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The Niche And The Apse In Synagogues

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Chapter Summary

After examining the archaeological evidence for platforms and chancel screens as well as the remains of niches and apses in ancient synagogues, this chapter comprises the question of what motivated Jews to introduce church furnishings into their synagogues? Early synagogues dating from the first to the fifth centuries were communal buildings in which the Holy Scrolls, kept in their cabinet, were only brought into the prayer hall when needed and then returned to another room. The chapter provides two explanations for the appearance of the apse in synagogue architecture in Jewish communities close to large Christian populations, such as those near Scythopolis and Gaza. Religious competition may have been one of the motivating forces for some Jewish communities to rearrange the interior layout of their synagogues to resemble the early basilical Christian interior with an apse.

Keywords: apse; Jewish communities; niche; platform; prayer hall; synagogues



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