A Brief History of Zabludow Synagogue /

The Zabludów Synagogue is generally recognized as one of the oldest documented wooden synagogues to have survived into the modern period. Permission to build was granted in 1635 and the main structure may have been built as early as 1637. The central prayer hall was approximately square in plan with an elliptical barrel-vaulted ceiling running west to east. The north and south sides of the prayer hall were flanked by one-story shed roof structures that housed the women’s sections.  

A striking feature of the Zabludów Synagogue was the two double-story corner pavilions flanking the entrance on the west wall. In the center was a two-story vestibule with an upper gallery for women, which was added in the 19th century. The exterior corner pavilions reflected Polish manor house architecture. All the multiple roofs were covered with typical Polish wood shingling, which rolls gently around the many corners and creates a unified feather-like texture.

A grand and elegant architectural statement in wood, the Zabludów Synagogue may appear exotic to modern viewers, but it resembled other wooden buildings in the small towns of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. These buildings typically had multi-tiered roofs with ornamental decorated woodwork in various local styles. These regional patterns of building reflected local vernacular styles of building that link the wooden synagogues to wooden churches and monumental buildings of the small Polish towns.

Although the interior of the Zabludów synagogue was originally painted, these paintings deteriorated to such an extent that they could not be identified or documented in the 20th century. There is little remaining evidence of these paintings except for the vaulted ceiling in the north pavilion tower, which we will exhibit. They show floral and animal imagery similar to the Gwozdziec Synagogue paintings, including a squirrel, rabbit, stork, fish, and turkey among intertwining foliage. In comparison to the exterior of the Zabludów Synagogue, the exterior of the Gwozdziec Synagogue was relatively plain, although both structures were equally dominant in height and volume compared to neighboring structures. Both synagogues made a bold statement about the Jewish presence in their towns; the only building that was higher or grander would have been the Catholic Church.