Archaeologists Discover Underground Remains of Grand Synagogue in Lithuania

A model of the Great Synagogue of Vilna Photo: Wikimedia Commons
The Synagogue was the focal point of the Vilna Jewish community Photo: JTA

The Synagogue was the focal point of the Vilna Jewish community
Photo: JTA

An underground radar scan conducted in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius by a team of Israeli and Lithuanian archaeologists has revealed the underground remains of the Great Synagogue of Vilna.

Built in the 17th century, the Renaissance Baroque temple was the center of the city’s Jewish community before the Holocaust and subsequent Soviet occupation.

The researchers found evidence of remains of the structure and Jewish ritual baths, known as mikvehs, underneath the ground.

The temple was looted and burned by the invading German army in 1941, and later razed by the Soviets in the 1950s. A modern school stands on the site today.

A school now stand on the site of the Synagogue. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

A school now stand on the site of the Synagogue.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The research team led by Dr Jon Seligman of the Israel Antiquities Authority, Zenonas Baubonis of the Culture Heritage Conservation Authority of Lithuania, and Professor Richard Freund of the University of Hartford, have identified the ancient underground ruins.

“When you talk about the synagogue you have to talk about the whole complex,” Seligman told the Times of Israel. “We have a good understanding of the synagogue and a poor understanding of the complex.”

Seligman explained that restrictions regulating the height of buildings in 17th century Lithuania forced architects to extend the structure underground, consequently “much of the floor levels are still there,” he said.

A model of the Great Synagogue of Vilna Photo: Wikimedia Commons

A model of the Great Synagogue of Vilna
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

According to AFP, excavation of the site is scheduled for 2016. The archaeologists hope to unearth the ruins in order to transform the historic site into a memorial to the Vilna Jewish community.

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