Pińczów Synagogue, built at the turn of the 17th century, is the last surviving Jewish monument in the city of Pińczów, once a thriving economic and cultural Jewish center. The synagogue is unusual both for its age as well as its adaptation of a Renaissance architectural style. Inside, large sections of polychromic patterning, attributed to the Jewish painter Jehuda Leib, decorate the synagogue’s main prayer hall and porch. Interior murals, some of which date from the 1600s, are the oldest synagogue fresco paintings in the country. The town of Pińczów, which, for centuries, had benefited from its reputation for ethnic and religious diversity, was largely destroyed by German troops in the fall of 1939. The vast majority of the town’s Jewish population was later killed, many sent to Auschwitz, and much of the community’s cultural heritage destroyed. The synagogue itself was vandalized by Nazi occupation troops, and then damaged in fighting during the final year of the war.
How We Helped
When WMF began work at Pińczów in the spring of 2005, the building showed the affects of years of neglect and defacement. Our conservation efforts focused specifically on the women’s gallery and the kahal room, used for meetings of elders, which house some of the synagogue’s finest wall paintings and which had suffered from years of deterioration. A team of conservationists worked to desalinize and restore wall paintings, remove and replace crumbling plaster sections and joints, and clean the exposed wall underneath. The team also replaced damaged window frames and stone elements, and repaired several of the building’s walls. WMF’s project was completed in 2005. Some of the inscriptions and scrolls found during our work there have supplied valuable new research material for academics studying Jewish history in Poland.
Why It Matters
Pińczów Synagogue is an emblem of local history, prosperity and the tragic results of the Holocaust. WMF’s conservation efforts at the synagogue highlight the artistic and cultural triumphs of the Jewish community from the 16th to the early 20th century and also acknowledge the neglect of the site due to the loss of the Jewish community in the aftermath of World War II.. Our work also recognizes the significance of the site to a global audience, as both a historical and artistic monument; our efforts to preserve the synagogue’s wall paintings and interior decorations will ensure the site remains in good condition, enduring even as the Jewish community that once surrounded it has largely disappeared.