Great Synagogue (Sydney)

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The Great Synagogue
The Great Synagogue Sydney.JPG
The Great Synagogue front entrance in Elizabeth Street
Basic information
Location 187a Elizabeth Street, Sydney, Australia
Affiliation Orthodox Judaism
District Central Business District
Country Australia
Year consecrated 4 March 1878
Leadership Rabbi Dr. Benjamin Elton
Architectural description
Architect(s) Thomas Rowe, Aaron Loveridge (stonework), partly supervised by Walter Liberty Vernon
Architectural type Synagogue
Architectural style Moorish Revival, Victorian Free Gothic[1]
Completed 1883
Construction cost over £23,000[2]
Direction of façade East
Length one hundred and forty feet
Width sixty-four feet
Materials Sandstone from the Pyrmont quarries
More information
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The Great Synagogue is a large synagogue in Sydney. It is located in Elizabeth Street opposite Hyde Park and extends back to Castlereagh Street.

Description and history[edit]

The Great Synagogue was designed by architect Thomas Rowe (who was Cornish not Jewish), and consecrated in 1878. It combines elements of Byzantine style and Gothic characteristics.[3] This grand building is often described as the "cathedral synagogue" of Australia.

The 1848 Synagogue in Sydney

The Sydney Jewish community, which dated to the earliest days of the colony, met in rented spaces before building its first synagogue, designed in Egyptian style by James Hume in 1844.[4] It was the first Egyptian Revival building in Australia.[5]

The present synagogue has the traditional feature of an elevated ladies' gallery. When first erected, the bimah was central, as is traditional. However, to increase seating capacity the bimah was moved forward to the western wall in 1906.

Over the years, extensive additions and alterations have been made to the other facilities appurtenant to this building, including the construction of a succah, excavation and construction of a large reception area below the synagogue itself, construction of the Rabbi Falk Memorial Library, installation of electricity in the chandeliers, and installation of a "shabbat" elevator.

A useful overview of the synagogue's history is provided by the recent book edited by Rabbi Raymond Apple.[6]

The building is listed on the Register of the National Estate.[7]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ The Great Synagogue
  2. ^ Apple, Raymond, Rabbi, The Great Synagogue: A History of Sydney's Big Shule, p. 7
  3. ^ "Welcome to the Great Synagogue, Sydney", "Visiting The Great Synagogue, Sydney", 19 February 2008.
  4. ^
  5. ^ Diana Muir Appelbaum, "Jewish Identity and Egyptian Revival Architecture", Journal of Jewish Identities, 2012 5(2) p. 7.
  6. ^ Raymond Apple (Editor), The Great Synagogue: A History of Sydney's Big Shule, UNSW Press, 2008
  7. ^ The Heritage of Australia, Macmillan Company, 1981, p. 2/99
  8. ^ Raymond Apple (Editor), The Great Synagogue: A History of Sydney's Big Shule, UNSW Press, 2008

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 33°52′22″S 151°12′34″E / 33.87265°S 151.20947°E / -33.87265; 151.20947