Source: The Synagogue, Brian de Breffny, ISBN: 0-297 77527-8, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London, 1978.
In South Africa, The Great Synagogue of Cape Town (1905) is in a style which has been described as '1900-Spanish Colonial,' favoured for palatial hotels on the French Riviera.
Hymie Pogrund, quoting from The Birth of a Community, by Rabbi Israel Abrahams, wrote on 28 March 2000:
At the same time, the Jubilee (of the Congregation) inspired the Congregation to devote itself in earnest to the task of erecting a new House of Worship which would be an ornament to the city and capable of seating upwards of one thousand five hundred people. A building committee was appointed in 1902, and the architectural plans submitted by Messrs. Parker & Forsyth were approved.The foundation stone was laid in 1904 by the Governor of the Colony, Sir Walter Hely-Hutchinson,G.C.M.B., and the building was completed the year after.
"The new Bith Hakneseth, known officially as the Great Synagogue, and popularly as 'the Gardens Synagogue,' is a magnificent structure that has won the admiration of Jew and Gentile alike. Ideally situated in Government Avenue, and nobly conceived both in the grandeur of it's massive facade and the majesty of it's interior, it dominates the entire Gardens area, its lofty twin turrets being visible for a considerable distance in every direction. Entering the Synagogue, the worshipper is impressed not only by its general architectural beauty but also its lovely adornments and furniture. The golden mosaic of the wide alcove that contains the spacious built in Ark is of outstanding artistic merit. The central candelabrum suspended from the dome of the Synagogue has been described as a 'poem in light.' The Ner Tamid, which was donated to the congregation by Maurice Eilenberg, is a splendid example of the metalworker's art. The carved wooden pulpit - one of the finest of its kind - which graces the Synagogue today has replaced the original brass pulpit (now in the Bulawayo Synagogue), which was presented by the Boy's and Girl's Guild. The first Parocheth was the gift of the pupils of the School, who raised the money for it by repeated performances of an operetta. Another exquisite feature of the Synagogue is its series of stained glass windows; they are of a loveliness of design and colouring rarely found in our sanctuaries." [end of quote]
Without doubt this is the one of the most beautiful and striking of synagogues that I have been privileged to see in my life, including many in Britain, as well as the New World, as far as Australia. There is certainly very little resemblance to the Monte Carlo casino as inferred by one of your later informants.
As a child, I was unfortunately (or rather fortunately) forced to attend services here once a month through the good offices of the United Hebrew Schools in Cape Town where most of us attended "Heder" in the afternoons after school!
Even as children we never failed to be impressed by obvious grandeur of the place including the magnificent Hazzanut of [Cantor] Boris Rome, whose voice seemed to echo amongst the alcoves and crannies of the structure, as well as the accompanying choral rendition of all the liturgical songs that we loved so much in the Orthodox tradition.
Incidentally, my parents who were "greeners" were married here by the late Rev. A.P. Bender. I could never understand this paradox, as they, as well as their Landsleit, always referred to the Gardens Shul as "der Englishe Shul" in a mildly derogatory sense because of the use of English in parts of the services! They were paid up members of the Beth Hamidrash Hachadash in Cape Town which was THE most strictly Orthodox congregation in the Litvak Mitnaggid tradition in the Cape at the time!!!