The main sanctuary of the Great Synagogue of Sydney from the elevated gallery.

The main sanctuary of the Great Synagogue of Sydney from the elevated gallery. Photo © James Horan for Sydney Living Museums

The Great Synagogue

Sunday 3 November

187A Elizabeth Street, Sydney

See on map

Built

1878

Architect

Thomas Rowe

Additional architects

Orwell Phillips and David Nathan (1951, basement and auditorium)

David Newman (1981, conversion of part of the War Memorial Centre into an Education Centre)

The Great Synagogue is the earliest surviving synagogue in Sydney, and is believed by many to be the most beautiful in Australia. Since its consecration in 1878, it has been central to Jewish culture and worship in Sydney, and it is home to a thriving modern congregation.

Architect Thomas Rowe combined Romanesque and Byzantine influences with Gothic detailing for the synagogue, commissioning the leading decorative firms of the High Victorian period from Australia, Britain and the United States to embellish his ‘cathedral’ of golden Pyrmont sandstone. The richly crafted interior is considered to be one of Sydney’s most elaborate of the time, and one of Rowe’s finest works. Ironically, Rowe was Cornish, not Jewish, and was then well known for designing a string of mainly Methodist churches and other public buildings.

In 1906, the traditionally central bimah (podium) was moved to the western wall to increase capacity, which is today around 1200. Other alterations over the years include the electrification of chandeliers, the addition of a Shabbat elevator, and the construction of the Rabbi L A Falk Memorial Library.

The Great Synagogue is listed on the NSW State Heritage Register.

  • Interior photograph of The Great Synagogue, Sydney.
  • Exterior photograph, front gates of The Great Synagogue, Sydney.

On Sunday 3 November


What’s open?

Main sanctuary.


Talks, tours & more

Guides will be on hand to speak about the historical and architectural aspects of The Great Synagogue.


Need
to know

  • No photography

  • Lines expected

  • Pram friendly
    Prams will have to be cloaked

  • Accessible

  • Additional information
    Please be aware that no phones are permitted inside The Great Synagogue and visitors will be required to cloak their handbags, mobiles, as well as bulky items (for security). To ensure compliance with Kosher laws, no food or drink will be permitted inside.


Opening hours

9am-4pm

Last entry

3.30pm

Address

187A Elizabeth Street, Sydney


Acknowledgements

Find out more about The Great Synagogue.