Restoration of Baroque Synagogue in Jičín (Czech Republic) complete
by Samuel D. Gruber
Following nearly eight years (2001-2008) the restoration of the magnificent Baroque synagogue in Jičín, North Bohemia (Czech Republic) is complete. The Prague Jewish Community will officially open the building to the public on Thursday, June 19, 2008. The restoration project is part of a continuing effort by the Czech Jewish Community to reclaim, protect and preserver its historic, cultural and artistic heritage.
A Jewish settlement is known to have existed in Jičín in the second half of the 14th century, but Jews were expelled from the town in 1542-45 and again in 1557-63. The now-restored synagogue was erected in 1773, more than a century after Jews are known to have been readmitted to the town. According to Dr. Arno Pařík of the Prague Jewish Museum, "this is an exceptionally pure example of a small, late Baroque synagogue." It is a rectangular building, approximately 12.5 meters long and 8.2 meters wide, with a fairly high saddle roof over a barrel-vault, supported on traverse arches and 90 cm. thick walls. The sanctuary is well-lit by three tall arched windows on the south and north walls. Smaller windows are set in the west (façade) and east walls, the latter dominated by the well-preserved masonry Ark, flanked by twisted columns. The vivid wall paintings – mostly in reds and blues – have been restored to their 1840 appearance. Photos of the restored building will be posted soon at www.isjm.org The building is now one of best preserved late Baroque synagogues remaining in Central Europe.
The restoration of the synagogue was supervised by engineer Mojmír Malý at Matana a.s., Administration of Buildings and Cemeteries. Heritage supervision is provided by the Zecher Foundation for the Preservation of Jewish Monuments through Dr. Arno Pařík, and the National Heritage Institute – specialist department in Pardubice. Financing has been provided by the Jewish Community of Prague, the Czech Ministry of Culture, the District Authority of Hradec Králové, and the Municipal Government of Jičín. Financial support for the synagogue renovation has also been provided by the Jewish Heritage Program and World Monuments Fund.
A Torah scroll from Jicin is now in the possession of Temple Shir Tikva in Wayland, Massachusetts (USA).
For more on the history and architecture of the building see Arno Pařík, "History and Renovation of Jičín Synagogue," Judaica Bohemiae (40/2004), 104-122.