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Prague Jewish Quarter and The Jewish Synagogues
Prague Jewish Quarter is a town quarter also known as Josefov which is located between Old Town Square and Vltava river. The history of Jewish quarter dates back to the 13th century when the Jewish people were ordered to vacate their homes and many people expelled from Moravia, Germany, Austria and Spain were forced to settle in this one area rather than anywhere else in Prague. There are about eight synagogues and an Old Jewish Cemetery in Prague. Some of the Jewish cemeteries conquered by the Nazis were destroyed. But Hitler ordered Old Jewish Cemetery to be preserved to serve as a part of the museum after all the Jews had been decimated.
Jewish Synagogues in Prague:
The Maisel Synagogue was built in 1592 in Renaissance style by Joseph Wahl. It was erected on the basis of privilege granted by Emperor Rudolph II. This was the first Prague synagogue accessible to women. Maisel Synagogue was severely damaged in the Ghetto fire of 1689 which devoured it completely and was rebuilt and further reconstructed several times.
History of Maisel Synagogue:
The synagogue was used as a warehouse during the World War II. The Nazis assembled around six thousand pieces of art work that came from 153 synagogues in Bohemia and Moravia.
Old New Synagogue: Old New Synagogue is one of the most oldest extant synagogue in Europe built around 13th century.
Legends of Old New Synagogue:
There are numerous legends and tales associated with Old New Synagogue. The synagogue was once defended against fire in the ghetto by the wings of angels transformed into doves. The legend of Golem, an artificial creature made of clay by Rabi Jehud Löwa ben Bezalel during the 16 th century is associated with the Old New Synagogue. The monster was created intentionally to defend and help the Jews during bad times. Due to the aggressive and violent behavior of Golem, he was made dead again by Rabi Lowa.
It is also known as Jerusalem synagogue since it is located on Jerusalem Street. Jubilee Synagogue was built in 1906 designed by Wilhelm Stiassny in Art Nouveau and Pseudo Moorish styles,. The synagogue got its name on the 50th anniversary of the reign of Franz Joseph I of Austria .
Spanish Synagogue is one of the oldest synagogue built in 1868, designed in a Moorish style by Vojtech Ignatz Ullmann. The composer of Czech National Anthem Frantisek Skroup served as organist here from 1836-1845.
It is the second oldest preserved synagogue in Prague built in the late Gothic style during 16th century designed by Aaron Meshulam Horowitz. Pinkas Synagogue was severely damaged by flood back in the year 2002. The nave and hall was filled with water and the statics of the building was affected but later restored.
Klausen Synagogue is the biggest and second main synagogue in Prague Jewish town located near Old Jewish Cemetery. It was built by Mordechai Maisel and the legendary Rabi Loëw during the 16th century after the disastrous Ghetto fire of 1689.
High Synagogue (City Hall Synagogue):
The High Synagogue was designed by P. Roder in Renaissance style in 1577 as a private synagogue for the Jewish council.
Smichov Synagogue was constructed in 1863. It was designed in Moresque and New-Romanesque style.
History of Smichov Synagogue:
The synagogue was attacked in December 1897 by mob of rioters who ransacked and caused violent public disorder in the Smichov district. It was later reconstructed in 1930 by Leopold Ehrmann and gave it a modern outlook.
Old Jewish Cemetery:
Old Jewish Cemetery is the second oldest cemetery in Europe. It was discovered during the first half of 15th century. About 12,000 tombstones are present in the cemetery decorated with animal and plant motifs. Some of the prominent figures are buried here:
- Scholar and Teacher Rabbi Judah Loew Ben Bezalel in 1609. He was the one who created the famous Golem, a monster made of clay to defend the Jews during bad times.
- The Scholar and Poet Avigdor Kara in 1439.
- Aaron Meshulam Horowitz, the founder of Pinkas Synagogue in 1545.
- The mayor and developer of Prague Jewish Town Mordecai Maisel in 1601.
- David Gans, the famous renaissance scholar, historian, mathematician and astronomer in 1613 and
- Rabbi David Oppenheim, the collector of Hebrew manuscripts and books in 1736.