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Building Types

Architectural Style

From about the middle of the 19th century, especially in western and central Europe, synagogues emerged as public buildings, to rival the places of worship of the Christian majority. This development coincided with the "Age of Historicism" in architectural history, when "Revival" styles became fashionable. Paradoxically, this was also a period of great technological advance when new materials, such as cast ironGlossary Term, were put to use in the reinterpretation of traditional styles. Jews were not immune from the debate amongst architectural experts as to which of the historical styles would be most appropriate to express their collective identity: ClassicalGlossary Term, RomanesqueGlossary Term, GothicGlossary Term or RenaissanceGlossary Term.

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Liverpool, Princes Road Synagogue

A new style that became associated particularly with the Jews is the so-called "Orientalist" style. Moorish (sometimes called "Saracenic") and Islamic, ByzantineGlossary Term and even Assyrian and Mogul-inspired styles, sporting domes, turrets and minarets, made a confident statement, indicative of the Jews' supposedly eastern origins. Large synagogues featured lavish interiors, awash with multi-coloured decoration in paint, stencilling and mosaic. Orientalism in synagogue architecture began in the German lands in the 1830s but by the late nineteenth century had found echoes all over Europe.



A style which originated at Byzantium (Constantinople), the Eastern capital of the Roman Empire, in the 5th century, spreading around the Mediterranean and, with Eastern (Orthodox) Christianity, from Sicily to Russia in later centuries. It developed the round arches, vaults and domes of Roman architecture but eschewed formalized classical detail in favour of lavish decoration and ornament of emblematic and symbolic significance. Introduced to late 19th- and early 20th-century Britain as an alternative to Gothic, usually for church architecture; often called Neo-Byzantine.

Cast iron

Hard and brittle iron, cast in a mould to the required shape rather than forged. Compare wrought iron.


A term used for the architecture of Ancient Greece and Rome, revived at the Renaissance and subsequently imitated around the Western world. It uses a range of conventional forms, the roots of which are the orders, or types of column each with its fixed proportions and ornaments (especially Doric, Ionic and Corinthian). Classical buildings tend also to be symmetrical, both externally and on plan. Classical architecture in England began c. 1530 with applied ornamental motifs, followed within a few decades by fully-fledged new buildings.


The style of the Middle Ages from the later 12th century to the Renaissance, with which it co-existed in certain forms into the 17th century. Characterized in its full development by the pointed arch, the rib-vault and an often skeletal masonry structure for churches, combined with large glazed windows. The term was originally associated with the concept of the barbarian Goths as assailants of classical civilization.


The revival of classical architecture that began in 15th-century Italy and spread through Western Europe and the Americas in the following two centuries, finding distinctive forms and interpretations in different states and regions. From c. 1830 the Italian version was revived in Britain as a style in its own right (sometimes called Neo-Renaissance or Italianate), i.e. as distinguished from the native Georgian classical tradition.


The dominant style of Western Europe in the 11th and 12th centuries. It is associated especially with the expansion of monasticism and the building of large stone churches, and is characterized by massive masonry, round-headed arches and vaulting inspired by ancient Roman precedent, and by the use of stylized ornament. In England it is commonly known as Norman.