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Great Synagogue of Paris

Great Synagogue of Paris

44 Rue de la Victoire, 75009 Paris



The Grand Synagogue of Paris, generally known as Synagogue de la Victoire or Grande Synagogue de la Victoire, is situated at 44, Rue de la Victoire, in the 9th arrondissement. It also serves as the official seat of the chief rabbi of Paris.
Since the Revolution which granted citizenship to the French Jewish community in 1791, and especially since the First Empire, during which Emperor Napoleon I set up the structures for organizing the Jewish cult by creating the Consistory of Israel of France in 1808, French Jews have devoted a deep attachment to the homeland which granted them equal rights with other citizens.

During the Restoration of the Monarchy from 1815 to 1848 and especially during the Second Empire from 1850 to 1870, the Parisian Jewish community more than doubled from 12,000 to 25,000 members.
During the Second Empire, Jews played a major role in France's industrial revolution and in the cultural influence of Paris. The Opera district, restructured by Baron Haussmann, became the economic and cultural centre of that period by hosting the headquarters of the major banks and insurance companies, those of the major industrial and commercial companies of the time, railway companies and department stores, but also the major theatres such as the Opéra Garnier or the Opéra-Comique, and the Grand Hotel.

Emperor Napoleon III, very grateful for the dynamism that the great Jewish financiers and entrepreneurs brought to the influence of Paris and France, wanted to provide the Jewish community with a place of worship worthy of its importance. The first major synagogue in Paris, the one on rue ND de Nazareth, created in 1830, was far too small and was located in a less prestigious district than the Opéra, where the entire Jewish bourgeoisie had settled.
Under the aegis of Chief Rabbi Lazare Isidore and Gustave de Rothschild, work began in 1867 on the synagogue of the Victory, on the site of a private mansion offered as a wedding gift by Napoleon Bonaparte to his brother Louis during his marriage to Hortense de Beauharnais, herself the daughter of a first marriage of the Empress Josephine, Louis Bonaparte and Hortense being the parents of the Emperor Napoleon III.

The land was donated to the City of Paris by the imperial family and the synagogue's work was financed by the Jewish community and mainly by the Rothschild family, hence the nickname Rothschild Schule often given to La Victoire
Initially the Great Synagogue was to open on the current rue de Châteaudun, much wider than the rue de la Victoire, but Napoleon III's wife, Empress Eugénie, Spanish, did not share her husband's affection for the Jews. She therefore refused to allow a synagogue to enter halfway between the two churches in the district: La Trinité and ND de Lorette. The main entrance to the synagogue is therefore on rue de la Victoire, a name given in memory of Bonaparte's victorious campaign in Italy; the synagogue is therefore oriented towards the north and not towards Jerusalem as tradition would have required.

The war between France and Germany in 1870 and the Commune interrupted the work and it was not until 1874 that the synagogue was inaugurated and then opened to the public in 1875.
The Romanesque style designed by the architect of the City of Paris, Alfred Philippe Aldrophe, was embellished with Byzantine mouldings, but the influence of the "Second Empire" style, typical of the buildings built in Paris under Napoleon III, is noticeable, in particular the Great Staircase, the stained glass windows, the gilt bronze candelabra, the foyer, now the Jerusalem Room.

The monumental basilica plan, with its 36m façade, the height of the nave of 28m, the presence of the great organs and the choir recall the plan of the churches built at that time. With 1,800 seats, the Victory Synagogue is the second largest in Europe after Budapest.
By its dimensions, the Holy Ark is a unique element in a European synagogue. Most of the cult ornaments, in particular the large solid silver candlestick and the eternal lamp, were presented by Gustave de Rothschild and his wife at the inauguration.

The aim was to show, through the architecture of this place of worship, that Israelites were no different from their fellow citizens and that they were perfectly integrated into the national community thanks to the economic vitality and cultural importance of their community.
Following France's defeat against the Prussians in 1870, the loss of the Alsatian and Lorraine departments led to an influx of Jews to Paris who, out of attachment to the Republic, refused German domination. This is why the Victory, seat of the Chief Rabbinate of France, perpetuated the Alsatian Ashkenazi rite and gave a large part to the preservation of the consistorial musical heritage.
200 years of musical archives are kept in this synagogue. The greatest composers have written or been adapted for worship and synagogue ceremonies, from Mozart to Verdi, Rossi to Bloch and Milhaud.
Most of these composers are still performed by a male choir either for Shabbat services and festivals, or at national events or during major exceptional concerts.

Victory today has a dual vocation, it is a dynamic community of more than 2,000 families, some of which were at the origin of its creation almost 150 years ago. The Alsatian Ashkenazi rite is maintained there for all weekday, Sabbath and holiday services. It is linked to the modern orthodox current in force within the Central Consistory of France.
It is a centre of culture and study throughout the week with Talmud Tora for children, Talmud and Guemara courses given by the Chief Rabbi of Paris and the Rabbi of the Synagogue, Bet Midrach for ladies, but also regular lectures and concerts by Hazanout.
It has been twinned with the Great Hekhal Shlomo Synagogue in Jerusalem for 30 years.

But it is also the official synagogue of the Consistories, headquarters of the Chief Rabbi of France and the Chief Rabbi of Paris. In its premises are located the offices of the Consistoire Central de France and the Consistoire de Paris, which organize the religious life of more than 200 communities and synagogues in France.
The Synagogue of Victory is one of the major national events to which personalities from the political world are invited and has always been the forum for major social debates.
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This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This web site reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.