Only five of the more than 100 surviving synagogue buildings in Slovakia are still used for worship — synagogues in Bratislava, Košice, Nové Zámky, Prešov and Komárno.
What about the others?
The news site aktualny.sk has run an article taking a look at seven synagogues that have been transformed for uses ranging from a cafe (the orthodox synagogue in Trnava) to a brewery (Banská Štiavnica). There’s a synagogue in Komárno that is used as a fitness center. The Lipot Baumhorn synagogue in Nitra is an exhibition and concert hall, with a Holocaust exhibition. The domed synagogue in Trenčín hosts cultural events, as does the synagogue in Liptovský Mikuláš, whose interior, designed by Lipot Baumhorn, still awaits restoration. The modernist Neolog synagogue in Žilina, as we have written, is being restored as a contemporary arts center.
We have written about some of these synagogues already on this web site, either in the news section or on the Slovakia heritage page.
Jewish Heritage Europe Coordinator Ruth Ellen Gruber recently visited Trnava, where both of the town’s synagogues have been restored for secular use: the orthodox one as a cafe, as noted in the aktualny.sk article, and the Status Quo synagogue as a contemporary art gallery.
The synagogue are located across the street from each other near the town center.
As we noted in February, the Orthodox synagogue has been renovated and is now the “Synagoga Cafe”, a meeting-and-eating place that also hosts concerts, literary events, and other cultural happenings.
This in fact is its second refurbishment.
After remaining locked and abandoned; disused and in terribly neglected shape for decades, it was acquired by a private investor five or six years ago and beautifully restored (also preserving signs of damage) and opened as the private MAX Gallery.
The gallery seems no longer to exist, and the entire former sanctuary is an upscale cafe, whose logo incorporates the silhouette of the synagogue’s facade.
According to the web site, the renovation into a cafe won an award as the most beautiful renovated sacral building in Slovakia. It preserves the decorative elements, including the painted ceiling and the ark. There is an open central area, with glass-walled private mini-lounged on either side, under the women’s gallery.
We wrote extensively about the Status Quo synagogue, which opened this winter after an eight-months’ renovation.
The synagogue, designed by the Viennese architect Jakub Gartner and built in 1897 on Halenárska street, has been used as the Jan Koniarek contemporary arts center since 1994. The building was a ruined shell in 1990 — the restorers who converted it into the gallery two decades ago chose to retain and incorporate evidence of the devastation. The outer appearance was left to look unrestored, and inside, much was deliberately left looking unfinished. This treatment allowed the building to stand not just as a contemporary culture center, but, symbolically, as a memorial to the town’s 2,000 Jews who were murdered in the Shoah. (A large sculptural Holocaust memorial also stands outside near the entrance.)
The new, €1 million restoration, carried out by the Trnava Self-Governing region with funding from the EU, to some extent reverses this choice. It “cleans up” the building, particularly on the outside, though it still retains some traces of the damage inside.