This is exciting news! The blueprints and other documentation for the majestic New Synagogue in Szeged, Hungary have been discovered, and an exhibition is being planned — possibly in time for next year to mark the 160th birthday of the synagogue’s architect, the prolific Lipot Baumhorn.
The Project reported in July that:
In 2018 we have found the long lost architectural plans of the Szeged New Synagogue. It is extremely important that the documentation of the building of the New Synagogue of Szeged be restored, digitized and made researchable since it contains the drawings, plans and correspondence of rabbi Immánuel Löw, architect Lipót Baumhorn, synagogue textile designer József Schlesinger and others.
In a Facebook post, another project in Szeged, Rediscover, described the blueprints and the “gorgeous handwritten letters and drawings” as well as other material.
Rediscover is an EU-funded, trans-border tourism and educational project involving nine mid-sized cities in Hungary, Romania, Slovenia, Serbia, Croatia, Germany, Montenegro and Bosnia-Herzegovina under the title “Rediscover, expose and exploit the concealed Jewish heritage of the Danube Region.”
People involved with both the Szeged Jewish Archive project and Rediscover said there are plans for an eventual exhibition of these documents, but that funding still needs to be secured for both an exhibition and the restoration of the documents.
Baumhorn — as we have noted before — designed or renovated around two dozen synagogues in what were once Hungarian lands and now form parts of Slovenia, Slovakia, Croatia, Serbia, and Romania as well as Hungary. They include four in Budapest.
The monumental, domed and multi-turreted Szeged synagogue, inaugurated in 1903 for the Neolog community, was his masterpiece.
Watch video of the synagogue prepared following renovation work completed in 2017:
Baumhorn designed the details, including stained glass windows, lavish decoration, and even the trees to plant in the surrounding garden, in collaboration with Rabbi Löw.
Löw was a scholar and expert in Jewish symbolism who spent years researching the plants mentioned in the Bible and other ancient Jewish texts. He published his findings in the monumental Die Flora der Juden and other works.
For Szeged, “Every painted panel, every pane of stained glass, every inscription, every carving was imbued with a symbolic meaning that Löw explained at length in detailed published accounts,” JHE director Ruth Ellen Gruber wrote in a chapter on Baumhorn in her book Upon the Doorposts of Thy House: Jewish Life in East-Central Europe, Yesterday and Today.
In addition to the synagogue, Baumhorn designed other buildings in Szeged, including the Jewish community complex and the ceremonial hall in the Jewish cemetery.
Baumhorn died in 1932, and a carved rendition of the Szeged synagogue’s huge dome is the main decorative feature on his gravestone in Budapest’s Kozma utca Jewish cemetery — which recently underwent restoration.
About half of the synagogues Baumhorn designed or renovated still stand, though only a few are still used as synagogues.
Those standing include the grand synagogue on Budapest’s Dozsa Gyorgy ut, now a sports hall, the domed synagogue Novi Sad, Serbia, now a concert hall; that in Nitra, Slovakia (a concert hall and Holocaust memorial) and the one in Lucenec, Slovakia that was long a hulking ruin but was recently restored as a cultural center.
The Baumhorn synagogue in Szolnok, Hungary is a concert hall and cultural center — and a memorial bust of Baumhorn now stands in front of it.
Among his synagogues still use as a synagogue is the one he designed in 1901 for the Neolog community in Braşov, Romania.