Synagogue - Main Hall

Synagogue - Main Hall (HM28VN)

Location: Altamora, Açores 9930 Pico
Country: Portugal
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N 38° 29.285', W 28° 2.417'

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English Text:

Apse and Benches
The curved wall of the apse was once pierced by three niches and two vaulted passageways. The openings were later blocked and the wall covered with bands of white and colored marble. Three tiers of marble-covered benches provided seats for synagogue elders. A high brick semidome originally covered the area.

The semicircular floor mosaic within the apse was a gift of two brothers. Stratoneikianos and Synphoros Flavius, whose names are inscribed in the central wreath. Vines growing from a central urn resemble decor of the forecourt. Images of flanking peacocks were removed in late antiquity. The original mosaic is in the Manisa Museum.

Marble panels
Excavation of the main hall found hundreds of pieces of cut marble, in many shapes and colors, known as opus sectile or skoutlosis. These pieces were once mounted on the walls in panels of marble inlay. The geometric patterns are similar topatterns in the floor mosaics. Pieces for floral designs and images of a camel, birds, and fish were also found. New inlay pieces were used in the restoration on the south wall.

The inscription above the inlay panels (replica) records: "I with my wife Regina and our children (in fulfillment of a vow) executed from the gifts of almighty God all the

skoutlosis of the (section of wall?) and the painting (of the ceiling or upper wall)."

Wall Decoration in the Main Hall
The installation of marble wall decoration probably continued from the late 4th to the 6th century. The work took several generations to complete. Many names of donors are inscribed in Greek on marble plaques; two such donor inscriptions are restored. Many of the donors held the honorary title "citizen of Sardis." Several donors are identified as city councilors or holders of other government offices.

Excavations at the east end of the main hall identified the remains of two shrines that stood between the doors from the forecourt. These shrines probably housed the Torah, scrolls of the Hebrew bible.

Tables and Lions
Torah scrolls probably were carried from the shrines at the east end of the hall and read from this huge marble table near the apse. The table and the lions that stand guard are older than the synagogue itself; they were moved from their original locations and set up here. The table supports, depicting eagles clutching thunderbolts in their talons, and the paired lions are replicas; the original sculptures are in the Manisa Museum.

Bema or Baldachin?
The mosaic inscription at the center of the main hall records the gift of a "priest and teacher of wisdom."

Four stone bases around this panel supported slender columns or pillars, probably marking the place where the teacher stood.
HM NumberHM28VN
Placed ByThe Ministry of Culture and Tourism, Republic of Turkey, and the Harvard Art Museums and Cornell University
Marker ConditionNo reports yet
Date Added Thursday, June 28th, 2018 at 7:01am PDT -07:00
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Locationbig map
UTM (WGS84 Datum)26S E 409273 N 4260483
Decimal Degrees38.48808333, -28.04028333
Degrees and Decimal MinutesN 38° 29.285', W 28° 2.417'
Degrees, Minutes and Seconds38° 29' 17.1" N, 28° 2' 25.02" W
Driving DirectionsGoogle Maps
Which side of the road?Marker is on the right when traveling West
Closest Postal AddressAt or near ER1, Altamora Açores 9930, PT
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