaves. You have to tell me how you got them to do that!
    Love and hugzzzzz,

  36. Wonderful card again this week, I love your sketch and great colour choice. M

  37. Fascinating episode this week Valerie - I'd never heard of the synagogue.
    Love the rich colours of your WIP.
    Hugs xx

  38. History, story and illustration, awesome combination. And thanks for the leaves shower. Fun!

  39. So very interesting! Thank you for the travelogue.

  40. Awesome post! Loved reading about the history. Thank you! Gorgeous WIP, too! Love those colors! :-)

  41. Very interesting info. I enjoyed reading about it. Super drawing for your postcard.
    Jen x

  42. Now I am happy! Finally caught up on what happened Friday! I just love the stories and photos and always your art! Funny I sometimes feel as if I am there!


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