The Old-New Synagogue in Prague has been a house of prayers for over 700 years. It is one of the six synagogues that you can visit in the Josefov district, Prague’s former ghetto. This is the oldest still active synagogue in Prague and in Europe. The Old-New Synagogue is also a museum and open every day except on Saturday, Sabbath. The attic of the synagogue is believed to be the last resting place of the Golem, a clay creature that came to life every now and then and is said to be buried at the Zizkov Jewish Cemetery.
Old-New Synagogue Oldest in Europe
Since the destruction of the synagogue in Worms, Germany, during the Kristallnacht on 9-10 November 1938, the Old-New Synagogue has been the oldest European synagogue and the main prayer house used by the Jewish community in Prague. This striking building in early Gothic style still has retained its old look, as over the centuries no changes have been made. In Orthodox Synagogues men and women are segregated and only the men are allowed in the main hall. The women’s gallery in the Old-New synagogue is not upstairs as is usually the case, but it is at the side corridors so that women can view the service through narrow slits in the wall.
Legend of the Golem
The interior is worth a closer look. Narrow Gothic window allow little daylight but antique bronze chandeliers illuminate the main hall. Admire the imposing bimah, an elevated platform from which the Torah is read. Five steps lead up to the Torah ark, located on the wall closest to Jerusalem. Pillars and vaults are decorated with reliefs with vines and vine leaves. Legend has it that the body of the Golem, a creation of Rabbi Judah Loew Ben Bezalel, rests in the attic, but others say that he was buried in the Jewish Cemetery in the Zizkov district.
How to get there
The Old New Synagogue is in Josefov, the Jewish quarter and former ghetto of Prague. This neighbourhood is close to Old Town Square. Elegant Parizska Avenue is the main shopping street and the centre of haute couture and abounds in fashion shops: Hermes, Dior, Gucci and many more. The main attraction in Josefov is the Jewish Museum which comprises Maisel Synagogue, Spanish Synagogue, Pinkas Synagogue, Klausen Synagogue, Ceremonial Hall, Old Jewish Cemetery and the Robert Guttmann Gallery.
Address: Old-New Synagogue, Maiselova 18
Sunday to Thursday from 09.00 – 18.00, in winter until 17.00
Closed on Saturday
Friday closing one hour before Shabbat
Free entry for Prague City Card holders!
Photo credit: Marianne Crone