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Cáslav, Czech Republic
Cáslav Synagogue in the central Czech Republic was constructed in 1899 to serve the town’s Jewish population. The building was designed by Wilhelm Stiassny, an architect from Vienna. Stiassny conceived the synagogue based on a simple, rectangular floor plan with an accentuated west transept. Although modifications were made to the structure at a later date, the existing building is a spectacular example of Moorish Revival architecture. The synagogue functioned as a warehouse during and after World War II, and was subsequently used as the town gallery in the 1960s.
In 1994, ownership of the site transferred from the municipality of Cáslav to the Jewish community of Prague as part of a restitution claim, and efforts to conserve it were initiated. Several pieces of the original fabric had remained intact over the decades, despite the building’s misuse: the ceiling of the main nave with its decoration, the supporting beams and stuccoed capitals, and the stucco work on the outer façade. All elements were in dire need of repair and preservation.
HOW WE HELPED
A survey of the architectural elements showed that erosion threatened the building’s structural integrity. The Jewish community of Prague began emergency stabilization at Cáslav Synagogue in 1999. The project was supported by the government because the site is a state-protected cultural monument, but more funding was still needed to ensure complete restoration.
WMF’s Jewish Heritage Program made grants to the project in 2001 and 2003. The first round of funding was used to clean the interior painted decoration that had been whitewashed and was covered in dust. The second round financed the restoration of damaged architectural elements, including a stained glass window in the east wall, four turrets, and a representation of the Ten Commandments on stone tablets above the cornice. Replicas of other features, such as banisters, candelabras, and the ark itself, were re-created from surviving photographs.
WHY IT MATTERS
The Jewish architectural legacy in Eastern Europe was seriously jeopardized in the second half of the 20th century, first by widespread destruction in World War II and then by the continued neglect of communist governments. Now restored to its original beauty, the Cáslav Synagogue functions as a concert hall, museum, and cultural space for the modern community.