Spišské Podhradie, Synagogue
The synagogue, built in around 1875 and restored after a fire in 1905-1906, is a typical example of nineteenth-century provincial synagogue architecture. Its eastern façade is oriented to the street and accentuated by four polygonal pillars topped by massive stone balls. The interior, whose splendid decorations have been relatively well preserved, includes a women’s gallery supported by cast iron columns. The original ark is still in place. The synagogue has been undergoing a fitful restoration process for years and is already used for cultural purposes. The building is owned by the Federation of Jewish Communities in the Slovak Republic, which leases it for a symbolic sum to the local municipality.
Spišské Podhradie, part of a UNESCO World Heritage site that lies in the shadow of the majestic Spiš Castle, once had a mixed population of Slovaks, Germans and Jews. Jews settled here only after a ban on their residence was lifted in 1840. Before that, Jews could reside in only one location in Spiš County – Huncovce, near Kežmarok. Spišské Podhradie became a seat of the rabbinate; its Jewish population grew from 219 in 1869 to 458 in 1940, forming 14.7 percent of the entire population. The community, which adhered to the Orthodox stream, maintained a yeshiva and other institutions. Today, no Jews live here. Only the synagogue in the town center and the Jewish cemetery, about three kilometers outside of town to the north, bear witness to its Jewish past.