Neolog synagogue designed by Lipót Baumhorn, built in 1924–1926, Lučenec, Slovakia, ca. 2000. Photo © Ruth Ellen Gruber. (Courtesy of the photographer)

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Baumhorn, Lipót

(1860–1932), architect and designer of synagogues. Lipót (Leopold) Baumhorn was born in Kisbér (near Győr, Hungary), and graduated from the Technische Hochschule in Vienna in 1883. Working in the office of the architect Ödön Lechner in Budapest between 1884 and 1894, Baumhorn adopted Lechner’s characteristic combination of plain plastered surfaces and red or yellow wavy brick string courses, string pilasters, gables, and battlements. Baumhorn, however, broke with Lechner’s folkloric style and followed more standard architectural conventions, using patterns that were welcomed by a range of Jewish communities from the more traditional to the ostentatious. Baumhorn opened his own office in 1894, where he worked with his son-in-law György Somogyi. Baumhorn built 25 synagogues and restored numerous others in Austria-Hungary from the 1880s until his death.

Tomb of the Újhely family, designed by Lipót Baumhorn, in the Rákoskeresztúr (or Kozma utca) Jewish cemetery, Budapest, 2006. Photo © Ruth Ellen Gruber. (Courtesy of the photographer)

Baumhorn’s clearly recognizable style incorporated Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, baroque, and art nouveau elements, sometimes mixed with Moorish motifs. The plans of his synagogues followed a strict code: they contained a nearly square prayer room flanked by two or four staircases leading to the women’s gallery that stood in the exterior as a low tower. A central octagonal dome dominated his structures.

Baumhorn built the early neo-Moorish synagogue in Esztergom, for which he won a first prize for construction in 1888. He later designed synagogues in Fiume (1895; today Rijeka, Croatia), Nagybecskerek (1896; now Zrenjanin, Serbia), Szolnok (1898), Brassó (1901; now Braşov, Romania), Szeged (1903), Cegléd (1906), Újvidék (1906; now Novi Sad, Serbia), Makó (1907), Muraszombat (1907, now Murska Sobota, Slovenia), Budapest (on Aréna út; 1909), Eger (1911–1913), Budapest (on Páva utca; 1923), and Losoncz (1924–1926; now Lučenec, Slovak Republic). His final synagogue was the modern-Moorish synagogue in Győngyős, built in 1929.

Baumhorn’s most celebrated and grandiose synagogue is in Szeged; its elaborate detail and extensive ornaments expressed the aspirations of local Jewish leadership and incorporated the suggestions of the city’s rabbi, Immánuel Löw. This structure exemplifies Baumhorn’s typical floor plan, with its bimah (reader’s platform) in the eastern section, large central dome, and four lower-corner turrets. Artistically, his most outstanding synagogues are in Novi Sad and Budapest (Arénaút; today Dózsa György út), where elaborate decoration and other tokens of affluence gave way to the clarity of protomodern architecture. In addition to synagogues, Baumhorn built a number of other buildings, including a high school for girls (1903) and the headquarters of the river regulation company Temes-Bega (both in Temesvár; today Timişoara, Romania), the Matica Srpska cultural institution in Újvidék (1909), the Csongrád Bank in Szeged (1904), and some housing.

Suggested Reading

Baumhorn Lipót Építész, 1860–1932, Magyar Zsidó Múzeum és Levéltár, Magyar Építészeti Múzeum (Budapest, 1999); Anikó Gazda, Magyarországi zsinagógák (Budapest, 1989); János Gerle, Attila Kovács, and Imre Makovecz, A századforduló építészete Magyarországon (Budapest, 1990), pp. 33–35; Rudolf Klein, “Synagogue du moyen âge à nos jours,” in L’art juif, ed. Gabrielle Sed-Rajna, Ziva Amishai-Maisels, Rudolf Klein, Rony Reich, and Domenique Jarassé, pp. 569–606 (Paris, 1995); Rudolf Klein, “Synagogues in Hungary: A Short Survey from the Middle Ages to Modern Times,” in In the Land of Hagar: Jews of Hungary; History, Society and Culture, ed. Anna Szalai, pp. 93–101 (Tel Aviv, 2002).