Great Synagogue of Florence

Great Synagogue of Florence

Great Synagogue of Florence
Tempio Maggiore Israelitico di Firenze (Italian)
Great Synagogue of Florence.
Basic information
Location Florence, Tuscany, Italy
Geographic coordinates
Affiliation Judaism
Architectural description
Architectural type Synagogue
Groundbreaking 1874
Completed 1882

The Great Synagogue of Florence or Tempio Maggiore is a notable synagogue in Florence, Italy.

History and architecture

Dome of the synagogue

The synagogue was built between 1874 and 1882 thanks to a large donation made by David Levi, a member of the local Jewish community. His legacy was to build a synagogue worthy of Florence's beauty. The architects were Mariano Falcini, Professor Vincente Micheli, and Marco Treves, who was Jewish. Their design integrated the architectural traditions of the Islamic and Italian worlds.[1]

Layers of travertine and granite alternate in the masonry, creating a striped effect like that of the Siena Cathedral. Old photographs show bold red and beige stripes, but the bold colors of the stone have faded over time, leaving a more mottled effect.[1]

The overall plan of the synagogue is cruciform. The central dome raised on pendentives is reminiscent of the Hagia Sophia and many mosques inspired by it. The corner towers are topped with horseshoe-arched towers themselves topped with onion domes in the Moorish Revival style. Three horseshoe arches form the main entrance, above which rise tiers of ajimez windows, with their paired horseshoe arches sharing a single column.[1] The natural copper roof was oxidized to green so that it would stand out in the Florentine skyline.

Inside the building "every square inch is covered with colored designs," in Moorish patterns.[1] The interior mosaics and frescoes are by Giovanni Panti. Giacomo del Medico designed the great arch.[2]

During World War II Fascist soldiers used the synagogue as a vehicle garage. In August 1944 retreating German troops worked with Italian Fascists to lay explosives to destroy the synagogue. However, Italian resistance fighters managed to defuse most of the explosives and only a limited amount of damage was done. What damage was done was restored after the war. The synagogue was restored yet again after damage from the flood of the River Arno in 1966.[3]

Replicas of the Great Synagogue

The Great synagogue of Florence has been widely admired.

Jewish community in Florence

The Jewish community in Florence is composed of about 1400 people. However, it has a long history which reaches back to the medieval era. However, there was a nearby Jewish community in the Oltrarno area, south of the Arno river that dates to the Roman Era. It is known that the first synagogue was built in the 13th century.


  1. ^ a b c d H.A. Meek, The Synagogue, Phaidon, London, 1995, p.198
  2. ^ Synagogue of Florence, The :: Via Farini 4, Florence, Tuscany, Italy :: Glass Steel and Stone
  3. ^ Tempio Maggiore, The Great Synagogue of Florence, Italy

External links

  • Jewish Community of Florence