The oldest of Prague's Jewish Quarter sights, the Old-New Synagogue is the oldest surviving Synagogue in all of Europe, and is surrounded by history, mysteries and legends; its attic is purported to be the home of Prague's Golem, a creature created and animated by Rabbi Loew to protect the Jewish citizens of Prague, another legend claims that its foundations stones hail from the ruined Temple of Jerusalem and were loaned by angels on condition that they be returned when the Temple of Jerusalem is restored, and the synagogue is said to have been protected from fires raging through the ghetto by the wings of angels transformed into doves, thereby explaining why it still stands today as the oldest Central European synagogue still used for religious services. Originally called the New or Great Shul, it became known as the Old-New Synagogue (Altneuschul) in the 16th century when other synagogues were built in Prague's Josefov, or Jewish Quarter, district. Having been the main synagogue for the Prague Jewish community for more than 700 years, the Old-New Synagogue was built around 1270 and is the oldest surviving synagogue with a medieval double-nave, and its outer walls are thick, buttressed affairs with Gothic gables which support the saddle-style roof. Arched with five-ribbed vaulting, and in keeping with traditional practices as well as to show humility, the main body of the hall and nave are situated below the surrounding ground-level, and the annexes around the main nave are connected by twelve narrow windows in the wall, representing the twelve tribes of Israel, enabling listeners in the women's section and the vestibule to hear what is going on during a service. The official symbol of the Prague Jewish community since the 15th century, the six-pointed Star of David with a Jewish hat, can be seen on the high banner used since the late 16th century, which decorates the inside of the Old-New Synagogue. Many illustrious Rabbis have been active in this synagogue, not least of which were rabbis from the 16th century such as Mordecai ben Abraham Jaffe, Judah ben Bezalel – the famous Rabbi Loew- and his student Jom Tov Lipmannn Heller. Later important figures include Solomon Judah Leib Rapoport, a famous figure in the Jewish Enlightenment (Haskalah), and Ezekiel Landau who is known as a great authority on traditional rabbinic learning. Find out more and learn about religious services offered at www.synagogue.cz or contact the Jewish Community of Prague at www.kehilaprag.cz.
The Old-New Synagogue is open to the public Sunday -Thursday and at select times on Saturdays and Jewish Holidays. Tickets for entrance to the Old-New Synagogue cost CZK 200 for adults, while students pay only 140czk, and children under the age of 6 are free of charge. Entrance tickets should be purchased at the Jerusalem or Jubilee Synagogue or the Museum Boutique Shop at the High Synagogue. The Old-New Synagogue is part of the Jewish Museum in Prague.
Maiselova 18, 110 01 Prague 1, tel.+420 224 800 812-13, www.synagogue.cz
Address: Maiselova 18, 110 01 Praha 1