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Old-New Synagogue, Prague

Photo © Kevin Bovard. View all images in our Old-New Synagogue Photo Gallery.
Photo © Andrew3000.
Photo © magro_kr.
Photo © Jim Milles.
Photo © Adrian Mars.

The Old-New Synagogue (Czech: Staronová synagóga; German: Alt-neu Schul) in the Jewish Quarter (Josefov) of Prague is Europe's oldest active synagogue and one of the earliest Gothic buildings. It is still active today.

History

Completed in 1270 in the Gothic style, the Old-New Synagogue was one of Prague's first Gothic buildings.

It was originally called the New or Great Shul to distinguish it from a still older one, which was demolished in 1867. Then, when newer synagogues were built in the 16th century, it became known as the Old-New Synagogue!

The Old-New Synagogue has withstood several pogroms (including a massive one in 1389 that killed 3,000 Jews), fires and the 19th-century redevelopment of the Jewish Quarter. According to legend, angels brought stones from King Solomon's Temple to build the synagogue, and those same angels still protect the synagogue.

The legend also says that one day, the synagogue will be dismantled to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem. Until then, the synagogue exists At-Tnay, "on condition." An alternative explanation for the unusual name of the Old-New Synagogue is that it is a mistranslation of this Hebrew phrase At-Tnay.

The famous author Franz Kafka attended this synagogue when he lived in Prague and his bar mitzvah was held here. The only time the Old-New Synagogue has not been used as a house of worship was between 1941 and 1945, during the Nazi occupation.

What to See

The Old-New Synagogue is still an active center of worship for Prague's Jewish community. It is not part of the Jewish Museum and there are no museum displays inside. It is well worth a visit, however, for its Gothic architecture and historic importance.

The single-story synagogue consists of a central prayer hallfor men, with the women's gallary surrounding it. The Old-New Synagogue is the oldest surviving example of the medieval twin-nave type of synagogue.

Above the bimah (prayer/reading area) hangs a remnant of a red flag with the Star of David, the Jewish symbol. In 1357, Charles IV, the ruler of the Holy Roman Empire at the time, allowed the Jews of Prague to have their own city flag.

The tattered red banner hanging next to the Jewish flag was a gift from Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand III to the Jews for their help in stopping an invasion by the Swedes in 1648 at the end of the Thirty Years War.

On the east wall is the Arkwhich contains the Torah scrolls.


Quick Facts on Old-New Synagogue

Site Information
Names: Alt-neu Schul; Old-New Synagogue; Old-New Synagogue, Prague; Staronová synagóga
City:Prague
Country:Czech Republic
Categories:Synagogues
Faiths:Judaism
Feat:Oldest
Styles:Gothic
Dates:1270
Status:active
Visitor and Contact Information
Location:Prague, Czech Republic
Coordinates:50.090087° N, 14.418622° E  (view on Google Maps)
Website:www.synagogue.cz
Lodging:View hotels near this location
Note: This information was accurate when first published and we do our best to keep it updated, but details such as opening hours can change without notice. To avoid disappointment, please check with the site directly before making a special trip.

Map of Old-New Synagogue

Below is a location map and aerial view of Old-New Synagogue. Using the buttons on the left (or the wheel on your mouse), you can zoom in for a closer look, or zoom out to get your bearings. To move around, click and drag the map with your mouse.

References

  1. Personal visit (February 2000).
  2. Old-New Synagogue - A View on Cities
  3. Old-New Synagogue (Staronová synagóga) - Frommers.com
  4. Staronová synagóga - Fodor's Online Travel Guide

More Information

Article Info

Title:Old-New Synagogue, Prague
Author:Holly Hayes
Last updated:07/22/2009
Permalink:www.sacred-destinations.com/czech-republic/prague-old-new-synagogue/czech-republic/prague-old-new-synagogue
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