Old-New Synagogue (Staronová Synagóga)

Old-New Synagogue (Staronová Synagóga) (25)

The strange name of the Old-New synagogue raises a few questions. Some claim that this place was first called New School and that after building other religious buildings later on it came to be called Old-New. In contrast, others believe that its name comes from the Hebrew “altnai”, which means “provisional” and which in German is pronounced “altneu”, similar to “old-new”. Whatever the case, nobody doubts that this was the first synagogue in Prague and one of the first buildings of the Jewish Quarter, as well as its centre.

The Old-New synagogue was built between 1270 and 1275 and is one of the first Gothic buildings of Prague. By not being surrounded by houses, for centuries it survived nearly all the big fires in the Jewish Quarter. The inhabitants of the ghetto sought refuge within its walls during the persecutions to which they were subjected. The Old-New synagogue must have something magical about it, because it even survived the demolition of the ghetto in the 19th century.

In 1920 and later in 1960, the synagogue was reformed and restored. Even today it is still one of the most important religious centres in the city, and was so even during the communist period.

Outside, over the entrance door to the synagogue, you will be able to see a magnificent Gothic tympanum sculpted in stone with plant motifs. It is a very old piece of work, dating back to the 13th century.

The inside of the synagogue has two naves each with three domes which are supported by strong octagonal-shaped pillars. The right-hand nave is decorated with bronze candelabras.

Here hangs the standard of the Jews in Prague, which features the Star of David with the hat that the inhabitants of the ghetto were forced to wear in the 14th century.

You will also see the most sacred part of the temple, which is the chest where the scrolls of the Torah are kept. In the background is the wooden chair where Rabbi Löw would sit in the 16th century, under the sign of the Star of David. Löw was the chief rabbi of this temple.

In fact, the legend says that the remains of the Golem are to be found in this synagogue. This is where Rabbi Löw himself would have hidden them after the Golem had gone crazy and rebelled against its master. If you want to check for yourself, you just need to go and pay a visit to the Old-New synagogue.

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