It is symbolic that the neighboring corner plot holds the house where, in 1860, Tivadar Herzl, the Hungarian writer who envisioned the notion of a Jewish state, was born. The Dohány Street Synagogue, constructed in the middle of the 19th century in a richly ornamented eastern style, in the so-called Moorish style, became so large, with its 1,200 square meters of floor space and 44 meters tall towers, that only the synagogue of Manhattan exceeds it in size. The building was designed by the architect of the synagogue of Vienna, Ludwig Förster, who often cooperated with Otto Wagner; the interior decoration was created by the Hungarian architect Frigyes Feszl.
The center of the Jewish religious life of Budapest
At the time of civil emancipation, the Jewish population, which played a significant role in the modernization of Hungarian economy and culture, was ready to give up some of the more medieval elements of the faith. This is how so-called Neolog Judaism was established and soon became the most popular version of the faith in Hungary. The change was also apparent in synagogue architecture and, thus, in the Dohány Street Synagogue. Although women and men were still separated, here they prayed not in separate rooms, but men on the ground floor and women on the balcony. Neolog synagogues, including the Dohány Street Synagogue, are often designed similarly to Christian churches, even featuring an organ. Here, almost three thousand people can enjoy its sounds. Most self-respecting, wealthy Hebrew citizens would also purchase seats, reserved for their use only. The value of some synagogue benches was so great that mortgages could be taken out for them. Today, the synagogue is not only a center of the Jewish religious life of Budapest, but, thanks to its excellent acoustics, it is also a popular concert venue.