First-Century Synagogues

How does one reconstruct a First-Century Synagogue? We studied historical texts and archaeological evidence, focusing especially on two synagogues (Gamla and Masada) which were destroyed in the 1st Century and never rebuilt. To better understand the different types of ancient synagogue in the Land of Israel we also examined ruins from later period sites, such as Kiryat Sefer, as well as 1st Century settlements such as Magdala, which contain structures whose status as “synagogues” was more open to question. The historical research and field surveys were synthesized to develop the architectural plan of a typical synagogue which should appropriate for 1st Century Nazareth. Our plan was circulated amongst top scholars for review, then used as a basis for reconstruction.

Ruins of the first century synagogue in Masada.

First-century synagogue in Masada

 

Although early synagogues were each unique, they share common features which scholars agree were definitive of 1st Century Synagogues; Inner walls surrounded by benches, and a central space defined by a colonnade. The two corners at the rear of the colonnade uses heart-shaped columns, which are two columns carved into one. Archaeologists believe that these columns supported a clerestory roof. The interior arrangements provided the building with plenty of light and ventilation, making it a pleasant and comfortable space for public gatherings.

Kiryat Sefer Synagogue Plan

Kiryat Sefer Synagogue Plan

 

 

Masada Synagogue Plan

Masada Synagogue Plan

 

 

Gamla Synagogue Plan

Gamla Synagogue Plan

 

 

Conceptual Plan (Architect Ehud Netzer)

Conceptual Plan (Architect Ehud Netzer)

 

 

Nazareth Village Synagogue Plan: Nazareth Village Synagogue Plan (Architect Riyad Haddad)

Nazareth Village Synagogue Plan: Nazareth Village Synagogue Plan (Architect Riyad Haddad)