Regional Surveys, Projects

Synagogues of Isfahan

This collection features documentation of Isfahan's historic synagogues undertaken by Mohammad Gharipour in 2015 and 2016. Isfahan's Jewish community is as ancient as the city itself, predating the formation of the medieval city and possibly dating back to the first millennium BCE. In medieval times, the quarter of Jubarah (Jubareh) was home to many of Isfahan's Jewish families, and generous patronage from these families resulted in the construction of a number of synagogues and other community spaces. 

Synagogues are distinguished from other religious buildings because of certain ritual requirements (e.g., a bema or space for reading the Torah, an ark or space in which the Torah scrolls are kept). However, besides these requirements, the synagogues of Isfahan much resemble other forms of local architecture. Like the homes of Isfahan's crowded historic quarters, the facades of Isfahan's synagogues are often deceptively plain. Decoration is saved for interiors, which include courtyards, ornate prayer halls, and ritual baths. Long corridors and courtyards are used as an architectural buffer from the surrounding area, and light is admitted into the center of building complexes through lantern domes.

Photographs were taken by Mohammad Gharipour. Plans were drawn by Zahra Ansari and checked by Bahador Fallahian.

Sources:

Mohmamad Gharipour. "The Question of Identity: The Architecture of Synagogues in Isfahan, Iran." Paper presented at the Architecture, Culture, and Spirituality Symposium (ACS6) in Toronto, 2014.

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