There are some 20-25 synagogues in Paris. This one is referred to as the “Grande Synagogue”. It dates from 1874 and was built on a place where previously stood a mansion for some time occupied by one of Napoleon’s brothers, Louis, married to Hortense, the daughter of Josephine de Beauharnais, parents to the future Napoleon III.
(Josephine had previously rented another mansion in the same street and this is where the then General Bonaparte went to see her, got married, bought the house and where they lived together for some four years 1796-1800 – with exceptions for long campaigns in Italy, Egypt… . When Bonaparte became First Consul, the couple moved to greater premises. When they lived here it was almost countryside. The building and the narrow entrance / garden disappeared in 1858, as part of the town-planning. The street got its name, rue de la Victoire, in 1797, when General Bonaparte returned from his Italian campaign.)
But, this post was supposed to be about the “Grande Synagogue”, the largest one in France; it can seat some 1800 people. It was built with financial support of the Rothschild family. It serves as a setting for all kinds of official ceremonies and it’s also the official seat of the Chief Rabbi of France and this is where he is formally introduced.
It was during Napoleon’s reign that the Judaism, together with Roman Catholicism and Lutheran and Calvinist Protestantism, became official religions of France, until 1905, when State and Churches were separated.
The building, which as most other major religious edifices in Paris is owned by the City, suffered of course, although not as much as its community, from events during WWII and was completely renovated as late as 1967.
As we can see, the decoration of the Synagogue is beautiful, but, different to many other religions, of course no images, symbols can be seen. As I have understood, what is important are the Torah, the prayer….