Friday, January 20, 2006

The Great Synagogue Of Grodna [Hrodna], Belarus, ca. 1625 - 1905 - 2005

"The history of the Grodno Great Synagogue dates back to the first half of the sixteenth century, when Rabbi Iofia invited the Italian architect, Santi Gucci, to Grodno and asked him to design a project for a future synagogue.

At that time, Grodno was a very small town with mixed religions. In the center of the town, the building of a beautiful Catholic church was coming to an end (it still exists). The building of another one [actually several] was started. The bells of the Orthodox church [one dating back to the 11th century and the second oldest in Belarus] were heard through the town every day, and the people of different religious views were living in peace and kindness..."

Please see "Rebuilding the Great Synagogue of Grodno, Belarus" by Kate Suvorina of Grodno School No. 14, and Kate Grib of Grodno School No. 30, from the words of Mikhail Boyarski, the Chairman of the Grodno Jewish Community in Belarus [which, unlike the significantly larger Minsk community, I believe numbered 26 members in 1992.] grodno-synagogue.htm

Italian Renaissance interior of the Great Grodna Synagogue, Belarus (formerly in Poland).

Image credit: cja/ex_b.htm

For an excellent exterior shot of the Grodna Great Synagogue today, as rebuilt in 1905, in mixed European Empire style after exterior fire in 1899, see the Grodno the Synagogue.jpg
בית הכנסת הגדול בגרודנו at

(We viewed the great interior of this World cultural monument by the barest of residual winter twilight. Please, remember to bring a flashlight (torch) when you tour the Renaissance architectual masterpieces of (Western) Belarus -- especially Grodna [Hrodna], Mir, and Nesvizh [the latter two are UNESCO World Heritage Sites undergoing extensive restoration today]. I think that the exterior of the Great Grodna Synagogue, when seen from a short distance near the Old and New Lithuanian and Polish Castles, is even more impressive than the shot referenced here.)


We were also lucky to view a major temporary exhibition, in the Grodna New Castle Palace, and from the inventories of National Museum of Belarus in Minsk, of 38 portraits, over many generations, of members of the Radziwill dynasty; portraits originally from their Radziwill Family Castle at Nesvizh before the occupation of the Castle by the Nazis soon after September 1939 (The last Radziwill Prince was reported to have fled, from Nesvizh, in a small private airplane from a small airfield near the extensive castle English Gardens, as the Nazis approached. The Castle's art works, and rumored earlier Napoleanic era treasure, was apparently well hidden by this time; though, apparently, only the paintings were recovered and made their way to Minsk after 1944.

The Radziwill's also had palaces in Vilno, Poland [Vilnius, Lithuania today] and Warsaw, Poland -- the latter of which is today's Polish Presidental Palace.


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