Great Synagogue of London
The Great Synagogue of London was, for centuries, the centre of Ashkenazi synagogue and Jewish life in London. It was destroyed during World War II, in the Blitz.

The earliest Ashkenazi synagogue constructed in London after the return of Jews to England in the 17th century was built about 1690 at Duke's Place, north of Aldgate. The congregation grew, and in 1722 a new building was erected with the cost being born by businessman and philanthropist, Moses Hart. An enlarged building, designed by George Dance the Elder, was consecrated in 1766. Between 1788 and 1790, the third synagogue was built on the site. This building would stand until destroyed by the Germans in 1941. Unusually for the times, the principal donor was a woman, Judith Hart Levy, a descendant of Moses Hart. The architect was James Spiller. The building was in the classical style identified with Adam. It was redecorated and repaired in 1832 and 1852 by John Walen, and restored again with small renovations in 1899 and 1930. The Royal Dukes of Cambridge, Cumberland, and Essex, sons of George III, visited the Great Synagogue of London in 1809. There were seated on elegant Egyptian revival chairs as they watched the religious service. The synagogue was destroyed in the London Blitz on May 10, 1941.

The Rabbis of the Great Synagogue, and their terms of office, included:
  • Aaron Hart, 1704-1756
  • Hart Lyon, 1758-1764
  • David Tevele Schiff, 1765-1792
  • Solomon Hirschell, 1802-1842
  • Nathan Marcus Adler, 1845-1890
  • Hermann Adler, 1890-1911

Myer Lyon was hazzan at the Synagogue from 1767. For some time he also doubled as an opera singer at Covent Garden Theatre under the name 'Michael Leoni'.

In art
In 1819 an aquatint of the interior was drawn by Augustus Charles Pugin and Thomas Rowlandson, and originally published in the popular illustrated magazine of the period, Ackermann's Repository of Arts . Pugin drew a handsome representation of the Ionic columns supporting the balconies and the classical decoration of the building. Rowlandson drew caricatures of the congregants, with the hunched shoulders and exaggerated noses traditionally attributed to Jews.

Building Activity

  • Kiril Pavlov
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    about 6 years ago via