The synagogue in Janowiec was built most probably in the second half of the 16th century. It was located to the east of the main market square, at the foot of a steep escarpment, at the eastern frontage of the Jewish marketplace. Some researchers associate its founding with the period when Piotr Firlej (1526-1553) was the town’s owner, others point at the year 1387 as the time of building the first synagogue[1.1]. In historical records, the first mention of the synagogue in Janowiec comes from the Andrzej Firlej’s ordination of 1580. Yet it is not clear whether the building was wooden or brick. There are, however, records, which confirm, that the brick synagogue with an annexe where an usher used to live was built in Janowiec before 1882. Its architectural and decorative elements, characteristic of the 18th,century stemmed certainly from later alterations.

Preserved measurements and photos from the 1930s prove that the synagogue was an impressive building, which along with the castle and church dominated the architectural landscape of the town. The building was about 15 metres height and its mass was dense. The synagogue (sizes: 20 x 30 m), which was built on a rectangle plan, was partially built in the Vistula’s escarpment. Its walls, made of the local limestone, were plastered and whitewashed from outside. In the corners and in places where the walls were lengthened, the walls were supported on huge and sloping props.

The synagogue had a two-storey, hip and shingled roof. An entrance hall led to the main room (size: 10.30 x 9.20 m). Its structure was typical for Polish synagogal architecture: a room on a square plan roofed in with a wooden ceiling and without inner props. The light got inside through a row of windows on the eastern and southern walls. Between the windows on the eastern wall axis, there was an alcove for aron ha-kodesh. In the central part of the main room there was an octagonal wooden bimah surrounded by a balustrade. The walls of the room were covered with eighteen-century polychrome with architectural, animal and floral elements. On the axis of the eastern wall, above aron ha-kodesh there were two painted lions holding a cartouche in a form of a heart topped with a crown. In the cartouche, there was an inscription against a background of twigs. Lower – under the windows – there were painted plaques with words of prayers. Similar plaques enclosed in illusionistic columns were painted on the northern wall. On the southern wall there was a menorah adored by two deer[1.2]. The entrance for men was located on the axis of the western elevation, whereas the entrance for women was next to the southern corner and had steps leading to a separate women’s prayer room on the upper floor. Between the women’s section and the main room there was a partition which allowed women to participate in the service. In the north-western corner there was a chamber which probably served as the kehillah’s office or as a strongroom[1.3].

At the beginning of the 20th century, the building of the synagogue was in a very bad condition and around 1916 it was protected from damage.

In October 1940 the Nazis set fire to the synagogue and burnt precious books and documents. The beth midrash with the rabbi’s appartment, which was situated next to the synagogue, survived the fire but it was destroyed later on in 1942. In the 1950s, a wooden tenants’ house, which was to serve as pharmacy, was transferred to the spot where the synagogue stood. At the end of the 1990s a new project to rebuild the synagogue in its former place was drawn up. It was to serve as a local culture house[1.4]. The plan hasn’t been conducted yet.

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Footnotes
  • [1.1] F. Jaroszyński, Bożnica murowana..., p. 230-231
  • [1.2] M. i K. Piechotkowie, Bramy nieba. Bożnice murowane na ziemiach dawnej Rzeczypospolitej, Warszawa 1999, p. 402-403.
  • [1.3] F. Jaroszyński, Bożnica murowana..., p. 232-247.
  • [1.4] Ibidem, p. 251.