The New Synagogue of Szeged is considered as the masterpiece of the famous Jewish architect Lipót Baumhorn; it is the second largest synagogue in Hungary and the fourth largest one in the world. It is still a functioning one, being the third synagogue of the community.
The first building had stood on the same plot; by now, only a few of its original furniture remains in the headquarter building of the community. The second, so called Old Synagogue is still standing; however, it has lost its religious function. The rapidly growing community demanded a larger, more representative synagogue to fulfil their needs, for which they issued a design contest in 1897. The world-famous Chief Rabbi of the community Immánuel Löw described the synagogue as follows in the year of its inauguration in 1903: “It is a fine example of modern synagogue architecture in every detail as well as holistically.” Lipót Baumhorn’s exceptional Eclectic style building became an outstanding structure of the city and its era, representing modernity with its cast iron columns and iron structure.
The structure and the decoration of the building followed the Eclectic style of the late 19th century influenced by Moorish style elements. This style was much favoured in synagogue building at the time of emancipation in Hungary, rhyming with the eastern origin of Hungarians. Thus, it created a common denominator between Hungarian and Jewish identities. Art Nouveau style can be found on the cupola well as on the richly decorated stained glass windows. Furthermore, Roman, Gothic style elements are also present on the outer side of the synagogue and on the tabernacle, along with manifestations of Moorish influence.
Outstanding features of the building, amalgamating different styles, are the decorative Hebrew and Hungarian inscriptions on the walls, the rich floral ornaments and the magnificent stained glass windows. These elements not only serve decorative purposes, they also function as elements of the iconographic programme of religious teachings. The internationally recognised scientist Rabbi, researcher of the flora of the Holy Land, manifested his research results in the visual design of the synagogue, connecting the building itself with Jerusalem.
Major construction works of the synagogue in Szeged started in August 1900, and the ceremonial opening took place on 19 May 1903. The synagogue is 48 m high and equally long, reflecting the elevated social status that the Jewish Community of Szeged had achieved by the end of the 19th century.
“Love your neighbour as yourself.” The biblical commandment can be read in Hebrew and in Hungarian on the triumphal arch of the building. The use of the Hungarian language may be attributed to the influence of Chief Rabbi Immánuel Löw, a scholar who was the most outstanding representative of the Hungarian }eolog reform movement. This pursuit is strengthened by the presence of an organ in the synagogue.
The painted glass windows depicting the festive cycles of the Jewish year were made in the workshop of Manó Róth as well as the symbolic glass dome of exceptional beauty, which is also a unique ornament of the eclectic synagogue.
The synagogue was part of the ghetto during the Shoah; however, it has escaped demolition. The whole roof structure along with the cupola and the towers as well as the facade, the colourful stained glass windows and the iron fence were restored to their original beauty between 2015 and 2017. The synagogue with its excellent acoustics is a special venue for high standard organ and popular musical concerts.