Thanks to a €2.3 million EU grant, the long-abandoned Lipot Baumhorn-designed synagogue in Lučenec, Slovakia is (finally) under restoration, fulfilling plans and aspirations formulated years ago.
Slovak media said work began around the beginning of June — and posted a picture of scaffolding surrounding the structure.
Earlier this year, it was announced that the city, which owns the building, had received an EU funds grant assistance of more than € 2.3 million to restore building, which will be converted into a cultural center.
“The synagogue will serve as a multifunctional cultural facility” that will serve local residents as well as tourists, a city spokesperson said at the time.
Completed in 1926, the immense domed structure is the only surviving synagogue out of five that once stood in the town, which is in southern Slovakia near the border with Hungary. It was designed by the prolific Hungarian synagogue architect Lipot Baumhorn and is a typical example of Baumhorn’s grand, eclectic style. Among his more than 20 other synagogues are the great synagogue in Szeged, Hungary, and the synagogues in Esztergom and Szolnok, Hungary.
The communist authorities nationalized the Lučenec synagogue in 1948 and for more than 30 years it was used as a warehouse for artificial fertilizers. It stood empty and dilapidated after being abandoned in 1980. It received a new roof in the 1990s, but otherwise plans for restoration never until now got off the ground for lack of funding.
During the first weeks of renovation work, archeologists working at the site uncovered a “time capsule” that was buried there in 1863, dating from the dedication of a previous synagogue that stood in the same place.
The capsule was found in a stone chest in the foundations, writes the Slovak Spectator and other media.
“Inside was a glass container with a document establishing the original synagogue, which stood on the site of the current one and was built in 1863,” said Viktória Tittonová, a Fiľakovo Castle Museum director and an archaeologist, as quoted by the TASR newswire. “Aside from this document, there were also gold and silver coins of various values.”
It is interesting that the glass container displays the name of Ján Kossuch, a glassworks owner who probably contributed money towards building the synagogue, Tittonová added.