Congregation Emanu-el Synagogue
Emanuel Congregation Temple
Links and documents
Listed on the Canadian Register:
Statement of Significance
Description of Historic Place
Congregation Emanu-el is a one and one-half storey brick Romanesque Style synagogue on the corner of Blanshard and Pandora Streets.
Congregation Emanu-el is valued as the oldest surviving synagogue in Canada, and as an early expression of Jewish spiritual, social, cultural and educational life in Victoria. Notably, this synagogue has been in continuous use since its dedication in 1863. Commissioned by Jewish immigrants, most of whom arrived in Victoria from San Francisco during the Fraser River Gold Rush period, this building is the most significant representation of the permanent establishment of the Jewish community in the city and in British Columbia. Congregation Emanu-el is a testament to the devotion and resourcefulness of its founders, and a monument to the confidence of the early Jewish community which this place continues to instill in its modern congregation.
Architecturally, this is a rare example of a 19th century Romanesque Style synagogue in Canada. The significance of this building is expressed in such architectural elements as the rounded arch forms, rose windows, corbelled brickwork, Romanesque capitals on columns and pilasters, and corner pavilions. Designed by one of Victoria's first architects, John Wright, the exterior design and interior elements such as the gallery, the Bema, and the Holy Ark of the synagogue combine to create a unique expression of the culture, values, and spirituality of the Jewish community since the mid-nineteenth century.
Source: City of Victoria Planning and Development Department
The character-defining elements of Congregation Emanu-el include:
-the unobstructed views of the building along Blanshard and Pandora Streets;
-the prominent situation of the building at a busy corner, and the setback from the sidewalk;
-the distinctive temple, or place of worship building form;
-the red brick exterior;
-the intact Romanesque Revival Style exterior details, such as the round-arched windows and blind arcades, tripartite entrance with two decorated columns and flanking piers, varnished wood front doors, front façade rose window, heavy bracketed cornice, corner pavilions, and mansard and peaked roofs;
-the intact interior spaces, materials, and religious features such as the sanctuary, arched vaulted nave and galleries, the Bema, the Holy Ark, the skylight, stained glass windows, and patterned floors.
Local Governments (BC)
Local Government Act, s.967
Theme - Category and Type
- Building Social and Community Life
- Religious Institutions
Function - Category and Type
- Religion, Ritual and Funeral
- Religious Facility or Place of Worship
Architect / Designer
Location of Supporting Documentation
City of Victoria Planning and Development Department
Cross-Reference to Collection