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Czernowitz, Temple

Category: Architecture

Overview Document


Name/Title: Temple in Czernowitz
Object: Synagogue
Artist/Maker: Zachariewicz, Julian (1873-78); unknown (1959)

1873-78; 1959

Period: Austro-Hungarian Empire; USSR
Origin: Czernowitz, Austro-Hungarian Empire; Chernivtsi, Ukraine
Community: Ashkenazi, Reform
Collection: Not relevant
Location: Republic of Ukraine, Chernivtsi Province, city of Chernivtsi, Riazanska St.
Site: In situ
School/Style: Neo-Moorish

39.00 with cupola
           21.75 m after reconstruction
23.90 m
Length: 39.00 m

Computer reconstruction, bird's-eye northwest view.



The Temple is a free-standing building, built in the neo-Moorish style, situated on the corner of two streets and facing the axis of a third, not far from the central square of the city.

The rectangular three-storey building consists of two parts: the western one, comprising vestibules, staircases and community premises, and the eastern one, square in plan, which comprises the prayer hall with an apse and crowned by a cupola.  The western volume is narrower than the eastern one ( see stage I).

Fig. 1. The Temple, southwest view. Coloured postcard, early 20th century.
Fig. 1. The Temple, southwest view. Coloured postcard, early 20th century.

Fig. 2. Computer reconstruction, southwest view.
Fig. 2. Computer reconstruction, southwest view.

As the architect Zachariewicz explained, the difference in the level of the two streets and the empty firewall of the neighbouring building, made it essential to build an additional structure on the north side of the Temple to produce a balanced environment.  Therefore, he planned a house for a caretaker, which apparently never materialized.

Fig. 3. Site plan with the caretaker's house. (Zachariewicz, plate 29).

After the Temple was burned down in 1941, its remains, mainly the outer walls, were used for the construction of a movie theatre in 1959.  Thus, the size and proportions of the building remained intact, as well as part of the pilasters and indications of the round-arched windows.  Instead of the dome, an additional floor with a gable roof was erected (see stage II).

Fig. 4. Burned Temple, photo 1941 (Gold, vol. 2, p. 217).
Fig. 4. Burned Temple, photo 1941 (Gold, vol. 2, p. 217).

Fig. 5. Temple reconstructed as a movie theatre, photo 2001. Southwest view.
Fig. 5. Temple reconstructed as a movie theatre, photo 2001. Southwest view.

The idea to build a Temple in Czernowitz was proposed to the community by the governor of Bukovina, Baron von Schmueck in 1857. In the same year the initial funds were raised. However, already in 1858 this idea seemed to have been abandoned (Allgemeine Zeitung des Judentums, 1857, 1858).

The actual building of the Temple followed the 1872 split of the Jewish community of Czernowitz into a Reform group under the leadership of Rabbi Dr. Lazar Igel and an Orthodox one, headed by Rabbi Benjamin Arie Weiss.  It was started in 1873 according to the plans of the famous architect Julian Zachariewicz.

The community asked that the building be oriented towards the east and that there be a free view of the pulpit and the Torah ark from all seats.  During the building works, the community asked to change the originally planned flat wooden ceiling with a glass cupola in its centre into a huge cupola covering the entire hall.  Since the foundations were already laid, the main change was to make the iron columns more massive and the walls strengthened (Zachariewicz, p. 48-49).

The two communities were reunited in 1875, and the Temple, consecrated in 1878, was used by the wealthy Reform group of the united community.  However, the form of the liturgy in the Temple was not extremely Reform: there was a cantor and a choir, but no organ, and the Oberrabbiner gave a sermon in German.  Judging from the direction of the pulpit, it seem that the Torah was read facing the audience and not the Torah ark.

The Temple became the most prominent Jewish building in Czernowitz.  In 1940, after the annexation of Czernowitz by the Soviets, the Temple was closed and confiscated.

On 5 July 1941, the Temple was burned down by German and Romanian soldiers (“Chernauts,” p. 505).  The ruins were converted in 1959 into a movie theatre "Chernivtsi".

See stage II document.



Allgemeine Zeitung des Judentums, 1857, no. 43 (19.10), pp. 589-90.
Allgemeine Zeitung des Judentums, 1858, no. 18 (26.4), p. 247.
Bildarchiv der Österreichischen Nationalbibliothek.
“Chernauts,” in: Pinkas hakehilot:
Romania, vol. 2 (Jerusalem, 1980), pp. 487-511.
Gold, Hugo (ed.), Geschichte der Juden in der Bukowina, 2 vols. (Tel Aviv, 1958-62).
Zachariewicz, Julian, "Israelitischer Tempel in Czernowitz", Allgemeine Bauzeitung, 1882, #47, pp. 48-49, ills. 28-32.


Object Photographs Drawings Computer reconstruction
Not relevant CJA CJA CJA


Function: Name: Date:
Documenter I. Fugol, O. Vasilina, P. Khmilevski 1994
Photographer I. Fugol 1994
Architectural Drawings I. Fugol, O. Vasilina, P. Khmilevski 1994
Computer reconstruction S. Kravtsov 2001
Researcher V. Levin 2001
Editor S. Oren 2001
Section head A. Cohen-Mushlin 2001


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