Europe

We visited the Great Synagogue of Budapest

Also known as the Dohány Street Synagogue, the Great Synagogue of Budapest is the second largest in the world, after the Congregation Emanu-El of New York. A must-see in the capital of Hungary, both for its beauty and for what it represents. Let’s get to know her a little better. Will you join us?

Characteristics of the Budapest Great Synagogue

Erected in the Erzsébetváros district of the Hungarian capital, this Jewish temple can seat 3,000 people. It was built between 1854 and 1859 in neo-Moorish style, with a great influence of Islamic architecture present in North Africa and in the Alhambra in Granada. It also has Byzantine, romantic and gothic touches, which give it that particular look. The Viennese architect Ludwig Forster was the one who designed the project.

Interior of the Great Synagogue – Yury Dmitrienko / Shutterstock.com

The Great Synagogue of Budapest has monumental dimensions. With 27 meters wide and 75 meters long, it is, as we pointed out, the second largest in the world after New York. It also has two 43-meter-high octagonal towers crowned by beautiful domes.

The interior of the temple is composed of three spacious naves and highly decorated, balconies, an ark with Torah scrolls, an area reserved for women in the gallery and an extraordinary organ, something very unusual in this type of temple.

The Jewish community in Budapest

Great Synagogue – Chrisdorney

To understand why this synagogue was built, it is worth doing a bit of history. And it is that the Jews settled in these lands practically from the time of the Magyar tribes. They never enjoyed the same rights as Hungarian citizens, but there were times of a certain permissiveness with respect to other neighboring countries.

The Jewish community was growing and settling. Already In the mid-nineteenth century, the need arose to build a large temple that could accommodate all the faithful. A temple that was bombed to near destruction in 1939.

Touring the Great Synagogue in Budapest

Visiting the Synagogue is like traveling back in time, since everything around it forms an unmissable ensemble. Next to the temple is the birthplace of Theodor Herzl (Austro-Hungarian journalist and writer and founder of modern political Zionism). Today the house is the Jewish Museum, founded in the 1930s and which houses religious relics, rooms dedicated to Jewish festivals and ritual objects used during Shabbat.

Memorial – Roman Yanushevsky / Shutterstock.com

Also we can visit the Gallery and Temple of the Heroes, which has a capacity of 250 people and is used in the winter or for religious services on weekends. Additionally, it serves as a memorial to Hungarian Jews who died in World War I and was added to the synagogue complex in 1931.

The memory of the Holocaust

In the courtyard of the Great Synagogue are some of its most impressive corners. One of them is the Jewish cemetery. Here rest the remains of more than two thousand people who died during the famine of the winter of 1944 to 1945. And it is that the Nazis had turned the Jewish quarter into a ghetto, those who stayed in it avoided the horror of the concentration camps, but life in this place was extremely harsh.

Holocaust Memorial – Fidel Ramos / Flickr.com

The complex is completed with a Holocaust Memorial Park. It honors the nearly 400,000 Jews who were murdered by the Nazis. In it stands out a sculpture in the form of a weeping willow whose leaves bear the names of the victims. The monument is named after Raoul Wallemberg, a Swedish diplomat who saved thousands of Jews by giving them visas to leave the country.

 

“The duty of the survivor is to bear witness to what happened, […] people have to be warned that these things can happen, that evil can be unleashed. Racial hatred, violence and idolatry still proliferate.”

-Elie Wiesel-

After visiting the Great Synagogue of Budapest, it is worth taking a walk through the Jewish quarter and visit the Jewish Museum to better understand all the historical events.

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