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A Portal to Gwoździec: The Flowers of the North Dome

By Handshouse Studio

Published Apr 20, 2023



This Curation is part of A Portal to Gwoździec.

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A Portal to Gwoździec: The Flowers of the North Dome

Above: (40 sec) Handshouse students and leaders painting the north dome panel in Wroclaw, Poland. Courtesy of Handshouse Studios.


Project Overview:

Through the MAKING/HISTORY Wooden Synagogue Project, Handshouse produced an extensive collection of historical material research that is vital to the continued work of recovering lost heritage. We have also established a powerful educational model for learning-by-doing through workshops that collaboratively remake lost historic objects, reawakening whole worlds of both tangible and intangible cultural heritage. The calls for access to our research and continued interest in our unique hands-on educational approach are leading us to explore new ways to expand our capacity to share our process and resources.

Through the support of Mass Humanities grant funding, and collaboration with the POLIN Museum, we are starting the next chapter of the MAKING/HISTORY: Wooden Synagogue Project, creating A Portal to Gwoździec: a window illuminating the history of wooden synagogues for a wider public.


The Flowers

Flowers and floral motifs are frequently used in Jewish decorative art, synagogues, and cemeteries. They provide a symbolic representation of life, joy, and death.  The Gwoździec ceiling has flowers in each section, the four arabesques at the top of the cupola, surrounding the zodiac medallions, in the cove and there are over 80 flowers and fruits filling the North and South domes. These flowers surrounding the many animals in the synagogue may represent the wonder of life, the flora, and the fauna of God’s creation.

The Flowers: Test Panel

Above: North Dome Flower #6 test panel. Courtesy of Handshouse Studio.

Map of the North Dome

Above: Map of the North Dome of the reconstructed Gwoździec ceiling. Courtesy of Handshouse Studio.


Click here to return to the homepage of the digital exhibit on Kolture.


Handshouse Studio is a non-profit, educational organization that works to illuminate history, understand science, and perpetuate the arts.


What is a replica?

Is the Handshouse Studio reconstruction of the Gwoździec synagogue a replica? What is the difference between a replica and a reconstruction?

What is the meaning of repair?

If the original is gone, and there is nothing to be restored, is a reconstruction a restoration? How can rebuilding still be an act of repair?

If it is not original, is it an authentic object?

As Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett Ronald S. Lauder Chief Curator, Core Exhibition of the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews, asks “What constitutes an “original” or “actual” or “authentic” object?”

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