by Samuel D Gruber
(ISJM) Last year I wrote about the start of restoration of the Great Synagogue at Iasi, Romania, where work has been stalled for many years. Scaffolding has been on the building but no work took place. Happily all that has changed in the past year. Inclusion of the synagogue on the World Monuments Fund Watch List helped stimulate renewed government involvement and also brought some outside funding.
Architect Lucia Apostol of the Federation of the Romanian Jewish Communities, who has been unwavering in her advocacy for the project recently sent new photos of the building - and the scaffolding is now down. The roof and exterior restoration are complete and work continues inside. The dome, which is a much later addition to the 17th-century building, and the barrel vault over the vestibule or narthex, have also been given a new exterior surfaces.
It appears that the decision was taken to leave the stonework exposed on the main part of the structure's exterior. Most likely, however, these walls would have been plastered when the synagogue was built in the 17th century. You can see an older undated photo of the synagogue with exterior plaster intact here.
One aspect of the building worth noting - and now clearly visible - is the slight apse-like protrusion on the exterior of the Ark wall. Variants of this unusual feature, which allows greater depth to the Ark cabinet, is not entirely unknown in synagogue design. Similar Ark protrusions can be found in the 16th and 17th century synagogues of Venice, and later examples are known elsewhere.