(JHE) — The magnificent domed synagogue in Trenčín, western Slovakia, will undergo major restoration as a cultural center and Jewish community space, with first steps financed by the EEA and the Slovak state.
Construction work will start in the autumn of this year, and should be completed in October 2022, the Trenčín Jewish community, which owns the building, said in a statement.
“We have been looking for ways to finance reconstruction for a long time,” Jewish community chair Oľga Hodálová said. “We are very pleased that we are among the monuments supported by EEA Grants and the state budget.”
The work will be carried out as a project called “Restoration, Reconstruction and Revitalization of the Synagogue in Trenčín.” It received an EEA grant of €763,300 from Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway under the program “Entrepreneurship in the field of culture, cultural heritage and cultural cooperation,” co-financed with €134,700 from the state budget of the Slovak Republic.
The statement said, however, that an additional €1 million will be needed to complete a full restoration, and the Jewish community and Trenčín municipality are seeking further financing.
The synagogue, listed as a national cultural monument, was built in 1913 to replace a wooden synagogue from the 18th century. Designed by Trenčín native Richard Scheibner and his collaborator Hugo Pál, it mixes Byzantine and Art Nouveau styles with a modern reinforced concrete dome construction and is an example of early modernist trends that aimed to reduce decoration while preserving monumental classical forms.
The main prayer hall was once richly decorated and still retains colorful stained glass windows, blue painting on the dome, and a historic chandelier in its center.
The synagogue was severely damaged during World War II and further damaged under the postwar communist regime, which used it as a clothing warehouse. It was reconstructed in the 1970s and 1980s for use as an arts center, but in a way that destroyed much of the interior decoration.
The synagogue was restituted to the Union of Slovak Jewish Communities in 1993. It includes a Holocaust memorial and small prayer room at the back of the building. Ownership was transferred to the small local Jewish community in 2018.
The restoration will aimed to restore the synagogue to its original condition.
“We found out that under the white paint from the times of socialism, there is an original beautiful Art Nouveau painting, which is unique in Slovakia,” Hodálová said. “Restoration probes have confirmed to us that we can renew it, for which we will use part of the obtained grant. It’s amazing news.”
In addition to uncovering the original paintings and restoring the painting on the dome, the restoration is to entail repair of the broken copper roof, reconstruction of the roof gutters on the western façade of the building, renovation of the entrance doors and spaces., and replacement of some windows.
The restored synagogue will house a cultural center hosting exhibits and events managed in cooperation with the Bratislava-based Jewish Cultural Institute, an official partner in the project. There will also be a permanent exhibition on local Jewish culture, as well as spaces for use by the Jewish community for prayer and communal activities.
“The restoration of the Trenčín synagogue is one of the largest projects of the Slovak Jewish community,” said Maroš Borský, director of the Jewish Cultural Institute. “Our task will be to build a modern cultural center that will present Jewish culture and which will be a place for dialogue between the majority and the minority.”