A bold new outdoor mural in Szeged, in southeastern Hungary, recognizes the city’s important Jewish heritage — and art.
The mural, by local artists Ákos Marton and Leó Vinkó, extends for some 150-200 square meters on the firewall of a building near Szeged’s grandiose New Synagogue. It combines images from two of the synagogue’s spectacular stained glass windows, depicting both the silhouette of the synagogue and a palm tree bordered by stylized fruit and floral motifs .
The synagogue was the masterpiece of the prolific synagogue architect Lipot Baumhorn.
The windows were created by the stained glass artist Manó Róth — and the mural also commemorates the life and work of this artist, who lived from 1868 to 1935 and was long overshadowed by his older brother, the more famous stained glass artist Miksa Róth. The brothers were sons of an expert glassmaker in Budapest.
The mural was a project of Rediscover, a Jewish heritage and tourism project of the EU’s Interreg Danube Transnational Programan involving nine cities in eight countries, which is just concluding its three-year mandate.
The city of Szeged was the lead partner in the Rediscover project and helped decide what the mural should depict, Rediscover project manager Anna Szentgyörgyi told JHE.
She said the original concept of the mural was developed by project partner Szeged and Surroundings Tourism Nonprofit Ltd, which paid for it as “a professional PR campaign to raise awareness of local Jewish cultural heritage.”
The artists, she said, have painted smaller murals, and for this one used material guaranteed to last for at least 10 years.
One of Rediscover’s projects in Szeged was to research a publish a beautifully illustrated book — also downloadable for free — that celebrates the synagogue’s stained glass windows and documents their creation by Mánó Róth, in collaboration with Baumhorn and Szeged’s chief rabbi, Immanuel Löw.
The book, “Windows of Celebrations in the New Synagogue of Szeged”, was edited by Szentgyörgyi and Krisztina Frauhammer and published by the Szeged Municipality and Rediscover.
It describes the history of making the synagogue’s stained glass windows and also discusses the extraordinarily rich symbolism portrayed — symbolism that Róth, rendered in close consultation with Baumhorn and, especially, with Rabbi Löw, who “coined the visual program of the windows depicting the festive cycles of the Jewish year in the synagogue” and addressed even the smallest design details such as colors and patterns.
Szeged and Rediscover also mounted an outdoor exhibit and other projects related to Baumhorn to mark 2020 as the 160th anniversary of his birth, though the COVID pandemic forced the postponement or modification of events.