“The former Great Synagogue of Vilnius is a value of cultural heritage of the capital. It was one of the largest Jewish religious institutions in the Eastern Europe. It was famous as an important Jewish spiritual and educational centre, and Vilnius was named the Jerusalem of the North after it. I believe that, in cooperation with local and foreign Jewish communities, we will be able to interpret the Great Synagogue of Vilnius, which is very important for the culture of the multinational capital, in a proper and modern way”, said Remigijus Šimašius, the Mayor of Vilnius, the Municipality of Vilnius wrote in a press release.
In the past eight years, archaeological excavations have been carried out several times: the location of the former synagogue was identified, and sufficiently well preserved fragments and details of the building were found in 2011, while fragments of masonry of public baths that belonged to the Jewish community and two “mikvahs” (ritualistic basins) were discovered in 2016-2017. The explorations to be carried out on 9 -31 July will be conducted for research purposes, namely, to further examine the remains of the bath building, to revise the perimeter of the Great Synagogue and to discover its north-western border.
“This season, efforts will be targeted at unveiling one of the mikvahs (basins) and distinguishing a part of the external wall of the synagogue’s buildings”, Dr. Jon Seligman, Director of the Israel Antiquities Authority, told. According to him, excavations became more intensive thanks to a significant contribution – the explorations are carried out at the expense of the Goodwill Fund and members of the archaeological research group. The implementation of the works has been supported by the Lithuanian Jewish Community, the Israel Antiquities Authority and the Vilnius City Municipality.
Residents of Vilnius and city guests will have the opportunity to see the research site (at Vokiečių g. 13A). On 19 and 26 of July, from 4:00 till 5:00 p.m. they are welcome to talk to archaeologists and to see the temporary exposition of archaeological discoveries. On 18 and 25 of July, from noon till 1:00 p.m., sightseeing tours telling about the Great Synagogue of Vilnius will be held with a guide (for more information on the tours, please call: (8 5) 212 7723, (8 5) 262 9646).
The masonry Great Synagogue of Vilnius of the Renaissance-Baroque style was built in the 17th century in the place of a wooden synagogue that stood there until then. In the long run, a public Jewish life canter consisting of 12 kloys (small synagogues for study), a community centre and a bath building with mikvahs (ritualistic basins) formed next to the Great Synagogue. The buildings comprised a complex of two yards called Shulhoyf. In 1903, the Strashun Library was built in between the Great Synagogue and Žydų Street. During the Second World War, the Great Synagogue and other buildings of the complex were heavily ruined. In 1955-1957, the remains of the buildings were trampled to the ground. In 1964, a masonry nursery-kindergarten was built in the place of the Great Synagogue.