Central Synagogue

Sofia, Bulgaria

Background

Central Synagogue, which opened in 1909 to serve the large number of predominantly Sephardic Jews living in the Bulgarian capital, is the largest synagogue in the Balkans, and among the biggest surviving in Europe. Designed by the Austrian architect Friedrich Gruenanger in a Byzantine and Moorish revival style, the building may have been modeled, in part, on the Leopoldstädter Tempel in Vienna. During World War II, Allied bombing of the city in 1944 destroyed parts of its sanctuary. While it remains an important landmark in Sofia, the synagogue currently serves a much-reduced Jewish community without the resources to maintain it on their own.

How We Helped

Beginning in 2001, WMF undertook a series of projects to restore the synagogue and stabilize its roof. Once the exterior work was complete, conservators focused on restoring decorative plaster and other key features of the interior. WMF’s projects addressed drainage issues at the site, including replacement of gutters to ensure water was carried away from the historic structure. Work was completed in 2008. WMF’s support of activities was matched by contributions from local organizations to complete other necessary conservation work.

Why It Matters

As one of only two functioning synagogues in Bulgaria, the Central Synagogue is a rare example of Jewish sacred architecture in Bulgaria. A well-known and prominent landmark in Sofia, it is a reminder of Jewish contributions to the city and their role in its history.

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