Stupava Synagogue

Stupava, Slovakia


As the second-oldest synagogue in Slovakia, Stupava Synagogue is of significant cultural value to Jewish heritage in central Europe. Built in 1803 for a community that traces its origins to the seventeenth century, local lore states that the structure was constructed by the local community and inspired by the Great Subur Synagogue in Lviv, Ukraine. As in Lviv, Stupava Synagogue was raided by the Nazis during World War II, but unlike many other Jewish sites of worship, it largely survived the attack. The synagogue’s envelope is rectangular, with austere façades topped by a steeply pitched, saddleback roof. On the interior, nine vaulted bays are supported by four columns that flank the bimah, or raised platform, from which the Torah is read. The ceiling retains much of its original painted decoration, and some inscriptions are still visible in the central sanctuary. On the exterior, tall gables are punctuated by small oval windows—a typical architectural feature in the Záhorie region—while the remaining walls feature simple, baroque-inspired windows.

How We Helped

Stupava Synagogue has been unused since World War II. For decades, it languished due to lack of maintenance and insensitive use as a warehouse and storage facility. Poor drainage also contributed to rising damp and substantial water infiltration, both of which weakened the building’s structural integrity. In 2006, Jewrope, a local nonprofit agency dedicated to preserving Jewish cultural heritage in Slovakia, requested WMF’s assistance to rehabilitate the major structural elements of the synagogue: to replace the roof, repair cracks in the load-bearing walls of the building, repair or replace loose bricks and decorative elements, and install glass in empty window frames. As of 2008, the synagogue’s exterior has largely been refurbished, and while no longer used as a place of worship, the synagogue has become a lively regional venue for Jewish and secular art exhibitions and concerts.

Why It Matters

Stupava Synagogue is one of the oldest remaining structures of its kind in Slovakia. Its architectural distinction derives from its plan with nine bays. It is also a reminder of the long history of Jewish settlement in the region. The synagogue forms part of a larger network of significant Jewish historical sites in the area—more than 100 synagogues and 600 cemeteries—whose cultural value is currently being reassessed and acknowledged. The conservation of Stupava Synagogue complements other efforts to preserve Jewish cultural heritage in Slovakia, and helps local advocates develop a long-term strategy for Jewish heritage preservation in the country. Its renewed ability to host events has already proven popular for attracting tourists from both near (Bratislava) and far.

Last updated: June 2018.

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