The Renovated Great Synagogue of Edirne To Be Opened

Image The Great Synagogue of Edirne renevoted by the Prime Ministry General Directorate of Foundations will be opened on Thursday, 26 March 2015 at 14:00 with a ceremony to be honoured by the participation of Deputy Prime Minister and Government Spokesperson Mr. Bulent Arinc. Nearly 100 guests from abroad, high level bureaucrats from the country, and a group of 500 members of the Turkish Jewish Community are expected to participate in the opening ceremony.

On the occasion of the opening ceremony, information will be provided regarding the restoration efforts and the Jewish community living in Edirne; and prayers and hymns will be recited. The Anoten Prayer will be recited for the health and success of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, and the Mi Shebeirach Prayer will be recited for God’s blessing and abundance.

At the ceremony, a choir will perform selected songs from the Maftirim repertoire in the form of Turkish Sufi Music. A visit will be paid to the Jewish Cemetery in Edirne before the ceremony.

The Great Synagogue is one of the most important faith centres of Edirne, hosting the houses of worship of three sacred religions. It was built with the permission of the Ottoman Government and the edict of Abdulhamid II in January 1906. It is the largest synagogue in Europe, and the third largest in the world.
The faithful restoration and re-opening of the Great Synagogue of Edirne stands as another example of the culture of peaceful co-existence on Anatolian soil.  The restoration of the synagogue was initiated in 2010 in the scope of the reforms addressing the religious freedom and social life requirements of various religious groups in Turkey. The synagogue will be opened for service after five years of effort.

The restoration process included the following steps amongst others:

The synagogue, which had a usage area of 2746 square meters and comprised three buildings, was taken into the scope of restoration efforts by the Prime Ministry General Directorate of Foundations in the last months of 2010.

Among the renovation efforts, the collapsed roof of the synagogue and the interiors were cleaned, the foundation was fortified. Demolished walls were completed, steel construction was erected and the roof was mounted.
The Hebrew inscriptions on the walls of the synagogue were read, transcribed and translated with the contribution of the Turkish Jewish Community and the Chief Rabbinate of Turkey.
Floor covering task was completed by an Armenian Master, Baron Nalbant, in accordance with the original patterns and colours.
Restoration works were conducted in consultation with a Scientific Committee composed of 5 experts in their fields.
Turkey considers it necessary for our historical heritage to preserve the surviving cultural heritage of vestigial communities who lived and continue to live on Anatolian territory regardless of their language, religion or nation. Acting with the awareness of preserving historical relics, Turkey has recently restored and preserved churches and cathedrals on Ani Archaeological Site, Seljuk artefacts, the Church of the Holy Cross on Akdamar Island and structures from the Byzantine era.

In line with the aim of resolving the problems of citizens from different religious groups, one of the most important components of Turkey’s vision for democratization, consultations with the citizens from different religious groups have been intensely ongoing since 2009. We tried to share common sorrows with events such as 27th January Holocaust memorial ceremonies and commemoration of Struma tragedy in order to build a common future with citizens from different religious groups.
The list of other Churches and Synagogues restored/being restored by the Prime Ministry, Directorate General of Foundations is as follows:

Immovables Restored
Gökçeada Saint Nicholas Church
Gökçeada Agia Marina Greek Orthodox Church
Hatay İskenderun Assyrian Catholic Church (The church was allocated to İstanbul Assyrian Catholic Foundation with the decision of Foundations Council.)
Hatay İskenderun Greek Catholic Church (The church was allocated to Antakya Greek Catholic Church with the decision of Foundations Council)
Diyarbakır Sur Armenian Protestant Church
Diyarbakır Sur Armenian Catholic Church
Gaziantep Nizip Fevkani Church
Gaziantep Şahinbey Synagogue

Immovables under Restoration
Ayvalık Cunda Taksiyarhis (St. Nicholas) Church (The church is being restored under the sponsorship of Koç Foundation in order to be used as a museum.)
İstanbul Edirnekapı Saint George Church
Edirne Central Synagogue (Great Synagogue) (Completion of restoration planned for next July.)

Immovables Planned for Restoration
Kilis Central Synagogue
Hatay Yayladağı Greek Orthodox Church
İskenderun Arsuz Mario Hanna Church
Samandağ Yoğunoluk Village Armenian Church
Sephardic Jews who sought refuge in Ottoman Empire and other Jewish Communities founded their own neighbourhoods in Edirne. Each community established its own synagogue and the number of synagogues rose to 13 at the early 20th century. However, the Harik-I Kebir (the Great Fire) of 1903 in Edirne destroyed 1514 houses also damaging the synagogues in the city. Since almost 20 thousand Jewish people were left without a synagogue, the construction of a new synagogue became inevitable.

With the permission of Ottoman Government and edict of Abdul Hamid II, the construction began on January 6, 1906. Following the order of Abdul Hamid II which allowed the construction "of a new stone synagogue and wood rabbinate" on Dhu al-Qi'dah 10, 1323 (January 6, 1906), the construction began on a site which previously hosted the Mayor and Pulya Synagogues in the county of Kaleiçi. Modelled after the Ottoman Sephardic Synagogue in Vienna, the Synagogue was built by the French architect France Depré and cost 1200 gold coins. The synagogue was opened for service on the eve of Pesach in April, 1909, as it was described on its inscription. The synagogue was named as the "Kal Kadoş Agadol" or the Great Synagogue.

The synagogue which was in service until 1983 became vacant since the Jewish Community left the city and the building entered under the control of General Directorate for Foundations in accordance with the respective regulations on foundations in 1995.

The Great Synagogue of Edirne stands out with its magnificence as well as with its architectural features. Vienna's Great Synagogue which was the prime model for the Edirne Synagogue was burnt down during the Kristallnacht by Nazi Party sympathizers. As the synagogue in Vienna was irrevocably destroyed due to racism and anti-Semitism, a house of prayer modelled after it, is being brought to life by the endeavours of General Directorate for Foundations and Turkish Jewish Community.
Last modified onSaturday, 06 May 2017 10:07