Wednesday, January 18, 2017

The Great Synagogue of Basel


The Great Synagogue of Basel was built in 1868.

But, it says on the plaque, the first synagogue of Basel existed already in 1200.

A friend took me to Basel on a cold gray day in December.
We looked at the exterior of the impressive building but everything was locked up.
It was a Shabbat afternoon and not a soul was to be seen.

But we can learn from the Jewish Virtual Library website that

the Great Synagogue is a national landmark.  The synagogue, first built in 1868, was expanded and renovated several times over the past century-and-a-half. The Great Synagogue, at Leimenstrasse 24, houses two synagogues, a choir, mikveh, and is beautifully designed. Next door to the synagogue is the community center, library, and day school.
That website, by the way, tells the not always happy history of Jews in Switzerland since the Middle Ages;  very interesting, and not what you'd expect.

The nice website of the Basel Jewish Community, however, paints a rosy picture of today's Jewish situation:

Around 2000 Jews live in and around Basel, a dynamic commercial and industrial city with a rich culture and located in the heart of Europe. Founded over 200 years ago, the Israelitische Gemeinde Basel (IGB) is one of the largest Jewish communities in Switzerland. It is equipped with all the necessary organizations and a well-developed infrastructure. The community is an institution under public law, and legally on equal terms with the churches. As a so-called united community, the IGB includes Jewish members of any religious orientation. It is run according to the rules of the Halacha.
While the majority of the members of the IGB identify with a non-practicing direction of Judaism, there is still a vibrant religious life in this Community. Daily Shacharith as well as Minchah and Ma’ariv services are carried out. Before the Shacharith service, a Daf Yomi takes place daily. On almost all shabbat mornings, the Synagogue Choir Basel contributes to the service. The IGB is one of the few communities in Europe, in which all shabbat as well as Yom Tov services are led by a full-time and professional chazan [cantor].

You can click on my photos a few times to see the details.
And don't miss  panoramic views of the interior at Synagogues360.
UPDATE: The building has undergone many changes in its long history, including the addition of the two domes.   Here is how it looked in 1930:

(Linking to inSPIREd Sunday,  ABC Wednesday and Our World Tuesday.)


William Kendall said...

Beautiful architecture to this synagogue!

Hels said...

Great photos! And amazing architecture, especially since Basel probably did not have the largest Jewish community in the world. But I am not sure about the neo-Romanesque description. To my eyes the red stripes and the beautiful cupolas look more Byzantine.

Melody Steenkamp said...

Impressive Dina.... do you feel humble, entering buildings like these, fall silent and in thoughts? I always experience emotions like that entering churches etc.

Have a nice ABC-Wednesday / _ Week
♫ M e l ☺ d y ♫ (abc=w=team)

Dina said...

Hels, I took that "neo-Romanesque" architecture description from one of the websites about the synagogue. Probably they were referring to its original form. (In any case, I deleted it now, to make it clearer.) The building has been changed several times, with the two domes added later, and the stripes added sometime after 1930, adding to that Byzantine look. I found a photo from 1930 and added it to the post. Looks quite different, eh?

Melody, I have to think about your question.

Klara S said...

It's a very interesting post about synagogue and Jewish community in Basel.

Alice said...

Lovely Dina Thank you for posting these beautiful pictures.

Klara S said...

I have the same. There is always this special atmosphere in churches, synagogues, you remain silent, concentrated in your thoughts.

Kay L. Davies said...

A beautiful place, evolving over the years.
An Unfittie's Guide to Adventurous Travel

Dina said...

Melody and Klara, I too feel that in the ancient churches of Jerusalem and some of the medieval churches of Europe, especially in the crypt, especially when you feel the vibration of the great bells ringing overhead. But only if I am alone, only if the place is not packed with tourists. Less so in synagogues. We Jews don't have so much the idea of a Jewish house of prayer being a "holy-place."
Some say that some of the great cathedrals were intentionally built on top of places with special energy stemming from ground radiations, electromagnetic fields, etc. Some claim it can even be measured in Boviseinheiten (Bovis units?). In German these places are called Kraftorte or Kraftplatze.

I once blogged about such a place right here in Israel:

Cloudia said...

Thank You Dina

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this interesting information on Basel and the importance of the synagogue. What I don't know :-)
PS I answered you question on my blog

Roger Owen Green said...

intriguing building


Kay said...

This is a different look from what I imagine synagogues to look like. It is beautiful though.

Jim said...

Love the stripes

♥ Łucja-Maria ♥ said...

Hello Dina!

I really like the architecture of the synagogue.
Very interesting relationship.

Your photos are excellent !!!!
Blessed Sunday :)

Tom said...

Dina, thanks for showing the old photo, it's interesting to see how it has changed over the years. Have a wonderful week.

Monika B said...

Beautifully you put this synagogue.
Very interesting about her you told.

Mascha said...

Beautiful building, I think, I saw it in 1990, as I was for one day in Basel (after the collapse of the GDR I could travel).
In my nearest town Halberstadt the synagoge was destroyed, but there is a museum now (Moses-Mendelssohn Academy) and sometimes I hope, I can visit the old Jewish Cemetery. But it's not public, to much vandalism :(

Black Jack's Carol said...

Interesting changes to the architecture of The Great Synagogue and fascinating information about the history of Jewish people in Switzerland. Too much to explore now, but I hope to come back and check out some of your links. I'm not Jewish but taught music in an orthodox girls' school in Montreal. Also taught piano lessons in many of my students' homes. Feel a strong connection to the culture.

Bill Nicholls said...

The jews have never had a happy time in any country but they still are there today, says a lot for them