This book has been prepared to present a culture, which was and is still being shared in the land called Anatolia.
Art is the product of culture and mind; but it also has a specific aspect of its own. And this is form.
The renowned art historian Heinrich Wöfflin says: “Men do not ever approach art with the same view, because they perceive what they see as they desire to see it, and then create it...”
This idea determines the formation of cultures.
The great artistic styles which we find in the main concepts of art history, show us that each period has seen the world with a different view and had to create a different language of form to express and convey what was seen.
If the concept expressed as “Get to know the man, then you will get to understand his art” is a basic principle of art history, then I want to remind you that this book, which is ranged in the context of researches of Anatolian Synagogues, has been prepared with the main idea of bringing into light the authentic phenomena of these buildings.
I recognize the essence, the form, the aesthetic care in the artistic structure of the Jewish religion, established in Anatolia long before Christ, and I conceive that the formation of this artistic structure has a very important place in defining the varied culture of this land where we trace life since prehistorical ages.
I believe that human history will gain new dimensions and new cultures through the appreciation of every artistic phenomenon.
We can see these Anatolian Synagogues, some dating back to the 1800s, have survived to our day. What we observe is a structural whole formed by the art trend defined as “Archaeological Classicism”. “Archaeological Classicism” is a part of the theoretical interest shown to the Classical Antique Age oriented directly to the ancient Greek and Roman art.
The exterior structures of Anatolian Synagogues are very plain, in harmony and visual integrity with their surroundings even to the degree of being unnoticeable.
However, the interior is very different. The entrance prepares you for an unexpected greatness which you will face.
Everything has been taken from the essence of life. The formal fantasies
have been specialized in general. The individual is never left
all alone; and thus structures and shapes have been formed
as to share the whole in communal life. Consequently, a concept of
integrity which presents itself in form, has been created. This has the
psychological effect of removing the importance of the social status image,
and replacing it with the power of social unity.
Since the buildings were structured within the frame of this concept, they were not shaped in discrete forms; but the Scholastic approach has been displayed in definite points.
Anatolian Synagogues are grouped in three regions:
The first group is the Thracian Synagogues.
The second group covers the Western and Central Anatolian Synagogues.
And to the third group belong the Southeastern and Eastern Anatolian Synagogues.
The construction plans display triplet systems. The general characteristic is to have a central space and two spreading centers connected to the main one.
The “Ehal” is the point where this flow of action meets. The architectural structure is built on this basis.
All decorations are absorbed in the whole. Although the embroideries and embellishments of the “Parohets” give the impression of being independent of the architectural integrity, they are nevertheless the most spiritual elements of the synagogues. They reflect the specific characteristic of art, which is a product of culture and mind, in other words, they reflect the essence of art which is the farm of the content. Thus we meet with artistic formations displaying sincere feelings. The “Parohets” have a special significance in Anatolian Synagogues.
The most significant characteristic of the synagogues is the presence of the Torah Rolls. They show regional differences. The artists of the region have sacrificingly prepared the “Rimonnims”. It is possible to see all the characteristics of the regional culture on each Rimonnim. Particularly, the Rimonnims in Izmir, Bursa and their surroundings are real works of art which deserve attention.
Anatolian Synagogues, with their particular structures, have contributed to the formation of the impressive Anatolian culture as a whole. They have kept the Myth which Man has created through history, on their own soil; they have enabled the formation of a different culture entering into Anatolia from Mesopotamia; and they have furthermore provided the activity of economic function throughout the centuries.
The other immigration flows from Europe and Thracia brought the Western cultures to Anatolia; and through all those influences Anatolia gained a new dimension in history.