The Dohany Street Synagogue that is also famously known as the Tabakgasse Synagogue or the Great Synagogue, is significantly recognized as one of the historical buildings within Budapest, Hungary. With an overall capacity of 3,000 people at a time, the Synagogue is acknowledged as the largest one in all over Europe.
Under the formulation and development of the Moorish Revival, the Synagogue was built during 1854 – 1859. One of the most intriguing aspects regarding the Synagogue is that it was primarily built on an Islamic model that was developed from the medieval Spain and North America. The architect of the Synagogue, Ludwig Forster, was convinced over the fact that there was not much prominent architecture to be recognized specifically for the Jews and thus, employed a strategy that would feel as not only intriguing but captivating the local culture of Judaism. Thus, Forster integrated the models and architectural theories that were considered to be native to the Israeli culture and most specifically the Arab culture. The application of such a model allowed Forster to integrate the oriental ethnic architectural forms that brought in the religious context into the Synagogue.
On the 3rd of February, in 1939; the Synagogue was hit by a bomb for which the pro – Nazi Arrow Cross Party was responsible. As a result of the bombing, the Synagogue building continued to suffer immense damage; furthermore, during the World War II, the building was again a target as it was used by the German troops as their base station and due to numerous aerial attacks, the building suffered more loss. However, during the Communist era, the Synagogue building was again restored as a prayer house for the Jewish community and its restoration from the damage it suffered initiated in 1991.
Based on the consideration of the very basic statistics of the building as of now, it could be identified that the building is almost around 246 ft long while being 89 ft wide. The basic design ideology integrated within the exterior architecture is Moorish in nature as it was built during the time of the Moorish Revival. However, it may be significant to highlight that the overall design also integrates within itself a mixture of Romantic, Byzantine and even Gothic elements which continue to add to the significance of the architecture it represents. The building continues to feature a total of two octagonal towers that are of 141 ft in height, each. On both the towers, an onion dome is built.
The building has two, extensively spacious aisles which are also considered to be extravagantly decorated. The Synagogue also features an ark which has engraved upon it, various scrolls extracted from the Torah.
The internal frescoes and the Torah – Ark of the synagogue building based on the works and designs of the well – known Hungarian architect Frigyes Feszl, are made to be colored along with geometric shapes. The seats within the Synagogue are not only designed in a specific manner but are even designated in a sequence. The sequence is as such that the seats on the ground floor are designated for men while the seats in the upper gallery are designated specifically for women.
Hungarian Jewish Museum and Archives
Within the bounds of the Synagogue Complex, the Hungarian Jewish Museum and Archives is another piece of architecture that continues to remain designated for the Jewish community and adds to the overall development of the Synagogue. The Museum is known to have replaced the house of Theodor Herzl and adjoins the Synagogue itself. The Museum was constructed in 1930 based on the architectural theme and model similar to that of the Synagogue itself. However, it was later in 1931 considered that the Museum must become a part of the Synagogue’s main building. Currently, the Museum holds the various collections of Jewish Religious and even historical texts, artifacts, etc.
The Heroes’ Temple which is yet another building within the Synagogue complex has a basic capacity to seat almost 250 people at a time. The temple is utilized to host various forms of religious services along with the regular weekday services. The Heroes’ Temple was made a part of the Synagogue’s main building in 1931 and was designed by the architects, Lazlo Vago and Ferenc Farago. Apart from the temple, featuring religious services, it also serves as a memorial towards the Hungarian Jews who lost their lives during World War I.
The Jewish Cemetery as part of the Synagogue building is one of the most prominently appreciated aspect of the Dohany Synagogue and this is mostly because of the fact that no other Synagogue, specifically in Europe has a cemetery. However, there is a significant historical event that developed the need of a cemetery in the Synagogue and it was the Jewish Ghetto. In 1944 the Dohany Synagogue building served as a shelter for many of the Jews in the city and unfortunately thousands of Jews lost their lives being a target of hunger and cold. Thus, the Jews who lost their lives in the Ghetto were buried in the courtyard of the Synagogue building. In 1945 the courtyard was officially considered as a cemetery in the Synagogue as a sign of a memorial.
Anti – Semitic Attacks
Having considered the various aspects attached to the Synagogue, the building specifically emerges as the center for the Jewish religious and various other cultural social activities. Furthermore, because of the fact that for decades and centuries it has served as a center for Jewish activities, all forms of social and political outbursts are also targeted towards the Synagogue building. One of the very recent attack or an outburst was observed on 23rd October, 2012, where a Hungarian party burnt the Israeli flag in front of the Synagogue as a sign of outburst and hate towards Israel or its political activities.