The 19th century Cetate (Citadel) synagogue in Timisoara has been rededicated after partial renovation and returned to the Jewish community for use as a house of worship nearly 40 years after it closed for religious use.
At a ceremony Friday attended by civic and religious dignitaries, Torah scrolls were returned to the Ark, a mezuzah was placed at the entrance, and a Shofar sounded. The ceremony took place 150 years after Austro-Hungarian Emperor Franz Joseph I visited the synagogue on May 7, 1872.
Dignitaries in attendance included Timisoara’s mayor, Romania’s Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies, Minister of National Defense, and Minister of Labor; as well as the President of the Romanian Jewish Federation and the Vice President of the German Parliament.
Timisoara is set to be the European Capital of Culture in 2023, and the restoration of the synagogue fits within the city’s overall preparations.
After its last religious service, in 1985, the synagogue was used for concerts and cultural events. It closed in 2018 for restoration work.
“Until now, everything related to the structure of the synagogue has been done; the basic works have been done, there is still a lot more to do with the artistic restauration,” Luciana Friedmann, president of the 600 member Jewish community said.
The organ needs to be rebuilt, there is work on the exterior as well, for example the restoration of the exposed brick on the façade. The doors have been restored very nicely, they have a special value. The restored part of the painting looks very good. The towers have been renovated.
The important thing was for the synagogue to be open. And in addition to its synagogue function, we want it to host events. There are many things that can be done in a synagogue, just as they can be done in a church. From conferences, concerts, exhibitions, certain meetings.
Designed by the Viennese architect Carl Schumann, the Citadel Synagogue was built between 1863 – 1865 in an eclectic style, with Moorish-style features, two side towers and an imposing facade that resembles a fortress.
The brick facade is dominated by a large rose window, and the two side turrets are topped by domes. The parts of the facade under the turrets are horizontally striped; the central part boasts an intricate geometric decorative motif in brick. A dome surmounts the sanctuary, and an organ was installed in 1866.
Used by the Neolog community, the synagogue was inaugurated on Sept. 19, 1865 and then ceremonially re-inaugurated on May 7, 1872 with Franz Joseph’s visit.
“Architecturally, the synagogue is eclectic, built from warm ochre-brown brick and accentuated with vibrant blue ceramic ornamentation,” the World Monuments Fund has stated.
The two towers crowned with blue domes, the Moorish entryway and the classical ornamentation draw notice to this unique building. Attention to detail and the high standard of design are noticeable throughout.
The Citadel synagogue in one of three synagogues in Timisoara. Since 1985 the Jewish community has used only the compact Josefin Temple, built in 1910.
The ornate, domed Fabric Synagogue, built in 1899 and designed by the prolific Budapest synagogue architect Lipot Baumhorn, remains empty, and in sadly dilapidated condition — it was recently placed on the World Monument Fund’s 2022 Watch list of heritage at risk.