Synagogue, Siemiatycze
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One of the few surviving Classicist synagogues in the Podlaskie province, dating back to the 18th century, its design being the work of the renowned architect Szymon Bogumił Zug. Its historical value stems from the activities of duchess Anna Jabłonowska née Sapieha (by whom Szymon Bogumił Zug was employed), who not only funded the construction of the building, but also made a name for herself as an activist for economic reform and a sponsor of culture and arts; under her ownership, the Siemiatycze manor became an exemplary magnate’s residence modelled after the palace in Nancy, being inextricably linked to the town which surrounded it. Today, the synagogue remains an important tangible trace of the once-numerous local Jewish community in Siemiatycze.

History

Jews have originally started to settle in Siemiatycze towards the end of the 16th century, having been encouraged to do so by the erstwhile owner of the surrounding lands, Katarzyna Olelkowicz née Tęczyńska, the wife of Jerzy Olelkowicz, the duke of Słuck (Slutsk). Towards the end of the following century, the local Jews already had their own community council (the qahal). In 1765, the Siemiatycze qahal comprised 1895 individuals resident in Siemiatycze, Drohiczyn and the neighbouring villages. The Jewish population in the town of Siemiatycze itself has reached 1015 by that time. In the second half of the 18th century, Anna Jabłonowska née Sapieha (who died in 1800) became the owner of the town and commenced an immense effort aimed at remodelling the urban landscape, creating a resplendent magnate’s residence and transforming the sleepy backwater town into a thriving economic and cultural centre sometimes referred to as the Siemiatycze State. The synagogue was erected after the devastating fire which swept across the town in 1797; it was designed by the renowned architect Szymon Bogumił Zug, who actually produced the design many years before, back in 1777. Despite the severe damage which the town suffered during the so-called Battle of Siemiatycze - an armed engagement forming part of the clashes which took place in the region during the January Uprising - the synagogue was one of the few buildings to survive intact. According to the census conducted by the Russian authorities in 1897, the total Jewish population in town was 4638, i.e. 75% of all the local residents. During World War II, when most of the local Jewish residents were captured and transported to the extermination camp in Treblinka, the synagogue served as a storage facility for items that had belonged to the local Jews. After the war came to an end, the building continued to be used for storage purposes. In the years 2959-1964, the synagogue was refurbished, with its interiors being completely transformed, while some of the exterior décor was also lost in the process of adapting the building to serve as a local youth club. Today, the former synagogue serves as the Siemiatycze Cultural Centre.

Description

The synagogue is situated in the south-western part of town, at 1 Zaszkolna street, at a distance of approximately 100 metres from the former market square, on the site of the former Jewish cemetery which was later closed down in 1777 when the new avenue known as Pałacowa street was being built. The synagogue is oriented towards the east; it was designed in the Classicist style and erected on a rectangular floor plan, preceded by a rectangular porch. The cuboid main body of the synagogue is covered with a hip roof. It is a brick building, its walls covered with plaster; the roof is clad with sheet metal. The façades feature two rows of windows, some of them bricked up, with the entablature above providing the finishing touch. The window openings are rectangular in shape and framed with plaster surrounds. The interior follows a three-bay layout, with pillars interconnected with semi-circular arches.

The structure is accessible to visitors.

compiled by Tomasz Rogala, Regional Branch of the National Heritage Board of Poland in Białystok, 15-12-2014.

Bibliography

  • Katalog Zabytków Sztuki w Polsce, vol. XII, Województwo białostockie, issue 1, Siemiatycze, Drohiczyn i okolice, compiled by Kałamajska-Saeed M., Warsaw 1996, p. 71.
  • Dobroński A. Cz., Miasta województwa podlaskiego, Białystok 2014, pp. 263, 266.
  • Leszczak M., Synagoga w Siemiatyczach, “Białostocczyzna”, no. 3, 1987, pp. 23-25
  • Trzebiński W., Działalność urbanistyczna magnatów i szlachty w Polsce XVIII wieku, Warsaw 1962, pp. 83-94.

General information

  • Type: synagogue
  • Chronology: 1797 r.
  • Form of protection: register of monuments
  • Address: Zaszkolna 1, Siemiatycze
  • Location: Voivodeship podlaskie, district siemiatycki, commune Siemiatycze (gm. miejska)
  • Source: National Heritage Board of Poland

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