Synagogue, Bydgoszcz
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One of the largest surviving synagogues in this part of the Kujawsko-Pomorskie province.

History

The first Jews have settled in the area near Bydgoszcz - including the erstwhile town of Fordon - back in the 16th century, which is confirmed by written sources dating back to 1596. The very first settlers originated from the city of Bydgoszcz itself, following a decree banishing them from the city limits which was issued back in 1555. Jewish settlement was encouraged by a royal charter from 1633, subsequently confirmed in 1752 and 1765. A qahal (Jewish community) in the town of Fordon - which has become a district of Bydgoszcz the 1970s - was most likely formed in the 17th century or perhaps even towards the end of the 16th century. A synagogue and a Jewish are known to have existed in Fordon in the mid-17th century. During the second half of the 17th century, the process of formation of the Jewish district was complete. A synagogue located by the Fordon market square was erected in the first half of the 17th century. Its presence is confirmed in written sources dating back to 1649. The synagogue was destroyed in 1656 and was later replaced by the third Jewish place of worship known to have existed in town, erected in the 1660s. The very first mentions of this specific synagogue date back to 1666. The building has survived into the 1760s. In 1761, the construction of a new synagogue began, ending in the second half of the 18th century. The existing sources indicate that the synagogue was already open to the public in 1781 and that is ceased to exist in the years 1820-1826. Its successor was constructed in the years 1827/1828, opening its doors to the public in 1832. In the mid-17th century, the local Jewish community also had their own cemetery. In the 19th century, there was also a local beth midrash - a Jewish school with its own library and ritual bath house (mikveh). The Fordon Jewish community council was abolished in 1932, with all of its property being transferred to the community in Bydgoszcz in the August of 1933. The local synagogue remained in use until 1939. During World War II, the structure was partially redesigned by the Nazis and served as a nickelodeon. Later on, the building was also remodelled in the 1940s and in the early 1950s. The interior underwent a thorough redesign, while a number of additional windows and doors were added to the structure. Until 1988, the building served as the “Vistula” cinema. From the late 1980s onwards, the condition of the building has been gradually deteriorating. In 1992, the Friends of Fordon Society and the Fordon District Council filed an application for permission to adapt the former synagogue as a local community centre. The design, produced by Krzysztof Kempa’s Architectural Design Studio, called for the reconstruction of the galleries and the bricked-up side windows as well as the restoration of the front façade to its original appearance. The building would also house a cloakroom, lavatories and café/restaurant. The very first cleanup works inside the synagogue and in its immediate vicinity were performed by the young people from the “Generations” and “Czyczkowy Group” youth organisations, with the very first events held at the building in the years 1991-1993. In the 1990s, the Foundation for the Protection of Jewish Heritage acquired the building, subsequently transferring the title to the former synagogue to the Bydgoszcz-based Yakiza Foundation. In the early 2005, the foundation prepared a plan for converting the former synagogue into a centre for alternative art. The renovation works began in the same year, the priority at that stage being to fix the damaged roof so as to prevent further deterioration. In years 2010-2011, the renovation of the roof structure was complete, with parts of the walls also receiving a new plaster finish. Towards the end of September 2013, the Fordon synagogue changed ownership once again, its new owner being the Bydgoszcz Casimir the Great University Foundation.

Description

The former synagogue is located on the Przy Bóżnicy street, its name actually being a reference to the edifice itself (“Przy Bóżnicy” means “by the synagogue” in Polish). The building was erected on foundations measuring 27 x 15.5 metres, its total height being 16.5 metres. It is a single-storey structure designed to accommodate 500 faithful in its main prayer hall as well as 250 women in the additional women’s galleries. It is a cuboid structure designed on a rectangular floor plan, covered with a gable roof. Inside, the structure of the building is supported by wooden pillars. The synagogue was designed in the Classicist style. The main, western entrance originally led through a trio of double doors and into a small vestibule which also contained the stairs leading up into the gallery. The two-storey front façade is accentuated by engaged pillars at the corners, flanking a plain, restrained entablature running across the middle of the façade, supported by six engaged columns, with the middle four of them arranged in pairs. The entablature originally supported a trio of semicircular windows positioned above the doors of the synagogue; these, however, have since been replaced with simple, rectangular window openings. Above the windows runs a pronounced cornice serving as the base of a triangular gable featuring an oculus in the middle as well as decorative rustication in the form of grooves radiating away from the said oculus. The eastern façade features broad engaged pillars at the edges, adjoined by two pairs of pilasters. In its middle section there are four further pilasters flanking two large, rectangular windows divided into smaller panes. A pronounced crowning cornice runs above the frieze, serving as the base for the plain, triangular cornice with an oculus in the middle. The northern and southern façade likewise feature broad engaged pillars at the edges and are partitioned by six pairs of pilasters each, positioned on tall, stepped plinths. Five large, small-pane windows are positioned between the pilasters, surmounted by a tall, elaborately profiled crowning cornice.

The monument is open to visitors. Exploring church is only possible by prior telephone appointment.

compiled by Historical Monument and National Heritage Documentation and Popularisation Department of the Kuyavian-Pomeranian Cultural Centre in Bydgoszcz, 26-11-2014 - 8-11-2014.

Bibliography

  • K.Schade, Bromberg und alte Wasserwerk, “Bromberg”, no. 114, Wilhelmshaven 1997.
  • P.Winter, Powstanie nowoczesnego systemu wodno-kanalizacyjnego w Bydgoszczy (lata 1881-1920), [in:] Historia wodociągów i kanalizacji w Bydgoszczy, Bydgoszcz 2011.
  • Sekuła-Tauer E., Zabytki Fordonu - Synagoga. (in:) Materiały do Dziejów Kultury i Sztuki Bydgoszczy i Regionu, issue 1, 1996, pp. 57-61, Bydgoszcz 1996,
  • Żydzi w Fordonie. Dzieje. Kultura. Zabytki, Kawski T. (ed.), Bydgoszcz 2008

General information

  • Type: synagogue
  • Chronology: 1827-1828 r.
  • Form of protection: register of monuments
  • Address: Przy Bóżnicy 22, Bydgoszcz
  • Location: Voivodeship kujawsko-pomorskie, district Bydgoszcz, commune Bydgoszcz
  • Source: National Heritage Board of Poland

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