Jewish Heritage Europe

Bulgaria: does ownership transfer mean glimmer of hope for historic synagogue in Samokov?

Synagogue in Samokov, Bulgaria. via wikimedia, CC BY-SA 3.0


Bulgaria’s Jewish community has officially transferred ownership of the historic but long-derelict synagogue in Samokov, Bulgaria, to the Samokov municipality, raising hopes that the important building, originally built in the 1850s, might be restored for use as a cultural center.

Preserved painting in the Samokov synagogue (via wikimedia; CC BY-SA 3.0)

In a post on Facebook April 26, Bulgaria’s Shalom Association (the main umbrella of Bulgarian Jews) stated that Shalom President Aleksander Oscar and Samokov Mayor Vladimir Georgiev had officially signed the documents formalizing the transfer (which was originally announced in July 2017). This basically reversed the restitution of the synagogue to Jewish ownership, which took place in the mid-2000s.

The transfer, Shalom stated, “is conditional on the implementation of a project for restoration of the building in its original form, which will subsequently function as a cultural center.”

Considered a typical example of neo-baroque Balkan Revival architecture, the synagogue is listed as a historic monument. It was restored in the early 1970s and served as a local museum until it was gutted by fire in 1975. Some restoration was attempt after that, but the building was eventually abandoned.

The two-storey synaogue has 38 windows and walls 8 meters high; there is a Hebrew inscription in gilded letters over the entrance and wall paintings and carved wood paneling enrich the interior. 

Interior of Samokov synagogue via wikimedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)


The synagogue anchored what was once the town’s Jewish quarter and was used by a wealthy Jewish community — next door the Sarafska House and garden (at Knyaz Al.Dondukov St 11), once the elegant residence of the Arie banking family, have been turned into a museum of the Jewish home.

See plans to restore the building from the mid-2000s, with architectural details and history




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