The Great Synagogue or Dohány Street Synagogue (Nagy Zsinagóga or Dohány utcai Zsinagóga)

The Great Synagogue or Dohány Street Synagogue (Nagy Zsinagóga or Dohány utcai Zsinagóga)

The Great Synagogue, also known as Dohány Street Synagogue (Nagy Zsinagóga or Dohány utcai Zsinagóga) or Tabakgasse Synagogue, is located in downtown Budapest. It is the largest synagogue in Eurasia and the second largest in the world, after the Temple Emanu-El. The synagogue is 75m long and 27m wide, and was built between 1854 and 1859 in the Moorish Revival style, based chiefly on Moorish models from North Africa and Spain, by German Ludwig Förster, with some interior design by Frigyes Feszl. The monumental synagogue has a capacity of 2,964 seats (1,492 for men and 1,472 in the women’s galleries). The consecration of the synagogue took place on September 6, 1859. Dohány Street itself, a leafy street in the city centre, carries strong Holocaust connotations as it constituted the border of the Budapest Ghetto during the Second World War. A large reconstruction, funded largely by a 5 million dollar donation from Hungarian Jewish immigrant Estée Lauder, was completed in 1996.

The Dohány Street Synagogue complex consists of the Great Synagogue, the Jewish Museum, the Heroes’ Temple, the graveyard and the Holocaust memorial.

The interior of the Great Synagogue

The interior of the Great Synagogue

The Great Synagogue is Moorish but its design also features a mixture of Byzantine, Romantic and Gothic elements. Two onion-shaped domes sit on the twin octagonal towers. A rose stained-glass window sits over the main entrance. The building consists of three spacious richly decorated aisles, two balconies and, unusually, an organ. Its ark contains various torah scrolls taken from other synagogues destroyed during the Holocaust. The torah-ark and the internal frescoes made of coloured and golden geometric shapes are the works of the famous Hungarian romantic architect Frigyes Feszl. Franz Liszt and Camille Saint-Saëns played the original 5,000 tube organ built in 1859. A new mechanical organ with 63 voices and 4 manuals was built in 1996.

The Jewish Museum was constructed on the plot where Theodor Herzl’s two-story Classicist style house used to stand, adjoining the Dohány Street Synagogue. The Jewish Museum constructed between 1930-1931 holds the religious relics of the Pest Hevrah Kaddishah (Jewish Burial Society), ritual objects of Shabbat and the High Holidays and a Holocaust room.

The arcade and the Heroes’ Temple, which seats 250 people and is used for religious services on weekdays and during the winter time, was added to the Dohány Street Synagogue complex in 1931. The Heroes’ Temple designed by Lázlo Vágó and Ferenc Faragó, serves as a memorial to Hungarian Jews who gave their lives during World War I.

The garden of rememberance

The garden of rememberance

The Jewish cemetery is located in the back yard of the Heroes’ Temple, enclosed by the Jewish Museum and the Great Synagogue. According to Jewish traditions cemeteries cannot be on the premises of the house of prayer. This graveyard is the result of the Dohány Street Synagogue being part of the Jewish Ghetto during the Second Wold War and served as shelter for a lot Jews during that time. Over two thousand of those who died in the ghetto from hunger and cold during the winter of 1944-1945 are buried in the courtyard of the synagogue.

Raoul Wallenberg Holocaust Memorial Park (The Raoul Wallenberg Emlékpark) in the rear courtyard holds the Memorial of the Hungarian Jewish Martyrs, the 400,000 Hungarian Jews murdered by the Nazis. Made by Imre Varga, it resembles a weeping willow with the leaves bearing the names of victims. There is also a memorial to Wallenberg and others who helped save Jews during the Holocaust; including Swiss Vice-consul Carl Lutz, Giorgio Perlasca, Monsegnieur Angelo Rotta and Monsegnieur Gennaro Verolino.

The Memorial of the Hungarian Jewish Martyrs

The Memorial of the Hungarian Jewish Martyrs

Phone number:  36-1 342-8949

Summer opening: Monday to Thursday – 10:00–18:00, Friday – 10:00–15:00, Sun day – 10:00–19:00, CLOSED SATURDAY

Winter opening: Monday to Thursday – 10:00–16:00, Friday – 10:00–14:00, Sunday – 10:00–13:00, SATURDAY CLOSED

Tickets: 1600HUF (about 6 Euros), with Budapest Card: 1350 HUF (about 5 Euros)

The Great Synagogue is on Dohány utca 2-8, in between Astoria and Deák Ferenc square metro stops. Get there with Metro lines 1 and 3 to Deák Ferenc square or Metro line 2 to Astoria. Also trams 47 and 49 and buses 7, 7A, 9 and 109 take you there.

Let me know if you have any questions about the Great Synagogue and feel free to supply any feedback in the comments section below!

Destination Guide Dan.

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