With so much attention devoted to exquisite cathedral, and church architecture, we thought it was time to look at some superb synagogues finaly.
From the famous to the obscure, these peerless temples of worship serve notice that structural beauty is not simply the domain of one faith. We placed them in Top 10 without pericular order.
1. Garnethill Synagogue, Glasgow
Believe it or not, Simon Cowell, Alicia Silverstone, J.D. Salinger and Robert Downey, Jr. are all descendants of Scottish Jews. Mark Knopfler, legendary Dire Straits frontman and guitarist, is a Glasgow-born Jew. While there are only about 6,500 Jews in Scotland today, the community has a rich past in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen. The stupendous Garnethill Synagogue is a major piece of the puzzle.
2. Temple Ohabei Shalom, Brookline, Massachusetts
One of the oldest synagogues in New England and by extension the United States, the Reform Temple Ohabei Shalom in Brookline dates back to 1851. On the border of Boston, Brookline has a population just over 50,000, a large percentage of which are Russian immigrants and Jews. In fact, Jews make up over 35% of Brookline’s residents. Once a haven for the affluent, the community is still replete with stately summer homes that date back to the 19th century.
3. Tempio Maggiore, Florence
In a city with a notable embarrassment of riches as far as architecure is concerned, the Tempio Maggiore provides Florence with one of the most magnificent synagogues in the world. Built by a team of three architects between 1874 and 1882, one of whom was Jewish, the final design incorporated features from the Islamic and Italian schools. The result was a cruciform Hagia Sophia shape, similar to many mosques, with Moorish Revival domes. With damage done to the Great Synagogue by the Nazis and Italian fascists during World War II, in addition to destruction after the great flood of 1966, significant upgrades have been done to the structure over the decades. It remains however, one of the must-see attractions in Florence.
4. 6th & I Historic Synagogue, Washington, D.C.
One of the oldest temples of worship in Washington, D.C. the 6th & I is part synagogue, part community center and part concert and exhibition hall. It was only recently, in 2004, that the historic building was returned to the Jewish community, after being used as a church for over five decades. With heavy participation by Washington Wizards owner Abe Pollin, a team of architects recreated the aesthetic of the original structure from old wedding photos.
5. Szeged Synagogue, Hungary
A beautiful small city on the Tisza River, Szeged is a wonderful destination in Hungary. With just over 160,000 people and a history that dates back about one thousand years, there’s a lot to soak up in Szeged. A tidy, idyllic old town with many UNESCO-worthy landmarks for one, in addition to a vibrant civic life. The Szeged Synagogue, from a forested hilltop perch, is one of the most beautiful skyline gems.
6. New Synagogue, Berlin
With strong Moorish design influences, the spectacular New Synagogue in Berlin provides the German capital with a unique landmark in the country. Built as the city’s principal synagogue in 1866, it remains a building with a rich history and central object of study for Berlin’s future architects.
7. Touro Synagogue, Newport, Rhode Island
While not as ornate as some of the others on the list, the Touro Synagogue is notable as the only colonial synagogue left in the United States and therefore, the oldest in the country. All this in the wealthy and preppy community of Newport, Rhode Island. Today the National Historic Site does not have a hometown congregation per se but will, on occasion in the summer months, perform services.
8. Old-New Synagogue, Prague
This incredibly historic landmark in Prague is the oldest active synagogue in Europe. With a medieval design that dates back to the late 13th century, the Old-New Synagogue was miraculously unharmed by the Nazis in World War II.
9. Old Synagogue, Krakow
One of the most culturally and historically wealthy cities in all of Europe, Krakow is a destination every curious and knowledge-thirsty tourist needs to visit at least once. With so much to see, it would be easy to overlook the modest Old Synagogue. Don’t however. The Orthodox temple of worhsip is one of the most significant in the world and until the Nazi invasion of the city in 1939, was the heart of the Jewish community. Although it was looted and destroyed by Hitler’s forces, it was subsequently renovated and serves as a museum today.
10. Reform Synagogue in Bratislava
Even thou this one doesnt exist, has stilll place in our Top 10. It is one of the Reform synagogues of Bratislava, built 1893-1895 to the designs of Dezso Milch. This synagogue survived the Nazis but was torn down by the Communists to make way for a highway and bridge over Danube river in early 1972.
The first one on the top of the article, is the largest temple in the world, placed in Jerusalem - Belz World center. There are still some superb buildings all around the globe left. Even they did not make it into Top 10, they deserve to be mentioned.