It is third in size of all the synagogues in Europe, with only Amsterdam and Budapest being larger in size and was intended to symbolize the Jewish contribution to the burgeoning Sofia. King Ferdinand’s presence at the opening ceremony was a clear demonstration of how much the Jewish community – which made up one fifth of the capital’s population at the time – was valued by the regime.
The building was turned to rubble by the bombings during World War II. After the latest restoration, completed in 2000, the visitors are welcome to admire the impressive beauty of the building with its stone carving and rich ornamentation. The interior is dominated by an enormous brass chandelier weighing 2250 kg, which hangs from a broad octagonal dome. Much of the ceiling space around it is painted to resemble a blue, star-filled sky, all framed by flowing, Art-Nouveau-inspired friezes.
A small museum here displays a collection of artifacts drawn from the rapidly disappearing Jewish communities all over Bulgaria. Originally intended to accommodate 1300 worshipers, nowadays services are only attended by 50 or 60 people.