Judaism has long been a source of contention and extreme hostility throughout the history of Europe. Thus, the evolution of synagogues has been witness to times of construction, destruction, and revitalization throughout the continent. This lecture will focus on the development of synagogues across Europe over the last two millennia. Much of the information presented here will delve into the ethnic and racial diversity that has consumed Europe, the tension that has resulted from it, and how the presence and architecture of the synagogue has been impacted because of those existing conditions. The case studies will be examined from locations with larger and denser amounts of Jewish populations (Eastern Europe), in addition to examples in times and places where it was considered more dangerous to the lives of Jewish persons to practice their religion (i.e. Western Europe, Nazi Germany). From examining these social and political conditions, this lecture will present the styles, forms, and details that the synagogues are able to achieve. Those aspects will provide a range of instances including synagogues that were tucked away in dense urban settings such as the “Old-New Synagogue” in Prague, to illustrations of a population that is more integrated into mainstream society and whose architecture reflects that as in the case of “The Portuguese Synagogue” in Amsterdam. Examining such a selection of case studies from locations and eras across Europe will permit the ability to observe and analyze trends that have occurred, and then materialized physically to be visually perceptive via the synagogue.
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