Central Synagogue of Sofia – Bulgaria
In the vicinity of the Halite, along Ekzarch Josif Street, can be found the Central Synagogue of Sofia. Built between 1905 and 1909 by the Austrian architect Gruenanger, it was intended to be a smaller replica of the Sephardic (Spanish-Jewish) synagogue in Vienna which was destroyed during WWII. The famous brass chandelier weighing over 2200 kilos, the large candelabra (Heb. menorah), and other decorations were imported from Vienna. After four years of construction, financial crises, and much communal debates, the Central Synagogue was finally opened on September 9, 1909.
During the bombing of Sofia in 1944, the Synagogue was hit several times. The building was partially destroyed and years of exposure to the elements caused the exquisite ornamental wall designs to be damaged. The bombings also destroyed the community’s famous Judaica library and most of the valuable Hebrew books were burned.
Fortunately, through a very generous donation from the Doron Foundation of Israel, the building has now been restored to its former glory. In accordance with Bulgarian Sephardic synagogue tradition, one enters through a large, quiet courtyard, which almost transports the visitor to sunny Spain. The Central Synagogue is the only Jewish house of worship in Sofia.