Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Slovakia -- Yet More from the Jewish Heritage Route: Malacky

Malacky - synagogue and discount supermarket. Photo (c) Ruth Ellen Gruber

By Ruth Ellen Gruber

I've always been very fond of the spritely little synagogue in the town of Malacky, just off the highway north of Bratislava. It's a charming Moorish-style building, built for the town's Neolog (reform/conservative) Jewish community in 1886-87 and designed by Bratislava-born Wilhelm Stiassny, one the leading synagogue architects of the day in central Europe. (Stiassny also designed the Jeruzalemska st. synagogue in Prague and the synagogue in Caslav, CZ).

I visited Malacky  during  my five days this month following the Slovak Route of Jewish Heritage -- a  project  devised by my friend Maros Borsky, the leading expert on Jewish heritage in Slovakia. The author of the book Synagogue Architecture in Slovakia, Maros founded and directs the Slovak Jewish Heritage Center. You can see earlier posts on the trip HERE and HERE and HERE and HERE .

With its cream and orange striped exterior, two bulbous side domes topped with stars of David, horseshoe arches and bright blue and yellow decorative detail, the building looks wonderfully cheery but totally out of place: an exotic holdover from some prior life amid a concrete urban setting of parking lots, a supermarket (the ubiquitous discount "Lidl"), apartment blocks and other modern development.

It is a unique reminder of the destroyed community and its world: indeed, it's really the loveliest building in the town.

I was pleased to see that the local muncipality recognizes this -- we were given souvenir coffee mugs and refrigerator magnets with the synagogue's picture on it. OK, it commercializes the -- burtally destroyed -- past, but it also recognizes it....

The synagogue is now used as an art school, and the sanctuary was cut in half horizontally, to create two floors.

Still, much of the lush interior décor has been preserved in fine condition and almost intact -- though downstairs the Ark, pillars and other decoration are somewhat obscured by the school's clutter.
Malacky -- downstairs in the art school. Photo (c) Ruth Ellen Gruber

The upper floor, used as a concert hall, features a wonderful, ornately carved and painted wooden ceiling, as well as the top part of the ark, with its decorative motif of grape vines.

Malacky -- upstairs detail of ceiling. Photo (c) Ruth Ellen Gruber

Malacky -- the upper part of the Ark. Photo (c) Ruth Ellen Gruber

Click HERE for information about travel and tourism in Slovakia.

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