Remains of Huge Synagogue, over 2,200 Years Old, Uncovered in Rome

The remains of a monumental synagogue building, believed to date back to between the fifth and second centuries before the Common Era, have just been uncovered during excavations near Ostia Antica, the harbor of ancient Rome.

The new findings unearthed the most ancient Jewish monument in the world after the wailing wall fragment of the Temple in Jerusalem destroyed by the Emperor Titus. Officials of the Rome Jewish community immediately established contacts with competent Italian authorities to cooperate in the excavations. Chief Rabbi Elio Toaff said that “unearthing of this monument will have an inestimable moral value and will provoke deep echoes in the Jewish communities of the world.”

Doubts that the remains belonged to a synagogue were dispelled when fragments of a white marble beam were uncovered having at each end a sculptured menorah, shofar, ethrog and lulav. The beam presumably stood on marble columns and constituted the front part of the Holy Ark. Mosaic fragments of the synagogue pavement also showed parts of a menorah. The building apparently had been large enough to contain a congregation of 500 people. At the left side of the main entrance were traces of smaller rooms, probably used for religious study.

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