Oleśnica – St Salvator’s Church (former synagogue)


   The synagogue was built at the end of the 14th century, probably following the example of the Old New Synagogue in Prague, built in 1270. When the Jews were accused of causing a plague epidemic, it resulted in expelling them from the Czech. Taking advantage of the fact that Konrad I confirmed the right to bring them to his duchy in 1329, they settled in Oleśnica and already in 1389 there was an independent Jewish community, consisting of wealthy Jews arriving from Prague, who had a separate district in the north part of the town. It is known that the princes of Oleśnica collected a special duty from them, for which they undertook to protect them.
Jews from Oleśnica were expelled in 1535, after a great storm for which they were blamed. Synagogue building was changed into a warehouse and then into an arsenal. In 1695, the synagogue was rebuilt into the temple of the Evangelical-Augsburg church. In 1730, the building burnt down and was rebuilt after four years. At that time, it was rebuilt in the late baroque style, the pillars were demolished and a wooden barrel vault was established. It was re-renovated in 1968. Currently, as a church, it functions under the invocation of Saint Salvator.


   The brick two-aisle synagogue building from the 15th century was built in the Gothic style. It was surrounded with buttresses from all sides. The prayer room was 9.5 x 11.8 meters, and in it two pillars supported six bays of cross – rib vault. It center was usually occupied by a surrounded by a balustrade bima (table for lecturing and reading the Torah). On the axis of the eastern wall there was a recess for the shrine
   From the west, an annex was added to the synagogue housing a women’s porch, that is a room intended exclusively for women. It was located between the buttresses of the main building, so that the middle one was inside the annex. Its construction took place simultaneously with the synagogue, as evidenced by the uniform pedestal around them.
    The tower on the south side can be a medieval element or added in the 16th century after the synagogue was liquidated. Perhaps it was originally a porch, later raised to the form of a tower. This would be indicated by the not very wide thickness of its walls, even slightly smaller than the walls of the main building.

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Pilch J., Leksykon zabytków architektury Dolnego Śląska, Warszawa 2005.
Starzewska M., Oleśnica, Warszawa 1963.

Website olesnica.nienaltowski.net, Stara synagoga, Kościół Zbawiciela (Salvatora), Kościół Zielonoświątkowy.