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The largest synagogue on the Iberian Peninsula.
Kadoorie – Mekor Haim Synagogue (Fountain of Life) is the largest synagogue on the Iberian Peninsula. Its construction began in 1929 and was completed in 1938, at a time when synagogues were being destroyed in Germany. The synagogue’s architectural style may be best described as Art Deco, relatively unusual for a synagogue or any religious structure. It is characterized by simple geometric shapes and lines along with a bold white exterior similar to so many Bauhaus style structures.
According to the original building permit the architect was Lieutenant Augusto dos Santos Malta, an architect trained in the School of Fine Arts of Porto. It is also known that some of these documents were signed by the architect Arthur de Almeida Jr. suggesting that both may have been co-authors of the project. The Master Rogerio de Azevedo, may also have had direct involvement in the work either only at the end of the construction or during the finishing since some parts of the building, including the library woodwork, are very similar to his other significant works. Fine attention to detail is exemplified by the stairways and railings as well as other hardware.
In the early 1920s there were at least twenty Ashkenazi Jews in the city of Porto. A Portuguese army officer, Captain Artur Barros Basto who had converted to Judaism, saw a need for a synagogue. By 1929 Barros Basto had raised funds which enabled him to buy the plot of land on Guerra Junqueiro Street. After obtaining a building permit in November of 1929 construction began. Work progressed slowly until 1933 due to high costs and limited funds, despite the support provided by the Committee for the Spanish-Portuguese Jews of London.
In 1933, Laura Kadoorie, the wife of Jewish philanthropist, Sir Elly Kadoorie, died. Her children desired to honor their mother, who was a descendant of Portuguese Jews who fled that country during the Portuguese Inquisition. Thus, the Kadoorie family financially supported completion of the Synagogue of Porto, which was renamed Synagogue Kadoorie – Mekor Haim.