Visit to the Grand Choral Synagogue of St. Petersburg. The main synagogue of St. Petersburg was built to meet the needs of the growing Jewish community in the late 19th century. For a long time Jews were prohibited by Russian authorities from living outside the so-called Pale of Settlement, an area that included the present-day countries of Lithuania, Belarus, Ukraine, and Moldova, while access to Moscow and St. Petersburg was strictly forbidden. By the end of the 19th century these laws were progressively relaxed and a growing number of Jewish moved to the Russian capital. After getting the Tsar’s permit and faced with heavy restrictions, the great Choral Synagogue was consecrated in 1893. It was built near Mariinsky Theatre with a beautiful mix of Moorish and Byzantine styles. During World War I it was transformed into a hospital for soldiers, and during World War II it was bombed by the Germans. After major rennovations carried out between 2000 and 2003 the synagogue recovered its former splendor and is currently a federal architectural monument and the second largest synagogue in Europe.