Art History: The Egyptian revival style in synagogue architecture
“The Egyptian revival style in early synagogue architecture in Australia (1844–1850)”
In the span of a few years in the mid-nineteenth century, four synagogues were built across the vast new colony of Australia. The emerging Jewish communities in Sydney, Hobart, Launceston and Adelaide engaged local architects to design and construct new places of worship for their growing congregations. Separated by hundreds of miles from each other, and restricted by the constraints of the unfamiliar continent, the synagogues were all built in an unprecedented and distinct Egyptian revival style. There are no known records, no architects’ plans and only two synagogues are still standing today in their original form. In the single study of this rare architectural occurrence, R. S. Merrillees (1998) suggests that the source of inspiration was the biblical Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem, together with the new interest in archaeology following the Napoleonic expeditions. This paper brings into view the uncharted ecclesiastical architecture of Sydney, and suggests different inspirational sources.