Synagogues in the Jewish Quarter

Six synagogues have been preserved to our days in Prague's Jewish quarter. The Old New synagogue and High synagogue are still used for services. The remaining four houses the expositions of the Jewish Museum. These are Pinkasova, Klausen, Maislova, and Spanish synagogues.

Photo of Old New Synagogue in the Jewish Quarter, Prague

The Old New Synagogue, the oldest still standing synagogue in Europe and one of the most valuable Gothic buildings in Prague, was built in the 1270s. Many legend are associated with it. The Jews believed that it was brought to Prague by angels from the Promised Land or that it was built from the stones of the Jerusalem temple. They said that no fire could damage the building. Even when all houses in the area burned down, Old New synagogue remained unharmed.

But the most famous legend is about Golem. According to it, Rabbi Loew created a giant out of clay. He managed to revive him by putting a sheet with a magic spell under his tongue. Golem did all the dirty and hard work in the ghetto and protected the quarter from attacks. Before the beginning of Shabbat, a spell should be taken out so that the clay man would not work. But one day they forgot to do it. The Golem began to smash everything around. Rabbi Loew had to put him to sleep forever. It is believed that the remains of the Golem are hidden in the Old New Synagogue's attic. It is strictly prohibited to climb there since then.

Pinkas Synagogue is the second oldest in the Jewish ghetto. Its construction was completed in 1535. The Jagiellonian Gothic vaults of the synagogue are the real pride of the Jewish Museum. In this synagogue, one more detail, scarce for Europe, has been preserved. There is a special entrance through which women gave their sons for circumcision. Today Pinkas Synagogue is a memorial to the Holocaust victims. 77,297 names of Jews from Bohemia and Moravia who died during the Second World War cover synagogue's walls. We can also see the drawings of children from Terezin concentration camp here.

Photo of Pinkas Synagogue in the Jewish Quarter, Prague

The Maizlova synagogue was built in the 1590s as a private prayer house for Mordecai Maisel's family. Just imagine that the impressive building we see today is actually only two-thirds of the original one. This synagogue houses the first part of the Jewish Museum exposition, which tells about the history of Jews in Bohemia and Moravia.

Photo of the clock on the building of Town Hall in the Jewish Quarter, Prague

The high synagogue was built in the 16th century as a part of the Jewish Town Hall and was used only by members of the town government. Again, Mordecai Maisel gave money for the construction. Initially, people could get into this synagogue only from the second floor of the Town Hall. There was no entrance from the street. That is why it was named High. A separate entrance appeared at the end of the 17th century. The High Synagogue is still used for services, and it is closed to tourists. On the building of the Town Hall, right next to the synagogue, you can see an unusual clock with numbers in Hebrew. The hands of this watch move counterclockwise.

The Klaus synagogue was built in 1694 on the site of burned Talmud school, synagogue, and hospital. Due to small size, they were called klauses (Latin "claustrum" - cell). The new synagogue, although large, retained this name. Today it houses an exposition of the Prague Jewish Museum dedicated to Jewish customs, traditions, and holidays.

The Spanish synagogue was built in the 19th century in the Moorish style. The interiors, richly decorated with ornaments and gilding, resemble those in Alhambra. Hence the name of the synagogue - Spanish. The synagogue houses the second part of the exposition "The History of Jews in Bohemia and Moravia" and the exhibition "The Silver of Synagogues." Concerts also take place here.

Photo of the Spanish Synagogue, Jewish Quarter, Prague

Information on Jewish Museum opening times and admission fees can be found here.

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