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  • Writer's pictureStefan Ivanov

The synagogue in the town of Samokov

Judah, Gabriel and Avraham Arieh


These names are inscribed in golden letters on a marble slab erected over the outer door of the building, the history of which I will now tell you.


The synagogue in Samokov
The synagogue in Samokov

You can get acquainted with the history of the Arie family by following this link.


The Samokov Jewish community belongs to the Sephardic Jews, originally from Spain. At the end of the 18th century, it numbered about 25 families: Kuyumdzhiyski, Melamed, Cohen, Shemtov, Avdala, Alkalai and others. In the middle of the 19th century, the Mordechai, Shelomo, Menachem, Bezalel, Levi families are already found.


In 1840, the sons of Avraham Arie succeeded in obtaining a permit for the construction of a synagogue. They expanded at their own expense the existing prayer room which was near the bazaar.


In 1855, at a public meeting, the Jews decided to build a new synagogue, creating a fund that in 1858 was sufficient to start construction.

The building was built on the plans of Beth Amikdasha, the temple in Jerusalem.

Two years later - in 1860, the building was listed.


It was erected at the lower end of the town of Samokov - its location marks the formation of a Jewish neighborhood in the town in the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century.


The Samokov synagogue had a large prayer hall, with balconies for the ladies and a two-story annex.


A feature of the building is the two rows of seven windows on the south and north sides and five on the east side.


The iron rosettes for the windows were specially made in Filibeto (today's Plovdiv).


The prayer hall was decorated with an impressive carved ceiling with ornamental friezes.

The Star of David is woven into the carved decoration.


The oval mural canvases with bouquets and the landscape in the altar niche are testimony to the general artistic taste that prevailed in the area during the Bulgarian Revival.


The Synagogue was also written on the outside. Above its front door was erected a marble slab - a monument, on which were written the names of the most prominent donors - the Arieh brothers and the Cohen family.


135,000 groschi were spent on the entire building and its decoration.


Later, the western facade was destroyed, and a wooden room was added to the prayer hall, opened as a two-story emporium with its own entrance from the north.


In 1927, the Samokov Synagogue received the status of a national monument.


There are about five larger synagogues in Bulgaria, similar to the one in Samokov, which is among the most beautiful.


Or at least she was...


Unfortunately, after the rise of Nazism and anti-Semitism in World War II, the Jewish community moved out of Samokov.


1944 comes and the services here cease. Forever!


The building is nationalized.


In 1962, the Institute for Cultural Monuments under the Ministry of Education and Culture began restoration and conservation of the Synagogue in Samokov, as one of the most interesting Renaissance monuments in the city.


More than one fire, repeated restoration, thieves...


The original ceilings with wonderful carvings have been replaced by replicas.


The wooden outbuilding has been removed.


In 1972, the synagogue received the status of a cultural monument of national significance.


The years pass and the building - useless and abandoned turns into a ghostly place.

Her yard is covered in overgrown and tall grass, the windows are broken and the ceiling is collapsing.


I peer through the rubble and inside the exquisite carving on the ceiling is still visible.


In 2017, the regional organization of Jews in Bulgaria "Shalom" (translated from Hebrew means peace) donated the collapsing house of prayer to the organization of the municipality of Samokov in order to have the building restored and adapted to the modern needs of the city.


Today, the synagogue has the status of a national monument on the territory of the municipality of Samokov!


The synagogue is one of the vivid examples of the Jewish cultural heritage from the era of the Bulgarian Revival!


The good news

A detailed structural plan has already been drawn up, which has already received the approval of the National Institute of National Statistics, whose main task is the restoration, adaptation, socialization of the Synagogue building and its transformation into an integral part of the city's social environment, as a cultural center, a tourist attraction, combining the functions of a museum, exhibition space, multi-purpose event hall and park space.




The project also includes the additional building at the underground level, thus the volume-spatial perception of the main building as a cultural value will not be disturbed.


It is in the new building that the museum exposition is planned, which will be part of the historical museum.


There will also be a cafe, the site's administration and sanitary facilities.


The improvement of the adjacent area includes an alley network, landscaping and the construction of opportunities for visitors to walk, relax and recreate, through park furniture.


During the preparation of the project, the main ideological line was followed to reveal the specific valuable characteristics of the cultural-historical object, as well as to offer different ways of presenting their diversity and connectivity.


Together with the nearby Sarafska House, the project for the Synagogue will shape a cultural-historical complex in an overall concept.


How do you get to the town of Samokov?

Samokov is a city in Southwestern Bulgaria. It is located in Sofia region.

The city is the largest in the district and is the administrative center of Samokov Municipality.


Samokov stands at:

  • 60 kilometers (about an hour by car) from the capital

  • 130 kilometers (about 1 hour and 45 minutes by car) from the city of Plovdiv

  • 490 kilometers (about 5 hours and 48 minutes by car) from the city of Varna

  • 368 kilometers (about 3 hours and 55 minutes by car) from the city of Burgas

  • 98 kilometers (about 12 minutes by car) from Borovets resort



How do you get to the Synagogue in Samokov?

It is located right next to Sarafska House - address: 11 "Knyaz Dondukov" Street.

It is located about 900 meters (about 11 minutes' walk) north of Kraiiskarets Park.



What can be visited nearby?

The walk around the town of Samokov is extremely pleasant and I highly recommend it!


The center of the city of Samokov
The center of the city of Samokov

Be sure to take the time to visit the Assumption Church.


Church of the Assumption (Metropolitan Church)
Church of the Assumption (Metropolitan Church)

The incredibly beautiful temple "St. Nicholas the Wonderworker" in Samokov is a must-see.


Church "St. Nicholas the Wonderworker" in the town of Samokov
Church "St. Nicholas the Wonderworker"

When you get tired of walking in this extremely beautiful Bulgarian city, take a proper rest by the feathered lake in Kraiiskarets Park.


Park "Kraiiskarets" in the town of Samokov
Park "Kraiiskrets"

Borovets resort is located 10 kilometers from Samokov (12 minutes by car). The path to the Black Rock starts from here.


The Black Rock near Borovets resort in Rila
The Black Rock

In the Borovets resort, visit the Transfiguration Church - a unique wooden church of its kind in Bulgaria.


The wooden church "Transfiguration of God" in the Borovets resort in Rila
The Transfiguration Wooden Church

2.5 kilometers from "Borovets" (about 6 minutes by car) you will find Tsarska Bistritsa - a palace of the rulers of the Third Bulgarian Kingdom (1878 - 1947).


Tsarska Bistrica - palace of the rulers of the Third Bulgarian Kingdom (1878 - 1947)
Tsarska Bistrica

20 kilometers from Samokov (about 25 minutes by car) you will find the charming village of Raduil, tucked away on the slopes of Rila.


Raduil village
Raduil's Wooden Eagle

In the village, explore the beautiful Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary.


Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Church in Raduil
Church "Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary"

4 kilometers from Samokov (about 5 minutes by car) you will find the charming village of Dospey, where you can see the Paisius monument.


Monument to Paisii Hilendarski in the village of Dospey, Samokov municipality
Monument to Paisius Hilendarsky in the village of Dospey

12 kilometers from Samokov (about 15 minutes by car) you will find Govedartsi. A must visit to the fountain of love!


The fountain of love in the village of Govedartsi
The fountain of love

8 kilometers from Samokov (only about 9 minutes by car) you will find the beginning of the "Beli Iskar" eco-trail.


Ecopath "Beli Iskar"
Ecopath "Beli Iskar"

40 kilometers from Samokov (about 45 minutes by car) is the green village of Kostenets.


Kostenets village, Kostenets municipality
Kostenets village

At the end of the village, on the northern slopes of Rila, you can visit the charming and full of water throughout the year Kostenski waterfall.


Kostensky waterfall
Kostensky waterfall

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