Wonder of the Ruin

Aesthetics of the Derelict Synagogue in Poland


  • Peter Cvijović Columbia University, New York




synagogues, garden ruin, aesthetics, decay, enchantment, ruins


The aesthetics of the abandoned synagogues are dynamic and interactive, being inextricably attached to how we encounter and sense their reality and materiality. This kind of affective and mercurial aesthetic experience of Poland’s deserted synagogues is being formed and transformed during our immediate encounters with material spaces and things. I argue that a re-enchantment of the synagogue takes place in the ruin, wherein non-human actors and activities (plants, animals, the weather, and so on) generate its wonderment, strangeness, and revived sacrality. I call this new form of the derelict synagogue a ruin temple – a space whose deeply flowing past and dynamism of decay and life create a present that allures and enchants, affording a mystical and sensuous immersion in its solitary realm of awe and wonder.


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Author Biography

Peter Cvijović, Columbia University, New York

Petar Cvijovic´ is an archaeologist of the contemporary past, photographer, and has a PhD in Archaeology from Columbia University in New York. His upcoming dissertation Life in Ruin Temples: Deserted Synagogues of Southeastern Poland, is a result of a five-year series of research projects in which many of the pictures displayed here were produced. His photography explores the convergence of space and aesthetics, materiality and life, decay and images. His work is can be seen at www.petarcvijovic.com


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How to Cite

Cvijović, P. (2017). Wonder of the Ruin: Aesthetics of the Derelict Synagogue in Poland. Journal of Contemporary Archaeology, 4(1), 73–89. https://doi.org/10.1558/jca.32077



Photo Essays