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Synagogue architecture is a rich concoction, taking inspiration from local tastes and fashion, reflecting the diverse places where Jews have lived in their long history of wandering.

Solomon's Temple is described in the Book of Kings 1. It has long been thought that the façade of the Second Temple (destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE) was of a tripartite design and in a classicalGlossary Term style. This has been much imitated in later synagogue design. The Temple was built of the lightGlossary Term gold limestone, "Jerusalem stone" found in the surrounding Judean hills, hewn in huge blocks with ridged edges, so-called Herodian stones, and was liberally decoratedGlossary Term with gold and marble.

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Altneuschul, Prague

Jewish law (Halakhah) sets out only very general guidelines for the form or style of the synagogue. The synagogue must contain windows, as did the Temple, and it must rise higher than the surrounding houses - although this was often difficult when Jews lived in unsympathetic surroundings. Very often the local ruler insisted that the spireGlossary Term of the church or the minaret of the mosque be the tallest structure around. Sometimes the Jews lowered the floor of the synagogue internally in orderGlossary Term to ensure that their prayers did indeed rise "from out of the depths." (Psalm 130). The most famous example is Prague's GothicGlossary Term Altneuschul.

Religious and political persecution and economic deprivation historically kept synagogues discreet and often modest in scale and off the public street, until the era of Jewish emancipation in Europe in the 19th century. Consequently, effort was concentrated on the interior decoration, in accordance with the rabbinic injunction of Hiddur Mitzvot or the "beautification of the commandments".


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