Europe

A tour of the synagogues of Prague

Throughout the Middle Ages, in practically all the important European cities, the so-called Jewish quarters were formed. or Jewish neighborhoods. This was a part of the city, often segregated from the rest by walls, where the homes of the Jewish population were concentrated. On this occasion, we are going to visit the synagogues of Prague.

The Josefov, Jewish quarter of Prague, is one of the most important in Europe. Six synagogues, the cemetery and the old town hall are still standing there. Let’s talk a little about the synagogues that are still preserved in the Czech capital.

1. Prague Synagogues: Old-New Synagogue

It is one of the oldest synagogues in Europe. From its construction, around the year 1270, until today, worship has only been interrupted during the years of Nazi occupation, between 1942 and 1945. This Gothic-style building is one of the oldest preserved in the Czech Republic.

This synagogue was the main temple of the Jewish community in Prague. In 1969 an exhaustive restoration of the building was carried out and at the end of the last century further improvement works were carried out. Today the synagogue is managed by the Prague Jewish community and is fully operational. It can be visited every day except Saturday and Jewish holidays.

2. Pinkas Synagogue

This synagogue has its origins in the year 1535, when one of the wealthiest and most important members of the community, Aron Mešullam Zalman Horowitz, built a private chapel between his house and the old cemetery. The name of the synagogue comes from his grandson, Rabbi Pinkas Horowitz.

It is a late gothic style building with elements of the early Renaissance. At the beginning of the 17th century, a wing was added to incorporate a women’s gallery, a vestibule and an entrance hall.

in the 50’s the building was reconstructed to become a monument to the Czech and Moravian victims of the Nazi holocaust. The names of 40,000 victims were handwritten on the walls of the main corridor and lobby. Due to conservation problems, the memorial was closed in 1968.

This, in addition to being a way of remembering the horrors of Nazism, is a way of returning the names to the victims, who at the time of their death were just numbers. Also inside the building You will find a collection of drawings made by children who were in the Terezín concentration camp.

3. Maisel Synagogue

This synagogue was built as a private temple for Mayor Mordecai Maisel between 1590 and 1592. Throughout its history, the building was rebuilt on different occasions, either because of fires or because of the remodeling of the urban layout of the city.

In the 19th century Alfred Grott carried out a pseudo-Gothic reconstruction of the building. Other renovations were made throughout the 20th century. At the moment, there is a permanent exhibition of the Jewish Museum on the history of the Jews of Bohemia and Moravia from the 10th to the 18th century.

4. Spanish Synagogue, one of the most beautiful synagogues in Prague

This building was built in 1867. Its name could come from the Moorish decoration of its interior, similar to that of the Alhambra in Granada. Other sources suggest that, after the expulsion of the Jews from the Hispanic kingdoms, a group of them settled in Prague and an old synagogue -Stará škola- was given to them. The current synagogue was built on it and hence its name.

In 1941 the synagogue ceased to be used as a temple and in 1955 it was transferred to the Jewish Museum. In 1979, due to its poor state of conservation, the building had to be closed. After the reforms carried out between 1995 and 1998, the building was reopened to the public.

5. Klausen Synagogue

It dates from the year 1694 and was originally called New Klausen School. Of the synagogues in the Jewish quarter of Prague this was the largest and the second main temple of the community. During the Nazi occupation the interior of the building was destroyed.

After the reforms carried out in the last third of the 20th century, only the forms of the original windows and a plaque dating the origin to the year 1694 are preserved. Inside we will be able to admire a large collection of texts Hebrews and more drawings made by the children of the Terezín concentration camp.

6. High Synagogue

This is a two-storey Renaissance building. It was built in 1577 and was originally part of the town hall, that is why it is also called the Synagogue of the Council. It functioned as a temple until 1941. Between 1950 and 1992 it was the headquarters of the Jewish National Museum.

Between 1994 and 1996 it was restored and in 1997 it resumed its spiritual functions after almost 50 years.. If you visit it, on the upper floor you can see a collection of various fabrics and silver objects and on the ground floor there is a small souvenir shop.

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