Sacred Realm: The Emergence of the Synagogue in the Ancient World

By Steven Fine | Go to book overview

5 Synagogues in the Land of Israel
The Art and Architecture of Late Antique Synagogues

RACHEL HACHLILI University of Haifa

One of the main contributions of this exhibition is that, for the first time, material evidence for synagogues in the Land of Israel has been assembled in a single place. Pieces that left their homeland over a century ago only to reside in European collections have been brought together with artifacts that were excavated only a few years ago to tell the story of the synagogue and its development in the Land of Israel during the Roman and Byzantine periods. This chapter surveys the remains of ancient synagogues in the Land of Israel, stressing both the unifying features of these buildings and the uniqueness of each building. I will also suggest parallels with Christian and pagan architecture and art. We will begin by briefly presenting the architecture of Second Temple period synagogues and then move on to the architecture and art of synagogues during late antiquity.


SYNAGOGUES DURING THE SECOND TEMPLE PERIOD

Though synagogues during the Second Temple period are mentioned in a number of literary sources, and even in an inscription from Jerusalem, 1 no building was identified as a synagogue until the excavation of Masada by Yigael Yadin, son of E.L. Sukenik, during the early 1960s. 2 Since then structures at Herodium, 3 Gamla, 4 Migdal, 5 and Capernaum (Plate XXI) 6 have been interpreted as synagogues. 7

The structures at Masada, Herodium, and Gamla are all somewhat similar in architecture. The largest is Gamla, 18.5 X 24.2 meters. All are rectangular halls divided by rows of columns into a central nave and side aisles. At Masada, Herodium, and Gamla stepped benches were erected on all four walls of the hall facing the center. The focal point of

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Sacred Realm: The Emergence of the Synagogue in the Ancient World
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Director's Preface ix
  • Editor's Preface xiii
  • Acknowledgments xv
  • Donors xvii
  • Lenders to the Exhibition xxi
  • Historical Chronology xxiii
  • Foreword - The Ancient Synagogue and the History of Judaism xxvii
  • 1 - Ancient Synagogues an Archaeological Introduction 3
  • 2 - From Meeting House to Sacred Realm 21
  • 3 - Diaspora Synagogues 48
  • 4 - Diaspora Synagogues 67
  • 5 - Synagogues in the Land of Israel 96
  • 6 - Synagogues in the Land of Israel 130
  • Contributors 153
  • Catalogue of Objects in the Exhibition 155
  • Late Additions to the Exhibition 176
  • Notes 177
  • Glossary 183
  • Selected Bibliography 185
  • Photographic Credits 193
  • Index 195
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