An article about the Trenčín Synagogue has been added to the website of the Monuments Office of the Slovak Republic. It was written by KPÚ Trenčín employees, with whom we work closely within our project. We bring you the article in its entirety:
Trenčín treasure under the dome - for the current restoration of the Trenčín neological synagogue
One of the characteristic features of the panorama of the historical center of Trenčín is the dome of the neological synagogue. It harmoniously fits into other urban landmarks of the city's monument reserve - Trenčín Castle, Mariánsky vrch with the parish church, the two-tower of the Piarist church and the City Tower, the former lower city gate. Today's construction of the synagogue, however, had its older predecessor, the existence of which has been documented for years only by modest mentions in written sources. The prevailing view was that the original Trenčín synagogue, located just behind the city walls, was only a "wooden prayer house." The Jewish community in Trenčín gradually gained considerable importance in the demographic and economic development of the city from the middle of the 17th century. The notion that an important community building was made of non-durable material raises some doubts.
After several years of efforts, the Jewish religious community of Trenčín (renewed in 2013) managed to obtain a larger financial volume for a project called "Restoration, Reconstruction and Revitalization of the Synagogue in Trenčín", which aims to improve construction and technical condition and "breathe life" through appropriate functional use. of the Trenčín Neological Synagogue, thanks to the EEA Grants and the state budget of the Slovak Republic within the Culture Program for the period July 2020 - April 2024 (more details: https://synagogatrencin.sk/sk/). Let's take a closer look at this building.
The Neological Synagogue in Trenčín was declared a national cultural monument in 1963 as an exceptional architectural work, a material document of the history of the local Jewish community. The building was designed by a pair of architects - Richard Scheibner and Hugo Pál. Their architectural idea was materialized in the years 1909 - 1912 thanks to the Trenčín construction entrepreneurs - Béla Niegreisz and Albert Fuchs. The synagogue was inaugurated in 1913. At the time of its creation, it was one of the largest buildings of its kind in our territory. It represents a quality example of architecture inspired by Byzantine and Moorish architecture, combined with decorative elements of contemporary art currents - Art Nouveau and Art Deco.
In the context of tragic historical events that took place during World War II. During the period 1939-1945, the Trenčín Synagogue was desecrated, as were many other buildings of this kind. In addition to the loss of its original function after 1951, there were several inappropriate construction interventions. The synagogue was used during this period for various and not always suitable purposes. Nevertheless, it has largely retained its authentic architectural expression and, above all, its unique design with a monumental central dome. To this day, we can admire a number of valuable arts and crafts details, among which undoubtedly stand out six original stained glass windows with iconography drawing from Judaism, ornamental stucco decoration of facades, decorative plumbing elements and stair railings. Unique in Slovakia is the wall painting interior decoration in the Art Deco style, the existence of which under the current utilitarian white finish was confirmed by restoration research, carried out in 2011. Technological, professional, but also financial demands of the works waiting for the implementers of the current renovation, it was possible to a certain extent, verify the restoration of the significantly smaller space of the prayer room, which was functionalized in 2015 in its original artistically impressive form.
As part of the preparation of the current renovation and revitalization of the Trenčín Neological Synagogue, archaeological research was carried out in order to identify and document hitherto unknown archaeological finds in selected areas of the synagogue interior as well as to verify and identify the original paving. The basis for its implementation was archival research (Buday, P., August 2021) and geophysical research (Tirpák, J., May 2021, carried out as part of a scientific task continuously performed by the Monuments Office of the Slovak Republic). They became a "guide" for the location of the archaeological probe, which brought positive results. An archaeologist from Achilles Group s.r.o. managed to uncover the remains of the advanced park wall of the city fortifications, dating to the 16th century, which formed one of the lines of the city's medieval fortifications. At the same time, they managed to uncover the masonry with a continuous layer of originally exterior plaster, which represents the material residue of the old synagogue, dated to the end of the 18th century. According to materials prepared as part of the mapping of Jewish monuments in Slovakia by Eugene Barkány, the original Trenčín synagogue had a longitudinal floor plan measuring approximately 18 x 22 meters. It was probably a building vaulted by nine fields of a dome vault, resting on four pillars, arranged around the bima. This is evidenced by a photograph of the interior taken by Eugen Barkány. There is also a photograph of the exterior, published by Maroš Borský in 2007 in the book Synagogue Architecture in Slovakia. On the basis of current archaeological research and the mentioned pictorial sources, it is possible to express the opinion that the original Trenčín synagogue from the end of the 18th century was not only a "wooden prayer house", but a relatively generous stone building on a regional scale.
Thanks to the planned project of revitalization and restoration of the Trenčín Neological Synagogue, it is possible to complete the mosaic of knowledge of the city's history. In this respect, the responsible approach of the owner of this cultural monument - the Jewish religious community Trenčín, which ensured the processing of archaeological research to the required extent well before the start of the construction work itself, while obtaining valuable information not only for the restoration itself. An archaeologist from Achilles Group s.r.o. managed to uncover the first exact archaeological find of the defunct fence wall, which, as one of the lines of the fortification system, formed an important part of the historic urbanism of the city of Trenčín. An equally valuable find is the masonry of the rehabilitated synagogue from the end of the 18th century. It is a proof of the importance of the Trenčín Jewish community and an important link in the continuity of its life in the city, which we believe will be followed by the planned restoration of the synagogue from 1913 - "Trenčín's treasure under the dome."
Written by: Mária Kucmanová, Daniela Nipčová (Monument office Trenčín)