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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.


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