Jewish Quarter tour
Jewish Quarter tour – programme for halfday tour (4hrs)
Guide at the hotel for transfer to Prague Old Town, either by public transport or by our coach. Walking tour of Jewish Quarter – visit to Jewish Museum with it´s Synagogues and the Old Jewish Cemetery, then continue to Old Town Square with Astronomical Clock, end of the tour.
Jewish Quarter tour
The expositions of the Jewish Museum in Prague are located in four historical synagogues (Maisel Synagogue, Klausen Synagogue with the Ceremonial Hall, Pinkas Synagogue and Spanish Synagogue). The museum tour further includes the Old Jewish Cemetery and Robert Guttmann Gallery. Spanish Synagogue is temporarily closed to the public due to reason of modernization.
The museum is open daily except Saturdays and other Jewish holidays.
The Maisel synagogue was erected in 1592 on the basic of a privilege granted by Emperor Rudolf II. Its founder was Mordecai Maisel, the Mayor of the Prague Jewish Town.
Built by Judah Tzoref de Herz and Josef Wahl, it was originally a Renaissance temple with three naves, which was unusual for its day.
The synagogue burnt down in the ghetto fire of 1689 and was rebuilt several times. It acquired its current Neo-Gothic form by Prof. A Grotte in 1893-1905.
Jews in the Bohemian Lands, 10th-18th Century
On display is a wealth of rare collection objects, each placed in a new layout and proper context after a recent comprehensive reconstruction of the Maisel Synagogue. Touch screens enable visitors to look through old Hebrew manuscripts and to view historical maps of Jewish settlements. Visitors are also encouraged to search the museum’s database for information about prominent Jewish figures.
In the evening hours, the exhibition area is often transformed into an auditorium and used as a venue for concerts, recitals and solo theatre performances.
The Pinkas Synagogue is the second oldest preserved synagogue in Prague.
Built in the late Gothic style in 1535, it was founded by Aaron Meshulam Horowitz, a prominent member of the Prague Jewish Community, and probably named after his grandson, Rabbi Pinkas Horowitz. It was originally a place of prayer for the Horowitz family and was located near a ritual bath (mikveh). It was restored to its original form in 1950-54.
Memorial to the Victims of the Shoah from the Czech Lands
In 1955-60 the Pinkas Synagogue was turned into a memorial to the nearly 80,000 Jewish victims of the Shoah from the Czech lands. One of the earliest memorials of its kind in Europe, it is the work of two painters, Václav Boštík and Jiří John. After the Soviet invasion of 1968, the memorial was closed to the public for more than 20 years. It was fully reconstructed and reopened to the public in 1995 after the fall of the Communist regime.
Children’s Drawings from the Terezín Ghetto
Located on the first floor, this exhibition focuses on the fate of Jewish children who were incarcerated in the Terezín ghetto during the Second World War. It is based on the now world famous children’s drawings that were made in the ghetto between 1942 and 1944 under the supervision of the artist Friedl Dicker-Brandeis.
These emotionally powerful drawings bear testimony to the persecution of Jews during the Nazi occupation of the Bohemian lands in 1939–45. They document the transports to Terezín and daily life in the ghetto, as well as the dreams of returning home and of life in the Jewish homeland of Palestine. The vast majority of the children perished in the gas chambers of Auschwitz-Birkenau.
Old Jewish Cemetery
The Old Jewish Cemetery is among the oldest surviving Jewish burial grounds in the world and along with the Old-New Synagogue, it is the most important site in the Prague Jewish Town. The National Geographic magazine lists it among the top ten cemeteries to visit around the world.
It was founded in the first half of the 15th century. The earliest tombstone dates back to 1439; the last burial took place 348 years later. Although the cemetery was expanded several times over the centuries, it was still not big enough to meet the needs of the Jewish Town. As space was scarce, bodies were buried on top of each other, with graves layered up to 10 deep.
There are about 12,000 tombstones in the cemetery, many decorated with animal and plant motifs.
The most important figures buried here:
- the scholar and teacher, Rabbi Judah Loew Ben Bezalel, known as the Maharal (d. 1609)
- the scholar and poet Avigdor Kara (d. 1439)
- the founder of the Pinkas Synagogue, Aaron Meshulam Horowitz (d. 1545)
- the mayor and developer of the Prague Jewish Town, Mordecai Maisel (d. 1601)
- the Renaissance scholar, historian, mathematicians and astronomer, David Gans (d. 1613)
- the collector of Hebrew manuscripts and books, Rabbi David Oppenheim (d. 1736)
The Klausen synagogue is the biggest synagogue in the Prague Jewish Town.
“Klausen” was originally the name given to three smaller buildings from the 16th century that used to be on this site. These buildings included a yeshivah (Talmudic school) that was founded by the famous Rabbi Loew. After the ghetto fire of 1689, the Klausen Synagogue was erected on the site in 1694, in the early Baroque style.
It was the Prague Jewish Community’s second main synagogue and a number of its prominent rabbis served here. It was also used as a place of prayer by the Prague Burial Society.
Jewish Customs and Traditions, Part 1
The exhibition continues in the Ceremonial Hall
This exhibition starts by acquainting you with the primary sources of Judaism – the Hebrew Bible (Tanakh) and the Talmud. It also lets you see an unfurled Torah scroll and its ornaments – the pointer (used when reading from the scroll), binder, mantle, shield and finials.
The exhibition focuses on the synagogue, explaining its significance and describing its interior furnishings. It also deals with Jewish worship, the Sabbath and other Jewish holidays and religious celebrations.
In the gallery are exhibits relating to the daily life of a Jewish family. This part of the show deals with the customs associated with birth, circumcision, bar mitzvah, marriage and divorce. It also provides a glimpse into a Jewish household and kitchen with its typical items.
Located next to the Old Jewish Cemetery on the site of an old mortuary used by the Prague Burial Society (Hevrah Kaddisha), the Ceremonial Hall was built in the Neo-Romanesque style in 1906–08. The first floor once housed a room for the ritual washing of the dead; on the second floor was the burial society’s club room.
The building was used for its original purpose until the end of the First World War. It became part of the Jewish Museum in 1926.
Jewish Customs and Traditions, Part 2
Continuation of the Klausen Synagogue exhibition
This exhibition deals with the history of the Prague Burial Society, an important religious and social institution of the ghetto that was founded by Rabbi Eliezer Ashkenazi in 1564. On display is the unique 15-part series of paintings from the 1770s that details the customs and ceremonies associated with death and burial. It also shows the silver ritual objects that were used in connection with this.
Among the unique relics on view are fragments of Prague’s oldest tombstones, dating from the 14th century. Also exhibited are memorial prayers for the dead and a map of preserved Jewish cemeteries in the Bohemian lands.
The second floor of the exhibition focuses on the actual organization, life and external representation of the Prague Burial Society.
The Spanish Synagogue is temporarily closed from June 1st 2019 for planned revitalization.
The Spanish Synagogue is the most recent synagogue in the Prague Jewish Town.
Built in 1868 for the local Reform congregation on the site of the 12th-century Altschul, which was the oldest synagogue in the Prague ghetto.
It was called the Spanish Synagogue for its impressive Moorish interior design, influenced by the famous Alhambra. The building was designed by Josef Niklas and Jan Bělský, the remarkable interior (from 1882–83) by Antonín Baum and Bedřich Münzberger.
František Škroup, the composer of the Czech national anthem, served as organist here in 1836-45.
The History of the Jews in Bohemia and Moravia, Part 2
Robert Guttmann Gallery
Named after the well-known Prague naive painter Robert Guttmann (1880-1942), the gallery was opened in 2001.
The venue covers an area of 80 square metres and meets all the requirements of a modern gallery. The use of high-quality adjustable window shades and a double-door entrance makes it possible to fully control the temperature and humidity of the room, thus creating ideal conditions for the display of even the most sensitive of materials (parchments, old printed books, historic textiles). The use of quality low-energy lighting and the possibility of regulating the intensity and angle of light make it possible to display historic materials that are extremely sensitive to light.
The gallery presents temporary exhibitions of items from the museum’s collections and displays that focus on Jewish life, the persecution of Bohemian and Moravian Jews during the Second World War, Jewish monuments in the Czech Republic, and the Jewish presence in contemporary visual art.
Old Town Square with Astronomical Clock
The Prague Astronomical Clock is one of the most renown and most visited tourist attractions in the historical centre of Prague.
It is a medieval astronomical clock mounted on the southern wall of the Old Town City Hall in Prague. Although the clock was seriously damaged several times in the past, it was always repaired with the aim of preserving the technical, artistic and spiritual integrity to the maximum extent possible. At present, it is probably the best preserved medieval astronomical clock in the world. The entire astronomical clock, indicators, chiming system, bells and movements of the apostles and sculptures is controlled by mainly original ironwork machine, whose foundation was built in 1410 by Mikuláš of Kadaň. Since the great renovation in 1866, it has also been controlled by the mechanical chronometer by Romuald Božek.
The most dominating part of the astronomical clock is the astronomical dial, constructed as an astrolabe with projection from the celestial northern pole. This dial is very frequently presented as one of the main symbols of Prague. It has been copied at many places in our country as well as all over the world.
The Sun arm with a golden hand attached to it shows three various times on the astronomical dial: common civil time, Old Czech Time, and Babylonian time. The oldest one, which is not used today, is the time in unequal hours, called Babylonian hours (or, for their astrological meaning, planetary hours). The Babylonian time is read approximately at the place where the golden Sun is located, or rather in the intersection of the Sun arm and the ecliptic on the fingery lines. The time between the sunrise and sunset was divided into 12 equal portions, whose duration changes in the course of the year. The contemporary common civil time divides the day into 2×12 equally long hours starting at midnight and at noon. The time of the old Czech (Italian) clock also divides the day into 24 equal hours counted from the sunset. It is indicated on the outward rotated dial – the 24‑hour ring. The golden star connected to the ecliptic ring indicates the sidereal time, which is counted from the moment of passing of the vernal point over the local meridian.
The Golden Sun indicates the current position of the Sun both in the sky and within the zodiac, the Moon sphere then shows, beside the position of the Moon in the sky and within the zodiac, also its position towards the Sun and its phase, which is the visible portion of its sunlit hemisphere.
The calendar dial makes one turn per year. It is installed on the astronomical clock since 1490 and its contemporary form is from 1866. On the perimeter of the dial, days in the year, names of saints, dominical letter and a syllable from the Cisiojanus is indicated. J. Mánes decorated the dial with scenes from rural life, which symbolize individual months. He also depicted the Sun Signs in an unconventional way. Mánes’s work was replaced by a copy due to apprehension that it would be damaged by weather conditions.
On the astronomical clock, a plentiful sculptural decoration draws attention. The lining of the astrolabe is probably work of Petr Parléř’s stoneworks, other stonework and sculptural decoration dates back to the end of the 15th century and is in Late Gothic style.
The most appreciated touristic attraction is the defile of the 12 wooden sculptures of the Apostles in the upper windows of the astronomical clock and the movements of some other wooden sculptures, which decorate the clock and which remind us of the frailty of human life (the Death) or various human qualities (e. g. Vanity). They are set in motion by the clock’s machines every hour between 9 am and 9 pm CET. The performance is concluded by a cockcrow.