Prague Day Two, Part 2-Guided Tour of the Jewish Quarter


We met our entertaining and informative tour guide on the square and after his pre-amble we arrived at our first stop: the Maisel Synagogue (top) which was built in 1590-1592 by the former mayor of the Jewish Quarter Mordechai Maisel, who also funded the extensive reconstruction of the ghetto. The synagogue is now a Jewish Museum.

A short stroll away was our second stop at the Ceremonial House and

the New Jewish cemetery in the 3rd district. The building once housed the “The Holy Brotherhood of Those Who Perform Charitable Deeds”. 700 years ago, the brotherhood ensured that Jewish burial traditions were followed for its deceased members. The honoured society still performs these ceremonies today.

Illustrated in the bottom picture is the wall of the cemetery which is many meters high. We were told that there are many layers of bodies that lie in this resting place. The cemetery is one of the largest of its kind in Europe and one of the most important Jewish historical monuments in Prague. It served its purpose from the first half of the 15th century until 1786.

I was fascinated! And then our tour guide told us the fascinating story that the Australian rock band had once filmed a video in this very spot. Old meets new. Open this link to check it out. If the link doesn’t work go to Youtube and search for INXS video shot in Prague.

Along the way, we also stopped at the Pinkas Synagogue. In the early 16th century, it was built as a private house of prayer for the family of Aaron Meshulam Horowitz. After the Nazi occupation of Prague, the synagogue was vacated and converted into a warehouse of confiscated Jewish property. The Pinkas synagogue when restored in 1954-60 to stand as a memorial for more than 78,000 Jewish victims of the Shoah from the Czech lands.

The Old-New Synagogue was one of our final stops. Built during the 13th century it is the oldest building in Jewish Town and one of Europe’s oldest synagogues still in use.

I read this information from a Prague tour site later: Designed by Christians because Jews were not permitted to build, the Old-New Synagogue has witnessed many pogroms …it dominated the quarter of mostly one-story buildings during the Middle Ages. Imagine its walls streak with blood: during the pogroms of 1389, some 3,000 Jews met their deaths, many of whom were trying to take refuge in the synagogue. The blood stains remained on the walls until its restoration in 1618.

Witnessing this, my sisters and I, always sympathetic to Jewish communities, were mostly silent and somber the rest of the day. We all had trouble dreams that night. Travel is indeed meant to transform you.

Just across a lane from the synagogue was this beautiful Art Nouveau residential building on Parizska Street-the widest street of the Old Town of Prague. The building is the entrance to the old Jewish quarter and the street is dotted with high end designer boutiques making the rents amongst the highest in Eastern Europe. Ironic, don’t you think?

Kath’s quote: “It’s not what you look at that matters. It’s what you see.”-writer unknown

Love-that is all.

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