Great Synagogue Listed as Protected Heritage Site

Great Synagogue Listed as Protected Heritage Site

The site of the former Great Synagogue in Vilnius with associated mikvot has been listed as a state-protected cultural heritage site, according to Baltic News Service.

The Lithuanian Culture Ministry issued a press release Thursday naming this site and the site of the first Lithuanian gymnasium in Vilnius was established on Basanavičiaus street. The YIVO occupied part of the latter space at its inception in 1925 before moving headquarters to Vivulskio street in Vilnius. The ministry reports state protection means more opportunities for funding protection and restoration of these sites.

The exact date the synagogue was built isn’t known. The Great Synagogue with adjacent ritual purification baths was part of a larger complex of synagogues, libraries and schools located around the Great Synagogue and the home of the Vilna Gaon.

Ownership of the ruins of the Great Synagogue and mikvot were passed to the Goodwill Foundation in 2020. Various plans for commemorating the site have been proposed, but so far the most likely is a humble protected excavation exhibit showcasing the subterranean main hall with bimah and floor.

Photo: Tunnel dug by archaeologists leading to central bimah, by Valdas Kopūstas, courtesy BNS.