The Stadttempel (English: City Prayer House), also called the Seitenstettengasse Temple, is the main synagogue of Vienna, Austria. It is located in the Innere Stadt 1st district, at Seitenstettengasse 4.
The synagogue was constructed in 1824 and 1826. The luxurious Stadttempel was fitted into a block of houses and hidden from plain view of the street, because of an edict issued by Emperor Joseph II that only Roman Catholic places of worship were allowed to be built with facades fronting directly on to public streets.
This edict saved the synagogue from total destruction during the Kristallnacht in November 1938, since the synagogue could not be destroyed without setting on fire the buildings to which it was attached. The Stadttempel was the only synagogue in the city to survive World War II, as the Nazis destroyed all of the other 93 synagogues and Jewish prayer-houses in Vienna.
In the 1981 Vienna synagogue attack, two people from a bar mitzvah ceremony at the synagogue were murdered and thirty injured when Palestinian Arab terrorists attacked the synagogue with machine guns and hand grenades.
Today the synagogue is the main house of prayer for the Viennese Jewish Community of about 7,000 members.
The synagogue was designed in elegant Biedermeier style by the Viennese architect Joseph Kornhäusel, architect to Johann I Joseph, Prince of Liechtenstein, for whom he had built palaces, theaters and other buildings. Construction was supervised by the official municipal architect, Jacob Heinz.
Two five-story apartment houses, Numbers 2 and 4 Seitenstettengasse were built at the same time as the synagogue, designed by the architect to screen the synagogue from the street in compliance with the Patent of Toleration, which permitted members of tolerated faiths to worship in clandestine churches, but not in buildings with facades on public streets. The synagogue is structurally attached to the apartment building at # 4 Seitenstettengasse.
The synagogue itself is in the form of an oval. A ring of twelve Ionic columns support a two-tiered women's gallery. Originally, the galleries ended one column away from the Torah Ark, they were later extended to the columns beside the ark to provide more seating. the building is domed and lit by a lantern in the center of the dome, in classic Biedermeyer style.
The synagogue underwent renovation in 1895 and again in 1904 by the Jewish architect Wilhelm Stiassny, adding considerable ornamentation, and, in the opinion of architectural historian Rachel Wischnitzer, "the serene harmony of the design was spoiled by renovations." Damage inflicted on Kristallnacht was repaired in 1949. The "Stadttempel" was renovated once again in 1963 by Prof. Otto Niedermoser.
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- Rachel Wischnitzer, Architecture of the European Synagogue, Jewish Publication Society of America, 1964, p. 178.
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- ART VIEW; HALLOWED OBJECTS THAT HAVE COME THROUGH THE FIRES, New York Times, June 1, 1986, John Russell , https://www.nytimes.com/1986/06/01/arts/art-view-hallowed-objects-that-have-come-through-the-fires.html?&pagewanted=2
- Klaus Kempter, Die Jellineks 1820-1955, 1998
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