Ritual baths of Vilnius’ Great Synagogue rediscovered

Archaeologists uncovered two ritual baths called “mikvah” at the site of the Great Synagogue in Vilnius, Lithuania. The 17th-century building was completely destroyed by Germans and Soviets during and after World War 2.

The ritual baths (by Jon Seligman & Israel Antiquities Authority)

The Great Synagogue of Vilnius was a large community centre and a place of Torah study. The building was looted and burned by the Germans, and the standing remains were completely destroyed by the Soviet authorities who built a modern school in its place. The excavations at the site followed an architectural restoration plans from the end of the 19th century. The plans featured a bathhouse which consisted of two main floors, many rooms, and a large service wing. Archaeologists were able to identify two installations that were built as ritual baths – the mikvah. The plan guided the researchers during the archaeological dig.

Excavations at the site (by Jon Seligman & Israel Antiquities Authority)

The discovered mikvah date to the 20th century. They had tiled walls and floors, steps leading to the pool and an otzar, an auxiliary pool in which water is collected for the mikvah, in order to make it kosher for ritual purification.

(after Jon Seligman & Israel Antiquities Authority)

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