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36. Gerry Dawes's Spain: An Insider's Guide to Spanish Food, Wine, Culture and Travel

"My good friend Gerry Dawes, the unbridled Spanish food and wine enthusiast cum expert whose writing, photography, and countless crisscrossings of the peninsula have done the most to introduce Americans—and especially American food professionals—to my country's culinary life. . .” - - Chef-restaurateur-humanitarian José Andrés, Nobel Peace Prize Nominee and Oscar Presenter 2019; Chef-partner of Mercado Little Spain at Hudson Yards, New York 2019


Jewish Spain: Iglesia de Santa María de las Nieves, Popularly Known as Santa María la Blanca, at the Edge of The Barrio de Santa Cruz, The Ancient Jewish Quarter of Sevilla

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(Note:  All text & photographs, except when otherwise indicated, are by Gerry Dawes©2019.)

Entrance to the former synagogue, earlier mosque that is now la Iglesia de Santa Maria de los Nieves,popularly known as Santa María la Blanca. Photo by Gerry Dawes©2019

After a morning jaunt across my old barrio, the Barrio de Santa Cruz, the old Jewish Quarter of Sevilla, we went to Santa María de la Nieves church, more popularly known as Santa María la Blanca, (the same name as the exceptional other former synagogue in Toledo, also called Santa María la Blanca).  This church was built on the foundations of both the original small neighborhood mosque that was converted after the re-conquest of Sevilla from the Moors in the 13th Century into a synagogue used by Jews in the Jewish barrio of Sevilla (the barrio where I lived off and on for parts of five years).   Santa María la Blanca was a synagogue until the late 14th Century, when, after a terrible pogrom, it was converted into a Christian church.   

Santa María la Blanca is also the name of the street where the former synagogue is located.

Santa María la Blanca, with its overwrought, overwhelming and over-the-top Baroque decoration, as spectacular and meticulously restored as it is, will be somewhat of a disappointment to those looking for vestiges of the synagogue. 
Santa María la Blanca's overwrought, overwhelming and over-the-top Baroque decoration.

Almost nothing of the former synagogue is evident, except for the front entrance to the church, which was apparently the front door of the synagogue, and the much restored and altered rounded mudéjar-designed arches that are remnants of the synagogue (surprisingly not the former mosque) supported by columns whose originals were replaced with ones of red marble from Antequera.  
The rounded mudéjar-design arches that are most re-worked remnants of the synagogue.

These arches are somewhat reminiscent of other Jewish synagogues like the sublime Santa María la Blanca in Toledo in which Jewish congregations adopted and commissioned the popular mudéjar, or Moorish-inspired architecture of that epoch, usually done by Moorish artisans, bricklayers, etc. working under Christian rule. Often the three cultures--Christian, Jewish and Moorish--overlapped, so sometimes you see a mix of influences.

12th-Century Ibn Shushan Synagogue in Toledo, now Santa Maria La Blanca, but used mostly as a museum site of Jewish culture in Toledo.  Notice the decorative arquillos (little arches; above the main arches).  These synagogue arquillos were also found under some Murillo paintings during restoration a few years ago of Santa Maria La Blanca in Sevilla (see below). 

 These synagogue arquillos, little arches, were also found under some Murillo paintings during restoration a few years ago at Santa Maria La Blanca in Sevilla. 

 Floor plan of the 14th Century synagogue that became Santa Maria La Blanca church in Sevilla.

Sideview of of the 14th Century synagogue that became Santa Maria La Blanca church in Sevilla.

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About Gerry Dawes

Gerry Dawes is the Producer and Program Host of Gerry Dawes & Friends, a weekly radio progam on WPWL 103.7 FM Pawling Public Radio in Pawling, New York.

 Dawes was awarded Spain's prestigious Premio Nacional de Gastronomía (National Gastronomy Award) in 2003. He writes and speaks frequently on Spanish wine and gastronomy and leads gastronomy, wine and cultural tours to Spain. He was a finalist for the 2001 James Beard Foundation's Journalism Award for Best Magazine Writing on Wine, won The Cava Institute's First Prize for Journalism for his article on cava in 2004, was awarded the CineGourLand “Cinéfilos y Gourmets” (Cinephiles & Gourmets) prize in 2009 in Getxo (Vizcaya) and received the 2009 Association of Food Journalists Second Prize for Best Food Feature in a Magazine for his Food Arts article, a retrospective piece about Catalan star chef, Ferran Adrià. 

In December, 2009, Dawes was awarded the Food Arts Silver Spoon Award in a profile written by José Andrés

". . .That we were the first to introduce American readers to Ferran Adrià in 1997 and have ever since continued to bring you a blow-by-blow narrative of Spain's riveting ferment is chiefly due to our Spanish correspondent, Gerry "Mr. Spain" Dawes, the messianic wine and food journalist raised in Southern Illinois and possessor of a self-accumulated doctorate in the Spanish table. Gerry once again brings us up to the very minute. . ." - - Michael & Ariane Batterberry, Editor-in-Chief/Publisher and Founding Editor/Publisher, Food Arts, October 2009. 
Pilot for a reality television series on wine, gastronomy, culture and travel in Spain.

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