Travel to Prague

Day 3 Josejov (Jewish quarter)

Prague


 

The neighborhood of Josefov, just north of the Old Town Square, houses the Jewish quarter. Stresses the old Jewish cemetery and synagogues. The place is very important in the history of Prague. The settlements arose during the tenth century, and since then the Jews were raising their homes and businesses. As time has passed and after the urban renewal of the city many of the buildings have been demolished. To Josefov reach visitors from around the world to remember the victims of Nazi persecution.

Prague - Maisel Synagogue
Prague - Maisel Synagogue

The streets hold many memories and legends about two people who were born in the Josefov: one, Franz Kafka, a real character, a man suffering the reality of Jewish life, the other, the Golem, a mystic humanoid wich the popular unconscious became almost real ... The neighborhood has many historic buildings and cubist architecture and art-nouveau, especially in the broad boulevard Parizská, mostly dating from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. After 1850, the neighborhood was renamed Josefov in honor of the King Joseph II, who through his Edict of Toleration in 1781 helped to significantly improve the living conditions of the Jews. During World War II the Nazis had been able to destroy anything left but kept it to make from Josefov a "museum of an extinct race"," bringing objects taken from synagogues in Central Europe.

Prague - Staranova Synagogue
Prague - Staranova Synagogue

The Jewish Museum is actually a collection of small museums located within the former ghetto of Josefov. Founded in 1906 by Hugo Lieben and Augustin Stein for the conservation of valuable objects from synagogues in Prague. With the Nazi occupation and the communist regime the museum was very limited in their functions. Since 1994, recovered and expanded its original status. It has one of the largest collections of Judaica in the world, comprising some 40,000 museum pieces and 100,000 books. The museum includes the Maisel Synagogue, Spanish, Pinkas, Klaus, the Old Jewish Cemetery, Ceremonial Hall of the burial society and the Jewish cemetery of Žižkov.

Prague - Ceremonial Hall
Prague - Ceremonial Hall

We started the visit of the museum in the Maisel Synagogue (Maiselova synagoga), neo-Gothic style in 1905, contains part of the museum for the History of the Jews in Bohemia and Moravia from the tenth century. It is forbidden to take pictures in every synagogue. Photography is allowed only in the old Jewish cemetery upon payment of the appropriate ticket. We continued the tour by the Synagogue Staranová or Old-New Synagogue, one of Europe´s oldest and the oldest preserved in Central Europe. It was founded about 1270 and is one of the first early Gothic buildings in the city. It has a rich decoration of stone and ancient interior envelope (gothic wrought iron bars, forged spider). It requires buying an additional entry for this synagogue because is not part of the Jewish museum ticket. Still hold religious services in this synagogue.

Prague - Old Jewish Cemetery
Prague - Old Jewish Cemetery

We visit the Ceremonial Hall building, built in neo-Romanesque style in 1912. This is the part of the museum for Jewish traditions and customs, particularly the issues of disease, medicine and death. Beside the Ceremonial Hall is located Klausen Synagogue, from 1694 in baroque style. It displays objects of everyday life of the Jewish familliar and customs relating to birth, circumcision, bar mitzvah ceremony, marriage, divorce and the Jewish home.

Prague - Old Jewish Cemetery
Prague - Old Jewish Cemetery

We circled the block and came to the Pinkas Synagogue (Pinkasova synagoga). After the Second World War, the synagogue became a monument to the Jews of Bohemia and Moravia murdered by the Nazis. On its walls are inscribed the names of Jewish victims. On the first floor is the exhibition Drawings by children of Terezin,, 1942–1944. Among the prisoners in Terez쬠were more than 10 000 children. The Jewish Museum has more than 4,000 original drawings of these children in their collection. They are a touching testimony of his cruel fate and practically the only memory gives those who did not survive.

Prague - Spanish Synagogue
Prague - Spanish Synagogue

Next to the Pinkas Synagogue is the entrance to the Old Jewish Cemetery (Starý zidovský hrbitov). It was founded in the first half of the fifteenth century. The oldest grave dates from 1439 and belongs to the scholar and poet Avigdor Kara. Served as a cemetery until 1787. It currently has about 12,000 graves of Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque. The cemetery contains several burial layers superimposed on one another. The most important person buried here is undoubtedly the Rabbi Loew (d. 1609), to whom legend attributes the creation of an artificial life, the Golem. Mordechai Maisel (1601) is also buried here.

Finally we visited the Spanish Synagogue (Spanelská synagoga). It was built in 1868 in Moorish style. It has a square shape with a dome over the central space. The gallery is built on a steel structure. The stucco arabesques and the stylized oriental motifs are repeated inside the walls and decorations of the doors, balustrades and gallery.


 

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