City guide

Past and present harmonizes at the former synagogue of Nagytétény

Photo : Hartyányi Norbert - We Love Budapest
Mahalo, szendvics

In the Nagytétény area of Buda at the southern border of the city, there is a small building from the Baroque era at the heart of this riverfront neighborhood. Here by the trees on the small square before the building, an inscription on the façade reminds visitors that this place – which now functions as a library since its renovation in 2013 – used to be a synagogue. This building was abandoned for decades, but now it’s a fine example of the synchronicity between the architecture of the past and the present.

Nagytétény is really not a central area of Budapest, and though most people only come here to visit the castle museum, this gradually renewed district managed to keep a lot of its charm, and is perfect for an afternoon walk. People who take bus 33 here from central Buda’s Móricz Zsigmond Square, disembarking at Szabadság Street, will find the building just opposite the bus stop – in front of it is the small square, where a group of five pagoda trees stand. Their number is probably a reference to the Torah, the five books of Moses.
Photo: Norbert Hartyányi/We Love Budapest
The inscription on the façade – Praise to the Eternal’s name from sunrise to sunset – also suggests that this building originally served a religious purpose.  It was first mentioned around the 1760s, when it was described as a “Jewish-house in front of the parish building”. The first Jewish residents arrived here the same time when Catholic Germans and Slavs did, after the Turks were driven out of the country; based on the work of local historian István Dindi, 498 Israelites lived at this settlement in 1880, which meant 22% of the entire Israeli population of the town back then.
The local Jews assimilated by the beginning of the 20th century and identified themselves as Hungarians, and the various religions of the town got on very well between the two world wars – the rabbi and the priest were known to be good friends. The building needed renovations in the 1930s – during the works, the Zopf-style furnishing was replaced, but the main features of the building remained the same.
Photo: Norbert Hartyányi/We Love Budapest
Many residents risked their lives and tried to help the persecuted people during the Nazi occupation – priest Gyula Markó issued baptism certificates to save Jews. Despite these efforts, many of them were taken into forced labor, from where they never returned.
Photo: Norbert Hartyányi/We Love Budapest
The fate of the building was sealed by the nationalizations following 1945; the furnishing was demolished, the embellished wall paintings were covered with three layers of white paint, and the premises were used as a storage space for a long time.
Photo: Norbert Hartyányi/We Love Budapest
The neighborhood’s council tried to change this when they took over the building, and they were able to renovate it with the help of a tender. They got rid of the fence, so today the front garden is paved with light limestone, forming a small transitional space between the building and the street. The designers used the stones from the fence to renew the churchyard.
Photo: Norbert Hartyányi/We Love Budapest
The restored façade was completed with contemporary elements on both sides, the Torah ark was repaired, and the interior was moderately enriched with contemporary architectural elements.
Photo: Norbert Hartyányi/We Love Budapest
Today, the Nagytétényi Library of Szabó Ervin Library operates at Nagytétényi Road 283. The excellent acoustics of the former synagogue remained the same, thus they regularly hold jazz concerts in the library.