Chania Etz Hayyim Synagogue

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Location: Town

The Etz Hayyim Synagogue in Chania is the only Jewish monument of the city and an important piece of Crete’s history. The synagogue is the only remaining element of the local Jewish community that inhabited the town for 2.000 years! The community had lived through some of Greece’s most important moments and was shaped by a number of different cultures, such as the Roman, the Venetian and the Ottoman civilizations. Because of World War II, however, the Jewish community of Chania, the last of its kind in Crete, was eliminated, and most of the synagogues were destroyed, with the Etz Hayyim suffering tremendous damage and being left in ruins.

In 1995, the World Monuments Fund assumed the reconstruction of the synagogue, as it had not been operating for 50 years. In 1999, the temple reopened as a place of prayer, recollection and reconciliation, which became the proverb of the Etz Hayyim Synagogue.

It was built in 1645 on a building that used to be a Catholic Church, which was partly destroyed by an Ottoman siege. The synagogue kept some of the church’s architecture, creating a structure of Roman, Venetian and Jewish descent. Today, in the renovated building, the synagogue consists of the main sanctuary, which is situated between the two courtyards, each with its own identity. The first one is the Ronald Lauder Garden, which contains the mikveh, i.e. the ceremonial bath, four Jewish tombs and the Jennifer Stein Memorial Library. The other courtyard is a pebble-paved garden, dedicated to friends of Etz Hayyim. Inside the temple, you can also find the treasures of the Etz Hayyim Synagogue, which include commemorative scrolls, a wide collection of fabrics and religious ornaments.

The synagogue is open for everyone to visit, yet visitors must adhere to the rules since it is still an active praying area. Lastly, tours of the building are offered by personnel and volunteers.

Top Tours and activities

  • Chania Trikke city tour

    Category: Activities

    See some of the finest spots in Chania's Old Town on a Trikke scooter, including the Ottoman and Venetian alleyways, the square of Splantzia, Halidon street, and an array of beautiful church buildings.

    40 minutes Map
    from € 28.00
    Book now

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