(JHE) — Archaeologists working on the EEA-funded project to renovate the grand, domed synagogue in Trenčín have discovered what are believed to be the foundations of the earlier synagogue from the end of the 18th century.
The synagogue, listed as a national cultural monument, was built in 1913 to replace the earlier synagogue. 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 restoration project web site reports that the archaeological research inside the synagogue’s sanctuary, down to 2.5 metres under the floor, also uncovered a 16th-century wall that was part of the city fortifications.
They also unearthed glass bottles and other artifacts.
Archaeologist Roman Kos, who is leading the excavation, described the finds as “unique.”
The excavations are being conducted ahead of the main work to restore the synagogue, 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.
Watch a Slovak TV report about the discoveries:
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.
“We are collecting the history of Jewish families from Trenčín and from the whole region. In the synagogue, we also want to tell their life stories,” local Jewish community chair Oľga Hodálová said in a statement.
The synagogue’s 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.