Synagogue in Gwoździec

An unique example of Jewish sacred architecture.

Wooden synagogues were common in the 16th and 17th century because of the accessibility and low cost of the raw material.

They were built by local craftsmen, not necessarily Jews, inspired by manors and rich bourgeois mansions. High-pitched synagogue roofs dominated the surroundings. Underneath there was the praying hall, corridor and increasingly large women’s section. The synagogue in Gwoździec, humble on the outside, hid extraordinary riches inside.

The wooden building, erected most probably in 1640, was 15 meters high. During its existence it underwent numerous modifications. For example, the southwest  brick wing was added later to be used as a children’s study room (kheder) and a heated praying place during winter. The main hall reserved for men was an octagonal copula decorated with fabulous biblical paintings. The women’s section was located in the north and south part of the synagogue and on the gallery above the entrance hall. The synagogue was famous for its polychromes covering the ceiling and the walls, interlaced with biblical verses, proverbs and anagrams. One of the synagogue creators was Mordekhai Lissnitzki of Jaryzow. The paintings were restored by Izhak ben Yehuda of Jaryzow in 1729.

Regretfully, no trace of the original building is left. The synagogue in Gwoździec was burnt to the ground during World War II.