Moorish Revival synagogues

In the 19th century, the emergent Jewish community needed an architectural style that matched their growing wealth. the Moorish style, which originated in Spain when the country was under Islamic rule, and its oriental elements became popular throughout Europe. Domes and horseshoe arches began to abound in the newly built synagogues until the early 20th century. Here are some of the best examples of Moorish revival synagogues across Europe.

Wikimedia Commons/Berlin Ex-Smith

New Synagogue of Berlin (Germany)

The New Synagogue of Berlin is an important remembrance building and one of the most prominent examples of the Moorish revival in Germany. Like many other Jewish buildings, the New Synagogue was set on fire on the night of 9 November 1938, the Night of Broken Glass. This historic landmark of 19th century Berlin survived thanks to the rapid action of the police of the district. In the years after the Second World War, the synagogue deteriorated gradually though the façade and its distinctive dome remained intact. It has become a museum and memorial site.

New Synagogue of Berlin
Wikimedia Commons/Fred Romero

Dohány Street Synagogue (Hungary)

Dohany Street Synagogue is Hungary’s best-known synagogue and a Moorish revival masterpiece built between 1854 and 1859. Its two domed towers and Moorish carvings and ornaments make it resemble a mosque. The interior decoration includes paintings with geometrical forms very characteristic of the Moorish revival.

Dohány Street Synagogue
Wikimedia Commons/Oleksandr Mykhaylyk

Great Choral Synagogue (Kyiv)

Located in the neighbourhood of Podil in Kyiv, the great Choral Synagogue is the oldest standing synagogue in Kyiv. It was built by a wealthy merchant in 1895, at a time when the Russian Empire imposed many restrictions on the construction of Jewish temples. After Ukraine’s independence, it was the only functioning synagogue in the city. The most recognizable Moorish elements are the horseshoe arches of the windows and the dome.

Great Choral Synagogue
Wikimedia Commons/jorchr

Malmö Synagogue (Sweden)

Malmö Synagogue was built in 1903 when Art Nouveau was on the rise in Europe. For this reason, it combines the Art Nouveau and Moorish revival styles. The synagogue has a central copper dome and four smaller squashed domes crowning the four tower-like corners. The patterns that adorn the main façade are quite unique.

Malmö Synagogue
Wikimedia Commons/Posterrr

Karaite Kenesa (Ukraine)

This synagogue was built for Karaite Jews, who in contrast to Rabbinic Jews only believe in the written Torah and not in the oral tradition. Originally, it had a central dome, but this was removed during the Second World War after the nazi occupation of Kyiv. The concrete exterior is decorated with geometric carvings and the main entrance has a semicircular arch.

Karaite Kenesa
Wikimedia Commons/Kent Wang

Spanish Synagogue (Czechia)

The Spanish Synagogue in Prague took its name from the Moorish style in which it was built. It was the last synagogue to be built in Prague’s Jewish Quarter. The building is now a museum and place of worship. The composer of the Czech national anthem, František Škroup, worked as an organist here between 1836 and 1845. The synagogues houses now a permanent the exhibition and hosts sacred and classical music concerts.

Spanish Synagogue
Wikimedia Commons/Adam Jones

Sofia Synagogue (Bulgaria)

Sofia's Synagogue is the third largest synagogue in Europe, built to accommodate Sephardic Jews living in the city at the beginning of the 19th century. As well as the Dohany Street Synagogue, it was built by an Austrian architect, who took inspiration from the Leopoldstädter Tempel in Vienna. The synagogue is rectangular in plan, with a central dome, four smaller domes, and several towers. The synagogue now houses the Jewish History Museum.

Sofia Synagogue
Wikimedia Commons/Rufus46

Great Synagogue of Florence

The Great Synagogue of Florence is one of the most important synagogues in Italy and one of the largest synagogues in southern Europe. Its construction began in 1848. Like the European community, the Italian Jewish community was in the process of obtaining full citizenship rights without religious discrimination at that time. Three architects collaborated in its design: Mariano Falcini, Vincente Micheli, and Marco Treves. The Moorish Revival is present in its horseshoe arches and the large central dome.

Great Synagogue of Florence