The Great Synagogue of Hrodna was built from 1576 to 1580 by Santi Gucci, who designed a Wooden synagogue at Rabbi Mordechai Yaffe's invitation. In 1887, the Hrodna Jews owned 88% of the commercial enterprises, 76% of the factories and workshops, and over 65% of the real estate in the city. Their property was estimated at 842,000 roubles at a time when the total sum of the city's properties was 1,202,000 roubles. In 1898, one of the first savings and loan cooperatives in Russia was founded in Grodno.
The synagogue burned down in 1902. Under the supervision of Iya Frunkin, the Jewish community built another synagogue in the eclectic and moorish style from 1902 to 1905. By 1907, the city boasted a state Jewish school, a girls' school, a craft shelter, a Talmud-Yeshiva, 107 Jewish primary schools, and 5 elementary schools for girls. This was unique in Russia.
There were also two Jewish libraries and several Jewish charitable organizations working in the city.
Jews played a very significant role in city life as industrialists, merchants, craftsmen, owners of printing houses, doctors, and teachers. There was said to be a special 'Hrodna Aura,' created by its cultured and intelligent population. For this reason Grodno was considered to be one of the Jewish intellectual capitals of Europe.
The interior of the synagogue was vandalized in 1941 by Nazis. Soviet authorities closed the synagogue in 1944. The synagogue was returned to the Jewish community in 1991; however, it remains in disrepair.References:
The Abbey of Saint-Etienne, also known as Abbaye aux Hommes ('Men"s Abbey'), is a former monastery dedicated to Saint Stephen (Saint Étienne). It is considered, along with the neighbouring Abbaye aux Dames ('Ladies" Abbey'), to be one of the most notable Romanesque buildings in Normandy. Like all the major abbeys in Normandy, it was Benedictine.
Lanfranc, before being an Archbishop of Canterbury, was abbot of Saint-Etienne. Built in Caen stone during the 11th century, the two semi-completed churches stood for many decades in competition. An important feature added to both churches in about 1120 was the ribbed vault, used for the first time in France. The two abbey churches are considered forerunners of the Gothic architecture. The original Romanesque apse was replaced in 1166 by an early Gothic chevet, complete with rosette windows and flying buttresses. Nine towers and spires were added in the 13th century. The interior vaulting shows a similar progression, beginning with early sexpartite vaulting (using circular ribs) in the nave and progressing to quadipartite vaults (using pointed ribs) in the sanctuary.
The two monasteries were finally donated by William the Conqueror and his wife, Matilda of Flanders, as penalty for their marriage against the Pope"s ruling. William was buried here; Matilda was buried in the Abbaye aux Dames. Unfortunately William"s original tombstone of black marble, the same kind as Matilda"s in the Abbaye aux Dames, was destroyed by the Calvinist iconoclasts in the 16th century and his bones scattered.
As a consequence of the Wars of Religion, the high lantern tower in the middle of the church collapsed and was never rebuilt. The Benedictine abbey was suppressed during the French Revolution and the abbey church became a parish church. From 1804 to 1961, the abbey buildings accommodated a prestigious high school, the Lycée Malherbe. During the Normandy Landings in 1944, inhabitants of Caen found refuge in the church; on the rooftop there was a red cross, made with blood on a sheet, to show that it was a hospital (to avoid bombings).