Ahrida Synagogue, Istanbul

Most famous of Istanbul‘s old synagogues, the Ahrida Synagogue, also called the Okhrida, is in the Balatdistrict on the Golden Horn, at no. 9 on the street officially named Vodina Caddesi, but often called Kürkçü Çesme Sokak.

To gain access to the synagogue you must apply in advance to the office of the Chief Rabbi in Istanbul.

The Ahrida and nearby Yanbol are said to take their names from the towns in Macedonia from which their founding congregations migrated in Byzantine times. Thefoundations of the Ahrida may date from the late 1400s, or may be even older.

The first building was thought to have been built in the early 1400s, but a disastrous fire in the 1600s did extensive damage. In 1694 the sultan issued a decree calling for its reconstruction. The work was done in the Ottoman Baroque style popular at that time, the so-called “Tulip Period” in Ottoman artistic and court life.

The synagogue, gutted for restoration…

The Ahrida, restored…

During the extensive restorations carried out in 1990 and 1991, remnants of architectural details from the 1700s and 1800s were discovered.

Architect Hitsrev Tayla, in charge of the restoration work, has included many of these earlier details in the final plan so as to symbolize the Ahrida’s long and illustrious history.

Besides the synagogue’s fascinating architecture, be sure to examine its priceless furnishings, including the bema (pulpit) shaped like the prow of a ship, said by some to symbolize Noah’s Ark.

 

 

 


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