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A historical tour of Hungary would not be complete without a visit to the monumental Budapest Great Synagogue. Designed by Ludwig Förster, the Budapest Great Synagogue was built between 1854 and 1859, and was consecrated September 6, 1859. Also, known as the Dohány Street Synagogue, this massive Hungarian Synagogue is the largest synagogue in Europe, and one of the largest in the world. It can hold an impressive 3,000 people! For those interested in the history, religion, or architecture of Budapest, the Budapest Great Synagogue is definitely a site to add to your Hungarian holiday itinerary.
The stunning architectural style of this beautiful Hungarian synagogue is Byzantine-Moorish. There are two 141-foot towers topped by large onion domes; these towers are symbolic of the two columns of the Solomon Temple. The airy interior boasts three spacious aisles and two balconies supported by ornamented poles. The men sit on the ground level, and seating areas for women are found in the upper gallery. Beautiful frescoes depict golden and colored geometric shapes.
In keeping with Budapest's rich musical tradition that is alive and well (check out events like the famous Spring Music Festival if you have any doubts!) the Budapest Great Synagogue also has an organ and has wonderful acoustics. The combination of the organ and acoustics has made the Hungarian synagogue a popular place for music concerts. While a more modern organ is found in the synagogue today, the original 5000-tube organ was even played by famous musicians such as Franz Liszt and Camille Saint-Saëns.
One chapter of the synagogue's history that deserves special attention is the Word War II era. The original Budapest Great Synagogue suffered from bombings prior to and following WWII: in 1939 it was bombed by the pro-Nazi Arrow Cross Party, and it suffered from aerial raids while Hungary was occupied by the Nazis during the war. Renovations began in the 1990s. In 1944, the Synagogue was part of a ghetto for Jews in Budapest. More than 2000 of those who died in the ghetto in the 1944-1945 winter are buried in the courtyard cemetery of the synagogue.
To learn more about this period in history and what happened in the synagogue's neighborhood, you can pay a visit to the Jewish Museum in Budapest. The Jewish Museum in Budapest is found right near the church, built where the two-storey birthplace of Theodore Herzl (founder of political Zionism) once stood. The Jewish Museum in Budapest was built between 1930 and 1931 and features a Holocaust memorial room, religious relics, ritual objects, and exhibits about Jewish culture.
As one of the most famous landmarks in Budapest, this Hungarian synagogue is a must-see for any Hungary vacation. Many Budapest tours will take you to the synagogue, and guided tours are also offered on-site in both Hebrew and English, and if you make a request ahead of time, guided tours can be given in German, French, Spanish, and Italian. Of course, you are also free to explore the architecture, beautiful interiors, cemetery, and Jewish Museum all on your own.
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