The Great Synagogue of Rome
(Tempio Maggiore di Roma
) is the largest synagogue in Rome. The present Synagogue was constructed shortly after the unification of Italy
in 1870, when the Kingdom of Italy captured Rome and the Papal States ceased to exist. TheRoman Ghetto was demolished and the Jews were granted citizenship. The building which had previously housed the ghetto synagogue (a complicated structure housing five scolas in a single building) was demolished, and the Jewish community began making plans for a new and impressive building.
Commemorative plates have been affixed to honour the local Jewish victims of Nazi Germany
and of a Palestine Liberation Organization attack in 1982. On 13 April 1986, Pope John Paul II made an unexpected visit to the Great Synagogue. This event marked the First
known visit by a pope to a synagogue since the early history of the Roman Catholic Church. He prayed with Rabbi Elio Toaff, the former Chief Rabbi of Rome. This was seen by many as an attempt to improve relations between Catholicism and Judaism and a part of Pope John Paul II's programme to improve relations with Jews. In 2010 Rabbi Riccardo Di Segni hosted a visit from Pope Benedict XVI.
The synagogue celebrated its centenary in 2004. In addition to serving as a house of worship, it is also serves a cultural and organizational centre for la Comunità Ebraica di Roma (the Jewish community of Rome). It houses the offices of the Chief Rabbi of Rome, as well as the Jewish Museum of Rome. On 17 January 2005, thirteen cantors, in conjunction with the Jewish Ministers Cantors Association of America (the Chazzanim Farband), performed in a cantorial concert for the first time in the synagogue's history.
Designed by Vincenzo Costa and Osvaldo Armanni, the synagogue was built from 1901 to 1904 on the banks of the Tiber, overlooking the former ghetto. The eclectic Style
of the building makes it stand out, even in a city known for notable buildings and structures. This attention-grabbing design was a deliberate choice made by the community at the time who wanted the building to be a visible celebration of their freedom and to be seen from many vantage points in the city. The aluminium dome is the only squared dome in the city and makes the building easily identifiable even from a distance.