Dohany Synagogue | Attraction Guides | History Hit

Dohany Synagogue

Budapest

History Hit

13 May 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Dohany Synagogue

The Dohany Synagogue (Dohany utcai zsinagoga), also known as the Dohany Street Synagogue and The Great Synagogue, is the world’s second largest synagogue and is located in Budapest, Hungary. Completed in 1859, the Dohany Synagogue was bombed by the right-wing Arrow Cross Party in 1939.

With a distinctive Moorish exterior and ornate interior, the restored Dohany Synagogue is open to the public and is also the place from which tours of the Jewish Quarter of Budapest begin. Next door to the Dohany Synagogue is the Budapest Jewish Museum and birthplace of Theodor Hertzl – the father of modern Zionism.

Dohany Synagogue history

The Dohany Synagogue was built between 1854 and 1859 in the Moorish Revival style. The Moorish architectural style was chosen because while no distinctive Jewish design could be identified, the Arabic and Israelite peoples share many aspects of Middle Eastern culture. The influences primarily came from Islamic buildings in North Africa and medieval Spain, such as the Alhambra.

The synagogue was built in a residential area by the Jewish community of Pest, with a capacity for 2,964 worshippers, and was consecrated in 1859. A Jewish Museum was built in the same Arabic style in 1931 on the remains of Theodor Hertzl’s Classicist house stood, holding the Jewish Religious and Historical Collection. In the same year a Heroes’ Temple was also added to commemorate Hungarian Jews who died during World War One.

The synagogue was bombed by the right-wing Hungarian nationalist and pro-Nazi Arrow Cross Party in February 1939. During World War Two, the synagogue remains were occupied by Germans for a radio base while doubling as a stable. The leafy Dohany street where the synagogue stood constituted the border of the Budapest Ghetto during the Holocaust.

Dohany Synagogue also suffered further damage during air raids and the Siege of Budapest, when Romanian and Soviet forces surrounded Budapest to drive out the Nazis towards the end of the war. Under the communists, the damaged building reverted to a prayer house for the much-diminished Jewish community.

Restorations began in 1991 financed by the state and private donations and were completed in 1998.

Dohany Synagogue today

Today, the synagogue remains a beautiful symbol of the continuing Jewish-Hungarian presence in Budapest, flanked on either side by ornate towers topped with black and gold domes. Inside, the synagogue boasts a stunning arched gallery within which visitors cannot fail to feel great reverence.

Just behind the museum you will find a memorial sculpture depicting a weeping willow with the names and tattoo numbers of the Jewish peoples who died and disappeared as a result of the Nazi regime. It is not customary to have a cemetery beside a synagogue, according to the Torah, however the demand after 1944 was so high that many of those who died in the ghetto were buried there.

The museum also includes a Holocaust room for visitors to deepen their knowledge of the Jewish experience during the 20th century.

Getting to Dohany Synagogue

The easiest way to reach Dohany Synagogue on a street of the same name is via Budapest’s extensive public transport network. The Astoria transit stop only 2 minutes from the synagogue serves trams 47, 48 and 49 as well as buses 9 and 916 and trolleybus 72M.

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