The Old-New Gothic Synagogue was constructed in the 13th century and is one of the oldest and most historical Jewish buildings, not only in Prague but also in Europe. It is situated in the Jewish section of northern Prague, in an area called Josefov. It follows orthodox Jewish practices.
Even during the anti-Jewish revolt in the late 1300s, when over 3000 Jews were killed, and whose homes and livelihoods were destroyed or taken from them, the synagogue continued to operate. The only time is ceased services was during World War II, between 1941 to 1945. During this time the Third Reich occupied Prague.
There are several myths surrounding the synagogue and its name, one being that this synagogue had superseded a previous one and therefore was referred to as the "New Synagogue". It in turn became the 'Old Synagogue' as newer synagogues were built.
Another more religious myth is that some of the stones used in its construction originated from the Holy Temple of Jerusalem, under the condition they would be returned after the coming of the Messiah. The word Altneu (OldNew) is similar to the old German word 'alnai' meaning conditional.
The interior vaulted ceiling of the synagogue is very impressive as too are the soaring vertical columns supporting them. High up on the walls are 12 narrow pointed windows representing the 12 tribes of Israel. Close to the center of the main area is a raised pulpit surrounded by a gothic grill.
Men and women are segregated from each other during religious prayer, with a special area set aside for the women to worship in. They have a limited view from very small windows into the central hall where the men are permitted to worship.
The Holy Ark, containing the Torah sacred scrolls, is kept on the eastern side of the synagogue facing Jerusalem.
The Jewish people have a long and eventful history with Prague and a visit to this city is not complete without investigating its rich Jewish history.
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