The Great Synagogue of Dohany street was built between 1854-1859 by the Neolog Jewish community of Pest according to the plans of the Viennese architect Frigyes Feszl and Ludwig Förster. In 1996 they finished it's reconstruction, so nowdays it shows it's original splendor.
It's really a great synagogue, in size as well, since it's capacity is 2,964 seats (1,492 for men and 1,472 in the women’s galleries) making it one of the largest in the world and the biggest in Europe.
The building has a lenghth of more than 53 meters and it's 26.5 meters wide. The design of the Dohany Street synagogue, while basically in a Moorish style, also features a mixture of Byzantine, Romantic, and Gothic elements.
The 5,000 tube organ of the synagogue was built in 1859; Franz Liszt and C. Saint-Saens are probably the most famous musicians that played on this remarkable instrument.
Next to this synagogue there’s the Jewish Museum (with a Holocaust memorial room) and the Hall of Heroes (with the Monument of Hungarian Jewish Martyrs). The two towers of the building are 43 meters high. Inside the Synagogue very special concerts are held.
Jews first settled in the Budapest region in the 11th Century and as in many European nations passed through periods of ascendancy alternating with years of persecution and even expulsion. After the anti-Semitic years of Empress Maria Theresa, Jewish prosperity reached a new peak under the friendly rule of Emporer Joseph II. As a reflection of their new-found success, the Reformed (Neolog) Jewish community of Pest undertook to build this massive synagogue, second largest in the world after New York's Temple Emanu-el, with room for 3000 worshippers, to the plans of a Viennese architect Ludwig Foerster. It would be enlarged in 1931. The square in front honors Zionist Theodore Herzl, who had his bar mitzvah here.
During WWII, the Nazis occupied the building as a radio center and stable. Adolf Eichmann had offices here. It was used as a concentration point for transport of Jews to the extermination camps, and over 2000 Jews died here from exposure and starvation near the end of the war. Damage was heavy, both by Nazis and their allies the Arrow Cross party, and by the attacking allied forces. After the end of Communist rule during which the building fell into serious disrepair, funding for rehabilitation came largely from the US, much from Hungarian American actor Tony Curtis and from Estee Lauder. The three year reconstruction ended in 1996 with the synagogue restored to its earlier glory.
The ornate west facade is almost Moorish in appearance, with long arched windows and carved stone with gold ornaments and domes on the windows. A large stained glass rose window overlooks the main door. The exterior brickwork echoes the colors of Budapest - yellow and red. The flanking towers are almost 50 feet high with gold ornaments on green onion domes. Arriving from the Astoria metro stop and rounding the corner, the sight of this building is truly breathtaking.
I first read about the Jewish Synagogue in Budapest while I was reading the National Geographic. It was an article on endangered sites around the world. Apparently, a lot of the old Jewish establishments around the Synagogue are being demolished since developers wanted to commercialize the area.
True enough, when I visited the Synagogue in 2007, there was a huge bulldozer at the back (destroying some apartment), while I was at the famous metal “tree of life” which had the names of some Holocaust victims.
The Great Synagogue in Dohány Street, also known as the Dohány Synagogue, or the Tabac-Schul, the Yiddish translation of dohány (tobacco), is the second largest synagogue in the world! It was finished in 1859 and can accommodate 3000 people.
The area of the Synagogue is known as the inner part of the seventh district of Budapest, considered a Jewish ghetto during the Second World War when a wall was built around this area. It was time of oppression and Jews could only leave the ghetto with permission.
Years later, the Synagogue still stands and used by an active Jewish community in Budapest. And I think its great that they are allowing tourists to enter their place of worship. They have even built a Jewish Museum in Synagogue itself, where I saw some old expensive looking menorahs.
There are other synagogues in this area of Budapest, and you will also find some kosher restaurants and shops, a rabbi training school. Hopefully, commercialization will not ruin the character of this historical Jewish community.
Spectacular, opulent - words can not do justice to the sanctuary of the Great Synagogue. Designed by Frigyes Fresl, the walls are covered with gold ornamental designs. The womens' galleries are supported by heavily decorated poles. The huge ark at the east end with its beautiful blue and gold filigreed dome contains many Torahs saved from synagogues destroyed elsewhere by the Nazis. The massive organ built in the mid 1800s has drawn great artists most notably Franz Liszt. Both it and an area for a choir are located behind the ark. The whole room is naturally illuminated through arched and round stained glass windows as well as by large ornate chandeliers. Sitting in the polished dark wooden benches, the visitor is compelled to search every corner for the beauty within this room.
Budapest's Great Synagogue is one of the largest Synagogues in the world AND a sight you will not want to miss! This grand Jewish Temple also goes under the name of Dohány Synagogue.
We first saw the Temple from a side street, at that time we didn't realize what it was! Straight away I liked the coloured brick work and Moorish features. We walked around and found the entrance way where a short queue of people were waiting to buy tickets.
The Temple was built between 1854 and 1859 in several styles, probably Moorish is the main style, then Byzantine, Gothic, and Romantic architecture can be seen. Two 43.6 metre high towers add appeal to the Temple, so do the yellow and red bricks giving the building a striped appearance. At the entrance way, is a rose stained-glass window.
Restoration of this lovely Temple took between 1991 to 1998 to complete.
The Central Synagogue in Manhattan, New York City is a near-exact copy of the Dohány Street Synagogue.
OPENING HOURS VARY, so please go to this link
We were lucky to have a look inside, as the Synagogue was being shut later for a very important funeral. Already, the streets around it were closed by Police.
ADMISSON FEE - 1400 HUF
Inside the synagogue you have to wear a small skullcap called kipah or yarmulke. You will be given one at the entrance.
You can buy tickets online and tours are available.
After viewing the interior of the Great Synagogue, I then walked outside and under many arches on my way to view the "Tree of Life." It was through the arches that I noticed a tranquil area with lawn and old established trees.
I was inquisitive, so I left the crowd and wandered in for a look.
First, I should tell you about the Germans establishing a ghetto for the Jews in 1944, where tens of thousands of people were crowded together in inhumane conditions. Many people found refuge in the Great Synagogue, but thousands died during the winter of 1944/45, either frozen to death, died of sickness or starvation, or as a result of the brutality received from the Nazis. Thousands of corpses were found on the streets, many were unidentifiable bodies.
Today, these unknown people are buried in the Synagogue's garden, which has become known as the Martyr’s cemetery.
Where they lay at rest, the horrors of war have been left behind, as this is a very peaceful area for quiet reflection.
The Great Synagogue, also known as Dohány Street Synagogue (Hungarian: Dohány utcai zsinagóga/nagy zsinagóga, Hebrew: בית הכנסת הגדול של בודפשט bet hakneset hagadol šel budapešt) or Tabakgasse Synagogue, is located in Erzsébetváros, the 7th district of Budapest. It is the largest synagogue in Eurasia and the second largest in the world
This is the world's second biggest synagogue today. Moorish style, designed by German architect, Ludwig Forster. Opened on 6 Sept 1859.
There are guided tours in Hebrew and English, and can also be booked in season in French, German, Italian, Spanish and Russian. In addition to providing information about the synagogue, they also include much about the Hungarian history, which is a must for understanding the area.
Opening hours: 1Nov - 31Mar 10am to 3 pm, Fridays and Sundays til 2pm; 1Apr - 31Oct 10am to 5pm, Fridays til 3pm and Sundays til 6pm.
The synagogue and cashier close half an hour prior to to those times and is closed holidays and festivals. Groups of a minimum of 10 persons receive a discount.
Located in Pest it is the largest synagogue still in use in Europe. It now contains the Jewish Museum which is open from 10am to 5pm Monday to Thursday, 3pm Friday and 2pm Sunday. Remember that it is the Jewish Sabbath on Saturday so it is closed all day.
The Synagogue is at Vll Dohány utca 2-8 and behind it between Dohány utca,Kertész utca and Kiraály utca is the old Jewish ghetto.
During WWll, Hungarian Jews were some of the last to be rounded up, however this actually proved more fatal for them as the where sent straight to the gas chambers from the trains. It is a great tragedy that should be remembered, therefore a trip to the Synagogue and the Jewish museum is a truly worth while activity.
This was one of the busiest sites I visited in Budapest. I entered and was gob-smacked, for before my eyes was a massive richly decorated oriental interior, complete with frescoes, ceiling decoration, many chandeliers, lamp-brackets, ornaments and a great pulpit and organ. WOW!
The frescoes are coloured and golden geometric shapes, done by the famous Hungarian romantic architect - "Frigyes Feszl." Women and men in the congregation are separated - the Men have seats on the ground-floor, while women are seated on the first floor gallery. Altogether, 2840 seats are available for the church goers.
The interior was amazing, so do allow some time to sit and take it all in!
A MUST VISIT
This small and concise but superbly organized museum shares a fenced compound with the Great Synagogue. It is built at the site of early Zionist Theodore Herzl"s childhood home. Its four rooms are devoted to - the Sabbath, the Holidays, the Rites of Passage, and the Horrors of the Holocaust. The first room features artifacts related to the synagogue and the Sabbath with Torah breastplates, pointers, and other items largely from the 18th and 19th Centuries. The second gives complete descriptions of the major holidays with the sacred items used to commemorate them. I was particularly taken by ornate Seder plates, especially a silver plate with seven tradesmen carrying items specific to their trade into which the traditional items of the Passover plate are placed. The adjacent images include these items.
The third room centers on birth, bar mitzvah, wedding, and death. The fourth room is somber, draped in black, and recounts the horror of the Holocaust. Over 500000 Hungarian Jews died. In just 3 months of Nazi control in 1944, Adolf Eichmann, in his office behind the rose window of the great synagogue, shipped over 400000 Jews to extermination camps. The remainder were killed by the Arrow Cross Party - the Nazi sycophants in Hungary - often thrown into the Danube- or died of starvation or murder during the incarceration in the synagogue.
The museum is user-friendly to those not versatile with Hungarian and therefore far more meaningful than the Terror House. Indeed, many things we saw in the Terror House were first clear to us on visiting here. Each exhibit contains full English documentation explaining the rituals, holidays, and the meaning of the displayed items. With the synagogue, the museum represents an attraction not to be missed.
Budapest once had a thriving Jewish population, one of the biggest in the world. The Holocaust took its toll, and as many as 40% of the quarter of a million Jews in the city lost their lives to the Nazis or Hungarian Arrow Cross. Today Budapest, in spite of everything, is still home to one of the largest Jewish populations in Europe.
The biggest Jewish population in Europe is served by the biggest synagogue in Europe. With the capacity to host 3,000 prayers, it is even, according to the New York Times, the second biggest in the world. It was built in 1859 in the style of Moorish synagogues in North Africa and Spain and has survived bombings by the Arrow Cross Party (deliberate) and Allies (accidental) to become of one Budapest's most impressive sights.
Entry to the synagogue can be quite complicated. First there is a metal detector, a tragic reminder that even today Jews have been targeted by bombs in Budapest. Secondly you have a choice of tours that is not all that clearly marked.
Basically it goes like this:
* If you want a guided tour, buy a ticket from the kiosk outside the metal guard rails, then follow the instructions you are given.
* If you don't want a guided tour, then enter directly through the metal detector, and buy a ticket from the kiosk on the right of the synagogue before entering. You'll be directed here if you forget and try to enter without paying.
* If you don't want to spend any money, you can just walk through the metal detector and wander the grounds of the synagogue for free.
Note: After writing this tip I moved into an apartment overlooking the Synagogue!