Wandering Camera

Album 310
(Translated b
y Michael Tarley Jr.)


The following two albums are about the Large Choral Synagogue.
There haven't been any synagogues in our albums, as far as I remember.
Just in time too - some significant reconstruction work has been recently completed, so this worked out well.


The synagogue is located at Lermontov Prostect, 2, (not far from the Theater Square). An out-of-the way kind of place one wouldn't accidentally notice.
The building was erected in 1893 on the order of, or, rather, with a permission of Alexander II in 1869.

The project's architects were I. Shaposhnikov and L. Bahman. V. Stasov and Benua also participated.

The building is constructed in the Mauritian style.

Prior to reconstruction, the whole of the synagogue was painted in a color similar to that of the cupola; now there is greater variety.

The sign at the top:

To the left of this photo there is a sign:

"Reconstruction of the Large Choral Synagogue is performed by Mr. and Mrs. Safra from 2000 to 2003.

On 5 Tamuz 5761 - 26 June 2001 the large hall was reopened after reconstruction.

To my mind it is a bit immodest to name a synagogue after the sponsor. Even if the sum was $5 million. :-)

The left side of the building is either still to be painted or this is the original plan.
Same place, on the left, a bit further inside the yard, there is another, less noticeable building.

This is the Small Synagogue. It was built in 1886. The services were conducted here during the construction of the Large Synagogue.

According to one of our readers: "the Small Synagogue in the yard belongs to Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidim. The bosses of the Large Synagogue have always treated them with certain coolness."

 (The sign says "Prepare for the Coming of the Moshiah".)

This is not as scary as it sounds :-)

"Moshiah" means "Messiah", who's coming the religious Jews still wait for. Meanwhile the Christians believe the wait has been over for the last 2004 years.

In other words, nothing too original.

The Saint Petersburg Synagogue is the second largest in Europe. The largest one, in Budapest, is also built in the Mauritian style.

One must admit that selecting the spot to build on, even after Alexander II's order to do so, was rather difficult.

In particular, there could be no Orthodox Christian churches near by, nor government roads (i.e. ones used by the Czar), etc.

Another little amusing fact was the requirement to close all other prayer houses (after the opening of the Synagogue, of course).

Also, the architects' original proposal had to be greatly reduced (the building's height is 45 meters instead of 65; there a third less space inside; there is no second cupola) due to:
"...His Majesty noting that 'a more modest appearance befit the building of the first synagogue in the capital, corresponding to the civic standing of Jews in our homeland'"

And, of course, an important reason for building on this spot was that this area (Pod'yacheskaya's', Masterskay's' and others on that side of the Sennaya street) was a historical location of Jewish settlement in Saint Petersburg.

As to the prayer houses mentioned above, they never were closed done under the Czar :).

A plaque from older times.
The fence was built later, in 1909, by architects I. N. Ropet and A. D. Schwartzman.
I am told that a synagogue, unlike a Christian church, is not a Temple, but just a house, where the Jews come for communal prayer, study of the Tora (the Bible) - and also just to talk. That is why one is not enjoined there from walking about, speaking loudly and even smoking (not during the Sabbath, of course). Nor from eating and drinking during the holidays.
A view outside from the yard - nothing much really. :)
In the next album we will look at the interior of the Synagogue.

A new guest album by Dmitri Avdeev about Saint-Petersburg is now available.



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