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Worms Synagogue

North exterior of the Women's Synagogue, added to the Alte Synagoge in 1212 and rebuilt with some original materials 1961. Worms, Germany. View all images in our Worms Synagogue Photo Gallery.
View from southwest of the Men's Synagogue, the oldest section of the Alte Synagoge. Built in 1175, rebuilt with some original materials 1961. Extending to the west is the Rashi Chapel, a study room…
Hebrew founder's inscription from the original synagogue built in 1034. Alte Synagoge, Worms, Germany.
View of the Men's Synagogue, the oldest section of the Alte Synagoge, from south. Built in 1175, rebuilt with some original materials 1961. Extending to the west is the Rashi Chapel, a study room…
The so-called Rashi Chapel, which has no associations with Rashi and was not a chapel. It was built as a study room in 1623-24 on the west side of the Alte Synagoge. It was reconstructed in 1854-55.…
East side of the Men's Synagogue, the oldest section of the Alte Synagoge, with small Torah niche. Built in 1175, rebuilt with some original materials 1961. The Women's Synagogue, added in 1212,…
Upper level of the underground mikveh, a Jewish ritual bath, dating from 1186. Alte Synagoge, Worms, Germany.
Underground mikveh, a Jewish ritual bath, dating from 1186. Alte Synagoge, Worms, Germany.
The Rashi Haus, now home to the Jewish Museum of Worms.

North of the Altstadt is the restored old Jewish Quarter of Worms. Prior to World War II, Worms had one of the oldest Jewish communities in Germany. Destroyed in the war, the Romanesque synagogue (Alte Synagoge) has been faithfully rebuilt and includes a medieval mikveh and Jewish museum.

History

The area around Judengasse in Worms hosted a Jewish community since at least the 10th century. The city's first synagogue was built in 1034. The original inscription left by the founder has been placed in the wall next to the entrance of the current synagogue.

A school was a built next to the synagogue, one student of which went on to achieve great fame as a scholar: Rabbi Salomon ben Isaak of Troyes (France), also known as Rashi, who studied here around 1060. A modern monument to him stands in the courtyard and the school is now called the Raschi-Haus. Over the centuries, the Raschi-Haus has been used as a school, a meeting house, a dance hall, wedding hall and a hospital. Since 1982 it has housed the city's Jewish Museum.

The original synagogue was destroyed during the Crusade of 1096, when anti-Jewish violence swept across Europe as well as the Holy Land. Sadly, it was only the first of many scenes of destruction for the Jewish synagogue and community of Worms.

Less than a century later, at the same time Worms Cathedral was being constructed in Worms, a new Men's Synagogue (later known as the Alte Synagoge) was built. Completed in 1175 in a Late Romanesque style, it employed the same masons as the cathedral and used many of the same designs. A mikveh (ritual bath) was added to the complex in 1186 and in 1212, an Early Gothic women's room was added to the north end.

The synagogue was damaged and restored a number of times throughout the Middle Ages, particularly after pogroms in 1349 (when the Jews were blamed for the Plague) and 1615. During the many reconstructions, various modifications were made to keep up with the times.

The Alte Synagoge was burned on Kristallnacht in 1938 and further destroyed by World War II bombing and malicious destruction through 1945. The Jewish community of Worms was completely destroyed and scattered.

There is no longer a substantial community of Jews in Worms. Nevertheless, because of the historic nature of the synagogue, it was rebuilt and rededicated in 1961. It is officially owned by the Jewish community of Mainz and occasionally used for services. Jewish members of the American army also worship here.

What to See

The Alte Synagoge was rebuilt in 1961 using as many of the original stones as possible. Substantial survivals from the original building include the brickwork up to about 1.5 meters high, the Romanesque portal carved by the cathedral's masons, and the founder's inscription from the 1034 synagogue (in the reconstructed wall next to the entrance).

The synagogue consists of the main Men's Synagogue, a two-aisled rectangular building, and a Women's Synagogue, with a central pillars, attached to the north side. Extending from the west end of the men's synagogue is a Talmudic study room known as the Rashi Chapel (Raschi-Kapelle), which was built in 1623-24 and reconstructed in 1854-55.

A few steps to the south from the synagogue is a fascinating medieval mikveh (ritual bath) dating from 1186. It is an atmospheric structure, with stone stairs leading down to a square wooden pool. A Romanesque-style gallery overlooks the pool from above.

Housed in the Raschi-Haus (the former school where the famous scholar studied) is the a Jewish Museum, with models, documents, plans, religious objects, pieces from the original synagogue, and photographs that provide insight into the long and rich history of Judaism in Worms.

Finally, no tour of Worms' Jewish heritage would be complete without a visit to the Heiliger Sand (Jewish Cemetery), in the southwest corner of town off the Lutherring, which is one of the oldest and largest Jewish cemeteries in Europe.


Quick Facts on Worms Synagogue

Site Information
Names:Alte Synagoge; Men's Synagogue; Old Synagogue; Worms Synagogue; Wormser Synagoge
City:Worms
State:Rhineland-Palatinate
Country:Germany
Categories:Synagogues; Museums
Faiths:Judaism
Styles:Romanesque; Gothic
Dates:1175; rebuilt 1961
Status:active
Visitor and Contact Information
Location:Worms, Germany
Coordinates:49.633625° N, 8.366309° E  (view on Google Maps)
Website:www.worms.de
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 Worms Synagogue

Below is a location map and aerial view of Worms 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 7, 2008).
  2. The Rough Guide to Germany 6 (April 2004).
  3. Synagogue und Mikveh - Jewish Quarter - Worms.de
  4. Carol Herselle Krinsky, Synagogues of Europe: Architecture, History, Meaning (1996), 319-23.

More Information

Article Info

Title:Worms Synagogue
Author:Holly Hayes
Last updated:07/30/2010
Permalink:www.sacred-destinations.com/germany/worms-synagogue
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