Tuesday,26 March, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1363, (5 - 11 October 2017)
Tuesday,26 March, 2019
Issue 1363, (5 - 11 October 2017)

Ahram Weekly

Menasce Synagogue on Heritage List

Alexandria’s Menasce Synagogue has been placed on Egypt’s Heritage List, reports Nevine El-Aref


 Alexandria’s Menasce Synagogue
Alexandria’s Menasce Synagogue

The Menasce Synagogue is located in Mansheya Square in central Alexandria, its simple architectural style and façade being complemented by decorated arcaded widows. This week, more than 100 years after it was built, the synagogue has been added to Egypt’s Heritage List of Islamic, Coptic and Jewish Monuments.

The synagogue was built in 1860 by Baron Yacoub de Menasce, a philanthropist and the first of four members of the de Menasce to head Alexandria’s Jewish community.

Alexandria’s Menasce Synagogue

The decision to list the building was taken early this week by the Supreme Council of Antiquities after inspection of the synagogue’s architectural condition. Last month, a committee from the Ministry of Antiquities inspected the site and submitted its report to the Permanent Committee of Islamic, Coptic and Jewish Antiquities, noting the building’s good architectural condition.

“The decision came within the framework of the Ministry of Antiquities’ desire to add all Egypt’s monuments to the country’s Heritage List, regardless of era or religious affiliation,” Mohamed Abdel-Latif, head of the Islamic, Coptic and Jewish Antiquities Department at the ministry, told Al-Ahram Weekly.

He added that “all monuments, whether ancient Egyptian, Jewish, Coptic or Islamic in Egypt are the property of the country and make up its unique heritage.”

Abdel-Latif explained that the registration of the synagogue would render it an official historical site under Antiquities Protection Law 117/1983, and its amendments in Law 3/2010, which guarantee the ministry’s responsibility for and protection of the site.

The synagogue is a rectangular-shaped edifice surrounded by a stone wall with decorative elements. Its main façade has two rows of windows, and the interior is divided into two sections. The floors are paved with ceramic tiles, while the ceilings are domed.

Two months ago, the Ministry of Antiquities allocated LE100 million for the restoration of the Eliyahu Hanavi Synagogue in Al-Nabi Daniel Street in Alexandria. This is the oldest and largest synagogue in the Middle East and was built in 1354, but was later destroyed by the French Expedition to Egypt in 1798 in order to build a wall from the Kom Al-Dekka area of Alexandria to the Mediterranean.

In 1850, the synagogue was rebuilt with contributions from the then ruling Mohamed Ali family. The building has an exquisite interior featuring Italian marble columns supporting the soaring ceiling.

It can host 700 worshippers and has rows of wooden seats decorated with the brass nameplates of the donors or worshippers who reserved them. The women’s prayer hall is on the upper level reached by marble stairs.

Elegant silver lamps are suspended above the ark of the synagogue, and there is also a small water fountain for ritual hand-washing.

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