For the first time since its foundation at the end of the 19th century, the Great Synagogue in Pilsen has undergone a complete reconstruction. The first stage of the renovation took place at the end of the 1990s. The second one included mainly restoration of the interior and is now nearing completion. The Jewish Community of Pilsen plans the reopening ceremony of the third-largest synagogue globally for April 10.
“The Great Synagogue was designed by an Austrian architect as a neo-Gothic synagogue, with towers about 68 meters high. This did not meet with a positive assessment by the then Pilsen City Council. So the design was redesigned by the Pilsen architect, Štěch. He designed a synagogue that is of the Moorish type,” says Jiří Löwy, chairman of the Jewish Community in Plzeň.
The synagogue was built in 1893. “The actual construction did not even take two years. This is surprising given the technology of construction at the time. The second stage of the reconstruction took us two years,” Löwy points out. With a hall, 20 meters wide and 49 meters long, the Great Synagogue in Pilsen is the third largest Jewish house of prayer in the world. Its towers reach a height of 47 meters.
The building did not serve its original purpose for very long. During the Holocaust, Jews were not allowed to visit it, and the sanctuary of the faithful was turned into a warehouse of Jewish property from cleared apartments. Later, the synagogue became a sweatshop for altering military clothing. After the war, the building was damaged, and the Jewish community did not have sufficient funds to repair it, so they used only the winter prayer room for services.