The Maribor Synagogue is one of the oldest synagogues preserved in situ in Europe and a Slovene monument of the highest rank. In the 14th and 15th centuries it was a religious, spiritual and cultural centre of the medieval Jewish community in Maribor. In 2001 the beautifully simple straight-lined building was restored and reconstructed thoroughly, and since that time the Sinagoga Maribor has been considered not only one of the most important venues for concerts and exhibitions in the old quarter of Maribor, but also a popular tourist attraction.
The synagogue is situated in the heart of the former Jewish quarter near the south-east corner of the medieval town walls above the Drava River. The synagogue’s earliest appearance and date are unknown; it originates most likely from the end of the 13th century, but it was only first mentioned in 1429. It was remodelled several times before 1450, once probably in 1348, following an earthquake. After the expulsion of the Jews from Styria and Maribor at the end of the 15th Century the synagogue was converted into a Church of All Saints in 1501. The building functioned as a church until the late 18th century. In the early 19th century it was sold and turned into a storehouse. The building was then divided horizontally into two parts. Eventually, the upper part was used as a dwelling. During the early 1980s the lower floor was used for exhibitions.
The renovation interventions started in the 1990s. It was not easy to decide which of the last 3 initial phases to reconstruct. Most material finds (besides key-stones also parts of ribs, consoles and portals) date from the last synagogue phase (the mid-15th century). A reconstruction of the late Gothic two-bay sanctuary was therefore made, following the indications of the assembled material. It was opened to the public in 2001.
The Maribor Synagogue was run by the Maribor Regional Museum till 2011, when an independent body, the Center of Jewish Cultural Heritage Synagogue Maribor, was established as its legal operating base.
One of the most important duties or paramount tasks of the Maribor Synagogue is to present the interesting and rich Jewish cultural tradition to the public, and in that way stimulate the perception and knowledge of different cultures and the aspiration for a more tolerant society. The long-term goal is to establish a Slovene Jewish Heritage Centre at the site.
The Maribor Synagogue organises different expert meetings and events dedicated to Jewish topics and creating a more tolerant society. The S0ynagogue participates in the project “European Day of Jewish Culture” and in the “International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust” with the project “Šoa – Let Us Remember”.
Temporary exhibitions of heritage as well as contemporary arts are organised in the synagogue, for instance, an artistic exhibition Misli v podobah [Mind Images] by Barbara Hammer, Christine Kertz, and Krista Titz Tornquist and the documentary exhibitions The Jewish Wedding produced by the Jewish Museum Vienna, and Tracing Jewish Heritage in Slovenia produced by the Research and Documentation Center JAS in 2009.
In 2011 the Stone Tears international project was launched with an aim of encouraging educational and cultural programmes around the three remembrance days honouring the victims of the Holocaust and Porrajmos (Genocide of the Roma), in Slovenia and in neighbouring countries. The project conceived by the Center of Jewish Cultural Heritage Synagogue Maribor has been organised with the project partners Terne Roma – Young Roma Society, Frekvenca NGO, Dr. Štiftar Foundation, Artikel-VII-Kulturverein für Steiermark Pavelhaus, and the Institute for Jewish History Austria.