The Great Synagogue of Budapest, in Hungarian Nagy zsinagóga, known also as the Tabakgasse Synagogue, is a very important historical building. It is the largest synagogue in Europe and the second largest synagogue in the world. It can seat 3.000 people and it is located in the Jewish Quarter of Pest.
The complex consists of the Heroes’ Temple, the cemetery, the Memorial and the Jewish Museum. The Synagogue is located on Dohány avenue, which marks the border of the Budapest Ghetto.
The Budapest Synagogue was built between 1854 and 1859 according to the moorish style, featuring decorations based on Islamic models of North Africa and Medieval Spain, such as the Alhambra of Granada. The structure was designed by the Viennese architect Ludwig Förster, who decided to use architectural forms used by oriental ethnical groups related to the people of Israel. The interior design was made by Frigyes Feszl.
This building, just like many other buildings in the city, was bombed by the nazi army in 1939, especially by the German aviation during the Siege of Budapest. During the communist age, the damaged synagogue became again a prayer house for the Jewish community, who was much diminished.
In 1991 the Synagogue was renovated; the project was financed by the state and private donations, and completed 7 years later in 1998.
The building consists of three decorated wide aisles, two balconies, and an organ. The original organ dates back to 1859; in 1996 a new mechanical organ was added. The wooden door is decorated with various Torah scrolls, which were taken from other synagogues destroyed during the Holocaust. The seats for men are located on the ground floor while the seats for women are located on the upper gallery.
Within the Great Synagogue of Budapest there is also a Museum built in 1930 in accordance to the building’s architectonical style. The museum hosts a Jewish historical and religious collection, a collection of relics, ritual objects of Shabbat and other festivities, as well as an Holocaust room.
The Heroes’ Temple can seat 250 people. It is used for religious services on weekdays and on winter months; it was added to the complex in 1931. It was designed by Lazlo Vágó and Ferenc Faragó as a memorial to the Hungarian Jews who passed away during World War I.
Adjacent to the Great Synagogue of Budapest there is a cemetery, an usual element for a place of worship. The Jewish community decided to maintain it after the dramatic events of World War II.
The Budapest Jewish Ghetto served as a shelter for hundreds and hundreds of Jews. According to the Eichmann plan, in 1944 more than 70000 Jews were relocated to the Ghetto of Pest. Some of them died of starvation and hypothermia during the winter of 1944 and were buried in the courtyard of the Synagogue.
The last element belonging to the Great Synagogue of Budapest is the Raoul Wallenberg Emlékpark Memorial, made by Imre Varga. It resembles a weeping willow whose leaves have the names of the victims of the Holocaust.
Some useful information to plan a visit to the Synagogue.
In order to reach the Great Synagogue of Budapest you can take subway line M2, getting off at Astoria station. You can also reach Dohàny by bues 7 and 7A or by tramways 47 and 49.
Opening hours of the Synagogue and the Jewish Museum vary according to the time of the year. Usually the Synagogue stays open from Sunday to Thursday from 10 am to 4 pm on autumn and winter months. During spring and summer months, the complex is open from 10am to 6pm. The Synagogue is always closed on Saturdays. On Fridays opening hours change monthly.
The best way to visit the Great Synagogue of Budapest is by taking a guided tour. There are different types of available tours, from general ones to more complete tours which last up to 4 hours – available at more expensive rates. It is also possible to organize customized tours for groups.