Research of the Great Synagogue
Archaeological research of the Great Synagogue & Shulhoyf of Vilna (Vilnius) took place on July 1 – 19, 2019. The archaeological research of the Great Synagogue began in 2011 when the remains of the Great Synagogue were first located. In 2016-2017, remnants of the public bathhouse of the Jewish community of Vilnius and two Mikves (ritual baths) were exposed. The major result of the excavation in 2018 was the exposure of the Bimah, and the work in 2019 included expansion of this excavation, with further activity to reveal the Bimah and the walls of the Great Synagogue.
The joint Lithuanian-Israeli-American excavation and research project of the Great Synagogue of Vilna (Vilnius) was lead by teams from the “Kulturos paveldo išsaugojimo pajegos” of Lithuania and the “Israel Antiquities Authority”. The research was financed by the Good Will Foundation and by members of the research team. Project partners are Jewish Community of Lithuania and Vilnius City Municipality.
Dr. Jon Seligman – Israel Antiquities Authority
Zenonas Baubonis, Dr. Gintautas Zabiela, Justinas Račas –
VšĮ „Kultūros paveldo išsaugojimo pajėgos“, Lithuania
Prof. Richard Freund – Maurice Greenberg Center for Judaic Studies, University of Hartford
Prof. Harry Jol – University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire
Prof. Philip Reeder – Duquesne University
The brick Great Synagogue of Vilna (Vilnius) was built in the 17th century in the Renaissance-Baroque style to replace a wooden synagogue built on the same site a century earlier. Over time the synagogue developed into the communal centre of Jewish life of the city and was surrounded by 12 kloyzen (small study synagogues), the administrative centre of the community and a bathhouse which contained the Mikve (ritual baths), all situated around two courtyards known as the Shulhoyf. In 1903 the important Strashun rabbinical library moved to a new building erected between the Great Synagogue and Žydų Street. During the Second World War, the Great Synagogue and the Shulhoyf buildings were severely damaged. Between 1955 and 1957 the remains were demolished and in 1964 a brick kindergarten was built over the site of the Great Synagogue.