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Through the Maisel Synagogue (czech: Maiselova synagoga) back to the 10th century and then criss-cross through Jewish history in Bohemia. This beautiful Jewish building was funded in 1590 – 1592 by a very wealthy citizen of Prague Jewish Community, the Primate Mordecai Maisel. The synagogue was supposed to serve for private purposes only for him and his family. Naturally, the building takes its name after its benefactor. It was built just thanks to privileges conferred by the Emperor Rudolf II himself. As you know from previous entries, Mordecai Maisel was the very “Court-Jew” of the Emperor.
The Maisel Synagogue – panoramic photography
(drive your mouse onto the picture and if you move the pointer the picture will move, too)
The design of the building is the work of a significant master builder called Juda Coref de Herz. It was rather unusual for its time since it was composed of a three-nave Renaissance building bearing distinctive Gothic elements. The construction site chief and superintendant was Josef Wahl. All this extensive construction was pillared by twenty hefty posts. The wealthy owner donated a vast number of unique and rare ritual items to the synagogue collection.
Over the years the synagogue was rebuilt and further reconstructed several times. In 1689 it was hit by great fire which devoured it completely. During the total post-fire reconstruction only fourteen pillars, instead of those original twenty ones, were erected. The main nave was restored according to the original design with a semicular vault. The reconstruction took its course also within the sanitation of the Jewish Quarter at the turn of the 20th century. At that time the building acquired expressive Gothic elements and Neo-Gothic decoration of the whole interior.
During the World War II. the synagogue was used as a warehouse. Nazis assembled here around six thousand pieces of art work and other items which came from 153 synagogues in Bohemia and Moravia. Those items were assembled particularly here since the Maisel Synagogue was supposed to become an Anti-Jewish Museum. In 1950 all this enormous collection was handed over to the State Jewish Museum which later arranged a permanent exhibition called Silver of Czech Synagogues in Maisel Synagogue. In 1960s the whole interior was completely reconstructed and in 1990s the synagogue was generally restored.
At present, the synagogue houses a permanent exhibition of the Jewish Museum called History of Jews in Bohemia and Moravia from 10th to 18th century. Visitors can learn about the origins of Jewish settlements in our country and recall important historical landmarks concerning expansion of Judaism. The exhibition does not only provide enlightenment on Jewish history but also makes us muse on the tragic destiny of this community.
Maiselova synagoga – Židovské muzeum
110 00, Praha 1 – Staré Město/Josefov,
Tel: 222 749 211
GPS: 50° 5’20.919″N, 14° 25’1.131″E
Entrance Fee and Open hours – click here
Underground/Subway – Line A, Staroměstská station
Tram 17, 18, 53 – Staroměstská
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