The architecture of synagogues in essence differ from other sacral buildings in Lithuania. The specific character of synagogues and their forms are conditioned by functional requirements, pertaining to Jewish temples: partition into men's and women's sides, the position of the places for Torah's reading and its storage. A synagogue is visually closed, rather monumental building. Its volume is compact, often similar to a cube, shape rectangular.

The interior of the Great synagogue in Vilnius

The entrance is in the West side of the building. It leads to the main hall for men and premises for women. In the center of men's hall a platform is constructed. It is the bima designed for Torah's readings. There is a bay or a cupboard ( ) in the eastern wall, which faces Jerusalem. They are meant for Torah's storage. On the first floor, one, two or three sides (except for the eastern one) are dedicated to women's galleries. In small, one-storey synagogues women are placed in a corridor on the right side of the hall.


The oldest known synagogue, captured in pictures and sketches is the Great synagogue in Vilnius, built in the age of Renaissance and later reconstructed. It stood at the heart of the quarter and, in order not to rise higher than other houses was planted in the depth of two meters. The exterior was of simple Renaissance forms with a Classical two-storey wooden gallery, attached to the triangle pediment. The interior, on the contrary, was magnificent.

More ritual and communal buildings were constructed around the synagogue. Thus in the course of time an entire "town" with two inner yards (in Yiddish - shulhoif) was formed in the densely inhabited quarter. These buildings were partly destroyed during WWII and later completely taken down.


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Jews in Lithuania, Vilnius, 1999-2000