Synagogue of the Citadel

Timisoara, Romania

Background

Although Jews have lived in the town of Timisoara since the mid-16th century, it was not until the middle of the 19th century that they were granted full legal and social protection. Their new rights included permission to enter and build in the historic center of the city. Immediately seizing this opportunity, the community, led by Rabbi Mauriciu Hirschfeld, began planning the Citadel Synagogue. Built under the direction of architect Carl Schumann from 1863 to 1864, the ochre-brown brick building, with blue ceramic ornamentation throughout, rises three stories. Two towers capped with blue domes are set on the front façade and rise an additional one story. The synagogue is noticeably architecturally eclectic, with the front entry composed of a Moorish horseshoe arch and flanked with classical Corinthian columns. The synagogue features an eight-pointed star rose window and religious symbols can be seen above many doors. Motifs displayed on the exterior are repeated on the interior in wall paintings and murals. The synagogue was inaugurated in 1864 and another dedicatory ceremony was held in 1872 when Emperor Franz Josef I visited. Services have not been held in the synagogue since 1985. In January 2001, a 50-year agreement was made between the Jewish community and the Philharmonic Society of Timisoara to use the synagogue for musical performances.

How We Helped

In early 2000 WMF and local partners undertook an architectural and structural survey to establish the level of structural integrity throughout the building and note areas of concern. The survey also identified what materials were used in the initial construction and what repairs had been made since. With this information a master plan for restoration, rehabilitation, and conservation was developed. A photographic survey recorded architectural features, ornamentation, and mural paintings throughout the building. As work moved forward all biological growth was removed from the building, the tile revetment was reconstructed, drain pipes were restored, the roof was repaired, and the roof tiles were restored. Within the building mural paintings and masonry were cleaned and restored.

Why It Matters

The Citadel Synagogue is a physical expression of what the Jewish community built, when granted full rights, after three centuries without them. The placement of the synagogue in the historic center of the city, an area previously off limits to Jews, highlights the community’s desire to take advantage of these new rights. Architecturally, the synagogue is eclectic, built from warm ochre-brown brick and accentuated with vibrant blue ceramic ornamentation. The two towers crowned with blue domes, the Moorish entryway and the classical ornamentation draw notice to this unique building. Attention to detail and the high standard of design are noticeable throughout.

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