Wednesday, June 8, 2011
Publication -- Rudi Klein's magnum opus on Hungarian synagogues is out!
By Ruth Ellen Gruber
My friend Rudi Klein's magisterial and encyclopedic book on Hungarian synagogues has been published, adding an extraordinarily rich resource to anyone interested in architecture and architectural history as well as in the development of Jewish art and lifestyle from the late 18th century to World War I. A big Mazel Tov to him!
The hefty tome -- it runs more than 670 pages and weighs in at about 4 kilograms -- traces the development of synagogue architecture in the historic Hungarian and Hapsburg lands of central Europe. Klein describes several hundred synagogues -- including destroyed buildings as well as buildings that still exist, classifying and commenting on their "genealogy, typography and architectural significance."
Hundreds of gorgeous and informative photographs, drawings, diagrams, old postcards, plans and other images illustrate the text -- most contemporary pictures were taken by Klein himself. The main text is in Hungarian, but there is a lengthy summary in English -- and all of the illustrations bear English captions. Here are a few sample pages:
Klein breaks down the architectural typology into range of types
-- Simple "peasant cottage-type synagogues"
-- Burgher house-type synagogues
-- Protestant church-type synagogues
-- "Solomon's Temple-type synagogues" with battlements, lunette, or pediment
-- Factory Hall-type synagogues
-- Catholic church-type synagogues
-- Byzantine church-type synagogues
-- Palace-type synagogues
In addition to detailed descriptions of exemplary buildings, he includes a comparative catalogue of thumb nail pictures illustrating all the synagogues of each type.
It is a landmark work, the fruit of many years of archival and on-site research, which will be of great value to a wide audience -- from scholars and students to, well, tourists. (It amplifies, corrects, broadens and expands some of the material included in a book on Hungarian synagogues by Aniko Gazda, published in 1989, which I used as the guide for my first foray around Hungary looking for synagogues -- in 1990, as well as for other trips.)
Unfortunately, the sheer size (and weight) of Rudi's book, not to mention the price (approx $80) -- plus the fact that it is at this point only available in Hungary -- limit the possibilities..... I very much hope that a digital version will be published so that the wealth of material can be easily obtained by a broad international readership.