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Old New Synagogue (czech: Staronová synagoga) – the oldest Jewish Gothic monument. This beautiful sacred place is one of the oldest and most valuable buildings not only in Europe but also in the whole world. The synagogue is still active. It has been used for its purposes continually since the 13th century – of course, except the period of the World War II. This synagogue ranks among the oldest Jewish Gothic buildings in the territory of the Czech Republic because its origins come from the late 1270s. Its great construction shows beautiful elements including fine brick gables among others.
This remarkable early Cistercian Gothic building was built in the 13th century during the reign of the King Ottokar II. (czech: Přemysl Otakar II.) Gradually the vestibule and an upper balcony for women situated in the western part of the synagogue were annexed to the original building. Later a smaller vestibule was added in order to provide a special entrance for women who sit separately from men during prayer services. Their room was the last construction work.
One of many interesting details in the building are Hebrew inscriptions on the northern and southern walls of the main synagogue hall reminding us of a massacre of ghetto citizens in 1389. That Easter saw the slaughter of three thousand Jews including those who were trying to find sanctuary in the synagogue. Its walls were stained with blood of victims who tragically died near the synagogue. The blood stains were visible until 1618 i.e. until the building was reconstructed.
The synagogue is surrounded by lower buildings on three sides. Those are nowadays used as a vestibule and a balcony for women. Please note the closet in the eastern part of the synagogue which contains the synagogue’s Torah scroll. You also should not pass by the wrought iron located in the centre of the nave. It shelters the place for a Torah reader. Above this “bimah” you can see the beautiful historical flag of Prague Jewish Community on a standard bearing the symbols of Jewish Ghetto.
The synagogue is not interesting only for its architectural elements but also for its unusual name. The “Old New” has remained since the times the Synagogue was originally called the “New,” which was supposed to distinguish it from an older synagogue in Dušní street. However, when newer synagogues were built, its name was changed to “Old New” and the synagogue became, among others, the main religious centre of Prague Jewish Community.
As well as other Jewish Community synagogues, this one underwent vast reconstructions, too. The works were performed in 1967 and 1998-1999 and were strictly supervised by people from the National Heritage Institute since the synagogue is a unique building in many ways. The reconstruction works were carried out hand-in-hand with archaeological research. Its findings proved that the surrounding of the synagogue was inhabited by Jews as early as in the 11th century.
Nowadays, some buildings of the Jewish Community are under the management of the Jewish Museum except this one which is managed by the Jewish Prague Community itself. The Old New synagogue, compared to other Josefov sacred buildings, is not used as a museum, but it regularly holds prayer services and other religious rituals which belong to Jewish customs and traditions. As an example we can list Bar Mitzvah – a ritual of accepting thirteen-year-old boys among adult men, Jewish ritual weddings with receptions which can take place traditionally in the neighbouring kosher canteen and many others. The Old New Synagogue has belonged to the National Heritage since 1995.
This building is situated in the very centre of the Jewish Community therefore I would choose to walk along the 17.listopadu street. If you are interested, I would recommend that you visit the Museum of Decorative Arts in Prague. Then we will take a stroll along the Old Jewish Cemetery towards the Pinkas Synagogue in Široká street. We mentioned both these sites in the previous articles. Our journey continues through Maiselova street past the Jewish Town Hall to our walk destination.
Old New Synagogue – Jewish Community of Prague
Maiselova street 18, Josefov, 110 01 Prague 1
tel.+420 224 800 812-13
fax.+420 222 318 664
the Old-New Synagogue
adults – 200 CZK
under 15s and students – 140 CZK
under 6s – free
more informations click here
Underground/Subway – Line A, Staroměstská station
Tram 17, 18, 53 – Staroměstská
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