Tournelles Synagogue

Tucked on a quiet street next to the bustling Place de Vosges, the Tournelles Synagogue serves as a reminder that behind the trendy clothing stores and tourists, Jewish life still takes place here in the Marais, just as it has for hundreds of years.

The impressive stain glass windows of the Tournelles Synagogue are quite unassuming as you walk down the Rue des Tournelles, it's only once you stand directly in front of the building that you can grasp the full magnitude of its beauty. The original building standing at 21 rue des Tournelles, where the Synagogue sits today, built in 1861, was burned down during the Paris Commune in 1871 (JGuide Europe). Around the same time, France was defeated in the Franco-Prussian War, causing many of the Jews living in the Alsace-Lorraine territory that was lost to migrate to and settle in Paris (Paris Promeneurs). Thus, in 1872 the Ashkenazi Jewish community decided to solicit Marcellin Varcollier to build a new synagogue on the Rue des Tournelles. The Tournelles synagogue was built in a similar style to the synagogue on Rue de la Victoire, built around the same time. Both buildings were constructed with a Roman-Byzantine style, however, the most interesting feature of the Tournelles Synagogue is its internal metal framework, which was left visible as a 'modern' touch on the design (JGuide Europe). These metal structures were designed by the renowned Gustave Eiffel more than a decade before he designed the tower that he famously named after himself (JGuide Europe). Another interesting feature of the architecture is that on the fa├žade, a prominent position was given to a design of Tablets of the Law and to the Paris city coats of arms. This can be attributed to the fact that the building is actually a municipal building, due to the financial contributions of the city of Paris towards its construction(Historical Monuments).

As the second largest Synagogue in Paris, with seating available for up to 1,300 people in its two floors, the Tournelles Synagogue is a thriving part of the somewhat dwindling presence of Jewish life in the Marais. It has become home to various groups of Jews as they immigrated to Paris, including from Central Europe and North Africa (Consitorie). The building's size and grandeur make it popular for Jewish weddings, one of which I stumbled upon while visiting the Synagogue. The narrow, clearly non-Haussmannized street was flooded with guests waiting for the bride to arrive, and the Synagogue itself was filled with decorative white flowers, somehow adding to the already magnificent interior of the building. On the street, guests clapped and cheered as the car adorned with a large and ornate flower bouquet pulled up in front of the historic building, containing the bride. The sense of community felt very strong, even to an outsider who only happened to be in the right place at the right time to witness the special occasion. While the gentrification of the Marais is clearly apparent and the neighborhood continues to move away from its roots as the center of Jewish life in Pairs, the Tournelles Synagogue is a beacon of hope that Jewish life will still have a place in the Marais for years to come.

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21 Rue des Tournelles