The Boskovice synagogue, near Brno in southern Moravia, was once a hub of Talmudic study. Built in the mid-1600s, its arches, vaults, and fluted columns were covered with both frescoes of Hebrew text spelling out prayers or names of congregants. There were curling floral motifs and painted architectural details typical of Moravia. The synagogue sat among the narrow lanes of the town’s Jewish ghetto, which by the nineteenth century had an estimated 2,000 inhabitants. The Boskovice synagogue was the only local synagogue to survive the most disastrous effects of World War II, but it still required conservation work.
A positive and active presence in the modern community
The effort to restore the Boskovice synagogue was initiated by local government and continued by Brno’s Jewish community. Elaborate interior frescoes were discovered in 1988 during the restoration. Some, especially those around the upper balcony for women, were completely intact, and others were in good condition. By 1994, structural concerns had been addressed and the majority of conservation work on the exterior was finished. Financial resources were still required to renew the interior decoration. In 2000, the project was rejuvenated by grants from World Monument Fund’s Jewish Heritage Program and others. The remaining preservation work was carried out in the following two years.
The Boskovice synagogue was one of the pilot projects of WMF’s Jewish Heritage Program. It represents a type of painted masonry building that has very few surviving examples. Now fully restored it serves a variety of cultural functions: its splendid acoustics make it an ideal concert venue, plus the space often features exhibitions on Jewish history. The adaptive reuse solution found for the Boskovice synagogue allows the building to have a positive and active presence in the modern community, while commemorating what was lost.