The first rabbi of the Jewish community of Pest was elected in 1796. At the end of 1850s, requested by the community grown to 30.000, a synagogue building committee was formed, led by the chief rabbi Löw Schwab. The competition was won by the German architect Ludwig Förster, designer of the Great Synagogue in Vienna.Building was commenced in 1854 and the dedication ceremony was held in1859.
Theodore Herlz, the visionary dreamer of the Jewish state, was born in this neighbourhood (recorded on memorial tablet). Here, in 1860 Hungarian Jewry declared its support for the nation's independence demands. Statesmen, scientist, men of letters, artists look part in the divine service, regardless of their religious denomination.-The first to hold a church sermon in Hungarian was Samuel Kohn 1866.
The small square in front was completed between 1929-1931. The seven-arched arcade, forming a park inside, ends behind the synagogue at the "Heroes Temple", designed László Vágó and Ferenc Faragó in memory of the ten thousand Jews who fell in the first World War. The Hungarian Jewish Museum, designed by László Vágó, was inaguarated in 1932 on the corner site.During the siege of Budapest at the end of World War 2 the synagogue suffered 27 hits. In its garden, in the "Cemetery of Martyrs" rest seven thousand dead of the ghetto of Pest set up here.
This synagogue, the largest on the Continent still active today, served as a model for all the others built in this country. On the roof, above the main portal, between the two onion-shaped
spires of the 43,61m tall towers stand the two scriptural stone tablets with the Ten Commandments. The whole exterior of the building is faced with ceramics.
The interior is characterized by monumental proportions and Moorish decorations of a dark tone. The nave is surrounded on two sides by a two-storied women's gallery.The whole ceiling is supported by pillared cast-iron construction. On the sides are the splendidly decorated pulpits, on the pews old, brass-plated nameplates preserve the "perennial seats". The number of seats approximates 3 thousand.
The parchment scrolls of the Torah manuscript are stored in the Ark of the Covenant on the eastern wall. Its magnificent wooden panelling is covered by a velvet curtain which opens automatically. Above the chancel (designed by Frigyes Feszl, architect of the Redoute in Pest) is the choir and the beautifully sounding organ.