- The Spanish Synagogue is the most recent synagogue in the Prague Jewish Town. Built in 1868 for the local Reform congregation on the site of the 12th-century Altschul, which was the oldest synagogue in the Prague ghetto. It was called the Spanish Synagogue for its impressive Moorish interior design, influenced by the famous Alhambra.
People also ask
Which is the oldest Jewish synagogue in Prague?
Is there a Jewish Museum in Prague Czech Republic?
When was the Maisel Synagogue in Prague built?
Which is the newest synagogue in the world?
History. The Spanish Synagogue is not the first synagogue at the site. Before it there stood probably the oldest synagogue in Prague Jewish Town, Altschule. In the second half of 19th century, the capacity of the Altschule did not suffice. The modernist faction in the community, which renovated it in 1837 for the purpose of moderately reformed services, therefore decided to demolish the synagogue in 1867 and one year later it was replaced by the new, Spanish Synagogue.
History. Technically, the Spanish Synagogue is the newest Prague synagogue. However, the building stands where the oldest area temple — called Old School or Altshul — once stood. Why was it called Old School? Because in days of old, temples and synagogues were also used as schools.
- More Information
- Visitor Information
The Spanish Synagogue is the most recent synagogue in the Prague Jewish Town. Built in 1868 for the local Reform congregation on the site of the 12th-century Altschul, which was the oldest synagogue in the Prague ghetto. It was called the Spanish Synagogue for its impressive Moorish interior design, influenced by the famous Alhambra. The building was designed by Josef Niklas and Jan Bělský, the remarkable interior (from 1882–83) by Antonín Baum and Bedřich Münzberger. František Škroup, the composer of the Czech national anthem, served as organist here in 1836-45.Included in the Tours of the Jewish Museum and Prague Jewish TownDisabled access: yes (platform lift)The ticket counter, museum shop and toilet facilities are in the synagogue vestibule.Regular services – for more information, see www.kehilaprag.czCelebrations of Jewish festivals and important days.Regular chamber concerts and other cultural events
- One of The Most Beautiful Synagogues in Europe
- The History of The Old School
- Features of The Spanish Synagogue
- The Permanent Exposition
- More About Czech Jewish History During The 18th and 19th Centuries
- The Exposition Tracing The 20th Century History of Czech Jews
- More Features of 20th Century Czech Jewish History
- The Objects in The Exposition
- The Spanish Synagogue After World War II
- The Functionalist Building
Arabesques, gilt and polychrome motifs with a dazzling combination of rich green, blue and red hues make this Moorish-style synagogue one of the most beautiful in Europe. The interior of this 19th century creation is breathtaking with its Torah ark and central dome as masterpieces of Spanish-inspired architecture. Now a permanent exhibition of Jewish history from the 18thcentury Enlightenment period to the present is housed in this remarkable building.
Hailing from 1868, the Spanish Synagogue was the last house of prayer to be erected in the Jewish Town. It was built on the site of The Old School, the oldest synagogue in the quarter that was the location of the original settlement of Sefard Prague Jews. The Old School goes back at least to the 12th century. Yet that holy building experienced tragedy after tragedy. The victim of four fires, the synagogue also was damaged in the Easter pogrom of 1389 and was pillaged in 1744. It was shut down by Emperor Leopold I in 1693 but opened its doors again in 1704. During the 18th century Empress Maria Theresa let the synagogue fall into disrepair. At the end of that century, the Renaissance structure was transformed into a late Gothic style edifice. In the 1840s reticulated vaulting was added. The Old School was reconstructed five times from 1536 to 1837. That year the Old School became the first synagogue in Prague to offer reform services and the first in Bohemia to have an organ. Frantis...
Thanks to the designs of Vojtech Ignac Ullmann and Josef Niklas, the Spanish Synagogue was born in 1868. The synagogue got its name from the Moorish style that had been greatly influenced by Spanish architecture. Moorish elements were favored by Jewish communities and employed in reform synagogues. The western façade practically screams Moorish. The interior was designed at the end of the 19thcentury. Low Stucco arabesques, gilt and polychrome motifs all contribute to the grandeur of the building. The columns and ornamentation are rendered in the vibrant hues of green, blue and red that had been popular in medieval Alhambra, Spain. The gold decoration on the doors is an impressive embellishment. The organ is also designed with Moorish features. The upper floor windows were fitted with stained glass in 1882 and 1883. The ark shows an Islamic influence as well, its design also derived from Alhambra. Its gold decoration is stunning. Several types of marble, polychrome and gilt were use...
The exposition tracing Jewish history in the Czech lands from the Enlightenment at the end of the 18th century to the present is filled with intriguing facts and detailed descriptions. Visitors learn that during the age of Enlightenment, Jews aspired to recreate cultural life in Jewish communities via education and hoped to be rewarded with emancipation. At the end of the 18thcentury, Emperor Joseph II proclaimed that Jews no longer had to wear a badge that distinguished them from Christians. New opportunities for Jews arose in the spheres of education, finance, industry and agriculture. The exhibition explains that the main objective of Zionism was to return to Judaism, restore cultural values and revive the Jewish nation.
Texts tell about Jewish-Czech assimilation and Jewish-German assimilation, which was more common in the Czech lands because the language of the Habsburg Empire was German. Several of the many books on display are Siegfried Kapper’s 1846 book Czech letters, poetry in favor of Czech-Jewish assimilation and Leopold Kompert’s 1882 work From the ghetto, the first book to deal with contemporary Jewish issues in German prose. (Kapper, by the way, made the first German translation of Karel Hynek Macha’s Czech poem, May orMaj in Czech.)Perhaps tourists will be surprised that the nationalist uprisings of the revolutionary movements during 1848 were tinged with anti-Semitism. Professor Tomas Masaryk, who later would become the first Czechoslovak president, defended Leopold Hilsner in 1899 when Hilsner was accused of ritual murder, a superstition in which many believed at the end of the 19thcentury.
Upstairs the 20thcentury history of Czech Jews is explained. When the Nazis closed the synagogues in 1942, most of the museum staff was deported to the Terezin or Auschwitz concentration camps. Visitors also are enlightened about the destruction of the Jewish Town during the clearance project that took place from 1896 to 1912. The Prague City Council began demolishing buildings in the Jewish Town during 1895 and a year later raised the level of ground, installed drinking water mains and building wide streets. The narrow, maze-like streets of the Jewish Town disappeared. By 1912 only six synagogues, the Old Jewish Cemetery and the Jewish Town Hall were proof that the Jewish Town had ever existed.
The exhibition promotes 20thcentury Czech Jewish literature that includes the works of poet Jiri Orten as well as the Czech Jewish art world that includes the cubo-expressionist creations of sculptor Otto Gutfreund. A display on Franz Kafka and the Prague Circle created by Kafka’s publisher and close friend, Max Brod, is also intriguing. The relationship between Czechoslovakia and Israel is elaborated upon, too. Visitors learn that during the rigid Communist era of normalization in the 1970s, the secret police kept strict tabs on Czech Jews. Culture and the life of children in Terezin concentration camp is another theme that is explored.
Among the many enthralling artifacts in the exhibition is a 1902 drinking set, a masterpiece of Art Nouveau work by Moser glass company. A Hanukkah lamp from 1873 is a major attraction because it is so rare due to its large size and its use of Neo-Gothic features. A number of books on Jewish themes can be found as well. Silver Torah finials, Torah shields and Torah mantles hail from the 19th century and beginning of the 20th century. Black-and-white photographs show what the Jewish Town looked like before it was demolished in the late 19thcentury. A copy of the Nuremberg Laws and a book of anti-Jewish legislation from 1940 are on display, too. In the section about Terezin, visitors see the worthless banknotes that were given to Jews living in the Terezin ghetto.
During 1955 the Spanish Synagogue became part of the Jewish Museum. It underwent restoration a few years later. An exhibition of synagogue textiles was located there from 1960 to 1982, but then the sacral building was closed. Reconstruction did not take place until 1994 and lasted four years. During 1998 the present exhibition was open to the public for the first time. Concerts are also held in this space swirling with arabesques, gold décor and dynamic colors.
Adjacent to the synagogue is a functionalist building that was erected in 1935. The exterior of the buildings is eclectic and unique with a Moorish style façade side-by-side with a functionalist façade. Based on the architectural plan of Karel Pecanek, the structure served as a Jewish hospital until World War II.
Spanish Synagogue. Španělská synagoga, Dušní 12. In the 15 th century, some of the Jews who were expelled from Spain moved to Prague. They were provided a house of prayer, which was then called Old School, on the corner of Vězeňská and Dušní streets.
The Moorish-style Spanish Synagogue was built in 1868 and occupies the place where the oldest synagogue of Prague once stood. The Old School, as it was called, served the Byzantine community of Jews in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries.
- The Maisel Synagogue
- The Spanish Synagogue
- The Pinkas Synagogue
- The Old Jewish Cemetery
- The Ceremonial Hall
- The Klausen Synagogue
- The Old-New Synagogue
- The Jerusalem Synagogue, A.K.A. The Jubilee Synagogue
- Visiting The Synagogues of Prague
- Visitor Information
Originally built in 1592, rebuilt in 1689 after a fire, and renovated in 1893-1905, the Maisel Synagogue is devoted to Jewish history in Bohemia and Moravia up to the 1780s. This is the most “museum-like” synagogue of Prague, in that it displays historical objects but also allows visitors to explore documents through touchscreens.
The Spanish synagogue is by far the most ornate of the Prague synagogues, and it’s also the newest. Built in 1868, the interior is done in a “Moorish” style. Display cases around the ground floor and upstairs in what was once the women’s section tell the story of the Jews in Moravia and Bohemiafrom the 1780s on. It is a history of increasing civil rights and increasing assimilation, and of prominent members of the community like Sigmund Freud and Franz Kafka. The story ends with the Terezin ghetto, the Holocaust, and, briefly, Jewish history since 1945. Upstairs is an exhibit of silver from synagogues in Prague and the rest of Bohemia and Moravia. Also explained here is the history of the Prague Jewish Museum itself. Many of the objects in the museum’s collection came from synagogues that the government tore down at the turn of the 20th century. Urban renewal and improvement of sewage and other services meant destroying the dilapidated Jewish ghetto in Prague. The museum closed down...
The Pinkas synagogue, dating from 1535, was made into a Holocaust memorial in the 1950s. The Soviet invasion in 1968 closed it down, but with the fall of the Soviet Union, and after a renovation, it was reopened in 1995. I found this to be a very moving memorial. Not much is left of the original synagogue besides the building itself, the bima(the raised section in the middle where the torah was read), and the torah ark. Instead, the walls are covered with names: almost 80,000 names of the Bohemian and Moravian Jews who died in the Holocaust. So many names, covering all of the walls. It gave me an overwhelming understanding of the sheer number who were killed. And if 80,000 is this many, how can you ever understand 6 million? Upstairs, I couldn’t help but cry. There, in cases, hung dozens of pictures drawn by children at Terezin ghetto, where most of the Jews from this area were imprisoned before deportation. The community tried to maintain a sense of normalcy at Terezin, for the chi...
Next to the Pinkas Synagogue is the Old Jewish Cemetery. The people buried here are not victims of the Holocaust, who have no graves. This cemetery is far older, used by the Jewish community from 1439 to 1787. Because the city would not allow the Jews to expand the cemetery, they had to improvise. To deal with their cemetery’s overcrowding, the Jews of Prague simply buried their dead on top of earlier graves. They would remove the gravestones, add a layer of dirt, and place both the old and the new stone on top. This continued for centuries. For this reason, the graveyard is higher than the surrounding streets, and the 12,000 gravestones crowd and lean against each other. Visitors can walk a path through the cemetery, reading the stones (mostly in Hebrew). Many have decorative details; others, just words.
This neo-Romanesque building (1906) was home to the Prague Jewish community’s burial society. Their meeting room was upstairs, while downstairs was where the traditional washing of the dead took place. Paintings from the 1700s show the steps of the ritual. If the rituals around the Jewish tradition of preparing and washing their dead interest you, you can learn about them in detail in the Ceremonial Hall. It was certainly more than I wanted to know! If you’re in the planning stage of your visit to Prague, use the map below to find accommodations!
This synagogue was one of the most important and largest of the Prague synagogues. Today, as part of the Prague Jewish Museum, it houses an exhibit on Jewish traditions. I just skimmed the displays, since most of the objects were familiar to me, but it would be useful for anyone who doesn’t know the basics of Jewish rituals and beliefs. As I was wandering through this synagogue, a man nearby, clearly an Orthodox Jew, judging from his clothing, began to sing. It was Hebrew so I don’t know if it was a standard prayer, or a song of mourning, or what. He sang softly, to himself, and I think he wasn’t aware that anyone was listening. I found the sad notes of the song charming, and wonderfully appropriate to the bittersweet feeling of this museum.
The only active synagogue remaining in what used to be the Jewish ghetto, the Old-New Synagogue is also the oldest, dating from the 13thcentury. It was always the most important, even after the addition of other synagogues in Prague. Looking like it would have in the Middle Ages, with a bima in the center, this building has the most atmosphere of all of the synagogues. Perhaps this has to do with the medieval architecture: vaulted stone ceilings and gothic arches. Or perhaps it’s the fact that it’s still in active use. The male congregants, traditionally, sat or stood along the walls. The female members were in an adjacent room, listening through an opening in the wall.
If you’re counting, you’ll see that while I said five synagogues, this the sixth that I’m listing. The Jerusalem Synagogue is not part of the Jewish Museum collection. It was built in 1905-6 in the Moorish style, like the Spanish Synagogue, and has been in continous use, except for the war period, when it was used to store stolen Jewish property. I haven’t been inside because when I visited it in February 2020, it was closed for renovation, but I’ve heard it is as beautiful inside as outside. Like the Old-New Synagogue, this one is in active use. It’s away from the others, on the other side of the old city.
A clever solution to the question of how to present a Jewish museum, the decision to use the five remaining synagogues in the old Jewish quarter to house the collection was brilliant. Each building is, in effect, a different wing of the museum. Except for the Old-New Synagogue, they’re not active synagogues anymore, and it would be a shame to convert them to some unrelated use. I would certainly recommend visiting the synagogues in Prague, as well as the Old Jewish Cemetery. If you don’t have time for them all, see the Old-New Synagogue because it’s so old and atmospheric. See the Spanish Synagogue because it’s beautiful. If you don’t know much about Judaism, go to the Klausen Synagogue. And in any case stroll around the cemetery, just because it’s so unusual. If you can, at least walk by the outside of the Jerusalem Synagogue as well.
You can buy tickets at the Information and Reservation Centre (Maiselova 38/15), the Spanish Synagogue (Vězeňská 1), the Klausen Synagogue (U Starého hřbitova 3a) or the Pinkas Synagogue (Široká 3).
It takes two admission charges to see all of the elements of the Jewish Museum: 1. The price to see the Maisel Synagogue, the Pinkas Synagogue, the cemetery, the Klaus Synagogue and the Ceremonial Hall is CZK350 (about €13.50/$16) for adults, CZK250 (€9.50/$11.50) for children 6-15. 2. To see just the Spanish Synagogue, the price is CZK120 (€4.50/$5.50) for adults, CZK80 (€3/$3.50) for children. Other tickets are also available: 1. The price to see the cemetery, the Old-New Synagogue and the...
The Jewish Museum in Pragueis open daily except Saturdays and Jewish holidays: November-March 9:00-16:30; April-October 9:00-18:00. The Old-New Synagogue is open daily except Saturdays and Jewish holidays: November-March 9:00-17:00; April-October 9:00-18:00. On Fridays it closes an hour before Sabbath begins, which varies depending on the length of the day. The Jerusalem Synagogue: Jeruzalémská 1310/7. Hours: Sunday-Thursday 10:00-17:00 and Friday 10:00 until two hours before sunset. Have you...
It is also the oldest surviving medieval synagogue of twin- nave design. Completed in 1270 in gothic style, it was one of Prague 's first gothic buildings. A still older Prague synagogue, known as the Old Synagogue, was demolished in 1867 and replaced by the Spanish Synagogue .