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 of Worms Synagogue
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 at Worms Synagogue
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
|Names:||Alte Synagoge · Men's Synagogue · Old Synagogue · Worms Synagogue · Wormser Synagoge|
|Dates:||1175; rebuilt 1961|
|Visitor and Contact Information|
|Coordinates:||49.633625° N, 8.366309° E|
|Address:||Synagogenplatz, Hintere Judengasse|
|Hours:||Synagogue: Apr-Oct: daily 10-12:30, 1:30-5pm; Nov-Mar 10-noon, 2-4pm|
Museum: Tue-Sun 10am-12:30pm, 1:30-5pm
|Lodging:||View hotels near Worms Synagogue|
- Personal visit (February 7, 2008).
- The Rough Guide to Germany 6 (April 2004).
- Synagogue und Mikveh - Jewish Quarter - Worms.de
- Carol Herselle Krinsky, Synagogues of Europe: Architecture, History, Meaning (1996), 319-23.
- Photos of Worms Synagogue - here on Sacred Destinations
Map of Worms Synagogue
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