There is no other synagogue in the Jewish Quarter as well known as the Spanish Synagogue, built between 1868 and 1893. It owes its name to the Spanish Moorish style projected by the architect Vojtěch Ignátz Ullmann, which makes it a beautiful landmark of the city. Its interior, designed by Baum and Munzberg, is lavishly decorated with stucco arabesque of Islamic motifs and has a great central dome. After years of neglect during the Soviet era, this majestic building had fallen into disrepair. Fortunately for visitors to Prague today, the building was restored to its former beauty by the Jewish Museum, which took over its management and restoration at the end of the 20th century.
The Jewish Quarter of Prague is a unique landmark between the Old Town Square and the Vltava River that bears witness to the history of the Jewish community in Europe since the first Jews settled here in the 13th century. Over the centuries, new Jewish communities moved to Prague after being expelled from other European countries, making this the largest Jewish Quarter on the continent. The old Josefov quarter has preserved six synagogues and the Old Jewish Cemetery. Discover the history behind each of these sites!
The oldest Jewish temple standing on the Josevo quarter is the Old-New Synagogue, completed in 1270. It was known as the "New Synagogue" or "Great Shul" until the 16th century, the golden era of the Jewish Quarter, when many new synagogues were erected. Its most distinctive feature is the Gothic brick gables on both sides of the roof. Many legends surround this synagogue, from the one connecting its foundation to the destroyed Temple of Jerusalem, to the one of the angels that saved it from the 1754 guetto fire. It is still used by the Jewish community for religious services but is also open to visitors.
The Maisel Synagogue, built between 1590 and 1592 was for centuries the largest and most impressive synagogue of the Jewish Quarter. The current building is much more recent as it has undergone several reconstructions and interventions over the centuries. The last one, at the end of the 19th century, gave it the Neo-Gothic appearance it has today.
The Old Jewish Cemetery in Prague is one of the oldest in Europe. It was in operation from the 15th century until 1786. Due to lack of space over time, burials took place in layers. Among the 12,000 people buried there are prominent personalities of the Jewish world such as Rabbi Judah Loew Ben Bezalel, known as the Maharal of Prague; the businessman and mayor of Prague Mordecai Maisel; and the Renaissance scholar, historian, mathematician and astronomer, David Gans.
Pinkas Synagogue is the second-oldest synagogue in the Jewish Quarter of Prague. It was built in 1479 in front of the Old Cemetery. After the Second World War, the synagogue was turned into a memorial site for the nearly 80,000 Jews from Czechoslovakia who were murdered during the Holocaust. The first floor houses a permanent exhibition dedicated to Jewish children, with drawings made by those who were confined in the Terezín ghetto between 1942 and 1944.
Not far from the Old Jewish Cemetery, there is another important synagogue: the Klausen Synagogue. It was built in 1694, on the site of a group of buildings that had been destroyed at the fire of 1689. It currently houses a permanent exhibition dedicated to Jewish life and customs which is operated by the Jewish Museum.
The High Synagogue of Prague was completed in 1568. It was built as a private synagogue for the Jewish council and the rabbinical court. In contrast to its rather simple exterior, the interior is richly decorated. The synagogue was accessed from the first floor of the Jewish Town Hall, which was built at the same time. From 1950 to the mid-nineties, the synagogue was used for public exhibitions by the Jewish Museum. However, since 1995 it has served as the prayer hall of the rabbinate and remains closed to the public.