Great Synagogue in Budapest
The Great Synagogue of Budapest, also known as the Central Synagogue, is a magnificent religious monument that stands as a testament to the rich history and vibrant Jewish community in Budapest. With its stunning Moorish-style twin towers and intricate architectural details, it is not only the second-largest synagogue in the world but also considered one of the most beautiful. In this article, we will delve into the fascinating history and architecture of this iconic landmark, explore its surroundings, and discover the array of kosher restaurants in the area.
Location & Getting There
The Great Synagogue is located in Dohány Street, in the heart of Budapest’s Jewish Quarter (district VII). Its address is Dohány utca 2-8, at an angle to Károly körút, between Deák tér and Astoria. It is easily accessible by public transport, with the M2 metro line Astoria station being just a short walk away. Additionally, bus numbers 7 and 7A, as well as trams 47 and 49, provide convenient access to the synagogue.
The construction of the Great Synagogue began in the mid-19th century, during a period of prosperity for the Jewish community in Hungary. Designed by Ludwig Förster, a renowned German architect, the synagogue was completed in 1859. Förster aimed to create a structure that reflects the history and traditions of the Jewish people, incorporating architectural elements used by the Israelites throughout history. This unique blend of styles, often referred to as Byzantine-Moorish, sets the Great Synagogue apart from its more austere counterparts.
Magnificence in Detail
As you step inside the Great Synagogue, you will be immediately struck by its opulent interior. The central nave, reminiscent of a cathedral, boasts Moorish decorations with a fusion of Byzantine and Gothic influences. The walls are adorned with intricate frescoes, oriental motifs in shades of pink, and an array of beautiful chandeliers. The synagogue even features a majestic pulpit and an organ, a surprising addition for a Jewish place of worship.
The focal point of the synagogue is the Ark of the Covenant, located at the east wall. This sacred space houses the Torah scrolls, the holiest scriptures of the Jewish faith. During World War II, these scrolls were hidden by Catholic monks, ensuring their preservation and eventual return to the Jewish community. The significance of the Ark and its contents cannot be overstated, representing the spiritual core of the synagogue.
Symbolism and Commemoration
The Great Synagogue complex encompasses more than just the main building. The Heroes’ Temple, added in 1931, serves as a memorial to Hungarian Jews who lost their lives during World War I. This smaller temple, which can accommodate about 250 people, is where religious services are held during the winter months.
Adjacent to the synagogue, you will find a Jewish cemetery, a somewhat unusual sight for a synagogue. However, it holds a poignant historical significance. During the harsh winter of 1944-45, over 2,000 individuals perished in the Jewish ghetto. With no available burial sites, a mass grave was created in the synagogue’s backyard. This solemn reminder of the Holocaust stands as a testament to the loss and suffering endured by the Hungarian Jewish community.
In the rear courtyard of the complex, the Holocaust Jewish Memorial takes the form of a willow tree. Each leaf bears the name of one of the 400,000 Hungarian Jews who perished under Nazi rule during World War II. This poignant memorial serves as a place of remembrance and reflection, honoring the lives lost and reminding future generations of the atrocities committed.
Exploring the Jewish Museum
Within the same complex as the Great Synagogue, the Jewish Museum offers a wealth of information about Jewish traditions, costumes, and the history of Hungarian Jews. Visitors can delve into the rich tapestry of Jewish culture and gain a deeper understanding of the community’s contributions to Hungarian society.
Practical Information for Visitors
If you plan to visit the Great Synagogue, it is advisable to join a guided tour to fully appreciate its historical and cultural significance. Guided tours are available in multiple languages and provide valuable insights into the architecture, symbolism, and stories associated with the synagogue.
Please note that appropriate attire is required when visiting the synagogue. Men must wear a small skullcap called a kippah or yarmulke, which is provided at the entrance. Women should ensure their shoulders are covered as a sign of respect.
The Great Synagogue is open daily for visitors, except on Saturdays during prayer services. The opening hours for the synagogue and the Jewish Museum vary depending on the season, so it is advisable to check the official website for the most up-to-date information. Admission fees apply, with discounted rates available for students and families.
The synagogue and Jewish Museum & Archives have specific opening hours depending on the season. In the spring and autumn (from March 1 to April 27 and from October 1 to October 26), the synagogue is open from Sunday to Thursday, 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM, and on Fridays from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM. It is closed on Saturdays during this period.
During the summer season (from April 29 to September 30), the synagogue is open from Sunday to Thursday, 10:00 AM to 8:00 PM, and on Fridays from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM. Saturdays remain closed.
In the winter season (from October 27 to February 28), the synagogue is open from Sunday to Thursday, 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM, and on Fridays from 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM. It is closed on Saturdays, as well as on December 24 and 25.
It is important to note that the Ticket Office closes half an hour before the synagogue’s closing time. The synagogue is closed on specific holidays and dates, which are listed on their official website.
What is the Great Synagogue in Budapest?
The Great Synagogue in Budapest, also known as Dohány Street Synagogue, is the largest synagogue in Europe and the second-largest in the world.
Where is the Great Synagogue located?
The Great Synagogue is located on Dohány Street in the 7th district of Budapest, which is often referred to as the Jewish Quarter.
What is the history of the Great Synagogue?
The Great Synagogue was built between 1854 and 1859 in the Moorish Revival style, with a capacity for over 3,000 people. During World War II, the synagogue served as a shelter for many Jews, and today it stands as a testament to the history and endurance of the Jewish community in Budapest.
What can visitors see at the Great Synagogue?
Visitors can explore the synagogue itself, including its stunning main hall and the Jewish Museum, which holds an extensive collection of Jewish art and artifacts. The complex also includes the Holocaust Memorial Room, the Heroes' Temple, a graveyard, and the Holocaust Tree of Life Memorial.
Is there an entrance fee to the Great Synagogue?
Yes, there is an entrance fee for the Great Synagogue, which also includes access to the Jewish Museum. Discounts are usually available for students and senior citizens. Again, it's recommended to check the official website for the most current ticket prices.
How long does a visit to the Great Synagogue typically take?
A visit to the Great Synagogue usually takes around 1-2 hours, depending on how much time you spend exploring the museum and other features of the complex.