2004 World Monuments Watch
Built in 1894 in the neo-Gothic style Vidin was Bulgaria’s second largest synagogue, a testament to the wealth and pride of the local community that had flourished for more than five centuries after its arrival from Spain in the fifteenth century. The synagogue contained a narthex, prayer hall. And lofts all of which were decorated with a combination of classic architectural forms and ancient Jewish decorative symbols, illuminated by stained-glass windows. Today, the Vidin Synagogue with its four towers stands as a ruin, roofless and forlorn. Seized by the communist government in the wake of WWII, the synagogue was subsequently appropriated by the state. During the 1970s the Ministry of Culture and the National Institute of Monuments developed a plan to restore the building. Work began in 1983 and continued until 1989, when the collapse of the communist regime lead to the abandonment of the project, just as workers had removed the roof. Exposed to the elements for more than a decade the synagogue is now a ruin. Complete photo documentation of the synagogue and its interiors took place prior to the restoration attempt and could be used as the basis for a new restoration program. The Bulgarian national Jewish organization, now the owner of the site, wishes to see the building restored as a concert hall for use by the community, and also as a monument to its forebears.
Since the Watch
In 2009, the building of the synagogue was transferred to the Bulgarian Ministry of Culture by the Organization of the Jews in Bulgaria “Shalom.” The building will be restored and space within it will be allocated for the needs of the Jewish community. In 2012, the Ministry of Culture announced plans to adapt the building into a museum complex, to be named after Vidin-born Jewish artist Jules Pascin (1885-1930). The center will include a museum, library, meeting hall, and spaces for prayer and for the commemoration of the Holocaust. In spite of these plans, repair works have been postponed.