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Congregation Emanu-el

1421 Blanshard Street, Victoria, British Columbia, V8W, Canada

Formally Recognized: 1979/02/22

Exterior view of the Congregation Emanu-el Synagogue, 2004.; City of Victoria, Berdine Jonker, 2004.
west elevation
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Other Name(s)

Congregation Emanu-el
Congregation Emanu-el Synagogue
Emanuel Congregation Temple

Links and documents

Construction Date(s)


Listed on the Canadian Register: 2004/08/17

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.

Heritage Value

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

Character-Defining Elements

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.



British Columbia

Recognition Authority

Local Governments (BC)

Recognition Statute

Local Government Act, s.967

Recognition Type

Heritage Designation

Recognition Date


Historical Information

Significant Date(s)


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

John Wright



Additional Information

Location of Supporting Documentation

City of Victoria Planning and Development Department

Cross-Reference to Collection

Fed/Prov/Terr Identifier




Related Places


Congregation Emanu-el Temple National Historic Site of Canada

The Congregation Emanu-el Temple National Historic Site of Canada is a two-storey red brick building located on a prominent intersection in downtown Victoria, British Columbia. …


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