Old New Synagogue

It is the oldest synagogue still in use in Europe, dating back to the 1270s, and one of the oldest Gothic buildings in the Czech capital, with great historical and architectural value. The only synagogue still dedicated to worship in the Josefov district, it remains the spiritual heart of Prague’s Jewish community.

Called the “New” synagogue when it was built in the 13th century, it became the “Old New” synagogue when newer synagogues were gradually built in the Josefov district.

From the outside, it appears rather austere, with its red brick pediment and low height compared to the large Art Nouveau buildings in the area. Because the ground level has risen since the Gothic period, you have to go down several steps to reach the inside of the building. After passing through the barrel-vaulted antechamber, you enter the main hall under a magnificent tympanum decorated with a vine leaf in bas-relief, the roots of which represent the 12 tribes of Israel.

The great hall is divided into two high naves whose vaults are supported by hexagonal pillars with capitals adorned with ornamental foliage. The centre of the sacred space is dominated by the bimah, a lectern used for reading the Torah, surrounded by a Gothic wrought-iron grille. The banner above it was a gift from Emperor Ferdinand III to Prague’s Jewish community to thank them for their part in defending the city against the Swedes. The Torah is in its usual place, near the east wall.

Following the custom of Orthodox Judaism, the synagogue had separate areas for men and women: the latter could follow the religious ceremonies from an annex to the north, built in the 18th century.

Since January 2024, you can buy a combined ticket to visit both the Old New Synagogue and the other synagogues that belong to the Jewish Museum. Please note that the synagogue is closed on Saturdays and Jewish holidays.

 Where
Josefov

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