Sunday, April 13, 2014

Old New Synagogue - Prague

The Old New Synagogue in Prague, Czech Republic, is the oldest active synagogue in Europe. 
Old New Synagogue
It is situated in Josefov, the former Jewish Town which was demolished in the 1800s. A few older structures were allowed to stand. It was completed in 1270. Legend has it that it was built from stones from the Second Temple in Jerusalem which was demolished in 70 A.D. Angels transported the stones which are to be given back to Jerusalem later when a new temple is built there after the coming of the Messiah. When completed it was the second synagogue in Prague, so it was called the New synagogue and the earlier one was the Old synagogue. Later the Old synagogue was demolished and other synagogues built. The New synagogue became the Old-New synagogue. 

There are two big pillars inside in the main hall holding five-ribbed vaultng which is unique in Bohemian architecture. Other fun features are stone pews, the stepped brick gables on the outside, 12 grape clusters and vine leaf motifs above the entrance portal and 12 lancet windows, all of which represent the twelve tribes of Israel.  

Near the Old New Synagogue is a bronze statue of Moses by Frantisek Bilek. 
Moses with the Old New Synagogue behind him. 
It shows a kneeling Moses writing the name of Adam on a scroll symbolizing humankind for which he is responsible and for which he seeks the promised land. The sculpture was made in 1905, melted by the Nazis in 1940 during World War II and re-cast using the original plaster model and replaced shortly after the war in 1947. The strength of Moses is evident in the strong shoulders and powerful chest, but the weariness and weight of his calling is evident in the limp hand, slumped shoulder, face pressed to his arm and downcast face. 


  1. I love the gables on the synagogue that remind me of flames. I hadn't realized that the statue had been melted down and later recast. Fascinating story!

  2. Really happy you've made good use of my Crphoto of Prague's Old-new Synagogue from but it the non commercial creative commons licence does require attribution - Can you add 'Photo by Adrian Mars / Mindspigot@flickr or similar. Thanks