The ‘Cathedral Synagogues’ of England

In his seminal paper ‘Anglo-Jewish Architects, and Architecture in the 18th and 19th Centuries’, delivered to the Society fifty years ago in 1954, the late Edward Jamilly, RIBA, used the phrase the ‘Cathedral Synagogues of England’.1 Since then, the term ‘cathedral synagogue’ has caught on both in the architectural historical literature and in the popular press. An alterna? tive name, more widespread on the Continent, is ‘choral synagogue’, in particular with reference to a large-scale urban synagogue in which formal services were held featuring a Hazan and choir. In the present essay, the evolution of the ‘cathedral synagogue’, both as idea and as bricks and mortar, will be explored. In the light of Jewish architectural history, the current fashionable pejorative usage of the term will be challenged.

It should be pointed out immediately that the word ‘cathedral’ is borrowed from the Christian context, although in the Jewish tradition there is

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