The style reflects the work of Italian master tradition, and within four pillars create a harmonious interior. A center cupola rises over the bimah – the table for reading the Torah. The pews, arranged in two columns around the central rectangular area, can seat 130 people.
The intimate atmosphere of the interior and a harmonious blend of the Baroque and Louis XVI style elements of the exterior make the temple one of most beautiful synagogues in Hungary. With its structure and use of space, the building represents great architectural traditions. The nine-sectioned great hall is an example of the 16th century Polish-Lithuanian Renaissance style. This architectural composition connects the reader's platform and the architectural structure, and so expresses the essence of a space dedicated to both teaching and praying. The date 1795 carved over the entrance is considered to be the authentic construction date of the synagogue. Other building history data remains unknown, because any information would have been recorded in the local congregation archives, which have apparently been destroyed completely.
A synagogue with great tradition without worthy function
With 90% of the Jewish residents of Mád lost during World War II, the synagogue lost its original function. They were either deported or taken to forced labor service between 1940 and 1944. Of the original Jewish population, only 40 survivors returned to Mád, but they too would later leave between 1950 and 1956. Following the loss of the Jewish population, the synagogue steadily dilapidated and fell into decay. Also, the nearby rabbi's house was converted into flats, and then in the early 1950s, the synagogue was closed permanently. In the subsequent years, the building was entirely neglected. Books and furniture were burned, the synagogue was plundered. The gable collapsed and seriously damaged the roof structure. The resulting leakage almost entirely ruined the remaining paintings on the ceiling. The stairs leading to the balcony and the cover of the vestibule were destroyed; hardly any facade ornaments survived. The stone vases and carvings that had stood on the gable disappeared, or they were scattered around the building. The interior of the synagogue looked like a ruined warehouse, and there were signs of intentional damage and vandalism.
In 1978 certain preservation-reconstruction works were done to the building: ruins were removed; the sagging eastern wall was stabilized and strengthened, the collapsed vaults were rebuilt, vault elements were reinforced with a metal mesh and concreting, a new roof structure was built; and the gable that had collapsed was re-erected.
The house of assembly is rebuilt
By 2000, the condition of the building remained in a status of serious deterioration. Full renovation works were made possible by the initiative of the New York based World Monuments Fund Jewish Heritage Grant Program to survey the condition of the synagogue, which inspired the Hungarian National Asset Management Inc. (the building's legal owner) to commission a detailed restoration design plan for the building. The renovation of the building exterior began in 2000. New roof covering with traditional roof tiles, new flashing and a new gutter system were installed. The plaster on the facade was replaced; stucco relief ornaments were reconstructed, and the facades were repainted. Additionally, the entrance door was restored, the windows were replaced with traditional timber windows with properly insulated panes, the brick vaulting and the side walls were reinforced, the interior walls were re-plastered.
The restoration design plans were prepared by architects Péter Wirth and Ágnes Benkő, the art historian consultant was Ferenc Dávid. Stone sculpture works were performed by sculptor and restorer György Kovács, painting works were done by Ervin Kisterenyei and his colleagues. After the completion of the working drawings and obtaining work permits, restoration started in July 2002 and lasted in several phases until April 2004, when an opening ceremony was held.
The internal and external restoration of the synagogue cost HUF 162 million (USD580,000), mostly financed from the budget of Hungarian National Asset Management Inc.. The World Monuments Fund Jewish Heritage Program donated USD80,000, and several other donors gave a USD5000 contribution to the project. The professionally executed restoration of the synagogue was recognized by Europa Nostra Award in 2005.
Hebrew inscriptions of the synagogue – bear witness to the past ages
The inscriptions were written in conventional quadratic letters. The inscriptions on the interior walls were set in highly decorated shields. The lower lines referring to the donors coming from the ranks of the leaders and respected members of the congregation are written in smaller letters. Chronograms can be seen in three forms.
(a) Above the front gate, the inscribers simply put down the appropriate Hebrew letters that have numerical values.
(b) Otherwise, where they intended to indicate a date in the inscription, the appropriate letters were painted in red, and a separate small "v" shape sign was placed above them.
(c) The letters with numerical value in the inscription on the main fascia of the Torah Ark are larger than the rest of the letters, and they extend under the line. (The letters are made of wood on this inscription.)
In each chronogram, the minor era dates (years of the Hebrew calendar without the thousands) were used. 1240 should be added to this number in the fifth millennium "after the creation of the world" to reach the civil calendar (A.D.) year.
Interestingly, the numbers hidden in the inscriptions (chronograms) raise the problem of the construction date of the building. It is commonly accepted that the synagogue was built in 1795. However, the Hebrew letters in the inscriptions in question are not clearly legible, they could just as well be the letter ה (he) or ח (het). The numerical value of the first letter is 5 and that of the second is 8. As a result, the date could be either 1795 or 1798. The letter ה is clearly visible in the chronogram which survived on the key stone above the entrance (1795). Yet there is another inscription, a quote from the Bible, preserved in its original form, over the hand basin in the vestibule, where the last word in which the letter in question was marked as a number could only be accurate and meaningful with letter ח (1798). Perhaps it is not unreasonable to suppose that while construction began in 1795 the internal ornaments were only installed when the building was complete in 1798.
Hebrew inscriptions of the synagogue – a repository of spiritual ideas
One of the inscriptions placed next to the Torah Ark is a short passage from the Book of Zohar. It may serve as a reference for the study of the religious ideas of the Jewish congregation of Mád. Zohar, or Radiance in the early medieval times, is one of the greatest works of Jewish mysticism. It was very popular among the Kabbalists and in the late 18th century among the Hasidic Jews. The respectable tzadik Levi Yitzchok ben Meir (c. 1740-1810), the Rabbi of Pinski and later Berdichiv, who introduced Hasidism in central Poland and traveled extensively, visited Mád in 1783. His Hasidic, Kabbalistic mystical ideas made a great impact on the rabbi of the time, Mose Wahl (?–1799). Later, Rabbi Menahem Mendel of Rimanov (?– 1815) also won over people to Hasidism in the village. Then Chaim Landau set up a separate Hasidic prayer house in the 19th century. These observations do not necessarily mean that the Jewish population in Mád or that Rabbi Mose Wahl and his son Israel Wahl became open followers of the Hasidism, but they certainly were strongly influenced by Hasidism.
Inscriptions dated from later periods also survived in the building. One of them is written on the longitudinal side of a stone candle holder with the shape of a rectangular cuboid lying on its side. At the end of World War II, Holocaust victims of Mád were memorialized and had their names inscribed on the white marble plaques. During the reconstruction, the plaques were relocated to a wall in the great hall next to the entrance. The names are listed in Latin alphabet order, but the memory of Rabbi Mose Leib Ehrenreich and his family (his mother and wife) and the rest of the village martyrs are also recorded in Hebrew.